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Canada May 25, 2018

B.C. Civil Liberties intervenes in Summer Jobs lawsuit 

By Deborah Gyapong

Federal Employment Minister Patty Hajdu. (CCN photo)

OTTAWA – The B.C. Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA) is intervening in a potentially precedent-setting lawsuit involving the pro-abortion Canada Summer Jobs attestation.

Paul Champ will represent the BCCLA in its intervention on the side of the Toronto and Area Right to Life Association (TRTL) in its lawsuit against federal Employment Minister Patty Hajdu. He called the attestation a “loyalty oath” similar to those in the United States that required people to swear they have never been a Communist.

“This kind of unconstitutional condition to access government benefits is really very exceptional in Canada,” he said.  It is “very, very rare” on either the federal or provincial level.  “We see this case as potentially a precedent in this area and we want to assist the court in its analysis.”

The BCCLA’s intervention will provide the court with information on jurisprudence from U.S. case law because there is no jurisprudence or case law on these matters in Canada, he said.

“We’re concerned about these kinds of unconstitutional conditions and we certainly don’t want to see a growth in the use of these basically loyalty oaths,” Champ said.

“The B.C. Civil Liberties Association believes very strongly in the rights of conscience and freedom of expression and views the attestation as an unconstitutional infringement of those rights,” said Champ.

“More generally, the BCCLA sees loyalty oaths and attestations of belief as a condition to access a government benefit as a violation of the Charter,” Champ added.  “If the government wanted people to swear an attestation that they see Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as the greatest prime minister we ever had in order to collect unemployment insurance, we would see that as the same thing. It’s a violation of an individual’s beliefs and conscience.”

The B.C. Civil Liberties Association has been on the front lines of defending legal access to safe abortion for decades and had no problem in signing off on the Canada Summer Jobs attestation itself, its executive director Josh Paterson told the National Post.

Champ agreed the BCCLA supports a right to abortion, but defends the rights of those who believe differently.

Meanwhile, TRTL is waiting for the court to issue an order that allows them to “add grounds of bad faith, improper purpose, irrelevant consideration and bias,” said TRTL’s lawyer Carol Crosson.

They asked for leave to do so because the evidence produced by the Crown showed “the Minister made her decision to impose the attestation as a result of Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada (ARCC) repeatedly lobbying the Minister to prohibit funding to any groups with which ARCC disagrees,” Crosson said. “We maintain that this newly disclosed motivation for devising the policy warrants the addition of the new grounds.”

The case had been set for a hearing on June 19 but is now postponed until the fall.

In Alberta, another lawsuit involving the Canada Summer Jobs attestation by a small family-owned business, A-1 Irrigation & Technical Services, is set for a full day hearing Nov. 23 in Medicine Hat. The company was denied funding to hire summer students because it would not sign the attestation.