ByDecember 27, 2019
As the decade draws to a close, CPJ reflects on 10 years of faithful advocacy on poverty eradication, ecological justice, and refugee rights.
It was the dawn of Beatlemania. The Leafs won the Stanley Cup. Lester Pearson was Prime Minister. We flew the red ensign as our national flag.
This was Canada, circa 1963. But beneath the surface of Canadian society, something unique was stirring: a movement to extend the Gospel’s Good News well beyond church walls and into the very fabric of our life, including political life. A small group of young Christian activists in Edmonton created the Christian Action Foundation, which would later join with the Committee for Justice and Liberty to become Citizens for Public Justice.
Some 50 years later, CPJ now has a long history of speaking out for public justice across Canada. From the early beginnings promoting a Christian view of the government in the 1960s, the Mackenzie Valley Pipeline moratorium in the 1970s, social policy, recycling, and tax reform in the 1980s, to deepening work on child poverty and refugees in the 1990s, our move to our nation’s capital in 2007, the launch of the Dignity for All campaign in 2009, and the reemergence of a public justice perspective on the environment, CPJ has remained a constant, active voice in Canadian public affairs.
Our history includes many people of different backgrounds coming together to speak with one voice. Explore our history below – and join us as we move forward in the next chapter of CPJ.
The turn of the millennium was accompanied by many other changes for CPJ and Canada. It saw new ideas about security. There were many different political scenes, including a minority government. Then there was the economic recession that shook the country. But it wasn’t all bad. The new millennium brought amazing new staff members and structural changes that re-invigorated the future of CPJ.
By any standard, the 1980s had been a gung-ho decade for Citizens for Public Justice. The growing team of Board and staff members had taken on new issues for research and action. They had opened offices in three provinces. They had gone all-out for change on concrete issues from the land rights of the Dene Nation to the recycling of city garbage. They had agreed on foundational documents, seized moments on radio and televison, and started Catalyst.
The CJL (Committee for Justice and Liberty) Foundation came roaring out of the 1970s in overdrive. As an incorporated organization it was only 17 years old in 1980, and there had been full-time staff (Gerald Vandezande and John Olthuis) only since 1972. But some early successes had been deeply encouraging.
CJL breathed life into its support for pluralism – the right of different peoples to live out their lives according to their beliefs – through its support for Aboriginal rights in the 1970s. Bold work on the frontlines of Aboriginal support work led to new alliances, introducing many people to CJL for the first time.
Much of the inspiration for CPJ’s formation came from Alberta, where a small group of Christians had launched the Christian Action Foundation in 1962. It pushed for Christian action in politics, labour and education, energized by the vision of a radically different society based on Gospel values.