The anti-abortion organization cited by the employment minister for questionable use of an employment subsidy refutes claims it provoked the government into forcing all Canada Summer Jobs applicants to attest that their "core mandate" supports a woman's right to obtain an abortion.
A $56,000 grant to the Calgary-based Canadian Centre for Bioethical Reform was used to stuff mailboxes with colour pamphlets that showed graphic images of aborted fetuses. The same images were also shown on banners displayed by summer students at major intersections in downtown Toronto.
"Some groups, like the Canadian Centre for Bioethical Reform, for example, were using those government funds in a way to create graphic pamphlets that featured aborted fetuses as a way to shame women," Labour Minister Patty Hajdu told a news conference Jan. 25.
Asked whether the Centre for Bioethical Reform had poisoned the well for other organizations, CBR spokesperson Jonathon Van Maren told The Catholic Register, "Absolutely not."
"We're not utilizing the bodies of children. We're showing abortion victim photography," Van Maren said.
The CBR uses graphic abortion images, "in the same way that the (American) civil rights movement was started by the photograph of a 14-year-old murdered boy in 1955 named Emmett Till," said Van Maren. "There's quite simply not a single injustice in the history of social reform that was ended without first being exposed with imagery of the victims."
He said "it's understandable" for some people to be upset by the graphic images."
Toronto NDP MPP Peter Tabuns received several complaints about the flyers distributed in his Toronto riding last summer. The images "cause a lot of emotional pain," Tabuns wrote in an email to The Catholic Register. "The pictures do not make them oppose abortion. It makes them oppose anyone who would do what they see as violence to their state of mind or that would make their children distraught."
At the deVeber Institute for Bioethics and Social Research, co-president Martha Crean doubts that the CBR campaign is the true starting point for the Canada Summer Jobs controversy.
"Last year, we were refused in all the Liberal ridings we usually got it (money) from," Crean said. "We even received a phone call from one of the ridings saying 'Congratulations, you got your money.' Fifteen minutes later they phoned back and said, 'Oh, sorry, it really wasn't your organization.' So they had been reminded, I guess."
Unlike the CBR, the deVeber Institute works on a wide variety of life issues from stem cell science through palliative care and euthanasia, with an emphasis on producing academically credible, original research.
Crean speculates that a book of ethics and epidemiology essays called It's Not That Simple, which the deVeber Institute distributed to all MPs during the assisted suicide debate, may have landed them on a Liberal blacklist.
"A party platform is being put forward for the disbursement of public funds," said Crean. "The brush is too broad. The brush that is painting us out of the picture, that brush that is painting any Canadian in any organization that does not agree. . . . The government is really playing politics with voluntary organizations across the country; silencing legitimate conscience objections."
Michel MacDonald, executive director of the Catholic Organization for Life and Family, said the problem is that "other pro-life groups can be painted with the same brush."
Campaign Life Coalition's youth arm stopped using graphic abortion imagery in 2015, but the organization doesn't condemn randomly stuffing mailboxes with abortion photos.
"I think they're a necessary evil, if you will," Gunnarson said. "A necessary part because they're showing the evil of abortion."