Madam Speaker, as parliamentary secretary, I am very pleased to stand today and join in this debate.
I want to recognize my colleague from Hamilton West—Ancaster—Dundas for, even in her question, providing that clarification had been circulated. The NDP has identified that as well. The clarifications were provided quite some time ago to all members of Parliament and community groups.
My friend and colleague from Elgin—Middlesex—London, a member whom I like a great deal, referred to the attestation as “BS”. If the “BS” stands for a “brave stand”, then I agree with her. This is all about a government that is standing up for the rights of Canadians, rights that were fought for by women, immigrants, and the LGBTQ2 community. These rights have long been fought for, and there is an expectation of the government of the day to stand by those citizens and defend those rights, which is exactly what we are doing through this initiative. Therefore, I am very happy to stand and speak to the motion today.
It is not news to any Canadian that prosperity depends more and more on a solid start for the next generation of workers. It also depends on the work experience they can gain to succeed in their careers to continue to boost our national economy and help our middle class prosper.
A summer job is an important opportunity for young people to get that kind of valuable work experience for which employers are looking. We hear time and time again that, “Yes, we'd like to give you the opportunity, but you have no experience”. Well, it is tough to get that experience if young people are not presented with that opportunity. This type of job also enables students to earn some money to help offset the cost of the school year ahead.
This is why our government is taking action right away. As a result of our government's increased investments in 2017, the number of jobs offered to young Canadians through the Canada summer jobs program nearly doubled compared to 2015 with the outgoing Conservative government.
The Canada summer jobs program is about creating quality work experience for young Canadians right across the country. When we learned that funding through the Canada summer jobs program had been used to undermine the rights of some Canadians, we took the necessary steps to ensure those rights were respected.
In the past, funding was used to support organizations like the Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform, which put kids to work distributing graphic images of aborted fetuses, and other organizations that did not welcome youth from the LGBTQ2 community in their summer camps. We know the Conservative Party has a different opinion on some of these issues.
On April 26, 2017, weeks before the Conservative leadership vote, Jonathon Van Maren, the communications director for the Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform, wrote in a blog post endorsing the current leader of the opposition as one of the top three choices in the leadership race. He reached out to the leader and gave him a statement in which he affirmed that the leader of the opposition had always voted in favour of anti-choice legislation.
The leader of the opposition is against our $650 million investment in maternal health so women around the world can have safe access to the abortion health services they require. The leader of the opposition affirmed that he voted against transgender rights in Bill C-16. He believes that Jordan Peterson is correct on his views of gender pronouns. We know the leader is against LGBTQ2 rights. He is against women's right to choose and against transgender rights, as his own words have confirmed.
The Government of Canada is committed to respecting the fundamental rights of all Canadians, including the LGBTQ2 and women's rights. We also support the freedom of conscience and religion guaranteed under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. There is nothing controversial about that.
We have taken concrete steps to prevent federal funding from going to create jobs that do not respect the rights of all Canadians.
As a result, the Canadian summer jobs 2018 application form asks organizations to confirm that both their core mandate and the jobs in question respect individual human rights and labour laws and do not support discriminatory practices. It is a question of justice and equality for everyone, not a question of beliefs. It is another example of the traditional Canadian approach of diversity and inclusion.
The opposition keeps talking about critics, but let me take a different view.
We want to talk about the many supporters of the attestation. Major Canadian organizations are supporting our approach. In fact, our government received an open letter from the National Association of Women and the Law saying how supportive it was of this year's eligibility requirements for CSJ applicants. A number of my colleagues in the House today know that the women in law group testified yesterday at committee on Bill C-65. They know that it is a highly regarded organization nationally, if not universally.
The association wrote, in black and white:
Significant misinformation has been widely circulated in the media about the nature of the attestation that is now required by organizations that wish to apply for federal government grants for student jobs through the CSJ program. We are confident that the safeguards introduced to the CSJ program are not discriminatory, and do not represent any infringement on freedom of religion, conscience, or any other rights that people in Canada enjoy.
This comes from an organization that promotes the equality rights of women in our country. This organization has played a major role in major milestones toward women's equality in Canada, such as the inclusions of sections 15 and 28 in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms; amendments to sexual assault laws, positive changes to family law and to the divorce act; rape shield legislation; and criminal harassment legislation.
There is more.
An open letter of support was signed by 80 major organizations from across Canada. Let me name a few. There is Oxfam Canada, YMCA Canada, The Canadian Centre for Gender and Sexual Diversity, Women's Human Rights Education Institute, Abortion Support Services Atlantic, Alberta Pro-Choice Coalition, the Network of Black Business & Professional Women, Canadian Research Institute for the Advancement of Women, Canadian Health Coalition. The list of supporting organizations goes on and on. Strong voices across the country are raising in support of this year's eligibility requirements for CSJ applicants. Who is in a better position than these organizations to speak out on the issue that concerns us today?
This display of support is just one example. There are many more supporters of the attestation that is required by CSJ applicants.
However, people may ask what the Canada summer jobs program consists of. It is a federal program that aims to provide salary subsidies to employers so they can create jobs for high school and post-secondary students. It provides financial aid to the not-for-profit organizations, public sector employers, and small businesses with up to 50 employees. This funding enables the creation of summer job opportunities for youth between the ages of 15 and 30, who are studying full time and are planning to go back to school for the following year. As was the case in years past, religious and faith-based organizations are eligible for funding through the program and are invited to apply.
To better meet the changing needs of the new increasingly globalized economy, our youth employment strategy helps young Canadians receive valuable work experience and skills development in support of their future career. It includes three program streams.
First, the skills stream helps youth facing barriers to employment develop the skills they need to find a job or go back to school. The focus is on single parents and newcomers, as well as youth with disabilities, indigenous youth, and youth in rural and remote areas.
The second stream, career focus, helps post-secondary graduates find a job through paid internships. It provides these youth with the information and experience they need to make an informed decision about their career, find a job, or pursue graduate studies.
Finally, the summer work experience stream offers subsidies to employers for them to create summer jobs for high school and post-secondary students and includes the Canada summer jobs program. Each year we invest over $330 million in this strategy and we have committed to investing an additional $340 million over three years to create up to 35,000 additional summer jobs for youth.
In fact, I would be remiss if I did not mention that in budget 2018, our government proposes to provide an additional $450 million over five years, starting in 2018-19, for the youth employment strategy. This funding will support the continued growth of the number of job placements funded under Canada summer jobs in 2019-20. It will also provide additional resources for a modernized youth employment strategy in the following years, building on the input of the expert panel on youth employment. As well, a renewed youth employment strategy will be announced over the course of the next year.
All this to say, we are doing this for Canadian youth.
Let us go back to the issue today.
Under Canada summer jobs, employers are invited to submit an application that meets the program's national priorities, which were established to better meet the current and future needs of the labour market and improve the situation of youth in the labour market. This means that we prioritize jobs created by employers that intend to hire youth from under-represented groups, including new immigrants or refugees, indigenous people, people with disabilities, and visible minorities.
The program will also favour small job creating businesses, organizations that support employment opportunities for official language minority communities, and organizations that offer services or support to the LGBTQ2 community.
Canada summer jobs will also place a particular focus on organizations that support job opportunities in science, technology, engineering, and mathematic sectors, as well as the information and communications technology sectors, particular for women.
For this reason, the CSJ program will not provide funding to organizations whose main activities include partisan political activities or seek to remove or undermine established individual rights for Canadians. To clarify, our government has taken the principled stand that we will not fund groups that distribute graphic pictures of bloody fetuses to school-age children. Any organization whose activities aim to limit women's existing reproductive rights will not be eligible for this funding. The same goes for a summer camp that would submit an application to hire students as camp councillors at a camp that would not welcome youth from the LGBTQ2 community.
On the other hand, many other faith-based organizations would be eligible for the program. Say, for example, a faith-based organization with anti-abortion beliefs applies for funding to hire students to serve meals to the homeless. The organization provides numerous programs in support of its community. The students would be responsible for meal planning, buying groceries, serving meals, etc. This organization would be eligible to apply.
Say another faith-based organization that embraces the traditional definition of marriage but whose primary activities reduce social isolation among seniors applies for funding to hire students. The students would be responsible for developing and delivering programs for all seniors, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, or expression. This organization would be eligible to apply.
Another example would be an organization with anti-abortion beliefs that runs a summer camp for underprivileged youth. It would be eligible to submit an application. This would enable it to offer students summer jobs as camp counsellors.
Applicants have to confirm that they meet the new requirement through an attestation included in the application form. They are not required to share their points of view, their beliefs, or their values, because these are not taken into consideration in the program application process. That an organization is affiliated with a religion does not make it ineligible. Service Canada evaluates the applications based on the eligibility and assessment criteria, including national and local priorities. All the eligible applications in a constituency are ranked accordingly.
Each year, members of Parliament are invited to take part in certain activities related to the Canada summer jobs program. This means that elected officials can help promote the program, establish local priorities, confirm the list of projects, inform the selected employers, and take part in announcements related to those programs. Members of Parliament are invited to take part in these aspects of the CSJ program, but their participation is, of course, voluntary.
In cases where members of Parliament do not take part in the process, Service Canada establishes the list of projects for their constituencies. Summer job priorities will not be the same in Nunavut as they are in Toronto or Calgary or Vancouver or Cape Breton—Canso. They will not be the same in Prince Edward Island as they are in Saskatchewan.
The Canada summer jobs program is not a government program just like any other. It meets the needs of a young, dynamic workforce while at the same time meeting the current needs of each region across this country during the summer period. Above all, it meets young people's need to get rewarding summer work that will help them gain much-needed experience to start their professional lives.
Our government is committed to ensuring that government funding respects Canadians' hard-won rights, particularly those of women and the LGBTQ2 community. We have taken the principled stand that we will not fund groups that distribute graphic pictures of bloody fetuses to school-age children or any groups whose jobs will limit the protections Canadians depend on.
We know that religious- and faith-based organizations, which are primarily focused on compassion and helping those in our society who are most in need, offer valuable services to our communities. The changes we have made to the CSJ program will ensure that youth who get jobs funded by the government will be working in an environment that respects the rights of all Canadians.