Ray Pennings, co-founder and executive vice president of the think tank Cardus, thought the changes meant the government had realized that the rules violated fundamental rights of freedom of religion, conscience and speech, Canadian Catholic News reports. He said the rules had caused "real harm" to about 1,500 organizations and many more young people.
"There is still the potential for problems, however, with the new eligibility criteria," Pennings continued. "They apply an internal values test on applicants using opaque wording subject to interpretation by the government of the day behind closed doors."
After the 2018 rules were first announced, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau explicitly rejected participation by pro-life groups. He said Jan. 10, "An organization that has the explicit purpose of restricting women's rights by removing rights to abortion and the rights of women to control their own bodies is not in line with where we are as a government, and quite frankly, where we are as a society."
Many observers are still waiting to comment until the full official application and other documents are released, expected next week.
The Catholic Civil Rights League said the new application process is still "sadly deficient" and will continue to suppress "viewpoints not shared by the government" by denying funding to groups that disagree. Organizations can still be denied funding if they take pro-life positions.
It accused the ruling Liberal Party of "effectively establishing a 'bubble zone' to prevent funding to organizations who do not share its unfettered pro-abortion position," the group charged. The group has characterized the new rules as "a means of compelling ideological conformity from law abiding charities."
For instance, in the hypothetical case of an organization raising awareness about the effects of abortion on women, the Catholic Civil Rights League argued, it "will likely be denied funding, even though it is engaged in assisting women's reproductive health, because it treads into a challenge to the unfettered abortion license, at any and all stages of a pregnancy, promoted by this government."
The group said that peaceful protest and assembly are legally protected rights and the government is wrong to claim there is a "right to safe and legal abortion" in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms or in case law.
Small businesses and groups like Toronto Right to Life have filed lawsuits challenging the 2018 rules.
Carol Crosson, who represents Toronto Right to Life, characterized the changes as "a victory for all those who stood against the government's unconstitutional incursion into the beliefs and opinions of Canadians."
"When the freedom of speech of one Canadian is infringed, all Canadians lose. Government has no place punishing Canadians for their viewpoints," Crosson said.
(Story continues below)
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MacCarthy said that, while groups that everyone with reservations or concerns about the new requirements should be applying for the grants.
When someone is accepted or rejected, they may ask for more information or clarity about the criteria.
"The government has in the past produced resources that have provided clarity regarding how particular requirements may be interpreted," he said. "We may see that again.
Canadians should also ensure they are in contact with their local politicians to ensure they are aware of the situation and closely monitoring it, MacCarthy said.