The Canada Summer Jobs Debate and the Democratic Decline
52 Pages Posted: 20 Jun 2019
Date Written: June 9, 2019
The Canadian federal government’s attestation requirement on the 2018 Canada Summer Jobs (CSJ) application demanded acquiescence to the government’s ideological commitments including its views of abortion as a Charter right, and the government’s views on anti-discrimination. While government officials denied anything amiss and described the matter as a mere “kerfuffle”, Canadian editorial rooms lit up with indignation as the attestation requirement was characterized as a form of compelled speech. Some saw it as heavy-handed bullying. While the 2019 CSJ attestation removed the offensive provision, the 2018 experience led to eight judicial review applications across the country in Federal Court and law suits against the government for breach of Charter rights. This article provides a background and context for the CSJ issue; explains why the issue struck a nerve in the religious community and the media; and discusses the constitutional concerns raised by the requirement. The article argues that the CSJ matter is just an example of the broader problem: any kind of a “values test” imposed as a prerequisite to government funding and programs strikes at the heart of liberal democracy and is a threat to freedom of all citizens. While the government action did not amount to a constitutional crisis, it did raise the specter of what academics’ call “constitutional rot”, wherein the political system becomes dysfunctional instead of upholding democratic ideals of freedom.
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