Pressure to Conform hinders the Rights and Freedoms for All

What happens when charities hold religious views that diverge from the mainstream? Should groups who believe in the sanctity of life or in traditional marriage have their charitable status denied or revoked?

In 2017, the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada (ARCC) called on the federal government to stop funding “anti-abortion” groups such as pregnancy care centres who received Canada Summer Jobs (CSJ) grants. As a result, the government required all CSJ applicants in 2018 to “attest” to their support for government ideology on abortion, Charter values, and anti-discrimination. The ensuing controversy meant that some 1,500 religious charities could not apply and/or were denied funds.

While the government did modify the attestation in 2019, the issue revealed how political pressure could drive the government to challenge the charitable status of religious organizations. Indeed, in March 2018, ARCC stated that the “‘charitable’ purpose of anti-choice groups to oppose abortion no longer has any public benefit and their status should be revoked.”

Religious communities provide high social capital and social benefit. These organizations are motivated to serve because of their faith. If they are unable to operate according to their beliefs, they will likely cease to function. Demanding compliance with secular positions on issues such as abortion, marriage, or end-of-life could force religious charities to reduce their services or close their doors, which would impoverish our communities.