OTTAWA – Some applicants for 2019 Canada Summer Jobs (CSJ) grants are receiving troubling notices from the government, said a lawyer from a Canadian charities organization.

“We’re getting a number of requests for help from many of our members who are receiving notices that they have incomplete information on their application,” said Barry Bussey, director of legal affairs for the Canadian Council for Christian Charities(CCCC).

The charities in question are mainly crisis pregnancy centres that provide young mothers with information and supplies, Bussey said.  

“What is so against public policy that the government wouldn’t want to fund that, or even question that?”

Bussey noted the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada (ARCC) issued a call in February for government to take away the registered charitable status of crisis pregnancy centres. 

He said ARCC complaints in 2017 contributed to a Liberal government decision to add the controversial attestation provision to the 2018 Canada Summer Jobs application process. Applicants were required to check a box that attested their core values supported abortion.

Now Bussey is concerned that funding may be in jeopardy for organizations which have hiring practices that preserve a particular religious identity.   

The government wants charities to specify “how your organization is providing a safe, inclusive and healthy work environment, free from harassment and discrimination,” Bussey said. Organizations have been asked to provide copies of their hiring policies and guidelines.

“What seems to be going on here, is the government is trying to figure out whether the various charities are discriminating with regard to their hiring policies,” Bussey said.

If government refuses to issue grants to organizations because of their “particular ideology,” said Bussey, “we have some serious issues.” It would be untenable, he said, to “have a government trying to impose its ideology on a religious community.”

“The fear I have is that the government doesn’t like the current state of the law that protects religious communities and is trying to nudge society forward into a progressive way of doing things,” he said.

Although no organization has been denied funding so far, Bussey said “it’s very curious” that the government is seeking “very detailed scrutiny” of some groups. Applications for CSJ funding for 2019 closed Feb. 3.