Topics

Canada May 13, 2019

Priests for Life Canada may sue Ottawa over funding rejection

By Deborah Gyapong

Priests for Life Canada at last week’ s National March for Life in Ottawa. The group is considering legal action against the federal government after being denied 2019 Canada Summer Jobs funding. (Facebook)

ROME (CCN)—Priests for Life Canada is among several charities, including four pregnancy care centres, considering legal action after being refused 2019 Canada Summer Jobs (CSJ) grants.

“We will be consulting with groups and organizations that are already taking the Trudeau Government to court because of last year’s attestation fiasco and learn from their experience,” said Father John Lemire, chairman of the board of Priests for Life Canada (PFLC). “As well, we will be consulting with various legal counsel to assess our particular situation and explore all options available to us.”

“Fundamentally, we believe that not only is this decision to deny us funding wrong, but moreover we believe the way that Justin Trudeau has played ideological politics with this program is equally wrong,” Father Lemire said. “No Prime Minister should ever use taxpayer dollars as a personal slush fund. PFLC looks forward to this issue being resolved in the courts with upcoming cases or perhaps even quicker with a change in government later this fall.”

Several Christian charities, five small businesses, and Toronto Right to Life have already challenged last year’s pro-abortion attestation on charter grounds in separate actions. Despite removing the controversial value’s test in the 2019 CSJ application, the federal government continues defend it in federal court. Toronto Right to Life, the first group to file a legal challenge, will be heard first, but legal counsel Carol Crosson said they do not yet have a date for a hearing.
Previous to 2018, Priests for Life Canada had hired one or more students over the summer with CSJ grants. 

PFLC applied in 2018, but like many other churches and charities, it refused to sign the pro-abortion attestation.

At least 1,500 such groups that had previously received CSJ grants previously also refused to check off the attestation box and were subsequently denied funding. 

“We know that there was a huge public outcry, not only from these churches, organizations, and businesses, but also from ordinary Canadians and even surprisingly from some pro-abortion organization who recognized the farce of Trudeau’s attestation and the way that he was playing petty politics with the CSJ and how his game was hurting students and communities across the country,” Father Lemire said.

The priest, who is based in Timmins, Ont., said he believed public pressure forced the Liberal Trudeau government to change the attestation.

This past winter, PFLC submitted three applications for the 2019 CSJ program.

The first sign anything was wrong with PFLC’ came in a request from Service Canada for to “provide information or clarification on the services your organization provides to women seeking access to sexual and reproductive health services.”

The request outlined information in the 2019 Applicant Guide concerning ineligible projects or job activities including those that “actively work to undermine or restrict a woman’s access to reproductive health services,” which the government defined as “comprehensive sexuality education, family planning, prevention and response to sexual and gender-based violence, safe and legal abortion, and post-abortion care.”

“In our response we assured Service Canada of our ‘compliance with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms,’” Father Lemire said. “We also assured Service Canada that ‘Priests For Life Canada does not provide direct services to women in need of health-care services. We work with those looking for educational information about life issues. This is an office position not a front-line position.’”

The CSJ funded job would be “reaching out to supporters, organizations, and parishes across the country providing educational and religious information about building a culture of life,” PFLC told Service Canada. “The successful candidate will be doing research on topics related to euthanasia and assisted suicide to better understand what is happening in Canada and elsewhere on this important life issue.”

Despite assurances the successful candidate would not be working to “undermine or restrict a woman’s access to reproductive health services,” Service Canada informed the PFLC on May 2 their application was “ineligible” on those very grounds.

Barry Bussey, director of legal affairs for the Canadian Council of Christian Charities, said four pregnancy care centres were also refused funding for the same reason.

“I am of the view the government bureaucrats who reviewed these files were not aware of nature of these organizations,” said Bussey. “To suggest that pregnancy centres are ‘actively’ working to "undermine or restrict a woman's access to sexual and reproductive health services" does not fit with my experience and understanding of how these pregnancy centres operate.”

“Helping young mothers with obtaining a stroller, baby food, and diapers hardly seems the great evil of society that the government is making them out to be,” he said. “It is a shame that such projects that help our society as a whole are not seen as worthy of CSJ funding.” 

“What was surprising to us was the clear and blunt reason for rejecting our application,” Father Lemire said. We expected that the Government might try to hide its true reason and colours, but the reject email was quite clear.”

“PFLC was extremely disappointed that we were, once again, denied taxpayer dollars because of a political agenda for a program that was originally created to be non-political and was meant to simply help organizations and businesses and help summer students find meaningful employment to assist them with continuing costs to post-secondary education,” Father Lemire said. 

Abortion was not the only issue that made some applications ineligible. 

Bussey said a group that runs multiple summer camps in Canada was denied because: the “Application does not demonstrate that measures have been implemented to provide a workplace free of harassment and discrimination.”

Another applicant was denied because: "Projects or activities that restrict access to programs, services or employment or otherwise discriminate, contrary to applicable laws on the basis of prohibited grounds.”

Bussey had pointed out previously religious organizations have the right to discriminate in favor of co-religionists for certain jobs.

Bussey confirmed the rejected applicants are also considering legal action.