On Friday, October 22, the federal court ruled against Toronto Right to Life in our Charter challenge against the federal government’s 2018 abortion attestation on the Canada Summer Jobs program.
The Attestation requires that applicants for the program, of which Toronto Right to Life had been a previous recipient, express their support for abortion in order to qualify for funding. We believe this is unconstitutional, as a violation of our freedom of religion and conscience, and compelled speech that violates freedom of expression.
While the court ruled that our Charter freedoms were impacted by this Attestation, we are very disappointed that the court has ruled that the restrictions on our freedoms are reasonable.
Toronto Right to Life believes it is an unreasonable violation of our Charter rights to put a values test about abortion on a government program about funding student jobs, and to deny applicants like us solely on the basis of our beliefs about abortion. We believe that all Canadians should be able to see the principle at stake here. If the current government can deny equal consideration for funding based solely on beliefs about abortion, what’s to stop a future government from putting in place a different values test based on other beliefs? What’s to stop a government from putting values tests like this on other programs?
In a free and democratic society, people should not be excluded from consideration in government programs solely on the basis of holding a belief on an unrelated issue that happens to be different than the current government’s view.
Even with a modified attestation to the Canada Summer Jobs program since 2019, the federal government continues to deny equal consideration for funding to pro-life groups, simply because we hold a different belief than the government on the issue of abortion.
Toronto Right to Life is currently reviewing the ruling and considering our next steps.