Today, Redeemer University College filed for a judicial review with the Federal Court of Canada, seeking the Court’s review of the federal government’s decision to reject the university’s Canada Summer Jobs funding application.
Redeemer applies for Canada Summer Jobs funding each year to offer summer positions to students. For the summer of 2018, Redeemer applied for funding for positions including Red Hill Creek water monitoring assistant, summer camp counsellor, science student fellowship coordinator, community garden coordinator and community garden food bank liaison. In 2017, Redeemer received approximately $46,000 in funding from Canada Summer Jobs for similar positions.
As with many other Canadian faith-based employers, Redeemer could not in good conscience accept the attestation added by the federal government to the 2018 Summer Jobs application. As an employer and an educational institution, Redeemer is fully committed to respecting and complying with human rights law, including in the hiring of students under the Summer Jobs program. The attestation was unclear, however, particularly with respect to the government’s definition of Charter values and other rights, including reproductive rights, and how these values and rights would apply to Redeemer as a Summer Jobs funding applicant.
“Redeemer believes that the government’s decision to make agreement to the attestation mandatory is a violation of the institution’s freedom of religion as protected by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms,” said interim president Fred Verwoerd. “Through appropriate and considered legal process, we are requesting that the Court review the government’s decision and protect the freedom of faith-based employers, like Redeemer, to participate in government programs such as Canada Summer Jobs, which allows us to serve students and our community.”
Redeemer took steps to work toward a solution that would not compromise the conscience and beliefs of the Redeemer community. Redeemer’s response included the addition of clarifying statements to its Canada Summer Jobs application, affirming that Redeemer complies with all provincial and federal law, including human rights codes. Redeemer stated in its application that it “cannot, in good conscience, affirm the statement that the Minister requires. The Charter protects our religious freedom, including the freedom to hold beliefs with which the Minister may disagree. In our view, the Minister does not have the jurisdiction under law to compel speech or belief as a condition of receiving a financial benefit from the government of Canada.”
Despite these measures, Redeemer received final notice on June 1 that its application had been rejected because it was incomplete, as it did not include the compulsory attestation. The government did not respond to Redeemer’s request for accommodation of its religious beliefs.
Beth Van Lingen