2016: A Year of Speaking Out

Our voices are being heard.

When the new government in Ottawa laid out its ambitious policy agenda at the end of 2015, a major part of the process was to engage with Canadians. Throughout the past year, the government met with individuals and organizations, asking how Canadians feel things should take shape. CPJ has been front and centre at many of these events, meeting with cabinet ministers, policy analysts, and officials to bring your voice, the voice of Christians who have a vision for a just and loving society, into the discussions. CPJ does not shy away from asking the hard questions, and we present comprehensive, thoughtful, and compassionate policy alternatives to the issues at hand. 

We have a new government in Ottawa this year, and they wanted our opinion. Well, they got it!

In additional to adding our voice to the government’s consultations on electoral reform, CPJ spoke out this year on our three main issue areas: poverty in Canada, climate justice, and refugee rights. 
ChewonThis 2016

CPJ and Canada Without Poverty on Parliament Hill for ChewonThis!

A Voice for Poverty Elimination

16 Meetings on the Hill

This year, CPJ focused on engaging with citizens, faith organizations, and government on poverty eradication in Canada. Our Dignity for All campaign was highlighted in meetings with MPs and staff at the office of Jean-Yves Duclos, Minister of Families, Children and Social Development. 

7 Statements

Throughout the year, we participated in the All-Party Anti-Poverty Caucus meetings and have actively met with members of parliamentary committees. In March, CPJ released a statement in response to the TRC's Calls to Action #48 and #62 as well as our commitment to implementing United Nations’ Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.This Fall, we submitted a pre-budget brief to the Finance Committee, a brief to the HUMA Committee to inform its study of poverty reduction strategies, and recommendations to the government's forthcoming national housing strategy.

64 Engaged Communities 

Our fourth annual ChewOnThis! event was held on October 17, the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty. This event has grown from 13 communities when it began four years ago to 64 communities participating this year, with each province and territory represented. Postcards included in our ChewOnThis! lunch bags were addressed to Jean-Yves Duclos, Minister of Families, Children and Social Development, asking for the Canadian Poverty Reduction Strategy he is developing to be comprehensive and rights-based, and that it be informed by those with lived experience of poverty. So far, 649 groups and 11,091 individuals have signed the Dignity for All call to action.
Jean-Yves Duclos

Jean-Yves Duclos reads Dignity for All's postcards.

4.9 Million People Living in Poverty

We also released our annual poverty report, Break the Barriers in October. It analyzes the current poverty rates and highlights those most impacted. There are 4.9 million people in Canada continue to struggle to get by every day. Break the Barriers also provides a breakdown of poverty rates for each province and territory and lists the 20 big cities and small communities in Canada with the highest poverty rates.

11 Events 

CPJ sponsored events and presented workshops on poverty in Canada throughout the year. On October 20, we held an event in Ottawa called Ending Poverty in Canada. Over 100 people attended the conference, with panel discussions and workshops on a range of policy areas and community actions. 

A Voice for Climate Justice

3,000 Climate Petitions

Thanks to persistence and a new political openness, CPJ met with Environment and Climate Change Minister, Catherine McKenna, three times this year. In February, we delivered over 3,000 climate petitions calling on the government to develop an ambitious Canadian GHG emission reduction target and support a binding international climate agreement.

8 Statements

In June, we presented A Public Justice Vision for Canada’s Climate Action Plan, our submission to the climate policy consultations. This October, we advocated for investments in a just transition – where jobs and livelihoods are protected as economies shift to sustainable processes. 
CPJ Catherine McKenna

CPJ staff present our climate petitions to Catherine McKenna.

14 Meetings on the Hill

CPJ also met with senior civil servants and Members of Parliament, including Deb Schulte, Chair of the Environment and Sustainable Development Committee; Ed Fast, the Conservative climate change critic; and Green Party leader Elizabeth May.

20 Events

In Ottawa, Toronto, Waterloo, Edmonton, Vancouver, and Surrey, we hosted, presented, and participated in many climate justice events in collaboration with churches, Indigenous allies, environmental groups, and energy workers. We have also engaged in global days of prayer for climate action

272 Submissions

Through the summer, 272 Canadian Christians made active use of CPJ’s online climate consultation tool to share their stories and submit climate action recommendations directly to the government. Staff, board, and CPJ members also participated in many climate consultation town halls across the country. 

In December, we responded to Prime Minister Trudeau’s announcement of Canada’s Climate Action Plan as we called for an urgent expansion and deepening of federal action to address the climate crisis. 

4 Infographics

CPJ has published our analysis in major publications including the Huffington Post, Anglican Journal, and ChristianWeek. We also produced a series of 4 infographics that explain science behind the warming of the Earth due to GHG emissions, illustrate the symptoms of climate change in Canada, and help us understand what a tonne of greenhouse gas emissions really is. 

A Voice for Refugee Rights

As 2016 began, CPJ welcomed news that the government would fully reinstate refugee health care, a change we had been calling for since 2012. All refugees – no matter who they are, where they are from, or who sponsors them – now have access to health care. 

While the federal government also aims to increase overall immigration numbers, they are not addressing the need to increase the number of refugees coming to Canada. CPJ sees many Christian communities actively settling refugee families – now we need to change refugee policy to make the entire system respond better to huge human need.

When Canada only took in 1,100 Syrian refugees, CPJ published a research paper on the challenges of private sponsorship and the barriers that existed. In 2016, Canada welcomed 25,000 displaced persons from Syria, but there are still significant gaps in settlement policy, screening processes, and follow-up procedures.
Refugee Rights

Photo Credit: tavker/flickr

This September we recognized the need to expand our work on refugee policy, and were pleased to welcome Bolu Coker to our staff. Bolu is one of two Public Justice Interns who will spend the year with us. CPJ has called for the federal government to do more to secure not just the physical safety of refugees, but also their social and economic safety upon resettlement.

Bolu is also working on a new research report on what immigration and refugee policies still need to be addressed given the increased numbers of newcomers coming to Canada. How we welcome and treat newcomers to our country says a lot about us as a nation, and how we as Christians we live the Gospel message of tolerance and acceptance.

2017: A Year of Action

But as we enter a new year, we need to go beyond consultations. It’s time to act. 

As we look to 2017, we are preparing for our new Give it up for the Earth! spring climate action, and we will be releasing more engaging climate infographics. 

We also want to make 2017 the year that Canada finally has a strong national plan to end poverty! CPJ will be publishing new research on poverty in Canada and refugee resettlement. 

It’s time to address the challenges of climate change, refugee policy, and poverty elimination!

Stay tuned and be ready to join us in 2017!

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