N.S. sawmill museum blames closure on Canada Summer Jobs abortion controversy

A Nova Scotia sawmill museum is "closed indefinitely" after it says it was denied federal funding for refusing to conform to a controversial abortion rights clause in the Canada Summer Jobs program.

The Liberal government this year required that organizations seeking funding under the program check a box affirming their support for constitutional rights and the right to reproductive choice, including access to abortion.

Gerald Comeau, a volunteer with the Bangor Sawmill Museum in Meteghan River, N.S., says the museum does not have a mandate to take an ideological position on abortion, and should not be compelled to do so in order to be eligible for funding.

Comeau, a former longtime Tory politician and senator, says he wrote a letter to accompany the application that affirmed the organization's respect for human rights and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, but the application was nevertheless denied.

He says without government funding, the museum, home to one of Canada's last water-powered mills, does not have enough money to hire a student museum guide, and so will not open this summer as scheduled.

Colin Fraser, the local Liberal MP, says the purpose of the government's change was to ensure funding was not going to jobs or organizations that purposefully undermine people's rights.

In an email statement, Fraser says he spoke with Comeau during the application process and explained that the attestation was about confirming that the job description and the primary activities of the applicant respect the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and has nothing to do with the organization's beliefs or values.