On Wednesday, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau held a town hall at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario. During the event, a first-year student asked the PM about free speech as it relates to the pro-life movement.
The following is their exchange (emphasis added):
STUDENT: I'm a first-year student here at McMaster, and I just wanted to know your views on freedom of speech, and if it's important to you because in today's society, it's turning more into a leftist view, and if people don't have the same opinions, then they are ridiculed and called racists, bigots, and everything. For example, abortion. If you're pro-life, then you are ridiculed and insulted, but if you're pro-choice, then you're praised. And I just want to know if this is important to you?
TRUDEAU: Listen, I think I've demonstrated time and time again that defending rights and freedoms is at the core of who I am, and, quite frankly, is at the core of what Canada is. In this country, we defend each other's rights, even when they're unpopular, as we've seen a couple of times. At the same time, we need to know that there is a difference between freedom of expression and acting on those expressions and beliefs. A great example that I was wondering whether you'd bring up is the current kerfuffle around the Canada Summer Jobs program, and expecting that any organization that gets funding to bring young people through the Summer Jobs program – which hundreds of thousands of young people go through – will respect the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Now, that doesn't mean that religious groups and faith groups can't apply for that. On the contrary, so many of the great community organizations that we have working incredibly hard are faith-based across this country and it's an important and wonderful part of our society. It does, however, mean – and this is where we get to the crux of the matter – that an organization that has the explicit purpose of restricting women's rights by removing rights to abortion, the right for women to control their own bodies, is not in line with where we are as a government, and quite frankly where we are as a society.
Here’s the video (the pertinent portion begins at the 30:11 mark):
The "attestation and signature" portion of the 2018 Summer Jobs program application stipulates that one must "check the box ‘I attest’ to confirm 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 ..."
The application also states: "The government recognizes that women’s rights are human rights. This includes sexual and reproductive rights – and the right to access safe and legal abortions."
Just below the "attestation and signature" portion, the document further notes: "Should an application or a project not be compliant with program eligibility and/or the Articles of Agreement, your project may not be funded."
In short, if an organization doesn’t check the "I attest" box because they refuse to endorse the language regarding abortion in the application, they may be denied funding.
This language is being challenged in court by the Right to Life Association of Toronto and Area. According to Brian Platt of National Post, "The court document ... says the application process makes it clear the request won’t even be considered if the attestation box isn’t checked off." The complaint also claims that the new eligibility rule "unjustly violates the group’s Charter rights, including the right to freedom of expression, to freedom of conscience and religion, and to be treated equally under law."
In 2017, multiple pro-life groups received settlements in federal court after their funding was denied.