Richmond MP Alice Wong refuses to play role in Canada Summer Jobs program over human rights statement

The member of Parliament for Richmond Centre is refusing to sign off on a list of Canada Summer Jobs grant applicants in her riding, because she opposes a mandatory statement that organizations must sign in order to receive funding.

The Richmond Centre MP says she objects to section of the application regarding rights and freedoms

Richmond Centre MP Alice Wong has refused to sign off on a list of Canada Summer Jobs Grant 2018 applications, because she opposes an attestation supporting abortion and LGBT rights included in the application. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

The member of Parliament for Richmond Centre is refusing to sign off on a list of Canada Summer Jobs grant applicants in her riding, because she opposes a mandatory statement organizations must sign in order to receive funding that includes support for abortion and LGBT rights.

Alice Wong sent a letter to Service Canada last week, saying the attestation is "little more than a politically motivated intervention" from the Liberal Party of Canada.

The organizations in her riding that have applied for program funding and agreed to the controversial new section will not be left out because of Wong's stand, according to the agency that oversees the Canada Summer Jobs program.

The new element to the Summer Jobs application was added this year, drawing criticism from faith-based groups across the country.

A group of faith leaders joined forces in January to speak out against the new section in the application.

They called the new policy "draconian," "communistic," and claimed it was a violation of their charter rights.

Some organizations will be ineligible for federal summer jobs funding if, for instance, they take part in anti-abortion campaigning or if they discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

The application form reads:

"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."

Wong didn't say in her letter which rights and freedoms she specifically objects to.

She wrote that "the functional effect is that an organization has to sign an attestation stating they share certain values with the Liberal Party of Canada in order to be eligible to receive funding."

She goes on to write, "this is a slippery slope that I cannot and will not condone with my signature."

According to Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC), the agency that oversees the Canada Summer Jobs program, Wong's refusal to take play a role in validating the applicant list in her riding won't put the applications in jeopardy. 

An agency spokesperson said MPs are invited to set local priorities, validate the list and notify successful organizations, but if they choose not to participate, Service Canada staff will review and approve applicants without the MP's input.

ESDC said that last year, about 50 employers in Wong's riding received a total of $576,182 in funding through the program, creating more than 150 jobs.

Across the country, applications have increased slightly from 41,961 last year to 42,718 this year, but the number of rejected applications has dramatically increased, from 126 to 1,561.

A spokesperson for Labour Minister Patty Hajdu told CBC News last month that applications were rejected for a variety of reasons, including improperly filled-out forms and groups not checking the box for the attestation.

Wong's office declined an interview request from CBC News.

Follow Rafferty Baker on Twitter: @raffertybaker

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Rafferty Baker

Rafferty Baker is CBC Vancouver's mobile journalist. Follow him @raffertybaker

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