Parliamentary report reflects calls to protect human rights in CSJ program

A House of Commons committee studying the Canada Summer Jobs (CSJ) program positively quoted submissions from the BC Humanist Association (BCHA) and Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada (ARCC) on the importance of human rights protections.

The Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities tabled its report on the Canada Summer Jobs Program in the House of Commons last week. The committee considered 27 briefs and heard from 27 witnesses last fall. The CSJ program funds organizations to hire youths aged 15-30. The BCHA received CSJ funding in 2019, 2020 and 2022.

In the past, the program funded job placements at anti-abortion activist organizations. In late 2017, the government started requiring all applicants to confirm that their core mandate and proposed job respected the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and other rights, including access to abortion. The Federal Court deemed the attestation reasonable when it was challenged by Toronto Right to Life (an appeal was dismissed as moot). Nevertheless, the requirement was limited in 2019 to disqualify only those positions that actively worked to limit human rights.

The Committee wrote:

Three briefs recommended that the government either maintain or strengthen requirements precluding groups that “undermine” or “work to oppose human rights” from receiving funding. For example, one brief [from the BCHA] asserted that the CSJ program should “exclude organizations that discriminate in their programming or hiring practices based on any of the prohibited grounds in the Canadian Human Rights Act, such as race, national or ethnic origin, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, marital status, family status or disability.” Currently, applicants must attest that the activities associated with the job will not “in any way infringe, undermine, weaken, or restrict the exercise of human rights legally protected in Canada.”

By contrast, the Committee said briefs, "particularly from faith-based organizations," expressed concerns about the program's screening process. The committee ultimately did not recommend any changes to the attestation requirement. In their dissenting report, Conservative committee members argued the voices of religious groups opposed to the attestation were excluded from the majority report.

Additionally, the Committee quoted our concerns about the length of CSJ contracts:

The British Columbia Humanist Association noted that the length of its CSJ contracts “severely limited” its ability to train new staff members.

The Committee supported our complaint, recommending the department responsible for the program "explore ways to introduce more flexibility" for applicants, including "increasing the average number of weeks subsidized per opportunity."

Read the Committee Report

Read the BCHA's fall 2023 submission

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