Toronto City Mission (TCM) is the oldest and longest-running mission in the City of Toronto.
Toronto City Mission (TCM) is the oldest and longest-running mission in the City of Toronto. While our ministry has evolved from inner city relief work to preventive and proactive programs for children and families impacted by poverty, summer camp has always been a core part of our ministry.
Sonshine Day Camp provides a rich experience of daily programs including crafts, sports, singing, drama, Bible-based stories and day trips. Children are kept engaged and off the streets or away from anti-social behaviours while parents are working. Children who attend Sonshine Day Camp receive the gifts of belonging, confidence, and faith.
Currently, TCM hosts 7 weeks of summer camp for 125 children in 4 communities across the city that are impacted by poverty. To assure accessibility to those in need, camp is provided at no cost to the families. In order to run the camps, TCM hires 16 summer interns to work alongside nine (9) of our Outreach Workers as well as a large number of volunteers.
For the last 20+ years, TCM has received funding from the federal government to help subsidize the cost of hiring summer students (interns). In 2017, Canada Summer Jobs provided approximately $70,000 of grant funding to help cover the majority of this salary expense.
In December of 2017, the federal government released new guidelines for the Canada Summer Jobs program stating that employers would be ineligible for the grant unless they agreed that their core mandate and hiring do not discriminate on the basis of religion, and that they affirm the government’s views on abortion, sexual orientation, or gender identity or expression. This clause became known as the “Attestation.”
The Canadian Council of Christian Charities and The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada argued that the attestation requirement was an infringement of Charter Rights for freedom of religion, expression, beliefs, and opinion. This issue was well fought, but the government only made minor amendments to the wording. While this very fact was an admission that the attestation was flawed, the government stood their ground and required organizations to “tick the box” or they would not receive funding.
After a time of discernment, TCM’s board and leadership team concluded that we could not sign the attestation. Making this choice would put at risk TCM’s grant application. Given the new minimum wage, hiring 16 interns would be at a cost of $100,000. Plans for summer camp were well underway and we knew that it is a vital part of our ministry.
With little hesitation, we responded to God’s call to step out in faith and proceed with camp as planned. We would put our trust in God’s provision.
I soon found myself being asked by the EFC, CCCC, MP’s, and the media to speak out against the attestation requirement. For me, the issue was first and foremost about religious freedom and secondarily about funding. I participated in an interfaith press conference organized by the EFC as well as three national news interviews.
Before we launched any official fundraising appeal, donations started to come in from people who saw the TV interviews. A foundation who donated to TCM in the past made a significant donation to support the position TCM had taken. At my church, St. Paul’s Bloor Street, I was approached by a friend who had also seen one of my interviews. On the spot, he committed $5,000, then asked what more he could do. He wrote a compelling letter that he sent to a number of friends and associates appealing for their support and even more money was donated.
I vividly remember the day when I was sending an email thanking a donor who gave $2,000.
I typed “I continue to pray and put my trust in God.” It was at that moment that my faith wavered. This donation brought the total to $40,000, but I questioned if we could actually raise the remaining $60,000. I looked at the latter part of my sentence and wondered if I should end it after “I continue to pray.” I decided to leave it as it was written because only God was going to make this possible.
Less than 1 minute after I hit “Send,” my phone rang.
It was the pastor from a church that had long been supporters of TCM. He told me that it was on his heart that they should support TCM’s camp because of the position we took against attestation. He told me that he and the church elders decided to have a month-long appeal for TCM. Their ambitious goal for members of the church was to raise $30,000. He then told me that the church would commit to match dollar-for-dollar up to $30,000 donated.
If they achieved their goal, they would raise $60,000…the exact amount we needed to reach our $100,000 goal!
I started to cry, struggling to speak, I explained the email I had just sent and the faith battle that I was facing. I told him that his call was truly the answer to prayer!
One month later, the pastor called to tell me that the appeal was a success and they had raised $60,330!
God proved to us his faithfulness, abundance, and sovereignty.
As we look ahead to next summer, we pray that the government won’t have a values test associated with accessing CSJ funding, but we also know where we must put our trust…in God and His people!
Dave Addison is executive director of Toronto City Mission.Find out the latest about the Canada Summer Jobs situation.