Ola! March 2009
- CPJ at Ottawa Lay School of Theology
- CPJ staff meet with MPs to dialogue on poverty
- USBIG Congres
- Not for Sale Campaign comes to Ottawa
- Strategic planning
- Web features
- A deeper look at GLI: Jobs for everyone?
- Supreme Court refuses to hear Safe Third Country case
- Momentum is building
- The StreetoHome Foundation: Working to end homelessness in Vancouver
- Global South struggles with economic woes, too
- the Catalyst: Hot off the press
- Earth Hour – March 28
- Refugee rights day – April 4
- Earth Day – April 22
- CPJ summer research assistant – apply now!
- A reflection on prayer
Welcome to the March issue of Ola!, the monthly e-newsletter of Citizens for Public Justice. As the snow disappears and hints of spring emerge, let us continue to speak out for justice across our whole nation.
CPJ at Ottawa Lay School of Theology
On February 2, CPJ board co-chair Kathy Vandergrift spoke at Dennis Gruending’s Faith and Public Life class about Citizenship as Ministry. Joined by William Janzen, former director of the Mennonite Central Committee Canada’s Ottawa office, Kathy discussed how Christians can engage in politics differently – on the basis of justice rather than self-interest. Read more about Kathy’s talk on Dennis’ blog.
CPJ executive director Joe Gunn spoke at a subsequent class, talking about the longstanding history of Catholic social teachings. This rich body of social thought has provided the basis of social, environmental and political critiques from the church. Recently, issues such as the tar sands have been framed within Catholic social thought, setting out challenges to government and society. Read more…
Joe also spoke at an Ottawa church on the question of Christianity and the ecological imperative, with the subtitle of his talk being, “What’s a believer to think?” Discussion centered on whether the Bible has relevance for the environmental crisis of today, and whether Christians are mounting the leadership necessary to change the economic and cultural structures that currently threaten life on Earth.
CPJ staff meet with MPs to dialogue on poverty
The last two weeks have presented several interesting opportunities for CPJ staff members to connect and dialogue with Members of Parliament about the need to address poverty in Canada.
On February 27, CPJ executive director Joe Gunn and socio-economic policy analyst Karri Munn-Venn met with Conservative MP Stephen Woodworth on Parliament Hill. Mr. Woodworth had attended CPJ's poverty reduction workshop in Kitchener back in January, and they continued discussions about the federal government’s role in reducing poverty.
On March 3, Joe and policy intern Mariel Angus met NDP MP Paul Dewar on the Hill. Then on March 12, Joe and Mariel met with Conservative MP Harold Albrecht. Both meetings were opportunities to update the MPs on CPJ’s work, and reaffirm the need to address poverty in Canada.
All three meetings added to CPJ’s presence on Parliament Hill, and provided opportunities to highlight the many CPJ members who have written to their MPs, calling for a federal poverty reduction strategy.
In hard economic times, is a guaranteed livable income an unaffordable luxury or part of the solution? This was one of the important questions pondered at the 2009 USBIG Congress in New York, February 27-March 1. Many of the conference speakers highlighted the urgency of the economic crisis and the environmental crisis, the challenges of returning economies to full employment and the scandal of poverty, noting that GLI is more important, not less, in responding to contemporary challenges.
CPJ policy analyst Chandra Pasma attended the conference, and presented a paper on “Working through the Work Disincentive.” Chandra’s paper challenged the main assumptions that underlie fears that income security will cause people to withdraw from the paid labour force.
A strong Canadian contingent was also in attendance, and Senator Hugh Segal spoke at the opening session while Member of Parliament Tony Martin gave one of the closing speeches. In a wonderful display of cross-partisanship, Segal and Martin drafted a motion at the meeting calling on the G-8 and G-20 to act on poverty, including critical income security initiatives, which was passed unanimously by the House of Commons and the Senate.
For more on the conference, check out Chandra’s blog report on her trip.
Not for Sale Campaign comes to Ottawa
On Friday, March 20, CPJ policy intern Mariel Angus attended a talk by David Batstone, the founder of the Not for Sale Campaign to end the global slave trade. The talk was held at the Bronson Centre in Ottawa and was sponsored by Persons Against the Crime of Trafficking (PACT-Ottawa) and the Canadian Religious Conference.
Not for Sale is a U.S.-based campaign that has been building an international abolitionist movement by working to uncover trafficking rings within the United States, assisting victims, and partnering with organizations working internationally on the issue.
It is estimated that there are 27 million people enslaved around the globe today, many in North America. In his talk, Batstone called human trafficking “the tragedy of the 21st century.” He outlined how we can combat the issue through political advocacy and making ethical purchases.
Batstone’s visit to Canada coincided with the recent release of www.slaverymap.ca, an online tool that maps human trafficking cases in Canada.
The talk was an inspiring demonstration of the power that advocacy campaigns can have in combating complex issues such as human trafficking.
CPJ is currently undergoing a strategic planning process, exploring how we can best achieve our mission and respond to God’s call for love, justice and stewardship. Questions such as ‘What is the external environment like?’ ‘What are CPJ’s strengths and weaknesses?’ ‘How can CPJ best live out its mission and vision?’ are shaping the process.
CPJ members have the chance to participate as well. Small focus groups are being held across the country. Contact Karen Diepeveen at Karen@cpj.ca to find out if one is being held in your area, or if you would like to host a focus group in your community.
Our weekly web features and blog posts (www.cpj.ca/blog) explore various public justice issues. Read about issues from the Safe Third Country Agreement to housing in Vancouver below.
A deeper look at GLI: Jobs for everyone?
People often fear the work disincentive of guaranteed livable income because they believe that people will choose not to work if they have income security. This belief assumes that there are enough jobs for everyone, and that GLI or generous social benefits encourages some people not to engage in paid employment. The reality is, however, that there are not enough paid jobs for every Canadian, nor enough good jobs to meet every Canadian's needs. Income security for Canadians should therefore not be determined solely by participation in the paid labour force. Read more...
Supreme Court refuses to hear Safe Third Country case
On February 5, a three-judge panel of the Supreme Court of Canada rejected an appeal application that sought to have the Safe Third Country Agreement deemed unconstitutional. The application came from the Canadian Council for Refugees, the Canadian Council of Churches and Amnesty International, who were appealing a Federal Court of Appeal’s decision to uphold the STCA. Read more…
Momentum is building
It feels counter-intuitive, but very, very real. Despite a global recession and a federal government seemingly blind to social exclusion, momentum is building for action on poverty in Canada.
It began in Quebec. In 2002, following three years of grassroots mobilization and a citizen-led initiative to draft anti-poverty legislation, the Government of Quebec passed an Act to Combat Poverty and Social Exclusion. The bill created a strategy that aims to make Quebec “one of the industrialized nations having the least number of persons living in poverty” by 2013. Read more…
The StreetoHome Foundation: Working to end homelessness in Vancouver
Vancouver has one of the highest rates of homelessness in Canada. The lack of affordable and supportive housing has left hundreds of people without a warm, safe and decent home. It is estimated that there are over 1,700 people living on the streets and in shelters in Vancouver. 50 percent of these are people who are chronically homeless, having gone without a home for over a year. And the problem is growing. Read more...
Global South struggles with economic woes, too
You could just feel the teenaged excitement of my son. Last week, he left for an “exposure tour” to the Dominican Republic to join the work of the Grey Nuns and their mission, observe Caribbean culture, visit the bateyes where Haitian sugarcane workers toil, and live with a Dominican family. His eyes were opening to a whole new world.
And then, suddenly, it occurred to me that my eyes were being blinkered.
Like you, I’d been hearing the horrendous news of the economic meltdown, and yet, I had heard nothing of how the global economic calamity was affecting people in the Global South. Canadians have watched their jobs, pensions and faith in their financial system disappear — but how were Dominicans (or others in poor countries) faring? Read more…
the Catalyst: Hot off the press
Our first issue of the Catalyst for 2009 has just been released, and if you’re a CPJ member, it should be hitting your mailbox shortly. Articles on the economic crisis, human trafficking, and childcare explore these public justice issues – and our response – in depth.
Alongside these pieces is Groundings, our regular Biblical reflective piece. In this Groundings, entitled The priority of human dignity, Bill Elliott uses the parable of the Good Samaritan to show how we are called to be true neighbours, offering compassionate, hands-on, restorative help. Read more about the other articles below.
- Socio-economic policy analyst Karri Munn-Venn tackles the economic crisis head on, exploring the government’s response thus far. In her article, Economic crisis highlights need to address poverty, Karri reveals how 90% of Canadians say now is the time for “strong leadership” to reduce the number of poor Canadians.
- In Human trafficking: an uncomfortable reality, policy analyst Chandra Pasma exposes the reality of human trafficking in Canada. While we assume it happens elsewhere, human trafficking is prevalent in our country – and Chandra shows that without addressing root causes such as inequality and racism, exploitation will continue.
- Mariel Angus, CPJ’s policy intern, discusses some of her latest research in her article To benefit us all: Childcare in Canada. Mariel posits that a universal, accessible and quality-based childcare program could take strides towards addressing family poverty and stimulating the economy.
- CPJ’s Envisioning Canada Without Poverty campaign called for a poverty reduction strategy to be included in Budget 2009. But as we saw in late January, no such strategy appeared in the budget. Does this mean our endeavours were unsuccessful? Absolutely not – in fact, CPJ members have strengthened the call to end poverty.
Earth Hour – March 28
Quickly becoming a tradition, Earth Hour is celebrated around the world. On March 28, at 8:30 pm, people will turn off their lights, power down their computers, and go without electricity for one hour.
But this doesn’t mean you have to sit in the dark! KAIROS has developed resources for a worship service to be held during Earth Hour. With ideas for transportation, lighting and songs, your faith community can share in exploring God’s call to care for creation.
Other events may be happening in your community. Candle-lit dinners, board game nights, and stargazing are just a few of the Earth Hour activities you could participate in. Over 1,000 cities and towns across the world have committed to switching off the lights – don’t forget to turn yours off, too!
Refugee rights day – April 4
On this day in 1985, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms protects refugee claimants’ rights to life, liberty and security of person. The decision stated that everyone in Canada is entitled to justice when their safety and security is at stake – and justice includes being entitled to a full oral hearing. This decision was hugely significant, and has been marked by Refugee Rights Day each subsequent year.
2009 also marks the 40th anniversary of the Refugee Convention in Canada. It was in 1969 that Canada signed on to the UN Convention relating to the Status of Refugees. Canada has since been a leader in welcoming refugees from around the world. While having this enviable status, there is still a long way to go, as seen in the recent Supreme Court decision not to hear the Safe Third Country case, and the slow development of a refugee claim appeal process.
The Canadian Council for Refugees (CCR) is encouraging all Canadians to stand up for refugee rights this April 4th. While celebrating our accomplishments, we need to remind ourselves, our communities, and especially our elected officials of the threats facing refugee rights. The CCR suggests writing to federal ministers, meeting with your MP and more.
Earth Day – April 22
Not only is Earth Hour approaching, but Earth Day is just around the corner. This day, an environmental awareness day, focuses on engaging citizens and encouraging governments to take action. Held internationally, Earth Day events have been credited with inspiring environmental legislation and global action on climate change.
In Canada, schools across the country are involved, with kids doing activities and learning about our Earth. Grown-ups aren’t left out – festivals, city-wide clean-ups and Earth Walks occur in cities across the country. Organize an event yourself or check out the events happening in your area.
CPJ summer research assistant – apply now!
Application deadline: 5 pm, April 6, 2009
CPJ is looking for a highly motivated, personable individual to assist in developing our public policy collection and records. We are in the process of organizing our research and resource materials including books, research, journals and videos to be available for staff and members. Responsibilities include, but are not limited to: Cataloguing books, research papers, journals and materials using to-be-determined software, with the majority of books and materials focused in social and political science.
A reflection on prayer
The guarantee of one’s prayer
is not in saying a lot of words.
The guarantee of one’s petition is very easy to know:
How do I treat the poor?
Because that is where God is.
The degree to which you approach them,
and the love with which you approach them,
or the scorn with which you approach them –
that is how you approach your God.
What you do to them, you do to God.
The way you look at them is the way you look at God.
Archbishop Oscar Romero, as found in Living God’s Justice: reflections and prayers. Compiled by the Roundtable Association of Diocesan Social Action Directors. Cincinnati, OH: St. Anthony Messenger Press, 2006, pp 7.
For all at CPJ, Karen Diepeveen. The tulips across the street from our office are starting to peek out – spring truly is just around the corner!
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