Open Letter to the Prime Minister on the Summer Jobs Attestation Requirement

This letter was emailed to the Prime Minister and the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development, and Labour, asking them directly to remove the Summer Jobs attestation requirement and reconsider their position on abortion. Today is the final day for Summer Jobs applications.

Dear Prime Minister Trudeau and Minister Hajdu,

I write to you directly to ask you to reverse your policy on requiring Summer Jobs program applicants to affirm an attestation expressing “respect” for abortion rights. Although today is the last day for applications, it is not too late to do the right thing.

The Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees equal treatment under the law regardless of religious belief. As an evangelical Christian, I cannot express the wording of the attestation as currently written, and neither can many Christian churches or organizations, including my own church (our letter to Employment & Social Development Canada explaining our inability to sign the attestation can be found here). The word “respect” is vague and could be interpreted to mean applicants are required to refrain from expressing or promoting the belief that abortion is wrong and ought to be opposed—a belief consistently held in the Christian faith for two thousand years. For Bible-believing Christians such as ourselves the attestation requirement functionally serves as an ideological purity test that excludes us (not to mention members of other faiths) who oppose the practice of abortion. While there is no “right” to government funding, where such funding is made available it is a violation of Charter rights to make that funding contingent upon passing a religious test. And the requirement is even more bewildering in light of the fact that while freedom of conscience and religion are enshrined as fundamental freedoms in the Charter, there is, despite your rhetoric, no such defined “right” to abortion in Canada (the Morgentaler decision merely struck down Canada’s abortion restrictions; it did not find a right to abortion).

Canada has a reputation for being open and tolerant, a diverse society that celebrates the presence of different faiths and cultures. This is a persistent theme in your speeches, Mr. Prime Minister. However, this attestation requirement actually undermines the cause of tolerance and diversity. It is intolerant of the millions of Canadians who favour some level of restriction on abortion. It promotes a mere facade of diversity only, one where sincere differences of ideology and belief are not tolerated. I note with alarm that this disregard for diversity of conscience appears to be a characteristic of your Liberal government, as seen in the fact that you no longer permit pro-life members in the Liberal caucus, and that your government successfully forced a pro-life candidate for chairmanship of a parliamentary committee to be withdrawn from consideration simply because of her views on abortion—views shared, again, by millions of Canadians. And for a government that likes to describe itself as “committed to science” in (for instance) the climate debate, it is sheer hypocrisy to ignore the mounting and irrefutable weight of scientific evidence about the humanity of unborn children—such as the fact that they can feel pain at only 20 weeks of gestation, or the fact that at only 8 weeks they can respond to touch. 

For Canadians who treasure freedom of conscience, expression, and religion, this policy is intolerable. The opposition seen to your policy across the political spectrum—from the NDP to the Conservative Party, from the Globe and Mail to the National Post and even the Toronto Star—should serve as a warning that you are failing to properly consider the very real threat you are posing to civil liberties in Canada. This is an opportunity to show true leadership. This is a chance to exemplify humility and care for the concerns of those you personally differ with. This is a way to demonstrate that yours is a government for all Canadians, and not merely for your own narrow ideological tribe. I know that if you were to reverse course I would be the first to publicly commend you.

Even more important, if an unborn child is a distinct human life—as both science and the Christian faith agree it is—then your government is guilty of failing to protect countless millions of lives. Of all the “rights” that the government ought to defend, the right to life should be the foremost. Sadly, it appears that you are not content merely to ignore the moral implications of the destruction of millions of lives; you and the government you represent appear determined to stamp out of the public square any debate about the subject. 

The redefinition and devaluation of human life for political convenience, and the suppression of alternative points of view, are both hallmarks of totalitarianism. Your government stands on the wrong side of history. 

And as a Christian I implore you, for your own sake, to reconsider and turn away from this commitment, for if you do not, one day you will answer to the Triune God for it, who one day will judge the living and the dead: “God is not mocked; whatever one sows, that will he also reap” (Galatians 6:7). As awful as abortion is, there is forgiveness for anyone who turns from evil and trusts in God through Jesus Christ. We invite you and, indeed, we long for you, and all Canadians, to join us finding true joy in the only place it can be found, in following Christ. 


Jeff Jones

Cochrane, Alberta

Pastor at Calvary Grace Church of Calgary, Alberta


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