Controversial Attestation for Canadian Job Grants Adds Politics to Summer Programming

Controversial Attestation for Canadian Job Grants Adds Politics to Summer Programming
Magda, a leader at Mountainview CRC’s day camp, with some campers.
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In Canada, many Christian Reformed churches regularly apply for and receive government wage-supplement grants to hire students for summer initiatives—including programs to feed people in need of housing, helping those newly settled in Canada, and offering summer camps for children. A change to the application process this year and differing opinions on what it signified added complexity, confusion, disappointment—and, in at least one case, even opportunity—to the work of running summer ministries.

The 2018 Canada Summer Jobs (CSJ) application form required applicants 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. These include reproductive rights and the right to be free from discrimination on the basis of sex, religion, race, national or ethnic origin, color, mental or physical disability, sexual orientation or gender identity or expression.”

“At first blush the attestation appears innocuous,” said Barry Bussey, director of legal affairs for the Canadian Council of Christian Charities (CCCC), a partner of the Christian Reformed Church in North America. “Who could be against the values underlying the Charter and the freedom from discrimination? However, behind that velvet glove is an iron fist,” he suggested. “The government is telling us that we must accept its values. The values of prenatal life and traditional marriage that many of our members attest are anathema to this government.”

“This attestation sets a very troubling precedent of requiring respect for values and rights in order to be eligible for a government program,” stated the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada (EFC), another CRCNA partner, on its website. “This kind of values test violates the fundamental freedoms of Canadians guaranteed in the Charter, such as the freedom of religion, conscience, belief, speech, and opinion.”

According to a government spokesman, the attestation was added because in the past some funded organizations had used their grants “to undermine the rights of Canadians. For example, funding was used to support organizations that distribute graphic images of aborted fetuses and organizations that do not welcome LGBTQ2 young people at their youth programs.”

Because the human rights in the attestation include “reproductive rights,” and “the right to access safe and legal abortions,” many applicants felt they could not in good conscience check the box.

“The political tempest over the attestation requirement is a troubling example of wedge politics,” said Mike Hogeterp of the Christian Reformed Centre for Public Dialogue. “We’re frustrated with it because it diminishes trust in this government that has done some important things in critical areas of justice—Indigenous rights and refugee protection, for example.”

A motion by the opposition party that raised thoughtful concerns about the attestation was defeated in Parliament on March 19.

For churches concerned about the attestation, the back-and-forth while deadlines passed created some stress and confusion. Mountainview CRC in Grimsby, Ont., serves as an example. Mountainview offers a summer camp for children that runs over six weeks and is one of the few that accepts kids with special needs. In the past, the church has used its CSJ grant to hire camp counselors and support staff. The church decided in January 2018 to submit its application without checking the box and with an attached explanation. In April, the church received a response to the initial application: since the attestation had been modified, it was not acceptable. They were given 10 days to reply, signing the application with the attestation as written. The church sent it back the same way as previously with a request for an accommodation. While this correspondence was going on, the CCCC informed its members by email that some members’ “CSJ applications have been approved and funds granted despite their opposition to the attestation.” Confusing, indeed. However, the Council’s reports turned out to be misunderstood—anyone altering the application was not considered for funding.

On June 1, Mountainview received official word from CSJ that their application was declined because they had modified the attestation. That left Mountainview in search of other funding. Here was the opportunity.

“God has provided abundantly,” said Christine Winter, Children’s Ministry and Camp Director. “We raised around $20,000 from our congregation ($11,000 in one Sunday morning offering alone) and a few thousand [dollars] more from the community to help pay for one of our special needs counselors. We raised camp fees from $100 to $125 a week.” Winter said the camp ran with 19 paid staff and about 25 volunteer leaders-in-training, filling more than 500 camper spots.

Not every Christian Reformed church responded to the CSJ application as Mountainview did. A few completed the application process, checked the box, and went on to receive funding for their summer staff. In those cases the applicants did not see the attestation as holding them to any political position—as their Member of Parliament offices assured them. Citing the potential misunderstanding on what has become a flashpoint issue, and the lack of space in a single quote to detail their perspectives, none wished to be identified for this article.

The Christian Reformed Centre for Public Dialogue has encouraged churches and other Christian groups to consider the advice of the CCCC and the EFC over this issue. The Council continues to raise funds and review legal options to challenge the policy change.

About the Author

Janet Greidanus is a freelance news correspondent for The Banner. She lives in Edmonton, Alberta.

See comments (1)


Sadly, the underlying issue, or question, was never addressed: should churches apply for and accept government funds?  When one realizes that the money government receives via taxation is the result of coercion, the answer is clear, NO!  It is unethical for Christians, and especially churches, to accept any money that is not given voluntarily.  If it is wrong for me (you) to take money from someone else so that I can give it to a person or cause of my choosing, it is wrong for government as well.  After all, the 8th Commandment applies to the legislature and prime minister as well, doesn’t it?  Furthermore, the author quotes the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada as saying the Canadian Jobs Grant violates freedom of conscience and belief when it requires applicants to attest to unbiblical values.  Well, using the power of government to force others to fund Christian programs they would never support voluntarily and with which they disagree is no different in principle than using government to force Christians to subscribe to certain values that control how funds they receive are spent.  Both violate freedom of belief and conscience, but more importantly it violates property rights; it is theft!  The Church should never accept, let alone pursue, money that is not given voluntarily!  

This situation should also open the eyes of those who have sought government funding to the reality that money from such a source comes with strings.  If a church were to become dependent on these funds, it would be at its mercy and control.  It is a recipe for compromising on what is right and wrong and, unless the church forsakes God’s commands, will lead to its destruction as it cannot support itself without public funds.