Poll: Majority of Canadians Oppose Abortion Requirement for Summer Jobs Program

Angelina Steenstra (L), from Silent No More organization in Canada gives a speech during the 'March for Life' (Mars voor het Leven-Marche pour la vie) anti-abortion demonstration, on March 25, 2012 in Brussels. AFP PHOTO/ BELGA/ OLIVIER VIN ***BELGIUM OUT*** (Photo credit should read OLIVIER VIN/AFP/Getty Images)
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A new survey released Wednesday reveals that a majority of Canadians are opposed to an abortion “attestation” requirement for groups seeking grants for the Canadian Summer Jobs (CSJ) program.

The poll, commissioned by the Knights of Columbus, finds a majority, or 51 percent, of Canadians say requiring support for abortion in order to participate in the CSJ program is unfair, while only 27 percent view the requirement as fair.

The survey also reveals that 62 percent of Canadians identify as “pro-choice.” Almost two-thirds, or 65 percent, however, would like to see abortion limited to the first three months of pregnancy – including a majority, or 52 percent, of those who identify as “pro-choice.”

Results of the survey are published as thousands prepare to protest in Ottawa Thursday to demand that Canadian laws uphold the right to life. The government announced several months ago that organizations seeking Canadian Summer Jobs (CSJ) subsidies must embrace abortion as a human right.

As the National Post described in January, an “attestation” on the CSJ grant application requires the organization to affirm that its core mandate respects “reproductive rights” among what it states are human rights.

The new “attestation” affects hundreds of churches and other faith-based groups that direct charities and camps that offer summer employment.

The Knights of Columbus survey reveals a majority, or 51 percent, of Canadians say requiring support for abortion in order to participate in the summer jobs program is unfair, while only 27 percent view the requirement as fair.

In addition, 47 percent of those surveyed say the abortion requirement is discriminatory, and a plurality states abortion should not be a prerequisite for the CSJ, 48 percent to 32 percent.

“As a small Christian church that was planning to apply for the Canada Summer Jobs program to offer a summer internship, the recent changes have been quite a shock and disappointment,” said Brad Jones, the pastor at Woodgreen Presbyterian Church in Calgary, reports the National Post. “[B]ecause of our commitment to the sanctity of life and to biblical teachings, our government is discriminating against us.”

Thousands of faith-based groups throughout the country say they can no longer offer summer jobs because they are unable to sign the attestation due to their faith beliefs.

“We have had extremely successful summer placements of students of all backgrounds,” said Rosemary Redshaw, executive director of New Life Prison Ministries in Ontario. “We will feel the loss of students this summer.”

Barry Bussey, director of legal affairs for the Canadian Council of Christian Charities – which represents 3,400 groups – said many members indicate they cannot submit their application online if they do not agree to the abortion attestation.

The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops said the attestation is not only an “unfortunate infringement on the freedom of conscience and religion,” but also will bring about “unfortunate consequences on the ground.”

According to the CSJ 2017 Applicant Guide:

CSJ applicants will be required to attest that both the job and the organization’s core mandate respect individual human rights in Canada, including the values underlying the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms as well as other rights. These include reproductive rights and the right to be free from discrimination on the basis of sex, religion, race, national or ethnic origin, colour, mental or physical disability, sexual orientation or gender identity or expression.

The employer attestation for CSJ 2018 is consistent with individual human rights in Canada, Charter rights and case law, and the Government of Canada’s commitment to human rights, which include women’s rights and women’s reproductive rights, and the rights of gender-diverse and transgender Canadians.

When asked about the abortion attestation in January at a town hall in Ontario, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau admitted, “[S]o 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.”

He added, however, that “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.”

In March, a Conservative motion to remove the CSJ abortion attestation mandate was defeated in the House of Commons, the Catholic Register reported, by a vote of 93 to 207. The motion was put forward after statistics from Employment Minister Patty Hadju’s office indicated some 1,400 CSJ applications had been rejected, compared to 126 applications last year.

According to the Knights of Columbus survey, few Canadians actually are aware that the abortion attestation requirement has been implemented. Nearly one quarter of those surveyed, or 26 percent, said they had heard of the attestation, compared to two-thirds, or 66 percent, who said they had not.

Additionally, the survey reveals Canadians also are widely opposed to expanding such a mandate to other federal jobs programs, 50 percent to 29 percent, or coercing religious organizations to comply with a pro-abortion requirement, 47 percent to 31 percent.

Of those surveyed, 43 percent say the requirement violates the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and fewer than three in 10, or 28 percent, disagree.

The Knights of Columbus poll results show that 44 percent of those who identify as “pro-choice” also say the abortion attestation requirement in the CSJ program is unfair, as opposed to 36 percent who say it is fair.

Finally, more than half of Canadians (54 percent) say that abortion is a factor in their support for candidates when voting for a political party in federal elections.

The poll was conducted through a 15-minute online survey conducted by StrategyOne in English and French with 1,837 Canadian respondents, all of whom are eligible to vote in Canada. The survey was conducted April 13-May 1, 2018 and the margin of error is +/- 2.18 percent.

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