MPs of all stripes concerned with summer jobs value test

Re: 'Amy von Stackelberg: Government funding should bolster human rights,' June 14, 2018

I am writing in response to self-proclaimed activist Amy von Stackelberg’s recent column regarding an article I had written expressing my disappointment about the Liberal government’s decision to add a values test the Canada Summer Jobs Program.

While Ms. von Stackelberg is incorrect on multiple fronts in her response, what I take issue with is that she ignores the fact that this ultimately is about our fundamental freedoms as Canadians.

The right to freedom of belief and opinion is guaranteed by Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms and I, along with my Conservative colleagues, strongly believe that Canadians should be very concerned that the government is basing funding decisions on whether or not you hold a certain belief.

My Conservative colleagues and I are not the only ones that have these concerns. In fact, Liberal MP Scott Simms, NDP MP David Christopherson and Green Party Leader Elizabeth May have all publicly spoken out against the attestation.

When asked about the attestation in a CBC interview in January, Mr. Simms said: “This application, as it stands right now, is not right…The application is asking them to do something that they shouldn't be asked to do for the sake of a summer job for kids.”

A National Post article quotes Mr. Christopherson as saying: “Canadians have a right to disagree with the law, recognizing they will respect it and will honour the law. You have the right to say anything you want about a law, and that attestation took that right away. I cannot condone that…To me, at the end of the day, that box took away Canadians’ right to disagree with the laws that they have to obey. I had a very strong fundamental problem with that.”

In a Huffington Post article, Ms. May is quoted saying: “To insist on an attestation of values was a really serious mistake and a very bad precedent.”

All three Members also voted in favour of a Conservative motion that would have allowed organizations that are involved in non-political, non-activist work to have access to the Canada Summer Jobs Program regardless of whether they signed the attestation. Unfortunately, the motion was ultimately defeated.

There are many others who have expressed concerns that this attestation may infringe on our Charter rights including Executive Director of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association Josh Paterson, Newfoundland’s Liberal Minister of Fisheries and Land Resources Gerry Byrne, University of Saskatchewan Law Professor Jason MacLean, and Globe and Mail columnist John Ibbitson.

As you can see, it is not just Conservatives who are criticizing the Liberal government for introducing this attestation, as Ms. von Stackelberg suggests in her article. Anyone who believes in our fundamental freedoms should be concerned.

— Bob Zimmer, Member of Parliament, Prince George-Peace River-Northern Rockies

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