OTTAWA (CCN)—Additional government scrutiny of some 2019 Canada Summer Jobs (CSJ) grants applications has raised questions about whether Christian groups are being targeted for ideological reasons.

The requests seem to reflect a mindset that implies “religious communities are no longer seen to be involved in a joint project on the common good as they were in the past,” said Barry Bussey, director of legal affairs for the Canadian Council of Christian Charities that first reported a number of pregnancy care centres had received requests for further information.

Now several Christian camps have also been asked about their hiring policies.

Bussey pointed out questions about hiring policies are something new.

Christian camps and religious organizations in general have exemptions under human rights legislation to discriminate in favor of co-religionists. “You’re not deemed to be discriminating against anyone if your organization is for the benefit of your religious community,” Bussey said. “When you’re hiring, you want those who are going to be in sync with the thinking of your religious organization.”

Neil MacCarthy, director of the public relations office of the Archdiocese of Toronto, said four or five parishes or charitable organizations in the archdiocese have received requests for additional information from Service Canada regarding their CSJ applications.

Some requests have concerned hiring practices; some are asking about health and safety issues at work; and “one or two asked how we work with women and reproductive rights,” MacCarthy said. “We’ve tried to provide clarification as best we can to satisfy them.”

While MacCarthy said the requests have not been “excessive” and may be due to inexperience in filling out “a quite detailed and dense” application form, he said “it definitely would be concerning if there was a pattern targeting Catholic organizations.”

Questions regarding undermining or restricting a woman’s access to abortion are “not appropriate or relevant” when it comes to a summer camp or a refugee welcome centre, MacCarthy said.

“We’ve encouraged all of our Catholic groups, parishes and charities to apply and we are expecting they will meet the criteria and be funded for summer students,” he said. “We have to wait and see.”

The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada has also been contacted by some organizations who applied for CSJ grants. Service Canada has “asked for more information about how a church’s hiring practices are free from discrimination or about the services that a pregnancy care centre provides to women.”

“The Service Canada response to the pregnancy care centre pointed out that projects or services that actively work to undermine or restrict a woman’s access to reproductive or sexual health services are ineligible for funding,” said Julia Beazley, the EFC’s director of public policy. “The irony is that this is a pregnancy care centre that actually offers a range of health services for women, rather than restricting or limiting them.”

About 30 groups applied from the Toronto archdiocese last year though with an amended attestation instead of the required pro-abortion attestation. None received a CSJ grant last year. Between 30 and 40 are applying this year. The new attestation now refers to the projects to be funded and not the core values of the organization.

A spokesman for Employment Canada said applicants should hear later in April whether their grant has been approved in time to hire their summer students.