|| That, in the opinion of the House, organizations that engage in non-political non-activist work, such as feeding the homeless, helping refugees, and giving kids an opportunity to go to camp, should be able to access Canada Summer Jobs funding regardless of their private convictions and regardless of whether or not they choose to sign the application attestation.
She said: Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with our .
I rise today to begin a debate on an opposition motion that calls out the Liberal government and the for their unconscionable attack on the sacred rights of Canadians to think for themselves, express their beliefs, and practise their faith without intervention or judgment from the government.
Last year, Canadians learned of an ominous new development in the way Canada summer jobs grants would be allocated. This is a very important program for all our constituents, regardless of region or our parties. These funds go to community organizations to allow them to hire summer students. This is critical. These organizations offer important services to their communities. They help refugees and newly settled immigrants to Canada. They provide summer camps for kids. They offer to help the disabled and the most vulnerable in our society.
For years, they have done this without intervention from any government, until December of 2017. That was when Canadians learned of this new attestation now required for applicants to this program. The attestation requires applicants to endorse the political and ideological views of the Liberal Party and of the personally. This is totally unacceptable in our free and democratic society. As Canadians, we enjoy and cherish our fundamental freedoms such as freedom of speech and freedom of conscience.
The government plays a vital role in protecting these and other rights and freedoms that we enjoy as Canadians. Every government in Canada chooses its own priorities, which are meant to help Canadians realize their full potential. What every Canadian government should have in common is the understanding that they should respect these fundamental charter rights and put these rights ahead of political point scoring.
That is why the 's decision to require all groups seeking support from the Canada summer jobs program to sign an attestation declaring support for the ideological views of the Liberal Party is simply appalling. It is why Conservatives are clearly and forcefully expressing our opposition to this Liberal values test being imposed on Canadians.
Canadians expect their government to respect the diversity of opinion and belief that exists in our country. However, while the talks a lot about respecting that diversity, his actions tell a very different story. He chose not to listen to the many community organizations that make good use of this program and that will now be unable to provide their services this year.
Among those who will have to cut back are organizations that provide aid to refugees, run daycare programs for kids with disabilities, and offer help to at-risk youth. This is yet another example of how the government is attacking the very people it claims to help. Conservatives believe Canadians know better than the government about what is good for them. We listened and consulted with community organizations across the country, because we believe Canadians have a right to hold their own beliefs, and express themselves without fear of judgment from the federal government. No one has the right to prevent others from advocating or expressing their most deeply held personal beliefs.
The responses we received have been swift and clear. From church groups in the Maritimes and Muslim organizations in Toronto to services for the homeless in Alberta and summer camps in Vancouver Island, we have heard repeatedly how this policy will hurt local institutions and those seeking their help. Many have already been forced to make a tough decision and refuse to apply for the Canada summer jobs program this year. With the deadline passed, other groups now worry that more government programs will be subject to this values test.
Here are some of these groups' reactions to this terrible policy. For example, The Mustard Seed in Calgary offers social services for the homeless. Its CEO, Stephen Wile, said that because of this attestation, up to 300 youth in Calgary will not get to experience what it is like to work with the homeless and foster a compassionate heart.
Lindsey Villages in Ajax provides skills training to children with autism and serves as a home to those whose parents cannot afford to care for them. Dr. Rondo Thomas, their president, said that the direction this government is going is very concerning and that he is now having to consider shutting down Lindsey Villages, a home that cares for autistic children and provides them with skills training.
Kerber Applied Research Inc. is a Hamilton biotech company that is developing innovative cancer treatment technology. Its president, Tom Kerber, said that budgets are tight and the help from Canada summer jobs is critical to his company's efforts to find life-saving innovative cancer treatments. However, he refused to enable any sort of government-imposed values test, as this is not a precedent he wanted to allow.
There are so many groups that have spoken out, and the Conservatives will be sharing their stories this morning.
The has made the wrong decision and the grassroots organizations that have been hurt by it need to make their voices heard. Organizations applying for public programs should not be denied access to them solely because the Prime Minister does not share their values and beliefs. It makes one wonder if the Prime Minister will apply his values test to Canadians receiving other services, including organizations that receive charitable status from the Canada Revenue Agency. This prospect represents a fundamental attack on the charter rights of Canadians. It has no place in a tolerant, diverse, multicultural society.
The should not get his ideological veto over grants for summer jobs. The defence of these rights is what has made Canada a free, open, and tolerant country, a home for people seeking freedom from around the world. We should never compromise these freedoms. However, today too many on the government side are ready to take away these freedoms to score political points. The victims of these organizations are trying to do good in our communities, and the students are looking for work over the summer. This just is not fair.
I implore my government colleagues to support this motion and make their voices heard on behalf of all local organizations in their constituencies that will lose out because of this unfair, un-Canadian policy. It is time for all of us to speak up for the most cherished freedoms.
Madam Speaker, I am very happy to rise today and speak on behalf the good people from the riding of Portage—Lisgar. They are people who have done so much to help young people get jobs, and done so much for people who are in poverty, people with mental illnesses, people who have been using the Canada summer jobs program in order to do these things. As I said, I am rising to speak on their behalf today and am happy to do it.
It was not very long ago in this House that the rose and issued a formal apology to the LGBTQ community for what happened during the 1950s to the 1990s when the government of the day decided that the government would be telling a certain group of Canadians what they could think, what they could feel, how they could live. If what they did did not line up with what the government of the day wanted or what might even have been politically correct in that day, those individuals were cut off from being part of the government process. They were cut off from their jobs. They were cut off from taxpayers' dollars that would have been paying them to do those jobs. They were cut off from serving their community. Why? This was done because of the way they lived their lives, because of their beliefs. We saw the rise in this House and do the right thing and apologize to that group of people, the LGBTQ community.
We are seeing a government today, in 2018, do exactly the same thing to a group of Canadians. In December 2017, just a week or so before Christmas, the Liberal government announced that anybody who wanted to apply and possibly receive funding for the Canada summer jobs program would have to sign onto the government's attestation on a certain number of beliefs, and if they did not do that, they would be denied funding. That was several months ago. As soon as we saw it, and as soon as these groups saw this attestation, they were extremely concerned that their rights would be infringed on. Today, literally as we speak, we are seeing this come to fruition where amazing, excellent, and great organizations across the country are being denied funding because they have not checked off the values test box of the and the Liberal government.
I want to talk for a minute about the Canada summer jobs program. This is a program that has been non-partisan. In fact, in 2016, over 75,000 students across Canada benefited from the work experience. This has been a wonderful program where we as members of Parliament actually have been able to look at who was getting these summer job grants. We would congratulate them and many times help them work with their application. These are groups who are not doing political work. They are advocating for people, advocating for communities, and they are employing our young people to do so. This was the exact program that the Liberals and the Liberal thought police decided they were going to attack with this attestation.
Let me read what the Charter of Rights and Freedoms actually says:
|| 1. The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees the rights and freedoms set out in it subject only to such reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society.
Then it mentions the fundamental freedoms:
|| 2. Everyone has the following fundamental freedoms:
||(a) freedom of conscience and religion;
||(b) freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication;
|| (c) freedom of peaceful assembly; and
|| (d) freedom of association.
For these organizations and the individuals who work for them, these are their charter rights.
We saw again a few short months ago when Omar Khadr, a convicted terrorist, somebody who fought and worked to kill our soldiers and our allied soldiers, was awarded $10.5 million by the government and the . Canadians were outraged. By the way, let us not forget that his lawyer has just been appointed as a federal judge by the Liberals.
What was the 's defence of this $10.5 million payout to this convicted terrorist? He said, “The Charter of Rights and Freedoms protects all Canadians, every one of us, even when it is uncomfortable.” I would add, ten-and-a-half million dollars uncomfortable. These are the Prime Minister's words, “This is not about the details or merits of the Khadr case. When the government violates any Canadian's charter rights, we all end up paying for it.”
The has no problem violating the rights of tens of thousands, if not millions, of Canadians across the country who do not agree with him. He has no problem violating their rights by taking away their ability to apply and to receive Canada summer jobs funding. By the way, it is not his money; it is taxpayers' dollars. Let us remember that. He has his family fortune and he seems to love using taxpayers' dollars for all of his holidays, his nannies, and all of the stuff he wastes money on. This summer jobs program money is not his money. It belongs to the people, but he has no problem violating their rights.
The even went on to say, “The anger that some people feel, and that a lot of people feel about the payment the government made to Omar Khadr is real and quite frankly—this might surprise you—but I share that anger and frustration. That settlement had nothing to do with what Omar Khadr might have or might not have done. It had to do with what the Canadian government did or did not do and when a Canadian government wilfully turns its back on defending a Canadian's rights and allows a Canadian to be tortured and mistreated, we all end up paying.”
We paid Omar Khadr $10.5 million because apparently his rights were violated. We have apologized, and rightly so, to a group of people who in the 1960s to 1990s had their rights violated, and at the same time the Liberal government is violating the rights of Canadians who will not sign this attestation.
I want to mention some real stories with some real names of people whose rights are being violated right now.
David Acco is an indigenous business leader in Quebec. His company provides technology integration and human resources counselling. This is what he had to say about the Liberals' values attestation requirement, “As an Indigenous person, what I care about is indigenous youth getting into STEM, science, technology, engineering and mathematics, and into management positions, but the message I’m getting on the summer jobs program is what matters to them are my religious beliefs. It’s reminiscent of the days when the churches told us what to do to civilize our brains.”
This individual wants to hire a student and make sure that young people are exposed to the STEM fields in industry and he is being told he cannot apply because what he believes privately might disagree with what the thinks.
Dr. Efrem Leakemariam, the pastor from the Ethopian Evangelical Church in Toronto had this to say about the Canada summer jobs attestation requirement, “I remember why I came to Canada 29 years ago. I came because we had a Communist discriminatory government in our country. As a young man at age 17, I was discriminated for my beliefs. I was tortured. That's why I escaped and I came here to a land of freedom, the land of respect, and I am very proud to be Canadian today. But the reason that we are here is because of this summer jobs for young people. I believe summer jobs should be based on skills and talents, not based on someone's views, whether religious or ideological views. We oppose that kind of ideology.”
I am so fortunate. I have never been tortured for my beliefs. I have always lived in Canada, where I cannot impose my beliefs on somebody else. I cannot stop somebody else from having their rights but I am allowed to have my beliefs. Canadians are allowed to have their individual beliefs.
Conservatives will always stand up for the beliefs of Canadians and their rights. Let us not have to be apologizing for something else in 50 years. In 50 years, let us not have the government have to stand up and apologize for trampling all over the rights of those Canadians who applied for the summer jobs program in 2018. Let us change this. Let us do the right thing.
Madam Speaker, as parliamentary secretary, I am very pleased to stand today and join in this debate.
I want to recognize my colleague from for, even in her question, providing that clarification had been circulated. The NDP has identified that as well. The clarifications were provided quite some time ago to all members of Parliament and community groups.
My friend and colleague from , a member whom I like a great deal, referred to the attestation as “BS”. If the “BS” stands for a “brave stand”, then I agree with her. This is all about a government that is standing up for the rights of Canadians, rights that were fought for by women, immigrants, and the LGBTQ2 community. These rights have long been fought for, and there is an expectation of the government of the day to stand by those citizens and defend those rights, which is exactly what we are doing through this initiative. Therefore, I am very happy to stand and speak to the motion today.
It is not news to any Canadian that prosperity depends more and more on a solid start for the next generation of workers. It also depends on the work experience they can gain to succeed in their careers to continue to boost our national economy and help our middle class prosper.
A summer job is an important opportunity for young people to get that kind of valuable work experience for which employers are looking. We hear time and time again that, “Yes, we'd like to give you the opportunity, but you have no experience”. Well, it is tough to get that experience if young people are not presented with that opportunity. This type of job also enables students to earn some money to help offset the cost of the school year ahead.
This is why our government is taking action right away. As a result of our government's increased investments in 2017, the number of jobs offered to young Canadians through the Canada summer jobs program nearly doubled compared to 2015 with the outgoing Conservative government.
The Canada summer jobs program is about creating quality work experience for young Canadians right across the country. When we learned that funding through the Canada summer jobs program had been used to undermine the rights of some Canadians, we took the necessary steps to ensure those rights were respected.
In the past, funding was used to support organizations like the Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform, which put kids to work distributing graphic images of aborted fetuses, and other organizations that did not welcome youth from the LGBTQ2 community in their summer camps. We know the Conservative Party has a different opinion on some of these issues.
On April 26, 2017, weeks before the Conservative leadership vote, Jonathon Van Maren, the communications director for the Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform, wrote in a blog post endorsing the current leader of the opposition as one of the top three choices in the leadership race. He reached out to the leader and gave him a statement in which he affirmed that the leader of the opposition had always voted in favour of anti-choice legislation.
The leader of the opposition is against our $650 million investment in maternal health so women around the world can have safe access to the abortion health services they require. The leader of the opposition affirmed that he voted against transgender rights in Bill . He believes that Jordan Peterson is correct on his views of gender pronouns. We know the leader is against LGBTQ2 rights. He is against women's right to choose and against transgender rights, as his own words have confirmed.
The Government of Canada is committed to respecting the fundamental rights of all Canadians, including the LGBTQ2 and women's rights. We also support the freedom of conscience and religion guaranteed under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. There is nothing controversial about that.
We have taken concrete steps to prevent federal funding from going to create jobs that do not respect the rights of all Canadians.
As a result, the Canadian summer jobs 2018 application form asks organizations to confirm that both their core mandate and the jobs in question respect individual human rights and labour laws and do not support discriminatory practices. It is a question of justice and equality for everyone, not a question of beliefs. It is another example of the traditional Canadian approach of diversity and inclusion.
The opposition keeps talking about critics, but let me take a different view.
We want to talk about the many supporters of the attestation. Major Canadian organizations are supporting our approach. In fact, our government received an open letter from the National Association of Women and the Law saying how supportive it was of this year's eligibility requirements for CSJ applicants. A number of my colleagues in the House today know that the women in law group testified yesterday at committee on Bill C-65. They know that it is a highly regarded organization nationally, if not universally.
The association wrote, in black and white:
|| Significant misinformation has been widely circulated in the media about the nature of the attestation that is now required by organizations that wish to apply for federal government grants for student jobs through the CSJ program. We are confident that the safeguards introduced to the CSJ program are not discriminatory, and do not represent any infringement on freedom of religion, conscience, or any other rights that people in Canada enjoy.
This comes from an organization that promotes the equality rights of women in our country. This organization has played a major role in major milestones toward women's equality in Canada, such as the inclusions of sections 15 and 28 in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms; amendments to sexual assault laws, positive changes to family law and to the divorce act; rape shield legislation; and criminal harassment legislation.
There is more.
An open letter of support was signed by 80 major organizations from across Canada. Let me name a few. There is Oxfam Canada, YMCA Canada, The Canadian Centre for Gender and Sexual Diversity, Women's Human Rights Education Institute, Abortion Support Services Atlantic, Alberta Pro-Choice Coalition, the Network of Black Business & Professional Women, Canadian Research Institute for the Advancement of Women, Canadian Health Coalition. The list of supporting organizations goes on and on. Strong voices across the country are raising in support of this year's eligibility requirements for CSJ applicants. Who is in a better position than these organizations to speak out on the issue that concerns us today?
This display of support is just one example. There are many more supporters of the attestation that is required by CSJ applicants.
However, people may ask what the Canada summer jobs program consists of. It is a federal program that aims to provide salary subsidies to employers so they can create jobs for high school and post-secondary students. It provides financial aid to the not-for-profit organizations, public sector employers, and small businesses with up to 50 employees. This funding enables the creation of summer job opportunities for youth between the ages of 15 and 30, who are studying full time and are planning to go back to school for the following year. As was the case in years past, religious and faith-based organizations are eligible for funding through the program and are invited to apply.
To better meet the changing needs of the new increasingly globalized economy, our youth employment strategy helps young Canadians receive valuable work experience and skills development in support of their future career. It includes three program streams.
First, the skills stream helps youth facing barriers to employment develop the skills they need to find a job or go back to school. The focus is on single parents and newcomers, as well as youth with disabilities, indigenous youth, and youth in rural and remote areas.
The second stream, career focus, helps post-secondary graduates find a job through paid internships. It provides these youth with the information and experience they need to make an informed decision about their career, find a job, or pursue graduate studies.
Finally, the summer work experience stream offers subsidies to employers for them to create summer jobs for high school and post-secondary students and includes the Canada summer jobs program. Each year we invest over $330 million in this strategy and we have committed to investing an additional $340 million over three years to create up to 35,000 additional summer jobs for youth.
In fact, I would be remiss if I did not mention that in budget 2018, our government proposes to provide an additional $450 million over five years, starting in 2018-19, for the youth employment strategy. This funding will support the continued growth of the number of job placements funded under Canada summer jobs in 2019-20. It will also provide additional resources for a modernized youth employment strategy in the following years, building on the input of the expert panel on youth employment. As well, a renewed youth employment strategy will be announced over the course of the next year.
All this to say, we are doing this for Canadian youth.
Let us go back to the issue today.
Under Canada summer jobs, employers are invited to submit an application that meets the program's national priorities, which were established to better meet the current and future needs of the labour market and improve the situation of youth in the labour market. This means that we prioritize jobs created by employers that intend to hire youth from under-represented groups, including new immigrants or refugees, indigenous people, people with disabilities, and visible minorities.
The program will also favour small job creating businesses, organizations that support employment opportunities for official language minority communities, and organizations that offer services or support to the LGBTQ2 community.
Canada summer jobs will also place a particular focus on organizations that support job opportunities in science, technology, engineering, and mathematic sectors, as well as the information and communications technology sectors, particular for women.
For this reason, the CSJ program will not provide funding to organizations whose main activities include partisan political activities or seek to remove or undermine established individual rights for Canadians. To clarify, our government has taken the principled stand that we will not fund groups that distribute graphic pictures of bloody fetuses to school-age children. Any organization whose activities aim to limit women's existing reproductive rights will not be eligible for this funding. The same goes for a summer camp that would submit an application to hire students as camp councillors at a camp that would not welcome youth from the LGBTQ2 community.
On the other hand, many other faith-based organizations would be eligible for the program. Say, for example, a faith-based organization with anti-abortion beliefs applies for funding to hire students to serve meals to the homeless. The organization provides numerous programs in support of its community. The students would be responsible for meal planning, buying groceries, serving meals, etc. This organization would be eligible to apply.
Say another faith-based organization that embraces the traditional definition of marriage but whose primary activities reduce social isolation among seniors applies for funding to hire students. The students would be responsible for developing and delivering programs for all seniors, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, or expression. This organization would be eligible to apply.
Another example would be an organization with anti-abortion beliefs that runs a summer camp for underprivileged youth. It would be eligible to submit an application. This would enable it to offer students summer jobs as camp counsellors.
Applicants have to confirm that they meet the new requirement through an attestation included in the application form. They are not required to share their points of view, their beliefs, or their values, because these are not taken into consideration in the program application process. That an organization is affiliated with a religion does not make it ineligible. Service Canada evaluates the applications based on the eligibility and assessment criteria, including national and local priorities. All the eligible applications in a constituency are ranked accordingly.
Each year, members of Parliament are invited to take part in certain activities related to the Canada summer jobs program. This means that elected officials can help promote the program, establish local priorities, confirm the list of projects, inform the selected employers, and take part in announcements related to those programs. Members of Parliament are invited to take part in these aspects of the CSJ program, but their participation is, of course, voluntary.
In cases where members of Parliament do not take part in the process, Service Canada establishes the list of projects for their constituencies. Summer job priorities will not be the same in Nunavut as they are in Toronto or Calgary or Vancouver or Cape Breton—Canso. They will not be the same in Prince Edward Island as they are in Saskatchewan.
The Canada summer jobs program is not a government program just like any other. It meets the needs of a young, dynamic workforce while at the same time meeting the current needs of each region across this country during the summer period. Above all, it meets young people's need to get rewarding summer work that will help them gain much-needed experience to start their professional lives.
Our government is committed to ensuring that government funding respects Canadians' hard-won rights, particularly those of women and the LGBTQ2 community. We have taken the principled stand that we will not fund groups that distribute graphic pictures of bloody fetuses to school-age children or any groups whose jobs will limit the protections Canadians depend on.
We know that religious- and faith-based organizations, which are primarily focused on compassion and helping those in our society who are most in need, offer valuable services to our communities. The changes we have made to the CSJ program will ensure that youth who get jobs funded by the government will be working in an environment that respects the rights of all Canadians.
Madam Speaker, I will start by saying that I will be sharing my time with the member for . I rise today to speak against the Conservative motion. The NDP believes, as does the government, that it is unacceptable to provide public money to groups whose work focuses on undermining women's rights, access to abortion, or the rights of the LGBTQ community. The new attestation for the Canada summer jobs program requires groups to state that they respect the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which is a foundational document that has governed us for more than 35 years.
For our party, the issue of women's rights is not up for debate. The Supreme Court has already ruled on the fact that restricting access to abortion is unconstitutional. However, the government must clarify its position for the various groups. The wording is so vague that organizations in my riding and all other ridings believe that they are excluded from the program when that is not the case. We are here today debating the wording because, from the very beginning, the government should simply have made it clear that the new attestation refers to activities that fail to comply with the charter and not to a group's beliefs or lack of a position. It is really quite simple. This is not about saying that a group is or is not doing good work, but rather ensuring that the nature of the jobs to be done by youth under the Canada summer jobs program does not contravene the charter and our laws.
I want to be clear. We recognize that many organizations, including religious groups, are doing a lot of incredible work to support people in need, and even if they do not support abortion, the nature of their work does not violate the values of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. This is why we believe that these groups and organizations should have the right to apply for the Canada summer jobs program. It is up to the government to clarify with these groups.
Admittedly, the wording in the Canada summer jobs application is quite vague. The government must clarify the wording. It should have done so before launching the program and putting this in the criteria. I do, however, appreciate the work already being done to clarify the selection criteria to ensure that any jobs submitted do not violate the charter.
The NDP believes that we must properly ensure, before groups even receiving funding, that the jobs being offered to young people under the Canada summer jobs program are not in sectors that contravene the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and our laws. This is non-negotiable for us. This is not a partisan measure or issue. This is not about forcing opinions or ideologies on these organizations. We are simply talking about upholding the rights and values of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Canada summer jobs is a very important initiative in my riding. Last summer, 60 organizations and SMEs in my riding were able to benefit from this funding, which supports non-profit organizations, public sector employers, and SMEs that create useful and instructive summer jobs for students. A total of 168 young people were able to gain valuable experience last summer in my riding of under the Canada summer jobs program.
I worked in community organizations for nearly 30 years before becoming an MP. I worked in a shelter for battered women and their children. I worked in a mental health crisis centre, and I worked for an organization that helps people with intellectual disabilities. I spent the majority of my career, over 10 years, as the director of a community organization for troubled youth, the Auberge du coeur Le Baluchon. I am very proud of that.
All of these organizations hired at least two students every summer, helping those students gain work experience as part of their studies. In our case, they were working for organizations that helped people in need, whether it was battered women, people in crisis, or young people with intellectual disabilities.
I was hired one summer under what was known as the summer career placement program. I helped young people with intellectual disabilities with various activities. That was a wonderful summer. I always say that people with intellectual disabilities remind us of what is most important in life, and that is the people we love and who love us. That is all that is important for them. That was a great summer. I really learned a lot.
The Auberge du coeur Le Baluchon hired students, especially female students, for service jobs in areas like psychoeducation and correctional intervention techniques. The Canada summer jobs program gave these students a chance to gain experience in a summer job, working under the supervision of other staff. It gave them an opportunity to acquire work experience that was relevant to their studies and to be paid for it. We know that many internships are unpaid. Our organization did not offer pay either, but under this program, the students are often paid. These students at least had a summer job where they could gain experience and spend time with troubled youth, which is something that I also found very instructive. Working in this environment is an experience for them too. I always tell my colleagues in the House that the more closed-off a youth is to what I am trying to say, the more hurt he or she must be. It is important to bear that in mind and try to pierce that armour. I always say that the toughest nuts to crack are the softest on the inside. It is important to offer these experiences.
What is disappointing about the government's vague criteria is that they are casting a shadow over a very useful program that is highly valued in all of our ridings. It is unfortunate that we have to talk about this program today and reiterate that the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms is important and that the rights of women and LGBTQ communities are non-negotiable. It is a shame, because we will soon be receiving a list of organizations and student jobs in our respective ridings that we will have to approve. That is always interesting.
I always ask organizations to send me a copy of their projects, because I like to see details and explanations on what the students will be doing. I am fascinated by all the work that is being done to help youth in my riding. There are a lot of recreational organizations, for example. That is important. Working as a day camp counsellor is a very enriching experience. I represent 25 municipalities, and interesting things are happening in each and every one of them.
In short, this program gives young people a chance to gain valuable experience that will be useful in their future careers, and sometimes even leads to their first job. I am truly proud of this initiative. Year after year, it is a huge success. It is also vital to our region's economy, because last year, it brought nearly half a million dollars into my riding. It goes without saying, but it is also incredibly rewarding for young people. In a riding like mine, where labour is always needed, this program is more than welcome.
This year, I will be inviting youth who have benefited from the Canada summer jobs program to join me for an evening meeting to discuss their experiences and motivations. This meeting promises to be absolutely fascinating, and all youth who have participated in the Canada summer jobs program are invited.
Again, I want to say that the NDP agrees with the government that it is fundamentally unacceptable to use taxpayer dollars to fund groups whose work focuses on restricting women's rights and access to abortion.
Madam Speaker, like my colleague from , I will be opposing this Conservative motion, because, by implication, it calls into question the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms to some degree.
As we have heard repeatedly in the House, we have been subject to the charter for 35 years, since 1982. There was a general consensus to welcome and respect the charter.
The Liberals' management of the Canada summer jobs program has been quite confusing, which has caused many groups, especially religious groups, to feel excluded and think they could not submit a Canada summer jobs application. This has led to some unfortunate outcomes. For example, some groups will not get any funding from the program because they did not know for sure whether they were eligible to submit an application.
In the wake of this controversy all our offices received many calls. I think that the Liberals are still getting calls because this is still so confusing. Religious groups, who say that their work helps the community and that young people join them in helping the least fortunate in the community, are asking whether they have the right to submit an application. We had to explain that the nature of their activities did not go against the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and that they could indeed submit their application.
It bears repeating that the NDP finds it unacceptable to provide funding, taxpayer money, to groups whose work is based on fighting against women's rights, against access to abortion, and against defending the rights of the LBGTQ2 community.
As we all have been saying for years, the question of women's rights is absolutely not up for debate. As I said earlier, even the Supreme Court has ruled that restricting the right to abortion is unconstitutional. Based on that, I think that clarifications were made and continue to be made.
Any organization that wants to can apply to give young people a rewarding experience to earn money for school, in what may be their first job or simply some summer work. I think we can continue to offer these jobs and that the government should provide funding, so that young people can work and apply the skills they learned in school
In my riding of Salaberry—Suroît, 151 jobs were funded for young people last summer. The wide range of jobs were very much appreciated. The jobs included working in museum archives, being day camp counsellors, and working in youth centres. Also receiving funding were jobs at recreational organizations, such as the Régates de Valleyfield, which is celebrating its 80th anniversary this year.
There are so many interesting jobs for young people. However, I must say that the Liberals and the Conservatives are playing politics here. It is appalling that we have gotten to this point. The Liberals showed in their budget that they are using the Canada summer jobs program as a marketing tool. Unbelievable. For example, last year, after I told organizations that they were approved for jobs, I was told that I would have to reduce the number of weeks each young person could work so that more young people could have jobs.
I was told to give only six weeks of employment to some young people in order to have more jobs for more youth. That made no sense. A six-week summer job does not cover a lot of post-secondary expenses. What will young people do for the rest of the summer? What about the organizations that hire a young person for just six weeks? What will they do for the remaining eight weeks of the summer? They will have to close their doors or cut their services. That is not what they want. Young people need to work for 14 or 16 weeks or they will not have enough money to pay for their rent, food, and what they need for school. Once again, the Liberals are all talk, and they are going to say that they have an excellent record and that they created thousands of summer jobs. In reality, it is a blow to young people if they are unable find jobs that pay enough or last long enough to allow them to fully dedicate themselves to their studies the rest of the year.
The budget talks about Canada summer jobs, but there was nothing about the rest of the youth employment strategy. I wish the Conservatives had mentioned that in their opposition motion today. Will cuts be made to the skills link program? One has to wonder. Will cuts be made to the career focus program? Is there any money for those programs in the budget? No money was announced for those programs in the budget on Tuesday. The Liberals favour the Canada summer jobs program because MPs are the ones who do the work of deciding who gets the jobs, so the Liberals do not have to do it. They do not have to do all the work of administering the program because members of the House are doing it.
There is nothing in the budget about precarious employment. A report was tabled on that subject, but there is very little about it the budget the finance minister announced on Tuesday.
We would also have preferred to talk about all of the budget's shortcomings. I will mention a few others. The Liberals talk about doubling the budget as though $400 million was never allocated in the past, but the Conservatives allocated that same amount for this program in 2010-11, when they were responsible for the budget.
The budget does nothing to make the funding for the Canada summer jobs, career focus, or skills link programs permanent, even though they are used by thousands of Canadians. For example, an organization in my riding, Une affaire de famille, received a significant amount of funding, about $150,000, in 2017 to give young people facing barriers to employment access to services that would help them to return to the labour market. This program helped 31 young people. The organization wanted to continue with this project, but it recently received a letter from the government saying that it was unable to renew the project because of budgetary constraints.
What will happen to young people in extremely disadvantaged regions, such as Salaberry—Suroît or the Upper St. Lawrence? These young people are struggling. They may have addictions, they may have dropped out of school, or they may have mental health problems. Organizations such as the one I mentioned are trying to help them to get jobs, give them valuable and relevant tools, build their self-confidence, and direct and guide them. However, now the government is taking all that money away from these organizations, leaving them with no alternative. It does not make any sense.
Last year, in addition to failing to renew this program, the Liberals added Young Canada Works to the youth employment strategy, even though that program falls under the jurisdiction of another department, Canadian Heritage. This year, there has been no mention of the program, not even under official languages. However, many francophone organizations use the Young Canada Works program because it is the only one that has a language criterion and that enables young Acadians, Franco-Saskatchewanians, and Franco-Yukoners to more easily access jobs where they can work in their mother tongue.
There is also the problem of Phoenix. We should also be talking about that since we know that over 200,000 public servants are affected. Generally speaking, people who work irregular schedules are having the most problems, for example, those doing paid internships, those on parental leave, and summer students. They are the ones who are suffering the most. They do not have access to the parliamentary network.
We should have been talking about these types of projects that affect whether young people can or cannot get good and lasting jobs that will help improve their lives. That was not addressed in the budget.
Madam Speaker, I know the people from our region appreciate the opportunity for their member of Parliament to stand today. I would like to start by saying it is an honour to split my time with the other member for , some would say the better member for Barrie, or at least better looking.
Oftentimes when we get the opportunity to speak in the House of Commons, it is on motions and items where we see very positive changes happening. Unfortunately, today is not one of those moments. I think I can speak for every member in the House when I say that every summer I look forward to seeing the different organizations applying for Canada summer jobs money. They are applying to put students into the workplace to give them experience and ensure they are ready either for the studies they are going back to or eventually the job market.
Unfortunately, this year we have had a change introduced by the Liberal government. The and his team have decided that in order to qualify for funding, organizations would need to sign a new attestation. Focusing on the meat of the attestation, it states:
|| Both the job* and my organization's core mandate* respect individual human rights in Canada, including the values underlying the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms as well as other rights. These include reproductive rights and the right to be free from discrimination on the basis of sex, religion, race, national or ethnic origin, colour, mental or physical disability or sexual orientation, or gender identity or expression;....
When we look at this on the surface, it is something perhaps many people would immediately jump behind. When we look deeper into this and the effect the attestation and verbiage put forward by the government is having on society, we can see major issues. We have seen organizations across the country come forward and state that they have issues getting these summer students, who will be providing services to Canadians, to sign the attestation. They cannot, in fact, sign this attestation based on the one of the items outlined in the attestation, either freedom of religion or freedom of speech.
The Toronto City Mission, in the riding of , helps literally thousands of people. It helps widows, kids in government housing, those who do not have a place to live, the homeless, those with disabilities and mental health issues, those who are seeking employment, food, and shelter. Dave Addison, of the Toronto City Mission, says the following about the attestation:
|| The mission is already operating at a deficit, having decided last year to offer the camps [for children] for free because many of the families they serve can’t afford to pay any fee [at all]....
|| We love the widow, the orphan, the refugee, [and] the poor. We ask the government to remove the attestation and allow us to do our loving work.
That is the crux of the issue we have in front of us today. There are thousands upon thousands of organizations across this country that just want to love and help Canadians who are in need. In my own riding of Barrie—Springwater—Oro—Medonte, the Hope City Church in downtown Barrie helps those who are trying to get out of prostitution rings or out of human trafficking. It offers support services to help people get their lives on track, to help those dealing with mental health issues and addictions, yet this year it will not be able to provide those services because it is unable to sign this attestation.
The government would have Canadians believe that this is somehow about some sort of side issue that it would like to bring up. The reality is that this attestation, no matter what the intent was by the government, is about the Canadians it affects. It is about the widow that the Toronto City Mission helps. It is about the children in government housing who would not have a summer camp to go to without the Toronto City Mission. This attestation and its effects, this entire debate, is about seniors who do not have access to health care, yet there are organizations in each of our communities across the country that step up and provide these services.
This attestation and this entire issue, this debate today, are about Canadians who are marginalized who no longer will have the services that they had last year because the government decided to introduce this attestation. This entire debate is about supporting those in our community who need help, and it does not matter where in the country they come from. It does not matter whether someone is a Liberal MP in Atlantic Canada, a Conservative MP from Ontario, or a New Democrat from B.C. These issues are affecting us all the same.
We are seeing organizations in our communities pulling back from the entire process for summer students, which means they are pulling back from the services that they are providing Canadians or trying to find ways to come up with the funding. It is terrible. I never thought that I would see the day when we would have a government double the amount of funds going to this program, which is literally training young people to help those in need and actually helping those who are in need, and at the same time as doubling the funding it is cutting the services to those who need it most. It is incredibly shameful.
It is not about one religion or one faith. This is affecting everybody. We saw in the National Post an article where there was an imam from the Muslim community in Mississauga speaking about this issue. We saw leaders of the Sikh community stepping up on this issue. We saw members of Catholic and Christian communities stepping up, of the Coptic Christians, and of many different faiths across our society because it affects everybody equally. It affects a Muslim kid's help phone line. It affects churches who are on the streets doing mission work. It affects Project Ramadan, which provides food and support to many different communities. Just because the organization is of the Muslim faith and has a Muslim faith basis, it does not just help Muslims. It helps everybody, anybody who is in need in that community.
This attestation is getting in the way of these organizations being able to provide those front-line services that government fails to provide. It is getting in the way of people being able to access shelters. It is getting in the way of our young people being taught the lessons and being given the experience and learning the empathy to deal with those in our society who just do not have what we have, who do not have the same access to the things that we in the House have. To say that we are going to marginalize, as a House, that the government is somehow going to marginalize not just the groups that provide these services, not just the students who work with the groups that provide these services, but those people who are in need and who are accessing these services day in and day out, is incredibly disgusting to me.
How could this be where the government has ended up? Maybe it was not the intent. Maybe the intent of this action was not to have those people hurt. Maybe the intent of this action was to try to do something good, but that is not what we are seeing. At first, the minister said that this is great and not to worry. Just a few weeks later, the Liberals had to walk out and say that, actually, the wording is not what the wording means and this is actually what they mean now, but they are not going to change the wording. Then we have organizations across the country saying that they cannot apply even under this changed wording because the verbiage is still the exact same as it was before. The minister, the , and the government have failed to listen and they failed to consult and they failed to learn what the issues were with this attestation that they put forward, which is infringing on the faith and religious beliefs of Canadians.
I did not come to the House and I did not run for election to cut off services to those who are most in need in our community. I can say, as somebody who has grown up in government housing, who has accessed food banks, who has dealt with many of the issues that we are seeing these organizations that are being cut off deal with, that these are life and death matters in many situations. What we need to do today, as a House, is to call on the government to back away on the attestation and stand up for Canadians who have been marginalized.
Mr. Speaker, I also want to thank my friend from not only for sharing his time with me today but for his passionate conviction on this issue of the attestation. It is an issue we have seen, over the course of the last couple of months, that has really galvanized Canadians.
I will start off with a question, and I am not sure I will get the answer I think I should get. If government members were asked to sign something they did not believe in to receive government funding, would they? That is precisely what they are asking Canadian organizations, Canadian faith-based organizations, Canadian community organizations that do tremendous work across this country, as my friend from talked about, to do. The government is asking them to sign something they do not fundamentally agree with, and they should not have to, because we have a Charter of Rights and Freedoms that defends everyone's right to freedom of speech, freedom of thought, freedom of conviction, and freedom of religion. Everyone across this country has these rights.
I am not sure how this even came up, whether it was the minister herself who imposed this, whether this was a decision of cabinet, or whether this was a decision of the backroom operatives, including Gerald Butts. This sounds very similar to the type of stuff that goes on in Ontario and did go on under Gerry Butts's watch. It is mind-boggling to me that we are even at this point.
When the government introduced this in December, just before Christmas, it created a lot of angst within the communities that apply for funding under the Canada summer jobs program. There was a lot of confusion about the attestation. There was a lot of confusion about what it meant. If someone did not sign the attestation, what would that mean for Canada summer jobs funding?
That confusion led to a lot of doubt, and it caused the government to step back and try to clarify the meaning of the attestation. That created more confusion. Within this envelope I have, there are rejected applications from those organizations that refused to sign the attestation or decided that they were going to put in a supplementary attestation and not check the boxes. Their applications were rejected by Service Canada, because they did not follow the criteria the government set out for them.
What does that mean to those organizations that received Canada summer jobs funding in the past and applied that funding toward hiring students and toward helping community organizations and community groups? They are not going to get that funding, and they are not going to be able to provide valuable work experience for those young people, many of whom are in university.
What is funny about this is that the Liberal government says that it wants to help young people gain experience and gain jobs, yet it has imposed this ideological values test that has a direct impact on those young people, many, as I said, who are university, who are looking for summer employment. It is a big problem. What is the impact of those students not working within those organizations? Many of them will not be able to do things within the community that these organizations are able to do.
It is not just faith-based organizations that are having a problem with this. Two weeks ago, just before the application deadline, I was on the phone with Dan Dufour. Dan owns Eggsmart, in Alcona, which is in the riding of Barrie--Innisfil. Last year he hired four Canada summer jobs students. He does not have any faith-based problems with this. He has a fundamental individual rights problem with this. Dan asked me why he should sign this attestation to qualify for a government program he received in the past. That is a fair question.
What is the impact for Dan and his business? He is not going to be able to hire those four students, and the service levels within his restaurant could potentially drop. I know he is already struggling because of the high tax burden and the high regulatory burden from having a business in the province of Ontario and because of the taxes federally. I told Dan to send in the application but to include a note. I am sure his application will have been rejected because of the others that have been.
This is a real problem. I know that the government is trying to twist this. I sat through most of the debate this morning and listened to the Liberals trying to twist it and say that it is not the way it is. Clearly, there was a lot of confusion when this program first came out.
This is one of the things I found out after the election in 2015, when I first started dealing with the Canada summer jobs program. We have a tremendous ability to allocate funding for the Canada summer jobs program and to put it in areas where we think it will be best utilized, not just to hire students but to support the types of community programs that exist. One of those is municipalities. Municipalities generally apply for a large mount of funding. We are hearing stories from across the country that municipalities, which in some cases hire 100 or 120 students, are not going to be applying to the summer jobs program, because they do not feel, as municipalities, that they need to subscribe to a government values test to get government funding for a summer student jobs program.
It is a very slippery slope we are heading down when the government tries to impose its own ideological purity test on these types of programs. What is next? Where does this go next? Does it go toward old age security payments for seniors? I think these are fair questions. To be eligible, am I, as an individual, going to have to sign an attestation that says that I agree with the government's ideology? If I want to apply for employment insurance, does it mean I have to sign an attestation that says I agree with the government's ideology to qualify for insurance? It should never get to that point. It should never have gotten to this point, where the government is imposing a purity test on Canadian organizations that do tremendous work across the country.
We heard in the budget this week that there will be a lot of money flying out these doors. A lot of money will be going to organizations the government will be funding. For example, the government announced $150 million for a journalistic fund. Was it $50 million or $150 million? I do not have the number quite in my head. Is it going to impose the same purity test on those organizations to apply for this funding? There is $500 million going to a China infrastructure bank. Is the government going to impose its purity test on organizations that apply for that funding? I think not. This is a very slippery slope we are heading down.
We have a Charter of Rights and Freedoms that protects the right of individuals to believe and think what they want. For the government to impose this test strikes at the very core of what this place represents. This place represents generations of Canadians who have fought for us to have the right to believe in what we believe in, to think what we want to think, and to say what we want to say, within some limits. Those fights have happened, and people have died for that.
For the government to impose this on these organizations and individuals, who have a tremendous impact across the country in the work they do, which many will now not be able to do because they will not qualify because they do not want to sign the attestation, is a real shame.
It is not just a shame for those communities and those people it is going to help. It is a shame for our democracy that this government would impose an ideological purity test on Canadians.
Mr. Speaker, before I begin I wish to inform the House that I will be splitting my time with the member for .
I am pleased to provide some background and some perspective on a Government of Canada program that has brought support to, and transformed, the outlook of young people in Canada for decades. I am referring to the Canada summer jobs program.
I have had the privilege as an MP of meeting many employers and many students of the CSJ program over the years. I have seen just how much difference it makes in the community, whether I was visiting students who were helping disabled people learn how to sail at Jericho Beach, or whether it was the many youth camps where young people go out into the wilderness of Pacific Spirit Regional Park to learn about ecology, or whether it is the legal clinics where young people who are entering into their education to become lawyers are hired to provide free services to people who cannot afford to pay for legal services, or whether it is those young students who are teaching swimming lessons to the children of families in Vancouver Quadra. There have been many ways that I have seen the benefits for the community.
This is a program that also has specific objectives for meeting the current and future needs of the labour market, and for improving the situation of the youth as they prepare to enter the labour market. This is why national priorities for the Canada summer jobs program, CSJ, were established in the first place.
Here is an outline of some of those priorities that our government has established. We are giving priority to employers who hire youth from under-represented groups, including new immigrants and refugees, indigenous peoples, people with disabilities, and visible minorities. It is true that all young people face challenges, but some young people face more challenges than others. They could benefit hugely from an opportunity to have a summer job.
For example, indigenous youth are less likely to complete high school than non-indigenous youth. We all know that abandoning high school will have a significant impact on a person's future career prospects. It is important to be able to access a summer job.
Most often youth who are immigrants have no work experience in Canada, and have no network to rely on. As well, they do not necessarily have the basic skills in one of our official languages, and have challenges in getting their foreign credentials and credits recognized.
These are all key elements of a successful integration into the Canadian market and a Canada summer job. The income is important to the students, and so is the work experience, the mentoring they receive, and the chance to improve their skills in the workplace. That is why youth from underrepresented groups are part of our national priorities in the context of the CSJ program.
A second priority is favouring small businesses that play such an important role in creating jobs in Canada. Having come from a small business and then a medium business background, I am very mindful of how difficult it is for small business people. Small business people, as we know, are one of the key drivers of the Canadian economy, accounting for some 97.9% of all businesses in Canada, and representing, on average, 30% of our national GDP, playing a very important role in job creation.
Small businesses do not always have the ability to pay a full salary to a summer employee, to be able to expand the services, or respond to extra demand over the summer. This federal incentive of the CSJ program is the element that allows them to hire young, inexperienced staff who will benefit from the training that they receive, but also bring new ideas and experience to the workplace.
A third priority is with regard to the official language minority communities. This program also considers organizations that support employment opportunities for official language minority communities as a national priority.
It is no secret that minority language groups often experience challenges in maintaining the vitality of their language and culture. The CSJ programs helps by promoting the delivery of bilingual service and the use of the second language in the workplace. I know the francophone communities in British Columbia and Vancouver experienced this to be a very useful support for all of the hard work they do, often on a volunteer basis, to maintain and increase the services and vibrancy of their communities.
A fourth priority of this Canada summer jobs program is organizations that offer services or support to the LGBTQ2 community. Our government recognizes that all individuals should have the right to live according to their sexual identity, and to express that identity without discrimination. Why does the CSJ program give priority to organizations that provide opportunities for young people in the LGBTQ2 community? Simply because it is the right thing to do. This community has always been discriminated against in the workplace. Even today, members of the LGBTQ2 community earn less than their peers. Therefore, having an opportunity for a summer job can help bridge that opportunity gap.
Science and technology is a key theme for our government, and for our country's future. The CSJ program will place a particular focus on organizations that support job opportunities in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics sectors, as well as the information and communications technologies sectors, particularly for women.
Already in my constituency of Vancouver Quadra, UBC has been a beneficiary of the CSJ program to increase the opportunities it can provide to students, and the work that can be done during the summer months for the very important programs, particularly research.
I am very pleased to hear that this is now an explicit priority for the program to support our vision of making Canada a global innovation centre. This complements the historic investments in research that budget 2018 has just announced, which I am thrilled by, as are so many Canadians. By helping employers create early work experiences in the areas of science and technology, our government enables students to consider careers in the high-demand well-paid occupations that are shaping the future of the country.
Women tend to be less represented in the STEM sector. Women need to have equal opportunities to participate. This year, employers in that category are actively encouraged to consider employing women, because we know that the proportion of women is too low in science and technology. We want to think about ways that we can help reverse that trend through our government initiatives.
Service Canada will evaluate the applications based on the eligibility conditions and the local MP's priorities as well, because local MPs understand what makes sense on the ground in terms of supporting the government's larger direction, and all eligible applications are ranked by their evaluation score.
These are the key evaluation criteria for the CSJ program. They help ensure that the program brings benefits to our citizens, their families, and the students. In this spirit, the CSJ program will not fund organizations whose primary activities involve partisan political activities, or whose activities do not respect or do actively undermine established individual human rights in Canada. That is not what government money or the CSJ program should be for.
There has been some representation on behalf of some groups and persons who have been critical of our evaluation criteria. However, I want to assure members of this House, and the people following this debate, that there is ample opportunity for those who are supporting Canada's rights and values to access this program. Many organizations are clear that the safeguards introduced to the CSJ program are not discriminatory, and do not represent any infringement on the freedoms of religion or conscience, or any other rights that people enjoy.
I am very happy that the CSJ program will continue to bring important benefits to young Canadians and their communities for decades to come.
Mr. Speaker, I appreciate this opportunity to provide our government's perspective on an issue that is at the heart of our employment objectives for our young people, which is the issue of access to good-quality jobs.
Canada summer jobs has been a very successful Government of Canada program that has offered thousands of youth job opportunities since it was first created. The program has been reaching its objectives to give young people the opportunity to acquire work and life experience while supporting community-based initiatives. Fundamentally, this is about jobs for kids.
These are simple objectives. The spirit of the program is to open doors for young people and give them a good start to their working careers.
It has been my honour as a member of Parliament to approve this list for hundreds of young people in our community and to ensure that at every point in every year I was able to make those kinds of calls, no discrimination was taking place.
In this context, the organizations that provide quality employment to young people through the Canada summer jobs program are as varied as the economic sectors in the country. The CSJ program provides funding to not-for-profit organizations, public sector employers, and small businesses with 50 or fewer full-time employees. The range of activities is therefore almost unlimited.
There are, and have been, a number of eligibility criteria that employers must meet, but there is one key requirement that underpins eligibility, and that criterion is respect.
This program, which has certainly already proven itself, provides subsidies to employers so that they can create valuable summer jobs for students enrolled in secondary or post-secondary studies. This can include employers in the public sector, private companies with fewer than 50 employees, and non-profit organizations. Religious and faith-based organizations are of course eligible for program funding, as in past years, and we strongly encourage them to submit an application.
However, it is important to remember that one of the fundamental principles our government believes in is upholding the rights of Canadians, especially the rights guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. That is why, after we learned that funding through this program had been used to undermine the rights of some Canadians, we took the necessary steps to ensure that it never happens again. As the government, we had a duty to consider the fact that some organizations were not allowing young people from the LGBTQ2 community to attend their summer camps or they were distributing images of aborted fetuses. That is why we had to ask organizations to clarify their mandate and their primary activities before giving them funding under the Canada summer jobs program.
Our government and members of the government have been clear and vocal about our basic values over the course of our two-year time in government, values like inclusion, compassion, respect, and no discrimination. We have been trying to integrate those values into our policies and programs, like our progressive trade agenda and the inclusion of human factors in environmental assessments.
This year, the CSJ program includes an element whereby applicants are required to attest that both the job and the organization's core mandate respect individual human rights in Canada, including the values underlying the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms as well as other rights. We know there were comments and conversations about this and that there were constructive conversations between reasonable people. The spoke with the cardinal of Montreal, and the cardinal encouraged all Catholic parishes to apply to the fund. That is a fantastic example of constructive dialogue between government and faith organizations.
There is an old line that my uncle would use when we would all get together at Christmastime. He would tell all sorts of hilarious jokes and wild stories. If anybody ever questioned him about the details of his jokes, he would say, “Never let the truth get in the way of a good story.” I have to compliment the opposition members today for bringing me back to those Christmas dinners, because they obviously feel they have a great storyline but the truth has nothing to do with it.
The arguments of the Conservative Party have nothing whatsoever to do with the actual content of the attestation or our government's policy on the Canada summer jobs grant. The attestation makes it crystal clear that it has nothing to do with an individual's personal beliefs, but everything to do with the nature of the jobs that organization is hiring for and the nature of the organization's core mandate, the core mandate not their personal beliefs.
The motion talks about organizations whose mandate is to feed the homeless. There is nothing in the attestation talking about core mandates of feeding the homeless. I want to see an end to homelessness. I want to ensure that all homeless people are fed, and so does our government.
The motion talks about organizations that help refugees. There is nothing in the attestation about having a core mandate to help refugees.
The opposition is pulling its hair out over a problem that simply does not exist. I sympathize with pulling one's hair out because I do not have much left to pull out. However, the Conservative Party is looking for headlines. The Conservatives see an opportunity to scare Canadians into thinking the government is coming for them and their private beliefs. Nothing could be further from the truth. People are protected by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, with the freedom to worship in our country.
Let us talk about what is in the attestation. In particular, I want to talk about a key aspect of the attestation that has not received much attention in this discussion. It is the requirement to attest that the job and the organization will respect the right to be from discrimination on the grounds protected by the Canada Human Rights Act, including sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression.
Some 15 months ago, the House passed Bill to protect Canadians from discrimination on the basis of their gender identity or gender expression. It explicitly protects transgender and non-binary Canadians from being discriminated against in employment. Bill C-16, as members well know, is now law, and it passed the House with the support of members from all parties, including the mover of today's motion. Perhaps those members can explain why they voted for a law that protects gender-diverse Canadians from discrimination in employment, but are now angry that the Government of Canada will not fund organizations that want to discriminate in employment against these very gender-diverse Canadians.
Individuals are entitled to their personal beliefs. However, it is a reality that there are organizations that hold LGBTQ2 people like me with contempt and believe they are entitled to discriminate against me and others because of who we love or how we express our gender. That is why governments have passed laws to protect me and members of my community from that discrimination. Yet, it seems, from the arguments I hear today, that there is a belief that these organisations are not only entitled to discriminate, but they deserve a big government effort and government financing to help them fund that effort.
Our government has taken a stand that if an organization's mandate is to turn back the clock and take away the rights and human dignity of LGBTQ2 Canadians, or women, or indigenous people, or people with disabilities or people of visible minority background, it has the right to do so but it does not have the right to expect LGBTQ2 Canadians and other taxpayers to pay it to do it.
The other piece of this discussion is with respect to abortion. Once again, individuals are entitled to have different views on this issue. For 10 years, the previous government refused to fund international organizations that performed abortion services overseas. The Conservatives had said that if an organization was involved in abortion, it did not get Government of Canada funding. I remember those days. I do not remember a single member opposite speaking out about it. The members seemed perfectly fine to deny needed medical services to women based on a viewpoint on abortion. However, our government refuses to pay organizations to hire individuals to protest outside of an abortion clinic to scare or abuse women, or pay organizations to hand out grotesque pamphlets on the streets. We have a problem with that.
Again, people are absolutely entitled to their own points of view in our country. They are entitled to hold those views and apply for or receive a summer job grant. However, if they choose to discriminate in their employment or want to hire people for no other job than to turn back the clock on women's rights, on LGBTQ2 rights, on the rights of persons with disabilities, on indigenous rights, then this government will decline their requests for such a cheque.
Who is supporting us in this matter? Abortion Support Services Atlantic, Alberta Pro-Choice Coalition, Shelter House Thunder Bay, Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants, the Canadian Centre for Gender and Sexual Diversity, as well as the Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies.
Is it too much to ask that a Government of Canada program respect the individual rights and values underlying the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms? That all seems reasonable to our government as well as to major stakeholders, including the National Association of Women and the Law. I hope all members in the House will come to the same conclusion.
We are forging ahead with our goal of strengthening the middle class and creating a level playing field where everyone has the chance to succeed. That is our vision. That is our commitment.
Mr. Speaker, thank you for your kind introduction.
I am rising in the House today to explain to those who may be listening that we want to preserve the pillars of our society. We are proud of our democracy and the rights we have acquired. We saw the example of someone from the LGBTQ community asserting their rights and convictions. That is Canada. It is an open, tolerant, and generous country when it comes to the beliefs of each and everyone of us.
With this measure, the Liberal government is really imposing its rigid partisan agenda. We saw this last week; it is a partisan straitjacket. We all remember the 's disastrous trip to India. The fact that he used taxpayers' money to pay for his vacation is dubious enough already. It is even more dubious considering that he brought along certain MPs to solicit members of a specific community rather than do real business with one of the biggest countries in the world, with which we need to build a strong trade relationship. It is worse still when he plays partisan politics and attacks the integrity of our public service by sending his representatives to defend the indefensible and cover up his blunders. We all remember the case of Jaspal Atwal, who went to India and caused quite a stir. Asking a public servant to get involved was completely unnecessary. Here is what an Indian newspaper had to say about the whole affair:
||...a disaster that has little parallel in India’s recent diplomatic history.
It was just last week that public servant Daniel Jean was thrown to the wolves. Because of partisanship, the Liberals are prepared to compromise the necessary separation between politics and the federal public service, not to speak of creating a major embarrassment with India. I hope that, as a country, we will apologize to India, because the Prime Minister’s behaviour has not made us proud. Last week we saw the firm grip of partisanship, akin to a straitjacket.
This week, we were put in a financial straitjacket. The Liberals are driving us into yet another deficit. This will be our third year posting a deficit, this time totalling $18 billion. All this while raising taxes for eight out of 10 middle-class families. Families are paying more tax, and future Canadians will pay off our debt. This is the second straitjacket the Liberals have put us in.
The third is the subject of the motion today. It is an ideological straitjacket. Broadly speaking, it is not complicated, it means that Canadians who do not think exactly like the Prime Minister have a problem. That is what we are denouncing today.
Yesterday, this same and most of his MPs proudly wore pink. Why? To oppose bullying and harassment. That was right here, yesterday. Everyone was spouting rhetoric about respecting diversity and different points of view and building a diverse society. In fact, this principle is so important that it is enshrined in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Unfortunately, here is an example of the government trying to impose its ideological agenda on us. It is using a program that is meant to create jobs in my riding, Bellechasse—Les Etchemins—Lévis, as well as in the riding of the hon. member for , with whom I will be sharing my time. This is a member who has done excellent work and for whom I have great respect. I am convinced that he will do an impeccable job of addressing a point he deems important.
In this country, and in our political party, we respect every individual’s freedom of conscience and freedom of belief. Unfortunately, the Liberals believe in the Liberal doctrine. It is the Prime Minister’s way or the highway.
In this case, he is excluding organizations that do not endorse the Liberal ideology. Obviously, as I mentioned, this is an approach that runs counter to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, because we must protect freedom of conscience.
In the case of the Canada summer jobs program, we should be thinking about creating jobs. The aim of the program is to create jobs for Canadian youth. That is not what the government is doing. The Prime Minister says that he is going to create jobs, but only if people think exactly like he does. People have to endorse his beliefs and values, despite the fact that freedom of conscience, freedom of expression, and freedom of religious belief are enshrined in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
His Majesty the has decided that he holds the absolute truth. If you do not think like he does, you are not entitled to government money. Where is this going to end? Unfortunately, the government has a tendency to impose its partisan agenda on federal public servants. It is driving us into a financial abyss and now it is waging ideological warfare. It is a slippery slope because our political system relies on separate judicial, legislative, and executive systems. However, it appears that the ’s omnipotence allows him to interfere with the other pillars of our democracy, in particular by attacking the very fundamental rights that he claims to be upholding. We disagree, and we are not the only ones.
Several Canadian organizations are standing up and saying that they do not want to be told what to think. That is not the government’s role. They are uncomfortable signing a form that places them in a straitjacket. That is why we are asking the to put an immediate end to these ideological constraints he is imposing on organizations applying to the program. We saw several examples today, including summer camp organizations and people with other interesting projects who find themselves in a dilemma because they must make an ethical choice, a choice of conscience. That is what is at stake. The government wants to impose its ideological agenda, and that is unacceptable.
Justin Trudeau is entitled to his opinions and points of view, but he cannot impose them on everyone. This is not complicated; we are saying that the Canada summer jobs program is a program to create jobs. It is not a program for imposing an ideological point of view. What we are asking is that the government withdraw the attestation, withdraw the ideological criteria for a program that is intended for all Canadians, not just those who are on Justin Trudeau’s bandwagon, or who are entitled—
Mr. Speaker, the deadline for the Canada summer jobs program passed last month, but I am still hearing from groups and organizations from my riding and across Canada that are confused and unsure whether or not they will be approved for funding like they have in previous years.
These groups are not the monsters the Liberals are making them out to be. They are summer camps, food banks, groups working with at-risk youth and those challenged physically or emotionally, seniors homes, personal care facilities, and groups working with new refugees, helping them adjust to life in a new country, finding accommodation and helping them with English as a second language, and finding social networks to help new arrivals develop friendships and connections. To have the Liberal government attack them day in and day out in the media and here in the House is shameful and has left them feeling like enemies of their government.
Conservatives believe in Canadians' fundamental freedoms, the right to freedom of conscience, freedom of beliefs, and the right to freedom of expression. No one has the right to prevent others from advocating or expressing their beliefs, especially their government.
That is why Conservatives oppose the values test the Liberal government has imposed on applicants for Canada summer jobs grants. Under this test, if an organization does not sign the attestation agreeing with the ideological positions of the Liberal Party, the organization will no longer be eligible to receive funding for a summer student. Let me read part of the attestation:
|| [B]oth the job and the organization's core mandate respect individual human rights in Canada, including the values underlying the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms as well as other rights. These include reproductive rights and the right to be free from discrimination on the basis of sex, religion, race, national or ethnic origin, colour, mental or physical disability or sexual orientation or gender identity or expression.
As I already said, this is directly affecting groups in my riding and across Canada to the point that now many organizations have made the tough decision and have refused to apply for Canada's summer jobs program this year. I think about the loss of these important services. It is a huge loss to our community. Then I think of how the students themselves will be affected without a job this summer because of the misuse of this government program to favour the Liberals' ideological allies.
That is why I was happy to sponsor an electronic petition from a local resident, Joyce Stankiewicz, from New Hamburg in my riding of Kitchener—Conestoga. Petition e-1484 reads as follows:
|| The current eligibility requirements of employers seeking to apply for Government of Canada funding through the Canada Summer Jobs Program require organizations to sign an attestation stating that their organization’s core mandate respects individual human rights in Canada, including the values underlying the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms as well as other rights, including reproductive rights and the right to be free from discrimination on the basis of sex, religion, race, national or ethnic origin, colour, mental or physical disability, sexual orientation, or gender identity or expression;
|| We believe that requiring organizations to attest that this is their organization’s “core mandate” would force many organizations to choose between their beliefs, often rooted in their religion, and being able to receive funding; and
|| By its nature, this requirement discriminates against organizations based on their beliefs.
|| We, the undersigned, residents of Canada, call upon the Government of Canada to remove this discriminatory requirement and allow Canadians to continue to exercise their freedom of religion and freedom of expression without facing institutionalized discrimination by the Government of Canada.
This petition went live on February 6, a little over three weeks ago, and as of this morning had well over 6,100 signatures.
The government is out of touch with Canadians on its best day, but this is a new level of arrogance of the Liberal government two years into its first mandate.
The minister's response to these groups across Canada was, “Don't worry, just sign the attestation anyway.” To be instructed to ignore one's deeply held beliefs and to sign an attestation which is diametrically opposite to one's fundamental world views is to encourage dishonesty. It promotes hypocrisy. For each of us here it is important that we aspire to the highest standards of integrity. In other words, we act on what we say we believe.
Sir Thomas More is often quoted as saying, “When statesmen forsake their private conscience for sake of their own public duties they lead their country by a short route to chaos.” That is so true.
What the Liberals fundamentally fail to understand is that Canadians do have deeply held personal beliefs, beliefs they are unwilling to be forced to go against, and we as leaders should not be forcing them to forsake their private conscience.
In 2018, it is an absolute shame that I am hearing from groups in my riding who feel bullied and pressured by their government to sign an attestation that goes directly against their beliefs. One group that asked to remain anonymous told my staff, “We don't want our organization's name used because we are fearful that the Liberal government will cut our funding because we have spoken out.” That is a shame. This group works with individuals with special needs. These are Canadians who deserve to be honoured and celebrated by our government, not attacked.
When the of Canada said that Canada is back, I am not so sure what he was talking about. Is he saying that Canada is back to discriminating against citizens who do not hold the same beliefs, or that Canada is back to attacking the rights of Canadians to freedom of speech, belief, and expression?
Another group in my riding that provides low-cost full-day camps for kids in junior kindergarten to grade 5 said in an email to my office, “We find that many of the families who register for the camps are able to do so because of their affordability. We filled 240 camp spaces...within a few weeks of opening registration in March and parents in our community have come to rely on them. We love to be able to make these programs available to our community and have always felt so fortunate to receive the summer job grants from the federal government to make them possible.”
The email goes on to say, “We value loving and blessing our neighbours and don't ever want to discriminate against any group, regardless of their beliefs. We believe in freedom of thought and religion. However, like many others, we will not in good conscience be able to sign the attestation as it is written into the new application. Our plan for application submission as directed by our denomination and the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada is to move forward and submit our application without checking off the attestation box on the application.”
By all accounts, by all indications given by the current government, this group, which provides subsidized child care spots to over 200 children throughout the summer in and around my riding, will now be rejected simply because they refused to go against their beliefs with respect to this unfair request of the government. What is the government's plan to help those parents who now cannot affordable child care over the summer? I doubt very much that there even is a plan.
A pastor in Kanata, which is not far from here, wrote to his member of Parliament, the MP for . In his letter he stated:
|| We have a wonderful evangelical congregation here.... It is active and vibrant, with a significant ongoing history of being very involved in the life of our community, and with a positive reputation for a high level of community involvement and impact. From the low-cost housing development behind our church building, including a 6-storey building and multiple townhouse-styled units, through past social projects like hospice care; from our monthly “Open Table” which offers free meals to some 140 guests, to sponsoring a Muslim Syrian refugee family of seven (now eight!); and from our international work in Mexico and last year in Rwanda, to local ministries like our onsite summer camp: we act on what we believe Jesus has asked us to do.
The pastor goes on to say later in his letter:
|| In short, our belief is that the government does not have the right to ask us to make any kind of statement which conflicts with our religious conscience. I need to tell you that what I have heard from the government over the past month makes remarkably clear that the government officials involved in this process simply do not know or understand us or our faith. It is sad that who we are, and what we do, is so radically unknown to our own government. We could be a great asset in the work of justice and good things. That’s what we do; we do it well.
The Conservatives believe that Canadians know better than government what is good for them. We listened and consulted with community organizations across the country, because we believe that Canadians have a right to hold their own beliefs and to express themselves without fear of judgment from the federal government.
In the spirit of the motion, I hope that all members will agree that organizations that engage in non-political, non-activist work, such as feeding the homeless, helping refugees, and giving kids an opportunity to go to camp, should be able to access Canada summer jobs funding, regardless of their private convictions and regardless of whether or not they choose to sign the application attestation. It is my sincere hope that all members of the House will have the freedom to vote their conscience on this very crucial issue that affects all Canadians.
Mr. Speaker, I wish to inform you that I will be splitting my time with the member for Cambridge.
It is a privilege to rise in this House and speak about Canada summer jobs and our government's commitment to quality youth employment in this country.
In fact, it is youth that inspired me to enter politics. I looked at my daughter and her friends, and the future that they aspired to, and felt that I could make a difference in the lives of these young girls as well as young girls across Canada. I am sure all members of this House would agree that the Canada summer jobs program is an important part of how government helps young Canadians gain important job experience, which ultimately helps grow our economy and our middle class.
The program is very well received by both employers and students in my riding of Fundy Royal. In fact, I am so impressed by the number of organizations and small businesses that embrace this opportunity to offer students that valuable experience while also benefiting from more hands on deck during peak times. I thank these organizations for their commitment and contribution to our communities.
Unfortunately, we have had concerns raised by Canadians about funding going to organizations that actively undermine the rights of Canadians, meaning that we had youth undertaking activities funded by the government, that worked against the rights of women and LGBTQ2 communities, for example. It is these concerns that spurred our government to take action. That action was to make changes to the Canada summer jobs application process, changes to ensure that a young person in a job funded by the government would work in an environment that respects the rights of all Canadians, including women and the LGBTQ2 community, and that funded organizations realize their responsibility as employers to provide this environment.
In contrast, we know the , the member for , has a long-standing relationship with the Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform, an organization that fights against a woman's right to choose. Nine months ago, during his leadership campaign, he spoke with the Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform's director of communications, Jonathon Van Maren, who said, “Like most of you, I’ve known who my top choices are for months...Scheer actually is pro-life and has a record to prove it.” He knew this because the Leader of the Opposition told the centre, “I have always voted in favour of pro-life legislation. I voted according to my conscience every time. I spoke out when Henry Morgentaler received the Order of Canada.”
With the support of the Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform having been so critical to the leadership victory, it is not difficult to understand why the has a vested interested in continuing to ensure that the centre can continue to rely on taxpayer funds to promote this anti-abortion agenda. This lack of respect for the rights of Canadians is not new, or from just the leader. In fact, in 2005, the former member for Fundy Royal, Rob Moore, put forth a private member's bill, an act to confirm the definition of marriage. He said:
|| There is now a great concern in Canada that if same sex marriage is legalized, it will have a profound and long-lasting implication for freedom of religion and freedom of conscience, and it will become increasingly difficult for people who do not agree with same sex marriage to participate in public life.
That is not what we stand for.
The Canada summer jobs program is an important part of our government's youth employment strategy. We must ensure that funding from this program is not used to undermine individual human rights. Simply put, Canadians expect us to make sure that Canada summer jobs funding respects the hard-earned rights of all Canadians.
Our youth employment strategy is the Government of Canada's commitment to help Canada's newest workers get a strong start to their careers. We need to take a whole-of-government approach when it comes to administering this strategy. In fact, the youth employment strategy is delivered by 11 federal departments and agencies across government. It helps Canadians between the ages of 15 and 30 obtain the information, and develop the job skills, abilities, and experience they need to get quality jobs.
Since 2005, the strategy has helped more than 900,000 young Canadians get the skills, competences, and experience they need to get those quality jobs, something we can all be proud of. This important strategy has three complementary programs; first, skills link; second, career focus; and third, summer work experience, which is part of the Canada summer jobs program.
The skills link stream helps vulnerable and underrepresented youth, facing barriers to employment, develop the skills they need to find a job or to go back to school. With skills link, we are focusing on single parents, youth with disabilities, indigenous youth, young newcomers, and youth in rural and remote areas.
Career focus is our second stream, and it helps post-secondary graduates find work through paid internships. This important stream provides youth with the information and experience they need to make informed career decisions, find a job, or pursue advanced studies.
The third component is a summer work experience stream, which includes Canada summer jobs. It offers subsidies to employers to create summer jobs for high school and post-secondary students.
Taken together, these three streams form the core of our youth employment strategy. This important strategy is helping youth get the much needed employment, while helping meet the changing needs of a new and increasingly globalized economy.
That is why each year we have invested over $330 million into this strategy. Investments in our last two budgets will help more than 33,000 vulnerable youths, create 15,000 new green jobs for youth, and provide more than 1,600 jobs for youth which focus on Canadian heritage.
Since 2016, we have created up to 35,000 additional summer jobs for youth every year. In 2017, Canada summer jobs doubled the number of jobs created in 2015. To further expand the strategy, our government committed to providing an additional $395 million in our 2017 budget. In budget 2018, our government proposed to provide an additional $448.5 million over five years to the strategy, starting in 2018-2019.
This funding will support the continued doubling of the number of job placements funded under the Canada summer jobs program in the 2019-2020 years, and provide additional resources for a modernized youth employment strategy in the following years, building on the input of an expert panel on youth employment. A renewed youth employment strategy will be announced over the course of this year.
That is how much importance we place on this program, because we know Canada summer jobs is critical to ensuring Canada's youth across the country have an opportunity to gain valuable work experience. That is what this program is about, job experience for youth.
As I have said, our government is focused on ensuring all government funding respects the rights of Canadians, especially women and the LGBTQ2 community who fought hard for those rights. These changes we made to Canada summer jobs will ensure we avoid any funding going to organizations that actively undermine those rights. We asked organizations this year to confirm that both the job and the organization's core mandate respect individual human rights and labour laws, and that they do not support discriminatory activities.
As our government has already stated, the changes we have made to the program are not about excluding faith-based groups. Religious and faith-based groups often undertake work that focuses on helping those most in need in our society, which is exactly what we have welcomed and encouraged for organizations throughout Fundy Royal, as they have done in the past. We value their contribution.
We are committed to the continued support of the Canada summer jobs program that funds jobs that respect the rights of all Canadians. The changes we have made to the program will help ensure a young person in a job funded by the government will work in an environment that respects every Canadian's human rights.
This is the right thing to do to make sure that Canada summer jobs is not used to pursue the removal or undermining of established individual human rights in Canada. These changes have strengthened our Canada summer jobs program, as well as our employment youth strategy.
Mr. Speaker, before I get into my remarks, I would like to take the opportunity to thank the member for on a bit of a personal note. She is bringing this forward as the opposition motion today, but she is also the member of Parliament for my in-laws, Pat and Allan Alward. Allan, as she knows, recently suffered a stroke. If the member was able to thank the staff, nurses, and doctors, at the St. Thomas Elgin General Hospital, my family and I would really appreciate it and thank her.
Mr. Speaker, thank you for the opportunity to provide our government's perspective on an issue that is at the heart of our employment objectives for the young people of our country, the issue of access and respect in the workplace. Canada summer jobs has been a very successful Government of Canada program that has offered thousands of youth job opportunities since it was first created. The program has been reaching its objective to give young people the opportunity to acquire work and life experience while supporting community-based initiatives. These are simple objectives. The spirit of the program is to open doors for young people, and perhaps help them make choices as they prepare for employment. In this context, the organizations that provide quality employment to young people through the Canada summer jobs program are as varied as the economic sectors in the country.
The CSJ program provides funding to non-profit organizations, public sector employers, and small businesses with 50 or fewer employees. The range of activities is therefore almost unlimited. There are a number of eligibility criteria that employees must meet, but there is one key requirement underlying that eligibility, and that is respect.
We have been clear and vocal enough about our basic values over the past two years. They are values like inclusion, compassion, and respect. We have been trying to integrate those values into our policies and programs, like the progressive trade agenda and the inclusion of human factors in environmental assessments. This year, the Canada summer jobs program includes an element whereby applicants are required to attest that both the job and the organization's core mandate respect individual human rights in Canada, including the values underlying the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
While there has been some representation on behalf of some groups and persons who have been critical of the evaluation criteria, we know it is our duty to preserve our values and to make sure our programs respect individual human rights, including the values underlying the charter. These are the values of the people of Canada, and they include reproductive rights and the right to be free from discrimination on the basis of sex, religion, race, national or ethnic origin, colour, mental or physical disability, sexual orientation, or gender identity or expression.
I have no qualms in promoting a measure that will prevent Government of Canada funding from flowing to organizations whose core mandates or projects may not respect individual human rights, the values underlying the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. This measure will help prevent young people as young as 15 years of age from being exposed to employment with organizations that may promote positions that are contrary to the values enshrined in the charter. What we are in fact doing here is maintaining the full integrity of the CSJ and making it reflect the society we live in today.
Our government is not the only one to think that way. Across Canada, people are supporting our approach. We received an open letter from the National Association of Women and the Law. This open letter was signed by over 80 major organizations across Canada. Organizations like Oxfam Canada and YWCA Canada signed the letter. Other signatories include organizations coming from the four corners of Canada. Let me name a few: Abortion Support Services Atlantic, Alberta Pro-Choice Coalition, Shelter House Thunder Bay, Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants, Saskatoon Sexual Health, and Positive Living North, just to name a few.
Organizations helping youth from under-represented groups are supporting us. They include organizations such as the Network of Black Business & Professional Women, the Canadian Centre for Gender and Sexual Diversity, as well as the Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies.
Members are probably wondering what this open letter says. It says how supportive they are of this year's eligibility requirements for CSJ applicants. The association wrote, in black and white:
|| Significant misinformation has been widely circulated in the media about the nature of the attestation that is now required by organizations that wish to apply for federal government grants for student jobs through the CSJ program. We are confident that the safeguards introduced to the CSJ program are not discriminatory, and do not represent any infringement on freedom of religion, conscience, or any other rights that people in Canada enjoy.
This comes from an organization that promotes equal rights for women in Canada. This is an organization that has played a major role in reaching important milestones towards women's equality in Canada, such as the inclusion of sections 15 and 28 in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, amendments to sexual assault laws, positive changes to family law and to the Divorce Act, rape shield legislation, and criminal harassment legislation.
Strong voices across Canada are being raised in support of this year's eligibility requirements for CSJ applicants. This display of support is just one example. There are many more supporters of the attestation that is now required by CSJ applicants.
Canadians know how great the Canada summer jobs program is. The CSJ has brought significant benefits to a very large number of Canadians over the decades. The overall objectives of the program are unchanged. They are to provide work experience for students, to support organizations including those that provide important community services, and to recognize that local circumstances, community needs, and priorities vary widely. With this in mind, the Government of Canada seeks to ensure that youth job opportunities funded by the Canada summer jobs program take place in an environment that respects the rights of all Canadians.
Is it too much to ask that a Government of Canada program respect the individual human rights and the values underlying the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms? That all seems reasonable for our government, as well as to major stakeholders, such as the National Association of Women and the Law. I hope that all members of the House will come to the same conclusion.
On a personal note, this is a program that I have long been involved in, longer than I have been a member of Parliament. Being a former manager of the YMCA and the Boys and Girls Club, I have used this program to hire hundreds if not thousands of students over my time. I can tell the House that as a member of Parliament, I have taken advantage of the opportunity to go to not one or two, not just the YMCA, but literally every organization in my riding that uses this program. I have learned so much about my riding as a result. It is truly a remarkable program and I think that this will continue to be a great program as it evolves.
I know the minister is doing a review on youth employment. I am sure there will be additional changes. However, we have to recognize the underlying issue here. We are forging ahead with our goal of strengthening the middle class and creating a level playing field where everyone has a chance to succeed. This is our vision and this is our commitment.
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with my great colleague from .
The last Liberal member of Parliament said that he loves this program, that he has worked longer on this program than he has been a member of Parliament, and that he has been out there promoting this program. May I remind him that it was the Conservatives who were the Government of Canada two years ago? As a matter of fact, we were the Government of Canada for 10 years. At the time when he was promoting this program, he had no problem with it, but today we are debating this issue in the House.
This program has been very well accepted right across this country. As a member of Parliament for 20 years, I have used this program to ensure its objectives, as has been mentioned in the House. What is the primary objective? It is jobs for children and helping organizations when they need extra workers. That is the primary reason.
There are multiple organizations in this country, as is guaranteed by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Let us quote what the said, “a Canadian is a Canadian is a Canadian”. By the way, I said it before he did. We cannot choose which Canadian is right and which Canadian is wrong. This is the problem with the Canada summer jobs program.
For the first time in my riding, I have received letters that complain about what the government wants to do with this program. It is a very successful non-partisan program helping Canadian children and employers, and yet for the first time, under this government, we are now having a division on this great program.
Today, many Canadians are upset. As my colleague from Saskatchewan just said, she has received a lot of letters from people saying they have been denied. On the basis of what were they denied? They were denied on the basis of an idea that the had. It was his social agenda idea. Why is he imposing his social agenda on Canadians? All Canadians have the rights the charter gives them, faith-based or whatever. They are all entitled to Government of Canada programs, which should not be based upon the ideology of a leader or anyone. The government should enable every Canadian to access those programs. It is Canadians' right to access government programs.
Why are we changing this now? Everyone has said that this is a great program that has benefited everyone. We should not be debating this, but we are debating it here today because one person has a social agenda and wants this country to move in that direction. That is not going to happen, because Canadians are very concerned about their fundamental rights and whether this infringes upon them or not.
The fundamental point is that it is Canadians' right to access government programs. It is not the right of the government to choose winners and losers. Hon. members of Parliament, including me, have a history of how this program has worked so well for young people and for businesses.
Let me give an example from my riding. The Mustard Seed is a great organization that looks after homeless people. This is its mandate. However, under the current government, The Mustard Seed will not be able to apply. Is this not wrong? An organization is looking after 10,000 homeless, impoverished, and drug-addicted people, and the government would not give them money because of its social ideology. That is wrong.
Let me talk about another one, the New Canadian Friendship Centre in Calgary. It provides free classes and support for new Canadians, regardless of culture, faith, and gender. It does not discriminate. It is open to all newcomers. It does not matter what their faith or religion is, yet the government is discriminating against it. While the friendship centre is not discriminating against anybody, the government is discriminating against it by not approving its application on the basis that it does not meet the government's social agenda.
Let me remind the Liberals, when they talk about the Government of Canada, that this is not the Government of Canada but the Liberal government, because we were the Government of Canada two years ago, for 10 years, running this program. Let us be very clear. This is a Liberal agenda, not a Government of Canada agenda. The Liberals are pushing their own values onto people in Canada who may or may not agree, which should not matter.
These organizations are out there to provide services to all Canadians, as the last speaker said. He brought up the YMCA. I am very happy he talked about that. The YMCA is very good. So is The Mustard Seed society. So is the friendship centre. All of these organizations are there for the primary purpose of helping Canadians who need that service. The government has chosen to allow only those people who follow its social agenda to get Government of Canada money, which is fundamentally wrong. It is very interesting that the Liberals say they want to have them sign the Charter of Rights. The Charter of Rights also gives them the right to access this money. They are taking some organizations right away, and asking others to sign.
My colleague from Saskatchewan said that she has received multiple letters, as have many of my colleagues on this side, from people who used to get this money and are now being denied. Why are they being denied? Has their mandate to provide services to Canadians changed? No, it has not. The Liberals have changed the mandate of eligibility to meet their social agenda.
There is something fundamentally wrong with this system. It is fundamentally wrong that Canadians cannot access a Government of Canada program that should be open to everyone who can meet the criteria that were always there, without changing them, so that they can meet the objective of this program, which is providing services to Canadians. It is a bit much for the government to come here and for the Liberal members to stand up and talk about how great this program is, how nothing has happened, and try to defend it. When they try to defend it here, we can see that they are reading their points.
Let us talk about the basics. A program that has already been successful is now being changed. Now what do we have? We have a debate. Why did they bring this division? Was this division necessary for student summer jobs, for organizations that provide services? We do not need this division in politics here. The Liberal government, with its divisive politics, is sending the wrong message to all Canadians. On this side of the House, we will stand up and speak on what is right for all Canadians. We will not let the Liberal government get away with bringing its agenda into this.