August is quickly coming to an end and with that my journey as this year’s CPJ public justice intern. Just before this train rolls to a stop, I’ll take a moment to uphold an annual CPJ custom by offering some reflections on the year in my version of the solemnly titled “intern’s final web feature.”
I have thoroughly enjoyed being an observer of and contributor to this year’s work at CPJ. The variety of assignments I’ve been given and the expertise of those I’ve worked alongside have taught me a great deal about public policy issues in Canada and have given me a framework for assessing future policies from a public justice standpoint. I’ve been able to explore a wide range of topics, from affordable housing, to carbon taxes, to refugee concerns. I like to think I’ve also honed my communication skills, with the benefit of in-house editors to (compassionately) critique every piece of writing I generated.
As an event enthusiast, I was also happy to attend a number of CPJ engagements this year. With plenty of politicians, community leaders, (hors d’oeuvres!), and challenging dialogue to inspire citizens to seek positive change in their country, these occasions were a great source of education and encouragement. Of special note was the Interfaith Forum on Climate Change in October 2011. It marked the first time faith communities in Canada have come together on the issue of global warming in such a great and diverse capacity, and I felt privileged to hear from leaders who have courageously stood for the care of our environment and the people adversely affected by its abuse.
Another memorable event was the Tax Fairness Summit in March of this year where engaging speakers and seminars drew citizens from many spheres of influence in a discussion on current taxation policy issues. Who knew taxation could be such a riveting topic?
On top of all of this, I’ve learned a lot about the process of advocacy. Especially helpful was the crash course in policy analysis at this year’s Dignity for All policy summit. There I witnessed the blood, sweat, and tears that go into working out the nitty gritty details of specific policy recommendations when heads of advocacy groups and concerned citizens bring their experiences and expertise to a communal table. It is as exhausting as it sounds, but the synthesis results in policy recommendations that more effectively consider the needs of the poor and vulnerable in society.
I also enjoyed meeting with politicians like MP John McKay and Senator Don Meredith to dialogue about various CPJ initiatives. Such occasions served as a reminder that there are politicians who care a lot about the people of this nation and work hard to represent their concerns.
In other ways, this year reminded me of why I often find the political sphere frustrating and, at times, disheartening. While policymaking is rarely straightforward or easy, it should always honour the democratic process and the facts on the ground— a commitment that is sometimes tested.
But these moments of frustration have only re-emphasized the truth that politics influences all spheres of life, and is a matter of importance for anyone who wants to live in community with others. As Nobel Laureate, Aung San Suu Kyi, has sagaciously remarked, “You may not think about politics, but politics thinks about you.”
Here at CPJ, we do think about politics, recognizing that it does not fall outside of God’s concern or dominion and that faith has something crucial to speak into the political realm. God calls us to uphold compassion, love for our neighbours, and integrity—as a practice in our own lives, but also as a public vision.
This truth resonates in CPJ’s work and is lived out courageously by the CPJ staff. I have a deep respect for the staff of this office – they are passionate about the issues they work on, they work hard, and they are genuinely caring people. In fact, a more hospitable office I may never find.
With my desk still hiding under stacks of material, and a corresponding to-do list, the finality of this week has yet to sink in. But then, a sense of finality is rarely found at CPJ where the activity is ongoing and present work is always done with mind to “what’s next?”
So what’s next for me? I’m donning some low-heeled pumps and heading to law school this fall. I’m excited for the new challenges ahead and for the opportunity to seek public justice in a different capacity.
I leave CPJ with many wonderful memories in hand. Thank you to those who have journeyed with me this year and to all the CPJ supporters who make this internship possible. And thank you to CPJ staff – for the opportunity to work with you and for the life lessons you’ve imparted, for the lunchtime laughs and lemon tea, and for having the courage to speak out in love for your neighbour, even when it may not be the popular or easy thing to do.