That, in the opinion of the House, organizations that engage in non-political non-activist work, such as feeding the homeless, helping refugees, and giving kids an opportunity to go to camp, should be able to access Canada Summer Jobs funding regardless of their private convictions and regardless of whether or not they choose to sign the application attestation.
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with our House opposition leader.
I rise today to begin a debate on an opposition motion that calls out the Liberal government and the Prime Minister for their unconscionable attack on the sacred rights of Canadians to think for themselves, express their beliefs, and practise their faith without intervention or judgment from the government.
Last year, Canadians learned of an ominous new development in the way Canada summer jobs grants would be allocated. This is a very important program for all our constituents, regardless of region or our parties. These funds go to community organizations to allow them to hire summer students. This is critical. These organizations offer important services to their communities. They help refugees and newly settled immigrants to Canada. They provide summer camps for kids. They offer to help the disabled and the most vulnerable in our society.
For years, they have done this without intervention from any government, until December of 2017. That was when Canadians learned of this new attestation now required for applicants to this program. The attestation requires applicants to endorse the political and ideological views of the Liberal Party and of the Prime Minister personally. This is totally unacceptable in our free and democratic society. As Canadians, we enjoy and cherish our fundamental freedoms such as freedom of speech and freedom of conscience.
The government plays a vital role in protecting these and other rights and freedoms that we enjoy as Canadians. Every government in Canada chooses its own priorities, which are meant to help Canadians realize their full potential. What every Canadian government should have in common is the understanding that they should respect these fundamental charter rights and put these rights ahead of political point scoring.
That is why the Prime Minister's decision to require all groups seeking support from the Canada summer jobs program to sign an attestation declaring support for the ideological views of the Liberal Party is simply appalling. It is why Conservatives are clearly and forcefully expressing our opposition to this Liberal values test being imposed on Canadians.
Canadians expect their government to respect the diversity of opinion and belief that exists in our country. However, while the Prime Minister talks a lot about respecting that diversity, his actions tell a very different story. He chose not to listen to the many community organizations that make good use of this program and that will now be unable to provide their services this year.
Among those who will have to cut back are organizations that provide aid to refugees, run daycare programs for kids with disabilities, and offer help to at-risk youth. This is yet another example of how the government is attacking the very people it claims to help. Conservatives believe Canadians know better than the government about what is good for them. We listened and consulted with community organizations across the country, because we believe Canadians have a right to hold their own beliefs, and express themselves without fear of judgment from the federal government. No one has the right to prevent others from advocating or expressing their most deeply held personal beliefs.
The responses we received have been swift and clear. From church groups in the Maritimes and Muslim organizations in Toronto to services for the homeless in Alberta and summer camps in Vancouver Island, we have heard repeatedly how this policy will hurt local institutions and those seeking their help. Many have already been forced to make a tough decision and refuse to apply for the Canada summer jobs program this year. With the deadline passed, other groups now worry that more government programs will be subject to this values test.
Here are some of these groups' reactions to this terrible policy. For example, The Mustard Seed in Calgary offers social services for the homeless. Its CEO, Stephen Wile, said that because of this attestation, up to 300 youth in Calgary will not get to experience what it is like to work with the homeless and foster a compassionate heart.
Lindsey Villages in Ajax provides skills training to children with autism and serves as a home to those whose parents cannot afford to care for them. Dr. Rondo Thomas, their president, said that the direction this government is going is very concerning and that he is now having to consider shutting down Lindsey Villages, a home that cares for autistic children and provides them with skills training.
Kerber Applied Research Inc. is a Hamilton biotech company that is developing innovative cancer treatment technology. Its president, Tom Kerber, said that budgets are tight and the help from Canada summer jobs is critical to his company's efforts to find life-saving innovative cancer treatments. However, he refused to enable any sort of government-imposed values test, as this is not a precedent he wanted to allow.
There are so many groups that have spoken out, and the Conservatives will be sharing their stories this morning.
The Prime Minister has made the wrong decision and the grassroots organizations that have been hurt by it need to make their voices heard. Organizations applying for public programs should not be denied access to them solely because the Prime Minister does not share their values and beliefs. It makes one wonder if the Prime Minister will apply his values test to Canadians receiving other services, including organizations that receive charitable status from the Canada Revenue Agency. This prospect represents a fundamental attack on the charter rights of Canadians. It has no place in a tolerant, diverse, multicultural society.
The Prime Minister should not get his ideological veto over grants for summer jobs. The defence of these rights is what has made Canada a free, open, and tolerant country, a home for people seeking freedom from around the world. We should never compromise these freedoms. However, today too many on the government side are ready to take away these freedoms to score political points. The victims of these organizations are trying to do good in our communities, and the students are looking for work over the summer. This just is not fair.
I implore my government colleagues to support this motion and make their voices heard on behalf of all local organizations in their constituencies that will lose out because of this unfair, un-Canadian policy. It is time for all of us to speak up for the most cherished freedoms.