The spirit and presence of Gerald Vandezande was undeniable as CPJ’s board and staff received two opposition Members of Parliament, NDP Paul Dewar and Liberal John McKay, for a recent discussion on faith and public policy. The discussion was held as part of the November 1-2 Board of Directors meeting, and aimed to explore how best CPJ could translate its prophetic voice on key public justice issues into policy impact.
Faith and Politics
For CPJ, our faith calls us beyond apathy or powerlessness. It calls us to a faith that opens us to our common humanity, our calling to love God by loving our neighbour also in our political life together.
So together, we have donned the perspective of public justice. It is a vision which helps us not to be lured into false dichotomies, or black and white positions when they are not necessary. We see the need for healing steps to be taken. Real people are suffering real hardships that concrete policies and prophetic vision can alleviate. That’s the call of public justice, the calling from God for government, government which Romans 13 says is “for our good.” Justice for all – an economy of care – the joining together of all circles of society for the well-being of all and for the common good – that is public justice.
CPJ was well represented at a recent interfaith gathering that brought upwards of 150 people from across Canada to Montreal.
Bridging the Secular Divide: Religion and Canadian Public Discourse explored the place of faith in the public square. It featured a keynote conversation between the Hon. Bill Blaikie (former MP, and United Church minister) and Dr. Daniel Weinstock (professor of law and ethics). There were also panels and workshops that addressed religious freedom, secularism, pluralism; and political perspectives on faith and public life; as well as poverty, the environment, truth and reconciliation, and youth engagement.
The event offered several concrete suggestions about how organizations like CPJ can effectively engage in public dialogue.
A Christian response to Idle No More
A reflection on what we can learn from Theresa Spence and the Idle No More movement about living faithfully together as "treaty people" in a covenant relationship.
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.”
In a healthy democracy citizens have a crucial role to play in determining public policy. People have a right – and, more importantly, a responsibility – to participate in the decisions affecting their country and their communities. That is the essence of democracy, especially a democracy that goes beyond the ballot box and rejects the politics of attack and vilification.
Citizens who question government policies and advocate for the common good, public health, protection of the Earth – or for any other cause – are as important as the Members of Parliament who have been elected to serve in the best interest of all people.
During the COP17 talks on climate change in Durban, South Africa, Canada would only say that it was not prepared to commit to a second commitment period within the Kyoto Protocol. Our negotiators said that they had no reason to believe that Canada was preparing to withdraw entirely from Kyoto. Then, as soon as the delegation arrived home, Canada announced its withdrawal from the Kyoto Protocol. So were there any signs of hope in the UN process in Durban, and is there any chance for environmental objectives to be meaningfully advanced as a result?
Many leaders of faith communities see climate change as a moral issue. Global warming affects major questions such as humanity’s relationship with nature and each other, solidarity with the poor, and the possibilities for future generations. So when media outlets suggest that faith leaders who challenge certain policies should “shut their trap,” rather than debating the content of the moral message, the public discourse is diminished.
This week, a two-day event was held in Ottawa, where, for the first time, faith leaders met to address the growing crises caused by climate change. Leaders from faith, political and environmental communities discussed the recently created Canadian Interfaith Call for Leadership and Action on Climate Change. This event was organized by a collaborative interfaith committee on climate justice, including Citizens for Public Justice, The Commission of Justice and Peace of the Canadian Council of Churches, Faith and the Common Good, The Hill Times and Embassy Magazine.
Call to Action on Climate Change.
CPJ, with several community partners, hosted the October visit of David Korten to Canada. This well-known author and engaging public speaker regaled his audiences with the need to undertake a “Great Turning” in our cultural, political and economic behaviours. Mr. Korten shared some of his insights with us at the CPJ office, as well as at several public meetings in Ottawa.