Bruno cherry festival cancelled over summer jobs program

A well-known festival in a small Saskatchewan town has been cancelled this year after it was refused money from a federal summer jobs program.

St. Therese Institute refused to sign attestation acknowledging abortion rights

A well-known cherry festival in Bruno, Sask. has been cancelled after being denied money from a federal summer jobs program. (OLIVIER FERAPIE/RADIO-CANADA)

A well-known festival in a small Saskatchewan town has been cancelled this year after it was refused money from a federal summer jobs program.

The religious group that runs the Bruno Cherry Sunday festival refused to sign a document acknowledging abortion and LGBT rights, disqualifying the group from applying for three student positions for the festival.

"The amount of time and energy that volunteers had to put into it was too much," said spokesperson Vicky Serblowski. "So, we had to make the hard decision to cancel it for this year." 

The festival has been a mainstay in the small town, located 80 kilometres east of Saskatoon, for the past 15 years.

It got its start after researchers from the University of Saskatchewan planted an orchard of dwarf sour cherries at the town's former Ursuline Convent. The festival draws thousands of people to the area every year, selling cherry sundaes, cherry smokies and featuring live music.

Now run by the St. Therese Institute of Faith and Mission, Serblowski said the festival has become an important fundraiser for the town.

"For example, the fire department had taken care of cherry smokie sales, the fitness centre took care of elephant ears and the library took care of cherry tarts," she said. "It was an opportunity for them to fundraise through tourism dollars."

The issue of signing an attestation to access the federal money has been controversial. The Liberal government said any groups that wanted to apply for the money would have to confirm that the group's "core mandates" respect the Charter of Rights and Freedoms on reproductive and LBGT rights.

"We felt that it goes against the dignity of the human person and doesn't uphold the actual Charter of Rights and Freedoms because of being free to make your choice as a Catholic organization," said Serblowski.

The group said it plans to apply to the program again next year.