The federal Liberals have been handed a win in court over a pro-choice requirement attached to the Canada Summer Jobs program, days before the deadline to apply for funding grants.
A Federal Court of Canada judge ruled against a request by an anti-abortion group to suspend the application requirement, which requires groups to affirm their respect for a woman's right to have an abortion, until the underlying merits of the case could be argued fully.
In the ongoing case, The Right to Life Association and a job-seeking student are asking the Federal Court to quash the government's decision to add the requirement.
The decision means that the check box on the application form will remain in place ahead of Friday's deadline to apply for funding designed to create about 70,000 summer jobs for students between the ages of 15 and 30.
The Liberals added the requirement to this year's form after receiving what it called complaints that federal summer job money was going to camps that refused to hire LGBTQ staff and groups that distributed graphic anti-abortion pamphlets. Labour Minister Patty Hajdu said officials unsuccessfully tried to screen out these organizations and refuse them funding.
"There was just simply no way to get at the true activities of an organization and so we're asking organizations to confirm that their activities don't violate the charter or other fundamental rights," Labour Minister Patty Hajdu said on her way into a caucus meeting.
Anyone applying for summer job funding must affirm that neither their "core mandate" – what the government calls a groups' primary activities, not their religious views – nor the job itself oppose human rights, including those related to abortion, sexual orientation and gender identity.
Any group which doesn't check the box will have its application considered incomplete and won't be considered for funding.
Faith-based groups made a plea Wednesday for the Liberals to drop the requirement, calling it a "draconian ... and even communistic" measure that will rob hundreds of Christian organizations of funding for summer jobs. Charles McVety, president of Canada Christian College, said he and other groups would oppose similar requirements for funding that required someone to support creationism.
McVety said groups will continue to protest the addition to the grant application.
"We will not stop because we will never sign to support abortion and as a Christian you cannot do so," he said during a news conference on Parliament Hill.
"You cannot believe in the Bible and agree for the government or anybody else to take someone's life. That's our position. It's very well known and we cannot sign it."
Conservative MP Alain Rayes said he has heard from faith groups in his riding concerned about the requirement. He said he wasn't going to use the Liberal government's requirements when he decided what groups to promote or approve for funding.
Local MPs have the final say over which groups receive funding in their riding after the department has vetted all applications.