I’m praying today that tomorrow there will be resolution of the dispute between Canada’s government and Canada’s people concerning the controversial attestation clause attached to this year’s application for #CanadaSummerJobs funding.
First, I believe in the power of prayer. I believe in the power of prayer because I believe in God who answers prayer.
I find myself praying while feeling a bit like those in the group with Rhoda, the servant girl mentioned in Acts 12. They were praying for the release of Peter from prison. Rhoda answered a knock at the door to find Peter standing there. She was so excited she forgot to open the gate when she ran back to the prayer group to tell them Peter was standing there. Others in the prayer group thought she was out of her mind. They knew what a Roman jail was like! Nevertheless, God had heard their prayer and Peter was soon standing in their midst telling the true story of his miraculous release. (Acts 12:5-17)
Today is a day to pray because tomorrow presents an opportunity for our government to adjust the wording that has prevented many faith groups, and other groups, from completing the #CanadaSummerJobs application form to the satisfaction of Service Canada. Those groups – ministries, churches, synagogues, mosques, gurdwaras, indigenous peoples’ governing councils, and more – have concluded that the controversial attestation clause – it is the clause which is controversial, not the potential applicants – compels them to agree to a statement that expresses a position of the current government with which they do not or cannot agree. Equally those groups understand that under Canada’s constitution, particularly the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, section 2, the government is prohibited from compelling such agreement either as violation of conscience, religious belief, thought, opinion or expression of citizens.
The opportunity presented tomorrow (Monday, March 19) is a scheduled vote in the House of Commons on the following motion:
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.
The motion, although presented by the Opposition, is not politically tainted, as some can be. It is simple, straightforward, and presents occasion for Government and Opposition to agree on a helpful adjustment that aligns with statements made by the Government in efforts to clarify the intention of the attestation clause, relieving potential applicants from the requirement to agree:
Both the job and my 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 and the right to be free from discrimination on the basis of sex, religion, race, national or ethnic origin, colour, mental or physical disability or sexual orientation, or gender identity or expression
Should the Church be dependent on Government funding for the carrying out of its work? No.
Should the Church have equal access to Government funding under a program such as #CanadaSummerJobs? Yes.
The Supreme Court of Canada has determined that, because of the protections provided to Canadians in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, government is required to be neutral in its treatment of Canadians once it implements Charter compliant parameters for a program. In this instance, the program is intended to provide funding for the provision of summer jobs for Canadian young people aged 15 to 30 who are in full-time education. Some priorities for funding are identified. Then, the Government of Canada is required to be neutral in regard to applicants. The attestation clause steps away from that neutrality.
The second reason I’m praying today is because respected Christian leaders have called us to do so. The Canadian Council of Christian Charities, The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, denominational leaders, ministry leaders and others have called for a day of prayer. There is power in individual prayer, and great benefit to praying as part of a larger community. Rhoda wasn’t praying alone. Neither am I. Neither will you, if you decide to join us.
As we pray, we are not praying for the Liberal Party or its leader, or for the Conservative Party or New Democratic Party, we are praying for our Prime Minister, our elected representatives and our government.
The same Peter who was prayed out of prison two millennia ago wrote these words:
Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution,whether it be to the emperoras supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor. (1 Peter 2:13-17)
Although we have an elected House of Commons rather than an emperor, and may challenge the government in the courts if necessary, we submit ourselves to Canada’s free and democratic structure. And we live as servants of God.
We have also been called to pray for the ministries, churches and other organizations that will have to find alternative funding or cancel opportunities to serve some of the most vulnerable among us: children, including indigenous children and those with disabilities, who would otherwise attend day activities or attend camps in the country; those who are homeless who benefit from the additional care provided by summer student participation in their lives; and others.
And, please pray for the students who may otherwise go unemployed if the numerous organizations across the nation are forced to change or cancel hiring plans.
Pray today, knowing it’s also not too late to pray tomorrow.
Like Rhoda’s friends, I’ll be pleasantly surprised if the Government members of the House of Commons agree with Opposition members to pass this motion. Still, I’ll pray. Wouldn’t it be a great surprise!