Jocelyn’s Jottings: Human rights and Canada Summer Job funding

At the moment there is an interesting discussion going on about Canada Summer Jobs program funding.

This year applicants for the funding are required to sign an attestation which says that the core mandate of the job and the organization respects individual human rights including 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.

But apparently some organizations, particularly ones with ties to religion, feel this requirement gets in the way to their right to freedom of religion.

In some cases religious beliefs exclude things like homosexuality, right to abortion and non-traditional gender identities, but under this attestation they would not be able to take actions at the workplace based on these beliefs.

There is also discussion that under this attestation they would not be able to push anti-abortion and pro life beliefs on their employees or, in the case of summer camps, the attendees.

It is an interesting discussion. Is an individual’s right to reproductive choices and the right to freedom of discrimination more or less valuable than an organization’s right to religious freedom?

Does the right to religious freedom mean people can discriminate as their religious beliefs see fit?

Personally, I believe that what other people believe and how they live their lives doesn’t and shouldn’t impact my life. You are free to live, believe and act as you see fit as long as it doesn’t interfere with my own rights.

In this case I can see both sides of the argument. I went to a summer camp where we had to pray before dinner and it was one of the best experiences of my childhood. It would be a shame if some of those programs had to shut down due to lack of funding.

But I also understand why the government would want organizations to sign this attestation. It comes down to safety, education and protecting life.

Could you imagine going to a summer camp and being told that you can’t be who you are because it is wrong, or that your sister who had an abortion made a horrible, soul damning decision?

Not that I had any of these conversations at summer camp, it was all very innocent and focused on being polite and respectful and having fun. But I can understand why the government would want to ensure that everyone is having a good time at programs that they are funding.

Because happens to us and what we are exposed to in childhood has a lasting impact in our lives, both good and bad.