Ed Fast is refusing to sign off on a list of potential local Canada Summer Jobs grant recipients, in protest against what he calls a “values test” introduced to the application process this year.
The Abbotsford MP announced his intentions at a Thursday press conference.
Organizations applying for federal funds for summer jobs must sign off on an attestation saying their organization and its core mandate respect rights and freedoms included in Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms, as well as “other rights” — a phrase Fast put in air quotes while talking.
Fast’s Conservative Party has come out strongly against the inclusion of those “other rights,” in particular, reproductive rights. He said the language bars many religious groups from ticking that box, as it violates their objections to abortion.
Reproductive rights are not explicitly included in the Charter, unlike protections from discrimination based on race, gender identity, religion and country of origin.
The Liberals have “clarified” the intent of the attestation, saying it is meant to prevent government funds going to groups whose core mandate includes anti-abortion advocacy.
But Fast said he’s not satisfied with their statements and wants to see the attestation language changed. He said he knows of at least 14 Abbotsford groups who have already submitted applications without agreeing with the attestation and have been rejected for grants. Fast said he suspects many others simply did not apply due to the attestation.
Fast said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is trying to impose his pro-choice values on conservative Christians and that this could be a slippery slope towards attestations for other government services such as pensions.
He said the form he refused to sign and add comments to was a list of potential grant recipients ranked by merit. Fast said he expects local groups to still receive funding.