There's a program in Canada, the Canadian Summer Jobs Program, which gives government funding to nonprofits and small businesses so that they may provide summer jobs in their communities. A little big government for my taste, but this is Canada we're talking about. This year, however, they've changed the parameters of who may apply for these funds- they have to support abortion. The website states:
The government recognizes that women’s rights are human rights. This includes sexual and reproductive rights — and the right to access safe and legal abortions. These rights are at the core of the Government of Canada’s foreign and domestic policies.
This doesn't just exclude pro-life groups, though; it leaves out the majority of faith-based organizations, including those like the Salvation Army. Brad Jones, the pastor at Woodgreen Presbyterian Church in Calgary that has sponsored three Syrian refugees and offers a free English-as-a-second-language cafe told the National Post that his church is now disqualified:
“The very groups that the Liberal government claims to care about — students, refugees, children and people in need — will all lose because of these changes.”
In a townhall on Wednesday, Trudeau said that religious groups should still apply, but didn't clarify how that was possible when it went against their core beliefs to do so:
"So many of the great community organizations that we have working incredibly hard are faith-based across this country, and it’s an important and wonderful part of our society.
“An organization that has the explicit purpose of restricting women’s rights by removing rights to abortion and the right for women to control their own bodies is not in line with where we are as a government, and quite frankly where we are as a society."
Trudeau said that free speech is fine as long as you don't act on it:
“Of course, you’re more than allowed to have whatever beliefs you like. But when those beliefs lead to actions determined to restrict a woman’s right to control her own body, that’s where I, and I think we, draw the line as a country. And that’s where we stand on that.”
Interestingly, he brought his own feelings into the policy, saying that defending reproductive rights
“is at the core of who I am and, quite frankly, is at the core of who Canada is. … At the same time, we need to know that there is a difference between freedom of expression and acting on those expressions and beliefs.”
He says that people who believe that the unborn have rights are destroying women's rights:
“Women have fought for generations for the right to control their own bodies, to be able to choose themselves what to do with their bodies, when and with whom to have children. This is a really important right that we have established.”
Pro-life and faith-based groups are now suing the Canadian government over funding. Blaise Alleyne, president of Toronto Right to Life told the Catholic Herald:
“Our conscience compels us to not sign that attestation. It is a violation of our freedom of conscience and freedom of expression for the government to compel speech or else punish us by withholding an unrelated benefit.”
It will be interesting to see how all of this plays out. This ultimately is not a battle about abortion; it's a battle about free speech and religious expression.