Respecting reproductive rights isn’t a matter of opinion

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The basic rights of Canadians, even those that may conflict with someone’s personal opinions, need to be respected in any workplace. Asking any employer seeking government funding to agree to uphold these rights is something to be expected, not protested. 

A new change to the Canada Summer Jobs grant application has some camps, churches and charities claiming discrimination on the basis of religious beliefs. The electronic application now includes a mandatory agreement stating the applicant organization’s core mandate respects “reproductive rights.”

Agreeing your organization respects reproductive rights isn’t equal to a pro-choice opinion, which is an important distinction that those protesting the change aren’t grasping. The revised application expects that organizations won’t violate the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. There’s nothing about it that forces applicants to be of a certain opinion about abortion.

The grant money is used to hire summer interns on behalf of the federal government.  In order for the government to endorse students working at these organizations, they need to be in agreement with the rights guaranteed to all Canadians. This is the only way to allow for fair hiring practices and safe employment for students seeking summer jobs.

Individual beliefs do deserve to be respected, but this application isn’t actually threatening them. The main goal of adding the attestation is to prevent funding being presented to groups that actively intervene in women’s reproductive rights. If you can’t agree to respect the Charter rights, you shouldn’t be able to take a government grant. This is especially true when that money is to be used specifically for hiring employees.

The groups complaining about the change believe they’re being denied funds because of their religious convictions. Unfortunately for them, the reality of the situation is the money isn’t theirs to begin with. The grant isn’t a guaranteed right of any organization, it’s a privilege. There’s an application process for a reason and when an organization can’t support the bare minimum of government interests, they have no obligation to give them funding.

The change is a welcome one for many, as it’s a rare example of the Canadian government taking a firm public stance on reproductive rights. The change made to the application doesn’t demand those applying change their opinions for the sake of the grant. It only asks that those organizations respect reproductive rights in Canada.

— Journal Editorial Board

 

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