In a decision released Tuesday, Justice Mosley found that the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour engaged in only a “cursory review” of Redeemer’s application and did not make a reasonable effort to obtain additional information or clarification about concerns it had. The Court also cautioned the government that, in addition to observing procedural fairness, it must treat faith-based institutions in a way that respects their Charter rights.
Redeemer, which has hired Canada Summer Jobs (CSJ) program students since 2006, applied for funding for 11 positions in 2019. These included water monitoring assistants for Chedoke Creek and Red Hill Creek, a community garden coordinator, a community garden foodbank liaison, as well as library, maintenance, security and custodial positions. Although Redeemer was not informed of this, the government classified the application as “high risk” because of Redeemer’s belief in traditional marriage.
The CSJ program asked Redeemer to provide further information to show that it provides a workplace free of harassment and discrimination; Redeemer responded with its 35-page Personal Respect Policy. Despite this, and without advising Redeemer of any further concerns, the program found Redeemer’s application to be ineligible on the basis of discrimination and harassment. Redeemer asked the Federal Court to judicially review that decision. The university, represented by lawyers Albertos Polizogopoulos and John Sikkema of the Acacia Group, argued that the government did not follow a fair process in rejecting the application, and also that the government’s decision interfered with Charter rights, including freedom of religion, expression and association.
While the government’s lawyers argued to the Court that the CSJ followed a fair process in rejecting Redeemer’s application, Justice Mosley disagreed, finding that the government did not provide Redeemer with notice of the issues at stake and did not provide the university with an opportunity to provide relevant information. The Court found that there was no attempt on the part of the program to reasonably assess Redeemer’s application or other evidence. In addition to declaring that Redeemer was denied procedural fairness, Justice Mosley issued a rare order that the government pay Redeemer’s full legal costs.
Since the issue was decided on the basis of procedural fairness, there was no requirement for the Court to decide the Charter issues raised by Redeemer. Justice Mosley commented that, while it was not necessary for him to rule on these matters, the government “should take no comfort from this conclusion. There is no evidence… that the [government] made any overt attempt to consider Redeemer’s rights to freedom of religion, freedom of expression, or freedom of association in considering its application.”
The Court went on to caution the government, “Should it be established in another case that officials discriminated in administering funding programs against faith-based institutions because of the sincerely held religious beliefs of their Community, a finding of a Charter violation may well result. Such institutions must be treated not just with procedural fairness, but also with respect for their Charter-protected rights.”
Redeemer was also denied CSJ funding in 2018 because it refused to sign a controversial abortion-rights attestation required by the application. That case has yet to be heard by the Federal Court. The University applied for CSJ funding for the summer of 2020, and its application was found eligible in December of that year, by which time summer had passed and there were no funds left in the program. Redeemer also applied in 2021, and its application was approved on June 17, 2021, almost two months into the summer for university students.
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