Open Letter to my MP and Prime Minister about Student Grants

Open Letter to my MP and Prime Minister about Student Grants

Good day  Gents (Mr. Trudeau and Mr. Macgregor),

I am a church minister and I am happy to say that the congregation I serve has received student grants in the past. My MP Alistair personally called me to tell me about the grant we received once, a touching little action on his part. These grants have allowed us to help families in our community by providing care for their children during the summer months. Our programming has proven to be the most diverse aspect of our community life (as a church) and among the most diverse I have witnessed since moving to our little town 3 years ago. 

The grants have helped us to teach management/leadership skills to students, as well as encourage them in community action and engagement and the value of networking and working with local businesses with common goals. Not to mention pay them while we are at it.  This money is a great opportunity on many levels, it even helps us to engage seniors who are sometimes lonely but can provide support to the children’s programming through food and volunteering. It is a win-win-win as far as I can see. 

As a church what we do with the grant really is something separate from what we might believe regarding reproductive rights and other such topics that simply don’t come up when dealing with children. We view this a government paid for program we have the privilege of offering and seek to be as civic minded as possible in implementing it. We try to teach the kids about fair play, overcoming obstacles, how to sing, bake, eat healthy, accept others, trust that everyone is worthy of loving etc. I fear that the “kerfuful” might give people the wrong idea about what takes place at our camps, they may think we are nefariously indoctrinating kids in anti-canadiana ways (see how weird that reads and sounds?). This might make them hesitate to take advantage of them, that would be sad indeed. 

My heart is burdened lately because this usually upbeat and straight forward program is suddenly an issue to be dealt with, and unanticipatedly threatened. The Elders of my church are debating whether they want to lose the program, with harm to the children and parents, or sign the attestation, an especially challenging question because signing it would in no way change what we are doing with the funds. I have no idea what they will decide they are caught in a hard place not of their own making.

I am writing as a simple religious leader in a small town that is confused about why there is even a  need for the attestation? Why cannot the vetting/application process ensure that the funds are not used to promote highly political stances? Or, as it may be, flat out bigotry and evil? Perhaps a better explanation about the intention behind the attestation would help groups know if they can sign it in good conscience or not?

 

I am certain that others have already told you about the good works accomplished by groups accessing these funds, groups like ours that do not ask about the background of the recipients of the programming they offer, groups who seek to offer artistic experiences, food, shelter, and love in whatever form to people who otherwise wouldn’t have access to the programs. I cannot imagine why this ought to be threatened. Are there stories of serious problems stemming from not having such an attestation? I know many are wondering what is this attestation in response to? I trust it is not a solution looking for a problem. 

 
As a citizen I am confused about the current government’s very notion of ‘liberal’ or ‘tolerance’. I recently read of an American judge who said, “[T]olerance is essential in a free society. And tolerance is most meaningful when it’s mutual.” That sounds right to me. This attestation is being understood as intolerant by many people seeking to do good work hand in hand with the government whenever and wherever it is possible. Why is this summer the right time for such a dilemma?
 
It is isn’t too late to remove this attestation and save a lot of people a lot of grief. I ask that you carefully consider the sort of tolerant Canada we are going to be and the sort of summer we will share together as a nation. 
 
Thank you for your precious time, 
 Rev. Christopher Clarke
St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church
Duncan BC

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