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Canada  

Feds clarify funding stance

The Liberal government has clarified how its new policy on reproductive rights will apply to organizations seeking youth summer job funding — but it's standing firm on its decision to deny grants to groups advocating against abortion.

"I have reached out to many of the religious leaders across the country ... to let them know that this is about the activities of the organization and the job description," Employment Minister Patty Hajdu said Tuesday in Toronto.

"It is not about beliefs or values."

Employment and Social Development Canada, which oversees the Canada Summer Jobs program that created nearly 69,000 temporary jobs last year, added a section on its website Tuesday further explaining the language — and the intended goal — of the controversial new requirement.

The Liberals have said that faith-based organizations are welcome to seek federal funding to create summer jobs for youth, but they and all other applicants are being asked to attest to their respect for sexual and reproductive rights — including "the right to access safe and legal abortions" — as well as other human rights.

Many churches and other religious groups have said that forces them to choose between their spiritual values and funding that helps run summer camps and other activities that have nothing to do with abortion.

The change to the website is meant to address those concerns.

"Individual human rights are respected when an organization's primary activities, and the job responsibilities, do not seek to remove or actively undermine these existing rights," it says.

The website then also provides some hypothetical examples of what would — and would not — be eligible for funding.

"A faith-based organization that embraces a traditional definition of marriage but whose primary activities reduce social isolation among seniors applies for funding to hire students," website said.

A summer camp that does not allow LGBTQ youth, however, would not be eligible for funding to hire students as camp counsellors.

The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a statement Tuesday saying they remain unsatisfied with the changes.

"The (conference) remains seriously concerned that the beliefs and practices of Catholics and other faith traditions will exclude them from receiving funding through the Canada Summer Jobs program," spokesman Rene Laprise said in an email.

Hajdu said Tuesday the Liberal government is prepared to defend its decision against legal challenges, on the basis that Canadian law protects citizens from discrimination.

Joyce Arthur, executive director of the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada, said she was glad to see the Liberals clarify the wording.

"It confirms our interpretation that the word respect does not mean support or agreement with. It just means that they're going to not actively undermine the rights that are listed in the guidelines there," Arthur said.

"I think that if a group still feels that they cannot sign the attestation even with these clarifications, well, I guess they are ineligible for funding," she said.



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