News: Poverty in Canada

Keep up-to-date with the latest news and views from CPJ on poverty in Canada by reading the articles written by CPJ staff and citing CPJ’s work.
Cover of Poverty Trends 2022 update

2022 Poverty Trends Update

Released annually, CPJ’s Poverty Trends reports provide readers with a review of data on poverty in Canada and the state of government action, as well as a vision for how we can move forward. Using the latest data from Statistics Canada and research reports by advocacy groups across the country, Poverty Trends provides us with a…

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Gas tap with pipeline system at natural gas station

Natural gas prices rising in Ottawa as anti-poverty advocate warns of impact on lower income users

“This would not be the crisis that it will be for folks if we had adequate social assistance rates and support for people with disabilities, if we had enough affordable housing for people, if we had pharmacare in place,” Appleyard said. “We can’t blame this affordability crisis on climate change mitigation, or even just on…

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Budget 2022 Prioritizes the Status Quo

Budget 2022 was announced in a moment of multiple overlapping crises. In Canada and across the world we are living with rising costs of living, social and political unrest, and an ever-accelerating climate crisis, all in the midst of an ongoing pandemic. Ahead of the budget, CPJ called for an approach that would reflect the…

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A small group of people providing a meal to the homeless and any other people in need in downtown Calgary

Pandemic Benefits are Punishing those with the Lowest Incomes

Within the first few weeks of the pandemic, the federal government moved quickly to provide income support to people across the country. A new program, the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit (CERB), was created because it became quickly apparent that the existing system, Employment Insurance, was inadequate to deal with the scale of unemployment. However, the…

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2021 Federal Election

Creating a Just Canada 2021 Election Bulletin When the last federal election was called in 2019, no one could have imagined the events that would define the next two years: A global pandemic; over four million dead from COVID-19 (including 26,575 Canadians) exposing and exacerbating the pre-existing crises of poverty, homelessness, and inequity, as well…

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Creating a Better, More Just Canada

Creating a Better, More Just Canada Dignity. Everyone living in Canada should have confidence that their human rights are respected and that they can live their life with dignity. Children must have the freedom to enjoy all the opportunities of a safe, healthy childhood with access to culturally appropriate education, health care, and homes. No…

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We Can’t Settle for a Return to “Normal”

We Can’t Settle for a Return to “Normal” Before the pandemic even started, 1 in 8 households in Canada were struggling to put food on the table. 5.9 million people were estimated to be living in poverty. While data for the most recent years is limited, we know that poverty and precarity have been exacerbated…

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A Canada-wide system of Early Learning and Child Care

The Federal Government’s 2021 $30 billion budgetary commitment to build a Canada-wide system of early learning and child care services begins a hopeful chapter in the decades-long struggle for high-quality child care. The COVID-19 pandemic has called attention to the child care crisis that families across the country have faced for years. In short, there…

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Budget 2021: A Pandemic Response Without a Just Recovery

Despite very significant investments in social, economic, and environmental measures, Budget 2021 does not go the distance in bringing about a just recovery.

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Being in poverty is tough and COVID-19 just makes it tougher

“Our system works well for the people it was designed for, but it’s not doing anything to improve the conditions for people who were already marginalized,” says Natalie Appleyard.

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Reviewed by Keira Kang With reports from NASA detailing the increased presence and intensity of climate-related catastrophes across the globe, our absolute need to address the climate phenomena has become more imperative than ever. In light of this, I picked up David Wallace-Wells’ The Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming to garner a clearer understanding of what the physical ramifications of continued global warming will look like and to gain a better sense of how all-pervasive the issue of climate change really is. From the introductory chapters of Wallace-Wells’ book, the author unravels some of the most shocking predictions of global chaos driven by our current state of climate change. As the title of this book evidently states, Wallace-Wells illustrates that many parts of our planet will become utterly uninhabitable and inhospitable by the end of this century if governments and citizens stay on their path of complacency and indifference despite the current rate of global warming. Wallace-Wells writes:
“Even though we now have a decent picture of the planet’s climatological past, never in the earth’s entire recorded history has there been warming at anything like this speed – by one estimate, around ten times faster than at any point in the last 66 million years.”
 Throughout his piece, the author frequently writes about his existential fears in ways that incite urgent action. He also incorporates an array of concrete scientific evidence to shed light on the consequences of climate change. Heat deaths, food shortages, poisoned air quality, the spread of plagues, and refugee emergencies are only a fraction of an endless list of terrifying repercussions of our climate-affected future. Not only has the Great Barrier Reef already been bleached to an unrecoverable state of extinction, but the melting Arctic permafrost also continues to leak methane gas at an unprecedented rate. Wallace-Wells suggests that while some regions are currently faced with the tangible damages of climate change, everyone will inevitably face deadly ramifications by the end of 2100 if no urgent action is taken by the Earth’s inhabitants now. Despite an alarming prognosis of a potentially unlivable Earth, this book is an impactful call to action that highlights our dire need to strive towards reversing the destructive direction in which our planet is heading towards. In response to Wallace-Wells’ message, Citizens for Public Justice also stands firm under the belief that combating environmental degradation is a crucial duty for all people, as it directly responds to the Biblical mandate to protect and care for God’s sacred creation. As such, we encourage all people of faith to join us as leaders of climate justice through personal environmental stewardship, prayer, advocacy and a God-centered living that reflects the love that God has upon His creation.Reviewed by Leila Edwards Canada’s national narrative, in contrast to that of our American neighbours, tells a story of global peacekeepers, apologetic citizens, and liberal multiculturalism. Nowhere is our purported difference to the U.S. witnessed more than in conversations about race and racism. The axiomatic belief in Canada’s multicultural values and historical innocence is often used to dismiss the experiences of racialized Canadians and camouflage the white supremacy inherent in Canada’s systems and institutions. The Skin We’re In actively contests Canada’s national narrative by following a year in Black encounters with and resistance to white supremacy. Desmond Cole raises a wide range of stories and experiences including microaggressions in employment, anti-Black racism in education, the oppression of Indigenous Peoples, and violent police brutality. He presents the stories and experiences of Black Canadians in a way that validates; it makes our stories accessible and our emotions palpable for readers. I enjoyed that Cole uses an intersectional approach to analyzing white supremacy and anti-Black racism. He places a spotlight on the stories of the Black queer and trans community, neurodivergent Black people, Black migrants, and Black women. Further, he consistently reminds readers that these stories are neither ahistorical nor individual. He weaves the history of anti-Black racism in Canada throughout each chapter, demonstrating that contemporary experiences are a mere continuation of state violence and oppression towards the Black Canadian community. What I feel is most important is that Cole recognizes Canada as an ongoing settler-colonial project, relying on land theft and genocide of Indigenous Peoples. He respectfully illustrates the distinctions and parallels of Black and Indigenous oppression throughout Canada’s history. Importantly, he also identifies the Nations and treaties that govern the geographies in which the stories of anti-Black racism are situated. Overall, The Skin We’re In forces readers to encounter Canadian settler colonialism and white supremacy by telling the stories of Black people throughout history, up to contemporary times. This book forces readers to confront Canada’s historical and contemporary narratives and reflect on what exactly is being celebrated.Reviewed by Mike Bulthuis
“Things happen in life that tear us apart, that make us into something capable of hurting other people. That’s all any of the darkness really is – just love gone bad. We’re just broken-hearted people hurt by life.”
Such was the insight shared by one of Jesse Thistle’s prisonmates, a powerful reminder to us as readers, of our shared—and interconnected—humanness. And a crushing acknowledgement of the missed and misplaced love Thistle had experienced over too many years. Thistle had been hurt by life. In From the Ashes, Thistle recounts his story as a Cree-Metis man, from his first few years in Saskatchewan to Ontario, where he now resides. It’s a story of hope, but also abandonment, trauma, and addiction—and the painful internalization of a shame projected onto him by others. He seeks out ways to recreate the missed presence of his mother’s touch and longs for word of his dad’s whereabouts. He tries to exercise control and self-determination where he can, as destructive as it may be. Too often, we see failed systems: crisis supports unavailable through his job because of wait periods, the collection of over $3,000 in various fines, or the challenge of leaving hospital— still with a serious leg infection—without a place to go. He writes, “that was supposed to be the plan: get arrested and go to jail, so I’d get taken care of, so my foot could be fixed, and so my life would be saved.” Ultimately, Thistle’s journey shifts. His determined spirit, his desire to make right, a promise he makes to his dying grandmother, a supportive and loving partner, and an invitation to reconnect to his Cree-Metis past—each come together to carry him forward. Upon visiting the remains of his maternal grandparents’ home in Saskatchewan, Thistle writes, “I remembered them; I remembered who I was.” Not all stories shift in this direction, but From the Ashes helps us understand the work needed—both systemic and within each of us—to break the patterns of homelessness, discrimination and addictions—and to light the darkness of love gone bad.Reviewed by Natalie Appleyard Mikki Kendall writes from the perspective of a cis-gendered, able-bodied Black woman who grew up in poverty in the United States and is now a published author with two degrees. She speaks from her experiences of domestic violence, of single-parenting, of living through more miscarriages than live births, and of now having a healthy marriage and two children going through middle school and college. Where she cannot speak from personal experience, she shares her research and learning from and about those whose identities and experiences are different from her own. While her personal anecdotes lend insight and empathy to the reader, she consistently pulls away from an individualistic focus to the experiences, needs, and strengths of the community. “It’s not a question of ‘Why can’t they do what you did?’” she writes, “It’s a question of ‘Why can’t we give everyone else the same support and access?’ That’s the battle feminism should be fighting.” Kendall turns the gaze of those in positions of privilege who self-identify as “feminist” to frequent blind spots that compromise equity for all who present as feminine and their communities. If you have never heard of, or examined concepts such as respectability politics, fetishization, corporate feminism, carceral feminism, or the place of disability rights within feminism, prepare to have your mind and heart opened. The need to “do the work” has been a consistent message for would-be allies, particularly in the past few months. This book is an excellent resource for those willing to take up the call.Reviewed by Willard Metzger COVID-19 has revealed aspects of our society that need repair. We have the opportunity and responsibility to establish a healthier and more sustainable norm. The Inner Level is a good entry into this debate. The book questions the notion that healthy societies are the outcome of enshrining individual freedom. According to the broad research provided, the greater the gap between the rich and the poor, the unhealthier the society will be. Inequality increases stress, anxiety, depression, and addiction. And these are not just ailments experienced by the poor. Inequality damages us all. Relying heavily on psychology, but presenting a breadth of accumulated research, the book reveals how inequality affects how we think, alters how we feel, and influences how we behave. The conclusions might elicit critiques of oversimplification. Will all the ills of society really disappear if equality is achieved and maintained? Yet even the skeptic must acknowledge that given the economic growth that has brought us “unprecedented luxury and comfort, it seems paradoxical that levels of anxiety have tended to increase rather than decrease over time.” Wilkinson and Pickett propose a way to foster more egalitarian societies in terms of income, class, and power. The authors invite us to abandon the false sense of wellbeing generated by materialism and replace it with a way of life that is more fundamentally consistent with our human need and responsibility for healthy community. As communities of faith, guided by commandments to care for the ‘other,’ such a vision should be easy to embrace.Reviewed by Stephen Kaduuli Scholarly practitioner Catherine Baillie Abidi and social anthropologist Shiva Nourpanah have masterfully woven together the key terminologies and concepts that relate to refugees and forced migration. This book is a compilation of contributions from refugee activists, scholars, and practitioners. Although its focus is on Atlantic Canada, this easy-to-read 144-page book contains some universal terms and concepts that are relevant to the rest of Canada and the whole world. The A to Z guide proceeds from activism and advocacy through to “Generation Z” (youth). Apart from defining or explaining certain terms, it outlines processes and procedures asylum seekers go through once in Canada. Marianela Fuertes gives a historical overview of how the world took on the role of protecting refugees and the law concerning the right to seek asylum. The guide discusses several topics including the hot button issue of racism. In contextualizing the Safe Third Country Agreement, Katie Tinker provides the lived experiences of asylum seekers who cross the border into Canada from the U.S. The major omission is Canada’s acclaimed Private Sponsorship of Refugees Program which should have been a standalone topic since the largest number of resettled refugees come to Canada through it. Although it gets too academic in discussing some issues, I would recommend this guide to all settlement practitioners, private sponsors, and advocacy groups. Universities, colleges, and high schools introducing students to refugee and forced migration issues would find this guide very useful. It can also be useful in generally debunking negative rhetoric about refugees in Canada.Reviewed by Erin Pease Refugee Countdown unfolds during an unprecedented period in Canada’s recent past, immediately following Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s rise to power in 2015 and his ambitious campaign to expedite the resettlement of 25,000 Syrian refugees. In addition to describing an atypical Canada-U.S. sponsorship alliance, Bob Cowin focuses on the experience of the sponsors before the refugee family set foot in Canada. The journal-like style makes for easy reading. Its pages shed remarkable and honest light on the spectrum of emotions, practical considerations, and settlement and integration issues (the good, the bad, and everything in between) that can manifest while preparing for “arrival day.” The book effectively evolves the conversation from one of program participation as an act of global citizenship into an exercise in how sponsorship challenges sponsors to embrace their human agency to feed the human family, both literally and figuratively. The result is that the sponsors learn and receive and grow in return, becoming more human in the process. Subsequent print editions would benefit from including a forward to situate this sponsorship story within the more formal, contextual, and technical domain of Canada’s federal resettlement program and enlightening the reader as to the different sponsorship program streams, related program requirements, and processing distinctions. Doing so would allow for a more constructive comparison and debate when considering similar publications on the market. For anyone interested in a window into the messy, complex, beautiful, and hope-filled world of refugee sponsorship in action in church halls and living rooms, this book is for you!Reviewed by Keira Kang Many people worry about the climate crisis and want to drive positive change, but often feel restricted in their inability to influence society and government leaders. That’s how 15-year-old Swede Greta Thunberg felt. Until one day in the fall of 2018, when she decided to take to the streets of Stockholm and march in front of the Parliament building, all alone, urging leaders to act on the climate crisis. In a matter of weeks, her lonely vigil garnered widespread support from youth and leaders around the world. From the World Economic Forum to the United Nations Climate Change Conference, this book is a collection of eleven powerful speeches made by Greta Thunberg, a now global climate justice activist and Time’s 2019 Person of the Year. Through her lived struggles with Asperger’s syndrome, obsessive compulsive disorder, and autism, Greta shares how her disabilities have gifted her the unique ability to see the climate crisis as a “black and white” issue. Enraged by the hypocrisy of world leaders, Greta fearlessly points to the stark irony of large decision-makers who are aware of temperatures rising, forests burning, and ice caps melting, but intentionally turn a blind eye by continuing to invest in the oil industry. Urging political figures, global businesspeople, and youth that there are absolutely no grey areas when it comes to climate change, Greta’s message is loud and clear: We must act now, and no one is too small or too powerless to make a difference.Reviewed by Karri Munn-Venn I was feeling a little uneasy as I began Naomi Klein’s On Fire. It felt simultaneously like too much in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, and that it would be not quite enough with all that has changed in the brief period since the book’s publication. Thankfully it was just right. I’ve read several of Klein’s previous books. They are consistently well-researched, engagingly written, and informative. Previous volumes, however, had an ideological edginess to them that I worried would alienate the people who had the most to learn from Klein’s analysis. It may have been here too, but I didn’t hear it. In this collection of a decade’s worth of essays and presentations, Klein expresses grief, fear, and a deep well of hopefulness as she reflects on pivotal moments in the push for climate justice: meeting Pope Francis, the election of Donald Trump, the 2017 B.C. wildfires, the rise of Greta Thunberg and the youth climate movement, and calls for a Green New Deal in the U.S. and Canada. Her writing resonates with me, in part, I think because I’ve written about some of the same events and I’ve navigated a similar grief. I’m a part of her “we,” and I too see an abundance of potential in the vast social movements around the world that are calling for transformative change not only to address the climate crisis, but the interconnected crises of racism, inequality, poverty, and greed. A worthy read.Reviewed by Leona Lortie Wild Hope is a beautiful collection of short stories exploring the beauty of creation, framed in an invitation to act. The stories of endangered animals featured in each chapter, which draw us into worlds of amazing complexity and dire threats, are woven together with stories of humans who passionately care about their future. Through each week of Lent, readers discover the realities of four animals on the brink of extinction, grouped in sets describing the source of their common suffering. The animals, representing a wide range of species and environments, all suffer from factors which can be traced back to human intervention. These factors include a changing climate, population growth, and maybe most devastating, complacent human minds. Intricately and intimately, their stories strike at the heart of the predicament of our interconnectedness. In the introduction, Boss invites the reader to consider what the future for most of these creatures steeped in uncertainty might tell us about our collective future. Because of wild hope and a lot of unrelenting hard work, animals like the takhi, having been saved, nursed, and protected, are once again found in the wildness of Mongolia. Through these stories, Boss inspires us to learn more about endangered species, but even more importantly, she aims to invite us and spark in us the wild hope that drives the passion of those humans who take on the seemingly impossible tasks of saving animals from the brink of extinction.Reviewed by Andriata Chironda The Ungrateful Refugee is an exile narrative that includes personal reflection and accounts of others’ stories of flight. Dina Nayeri’s own story tells of how, together with her mother and brother, she fled Iran in the late 1980s. Her family was eventually resettled in the United States. This was after the family faced persistent persecution for apostasy after her mother converted from Islam to Christianity. The book shows how storytelling is key to formal recognition as a refugee and an important step to social inclusion and acceptance in the receiving country. Refugees must tell compelling stories and supplicate before state, refugee protection officers, and humanitarian organizations. Nayeri’s account and stories destabilize and critique assumptions and dichotomies that subsist in mainstream discourse about refugees. One assumption is that “unlike economic migrants, refugees have no agency,” that they “can be pitied,” and that they are “rescued cargo” who must continue to “prove, repay, transform.” On the flip side, “if you dare to make a move before you are shattered,” Nayeri writes, “your dreams are suspicious [and]… you are reaching above your station.” In this dichotomous frame, refugees are compelled to contain their hopes and dreams and perform a particular role: the grateful refugee. They “can’t acknowledge a shred of joy left behind or they risk becoming migrants again.” However, an “ungrateful refugee” recognizes and escapes this false dichotomy, in life and discourse. Storytelling offers a space for self-determination—to define one’s humanity beyond the confines and limits of categories and saviour tropes—and a means to participate in the new society as equals seeking “friendship, not salvation.”Reviewed by Chloe Halpenny As a leftie and basic income supporter, I began Hugh Segal’s Bootstraps Need Boots skeptical and curious. In this memoir-meets- case for basic income, the former Senator brings his personal and political experiences into the conversation, resulting in a read that is both enjoyable and informative. Opening with an anecdote about his cherished childhood toy box being donated to a neighbour by his father for firewood, Segal leaves readers doubtless that his fight against poverty is a sincere one. Here enters basic income, an idea supported by the author due to his desire not to address the symptoms of poverty, but rather the cause: a lack of money. Resurfacing throughout the book, basic income captures Segal’s imagination from his time at university at a PC Party conference until the book’s conclusion, where he reflects—mournfully—on the Ford government’s premature cancellation of the Ontario pilot. In this way, readers get the sense that the book isn’t merely a rallying call for basic income, but also one against the hyper-partisan politics that impede change. Bootstraps Need Boots may not be for everyone. It’s best read with some background on poverty, basic income, and Canadian politics. Moreover, it requires a certain level of comfort with disagreeing, be it on political ideology or the best tools to combat poverty. For those who do crack the cover, Segal presents a book of bridges: between autobiography and policy, left and right, and frustration and hope. One thing is for sure: the book has heart.This book provokes questions about how (and why) we settle for failure: the failure of our society to ensure people’s rights and dignity are honoured, the failure of our current “solutions” to homelessness to bring about real social inclusion, and even the presumed “failure” of people who are marginalized by our social structures and systems. Thankfully, it is also a book that offers an alternative way forward. Dej combines hours of observations, interviews, and focus groups with an extensive review of related studies and philosophical theories to develop and defend her thesis (and it does read like a PhD thesis) that current approaches to homelessness actually entrench individuals’ social exclusion, rather than bring about social inclusion, even if they acquire housing. Dej uses the concept of “redeemable but never redeemed” to illustrate how people who are homeless act as consumers of programs, services, and largely, psychotropic medication, that provide them with a sense of empowerment and hope that if they work hard enough and follow the rules, they can “fix” themselves and achieve social inclusion. Participating in these programs also gives them access to certain privileges. The Catch-22, Dej contends, is that these very programs actually cement social exclusion by placing the blame and responsibility on the individual while simultaneously undermining their autonomy. In doing so, there is no recognition or dismantling of the external structures that cause and perpetuate homelessness and social exclusion in the first place. Dej recommends rights-based approaches to programs and legislation paired with peer-led and peer-run services to both prevent and end homelessness and social exclusion in Canada.Seth Klein’s A Good War, is a book about solutions. Big, broad, whole-of-society, our-house-is-on-fire-and-we-must-act-like-it pathways to a better future. He asks, “If climate change is truly an emergency (and it is), how must we respond?” and “What lessons can be drawn from the ways that Canada has responded to emergencies in the past?” Ironically, A Good War was released just a short time before the onset of the global COVID-19 pandemic. And you know what? Some of Klein’s war-inspired recommendations played out—demonstrating that as a country, we do have what it takes to rise to the challenge. In a word, this book is genius. It is supremely well researched and wonderfully readable. The stories shared are compelling and engaging. They are political and they are personal. They are rooted in historical experience and steeped in science. They are also deeply practical. And in their practicality offer hope for the future of our shared planet. It is no longer a question of what to do in the face of climate catastrophe, but how do we create the “emergency mindset” necessary to take sufficient action. What I most appreciated about A Good War were the “20 key takeaways” presented in the book’s closing pages (pp. 366-368). Here are some of the highlights: 1. Treat the climate crisis as the emergency that it is. 2. Recognize that voluntary measures aren’t enough. 3. Spend what is necessary to win. 4. Create the necessary economic institutions and crown corporations. The approach presented in A Good War is a holistic one that will serve to address long-standing societal inequities. Some takeaways speak directly to CPJ’s work as they call on the federal government to: 5. Invest in climate and social infrastructure. 6. Develop a rigorous just transition plan. 7. Embed the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples into law. 8. Be ready to welcome tens of thousands of climate-displaced people annually. A Good War is a unique and inspiring call to action. I am excited to be a part of the movement that will ultimately bring this vision to fruition.How should the church respond to the large number of refugees around the world? In Refuge Reimagined, Mark and Luke Glanville show how a Biblical understanding of kinship calls Christians to welcome refugees in their communities and advocate for refugee rights nationally and internationally. The book opens with a rich discussion of kinship in the Old Testament and Gospels. The authors reflect on how foreigners are treated and do not shy away from challenging Biblical passages. Of course, relations between community members and “outsiders” were different at that time: our modern world has defined nation-states, demarcated borders, passport control, migrant detention, and refugee camps. However, the authors argue the ethic of welcoming displaced persons as in the Bible should influence actions and politics today. In later sections of the book, the authors explore how Christian theology should inform our response to refugees. They contrast the Biblical principle of inclusive kinship with the actions of politicians who exclude refugees. The authors call churches and nations to embrace a calling to public justice that celebrates diversity and is not afraid of refugees and migrants but rather welcomes, as kin, individuals who seek safety in a new land. The book contains frequent examples that bring the scholarly analysis to life. This includes a focus on Kinbrace, a Vancouver organization that houses and supports refugee claimants as well as other examples of refugee advocacy in North America and Australia. Overall, the book is a deeply researched account of how the Bible calls us to respond hospitably to individuals seeking a better, more secure, future.The Response of Weeds is both striking and evocative. While a brief read, Bertrand Bickersteth paints a concise and poetic picture of the experience of being Black on the Prairies. Raised in Alberta, Bickersteth effortlessly relays the experience of feeling like a foreigner even in a place that one is intimately acquainted with; the sideways glances, the assumption that one is an outsider, the questions of “where are you really from,” will all resonate with readers of colour. With themes of invisibility and erasure, the book explores how Black Albertans, and by extension, many non-white settlers in Canada, can feel othered—at once overlooked and simultaneously conspicuous in places and settings that are not always as welcome as they claim to be. Bickersteth remarks on Canada’s discomfort with confronting historical issues of race, with not-so-subtle mentions of settlers looting Indigenous lands and jabs at those who insist upon “colourblindness.” Indeed, a sense of Indigenous solidarity is woven throughout the book, which names the failed treaty promises and overall mistreatment of several Indigenous Nations on the prairies, including the Cree, Piikani, and Sarcee. Notions of belonging and questions of how to define “home” when one has been displaced are present throughout the book. Ideas of a fragile sense of social cohesion are also unearthed, with the author remarking on how Canadians may espouse peace and harmony while failing to respond to cries for racial and social justice. Some historical context is needed for readers, as Bickersteth weaves in the experiences of prominent and lesser-known Black Albertans, including John Ware and Henry Mills. Overall, this is an excellent book for those curious about the perspectives of the “outsider within” or simply anyone wondering what it’s like to be Black in Canada.The Interfaith Social Assistance Reform Coalition (ISARC) recently engaged in a project of community hearings on poverty, meant to produce a report on the state of poverty in Ontario and a tool to help the public understand the multi-faceted complexity of the problem—and potential solutions. I spent around a decade of my life living with poverty or just on the edge of it. Over the years since, I’ve read many different reports on poverty. At best most of those reports proposed only vague solutions and didn’t involve the people most likely to have the best handle on what is actually needed: people living with poverty. That is why Overcoming Ontario’s Poverty Pandemic stands out. The report is rooted—in tangible ways—in the experiences of people currently living with poverty. The authors held community meanings where they asked concrete questions about access to food, housing, healthcare, transportation, and overall quality of life. The introduction opens with the wisdom of Mahatma Gandhi that poverty is the worst form of violence. Naming poverty as a form of violence is necessary for any honest look at its impact; without placing the violence of living through poverty at the very heart of the report, it would fall short of what is needed. Importantly, the end of the report acknowledges that centering the voices of people with lived experience of poverty is not in itself a solution to the problem. It offers multi-prong solutions, which include specific increases to social assistance rates and minimum wage, concrete numbers of affordable or supportive housing units that must be built, support for anti-poverty organizations, and the necessity of a Guaranteed Basic Income. As with any report, there are weaknesses. The report would have been stronger had it included questions to reflect the reality of systemic racism and social ills such as homophobia and transphobia. More meetings, across a wider spread of communities and regions, also would have improved the report’s quality, however, the pandemic made that impossible. Overcoming Ontario’s Poverty Pandemic is a good starting point for readers to understand the violence of poverty in its complexity, and to engage in education and advocacy.One of the surest paths to success on a complex issue is to find common ground with allies in adjacent areas. That makes Evelyn Forget’s Basic Income for Canadians a fantastic reference for anyone concerned with the economic shifts resulting from an effective response to the climate emergency. Rapid decarbonization done right is about opportunity and gain, not loss and pain—an all-in response to the climate crisis would create tens of millions of jobs and trillions in economic activity this decade. But the shift away from carbon means change and disruption for workers and communities whose livelihoods depend on fossil fuels. That reality has prompted much of the climate community and the trade union movement to focus on a just transition to steady, well-paid jobs as the fossil era winds down. Too often, though, the idea of a transition produces deep anxiety for people who quite reasonably wonder whether they’ll make as good a living in their next job, and what safety net they’ll be able to count on in the meantime. A basic income helps answer those questions, and Forget’s guidebook helps connect the dots. She presents a lucid explanation of the concept, filled with practical, real-life examples of how a basic income delivers the autonomy, respect, and dignity that must be a bottom-line entitlement for everyone. For decades, climate advocates have been fighting for a transition that is just and equitable for all. Basic Income for Canadians is an essential tool in the toolbox to make it happen.The pandemic has revealed significant issues related to the ways that many seniors are cared for in our society. Much has been exposed regarding overworked and underpaid staff and the undignified conditions that are experienced in many institutionalized care settings across our country. André Picard in his book Neglected No More provides in-depth research on these longstanding yet urgent issues and explores how the intersections of ageism, sexism and racism leave many at an increased risk of being unable to access quality, dignified care that they need. Picard not only lays out the problem, but he also points us toward many possible solutions for improving access to quality care options that are required to meet the diverse needs of our current and future elders. As a community social worker, I have seen many struggles that older adults face in their day-to-day lives as they strive to ‘age in place’ within their communities for as long as they’re able. What I appreciated most about this book are the many examples of policies around the world that encourage elder-friendly communities and promote quality, dignified care for seniors regardless of their socio-economic status. From increasing the time given for crosswalk signals, to increasing support for caregivers, Picard highlights many structural level changes that can help people live in their communities longer and reduce dependency on and time spent in institutionalized care. Included among these examples is the need for strengthening home care coordination, improving access to community supports, and increasing affordable, supportive housing options. I recommend this book to everyone as it highlights how we all have a role to play in improving the lives of Canada’s elders.What Does Justice Look Like and Why Does God Care about It? is part of the Small Books of Radical Faith series published by Herald Press. Judith McCartney is pastor at Soul House, a congregation in Toronto focusing on those disenfranchised from the church. Judith and Colin are also co-founders of Connect City, an inner-city community outreach ministry. Their rich experience provides the backdrop for this persuasive and passionate read compelling people to live out the call of Jesus for seeking justice. Using examples from both the Old and New Testaments, the McCartney’s help readers to develop a biblical understanding of justice and explain why seeking justice is so important to God. The book does a good job of revealing how our culture encourages individuals to focus on themselves and disregard others and the environment in which we all share. They suggest that the church has been influenced by Greek Gnosticism resulting in a view of God that is primarily concerned about matters of spiritual health while largely disinterested in physical well-being. McCartney’s offer a description of God’s shalom that includes a vision for spiritual, physical, intellectual, and mental health. This vision of God’s shalom is the driver for followers of Jesus to engage fully in seeking justice. The book is written in a way that is easy to understand and intended for small group processing and discussions. For those interested in clearly intersecting their faith with social justice, this is a very encouraging read.Finding Refuge in Canada: Narratives of Dislocation is a collection of stories that provide insightful perspectives from refugees, settlement workers, and refugee advocates. This book provides technical language and historical and political underpinnings that contextualize Canada’s evolving immigration policies. In so doing, these narratives emphasize the human toll that refugees endure, covering topics about arriving in Canada, how Canada responds to refugees, and the struggle for inclusion. The balance of information and narratives makes this book both informative and compelling. Through each narrative, it becomes evident that Canada’s current refugee system is flawed, fragmented, and unable to manage the current backlog and continued influx of refugees. This collection dispels myths about refugees and invites readers to question and challenge Canada’s policy responses toward refugees. This collection is a call to action for those in positions of privilege and power to learn and understand the nuances and complexities involved in a process that has life and death consequences. I would recommend this book to settlement workers, private sponsors, advocacy groups, students, and those interested in learning more about Canada’s refugee determination system and Canada’s varied responses to refugees throughout recent history. While this book makes a strong case for refugees and policy reform, it did not include the voices of those who could not communicate in English, and so misses out on their contributions.Harsha Walia’s Border & Rule: Global Migration, Capitalism, and the Rise of Racist Nationalism, offers a timely categorical takedown of the artificial and increasingly indefensible notion of the settler nation-state. Contemporary forces like the climate crisis and the coronavirus pandemic have irreversibly disrupted the free-market economy and socio-political status quo. Walia speaks to these phenomena and provides alternative ways to imagine our lives beyond the existing state of affairs. Every reader will have their assumptions questioned and perspectives stretched upon engaging with this book. This book will infuriate liberal centrists. It will be discarded and laughed at by conservatives, the alt-right, and libertarians. The argument Walia delivers will be dismissed as socialist fantasy, and as overly utopian in practice. Yet, these are the dismissals that have upheld generations of nationalist protectionism and stifled structural change—the same dismissals that have aggressively reduced global migration and ensured the suffering and deaths of countless racialized bodies fleeing undemocratic regimes, settler occupied regions, and unlivable environments facing ecological collapse. Appropriately, Walia asks us to consider a more harmonious way to live. Walia reimagines a new global community, free from the suffocating clutches of capitalism and imperialism, and far beyond the violent anti-migrant protectionism forced upon past generations. Simply put, this deeply researched book offers us a blueprint for a better world.By Simon Lewchuk and Brad Wassink This past spring, Parliament passed Motion M-315, asking the Standing Committee on Finance to study income inequality in Canada. There are now indications that the committee will devote only one meeting—a mere few hours—to the study. So much for the will of the House. So much for an issue of growing concern for Canadians. Why would they be resistant to do the job? Why doesn’t inequality rate an equal opportunity for debate and action among Canadian Parliamentarians? This time last year, the House Finance Committee devoted a fulsome nine meetings to its study on tax incentives for charitable donations. You’d think an issue as important as income inequality would at least merit the same amount of consideration. This apparent lack of concern from our leaders should be cause for alarm. It’s not because the 99 per cent need another venue to rail against the one per cent. We cannot pin all the blame for our socio-economic ills on the rich; to do so is myopic and misguided. Simply focusing our attention on this group will not get the job done. Yes, income inequality is a serious threat to the common good and our collective wellbeing. But the people hardest hit by inequality are the poorest 10 per cent in our country, and this is something that 100 per cent of us have a responsibility to address. Poverty leads to multiple other inequalities, including disproportionately poorer health outcomes, lower academic achievement, food insecurity, precarious housing and family stress and instability. Consider, for example, a 2010 study in Hamilton, Ont., where researchers discovered a 21-year life expectancy gap between low and high income neighbourhoods (65 and 86 years, respectively). Growing income inequality, especially for the lowest 10 per cent, makes a life of dignity and equality of opportunity increasingly elusive. Canadians can argue about the causes of and solutions to income inequality, but one thing remains certain: we all have a collective responsibility to care for the least well-off in our society. We need not strive for absolute income equality, an impossible and undesirable scenario where everyone’s income is the same.  But we can reduce inequality by raising the incomes of the lowest 10 per cent, so that everyone has the opportunity to enjoy a full, healthy life. One of the ways we can do this is through our collective institutions, namely government. We have numerous policy options at our disposal—including fair and progressive taxation, improved income security programs, investments in secure and affordable housing—that could help build a more equal country and improve the wellbeing of the poorest Canadians. If a measure of a society is how it treats its most poor and vulnerable, Canada’s elected officials would do well to give this issue the discussion it deserves.By Simon Lewchuk and Brad Wassink Ten months after MPs voted to study income inequality in Canada, the House Finance Committee finally held their first of three meetings on the topic last Tuesday. And while three meetings isn’t much, it’s better than one, which is what the committee is said to have originally planned on. The credit goes to the civil society organizations and concerned Canadians who spoke out and demanded that the committee give more time and attention to this important issue. It seems the MPs were listening, at least partially. But lest we get too excited about this small victory, one needs only to have been at last week’s meeting to question whether the Finance Committee is really interested in a serious, balanced discussion or mere theatrics and partisan posturing. Last time we checked, the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, the C.D. Howe Institute, the Montreal Economic Institute and the Fraser Institute (who got two witness spots) weren’t exactly representing the interests of the common Canadian. And they certainly aren’t the go-to places for those concerned about the opportunities of the poorest 10 per cent in our country, the people we should focus our attention on first in any discussions about inequality. Yet these are the groups the House Finance Committee chose to set the tone. Luckily, TD Bank’s chief economist, Craig Alexander made a point to bring the poorest 10 per cent into the conversation when he told the committee that “what we have is a problem at the low end of the income scale; there are barriers to growth. We have nine per cent of Canadians living in poverty, that’s three million Canadians.” Low income severely limits the opportunities and life chances of poor Canadians. For an issue that is as hotly debated and contested as income inequality, this is one of the few indisputable facts. As a society, we’re simply not doing enough to provide the poorest among us with a decent chance in life and a measure of dignity. Not to worry, some of the committee’s witnesses said, we can count on social mobility to provide better fortunes tomorrow for those who might find themselves in poverty today. Putting aside the questionable methodology used to make this claim, and the fact that mobility will never be possible for some, we can’t assume that this will be the case unless policy makers get serious about raising the incomes of poor Canadians. Citizens for Public Justice’s “Income, Wealth, and Inequality” report, released last week, highlights that the poorest 20 per cent of Canadians have experienced a 26.2 per cent drop in market incomes over the last 30 years. The driving forces behind this trend have been varied, including losses to the manufacturing sector, the rise in precarious employment, and downward pressure on wages. While market forces are partly to blame, public policy has been failing poor Canadians by reinforcing these trends. Canada’s tax-benefit system now offsets less than 40 per cent of market inequality, compared to more than 70 per cent prior to the mid-1990s. Even after we take into account the impact of taxes and transfers, the 2010 average family income for the poorest 20 per cent was only $27,300 per year, with many people living on amounts well below that line. Here are some ways we could enhance federal tax benefits already in place, and develop programs the government has the structure to implement, in order to increase the incomes and opportunities of Canada’s poor. Recently, UNICEF released a report on children’s well-being that ranked Canada 17th out of 29 rich countries, and gave us a below-average grade for child poverty. Last week’s slate of witnesses were in general agreement that lone-parent households are in particular need of assistance. Rather than dooming them and their children to a life of poverty, we could give them a better start by increasing the Canada Child Tax Benefit from its current maximum of $3,582 to $5,400 per child for low-income families. Most of it could be paid for by ending benefits such as the Universal Child Care Benefit and the Child Fitness Tax Credit, which put money in the pockets of high and upper-middle income Canadians but have little social value. For the many poor Canadians who are able to work, rather than trapping them behind the “welfare wall” we could further encourage workforce participation by enhancing the Conservatives’ own Working Income Tax Benefit (WITB), as Diana Carney of Canada 2020 recommended in her testimony, so that all working Canadians below the poverty line would qualify. This would do a great deal to help lift working-age adults out of poverty to a life of greater opportunity. We could also imagine a bold new program for poor Canadians with severe disabilities rather than tinkering with the broken patchwork of social assistance benefits they currently rely on. Establishing a basic income program at a level above the poverty line for people with disabilities would eliminate the stigma, bureaucracy, and convoluted nature of current programs. If the Finance Committee wants to get serious about addressing income inequality and the concerns of Canadians, they need to start with the poor. The federal government has the policy mechanisms and funds at their disposal.Faith leaders and community groups across Canada are feverishly mobilizing to receive thousands of Syrian refugees. Meanwhile federal candidates are vying for air time with proposals to enlarge the numbers of people our country will settle.Citizens for Public Justice is urging that health services be restored for all refugees immediately. Cuts have an impact on the ability and willingness of sponsors to help due to added liability for costs associated with vision and dental care, prosthetics, medication and mobility devices, according to themFor several years, the UN and anti-poverty groups have been pushing for a national anti-poverty plan. Dignity for All: The campaign to end poverty in Canada has worked toward this goal, through broad consultation, since 2009. In February 2015 on Parliament Hill, the campaign launched a model National Anti-Poverty Plan. Based on our experience, here are five key characteristics any solid national strategy should include.Citizens for Public Justice was informed by the CRA that announcing how every MP voted on a motion to create a national anti-poverty strategy was considered political activity.Claudette Commanda, who teaches courses on First Nations issues at the University of Ottawa, spoke at CPJ’s 2016 Annual General MeetingCreation care is critical to the ministry of the national Anglican church.  As a Christian, I know I am called by God to respond to the human and ecological devastation of climate change with love and justice. So, I continue to do my part.The urgent need for a long-term, well funded National Housing Strategy is clear. Over one in four households (27 per cent in 2010) spend between 30-50 per cent of after tax income on housing. 235,000 people in Canada experience homelessness each year, less than 20 per cent of whom end up on the street, while the rest are part of the “hidden homeless.”Many ecumenical organizations (such as The Canadian Council of Churches, KAIROS Canada, and Citizens for Public Justice) make environmental advocacy part of their work on justice.The World Day of Prayer and the Season of Creation have special significance for Canadians this year.Read Pierre Poilievre’s op-ed in the Ottawa Citizen: “Harper, not Trudeau Sr., actually reduced poverty” Read Darlene O’Leary’s letter to the editor: “No, Harper didn’t help the poor”As we approach the one-year anniversary of the historic Paris Agreement, the Canadian government is set to announce a national Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change. This framework will determine how we, as a nation, respond to the climate crisis. For five fundamental reasons, I believe such action to be critically important.When we care about carbon, it’s easy for us to forget our own participation in the carbon cycle. Our conversations can quickly become polarized by accusations and empty statistics. When we care for carbon, we start by recognizing the goodness of all forms of carbon.Christians are called to privilege the voices and experience of those who live in poverty. Their voices must be the strongest in the work to end poverty.Groups concerned about man-made climate change are applauding Canada’s ratification of the Paris climate accord Oct. 5. “This is all very good news and we’re going to continue to push for more so we can see real meaningful action to address climate change and support the well-being of Canadians across the country,” said Citizens for Public Justice (CPJ) senior policy analyst Karri-Munn Venn. “We’re quite happy with the ratification of the Paris agreement and the fact the Paris agreement is entering into force at the same time,” said Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace advocacy and research officer Geneviève Talbot.This October, an important policy commitment has begun to take shape that could affect the lives of almost 5 million people in Canada, including 1.3 million children, who are suffering. It has been years since significant public policy on poverty has seen any movement. Yet recently, the Government of Canada took steps to begin consultations for a Canadian Poverty Reduction Strategy – a promise that was laid out in the mandate letters of ministers last year.Faith communities are an integral component in the struggle to overcome poverty, faith leaders told a conference on the subject. These communities can encourage conversations about several key issues, such as basic income, said Sr. Sue Wilson, co-chair of the board of the London Poverty Research Centre. Central to a new vision is seeing the person before you as a neighbour instead of a burden, she said.The bishops’ decision to abandon KAIROS is a defeat for social justice in Canada. The ability of Christian faith groups to speak together publicly on a range of issues, something that has been a crowning aspect of Canadian ecumenism for four decades, has now been dealt a massive blow. The decision of the CCCB to leave KAIROS is a manifestation of the lack of ecumenical grace in the church leadership of today. An Oct. 7 letter from CCCB President Bishop Doug Crosby noted three main difficulties for the bishops: that KAIROS emphasizes advocacy and “immediate action,” that the KAIROS board operates by consensus and then decision of the majority, and the lack of a mechanism by which the CCCB could opt out of certain KAIROS projects.Last month the bishops of Canada released a document that seemed to reiterate their belief in the role of ecumenical social action. In the first paragraph of “The Co-Responsibility of the Lay Faithful in the Church and the World,” they state that, “our response to God’s call is always lived out in harmony with the other parts of the Body of Christ.” But that same month, the bishops voted to withdraw from KAIROS, Canada’s largest ecumenical social justice organization, the same group that emerged from the ecumenical coalitions that the bishops had always helped form, govern and finance Now, many are struggling to comprehend the contradictions between our church’s history, our bishops’ words, and their deeds.The first ministers have delivered Canada’s climate plan. This is no doubt, a historic development. For the first time, Canada’s climate target is backed by an actual plan. And this plan is supported by (almost) all of the provincial and territorial premiers. Unfortunately, however, that’s about where the good news ends. The new climate framework is only a starting point for serious climate action.Canada will close its coal-fired power plants by 2030 as part of its strategy to cut greenhouse gas emission under the Paris climate accord, Environment Minister Catherine McKenna announced on Monday.
Critics questioned the government’s paradoxical support for the construction of new pipelines while championing climate action.
“It is our hope that Canada’s climate action plan will include corresponding measures to address emissions from oil and gas,” Citizens for Public Justice policy analyst Karri Munn-Venn said in a statement.
“The approval of Trans Mountain and Line 3 makes it very difficult to see how Canada can live up to even this inadequate commitment,” said  Karri Munn-Venn, senior policy analyst with the research group Citizens for Public Justice. “While we acknowledge that the transition towards renewables will not happen overnight, we had hoped that our federal government would prioritize in investments that create these jobs now, rather than building long-term emission-intensive infrastructure.”Poverty in Canada is a complex reality. Social policy experts, researchers, and anti-poverty advocates are continually analyzing the data and recommending the most effective policy responses, while working to engage and strengthen communities. We see the hardship suffered by millions of Canadians struggling to get by, but we also see positive policy impacts. So, for our organizations, there is nothing inevitable about poverty in Canada.I’ll always remember the first time I spent the Christmas “holidays” in a refugee camp. It was the early days of 1982, on the Honduran border. Close enough to spit into El Salvador, we could sometimes hear bombardments. Families had next to nothing: they had fled the army’s “scorched earth” campaigns by swimming across the bordering Rio Lempa. Tens of thousands of Salvadoran refugees huddled in makeshift huts scattered over dusty, bone-dry hills. We all slept in hammocks or on the ground. Almost equally impoverished, Honduran campesinos were the refugees’ most gracious hosts, and ours, as we gathered for liturgy on the Feast of the Epiphany.There has often been some distance between celebrations of faith and environmental action — between Easter and Earth Day. This year, however, these two springtime celebrations lined up pretty closely. Not only are they just days apart but their messages of sacrifice and renewal have also come together for people of faith around the world. As more and more Christian faith communities are coming to understand care for creation as central to their spiritual mission, ecological and climate justice are featuring prominently in the ways they live out their faith and celebrate seasons like Lent and Easter.If you’re convinced this development will not touch your life in any substantive way, please pause to ask yourself: Will your own faith life, and faith community, remain the same? Do tumultuous changes in world politics, economics and security issues mean your personal and communal prayer must change, too? Or is our religious practice better seen as an unchanging constant, a timeless refuge from the world and its many, seemingly endless, complexities?Citizens for Public Justice, a group of Canadian Christians, churches and other religious congregations, expressed their solidarity with the Muslim community of Quebec City. “Last night’s shooting, targeting people of faith during their worship and prayer, is a deplorable attack on all Canadians and our most deeply-held values,” the group’s executive director, Joe Gunn, said.Catholic leaders have expressed condolences and solidarity in prayer with Canadian Muslims after a shooting at a Quebec City mosque Jan. 29 that killed six and injured many more. Citizens for Public Justice (CPJ), a Christian social justice think tank in Ottawa, also condemned the attack. “Our members are dedicated to the work of building an inclusive, generous and fair society,” said CPJ executive director, Joe Gunn. “Last night’s shooting, targeting people of faith during their worship and prayer, is a deplorable attack on all Canadians and our most deeply-held values.” “Muslim-Canadians are a critical part of the fabric of Canadian life and the global community,” said Gunn. “Policies rooted in fear and isolation, like Donald Trump’s ban on immigration of persons from seven nations, will only lead to greater division and violence.”The prime minister’s “diversity is our strength” tweet sent the message that “regardless of [their] faith,” those seeking refuge will find an open door to Canada as the one in the U.S. temporarily closes. So far, the potential for a working relationship with the U.S. doesn’t appear to have been jeopardized by Mr. Trudeau’s tweet. Mr. Trump has not—so far—replied to it on Twitter. Joe Gunn, executive director of the Ottawa faith-based social justice organization, Citizens for Public Justice, hopes it stays that way. “Whether it’s responding to the U.S. position on such issues as refugees or cross-border security, Canada needs to show leadership through policies and programs, and not by having Mr. Trudeau engage in any back-and-forth with Mr. Trump on social media,” he said.Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is abandoning his long-held promise to change the way Canadians vote in federal elections. Citizens for Public Justice said in a press release: “Our electoral system must address the needs of the most vulnerable in Canadian society and ensure that everyone can contribute to our democratic system. A system of proportional representation would do a better job of making the voices of Canadians heard.”Our world is taking uncertain turns. Countries are becoming more insular and inhospitable to refugees and those fleeing terror. The United States has suspended all refugee admissions from Syria indefinitely. This is disheartening, because the Syrian crisis keeps producing many refugees who need safety. This leaves Christians with a greater responsibility to welcome refugees.“The concerns with the new administration are that the United States will take a step back from the responsibility to support the Paris Accord that the previous administration seemed willing to do,” said Joe Gunn, executive director of Citizens for Public Justice.Canada will celebrate its 150th year as one of the world’s most blessed countries. An incredibly diverse and hard-working population has transformed our expansive geography of plentiful natural resources into one of the world’s most wealthy societies. But our forbearers also colonized the original inhabitants and discriminated against women, social minorities and various groups of newcomers as they arrived and settled. The story of Canada’s first 150 years, when accurately retold, is more than a list of accomplishments; it’s also a story of communities struggling to construct more just social systems. And Christians played a hugely important role, sometimes hindering, often leading, these social struggles. This is especially evident in the turbulent history of health care in Canada.Citizens for Public Justice (CPJ) is welcoming the launch of a national consultation as one of the first steps in developing a Canadian Poverty Reduction Strategy. Darlene O’Leary, CPJ’s socio-economic policy analyst, said she hopes “the process allows for strong engagement by the public.” “We have been calling on the Minister to ensure that the consultations engage widely with a range of stakeholders, most importantly people with a lived experience of poverty,” she said in a statement. “It’s important, as well, that the process plans to engage with Indigenous organizations.”Lent, the 40 days leading up to Easter Sunday, has long been associated with the need for conversion, to return to the roots of our faith, and to act more deeply from our shared spiritual convictions. This has traditionally been done in three specific ways: by prayer, fasting and almsgiving. These three activities are still relevant, but today we may be called to deepen our lenten practices in ways that not only firm up our waistlines — but also our resolve to serve humanity and God’s creation. This Lent, instead of giving up chocolate, let’s give it up for the Earth.Lent might well be the most challenging season in the Christian calendar. Advent is about anticipation of things to come. Christmas and Easter are both celebrations of good news. But Lent? Lent is a season of sacrifice. It is a time when we are challenged to make sacrifices in our lives to make room for God’s presence in us and God’s call for us. The practice of giving something up is common in many Christian traditions, and usually involves letting go of a bad habit or guilty pleasure for personal improvement. The choices we make are often predictable, food and drink being the most common.In a twist on the traditional practice of giving something up for Lent, Anglicans across Canada are pledging to make personal lifestyle changes to reduce greenhouse gas emissions—and challenging the federal government to match them by pursuing policy changes to fight climate change. Fourteen Anglican churches have agreed to participate in Give it up for the Earth!, a campaign organized by Citizens for Public Justice (CPJ), a national faith-based organization lobbying for a greater emphasis on justice in Canadian public policy, to “increase climate justice in Canada.”A selection of just what was said Wednesday as Finance Minister Bill Morneau tabled the Liberal government’s second federal budget: “The government’s spending priorities fail to understand the depth of the problems of poverty in Canada, climate change, and the concerns of refugees and newcomers — leaving them for our children to resolve.” — Joe Gunn, Citizens for Public Justice.OK, how would you respond? You’ve just been asked for advice on how to end poverty in your community. What can you suggest? CPJ has endeavoured to simplify the process, making it easier for you to share your concerns and ideas with government in just a few minutes. No poverty plan will be immediately perfect, all-encompassing, or successful. But the federal government must hear from thousands of Canadians before the June deadline, that action on poverty reduction is the highest of moral and political priorities.Aside from palliative care, the federal budget received tepid reviews from a couple of think tanks dedicated to Christian social teaching. “With Budget 2017, Finance Minister Bill Morneau has made tentative financial commitments to key priorities identified in their consultations on housing and climate change, though not on international development,” said Citizens for Public Justice’s executive director Joe Gunn. “However, the government’s spending priorities fail to understand the depth of the problems of poverty in Canada, climate change and the concerns of refugees and newcomers — leaving them for our children to resolve.”Canadians can be proud that our country facilitated the entry of so many Syrian refugees in 2015-2016. Yet, there is no reason to assume that the system is perfect or perfectly fair. An engaged society and culture can continue to improve our capacity to assist vulnerable asylum-seekers. Given the massive human need we are invited to confront, this CPJ study recommends useful avenues for communities seeking to better collaborate in the government’s responsibilities to receive and successfully settle asylum-seekers in Canada.As people of faith, called to care for those most vulnerable, we want to see a budget that is grounded in strong social commitments that address urgent needs and set out long-term commitments to improving lives. So, is this government paying attention to people in need?Many Canadians now know what it means to sponsor refugees, thanks to Canada’s Private Sponsorship of Refugees Program (PSRP). The opportunity for civil participation in refugee resettlement is a core part of Canada’s overall refugee policy. Canadians, mostly in small groups, supported the PSRP overwhelmingly in 2015. Private sponsorship involves Canadian residents financially and emotionally supporting refugees, for a year or more, that they sponsor to be resettled permanently in Canada. Yet, a new study by Citizens for Public Justice (CPJ) reveals that there are drawbacks to private sponsorship that require urgent policy attention.The federal government needs to allocate more resources to reduce wait times for privately sponsored refugees, especially those coming from places other than Syria, a new survey says. The report was commissioned by Citizens for Public Justice (CPJ), an Ottawa-based Christian charity that tries to influence public policy debates on a number of issues, including refugee rights. CPJ executive director Joe Gunn said his own congregation in Ottawa applied to sponsor a Syrian family in autumn 2015. “There was money collected, all kinds of furniture and everything was prepared, but we waited and a family didn’t arrive until March 2017,” he said.Des délais interminables et qui continuent de s’allongerune priorité donnée aux réfugiés syriens que certains trouvent injuste… Un nouveau rapport met le doigt sur les lacunes du programme canadien de parrainage privé, d’après un sondage réalisé auprès des parrains, qu’ils soient des organismes communautaires, des églises ou des groupes de cinq.When Janet’s Ottawa-based sponsoring group decided to sponsor a Syrian family in 2015, they expected a swift resettlement process. “At the time, there was a lot of momentum and enthusiasm”, she said, as many of the group’s members were keen on supporting Syrian refugees at the cusp of the crisis in 2015. Now, however, it seems this momentum may have waned a bit.Do you think Canada has done what it should to assist refugees? “Definitely not yet,” seems to be the reply of people directly involved in the private sponsorship of refugees across this country. A review of the perspectives of Sponsorship Agreement Holders, or SAHs, was carried out by Citizens for Public Justice (CPJ) and released in mid-April. (SAHs are groups that have a signed agreement with the federal government to receive and resettle refugees. Eighteen of these groups are Roman Catholic dioceses.) CPJ obtained data from SAHs across Canada, by means of surveys and direct interviews. As such, the views expressed emanate from persons who have direct hands-on experience with refugee reception and settlement in our communities.The problem of long processing times for refugees to Canada will be fixed by 2019, promises Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Minister Ahmed Hussen. A survey by Christian think tank Citizens For Public Justice reveals that 97 per cent of the agencies who bring privately-sponsored refugees to Canada are concerned about processing times.“The prairie landscape,” Trevor Herriot says, “has become one of the most altered on the planet.” Herriot is a Canadian writer, naturalist and activist whose new book, Towards a Prairie Atonement, laments how early settlers mistreated not only Indigenous peoples but also the land. He spoke in Ottawa last month at an event hosted by the Canadian Council of Churches (CCC) and Citizens for Public Justice (CPJ). His thinking and writing have been influenced by faith, he said, and in particular by Catholic social teaching. He is usually reluctant to talk publicly or to write about faith as that is often unwelcome in media, academic and environmental circles. Therefore he expressed gratitude for being able to have such a conversation at the Ottawa event.Imagine that you are a member of a church that was so moved by the refugee crisis in Syria that you decided to sponsor a Syrian family. Imagine further that the family you sponsored was not among the first 25,000 to come to Canada after the Liberal government won a majority mandate, and that family ended up waiting four or six months to arrive in Canada rather than the mere days or weeks of the earlier families. It doesn’t take much imagination because this is what happened after February 2016.Even as the Ontario government moved to enact new labour laws and increase the minimum wage to $15, experts agree there is no quick fix to protecting workers from the threat of poverty. “When we look at poverty statistics, there are an awful lot of people who are working and are living below the poverty line,” said Citizens for Public Justice executive director Joe Gunn. “There’s a growing number of people who actually find work and then they can’t – because they can’t get the hours and there are very few benefits and also the pay is so low – they can’t make a go of it.” In 1891 Pope Leo was worried that working people were drifting away from the faith and from any real ties to their communities under the relentless pressure of the industrial revolution. Post-industrial society – the information economy, the green economy, the sharing economy, etc. – is posing a similar challenge, said Gunn. “If the faith communities don’t express strong opinions and move our constituency forward, as well as political leadership, then we’ve missed the boat,” he said. “We’ve lost a prophetic opportunity.”I recently heard the story – as told by the Anglican National Indigenous Bishop, Mark MacDonald – of a Lakota elder, who, upon hearing a proposal to develop a list of “green” scripture passages, replied, “But isn’t the whole Bible about caring for creation?” This perspective, one that sees environmentalism at the heart of Christian action, is deeply held by our work at Citizens for Public Justice.Have you ever planned a party, but worried that nobody would come? In February, the Liberal government launched consultations with Canadians on what should be included in the country’s first-ever poverty reduction strategy. Similarly, the Minister launched a “national conversation” at the end of June 2016 — but on the specific and more limited topic of housing. Over 7,000 Canadians participated. So far, the consultation process on a poverty reduction plan for Canada, however, seems to be attracting a more limited response.Ending poverty in Canada – just thinking of it can be overwhelming. Where do you start to find solutions to the range of problems that need to be addressed? It’s not easy. There are economic, social, and, of course, policy considerations. But when you think about the people living each day weighed down by the burden of poverty, it becomes clear. Start doing justice.Elder Josephine Mandamin, an Anishinabek initiator of the “Mother Earth Walks,” takes the responsibility to care for water very, very seriously. Now moving about slowly herself, with the aid of a walker, she once lead Water Walks around the five Great Lakes, and even covered the length of the St. Lawrence River on foot. She believes that women, as life-givers, have a special responsibility to protect water as a sacred gift from the Creator, as the “lifeblood of Mother Earth.”“I think there’s been a thin gruel of achievements in 2017 so far,” said Joe Gunn, executive director of Citizens for Public Justice (CPJ), a Christian social justice think tank. “On the issues that we are concerned with, we would have hoped for a little more movement forward.” Gunn pointed out much of the infrastructure spending is “intentional” and not coming into effect until after the next election and beyond. Though there was a “great announcement of $11 billion for affordable housing, it’s not clear how this will roll out in any quick way,” he said.Budget 2018 should focus on personal well-being, social cohesion and a healthy environment, and not just on productivity. Productivity and competitiveness matter. They are important economic indicators and key to the success of private sector business. But they make up only a portion of who we are as citizens. And focusing the budget discussion narrowly on productivity reduces Canadians to our economic “value” as workers. The committee’s framework has failed to account for personal fulfillment, community well-being and ecological integrity. At its worst, it sees us as cogs, and at best, it regards us as consumers. It ignores the importance and benefits of connection, culture and creativity.Now that Canadians have had nine months to tell Ottawa what they want to see in a national poverty reduction strategy, people like Mary Boyd are hoping to increase pressure on the Liberal government to fulfill its 2015 campaign promise to set targets and measure progress on poverty nationwide.After a surge of asylum seekers over the summer, Canada’s refugee policies will be the top concern for many faith-based groups when Parliament resumes Sept. 18. For Citizens for Public Justice (CPJ), a Christian social justice think tank, care for refugees is among their top priorities said CPJ executive director Joe Gunn. “This is an area where what happens in the United States is really going to throw Canada for a loop,” Gunn said. He noted the U.S. bishops oppose sending tens of thousands of young people back to Mexico.It’s sad that Christians quoting “the poor you will always have with you” rarely follow it with the intended injunction, “therefore, you shall open wide your hand to the needy and to the poor.” By separating these phrases, we may prevent ourselves from hearing and acting on the best sense of the intended teaching of Jesus. By acting today, and on Oct. 17, we can help the gospel message come alive in our hearts and communities.In today’s political and social climate, differences are often viewed as risks. Those that seek asylum become security threats warranting suspicion. People who speak a different language, or come from a different country, are seen as “other”. In the process, values like hospitality and kindness can be choked out, as concerns over the integrity of borders or scarce employment take centre stage. We can be tempted to feel that diversity compromises our safety or in some way impedes our ability to thrive. To God, neighbours deserve love and diversity is strength.Canada is continuing to leave people with disabilities in poverty, says a report released Thursday by Citizens for Public Justice (CPJ). The faith-based organization’s annual report on poverty trends shows people with disabilities are more likely to be living in poverty than other Canadians. More working adults are joining the ranks of the impoverished, the report found. Brad Wassink, communications coordinator for CPJ, said part of the problem is that the federal government is not paying attention to impoverished Canadians as it promotes an agenda aimed at helping the middle class.What does poverty look like in Canada in 2017? Ask yourself what images immediately come to mind when you consider who is poor in Canada today. Perhaps for many of us, the urban poor, sleeping homeless on the streets of major cities, come immediately to mind. But if you take a few minutes to read the Poverty Trends 2017 report, you may find a few surprises.An Anglican bishop, along with a coalition of leading anti-poverty and housing advocates, has urged the federal government to adopt a “rights-based” approach in its upcoming National Housing Strategy and poverty reduction strategies. “We come together today to send a clear and consistent message to the federal government regarding the need for a rights-based approach to addressing housing, food and justice for all, particularly among the First Peoples of this great nation,” said Bishop John Chapman, who took part in a press conference on Parliament Hill October 16, the eve of the United Nations’ International Day for the Eradication of Poverty.In the first week of October TransCanada announced it would no longer pursue the Energy East oil pipeline that would have carried unrefined product from Alberta and Saskatchewan to New Brunswick. Reaction was swift, predictable, diverse and loud. For their part, environmental campaigners gleefully claimed success. It is hard to know what Christian leaders may have thought. They were silent.The working poor continue to make up an overwhelming majority in Canada’s poverty statistics, a fact that has helped make the fifth annual Chew on This! campaign the largest ever. On Oct. 17 — the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty — 80 groups in more than 30 communities across Canada called for a national, anti-poverty strategy to deal with the estimated 850,000 people who visit a food bank each month and the 4.8 million Canadians who live below the poverty line.With Fiji as the president and official host of COP23, this is the first time that a low-lying small-island state has led the UN climate talks. Yet despite the urgent calls for action from nations vulnerable to climate-induced extinction, many world leaders, and certainly the global media, have turned a blind eye. The Canadian government would like us to think that it is doing all it can to meet its Paris Accord commitments. But a closer look reveals that there are a few key shortfalls to overcome.Campaign 2000’s annual report card shows 38 per cent of Indigenous children on reserves live in poverty, as do 42 per cent of female lone-parent families. One in three children of recent immigrants lives in poverty and income inequality is growing, the report says. “This is a crisis for the 4.8 million Canadians who live below the poverty line, as well as for our entire society,” said Joe Gunn, executive director of Citizens for Public Justice, a member group of Campaign 2000 and a faith-based social justice think tank. “Poverty, beyond the statistics, represents the lives and unique experiences of our neighbours — but with a common point: the loss of access to chances of realizing not only economic potential, but human potential.The federal government is inching towards developing its first-ever national anti-poverty plan, and CRC youth are adding their voices to the discussion. As part of the Chew on This! campaign, high school students explored the issues of hunger and poverty here in Canada and talked about what can be done about it. The events happen each year on October 17, the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty. The students joined over 80 groups across Canada to pass out paper lunch bags that had in them a food item (such as an apple), a magnet and a postcard. The postcard included information about poverty in Canada and a call for the government to take action. “Participation in this program is one authentic way in which we can be the hands and feet of Christ,” said Helen Krol, a teacher at Edmonton Christian High School. Her science class prepared 300 bags and distributed them to the entire student body.Some Christians are in a state of denial, but the fact is, Jesus was a refugee. He also wasn’t blonde and blue eyed, but that’s a battle for another time. According to the Biblical account, shortly after his birth, Mary and Joseph sought safety in Egypt. They’d been targeted by the insecure King Herod who had it out to kill anyone who could potentially thwart his power. They needed sanctuary. They were fleeing persecution.Pope Francis holds the situation of refugees “constantly in my thoughts and prayers.” Taking Francis’ call to heart here in Canada, our faith communities must increase our efforts to change the hearts and minds of members. Only then will we understand the words of St. Paul in Hebrews 13:2: “Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.”
Pope Francis holds the situation of refugees “constantly in my thoughts and prayers.” Taking Francis’ call to heart here in Canada, our faith communities must increase our efforts to change the hearts and minds of members. Only then will we understand the words of St. Paul in Hebrews 13:2: “Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.”
While many positive steps have been taken on poverty-reduction and climate change, big gains on those fronts have yet to come, says the head of Citizens for Public Justice. “On climate, we think 2018 is a big year,” said CPJ executive director Joe Gunn.On July 5, the Canadian Council for Refugees (CCR); The Canadian Council of Churches (CCC), of which Project Ploughshares is an operating division; and Amnesty International (AI) launched a case in the Federal Court of Canada to challenge the designation of the United States as a “safe third country” for refugees as this designation pertains to the Safe Third Country Agreement (STCA) between Canada and the United States under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA) and the Regulations. The three organizations joined an individual litigant who wanted to be allowed to make her refugee claim in Canada. After being targeted by a gang for over a decade in El Salvador, she fled to the United States with her daughters and has strong reasons to believe that she may not receive protection in the United States if she has to file her refugee claim there, rather than in Canada.suffer a greater incidence of hospitalization for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and more mental health issues. One in 10 suffer from diabetes and other health-related issues.The Give it up for the Earth! Campaign, now in its second year, encourages participants to write pledge cards saying what they’re giving up for Lent. This could mean driving less, investing in renewable energy instead of companies with poor environmental records, or eating food grown locally. Participants post selfies with the campaign’s information on social media. They can also host awareness events.Last year, I hit on something that helped me to take my Lenten practice to the next level. I pledged to reduce the amount of unnecessary packaging and waste I was bringing into my home. No more cereal boxes – I have teenagers, so there were a lot of those! – peanut butter tubs, or bags of nuts, coffee, or dried fruit. Instead, I washed out a bunch of old canning jars, picked up a few larger reusable containers and made a weekly excursion to the bulk food store. It was something I had been thinking about doing for a little while and it felt good to have finally made the shift. There was also something quite rich about bringing more congruence to my life; aligning my faith, my environmental concern and my consumption habits.In light of looming deportations from the US for some 200,000 Salvadorans, Canada must reconsider its refugee process and rescind the Safe Third Country Agreement.As we enter the season of Lent, the period of 40 days that carries us to Easter, it is important to acknowledge the ways that we have turned away from God in our lives and remember the call to turn our thankful hearts, humble minds and serving hands back toward God. For many Christians and churches, Lent is a time to refocus and reorient ourselves to a life of prayer, sacrifice, and repentance.For me, Lent’s attraction is not the focus on suffering or deprivation as much as the call to be lured back to attitudes and behaviours that prepare us to become an Easter people. Returning to more disciplined schedules of prayer, renewal of our observance of the sacraments, penance, self-denial and almsgiving — all have heightened relevance at this time.The Liberal government, which tabled Canada’s first gender-based budget Feb. 27, received mixed reviews from think tanks devoted to Christian social teaching. While Citizens for Public Justice applauded the budget’s female focus as a “step forward,” CPJ’s executive director Joe Gunn said the “ambition wasn’t huge in this case.” “There are many more things the government could do to make a gender-based budget really sing,” Gunn saidNext month, Citizens for Public Justice will release a new book that tells 10 stories of social justice struggles where Christians, most often working ecumenically, changed Canadian society for the better. But the most inspiring parts of the book are the final reflections of young female church activists who point ways forward for faith communities to act tomorrow. The journey is never over.Journeys to Justice: Reflections on Canadian Christian Activism by Joe Gunn offers a wealth of personal stories on a host of faith-based political issues. Gunn looks at the creation of Canada’s refugee policies; Indigenous rights and the Mackenzie Valley pipeline proposal; Catholic bishops and economic justice; the churches and South African apartheid; violence against northern women; a challenge against the market economy; a defence of medicare; the women’s march for rights; and global debt cancellation. Behind each of these issues there is a personal story collected by Gunn, who happens to be a friend of mine. Some of them are inspirational; many of them provide a role model for young people. That’s no accident. Gunn begins the book with a preface directed to his own twin children, Benjamin and Daniela.So now would seem a particularly good time to ask for an apology. And if Canada’s bishops supported it, it is hard to see that the pope would refuse because a hallmark of the Francis papacy is to decentralize authority to the bishops conferences around the world. Joe Gunn, who spent a decade at the bishops’ conference in Canada helping to develop policies related to Indigenous people, said bishops in Ontario and Quebec whose diocese had little or no direct involvement in the notorious schools, likely blocked efforts to recommend a visit and an apology. Financial concerns most likely factored in, if a papal visit were part of the apology, Mr. Gunn and others suggested. A 2002 visit to Canada by Pope John Paul II left the Canadian bishops’ conference 36 million Canadian dollars in debt. The shortfall was covered by the country’s dioceses, financially straining some. But Mr. Gunn, who is now the executive director of Citizens for Public Justice, a faith-based public policy group, said the bishops’ stance more likely reflected a fractured church in Canada, as well as a general lack of a national strategy on reconciliation.Joe Gunn, who worked for the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops from 1994 to 2005, said if the bishops had “put forward a strong and united invitation to the Pope” the outcome could have been different. Gunn, who is now executive director of Citizens for Public Justice, said he believes financial concerns are playing a large role in the debate among bishops.In 2015 Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) issued its final report on Indian residential schools, relating the “cultural genocide” that took place, along with much physical and sexual abuse. The report specifically directed to the four churches that ran the schools and challenged every faith community, all governments and the entire Canadian public. Reconciliation must involve us all. It’s not clear, unfortunately, that all the Canadian Catholic bishops get that.Canada’s faith communities have a proud record of activism.  A recent collection of essays, Journeys to Justice: Reflections on Canadian Christian Activism, tells the story well.Signing onto the David Suzuki Foundation letter asking Ottawa to reverse course on the Trans-Mountain pipeline was not any mere whim, said Citizens for Public Justice executive director Joe Gunn. The ecumenical social justice organization understands that working people who depend on the oilsands to pay their mortgages can’t be bystanders in the national debate about just how much of Alberta’s bitumen should be left in the ground. Ottawa needs to manage “a just transition for working people,” Gunn said. “It’s no question that economies all over the world have set up massive projects for fossil fuel development and we’re not going to be able to sustain that in the future,” he said.Anger. Disbelief. Grief. Outrage. Many of us are feeling emotionally overwhelmed and exhausted as we grapple with the news reports coming out of the United States. As part of the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy, over 2,000 migrant children have been forcibly separated from their parents since April. While we can’t exert influence as voters in the American system, we can pressure our government. Citizens for Public Justice, an ecumenical organization that supports justice in Canadian policy, suggests calling on Canada to rescind our Safe Third Country Agreement with the U.S., which requires our border officials to turn away refugees and asylum seekers at the Canada–U.S. border. The U.S., after all, is no longer a “safe country” for people fleeing persecution.How should churches deal with political issues? That question has long sparked incandescent discussions among Christians. Many hold that God calls Christians to promote public justice. Yet we differ strongly on what those policies and which political parties, if any, Christians should support. Joe Gunn’s new book, Journeys to Justice: Reflections on Canadian Christian Activism (Novalisdoesn’t give a final response to this question, but offers a survey of churches’ and Christians’ contributions to Canadian struggles for justice.The Safe Third Country Agreement faces an important test this summer as political opponents keep an eye on the number of asylum seekers using irregular border crossings. Meanwhile, a federal court challenge of the Agreement as a violation of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms mounted by the Canadian Council for Refugees, the Canadian Council of Churches, and Amnesty International is working its way through the courts. Citizens for Public Justice (CPJ) released a report in mid June that said the Agreement was “designed to restrict access to Canada’s refugee system.”Some say the time of the churches is over in Canada. Others may say that it did not come soon enough. But what many Canadians may not be aware of is there is a long history of churches working together for social justice and peace, efforts that contributed significantly to the progressive social programs and international stature our country enjoys today.We know we are called to love our neighbour, and to varying degrees we are aware of the oppression of poverty. We feel we maybe ought to do something – that someone ought to – but we are paralyzed by our sense of insignificance in the face of seemingly insurmountable issues. There are many simple steps individuals and churches can take to live out our calling to love our neighbour not only in word, but in deed.It’s clear that social assistance is in need of reform. Innovative policies and targeted funding can make a difference, but all levels of government need to commit to making it happen.At budget time over the last few years, we’ve seen a narrowing of the federal government’s focus on economic measures in a way that fails to adequately address the well-being of people, communities and the Earth. CPJ believes that Budget 2019 should prioritize measures to address poverty in Canada, remove barriers to refugee resettlement, and support a “just transition” to a decarbonized economy.For over a decade, Citizens for Public Justice (CPJ) and its partners have been part of a process of encouraging lawmakers to put a national anti-poverty vision before the Canadian Parliament. In late August there was good news that the effort is paying off as the federal government released Opportunity for AllCanada’s first National Poverty Reduction Strategy.Citizens for Public Justice (CPJ) has worked as co-leads with Canada Without Poverty of the Dignity for All campaign since 2009. The goal of this campaign is the creation of a national anti-poverty plan that is comprehensive, legislated and funded to meet its mandate. The ultimate goal is an end to poverty in Canada.All people in Canada should live with dignity. One in six Canadians struggle to make ends meet: to pay rent, feed their families, and address basic needs. On October 17, the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, Moderator Richard Bott will be on Parliament Hill with apples and a message for the Prime Minister: We need a stronger, fully funded strategy to end poverty in Canada.The executive director of Citizens for Public Justice says that being part of a faith community means being challenged to walk the talk.Helping 5.8 million Canadians out of poverty isn’t a charity project. It’s about building a better economy and living up to the human rights we proclaim as a nation.A Canadian study was put together by the group Citizens for Public Justice, a non-governmental organization supported by many of Canada’s churches. It drew on recent information collected from the federal government, Statistics Canada, census data, and other sources. It reported that 19 per cent of Canada’s children were living in poverty and that number increased to nearly 50 per cent in single-parent families. The numbers were higher for Indigenous and recent refugee families. On Oct. 17, the world commemorated the UN’s International Day for the Eradication of Poverty—but you could be forgiven for not noticing. Canadian media were not paying attention to poverty concerns that day, but readers and viewers were being swamped with an avalanche of reporting about … cannabis. And not to blame journalists, because for some bizarre reason, the federal government decided to mark that internationally themed day with the legalization of marijuana.

Ignoring the call for justice is simply not an option for followers of Christ. On this International Day for the Eradication of Poverty on October 17, I celebrate the release of Canada’s Poverty Reduction Strategy with my fellow advocates and the Chew on this! Dignity for All Campaign, which is working towards a poverty-free Canada.

Deep poverty is our country’s national shame. There are 5.8 million Canadians living in poverty.

The Canadian government needs to speed the processing for refugee claimants and raise the number of government-sponsored refugees, say advocates. Citizens for Public Justice (CPJ) and the Canadian Council for Refugees both argue the level of Government Assisted Refugees (GAR) is too low, and should match that of the Privately Sponsored Refugee program.Faith communities need to continue serving the poor, but even more important, let’s remain vigilant to ensure that political promises to reduce poverty do not simply go up in smoke.Faith communities need to continue serving the poor, but even more important, let’s remain vigilant to ensure that political promises to reduce poverty do not simply go up in smoke.How should churches deal with politics? Christian Reformed members are no strangers to this incandescent question. Many promote public justice as individuals but oppose any institutional church activism. Others believe the denomination should “advocate” but not “lobby” for social justice—but the distinction is not always clear.Climate politics are shaping up as a federal election issue in a partisan scenario cautioned against by Pope Francis in Laudato Si’, his 2015 encyclical on the environment.The nation’s churches and church members have been active on social justice issues over many decades, a Lethbridge audience was reminded Thursday. But Joe Gunn outlined how they’ve been quietly working across denominational lines – though a younger generation of Canadians knows little about their positive impact. Gunn, executive director of Citizens for Public Justice, said evangelical Christians – 11 or 12 per cent of the population, he noted – are often in the headlines for their opposition to abortion, updates to sex education or LGBTQ rights. But positive Christian initiatives go unreported.After 10 years at the helm of Citizens for Public Justice, Joe Gunn, 64, is leaving Feb. 11 to head up the new Oblate Centre at Saint Paul University in Ottawa.The Dignity for All campaign has written to Minister Jean-Yves Duclos, the Member of Parliament responsible for Canada’s poverty reduction strategy, with recommendations to strengthen Bill C-87, An Act respecting the reduction of poverty. Along with partners, we are calling on the government to align Canada with our obligations under international human rights law to ensure we meet the first Sustainable Development Goal (SDG): to end poverty by 2030. This Bill comes at a critical moment in Canada’s history. With the upcoming federal election later this year, we urge the government to pass legislation for the poverty reduction strategy before this session ends.The Catholic Register The Ottawa-based ecumenical justice organization is getting that message out through its Give It Up For the Earth! campaign. The Lenten campaign encourages people to give up some of their personal and household greenhouse gas emissions. It’s the third year Citizens for Public Justice (CPJ) has run the campaign asking people to go beyond giving up chocolate, coffee and the usual run of vices for Lent by delving deeper and “provoke a little more thoughtfulness and a little bit more consideration of how they’re living and how they’re living out their faith,” said Karri Munn-Venn, senior policy analyst with CPJ.Lenten discipline is not only for individuals; some parishes practice it as a community as well. In 2018, 11 Anglican churches in Canada, for example, took part in “Give it up for the Earth!”, a campaign that encourages participants to take measures reducing their contribution to climate change, and to call for changes to government policy, according to Kari Munn-Venn, senior policy analyst at Citizens for Public Justice, the Christian social justice group behind the initiative.How to start making change: An introduction to lobbying for the causes you care about. Ottawa public policy organization Citizens for Public Justice says that letters and emails count the same, but that phone calls can be more influential.Too many people still live below the poverty line, said Darlene O’Leary, social policy analyst with Citizens for Public Justice. “There are still millions living in poverty,” said O’Leary, and the idea that we need to wait until 2030 to see dramatic results (a 50-per-cent reduction in poverty as per goals of the federal government’s poverty-reduction strategy released in August), “That’s a long time to wait.”

Darlene O’Leary, socio-economic policy analyst for Citizens for Public Justice (CPJ), agrees that the current MBM provides somewhat of a distorted look at poverty in Canada.

“The data is encouraging — however, it’s incomplete,” she told Global Citizen.

Citizens for Public Justice (CPJ) also objects to the government’s new strategy because it “would further limit the welcoming nature they claim Canada is proud of.” “The use of language that suggests potential claimants are not genuine in their reasons for seeking asylum or that they pose a threat of exploitation to our system is concerning,” said CPJ.Now in its third year, Give it Up for the Earth! is centred on a pledge to individual climate action, and a call for more far-reaching national climate policy. Christians across Canada collect postcards and signatures as a demonstration of support for increased federal government action.
In the Christian season of Lent, “people give up coffee, candy, but there’s not a whole lot of depth to that. This campaign offers a deeper level,” CPJ’s Senior Policy Analyst, Karri Venn-Munn says. “This year’s campaign challenges the Federal government’s continued financing of the fossil fuel sector, which is inconsistent with the Paris goals.” The Paris climate agreement is the 2015 landmark international accord aimed at combating climate change. Speaking about the recent federal budget, Karri remarks that there seems to be an effort to hold on to what the government has already put in place so far: “they see real risk in losing the steps forward that have been made, and it seems to me, that this concern gets in the way of doing more and of communicating what has been done so far.”Two holidays fall on April 22 this year – Easter and Earth Day. While 2.2 billion Christians joyfully celebrate the resurrection of Christ, an estimated billion people will mark Earth Day in what has become the most widely celebrated secular holiday in the world. Earth Day began in 1970 as a counter-cultural, advocacy-oriented day focussed on environmental protection in the United States. But despite its activist origins, Earth Day – in Canada, at least – has seemed more attuned to platitudes and park clean-ups than serious environmental protection.The Canadian Council of Churches (CCC); Citizens for Public Justice; and KAIROS, an ecological justice and human rights mission, created the production jointly. “We received submissions from over 15 churches and organizations with close to 20 voices,” said KAIROS executive director Jennifer Henry in a letter of thanks to participants.Darlene O’Leary, socio-economic policy analyst with the Ottawa-based advocacy group Citizens for Public Justice, agrees with the human-rights approach. She notes that federal initiatives such as investments in housing, the Canada Workers Benefit, and the Child Tax Benefit are having a positive effect on lived poverty.CPJ’s new Executive Director Willard Metzger sat down with Karen Stiller from Faith Today to discuss the role of Christians in advocating for public justice and the common good.According to a provincial break-down by Citizens for Public Justice, Manitoba has the highest poverty rate in Canada, with one-in-five currently living below the poverty line. That translates to 25% of children living in poverty and it’s forced 115,000 Manitobans to rely on the province’s Employment and Income Assistance (EIA) programs.This week, CBC News released results of their pre-election online survey, in which the opinions of 4,500 Canadians were sought out. The most notable findings of the survey were that 76 per cent of the respondents agreed that Canada should do more to encourage skilled labourers (through the immigration system’s economic stream) to immigrate to the country, 57 per cent said Canada should not be accepting more refugees, and 24 per cent said too many immigrants are visible minorities. Photo by chapay is licensed under CC BY-NC-SARefugee rights are one of five main themes addressed by Citizens for Public Justice (CPJ), “a national organization of members inspired by faith to act for justice in Canadian public policy.Access to justice, particularly for the most vulnerable persons in society, is a key issue in policy debates in Canada. Refugees are persons who have fled from traumatizing circumstances and need the legal system to facilitate the establishment of their refugee claims. Photo by witwiccan is licensed under CC BY-NC-SACanadian voters will select a new government in a few months, joining nearly 2 billion citizens around the world participating in elections this year. Appeals to the “everyday” citizen have been widespread, as candidates around the world have attempted to present themselves as the sole representative of the disenfranchised.In its spring budget, the Ontario government cut Legal Aid Ontario (LAO) funding by $133 million and said it will no longer provide provincial funds for refugee and immigration cases. LAO is mandated to promote access to justice for refugee claimants among other vulnerable Ontarians. The cuts would mean that claimants would have been denied timely representation by legal counsel. Their inability to access representation would have jeopardized their refugee claims to the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) because it is a complicated process that requires knowledge of the Canadian legal system. It would have resulted in inefficiency, backlogs and disruption in the administration of justice.

The Oct. 3 Catholic election debate will be just one of a number of efforts to influence the tone, content and nature of Canada’s political conversation throughout the election campaign. Those efforts include:

• A new 32-page guide to Catholic social teaching and the 2019 election from Catholic Charities of Toronto and Catholic publisher Novalis;

• An extensive social Gospel guide for voters by the ecumenical Christian social action group Citizens for Public Justice; 

What does a just Canada look like? That’s the question that will be asked Wednesday, when Citizens for Public Justice brings its fall election tour to Winnipeg. “We want to ask what kind of country we want to be part of,” Karri Munn-Venn, senior policy analyst for the Ottawa-based organization, said of the goal of the free public tour. For CPJ, three important issues in this election are the climate emergency, eliminating poverty in Canada, and refugee rights, she said. During the event, which will be held 7 p.m.-9:30 p.m. at Marpeck Commons at Canadian Mennonite University (500 Shaftesbury Blvd.), participants will also be able to meet Willard Metzger, CPJ executive director.
Ten federal candidates presented their policies to voters on Saturday in Kelowna at a forum co-hosted by Amnesty International Canada, KAIROS, and Citizens for Public Justice.
An election forum on immigration drew a large crowd to the downtown Kelowna library on Saturday. Ten candidates from the Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola and Kelowna-Lake Country ridings addressed about 100 attendees. Immigration, refugees and migrant workers were among the issues debated, and several members of the public waved banners promoting rights for foreign workers. The event was co-hosted by Amnesty International, KAIROS and Citizens for Public Justice.A candlelight vigil was held at the Alberta legislature grounds on Sunday evening to bring attention to environmental issues and the need for action. Christian, Muslim and Jewish religious leaders from Edmonton’s Anglican Church, Al Rashid mosque and Temple Beth Ora, stood alongside young activists who were calling on all levels of government, demanding change.Refugees resettled in Canada are expected to cover the costs associated with transportation to their new home. To help them afford this, the federal government’s Immigration Loans Program provides the funds upfront, and then collects repayment over time once refugees have arrived in Canada. These debts are an unnecessary burden on refugees, who already face significant challenges as they rebuild their lives, such as difficulty finding employment, discrepancies in foreign credential recognition, and a lack of affordable housing and child care.Across Canada, people of faith are increasingly speaking up about the urgent need for climate action. Gabrielle Gelderman, 28, a member of Fellowship Christian Reformed Church in Edmonton, Alta., is one of them. Serving Citizens for Public Justice as its Edmonton chapter organizer since May, Gelderman initially invited others from the church to a meeting. That grew into a faith and climate justice group which caught the interest of people from other Christian Reformed congregations in the city — BethelAvenueCentrepointe Community, and Maranatha.CPJ leadership has been travelling across Canada for a pre-election tour to help explain what’s at stake when we take to the polls on Oct. 21. Thankfully they added a Hamilton stop to the tour next week. The CPJ’s election bulletin, Catalyst, gives solid information with good questions to ask candidates who come to your door or who participate in your local all-candidate’s debates.What does it mean to say we want to end poverty in Canada? More than an act of charity, this is a question of basic rights. Poverty forces people to make impossible choices about which of their basic needs will be met each day. Beyond just material deprivation, poverty seeds social exclusion that undermines people’s sense of dignity and self-determination. And as a country, Canada has signed several international human rights treaties, including the International Covenant on Economic Social, Cultural Rights, that guarantee these rights to all people in Canada. But whether you understand international human rights law or not, a lack of access to food, shelter or clean drinking water in a country as wealthy as Canada is shameful
The results of Canada’s federal election point to a deeply divided electorate, but some observers are hopeful that a minority government may force Canadians and the federal parties to work together in a spirit of co-operation.

“I agree with some of the commentary from election night that what we will be seeing is that the parties are going to be forced to work together and there will be a need for more dialogue and more public involvement in making decisions,” said Natalie Appleyard, a socio-economic policy analyst with Citizens for Public Justice (CPJ).

Citizens for Public Justice (CPJ) staff and their families joined the Ottawa march, while CPJ members turned out at events in Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, Winnipeg, Toronto, Waterloo and Halifax. It was a momentous occasion that offered a welcome sense of togetherness, suggesting that many believe in an alternative way forward, and we can have hope for the future. CPJ believes that every Christian is called to care deeply about God’s creation, just as God cares for each and every one of us. We have a responsibility, first and foremost, to demonstrate our respect for life and our love for the Earth. If human activities cause the warming of the planet, which in turn drives species towards extinction, intensifies natural disasters, harms human health and threatens the well-being of our children and grandchildren, then it inevitably becomes an issue of life and love.A group of people gathered at Parliament Hill on Oct. 17 to deliver a message to all political leaders in Canada that they must take the level of poverty in Canada seriously. “Over five million people in Canada live in poverty and one in eight families (in Canada) struggle to put food on the table,” according to Chew on This!, a non-partisan cross-country campaign co-ordinated by Dignity for All, which raises awareness about poverty in Canada by engaging with people on the street, in schools, at places of worship and on Parliament Hill.Joe Gunn, CPJ’s former executive director, sat down with Sebastian Gomes at Salt + Light Media to discuss the impact of churches on social justice movements in Canada and CPJ’s latest book Journeys to Justice.A minority government will make it more difficult for the Liberal Party to press its political agenda, but some, like Anne-Marie Jackson, the director of the Jesuit Forum for Social Faith and Justice, see this as an opportunity for civic society actors. “Maybe this new situation loosens and opens things up for people to engage,” she said. A similar sentiment was shared by the faith-based organization Citizens for Public Justice, which said in a statement that “minority governments bring uncertainty. But, they also provide an opportunity for citizens to have our voices heard. This minority government will need to cooperate in order to legislate. And this cooperation has the potential to make for better policy that brings us together.” Photo Credit: UN Women/FlickrForty years ago, an estimated three million Cambodian, Hmong, Laotian, Vietnamese and ethnic Chinese people fled their homes following the Indochina wars. Hundreds of thousands died. Many suffered brutal repression. Many languished in refugee camps for years. Eventually, more than 200,000 Southeast Asian refugees arrived in Canada between the late 1970s and early 1980s. It was the first time that the Canadian government applied its new program for private sponsorship of refugees — through which more than half of the Vietnamese, Cambodian and Laotian refugees who came to Canada during this period were admitted. The Mennonite Central Committee Ontario (MCC-ON) recently hosted an ecumenical commemoration of this anniversary to recognize the leadership provided by churches and their relief and development organizations. It also celebrated how this migration of Southeast Asian refugees changed Canada for the better. Those fleeing violence and repression for safety and freedom energized the Canadian churches and ecumenical organizations. In his recent book, Journeys to Justice, Joe Gunn, the former executive director of Citizen’s for Public Justice, observed, “Right up into the 20th century, Canadian immigration policy has been decidedly racist. Until the 1970s, Canada had not undertaken a large-scale sponsorship of non-European refugees.” The scale of immigration changed in the 1970s.Nearly 3.5 million Canadians are living below the poverty line, according to Statistics Canada. But Canada’s poverty line currently excludes Indigenous people living on-reserve and those living in the territories. CPJ’s Natalie Appleyard spoke to Global News about StatsCan’s forthcoming updates to Canada’s measure of poverty.Despite its small population, Canada is complicit in the climate crisis. It is the 9th largest climate polluter in the world. It has disproportionately benefited from the combustion of fossil fuels, as one of the top five producers of oil and gas. Most Canadians have benefited greatly from the wealth generated by the fossil fuel boom. The country is wealthy, and it has enough resources to adapt to climate-related stressors and to help developing countries to respond to climate change. Canada has a critical role to play in addressing the climate crisis by reducing greenhouse gas emissions. In the meantime, we must also do more to accommodate climate migrants. By clarifying existing laws and reinforcing mechanisms to resettle these migrants, Canada can live up to its reputation as a welcoming land for refugees.CPJ says more changes are needed in the way poverty is measured in Canada for a better snapshot of what is actually happening. “The most glaring shortcoming of the MBM is that these measures are unavailable for people living on reserves, in the territories or in remote communities where people experience disproportionately high rates of low income, food insecurity and core housing need,” a statement from CPJ said.Speaking on Parliament Hill on Tuesday, representatives from Indigenous, labour, social justice and other organizations said now was not the time for Canada to shy away from tackling the climate emergency. Instead, Ottawa should move forward with ending fossil fuel subsidies, strengthening carbon pricing, raising taxes on top earners and directing the windfall into retraining oil and gas workers for low-carbon-economy jobs, they said. Last year, the Trudeau government began efforts to transition workers in the coal industry in Canada, as it moves to phase out coal-fired power plants nationwide by 2030. That model could be extended to oil and gas workers, added Karri Munn-Venn, senior policy analyst at Citizens for Public Justice. The groundwork has been laid already, she said.
“There’s real lessons that now need to be expanded to oil and gas, as well,” Munn-Venn said.

New Decade, New Deal

The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) released the 2020 Alternative Federal Budget at highly volatile moment for Canada and the world. The combination of COVID-19, a global oil sell-off, and the collapse of world financial markets threatens not only public health and safety, but also the stability of our economy, which will likely be in recession by the end of the year. Now is a time to think beyond the standard fiscal fixes and bank bailouts. It is a time for social solidarity, government leadership, and expedient, non-partisan co-operation to do everything it takes to protect the public. Every year, the AFB maps out a fiscal plan to ensure public health, safety, and well-being, reduce poverty and income inequality and foster greater inclusion.Refugees detained at “immigration holding centres” operated by the Canadian Border Security Agency in Ontario, Québec and British Columbia are at great risk during the coronavirus pandemic, warn experts. Stephen Kaduuli, a refugee rights analyst with CPJ, said that detainees “feel like sitting ducks.” “There is a very high risk for infectious diseases like the highly contagious Covid-19 to spread easily,” Kaduuli added. “Social distancing is virtually impossible in a detention centre.”Karri Munn-Venn is Senior Policy Analyst at CPJ. She’s been watching the changes in practice wrought by the pandemic and the shifts in perspective it might produce. In this interview with Mitchell Beer of The Energy Mix, Karri talks about how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the climate justice movement.A coalition of Catholic and other faith-based organizations and social justice groups are joining forces in a new initiative to unify the voices demanding action to address climate change. The campaign, called “For the Love of Creation,” launched April 22, the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. It sets out several ways they hope to harness the “long history of work in ecological conservation, environmental activism and advocacy for climate justice.” The way governments in Canada have co-ordinated efforts to contain the spread of COVID-19 is an example of what can be done if governments work together, said Karri Munn-Venn, senior policy analyst for CPJ. “We have seen what our governments can do if there is political will to act quickly,” she said, adding that the next decade is “crucial” if society hopes to significantly address climate change.COVID-19 has revealed to us that a strong economy cannot protect us against an invisible virus. It has also revealed that our economy is not equally “strong” for all people. We are all bound together in our well-being as people and as a planet. COVID-19 has reminded us that we cannot wash our hands of the shared responsibility of caring for our neighbor or creation.COVID-19 has laid bare what we already knew about the precarity and inequity of our existing systems: millions were already living in poverty; climate change was already affecting northern communities’ access to food; a lack of affordable housing stock was already barring newcomers to Canada from successful economic integration; and inadequate funding and disputes between levels of government left many Indigenous communities without the healthcare they need. “As we move from crisis to recovery, CPJ’s long-standing call for the development of a resilient, diversified green economy built on the principles of equity and justice is more relevant than ever,” said CPJ’s senior policy analyst Karri Munn-Venn.The federal government’s decision to extend strict guidelines that block all but “essential” travel between the United States and Canada until at least June 21 has disappointed refugee and migrant advocates who have been calling on the federal government to ease those restrictions. “It is important that Canada continues abiding by its commitments to international humanitarian and human rights law. Sending irregular border-crossers back into the U.S. risks putting them into the custody of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency and endangers their lives,” said Stephen Kaduuli, CPJ’s refugee rights policy analyst.COVID-19 has almost completely choked off the flow of refugees to Canada, which has refugee sponsors worried about the backlog building up as they wait for travel restrictions to ease so they can start again helping new arrivals ease into jobs, apartments and communities. The sponsorship community is worried by backlogs that never did go away. “The backlogs are still there,” said Citizens for Public Justice refugee expert Stephen Kaduuli. “Although they have made some slight improvement through technology and additions to the personnel and various visa posts — some small improvement — the complaints are still there.” In a recent report on the health of the private sponsorship system, Kaduuli reveals that as of July 31, 2019, the actual wait time for a refugee sponsored through a Sponsorship Agreement Holder was well over two years (27 months). For other parts of the private sponsorship system the wait times are nearly as long — 23 months for community sponsors and 19 months for “Group of Five” sponsors.Religious and social justice groups are promising to make environmental justice initiatives the focus of a month-long celebration of creation following a plea by Pope Francis to better protect the environment, respect Indigenous communities around the globe and listen to the concerns of young people. The message by Pope Francis is being taken to heart by groups such as Citizens For Public Justice (CPJ), an Ottawa-based religious social justice organization, which in an August 2020 brief to the House of Commons standing committee on finance pre-budget consultations said “the COVID-19 pandemic has sharpened our collective focus.” “Priorities have become clearer and there is a call for change. The climate emergency — the focus of the 2019 pre-budget consultation — has not gone away. Poverty and inequality have been aggravated. At the same time, long-standing systemic racism and social exclusion have also been brought to light,” according to CPJ. “These are not new issues, but curiously, the crisis spurred by the COVID-19 pandemic may have created a fresh opportunity to take a deeper look at how we respond.”The City of Toronto’s shelter resident death statistics haven’t been updated since January — owing to decisions to delay certain “routine” reports during the COVID-19 pandemic, Toronto Public Health told PressProgress. CPJ’s socio-economic policy analyst Natalie Appleyard told PressProgress, “reporting publicly on the health outcomes and mortality rates of people experiencing poverty and homelessness is critical in understanding the impacts of our policy and spending decisions, particularly in the midst of a public health crisis.” “This information can both help us stop the spread of this novel virus and address the pre-existing crises of homelessness, poverty, and inequity in our country. The same groups of people and communities facing systemic inequity face the greatest risks to their health and livelihoods,” Appleyard said.2020 has been anything but normal. We’re in the midst of a devastating global pandemic. Pervasive, systemic racism — particularly anti-Black and anti-Indigenous — is unrelenting. And the climate crisis continues virtually unabated despite a major international economic downturn. Many are naming this moment as an unprecedented “opportunity.” But opportunity implies a choice; that we can choose to push for structural change — or not. But we don’t have a choice anymore. Change is inevitable. Normal has fallen apart, and one way or another, Canada will come out on the other side of this crisis a different country. Let’s make sure we emerge as a better country.While Canada is among the wealthiest and most economically successful countries on the planet, the residents here aren’t always as fortunate with many experiencing poverty in Canada.  According to a new report by Citizens For Public Justice, millions of Canadians are considered low income and living in poverty.
Anti-poverty groups say Canadians most vulnerable to living in poverty will fall further behind because of COVID-19 unless post-pandemic recovery efforts focus on eliminating systemic issues keeping them in a perpetual state of poverty.
According to Citizens for Public Justice’s 2020 Poverty Trends Report, released in October, “the COVID-19 pandemic has made existing problems of inequity and poverty in Canada worse.”
By Karri Munn-Venn Church greening is a great place to start to love creation better. Making changes to reduce pollutants that are harmful to human health and the environment has the added bonus of injecting money into the local economy while also saving money for the church in the longer term. As churchgoers, who travel to buildings – powered by electricity and other forms of energy – oftentimes to eat together, it is clear we have a role to play in reducing emissions. The warming of the planet is occurring at a scale that necessitates far-reaching, society- and economy-wide adjustments best achieved through regulation and incentives to transition toward a green economy. Part of our responsibility as people of faith is to engage in creation advocacy.By Natalie Appleyard For years we have repeated holiday well wishes to one another. But for all our well wishes, many today are left “out in the cold.” Youth, Indigenous Peoples, people of colour, women and queer folks, and those with disabilities face poverty, poor health and exclusion at disproportionate rates compared to the rest of the population. The burdens and barriers facing millions experiencing poverty and adversity in Canada are not merely matters of charity. They are a matter of justice. Food, shelter, and access to health services are not generous gifts. They are rights. What hope is there that all might one day enjoy peace, joy and good health?Stephen Kaduuli, CPJ’s refugee rights policy analyst, spoke to CTV News about how newcomers and migrants take on a disproportionate amount of essential work in Canada. “The COVID pandemic has really shone the light better on the conditions under which they work,” he says. “Newcomers are very resilient people. They take these jobs so they can look after the people they left back home in [places such as] Africa, Asia, Latin America. They do not come here for welfare. People do not come here to offload their problems in Canada. They come here to find a better life.”Migrant workers and other essential travellers arriving in Canada won’t be required to pay out of pocket to quarantine at hotels under new travel rules announced Friday. International travellers arriving in the country will soon have to wait for up to three days at a government-approved hotel while they wait for their COVID-19 test results. The new requirement will take effect once mandatory PCR testing is available at airports in the coming weeks. Travellers would have to be quarantined “at their own expense, which is expected to be more than $2,000,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters outside Rideau Cottage on Friday. Transport Minister Omar Alghabra’s office later clarified to iPolitics that essential travellers, such as migrant workers, will be exempt from the new requirement. Advocacy group Citizens for Public Justice said Friday that requiring refugees to pay for their hotel quarantine would put a stop to refugee resettlement. “Refugee sponsors have not budgeted, and do not have the money, to cover this extra cost,” said Stephen Kaduuli, a refugee-rights policy analyst with the group, in a statement.By Stephen Kaduuli The pandemic has profoundly disrupted refugee resettlement. Thankfully, resettled refugees whose visas were approved before March 18, 2020, have been exempt from Canadian border restrictions. Since then, however, many have been trapped in limbo due to their delayed departures. Only a limited number can be finalized for travel due to restricted capacity. What’s more, travel restrictions apply to any refugees approved after March 2020. The flow of refugee arrivals to Canada has slowed to a trickle. Yet, it is possible for Canada to both contain the virus and to continue resettling refugees. The SAH Association has called on the government to continue fulfilling Canada’s commitment to resettling refugees by providing protection to them. This means adding an exemption to the travel restrictions for all refugees regardless of their approval date. Private sponsors are ready to continue working to welcome refugees. But they need the government to work with them.By April Yeung and Ibnat Islam We at STAND Canada, a youth-led anti-genocide organization, have been hard at work with #Stand4Migrants, a campaign that includes fighting the STCA. As part of the campaign, our 30-page collaborative research report with Citizens for Public Justice and STAND USA highlights how major differences between Canadian and American systems to determine refugees creates differences in the way asylum-seekers are treated in both countries. A panel discussion raised further important questions about whom the STCA really benefits, and whether the U.S. has truly been a safe country.Since the start of the pandemic, millions of Canadians have struggled financially, and have had to rely on federal aid. CPJ’s socio-economic policy analyst, Natalie Appleyard, spoke to Global National about the idea to exempt anyone below the low-income threshold from having to repay the CERB.Ottawa has already spent $330 billion in COVID-19 relief measures but what should the Trudeau Liberals be doing in the upcoming budget to help vulnerable Canadians and businesses who are still just barely getting by? The West Block host Mercedes Stephenson puts that question to a pre-budget panel of experts: Dawn Desjardins, RBC’s deputy chief economist; Dan Kelly, president of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business; and Natalie Appleyard with Citizens for Public Justice.

In 2017, I began coordinating Give it up for the Earth!, the Lenten climate justice campaign run by Citizens for Public Justice (CPJ). This campaign combined personal actions to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and a call on our government to match and exceed these actions with policy changes.

Every year since then, I took steps to reduce my family’s carbon footprint. We dealt with plastics in the kitchen and bathroom, reduced our consumption of red meat, and continued our practice of using public transit, shopping locally, and eating in season as much as possible. The actions inspired by Give it up for the Earth! were part of a larger commitment to doing things differently to make a difference.

Alongside my personal journey, I have also joined my voice with thousands of people in Canada calling on the federal government to make policy changes that will move us further and faster towards the Paris temperature goals. Over the past four years, we’ve asked them to put a price on carbon (and they did!), to end subsidies to the fossil fuel sector, and to invest in a just, inclusive transition to a green economy, to name a few.

Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland unveiled in her first budget as finance minister a plethora of spending initiatives, many of which focused on environmental concerns that have been at the forefront of demands by groups such as For the Love of Creation, an initiative that brings together environmental and religious organizations including Catholic groups to lobby on behalf of action to address climate change. In the budget, $101 billion in new spending was earmarked for the next three years to help transition to a green economy, which religious groups and social justice organizations have been calling for in what they have labelled a “just transition.” While the many “green” aspects of the budget are being applauded by organizations such as the faith-based Citizens for Public Justice (CPJ), an Ottawa-based spokesperson for CPJ said the government could and should have gone further down that road. “Investments in clean transportation, energy efficiency, adaptation and mitigation and resilient agriculture are all key,” said CPJ senior policy analyst Karri Munn-Venn. “Unfortunately, by coupling these measures with extensive supports to the oil and gas sector it becomes clear that the federal government has yet to grasp the severity and urgency of the global climate crisis or the devastating ramifications of inadequate action.”Advocates say government support programs let too many people fall through the cracks. Natalie Appleyard, a policy analyst at the advocacy group CPJ, said one key problem is that government support programs, such as the Canada Emergency Response Benefit, leave too many people out. “Our system works well for the people it was designed for, but it’s not doing anything to improve the conditions for people who were already marginalized,” said Appleyard. “Throughout the pandemic, we’ve seen how things like the CERB have really helped people weather this storm, but the fact remains that many people who are most marginalized by our systems weren’t even eligible.”Most of those displaced by climate change will remain in their home countries or regions, but many will leave. As a temperate northern country, Canada will be seen as a haven for these climate refugees. “Climate migration is going to be a serious problem if the world does nothing,” said Stephen Kaduuli, a refugee rights policy analyst at CPJ. Canada and Alberta have reaped the tremendous benefits of fossil fuel production for decades while the long-known consequences are primarily borne by others. Many experts, including Kaduuli, argue that Canada thus has a “moral obligation” to provide safe-haven for those forced to flee their homes due to extreme weather events or unlivable conditions. But we can also expect that the ugly side of our society that targeted Syrians will reappear, given that the earliest and largest numbers of climate migrants are likely to be from places in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. “They will mostly be racialized people, so the same conditions will apply,” Kaduuli added. “There will be racism, xenophobia, calling them names.”The Ottawa-based Citizens for Public Justice said passage of Bill C-15 is important but more must be done going forward. “Getting Bill C-15 across the finish line is, in many ways, just the beginning,” said CPJ in a statement. “The work of aligning Canadian laws with the UN declaration is the next critical order of business. We will continue to follow this legislation and engage with government leaders to make sure the commitments outlined in this bill are acted upon.” Photo by festivio is licensed under CC BY-NC-SAIn Canada, as the urgency around the climate has grown, many faith communities are beginning to take more concrete political action that goes well beyond their religious convictions, says Karri Munn-Venn, senior policy analyst at Citizens for Public Justice, a Canadian organization that fights for social and environmental justice through a lens of faith.

Let’s take advantage of the unprecedented heat wave we have all been experiencing. Email your MP now to demand decisive action. The House of Commons website enables you to find the name and contact information for your MP just by entering your postal code.

The Citizens for Public Justice website provides tips on what to write and other relevant advice as well as a sample letter. If nothing changes, this past heat wave will be just the first of many we can expect in the future.“Nothing to see here, folks!” wrote Karri Munn-Venn, senior policy analyst at Citizens for Public Justice. “In a highly anticipated announcement about Canada’s new emissions reduction target, Environment and Climate Change Minister Jonathan Wilkinson said, well, nothing.”In 2016, Saganash tabled a private member’s bill in Parliament to endorse the UN declaration. It died in the Senate. Last December, building on Saganash’s efforts, the Liberal government introduced Bill C-15. In mid-June, it became law, mandating the government “to take all measures necessary to ensure the laws of Canada are consistent with” UNDRIP. Saganash was a keynote speaker in May at a conference organized by Citizens for Public JusticeBlack refugees from Africa still face barriers to integration and long processing times. (Photo: Charles Krupa/AP Photo)Between April 2019 and March 2020, 138 infants and children were held in immigration detention. A recent report by Human Rights Watch (HRW) and Amnesty International Canada found that Canada’s refugee system has been tarnished over the last decade by the incarceration of tens of thousands of individuals in immigration detention, many of them in provincial jails. Immigration detention transgresses human rights, criminalizes, grossly mistreats, and stigmatizes these families. In response, more than 160 religious organizations and leaders signed a statement coordinated by Citizens for Public Justice calling for the federal government to abolish immigration detention.“Yes, the budget needed to be rewritten. It’s time to take federal-sized responsibilities seriously.” wrote Natalie Appleyard, CPJ’s Socio-Economic Policy Analyst, and Maryo Wahba, Communications Coordinator at CPJ. “Christians in Canada would do well to reflect on what criteria we are using to evaluate government spending decisions. Otherwise, it can be difficult to contextualize spending announcements, particularly when we’re dealing in billions of dollars and deciphering partisan spin. The question is not simply how much is being spent, but how well is it being spent, and to what end.”“This would not be the crisis that it will be for folks if we had adequate social assistance rates and support for people with disabilities, if we had enough affordable housing for people, if we had pharmacare in place,” Appleyard said. “We can’t blame this affordability crisis on climate change mitigation, or even just on inflation.”

A lush forestFor the Love of Creation

For the Love of Creation’s faith-in-action campaign mobilizes people of faith across Canada to reduce household greenhouse gas emissions and demonstrate support for increased federal climate action. This campaign is modelled on the Lenten campaign Give it up for the Earth!, run by Citizens for Public Justice (CPJ) from 2017-2020. The For the Love of Creation campaign begins on February 17, 2021 (Ash Wednesday) and will run until October 4, 2021 (the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi and the end of the Season of Creation). It will also include a public witness event on April 22, Earth Day. Now is the time to register as a local organizer for this campaign! Use the form below.

How it works:

Local organizers will bring the national campaign to their communities across Canada encouraging individuals to take action. Individuals will commit to taking action to reduce their GHG emissions and/or engage in acts of solidarity with justice-seeking communities and write to federal Cabinet Ministers to call on the Government of Canada to: For the Love of Creation will provide electronic materials to local organizers on climate change and the policy asks of the campaign, personal action ideas and downloadable pledge cards, customizable online letters to Cabinet ministers, and resources to support the Earth Day public witness event. Les ressources seront aussi disponibles en français.

To get started:

  1. Register your community (church/synagogue, school, religious order, neighbourhood).
  2. Receive and review campaign materials.
  3. Animate your community:

Registration:

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.
Les ressources seront aussi disponibles en français. For the Love of Creation — A Faith-based Initiative for Climate Justice is a national initiative that brings together faith bodies and faith-based organizations in Canada under a unified banner to mobilize education, reflection, action and advocacy for climate justice. Visit fortheloveofcreation.ca to learn more.

Reflections on Canadian Christian Activism

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Journeys to Justice book coverCanadian churches have made a huge impact on key justice issues over the past 50 years on education, economics, refugee sponsorship, the environment, domestic violence, public health care, women’s rights, and the cancellation of the debts of Global South countries.

But as the years go by, has this momentum been lost?

A new book from CPJ’s Joe Gunn features interviews with ten key people who have been active in social justice struggles across Canada for many years. How did Christians from varied ecumenical backgrounds work together to help end apartheid, admit refugees from Chile and Indochina, defend Indigenous Peoples’ rights, promote economic justice, and more?

These wonderful stories from tireless labourers for justice present relevant lessons for today. Their words and experience inspire a direction and model for faith-based action for social and ecological justice today – and in the years ahead.

Current leaders of justice ministries will find guidance from these accounts, as well as inspiration from the newer generation of activists who reflect and act upon them.

Journeys to Justice features interviews with:

The book concludes with three reflections on where we go from here by David Pfrimmer, Christine Boyle, and Leah Watkiss.

Watch interview with Joe Gunn at Salt + Light Media

Joe Gunn, CPJ’s former executive director, sat down with Sebastian Gomes at Salt + Light Media to discuss the impact of churches on social justice movements in Canada and CPJ’s latest book Journeys to Justice.

Watch Now

Endorsements

“The prophet Micah reminds us of our responsibilities to do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with God. In our work to ‘do justice’ many of us experience periods of discouragement or despair. I encourage you to read and study ‘Journeys to Justice: Reflections on Canadian Christian Activism’ in order to be encouraged and reinvigorated in God’s call to work for justice. Together, we can make a difference!”

-Rev. Susan C. Johnson
National Bishop, Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada

“Activists for social justice and climate action will find new allies in this volume. If they didn’t already know the rich history of Canadian Christian activism, Joe Gunn’s compilation of this movement’s great history and closing essays from great young leaders in ministry provide an invaluable lesson. And hope for the future.”

-Elizabeth May
Leader, Green Party of Canada

“Through interviews with leaders in the Christian social justice movement in Canada, this volume both provides a valuable history of what has been accomplished, and remains to be accomplished, and introduces a new generation to the call to serve justice through theological reflection and action.”

-Rev. Canon Dr. Alyson Barnett-Cowan
President, Canadian Council of Churches

“Reading this book has given me a new appreciation for the impact that men and women of faith have had-and can have-on vital social issues in Canadian society. I encourage all Church leaders to read it and share it with others: this inspiring, challenging and encouraging text calls us all to renew our commitment to God’s Reign of justice, peace and joy here and now.”

-Mgr. Paul-André Durocher
Roman Catholic Archbishop of Gatineau
Read more endorsements Spring 2021 – Vol. 44, No. 1 Download (PDF)

Basic Income Is One Spoke in the Wheel

By Natalie Appleyard

Basic income is a powerful policy tool in changing not only people’s incomes, but our whole economic system. Advocates of basic income agree that adequate income must be provided in tandem with other rights-based policies and programs to ensure people get the supports that meet their needs.

In Review

Moving Past Climate Inaction

By Lori Neale and Karri Munn-Venn

There is deep concern about the climate crisis among churches in Canada. Weighed down with this concern, people are often lost with what to do next. Now, For the Love of Creation is providing a way for people of faith to channel their concern and take action.

Growing Black Political Participation in Canada

By Operation Black Vote Canada

Although we have witnessed political gains in Canada, there is still an under-representation of Black people elected to office and at senior decision-making tables in government. Greater political participation among Black Canadians can occur once the community is empowered with the information, tools, and resources that are accessible and tailored specifically to the Black community.

Measuring, and Ending, Poverty in the North

By Janine Harvey

Statistics Canada is developing the Northern Market Basket Measure (MBM-N) to measure poverty in the Yukon and Northwest Territories. The MBM-N needs to work with First Nations, Inuit, and Metis people. No decisions should be made for us without us at the table.

Migrant Workers are Organizing, and Winning

By Sarom Rho

Low-waged and racialized workers faced a unique crisis in 2020 due to unfair immigration rules that would lead to the deportation of tens of thousands of migrant workers. A campaign began in earnest, led by migrant student workers themselves. Within a year, we won.

Groundings: Ezrom’s Journey from Imprisonment to Empowerment

By Rev. Daniel Cho

Ezrom Mokgakala was imprisoned along with Nelson Mandela at the height of the apartheid struggle in South Africa. He shared with me his lingering doubts about his ability to fully forgive. But I was utterly convinced that he surely survived the ordeal with unparalleled moral courage, dignity, resilience, and grace.

Poverty in Canada

Every October, CPJ releases our report on poverty in Canada. It highlights the unequal effects of poverty on racialized people, single-parent families, single seniors and adults, children, persons with disabilities, and Indigenous peoples. We also report on poverty rates of provinces, territories, and communities across Canada.

Climate Justice

Earth’s average surface temperature has increased by over 0.85°C since the industrial revolution. This is concerning because although earth’s climate has always fluctuated, the rate of climate change has increased dramatically due to human activity as societies have industrialized.

Refugee Rights

CPJ’s research highlights the concerns of refugees, advocates, and sponsorship agreements holders in Canada. A Half Welcome, CPJ’s 2017 report on private sponsorship issues in Canada, highlights refugee sponsorship agreements holders’ top concerns with federal government policy.

Taxation

CPJ’s research report, “Taxes for the Common Good,” is a series of six fact sheets highlighting the positive role taxes play in a democratic society and summarizing up-to-date information on the costs and opportunities afforded by various federal tax policy options.

 

Stephen Kaduuli joined Citizens for Public Justice in April 2019 in the newly-created role of Refugee Rights Policy Analyst. He served with devotion, care, and conviction until his untimely death from COVID-19 in April 2021.

CPJ, along with Stephen’s family, wish to honour his dedication and passion for refugee rights by establishing a permanent fund to help enhance and deepen CPJ’s refugee work.

Stephen was a kind man with a gentle spirit and unmatched vocational dedication to refugee rights. He was a dedicated researcher and brought a depth of compassion, insight, and experience to CPJ’s policy research and advocacy. His heart to serve refugees and those oppressed and his devotion to fair and just policies for all newcomers was truly inspiring. CPJ was made better by having Stephen on the team. He was a tremendous blessing to all who knew him or were touched by his work

We invite Stephen’s friends, people in Canada dedicated to refugee rights, and CPJ members to contribute to a fund to support CPJ’s refugee rights work.

Donations may be made online on the form below.

You can also mail a cheque to our office at 334 MacLaren Street – Suite 200, Ottawa, ON K2P 0M6. Please make the cheque payable to “Citizens for Public Justice” with a note on the memo line indicating “Stephen’s Fund.”

In Memory of Stephen Kaduuli

Stephen Kaduuli

Stephen was an invaluable member of our CPJ family. As our first full-time Refugee Rights Policy Analyst, Stephen brought a depth of compassion, insight, and expertise to cultivating our policy research and advocacy.

Stephen leveraged his background as a social worker and demographer to bring together a passion for data and for people, grounded in his experiences working with displaced persons in his home country of Uganda. He was passionate in his commitment to justice. He built strong collaborative networks, where he will be missed greatly.

Here at CPJ, we will miss his broad smile and deep chuckle. We will miss going out for shawarma together. We will miss the understated and thoughtful way in which he shared his perspectives.

We invite you to share your condolences and remembrances of Stephen in our guest book below. These will also be shared with Stephen’s family.

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Ntwatwa Dickson

Uganda

Posted onSaturday, May 22, 2021

May your soul rest in our hearts and live forever

Maxine Both

Montreal, Quebec

Posted onMonday, May 17, 2021

I only recently learned of Stephen's passing and I was very sad and shocked to hear this news. I interviewed Stephen last spring as part of my Master's thesis research, and he immediately brought forth such a joy and passion for his work and a deep caring for those around him. He exemplified the ability of Canadians to create a welcoming home for others, irrespective of immigration status. I know he is leaving a legacy which I hope others can draw inspiration from.

I am certain he will be remembered for his inspiring activism, open heart, and thoughtful written analysis. My sincerest condolences to his loved ones during this difficult time.

Sarah Guinta

Hamilton

Posted onMonday, May 17, 2021

I was fortunate to work with Stephen at the Diocese of Hamilton. He was a dedicated member of the Refugee Sponsorship and Resettlement team. He was such a pleasant person to be around. Someone you wanted to listen to and learn from. He used his gifts to help others and brought so much light to his community and those in his presence.
His light still shines.

Mariah Swit

Germany

Posted onMonday, May 3, 2021

Stephen was kind to description u will be missed

Joanita Nandawula

Juba, South Sudan

Posted onMonday, May 3, 2021

my sincere and heartfelt condolences to my dearest friend Stella and the rest of the family. may the good Lord comfort you on this trying moment. Dad was such a loving person. he is surely resting in heaven with the angels.

Gidudu Andrew

Uganda

Posted onSaturday, May 1, 2021

RIP Dear Stephen. You will be dearly missed. Special prayers towards your dearest family. We pray for God's comfort and strenght throught this trying time. RIP my brother in Law.

Sandra Kaduuli

Toronto, Canada

Posted onSaturday, May 1, 2021

This is a time that no words can express what is really felt by myself and family plus friends.
Daddy, was the most awesome person known and my heart feels so torn, broken and stretched but i am heavily missing him, so is Mum and my siblings.
Thank you so much CPJ staff, we greatly appreciate each and everyone of you for standing with us in this difficult time.
Daddy ,i pray for you to rest handsomely in Heaven and may your legacy live on.
Love,
Sandra

Joy Namulesa

Uganda

Posted onSaturday, May 1, 2021

It is with profound shock that I Leary of Stevens passing but I believe he is in a better place with his Lord. R I P

Mabel Fuyana

Edmonton Alberta

Posted onSaturday, May 1, 2021

To Mrs Kaduuli and the children. My name is Mabel Fuyana and I am Jane Ndungu.
Heartfelt Condolences on the untimely passing of your dear husband and father.
Thank you for sharing cherished memories of a rich and blessed life you shared with this remarkable man who was a selfless and true Servant of the Lord. May those sweet memories and love you shared with him comfort and strengthen you through Him who is the true and only Healer and Saviour Lord Jesus Christ. Rip Steve.
Mabel

Kalungi Kabuye

Kampala, Uganda

Posted onSaturday, May 1, 2021

It's really, really sad to learn about Stephen's death. He was a very jolly person, who never judged others. Always had a smile on his face. Will really miss him - Kalungi

Barbra Barasa

Toronto

Posted onSaturday, May 1, 2021

Sincere condolences to the family. My prayers are with you. May God give you the grace to battle such a difficult time. May he RIP.

Ashraf Yusuf

Uganda kampala

Posted onSaturday, May 1, 2021

Sending the family of the late hugs and love during this trying time.may the lord take you through
Thankful for his life and the course he has laid on others

Waiswa Kafuko

Kamuli

Posted onSaturday, May 1, 2021

2 Timothy 4:6-8. I have fought the good fight, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all of them also that love his appearing.

Gloria Geria

Kampala

Posted onSaturday, May 1, 2021

Stephen was a good man. It is heartbreaking to accept that he is gone! We pray for Susan, the children and all his close family members and friends. RIP.

Jane Ndungu

Toronto

Posted onFriday, April 30, 2021

I was greatly saddened to hear of Steve's sudden passing. The last 2 weeks have been rough and I cannot even begin to imagine what his family is going through. Steve was a dear friend of mine and my family's. I will remember Steve for his wit, and zest for life, always ready to celebrate/share life's milestones. He was also a dedicated public servant with a deep sense of duty, and passion for social justice. To Steve's family, I pray that the Lord continues to comfort you during this difficult time. To Steve, Rest in peace dear friend, and may your memory be a blessing to your family, friends, colleagues, and those whose lives you touched!

Karri Munn-Venn

Posted onFriday, April 30, 2021

Dear Stephen, my friend, I still can't quite believe you are gone. I am grateful for the time we had working together, and so very sad that that time was cut short. Thank you for your kindness, your conviction, and your dedication to CPJ and to refugee rights. Thanks too for your thoughtfulness and sense of humour. I wish I had known that you were a scrabble player... it would have been nice to play a round or two. To Susan, Sandra, Stella, Samantha, and Jonathan, my heart aches for you all as you navigate this sudden loss. It is my hope that you will find comfort and peace in our Creator, and in the community (from all over the world) that is standing with you now. If ever there is anything I can do, please don't hesitate to reach out. May he rest in peace and in power.

Nancy Harvey

Brantford, Ontario

Posted onTuesday, April 27, 2021

My sincere condolences on your tragic loss.
Prayers,
Nancy Harvey
Co-Chair of the Creation Matters working group of the Anglican Church of Canada

Marian Lucas-Jefferies

Public Landing

Posted onTuesday, April 27, 2021

So sorry to hear of Stephen's passing. Keeping CPJ and the family in my prayers. The Rev. Marian Lucas-Jefferies, Diocesan Environment Network, Anglican Diocese of NS & PEI.

Michelle Singh

Toronto

Posted onMonday, April 26, 2021

On behalf of Faith & the Common Good, I extend my deepest condolences to Stephen's family and his CPJ family. His commitment to refugees was inspiring. May Stephen rest in peace and power.

Ryan Weston

Toronto

Posted onMonday, April 26, 2021

I am very grateful to have come to know Stephen and to learn from his wisdom and experience. He was a gracious and generous man, and he will be greatly missed.

Jacqueline Romero

Posted onFriday, April 23, 2021

My deepest condolences go out to Stephen's family. Stephen was a wonderful soul and I will always remember his passion for refugee advocacy, for being a thoughtful mentor, and his warm and caring smile.

Robert Lutaaya

Milton

Posted onFriday, April 23, 2021

We will miss your insightful discussions. Till we meet again. Rest In Peace, Stephen

Latifah Madoi

United Kingdom

Posted onFriday, April 23, 2021

It is really sad,to you loss you Mr kaduli,may your soul rest in peace and strengthen your family ameen

Mariah Swit

Germany

Posted onThursday, April 22, 2021

RIP dearest Stephen, may the good lord strengthen my sister Sue ,Jonathan & the girls

Frances Deverell

Nanaimo

Posted onThursday, April 22, 2021

So sorry to hear of your loss of such an important and beloved colleague. My heart is with the CPJ community today.

CPJ believes in a well-functioning Canadian democracy that promotes public engagement. This includes reforming our electoral system to better reflect voter intentions, establishing clarity on political engagement of charities, and renewing our parliamentary process.

But democracy is more than a quick trip to the polls. After elections, democracy (and citizens with democratic values) cannot take a vacation. It’s important to engage in political activities year-round.

CPJ calls on our members and all citizens to engage in the democratic process. CPJ has long advocated for a system of proportional representation in Canada and has engaged with the electoral system and its implications for politics from the very beginning of its work. CPJ supports Fair Vote Canada in its work to achieve proportional representation in Canada.

Policy Statements

CPJ is in favour of electoral reform, working to engage the electoral system and its implications for politics from the very beginning of its work. CPJ believes that introducing proportional representation to our electoral system would make it fairer for the representation of views, respecting the reality of pluralism in Canada.

Take Action

CPJ has long advocated for a system of proportional representation in Canada. Join the call for the federal government keep its commitment to introducing a proportional representation system for Canada.

News

Keep up-to-date with the latest news and views from CPJ on democratic reform by reading the articles written by CPJ staff and citing CPJ’s work.

Poverty in Canada

Interested in getting your church engaged in anti-poverty discussions and reflections? Check out a few of CPJ’s resources to continue or initiate the conversation.

Climate Justice

Use CPJ’s resources to engage your faith community in reflection and action towards climate justice. These sermons, prayers, hymns, activities, books, and learning resources are centred on responding to God’s call to faithfully support the flourishing of creation.

Refugee Rights

Want to help your church engage with refugee issues in Canada and beyond? Use these resources to highlight current issues involving refugees today, create discussion points, engage in direct action, and gain a deepened understanding of the Biblical call to welcome the stranger.

Let Justice Flow

CPJ’s song, Let Justice Flow, was written by Doug Romanow for our 30th anniversary in 1993. You can purchase the score here.

To mark the Season of Creation and lend support to Global Climate Action Week, CPJ is hosting aa week-long national prayer chain. Prayers for Creation begins on Friday, September 20 at 12noon and will continue until 4pm on Friday, September 27, 2019. You are invited to commit to an hour of prayer for the flourishing of creation. Please use these sample tweets to let people know that you are participating in Prayers for Creation. Simply click to tweet, or copy and paste the text into your preferred social media.
During the Season of Creation, I will pray and I will talk with my neighbour about climate change and the urgent need for action. #pray4creation #seasonofcreation #climateprayers #climateaction Click to Tweet
I will learn about and get to know the people, plants, and animals that are indigenous to where I live. #pray4creation #seasonofcreation #climateprayers #climateaction Click to Tweet
I will learn about my local watershed and fibreshed. #pray4creation #seasonofcreation #climateprayers #climateaction Click to Tweet
I will introduce myself to a local farmer. #pray4creation #seasonofcreation #climateprayers #climateaction Click to Tweet
I will introduce myself to people in the city closest to where I farm. #pray4creation #seasonofcreation #climateprayers #climateaction Click to Tweet
I will talk with the political candidates in my riding. I will let them know that I want to see ambitious climate action from the next government. #pray4creation #seasonofcreation #climateprayers #climateaction Click to Tweet
I will attend my local all-candidates' debate and ask each of the candidate's how they plan to ensure that Canada meets its global climate commitments. #pray4creation #seasonofcreation #climateprayers #climateaction Click to Tweet
I will join / support / attend / or organize a climate strike on Friday, September 27, 2019 in solidarity with the world's youth. #pray4creation #seasonofcreation #climateprayers #climateaction Click to Tweet

Myth

Refugees just want to take advantage of Canadians’ generous social programs.

Fact

Refugees are forced to flee their homes, with some leaving behind good jobs. Most are eager to work but may first have to learn a new language and wait to process their work permit, this can take many months.

Myth

Refugees might pose a security risk to Canada.

Fact

Refugees flee from violence in search of safety. They go through very rigorous security checks before entering Canada.

October 5 2015; Tovarnik in Croatia. Croatian police assist refugees get into train which will go to Hungary.October 5 2015; Tovarnik in Croatia.

Myth

Refugees jump the queue over other, more deserving immigrants.

Fact

Refugees are forced to flee their homes while economic immigrants have the ability to chose where and when to move. Canada recognizes this by having completely separate programs for refugees and economic immigrants. There is no queue.

Myth

Most refugees are in Western countries.

Fact

Most of the world’s refugees are in the Global South and only a few are found in Canada and western countries. The countries dealing with the biggest flows of refugees are not western countries, but countries like Pakistan, Iran and Uganda.

Myth

There is a border crisis.

Fact

There is no border crisis – The number of refugee claimants entering Canada has risen over the past year, but Canada experienced a similar increase in 2001. Most of those crossing the border, come through one place, Roxham Road in Quebec, and declare themselves to Canadian authorities. Security checks are expedited for these claimants, ensuring those who enter in this fashion do not pose a security threat. The government has also increased the capacity of border officials and refugee adjudicators.

Myth

Canadian border crossers are illegal.

Fact

Irregular entry is not illegal – Asylum seekers have the legal right to cross the border and enter Canada to make a refugee claim. The right to make a refugee claim is protected in Canadian law which builds on it’s international obligations. The Refugee Convention stipulates that no country will return a refugee seeking asylum. Canadian law stipulates that it’s not illegal to cross a border informally, if that person presents themselves to border services without delay. Canadian border crossers are not illegal because they present themselves to border officials. Asylum seekers are crossing irregularly – between ports of entry – but that is not illegal. They are doing so because the Safe Third Country Agreement.

October 5 2015; Tovarnik in Croatia. Croatian police assist refugees get into train which will go to Hungary.October 5 2015; Tovarnik in Croatia.

Myth

Refugees take jobs from Canadians.

Fact

Refugees create jobs and expand the domestic market. Lebanese refugees who came to Nova Scotia in the ’60s and ’70s are now successful business leaders and have created wealth, jobs, and increased tax revenue.

Immigrants don’t take jobs away from Canadians but increase jobs for all by stimulating the economy. They are eager to contribute to building Canada into a prosperous country for all. In fact, as Canada’s birth rate continues to remain low and the aging labour force nears retirement, the integration of immigrants and refugees helps to maintain a stable economy.

Myth

Refugee healthcare costs are a burden for Canadians.

Fact

The cost of healthcare for refugees and refugee claimants is only a fraction of that of other Canadians. Health care costs are disproportionately for the elderly: the average age of refugees is much lower than of Canadians.

October 4, 2015; Bapska in Serbia. Photo of refugees leaving Serbia. They came to Bapska by buses and then they leaving Serbia and go to Croatia and then to Germany.   Now they are waiting for entering EU in Croatia. October 4, 2015; Bapska in Serbia.

Myth

Refugees receive more financial support than pensioners do.

Fact

Refugees do not get more financial assistance from the federal government than Canadians pensioners do. Refugees come to Canada in a variety of different ways. Privately sponsored refugees are financially supported by the sponsoring citizens and are not eligible for any social assistance. Government-sponsored refugees will receive only minimal financial support from the federal government for up to one year to meet basic food and shelter costs. Refugee claimants in Canada receive Interim Federal Health, limited legal aid and in some provinces such as Ontario, some social assistance.

Myth

Refugee claimants are abusing Canada’s generosity.

Fact

Canada has a legal obligation to provide protection to refugees and to respect their rights under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It is not a matter of generosity. Canada has a history and a strong tradition of social justice and human rights.

Myth

Canada doesn’t need more immigrants.

Fact

Canada depends on immigrants – unlike many other countries, it actively seeks out and recruits economic immigrants. Business groups estimate that if Canada were to close its doors to immigrants, our economy would shrink significantly.

Read More:

Poverty in Canada

CPJ advocates for a holistic, rights-based suite of federal policy recommendations to alleviate and eradicate poverty in Canada. Our policies are developed in consultation and collaboration with a variety of partners, including those with lived experience of poverty and other forms of expertise in poverty-related issues and human rights.

Climate Justice

CPJ’s climate justice positions are rooted in an understanding that our economy, ecology, and society are interdependent. As Canadians of faith we have a responsibility to protect the earth and care for and all of creation.

Refugee Rights

Canadians take pride in our country’s multiculturalism. To truly embrace it, we need a new approach to how we treat those who seek refuge within our borders. Public justice means enacting policies that promote refugee resettlement and supporting refugees after they arrive in Canada.

Federal Budgets

Each year, CPJ submits our recommendations for the federal budget to the House of Commons Finance Committee. Once the budget is released, we respond with analysis that outlines the impact of the budget on low-income Canadians, ecological justice, and refugee rights.

Taxation

CPJ’s public justice framework supports the notion that taxes are an important contribution to the common good. The majority (75%) of Canadians believe taxes are good because they pay for important things that contribute to a positive quality of life.

Democratic Reform

CPJ is in favour of electoral reform, working to engage the electoral system and its implications for politics from the very beginning of its work. CPJ believes that introducing proportional representation to our electoral system would make it fairer for the representation of views, respecting the reality of pluralism in Canada.

Citizens for Public Justice is excited to host Tony Campolo in Vancouver this winter. Willard Metzger, CPJ’s executive director, will join Tony for an evening exploring “Why Christians should be involved in seeking social justice.” Together, we’ll look at how churches can work towards ending poverty in Canada, seeking climate justice, and protecting refugee rights.
No event found!

MYTH

Poverty is about bad personal choices.

FACT

Poverty is a complex and multifaceted reality. It is rooted in systemic barriers, structural injustice, inequity, and social exclusion. People living in poverty often experience discrimination based on gender, racialization, disability, and other forms of exclusion that prevent full engagement in society. In addition, a weakened social policy foundation leads to rights violations, including a lack of access to safe, affordable housing, healthcare, education, secure employment, healthy food, adequate childcare, and income supports. Indigenous peoples in Canada experience high rates of poverty as part of the enduring and continued legacy of colonization, forced relocation and residential schools, and ongoing racism and intergenerational trauma. People who experience multiple barriers, such as racialized women who are single parents, racialized persons with disabilities, etc. are particularly vulnerable to deep poverty.

MYTH

Poverty is not a real problem in Canada.

FACT

Recent data show that between 3.4 million people or 9.5% of the population (according to the Market Basket Measure, 2017) and 4.6 million people or 12.7% of the population (according to the Low-Income Measure, after tax, 2017) live in poverty in Canada. Though recently declining, child poverty in Canada is still persistent (9% MBM/12.1 % LIM-AT 2017), almost 30 years after the 1989 unanimously supported Parliamentary motion to end child poverty in Canada by the year 2000. This is particularly concerning in Indigenous and racialized communities, that experience higher poverty rates, and which may not be accessing the Canada Child Benefit and other social programs.

foodiesfeed.com_fresh-carrots-at-farmers-market

MYTH

The best solution to poverty is a job.

FACT

Many people living in poverty are employed. The problem is that the jobs are precarious – they are inadequately waged and are lacking in benefits and security. Many people end up working multiple low-wage jobs that still do not cover essential costs. Others have to choose between precarious work and inadequate social assistance if they cannot find affordable childcare, housing or transit. Still others have challenges finding work that is accessible, which is a barrier to persons with disabilities. In addition, systemic barriers and discrimination mean that some are excluded from employment or cannot work in their fields.

MYTH

People living in poverty already get enough support.

FACT

A broad suite of social programs is essential to support those living in poverty. This includes income security, affordable and safe housing, access to healthcare, secure employment, food security, and affordable, high quality childcare. There have been some improvements recently with the launch of the federal poverty reduction strategy (PRS) and the national housing strategy (both recently legislated). In addition, programs like the fully indexed Canada Child Benefit, the updated Canada Workers Benefit, etc. are having an impact. However, more coordination with all levels of government, including Indigenous governments and communities, is essential to ensure that programs are adequate and responsive to immediate needs. Many regions of Canada are experiencing a housing crisis. Indigenous communities continue to face multiple crises involving access to safe housing, water, education, childcare, healthcare, jobs, etc. And social assistance and disability assistance rates across the country are shamefully inadequate.

MYTH

A charity response is sufficient to address poverty.

FACT

Charitable efforts to support people living in poverty are often very important to meeting immediate needs and also to creating a sense of community and belonging. However, charities are often not able to address the systemic roots of poverty, though many are engaged in advocacy to promote strong social policy. Food bank use has been rising in Canada since 2008, and many cannot continue to operate with increased demand. Food banks do not solve food insecurity, just as shelters do not solve homelessness. A comprehensive approach is needed to address the complexity of poverty.

6-Key Recommendations

MYTH

Poverty is too complicated to eradicate, and any effort would cost too much.

FACT

Poverty is complicated, but a comprehensive strategy that involves all levels of government, including Indigenous governments and communities can lead to its eradication. The Dignity for All campaign spent years consulting with anti-poverty, policy, and faith-based groups, as well as academics to develop a model national anti-poverty plan for Canada. The current federal poverty reduction strategy (PRS) requires additional programs, funding, more ambitious targets and timelines, and data analysis to be effective. However, it is now legislated and soon an advisory council will be in place to monitor its progress. As for the cost, poverty already costs Canada billions of dollars, due to increased healthcare needs, social breakdown costs, as well as the costs of a fragmented and inadequate policy responses. A comprehensive, adequately funded strategy can have social and economic benefits.

MYTH

Poverty does not affect me.

FACT

Everyone is affected by poverty. Millions of people in Canada struggle day after day to get by, and this has broad social, cultural, and economic ramifications. However, the important point is that every person has dignity, and our social policy must reflect this. We have a moral obligation to ensure that our society includes everyone and that no one is left to suffer on their own. We all have a role to play in ending poverty in Canada.

Read More:

Summer 2021 – Vol. 44, No. 2 Download (PDF)

Stephen’s Enduring Legacy

By Willard Metzger

For our staff, CPJ is more than a place of employment. People who work at CPJ are drawn by the faith-based platform promoting and advocating for policies that will help develop a just society for Canada. This personal investment by the CPJ family, is what makes the loss of Stephen Kaduuli, our Refugee Rights Policy Analyst hurt so much.

In Review

Continuing the Fight to Uphold Refugee Rights

By Serisha Iyar

Stephen’s work serves as a reminder and an example that we should continue to strive for the protection of refugee rights. As CPJ looks to the future of its refugee rights work, the foundation Stephen built as the first policy analyst will set the bar for the advocacy to come. CPJ will, undoubtedly, continue to honour his legacy in shaping the way we approach refugee rights advocacy and policymaking.

Lessons from First Nations Communities in Seeking Justice

By Melina Laboucan-Massimo and Chief Dana Tizya-Tramm

(This is an excerpt from a keynote conversation at CPJ’s Seeking Justice Together Conference in May 2021.)

A Canada-wide system of Early Learning and Child Care

By Laurel Rothman and Sophia Mohamed

The Federal government’s 2021 $30 billion budgetary commitment to build a Canada-wide system of early learning and child care services begins a hopeful chapter in the decades-long struggle for high quality child care.

The Real Cost of Wool

By Anna Hunter

The global textile industry is responsible for significant greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, water pollution and thousands of tonnes of textiles in landfills every year. We have become so disconnected from the source of our textiles that we seldom consider the true cost of these items.

Finding Belonging in the Margins

By Jasmine Duckworth

There are three principles we can learn from Jesus’ example if we want to participate in shifting the margins around us, to surround those struggling to belong.

Book Reviews:

 

MYTH

The climate has always been changing; what’s happening now is no different.

FACT

Climate refers to atmospheric conditions over a long period of time: years to centuries. The climate we experience results from complex chemical, physical, and biological processes that interact with complicated social and political structures. As creatures and citizens of both ecological and political societies, our impact extends to all organisms with whom we share the safe harbor of Earth’s climate. Although earth’s climate has always fluctuated, the rate of climate change has increased dramatically due to human activity as societies have industrialized. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports that Earth’s average surface temperature has increased by roughly 1°C since the industrial revolution. (In 2014, they had estimated a rise of about 0.85°C).

MYTH

Canada’s emissions are a relatively small part of global emissions, so what we do doesn’t really matter.

FACT

According to the most recent data available, Canada emits about 1.6 per cent of total global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Though a seemingly small percentage, this puts us among the world’s top ten emitters. We’re also in the global top ten for historic emissions (cumulative emissions since the industrial revolution) and emissions intensity (GHG emissions per unit of gross domestic product-GDP). When it comes to per capita emissions, however, we rank fifth in the world. In other words, Canadians produce more greenhouse gas emissions per person than just about anywhere else is the entire world.

If that weren’t bad enough, both current and historic emissions will contribute to warming for centuries to come. As both a heavy-emitter and a wealthy nation, Canada has a responsibility to play a leadership role in addressing climate change. We also have sufficient resources to invest in emission reduction and alternative energy. In doing so, has the privilege to act as a global role model.

solar-power-plant-from-above-picjumbo-com

MYTH

Carbon pricing is an ineffective tax-grab.

FACT

Based on the polluter-pays principle, carbon pricing requires that polluters to pay for damages caused to the natural environment by their activities. Carbon pricing internalizes many of the environmen-tal and societal costs related to the production and consumption of goods and services (which prices previously ignored) and adjusts overall prices to reflect the true environmental cost. William Norhaus, the 2018 Nobel Prize winner, champions the effectiveness of carbon pricing; by signalling the carbon intensity of industrial practices, goods, and services to producers and consumers, it incentivizes innovation towards less carbon-intensive choices. In Sweden, for example – the country with the world’s highest carbon price – the economy grew by 60 per cent between 1991 and 2016, while emissions were reduced by 25 per cent.

In order to effectively reduce Canadian GHG emissions, carbon pricing must be part of a larger suite of policies including – but not limited to – direct regulation of the oil and gas sectors in the short and medium term. For carbon pricing to be implemented justly, it must be done in a way that does not place further strain on low-income individuals and households. That means that a portion of carbon pricing revenues should be rebated to people with low-income to mitigate the increased cost of goods and services, while still raising awareness about the cost of consumption.

MYTH

Climate change is a conspiracy. The science of climate change is unclear.

FACT

The work of the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) represents a global scientific consensus. The most recent IPCC report was produced by over 90 climate scientists from 40 countries and consolidates more than 6,000 scientific references. NASA also reports that “multiple studies published in peer-reviewed scientific journals show that 97 per cent or more of actively publishing climate scientists agree [that] climate-warming trends over the past century are extremely likely due to human activities.”

8-Working as an International Community

MYTH

Canada’s economy cannot survive without a thriving fossil fuel sector. Workers need oil and gas jobs in order to support their families.

FACT

Canada’s resource-based and carbon-intensive economy has historically experienced cycles of boom and bust as global economic conditions shift and commodity prices rise and fall. The move towards a low-carbon economy offers a tremendous opportunity to rebuild towards a more robust, more sustainable, and healthier future. Despite challenges in the short-term, climate action has the potential to create more diverse well-paying jobs and assist in moving away from the devastating boom and bust pattern.

Studies by the United Nations Industrial Development Organization and the International Labour Organization show that dollar-for-dollar, investing in renewables and energy efficiency creates more jobs than conventional energy projects. A shift to clean technology development promises tremendous economic and health benefits to Canadians. Research by the Conference Board of Canada highlights Canada’s “competitive edge” in wind and solar power, energy efficient turbines, and waste management. The United Nations Environment Program also predicts that “green trade” internationally will grow to at least $2 trillion (U.S.) by 2020.

So, while workers do need good jobs to support their families, these need not necessarily be oil and gas jobs.

MYTH

If everyone does their part to reduce personal and household emissions, we’ll be fine.

FACT

Personal, household, and church greening is important to be sure. It reduces carbon emissions and other pollution, lessening the impacts of our lifestyles. Greening also sends market signals to the business community that citizens want sustainably produced goods and services. Similarly, it supports environmentally conscious businesses, providing living models of ecologically sensitive economic development. Finally – and most importantly – individual actions to reduce emissions create psychological changes in how we see our relationship with the Earth and prepare us for the deep social and economic changes that we urgently need to take.

Given the scale of the problem, however, we need a system-level, policy-driven response. In other words, in order to stay within the scientifically determined global temperature limits, government action is imperative.

MYTH

Larger countries like China and India aren’t taking action, so anything Canada does is irrelevant.

FACT

Yes, China leads the world in GHG emissions. It consumes more coal than any other country in the world. At the same time, it is a world leader in solar energy manufacturing and installations (second only to Germany). According to Climate Action Tracker, “China is implementing an emissions trading system, with first trades expected in 2020, and has also announced a mandatory renewable energy certificate scheme that sets targets for renewable energy for each province individually.” The market share of electric vehicles in China is expected to hit 12 per cent in 2020 (up from 4.2 per cent in 2018), compared to less than one per cent in Canada. Mid-2020, China will also have among “the most stringent emissions standards in the world.”

And India? India is among just a handful of countries around the world that have climate and energy policies that are compatible with the Paris temperature targets of 1.5 – 2 C of warming! Investments in renewable energy have now surpassed investments in fossil fuels, putting India on the leading edge of renewable energy. They are also on track to hit targets for non-fossil power years ahead of schedule. Unfortunately, coal remains heavily subsidized and though the coal tax has been doubled three times since 2010, it still sits at a meagre US$3.2 per tonne.

The individual strengths and weaknesses of these highly populated countries must also be contextualized historically. Because of our historically high emissions, Canada now owes a debt to the rest of the world. Neither China, nor India, to say nothing of the majority of the Global South carry such a debt.

Finally, given that we share one planet, and one atmosphere, holding out and waiting for others to lead only serves to aggravate the crisis we collectively face.

953

MYTH

If global warming were real, it wouldn’t still be so cold.

FACT

The weather, as we experience it in our day-to-day living, is the condition of the atmosphere over a short period of time (illustrated by the small grey circles on the graph below). By contrast, the climate is the average weather of a place over many years (illustrated by the solid black line).

One of the characteristics of climate change is more extreme weather events – floods, fires, storms – that are often related to both extreme heat and extreme cold. The key is how temperatures (and the weather more broadly) fluctuate over time. In this regard, the average is undoubtedly on the rise.

MYTH

Climate change is a future problem that will only impact far away places.

FACT

Climate change is happening here, and it is happening now. The April 2019 report, “Canada’s Changing Climate” identified a striking range of impacts already being experienced in Canada – particularly in the far north and along coastal regions. Namely, , more snow and rain in winter, glacial melt, flood risks, and seasonal shifts. It is also clear that no part of the country is immune to climate impacts. A warmer climate will “increase the severity of heatwaves and contribute to increased drought and wildfire risks.” At the same time “more intense rainfalls will increase urban flood risks.”

MYTH

Climate change is a partisan issue.

FACT

Neither Elections Canada, nor the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) define climate science as a partisan issue.

According to the CRA, “A charity may carry out [public policy dialogue and development activities] that support or oppose a law, policy, or decision of government that a political party or candidate also supports or opposes. A charity can do this at any time, inside or outside of an election period, as long as in doing so the charity does not refer to or otherwise identify the political party or candidate.”

Under the Elections Act, Elections Canada, regulates both “partisan advertising”, and “issue-based election advertising.” Partisan advertising is explicitly aimed at promoting or opposing a party or candidate; issue-based advertising refers to “the transmission of a message to the public during an election period that takes a position on an issue with which a candidate or registered party is associated, without identifying the candidate or party in any way.”

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As Canadians, we are part of the problem of climate change. As people of faith, we can be part of the solution. God calls us to love and care for all the Earth. To respond to the human and ecological devastation of climate change with love and justice.

CPJ is an active member of For the Love of Creation: a faith-based climate justice initiative that unites 35 national churches, Catholic religious orders, and faith-based organizations under a single banner.

The FLC faith-in-action campaign (that was set to run until October 4, 2021) has been put on hold due to the September 20 federal election. Nevertheless, we encourage everyone to take action to reduce GHG emissions, engage in acts of solidarity with justice-seeking communities, and participate in the critical dialogue about Canada’s role in addressing climate change. Educational events are being planned over the coming weeks and we are also looking forward to the United Nations Climate Change conference (COP26) taking plan in November.

If you would like to engage more deeply in the process, please consider applying to be a member of the COP 26 Virtual Ecumenical Delegation.

 

Take Action!

3 steps you can take towards climate justice:

  1. Register as an organizer for For the Love of Creation’s faith-in-action campaign, and bring the national campaign to your faith community and encourage individuals to take action..
  2. Reduce your GHG emissions using 9 ideas from CPJ as well as Greening Sacred Spaces and the Carbon Footprint calculator.
  3. CPJ has set up a online action in partnership with the CRC’s Centre for Public Dialogue. Urge your MP to support increased climate ambition and clean energy policies! As an expression of love for God’s awesome creation, tell your MP that you, as a person of faith, want meaningful climate action – consistent with the principles of the Paris Agreement – to reduce GHG emissions and address climate change.

Creating a Better, More Just Canada

Dignity. Everyone living in Canada should have confidence that their human rights are respected and that they can live their life with dignity. Children must have the freedom to enjoy all the opportunities of a safe, healthy childhood with access to culturally appropriate education, health care, and homes. No child should have to wonder whether they’ll have food to eat, a safe place to sleep, or whether their feelings, thoughts, and dreams matter. As they grow to be adults, they must have opportunities that build confidence to face the challenges of life, knowing that they won’t be refused service or turned away from a job, an apartment, or any public space, based on socio-economic status, race (including Indigeneity), gender, immigration status, sexual orientation, or (dis)ability. Everyone, young and old, should feel they are part of a community, take pride in their accomplishments, and know that they are valued as a person.

At the heart of ending poverty in Canada is upholding this inherent value, rights, and dignity of every person-each created in the image of God-regardless of their social position or how much they “contribute” to the economy. To date, Canada has committed to reducing poverty by 50 per cent (compared to 2015) by 2030, but the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) call on governments to “end poverty in all its forms everywhere.” Poverty is itself created and sustained by systems that deny the rights and dignity of people and communities; in order to build a new future, we need new systems.

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Social Inclusion. Black, Indigenous and people of colour are equal members of society. They, along with women, newcomers, members of the 2SLGBTQQIA+ community, youth and the elderly, and people living with disabilities, should have the same opportunities and enjoy the same rights and well-being as White, cis-gendered, straight, working-aged, able-bodied folks. Systemic barriers, prejudice, and racism must become a thing of the past. It is essential that communities, workplaces, social institutions, and governments honour the diversity and contributions of all members of Canadian society and uphold their socio-economic and cultural rights. 

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Ottawa sunset over river with historical architecture.

Equity.  Canada is a country with great wealth and resources. Our federal policies, programs, and tax system must work in tandem to ensure a more equitable distribution of wealth and well-being among people in Canada. Critical investments are needed for universally-accessible social  programs, affordable housing, and other infrastructure. These should be financed via progressive tax policies that contain corporate and individual accountability measures. Canadians for Tax Fairness estimates that a four per cent increase in federal tax on personal wealth over $750,000 alone would yield $1 billion annually. 

Governments, civil society, and the private sector must all cooperate in building a just future. This includes upholding minimum standards based in human rights and operating according to principles that are both environmentally and economically sustainable. 

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Democratic Participation. Confidence and participation in our electoral system are essential facets of a functioning democracy. While opportunities to engage in the democratic process abound year-round, elections serve as a unique moment to reflect and propel the changes we need to create a more just society. 

In our current “winner takes all” system, voters who cast their ballots for unsuccessful candidates or parties can often feel like their perspectives go unheard. A system of proportional representation could combat feelings of disillusionment, ensure that all voices are heard-including individuals experiencing poverty, Indigenous Peoples, and others disproportionately marginalized-and guarantee that every vote counts.

Democratic reform has the potential to reignite political engagement by better reflecting the preferences of all voters. 

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Wet'suwet'un Demonstration

Indigenous rights and reconciliation. First Nations, Inuit, and Métis people should be celebrated both as the First Peoples of this nation and as caretakers and knowledge keepers since time immemorial. It is critical that the inherent human rights and also treaty rights of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis people and communities be honoured and upheld in all laws, policies, and practices across sectors and jurisdictions. Just like Western science, Indigenous experiences and ways of knowing must also be recognized and valued throughout policy development, implementation, and evaluation. 

The well-being of Indigenous Peoples must be considered a national priority, closing the gap in health and socio-economic outcomes of Indigenous and settler populations. Specifically, this should include an end to all boil water advisories and disproportionate rates of incarceration, violence, and child apprehensions, as well as measures to ensure access to healthy, culturally appropriate food; quality education; training and employment opportunities; and affordable and appropriate housing in Indigenous communities so people aren’t forced to leave.

Indigenous Peoples must have access to traditional lands and waters, exercising the right to free, prior, and informed consent over the use of these territories. It is paramount that Indigenous nations are respected as sovereign, equal partners in the nation-to-nation relationship with the Government of Canada and that treaty rights be honoured.

Building on the passage of the “United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act” in June 2021, it is imperative that the Government of Canada follow through on its previous commitment to enact the Sustainable Development Goals 2030 Agenda, the Truth and Reconciliation Commisson’s calls to action, and the calls to justice of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.

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A Welcome Home. Newcomers to Canada must be welcomed as equals, with respect for their human rights, culture, knowledge, and experience. Detainment and separation must be replaced with supports conducive to a sense of safety and opportunities for socio-economic security, including safe and affordable housing. Reuniting families would be made a priority. 

Newcomers should have access to good, secure employment, as well as supports for those outside the workforce. Opportunities should be provided (with the necessary supports) to learn English or French. Education and professional credentials obtained internationally should be recognized and supports to bridge any gaps with Canadian certification requirements should be provided. Broader Canadian society must recognize and honour the contributions of refugees, refugee claimants, temporary foreign workers, and immigrants. Access to services and benefits should not be tied to immigration status. Everyone-but especially political leaders-would recognize the essential nature of immigration in addressing labour shortages, rebuilding the economy, and assisting in paying off our national debt. 

ASK FEDERAL CANDIDATES:

Canoeing

Climate stability. An honest response to the rapidly accelerating impacts of the global climate crisis requires governments, industry, and society at large to respond ambitiously to the scientific imperative of reducing GHG emissions and a compassionate but expedient phasing out of the fossil fuel sector. The interruption to “business as usual” of the COVID-19 pandemic has made space to consider creative, strategic alternatives aligned with a decarbonized future. 

This does not mean turning our backs on workers-quite the contrary. The way forward requires significant investment in a fulsome, just transition to a more equitable and sustainable economy: one that upholds the rights of Indigenous Peoples, integrates racialized and disabled people, AND that includes funding for skills development, retraining programs, clean infrastructure and industrial development, as well as early retirement options to guarantee the livelihoods and well-being of former fossil fuel workers. In other words, a just transition to a green economy that supports all people and all of creation. 

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Canadian climate action must also recognize our responsibility for our historic emissions and the harm that has been caused internationally. Rapid decarbonization could serve to lessen the potential of extreme weather events, but a lot of damage has already been done.

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As part of its commitment to the Sustainable Development Goals, the Government of Canada set out to: “Demonstrate leadership, at home and abroad, in shaping a sustainable and resilient future that promotes prosperity, partnership, peace, people and the planet, while ensuring that no one is left behind.” Let it be so.

A Just Canada would …

 

Join CPJ in encouraging voters and electoral candidates alike to “do everything in love” (1 Corinthians 16:14) for all people and all of creation. Together, we can join in the work of building a just Canada.

 

Download CPJ’s 2021 Election Bulletin (PDF)

Countdown to the 2021 federal election:

Day Hour Minute Second Thanks for ordering the 2019 Election Bulletin! Your order will be on its way shortly! If you made a donation to offset the costs of the election bulletin, then you will be eligible to receive a tax receipt. Receipts will be issued in February 2020.

Responding to God’s call to promote love, justice, and the flourishing of creation.

CPJ offers engaging resources that encourage faith communities to reflect and take action towards ecological justice.

If you’d like help, CPJ is available to speak in churches. We can join you in person or via Zoom – keeping things carbon neutral – to offer prayers, a workshop, or a climate justice homily.

Contact Karri Munn-Venn at karri@cpj.ca or 613-232-0275, x. 223 to make arrangements.

Please, pray and act for climate justice – and engage your faith community in the same! We hope that these materials will serve as a guide as you express gratitude for the gift of creation, pray for those impacted by climate change, and also to pray for the leaders charged with making the policies that will shape our future.


Visit CPJ’s Climate Justice Action Page for more ways to get involved!

Living Ecological Justice

Living Ecological Justice

Wondering what on earth we’re doing? Looking for an inspiring, relevant, and practical resource on ecological justice?

Living Ecological Justice: A Biblical Response to the Environmental Crisis is a faith-based learning tool for Canadian Christians trying to live out the justice mandate to care and advocate for creation. It follows on the successful Living Justice, which was praised for being both inspiring and usable.

The book is organized around three themes: Protecting What We Love, The Biblical Case for Creation Advocacy, and Towards Abundant Life for All Creation.

Creating a Just Canada

2021 Election Bulletin

When the last federal election was called in 2019, no one could have imagined the events that would define the next two years:

The strain placed on our society, economy, and ecology by the COVID-19 pandemic revealed several overlapping crises. At the same time, it demonstrated the political machinery’s capacity to respond swiftly, compassionately, and collaboratively in the face of an emergency.

Though the potential impact of a fourth wave is uncertain, a majority of Canada’s adolescent and adult population has been fully vaccinated (73.3 per cent as of August 18). Most jurisdictions in Canada are several phases into their reopening plans, and many are feeling like life is getting back to normal. 

Unfortunately, for far too many in Canada, a return to “normal” means a daily struggle to afford basic needs and have fundamental human rights respected. 

 

Download CPJ’s 2021 Election Bulletin (PDF)

(Download Printer-Friendly Version)

 

Are you looking for more ways to get involved? Visit our events page for information and registration details for our pre-election events.

Countdown to the 2021 federal election:

Day Hour Minute Second Why We Can’t Settle for a Return to “Normal” READ MORE Creating a Better, More Just Canada READ MORE

Shaping a just Canada

2019 Election Bulletin

Shaping a just Canada

2019 Election Bulletin

[social_warfare]

The 2019 federal election will present a fresh opportunity for people across Canada to shape the kind of country we want to be.

As we prepare to cast our votes, it’s essential we consider the collective interests of fellow citizens and non-citizens, as well as those beyond our nation’s borders.

Coupled with the privilege of exercising our democratic rights is a duty to care for others. At Citizens for Public Justice (CPJ), we believe this is a responsibility particularly for people of faith, who are called to love those around us. We view public justice as the “political dimension of loving our neighbour.”

As we engage with people across the country throughout the election period, we’ve prepared this election bulletin to help you participate in the political process in a meaningful way. We hope that in this time of increased division, voters will continue to keep in mind the common good.

Through informed and thoughtful political engagement, we will help to define the Canada of tomorrow.

Download CPJ’s 2019 Election Bulletin (PDF)

Participating in Democracy READ MORE Ensuring Climate Justice READ MORE Ending Poverty in Canada READ MORE Upholding Refugee Rights READ MORE

[social_warfare]

Poverty in Canada

Each year, on October 17, people across Canada gathered in their communities for Chew on This! an annual event to mark the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty.

Climate Justice

Engage in CPJ’s climate justice calls to action and campaigns. As an expression of love for God’s awesome creation, tell your MP that you, as a person of faith, want meaningful climate action – consistent with the principles of the Paris Agreement – to reduce GHG emissions and address climate change.

Refugee Rights

Use our advocacy resources to call for just refugee policies in Canada, including an end to the Safe Third Country Agreement between Canada and the U.S. and the removal of travel loan repayment for resettled refugees.

Democratic Reform

CPJ has long advocated for a system of proportional representation in Canada. Join the call for the federal government keep its commitment to introducing a proportional representation system for Canada.

Citizens for Public Justice

334 MacLaren Street – Suite 200
Ottawa, Ontario K2P 0M6
Unceded Algonquin Territory

Phone

613-232-0275
Toll-free: 1-800-667-8046

Email

cpj@cpj.ca

CPJ staff are available for speaking at events, workshops, and meetings of your organization, church, school, or community group. Please contact us for more information at cpj@cpj.ca, or 613-232-0275, using the extensions listed below.

For donations, contact Michael at donations@cpj.ca or 613-232-0275 ext. 230.

For media inquiries, email Maryo at media@cpj.ca.

Willard Metzger

Willard Metzger

Executive Director willard@cpj.ca
accounting@cpj.ca
613-232-0275 x224 Carlos Andres Monasterios Tan

Carlos Andres Monasterios Tan

Policy Liaison Intern carlos@cpj.ca
613-232-0275 Emilio Rodriguez

Emilio Rodriguez

Refugee and Migrant Rights Policy Analyst emilio@cpj.ca
613-232-0275 x234 Gurleen Bhatti Headshot

Gurleen Bhatti

Social Work Intern gurleen@cpj.ca
613-232-0275 Headshot of Maryo Wahba

Maryo Wahba

Communications Coordinator maryo@cpj.ca
media@cpj.ca
613-232-0275 x225 Michael Krakowiak

Michael Krakowiak

Communications and Development Specialist michael@cpj.ca
donations@cpj.ca
613-232-0275 x230 Natalie Appleyard

Natalie Appleyard

Socio-Economic Policy Analyst natalie@cpj.ca
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Rena Namago

Public Justice Intern rena@cpj.ca
613-232-0275 x229 CPJ’s fall tour will provide a non-partisan look at major issues leading up to the fall federal election. As citizens prepare to cast their votes, CPJ will equip the electorate to engage in the political process in a meaningful way, with information to better understand policy positions, proposed questions to ask federal candidates, and resources that direct voters to additional helpful tools. The fall tour will also provide an opportunity to meet CPJ’s new Executive Director, Willard Metzger, and will include participation from engaged local community members. CPJ invites all members of the public to participate in the democratic process and to join our citizens’ movement as we aim to shape a just Canada for all!
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The Intern Exchange

“The Intern Exchange” is CPJ’s inaugural podcast where our interns share opinions, stories, and policy recommendations on issues they are personally passionate about!

Episodes include discussions on intersectionality, climate justice, and refugee rights.

Hosted by Keira Kang.

Listen on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or PodBean.

Shaping a Just Canada

Listen to learn more about democratic participation, poverty eradication, climate justice and refugee rights!

Hosted by Serisha Iyar.

Listen on Apple Podcasts or Spotify.

DfA’s Poverty Policy Series

In the lead-up to Canada’s 2019 federal election, the Dignity for All (DfA) campaign sat down with experts across the country to explore a comprehensive set of policy changes.

Over a 6-session series, we tackled a comprehensive set of issues, including early childhood education care, health, income and food security, jobs and employment, and housing and homelessness.

Hosted by Michèle Biss.

Listen on Apple Podcasts.

Participating in Democracy

Democratic participation is highlighted around election time, yet the opportunity to engage in the democratic process exists year-round.

Citizens are entitled to voice their concerns and to have these concerns heard. As people of faith, we recognize that the tools of democracy allow us to care for the needs of our neighbours.

To be active and engaged citizens, we should remain informed about policy developments by staying up-to-date with news, contacting leaders in government about topics of concern, and engaging respectfully with those in our communities – especially with those who hold differing views from our own.

Along with our benefits as citizens is the responsibility to leverage our positions so that the interests of the marginalized are considered and upheld. It’s also our responsibility to make sure we are tuned-in to current events throughout the year so that we can discern fact from fiction and be informed voters come election day.

 

Ensuring a Voice for All

Healthy democracies require strong participation alongside solid representation. In our current first-past-the-post system, not all the votes that are cast are reflected in the political breakdown of elected representatives.

Although the call for electoral reform created momentum for change in the 2015 federal election, little movement has been made to strengthen the integrity of Canada’s democracy.

ASK FEDERAL CANDIDATES:

Upholding Fair and Considered Policy Making

To develop public policies, adequate time, consideration, and public consultation must be undertaken to maintain democratic integrity.

Despite this, concurrent governments have continued to pass bills with multiple policy changes, known as omnibus bills. These changes often lack the necessary consideration of public interest. Elected officials must know that voters expect better.

We need thought-out policymaking processes that implement true public dialogue.

ASK FEDERAL CANDIDATES:

3-Maintaining Trust

Maintaining Trust

Widespread misinformation in online spaces has raised concern over the integrity of democracies around the world. Thankfully, the Canadian government has taken some proactive steps to counter the threat of foreign interference and the spread of false information in the upcoming election.

Through the creation of the Security and Intelligence Threats to Elections (SITE) Task Force, the government aims to identify and respond to incidents of foreign interference in Canada’s democratic process. SITE will work to: enhance citizen preparedness, improve coordination across government departments, monitor foreign actors, and call for greater accountability from social media platforms.

Still, as at all times during the year, it’s important that voters be aware of the validity of the content they consume online in the lead-up to the 2019 federal election. While it’s not possible to prevent all sources of media manipulation, and while not all false information is malicious or intentional, people can avoid pitfalls by exercising caution in online spaces.

Some good practices when engaging online include: reading articles before sharing them, taking time to look up the websites, publications, or individuals from whom information originates, engaging with a variety of perspectives and news channels, and verifying claims against official political party platforms and public statements.

Voters should be critical of news that comes from unknown media outlets, that lacks legitimate or verified sources, as well as information that is inflammatory or that aims to elicit strong emotional responses.

Rather than dismiss or distrust news outlets outright, remember that journalism serves an essential role in the health of our democracy, and we each have a role to play in advancing media literacy.

ASK FEDERAL CANDIDATES:

Resisting Divisive Politics

Polarization is on the rise in democracies around the world. Fear of “the other,” or xenophobia, often motivates politicians and voters alike to move towards exclusionary and isolated politics.

In our current social media landscape, it’s easy to exist in echo chambers that drive people further and further away from one another.

But, as people of faith, it is imperative that we resist the urge to “other” those around us. We do not live in a world of “us” versus “them,” but rather, in a shared community on a shared planet.

The Bible implores us to love one another, which means loving those with whom we disagree just as much as we are to love those that think and vote like us.

In a climate of increased polarization, let’s reject the politics of division, fear, and name-calling, and instead recognize that respectful dialogue, even when holding opposing viewpoints, is indeed how we are called to live as people of faith.

ASK FEDERAL CANDIDATES:

#ShapingAJustCanada
2019 Election Bulletin
Democracy
Participating in Democracy
Poverty
Ending Poverty in Canada
Climate
Ensuring Climate Justice
Refugees
Upholding Refugee Rights
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Countdown to the federal election:

Day Hour Minute Second Spring 2020 – Vol. 43, No. 1 Download (PDF)

Canada Has a Moral Obligation to Accept Climate Migrants

By Stephen Kaduuli

Despite our small population, Canada has had an outsized impact on the climate crisis. Now we have a moral imperative to welcome those displaced by climate change.

In Review

What does an inclusive just transition look like?

By Keira Kang

For many, a just transition is a way forward, but some of our thinking has left out the most marginalized voices in Canadian society.

Lent and Discipleship in the Era of Climate Crisis

By Monica Tang

Personal actions matter because they help build discipline and habits. But it’s important to pair personal lifestyle changes and acts of discipleship with bold action in public life.

When Justice and Faith Meet

By Willard Metzger

Many young adults have felt the absence of justice seeking in their faith expression experience. Can we recognize the voice of Jesus in the young adult lament that is yearning for more active justice seeking within their faith expression?

A Public Justice House of Our Own

By David Pollock

The dream of our own house is now a reality thanks to so many supporters and donors who have made it all possible.

Statement of Solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en

CPJ stands in solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en First Nation hereditary chiefs and land defenders, who are being removed from their sovereign territory by the RCMP and the government of Canada.

Published books by CPJ staff and partners related to justice, faith, and Canadian public policy.

Journeys to Justice

Canadian churches have made a huge impact on key justice issues over the past 50 years on education, economics, refugee sponsorship, the environment, domestic violence, public health care, women’s rights, and the cancellation of the debts of Global South countries.

But as the years go by, has this momentum been lost?

A new book from Joe Gunn features interviews with ten key people who have been active in social justice struggles across Canada for many years. How did Christians from varied ecumenical backgrounds work together to help end apartheid, admit refugees from Chile and Indochina, defend Indigenous Peoples’ rights, promote economic justice, and more?

Living Ecological Justice

Wondering what on earth we’re doing? Looking for an inspiring, relevant, and practical resource on ecological justice?

Living Ecological Justice: A Biblical Response to the Environmental Crisis is a faith-based learning tool for Canadian Christians trying to live out the justice mandate to care and advocate for creation. It follows on the successful Living Justice, which was praised for being both inspiring and usable.

The book is organized around three themes: Protecting What We Love, The Biblical Case for Creation Advocacy, and Towards Abundant Life for All Creation.

Living Justice

Looking for a resource to discuss, reflect, and take action on poverty in your community?

Living Justice: A Gospel Response to Poverty is a book for Christian faith communities trying to live out the justice mandate to love the stranger, the widow, and the orphan, and to seek just relations within society. It is a resource for people interested in learning more about the situation of poverty in Canada, exploring the Christian call to respond, and searching for ways to engage and create change. It includes reflections, discussion questions, activities, and prayers that will provide insight into the situation of poverty in Canada, the challenges and opportunities we face as a society, and actions that we, as Christians, can take.

The Advent of Justice

The Advent of Justice was first published in 1993 to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the CJL Foundation and Citizens for Public Justice CPJ. Responding to God’s call for love, justice, and stewardship, the CJL Foundation and CPJ have been at the forefront of research and advocacy in areas such as poverty and unemployment, economics, and social justice, aboriginal rights, refugees, energy policy and the environment.

The republication of The Advent of Justice by Wipf and Stock Publishers celebrates more than 50 years of faithful witness for justice by CJL and CPJ.

To mark the Season of Creation and lend support to Global Climate Action Week, CPJ  hosted a week-long national prayer chain. Prayers for Creation began on Friday, September 20 and continued through Friday, September 27, 2019. People across Canada prayed, an hour at a time, alone and in community. Here are some of the prayers they shared: “Thank you for the invitation to join with many others in this hour of prayer for Creation. On Thursday evening, Sept. 19, I had joined an ecumenical group of people for an Akathist Prayer Service hosted by our Ukrainian Catholic Church in Saskatoon. It is a beautiful prayer of praise and thanksgiving. I spent the first 15 minutes slowly praying this prayer. Then I prayed Sr. Marlene Kelly’s prayers of intercession received from your CPJ email and other intercessory prayers found on websites. I practice centering prayer twice a day so, spent the last 15 minutes of my hour resting in the silence.” –Anonymous “My hour of prayer for climate justice and creation was from 5-6pm on Friday Sept 20th in London, ON. I spent it walking my dog in nature, on our daily trail. My faithful friends and I call the woods our church, our place of worship (amongst others) because it is like Mother Nature’s outdoor cathedral. It is an environmentally sensitive area (ESA) but already developers have encroached upon the surrounding land, tragically typical of the ongoing and insatiable onslaught of climate INjusticessecondary to ‘capitalism’ and ‘progress.’ For as long as the remainder of this forest is preserved, I can walk and pray to God about the peace, beauty and perfection of Creation (as exemplified by the woods), and express gratitude for this piece of heaven I get to ground myself in every day. I have been praying for years in these woods, especially for them to be preserved, so I have been inadvertently praying for climate justice all that time and didn’t even know it.” — kelly   “My family usually prays at 5:30 as a daily prayer, but on this day we will extend our prayer from 5:30-6:30 to pray for a better world, clean air and water for our kids. As a Muslim, it is in our scripture to take care of God’s creation which includes the very thing humans were created from which is soil.” — Halima “I’m praying for creation this September because climate change is affecting people I care about. From Puerto Rico to the Bahamas to Bangladesh, lives are being lost, people are suffering,  climate refugees are fleeing. God help us manage your gift, creation, in a way that allows the children of the world to thrive.” — SharonSummer 2020 – Vol. 43, No. 2 Download (PDF)

What COVID-19 is Teaching Us

By Willard Metzger

The future to which we return must look different from the past. Not just in defending against an infectious virus, but also in resisting a society marred with poverty and ecological devastation.

In Review

This Pandemic Discriminates by Gender and Race

By Leila Sarangi, Leila Edwards, and Natalie Appleyard

We need to better understand who is most affected by COVID-19 and who has the decision-making power. This requires an intersectional gender-based analysis.

A Continuing Welcome for Refugees

By Stephen Kaduuli

This year, on World Refugee Day, CPJ published Continuing Welcome, a progress report on the impact of refuge rights advocacy efforts since 2017.

Recovering to Net Zero Emissions

By Karri Munn-Venn

The federal government has pledged to introduce legislation for net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. As we recover from COVID-19, we must determine how that will be achieved.

Justice for Immigrant Frontline Workers

By Deborah Mebude

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the federal government should take note of the fundamental role that foreign workers, including refugees, play in our food and health care systems.

Together for the Love of Creation

By Beth Lorimer

This national-level initiative is open to all faith communities and faith-based organizations who wish to take meaningful action for climate justice in the next decade.

The Canadian Church Must Break Ties with White Supremacy

By Bernadette Arthur

Our churches have largely refused to interrogate how they have participated and been complicit in discriminatory practices that marginalize and oppress racialized members of the body of Christ.

Book Reviews:

   

Stephen Kaduuli

Stephen Kaduuli

Former CPJ’s Refugee Rights Policy Analyst

We are saddened to inform you that Stephen passed away on April 15, 2021.

CPJ, along with Stephen’s family, wish to honour his dedication and passion for refugee rights by establishing a permanent fund to help enhance and deepen CPJ’s refugee work. To make a donation, visit The Stephen Kaduuli Memorial Refugee Rights Fund.

Canada is a world leader in immigration and refugee intake. In 1986, the people of Canada were awarded the UN’s Nansen Refugee Award for their outstanding service to the cause of refugees. Canada’s private sponsorship of refugees program has been benchmarked and emulated by several countries including Australia, Germany, and the United Kingdom.

Yet there is much work to be done to ensure that refugees rights and fully respected in Canada, and around the world.

CPJ conducts policy analysis and public justice framing on a range of refugee rights issues to educate the public-especially churches-on the ever-changing landscape of refugee legislation in Canada. Through high quality research, policy monitoring, and publishing, we bring attention to the impact of legislative change on refugees and claimants, and on the groups that privately sponsor them to come to Canada.

We speak out against policies that disregard the rights and pre-migration experiences of refugees and newcomers to Canada. We also engage with parliamentarians to bring a public justice and human rights framework to the issues. CPJ communicates our analysis and framing through public presentations, writing, advocacy and workshops to audiences ranging from public officials, to the media, leaders in church and society and CPJ supporters.

With Reclaiming Protection, CPJ called for an overhaul to the Safe Third Country Agreement (STCA), a policy that allows the Canada Border Services Agency to refuse most refugee claims made at the Canada-U.S. border. By rescinding the policy, Canada can better uphold its international obligations to refugees, as well as the rights of refugees to receive due process. In 2020, we collaborated with STAND-Canada to release Slamming the Door, a report on the legal challenges to the STCA and the overall US-Canada diplomatic relations.

In April 2017, CPJ released A Half Welcome, our report on private sponsorship issues in Canada which highlights refugee sponsorship agreements holders’ top concerns with federal government policy. In 2020, CPJ published Continuing Welcome: A Progress Report on A Half Welcome. It tracked progress on these concerns and ongoing gaps in Canada’s refugee sponsorship program.

CPJ provides timely analysis and research on refugee rights. CPJ is a member of the Canadian Council for Refugees, a national umbrella organization committed to the rights and protection of refugees and other vulnerable migrants in Canada.

Research

CPJ conducts research a range of issues that explore the ever-changing landscape of refugee policy in Canada. Our research highlights the concerns of refugees, advocates, and sponsorship agreements holders in Canada.

Policy Statements

Canadians take pride in our country’s multiculturalism. To truly embrace it, we need a new approach to how we treat those who seek refuge within our borders. Public justice means enacting policies that promote refugee resettlement and supporting refugees after they arrive in Canada.

Church Resources

Want to help your church engage with refugee issues in Canada and beyond? Use these resources to highlight current issues involving refugees today, create discussion points, engage in direct action, and gain a deepened understanding of the Biblical call to welcome the stranger.

Take Action

CPJ and the Christian Reformed Centre for Public Dialogue have prepared an online action to support the recommendations in Continuing Welcome. Join us in encouraging Canada to continue deepening its commitment to welcoming refugees.

News

Keep up-to-date with the latest news and views from CPJ on refugee rights by reading the articles written by CPJ staff and citing CPJ’s work.

 

Chew on This! 2021 is now underway!

October 17 is the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty. Each year, CPJ co-leads the Chew on This! campaign, mobilizing people from across the country to call for ambitious federal action to end poverty in Canada.

With the legislation of the Poverty Reduction Act in 2019, the Government of Canada committed to a poverty reduction target of 50% of 2015 levels by the year 2030. Chew on This! organizers want to know, who are the 50% that will be included? Who are the 50% that will remain in poverty?

We can’t end poverty without ending inequity. This year, join CPJ and Chew on This! organizers across the country, calling on MPs and Senators of all political stripes to sign our pledge committing to establish specific targets and timelines to ensure our anti-poverty efforts are effective and equitable.

Learn more at ChewOnThis.ca

A biblical perspective on poverty must start with the recognition that all people are created in the image of God. Our love for God compels us to honour our neighbours’ inherent dignity and share in God’s work for justice and freedom from oppression.

In Canada, an estimated 5.9 million people live below the low-income level. Compared to other developed countries, Canada ranks 20th out of 34 OECD countries.  Canada has the tools and resources to create positive, measurable change to put us on a path to poverty eradication. Recent progress – specifically on children’s and seniors’ poverty – confirms this capacity. Current initiatives, however, don’t go far enough to address existing needs, nor have they adequately reformed our systems to address the underlying causes of poverty and inequity.

CPJ works to research, develop, and advance federal policy measures that are intersectional, holistic, and based in human rights (consistent with our belief that all are created in the image of God). To do this, we collaborate with a wide range of partners across the country, centering the voices of people with lived experience of poverty and other forms of systemic oppression. Our policy work includes recommendations on measures of poverty, income security, housing, childcare, food security, health, tax fairness, jobs and training, and more. We also advocate for meaningful consultation and accountability mechanisms to ensure that people with lived experience of poverty are engaged in the design, implementation, and monitoring of federal policies and to ensure that governments are held responsible for their actions.

CPJ co-leads Dignity for All: The campaign for a poverty-free Canada, a non-partisan initiative calling for comprehensive, cross-sector solutions to poverty based in human rights. Our annual Chew on This! campaign takes place on October 17, the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, engaging people from coast-to-coast-to coast in calling for ambitious federal action to end poverty in Canada.

CPJ is also a member the National Steering Committee of Campaign 2000 and sits on an advisory group for the Canadian Poverty Institute. We were instrumental in bringing together the Interfaith Declaration on Poverty in Canada.

In 2012, CPJ helped establish the All-Party Anti-Poverty Caucus, a group of MPs and Senators who work across party lines to develop and promote policies for a more equitable Canada.

August 2018 saw an important win for CPJ and Dignity for All when the Minister of Families, Children and Social Development launched Opportunity for All, Canada’s first federal poverty reduction strategy. However, more work is required to strengthen the strategy.

CPJ continues to call for a stronger federal strategy that includes increased funding and accountability mechanisms. We engage regularly with the federal government alongside partner organizations and individuals with lived experience of poverty to ensure that implementation is timely, informed by meaningful consultation, and moves toward the ultimate goal of poverty eradication in Canada.

Research

Every October, CPJ releases our report on poverty in Canada. It highlights the unequal effects of poverty on racialized people, single-parent families, single seniors and adults, children, persons with disabilities, and Indigenous peoples. We also report on poverty rates of provinces, territories, and communities across Canada.

Policy Statements

In a country as wealthy as ours, 5.8 million people struggle to make ends meet: to pay their rent, feed their families, and address basic needs. CPJ and the Dignity for All campaign are calling for a national plan to end poverty in Canada.

Church Resources

Interested in getting your church engaged in anti-poverty discussions and reflections? Check out a few of CPJ’s resources to continue or initiate the conversation.

Take Action

Each year, on October 17, people across Canada gathered in their communities for Chew on This! an annual event to mark the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty.

News

Keep up-to-date with the latest news and views from CPJ on poverty in Canada by reading the articles written by CPJ staff and citing CPJ’s work.

To the Honourable Steven Guilbeault, Minister of the Environment and Climate Change Our Earth is suffering. Natural systems are shifting, plant species are vulnerable, too many animals are at risk of extinction, and humans (especially in Northern communities and the Global South) are losing their lives and livelihoods to environmental degradation and disasters. Entire ecosystems, communities, and nations are struggling to survive. The global climate crisis is rooted in the same colonial systems and structures of exploitation and racism that shaped Canada’s history and continue to harm Indigenous Peoples today. To move forward in a good way, we must prioritize Indigenous autonomy, transform our economic and social structures, and create space for the voices of those who have been traditionally marginalized and continue to be particularly vulnerable to the climate crisis. During the season of Lent, I will Give it up for the Earth! by taking action to reduce my personal greenhouse gas emissions. Recognizing that honouring Indigenous rights is at the core of achieving climate justice, I am also committed to learning about and building relationships with the Indigenous communities on whose traditional territory I live, work, and play. But personal action is not enough. It is essential that Canada’s new climate plan include measures sufficient to meet and exceed our emissions reduction commitments, while also—as named in your mandate letter—promoting equity, resilience, and reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples. In recent years, the Government of Canada has taken important steps towards honouring Indigenous rights, reducing emissions, and effectively addressing the climate crisis. You have also committed to end subsidies to the fossil fuel sector by 2023. Yet we are far from achieving the Paris Agreement temperature goals. Mr. Minister, Canada needs to Give it up for the Earth! Will you follow-through on existing climate action commitments and also legislate a just transition that dismantles systems of oppression and inequality by centering Indigenous rights; promotes fairness and inclusion; and creates good, secure, green jobs? For the Love of Creation,
Name(Required)
(Consult: Native Land)
cc.: Minister Chrystia Freeland, Finance Minister Jonathan Wilkinson, Natural Resources Minister Marc Miller, Crown-Indigenous Relations My MP: (completed based on information provided above)
Give it up for the Earth! is CPJ's annual Lenten faith-in-action climate campaign. CPJ is a proud member of the faith-based climate justice initiative, For the Love of Creation (FLC). We thank FLC for their collaboration. We also extend our thanks to the members of our climate advisory committee, whose insights and experience were instrumental in shaping this campaign. All letters submitted will be delivered to Ministers Guilbeault, Freeland, Wilkinson, and Miller, as well as the signatory’s Member of Parliament.

CPJ is pleased to be part of the For the Love of Creation leadership team.

For the Love of Creation – A Faith-based Initiative for Climate Justice is a collaboration of Canadian churches and organizations coming together on a journey of reflection, dialogue, discernment, advocacy, and action on the issue of climate change.

We aim to engage people individually and in community, as congregations and organizations, all across the country in a climate conversation centred on three themes:

  1. Theological reflection. Together, we will create a space for collaborative responsive theology, exploring our relationship with the Creator and creation, and encouraging theologically grounded and relevant dialogue about climate justice and global warming.
  2. Local and congregational engagement. We will endeavour to increase dialogue and reduce polarization in the climate change conversation in Canada; to build consensus on the actions needed to build a sustainable future for all.
  3. Political advocacy. As people of faith, we will urge the government of Canada to meet and ultimately exceed our Paris climate commitments by investing in a just transition and establishing a fair and inclusive economy. Honouring the rights of Indigenous peoples and incorporating Indigenous knowledge and experience into any proposed solutions is essential to this work.

For the Love of Creation was launched on April 22, 2020, to mark the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. Read the launch statement and encourage your faith community to participate.

The biblical foundations for creation care unite spirituality with scientific, ecological, and political insights. Through a sense of wonder with creation, we are invited to seek God’s will for a flourishing ecological community. In the face of climate change, this need has never been more urgent.

Climate change is accelerating the extinction rate of plant and animal species, causing Northern glaciers to melt, and speeding up sea level rises. As a result, we are now witnessing global conflicts over natural resources, threats to agrarian and fisheries-based livelihoods, large-scale migration, poverty, and famine. Climate change also has disproportionately devastating impacts on low-income and marginalized people. 

CPJ plays a crucial role in urging the governments in Canada to adopt better climate change policy. Through research, analysis, partnerships, and government engagement, we raise awareness about the urgent need for action. We often work with church and denominational groups to help them better engage in advocacy on climate justice. CPJ provides timely political analysis that is often referenced in the media and utilized by community groups across Canada.

With this vision in mind, CPJ regularly meets with parliamentarians to provide input on climate justice policies and legislation. CPJ is a member of Climate Action Network Canada, a coalition comprised of more than 100 organizations from across the country working together to advance solutions to managing our carbon pollution through sustainable and equitable development.

In 2013, we published Living Ecological Justice: A Biblical Response to the Environmental Crisis, a learning tool and action guide for Christians in Canada. It includes reflections from Christian traditions and offers discussion questions, small-group activities and prayers for people who desire to advocate for creation.

In 2017, CPJ launched, Give it up for the Earth!, an annual Lenten faith-in-action campaign. It is centred on a postcard with a pledge to individual climate action and a call for more far-reaching national climate policy. Give it up for the Earth! signaled to the government that global citizens – especially Christians living in Canada – are committed to making lifestyle changes in order to reduce our GHG emissions and that we want our government to match and exceed these actions with policy changes that will move us further and faster towards international climate change goals.

Then to mark the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, together with Canadian churches and faith-based organizations, we launched For the Love of Creation – A Faith-based Initiative for Climate Justice on April 22, 2020. For the Love of Creation is a journey of reflection, dialogue, discernment, advocacy, and action on the issue of climate change. We are working together to build healthy, resilient communities, and a better future for all beings in Creation. CPJ is pleased to serve as part of the leadership team.

Research

Earth’s average surface temperature has increased by over 0.85°C since the industrial revolution. This is concerning because although earth’s climate has always fluctuated, the rate of climate change has increased dramatically due to human activity as societies have industrialized.

Policy Statements

CPJ’s climate justice positions are rooted in an understanding that our economy, ecology, and society are interdependent. As Canadians of faith we have a responsibility to protect the earth and care for and all of creation.

Church Resources

Use CPJ’s resources to engage your faith community in reflection and action towards climate justice. These sermons, prayers, hymns, activities, books, and learning resources are centred on responding to God’s call to faithfully support the flourishing of creation. 

Take Action

Engage in CPJ’s climate justice calls to action and campaigns. As an expression of love for God’s awesome creation, tell your MP that you, as a person of faith, want meaningful climate action – consistent with the principles of the Paris Agreement – to reduce GHG emissions and address climate change.

News

Keep up-to-date with the latest news and views from CPJ on climate justice by reading the articles written by CPJ staff and citing CPJ’s work.

Winter 2019 – Vol. 42, No. 3 Download (PDF)

A Growing Need for Unity

By Willard Metzger The recent federal election shows that Canada needs a rejuvenated sense of community, and people of faith are called to be a positive influence in encouraging a society that strengthens community.

In Review

This fall, CPJ has participated in the climate strikes, brought on several new interns and staff, and launched a new podcast!

Together, for the Common Good

By Karri Munn-Venn Canada is at a crossroads. After a divisive federal election, the climate crisis is one among many significant issues that need to be addressed. Our governments, at all levels, clearly have important roles to play. So too do we, as citizens and as people of faith.

Moving Past the Middle

By Natalie Appleyard Poverty in Canada is a crisis that needs to be prioritized. The fact that we do not see it this way betrays some of our deeply held beliefs about who is poor, why people are poor, and what (if any) are the responsibilities of governments and citizens to do something about it.

Working Together for Refugee Rights

By Stephen Kaduuli When it comes to refugee rights, we need a government that is transparent, that listens and cares, and that is cooperative with other parties.

CPJ Brings Fall Election Tour to 12 Cities Across Canada

During the 2019 federal election campaign, CPJ hosted events to discuss key issues in this facing Canada including domestic poverty, climate change, and refugee rights.

Why I March

By Keira Kang I spent the fall of 2017 in Barbados. I was there as an urban planning intern with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). It was there that I first began to understand the magnitude of climate change impacts.

We Can’t Settle for a Return to “Normal”

Before the pandemic even started, 1 in 8 households in Canada were struggling to put food on the table. 5.9 million people were estimated to be living in poverty. While data for the most recent years is limited, we know that poverty and precarity have been exacerbated by COVID-19. 

Poverty is a complex and multifaceted reality. Far from simply “falling on hard times”, millions of people living in poverty face multiple compounding systemic barriers based on their class, race or ethnicity (including Indigeneity), gender identity and sexual orientation, (dis)ability, age, family status, immigration status, and other forms of exclusion. This results in disproportionately high rates of poverty and disproportionately low levels of well-being among certain groups whose rights and interests are not prioritized or upheld by our current systems. For example, Indigenous Peoples in Canada experience disproportionately high rates of poverty as part of the enduring and continued legacy of colonization, forced relocation, and residential schools, as well as ongoing racism, violence,  and intergenerational trauma. 

Our existing laws and social policies create multiple, overlapping barriers for many people, such as kids with disabilities living in rural and remote areas, or a racialized single mom newly arrived in Canada with precarious immigration status. This challenges the narrative of Canada as a welcoming, inclusive society where all have equal opportunity to thrive, a Canada that champions human rights and equality.

Canadians also like to think of our country as a welcoming place for those fleeing war, violence, civil unrest, and persecution. Each year, millions of people leave family and friends, the lands they love, good jobs, and their material belongings in search of safety. When they finally arrive in Canada, many-especially those that enter the country at “irregular” crossings-are detained in prison-like conditions. Most refugees are eager to work when they arrive in their new home, but may first have to learn a new language and wait to process their work permit, which can take many months. Their education, professional credentials, and experience may not be recognized. They are also likely to face discrimination based on their language, ethnicity, or religion. These and other barriers to workforce entry often exacerbate the economic insecurity of refugee families. Canada must strive for real inclusion and opportunity for newcomers. We must also do our part to reduce the likelihood that people will be forced to leave their homes in the first place.

Globe (1)

Increasingly, climate change is a driver of  international migration. As of 2020, there were 82.4 million forcibly displaced people globally. Of these, 20.7 million are recognized as refugees by the United Nation Refugee Agency (UNHCR). According to the UNHCR’s 2020 Report, “In 2020 alone, disasters triggered 30.7 million new internal displacements around the globe… This is the highest figure in a decade and more than three times as much as the 9.8 million displacements triggered by conflict and violence.” The same report noted that “95 per cent of all conflict displacements in 2020 occurred in countries vulnerable or highly vulnerable to climate change.” Climate-related displacement and migration will continue to be a challenge for years to come and it is critical that Canada bases our response in human rights and acknowledges responsibility for our historic greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

According to the most recent data available, Canada emits about 1.5 per cent of total global GHG emissions. Though a seemingly small percentage, this puts us among the world’s top ten emitters. It must also be remembered that these numbers don’t capture the emissions from all of the “stuff” that we import into Canada (China holds the bag for most of that). We’re also in the global top ten for historic emissions (cumulative emissions since the industrial revolution) and emissions intensity (GHG emissions per unit of gross domestic product-GDP). In other words, we bear significant responsibility for the climate crisis. 

Now, in addition to the persistent impacts of rising temperatures in the Global South, the Arctic, and low-lying small-island states, the ravages of the global climate emergency are being more acutely felt across Canada. This summer’s “wildfire season” started early and has brought devastation across the country. The fire that destroyed the village of Lytton, BC and surrounding First Nations communities on June 30, continued to burn seven weeks later (when this bulletin was published). At the same time, thousands of people from remote Indigenous communities were being evacuated as fires also raged in northern Ontario and Manitoba.

Additionally, Indigenous homelands located in what is now Canada face continued threats from federal, provincial, and territorial government projects as well as corporate interests that continue to push for urbanization and resource extraction. This disregard of Indigenous rights to self-determination, the right to free, prior, and informed consent, and the traditional Indigenous stewardship of lands, has led to ongoing social and economic exclusion, inequity, and violence, as well as environmental degradation and land appropriation. These losses, of course, are about so much more than material belongings or personal claims of ownership.

Indigenous Peoples view nature with deep respect. Indigenous teachings are grounded in the interconnectedness of all creation. It is of paramount importance to First Nations, Inuit, and Métis people and cultures to foster, appreciate, and preserve relationships with both the animate and inanimate; but these relationships are critical to non-Indigenous people and societies, too. Honouring our interconnectedness with one another and with all creation is central to ecological and economic integrity, fostering right relations between Indigenous Peoples and Settlers, and ensuring a holistic, just recovery from the pandemic.

Citizen engagement is key to creating change and the most fundamental way to participate is through elections. Yet during Canada’s 2019 federal election, just 67 per cent of eligible voters turned up to cast their ballot. Voter turnout can be impacted by several factors, including systemic issues like the inability to get time off of work or the inaccessibility of polling stations. Still, apathy remains one of the main reasons cited for not voting.

Purple and Red Sunset

Governments and civil society alike have a  tendency to try to address challenges one issue or program at a time, each with separate mandates, jurisdictions, and budgets.   Unfortunately, this approach assumes that each challenge is distinct from the rest; it fails to acknowledge the fullness of people’s lives, the intersections of various identities and power, and the interconnectedness of our society, economy, and ecology. While more holistic measures may be more difficult or complex to develop, they also have the capacity to simultaneously address a range of issues. Energy efficient affordable housing, a basic income that supports an economy in transition, and subsidized childcare to encourage women’s workforce participation, are some examples of holistic policy approaches that address immediate needs and promote equity.

What is more, according to a recent survey by Ekos Research Associates, “Once the global pandemic is over, most Canadians say they expect the country to go through a ‘broad societal transformation,’ and believe Canada is on the cusp of ‘transformative change.'” Ekos president Frank Graves further elaborates saying that people “want the country to deal with deep, social-class and racial injustices and broad gender inequalities, which have been laid bare through the pandemic, but they also have ‘a sense of hope’ for the future. Most say Canada should be more ‘societally focused’ on health and well-being.” 

Our success will be found in working together and tackling the root causes common to these multiple crises.

The questions we propose, then, for voters are:

Download CPJ’s 2021 Election Bulletin (PDF)

Countdown to the 2021 federal election:

Day Hour Minute Second

Released annually, CPJ’s Poverty Trends reports provide readers with a review of data on poverty in Canada and the state of government action, as well as a vision for how we can move forward. Using the latest data from Statistics Canada and research reports by advocacy groups across the country, Poverty Trends provides us with a snapshot of poverty in Canada from year to year. We maintain that poverty is a violation of people’s inherent rights and dignity and that the Government of Canada has a legal and moral obligation to take action to end poverty and inequity. On November 7, CPJ released our 2022 Poverty Trends Update, building on previous reports’ exploration of how poverty is being experienced in Canada, and why we see persistent trends in who is most likely to be impacted by poverty. Our more narrative 2021 report and accompanying discussion guides explore why these inequitable trends in poverty persist, and what fundamental changes are needed to rehabilitate our socioeconomic “ecosystem” so that all people’s rights and dignity are honoured. The purpose of these reports is to encourage readers to reflect on the root causes of poverty and the ways in which the systemic oppressions embedded in our society contribute to them. We hope that through your thoughtful contemplation of these reports, you are encouraged to take action! These reports can be a useful tool for speaking to your communities or government representatives.Winter 2020 – Vol. 43, No. 3 Download (PDF)

The Pandemic Invites Us to Simplicity and Solidarity

By Karri Munn-Venn

The brokenness of our societal structures and our economic systems mean that for many this is a time of tremendous hardship, insecurity, and loss. We need to continue to come together to work to right these wrongs.

In Review

Justice for All Creation

By Dr. Kenneth Atsenhaienton Deer

Environmental degradation has coincided with the dispossession and disempowerment of Indigenous Peoples in Canada and elsewhere. We can’t turn back the clock, but we can make a better future.

When Poverty Talks, Who Listens?

By Sue Gywnn

The most successful consultations are based on an understanding that lived-experience perspectives are critical to include.

Canada Must Step Up Against the STCA

By Ibnat Islam

In 2015, Morgan was turned away at the Canadian border and sent to Clinton County Prison in central Pennsylvania. Her painful journey shows Canada’s negligence of asylum seekers’ rights.

CPJ’s New Board Chair: An Interview With Cherilyn Spraakman

By Brad Wassink

In the summer of 2020, CPJ’s Board of Directors elected Cherilyn Spraakman as its new chair. Cherilyn spoke with Brad Wassink about her new role as CPJ’s Board chair.

Finding Hope in Uncertain Times

By Meaghan Fallak

While the demands of this pandemic are great, there is a very clear role for grassroots activism in these difficult and uncertain times.

Taxes are an important contribution to the common good. They raise the revenues used to pay for democratic institutions and to provide government programs and services.

Over the past decade, significant changes have been made to Canada’s tax system, including deep cuts to tax rates. The impact of these changes is a cause for concern, as taxes are one way that we as citizens fulfill our obligation to promote justice and to respect the right of all people to live in dignity. For governments, tax policy can be used to foster justice, and tax revenue can pay for infrastructure that benefits all and promotes an equitable society. Public justice also supports a progressive distribution of taxes, and transparent and accountable decisions from governments on taxation and spending.

Taxation policy is a critical component of CPJ’s work on poverty, climate justice, and refugee rights. You can find out more about our work on social investments and income security in the Poverty section. More information about carbon pricing can be found in the Climate Justice section.

CPJ is a founding member of the Canadians for Tax Fairness, a non-partisan organization advocating for fair and progressive tax policies aimed at building a strong and sustainable economy, reducing inequalities and funding quality public services.

Research

CPJ’s research report, “Taxes for the Common Good,” is a series of six fact sheets highlighting the positive role taxes play in a democratic society and summarizing up-to-date information on the costs and opportunities afforded by various federal tax policy options.

Policy Statements

CPJ’s public justice framework supports the notion that taxes are an important contribution to the common good. The majority (75%) of Canadians believe taxes are good because they pay for important things that contribute to a positive quality of life.

Federal Budgets

Each year, CPJ submits our recommendations for the federal budget to the House of Commons Finance Committee. Once the budget is released, we respond with analysis that outlines the impact of the budget on low-income Canadians, ecological justice, and refugee rights.

News

Keep up-to-date with the latest news and views from CPJ on taxation by reading the articles written by CPJ staff and citing CPJ’s work.

Thank you for your interest in Seeking Justice: In the City, In the Church!

The more, the merrier! Tell your friends about this event.

Ensuring Climate Justice

People of faith across Canada are increasingly speaking up about the urgent need for climate action. Christians and faith leaders are recognizing that the world as we know it is changing. Many are starting to take bold steps to restore a sense of shalom in creation as an indivisible part of their faith convictions.

The range of climate change impacts for Canada’s far north and coastal regions is striking: glacial melt, flood risks, seasonal shifts, more snow and rain in winter, and hotter, dryer summers. Still, no part of the country is immune. Earlier this year, communities in several provinces and many First Nations experienced extensive flooding. An intense annual wildfire season in British Columbia is becoming the new normal. The March 2019 “Canada’s Changing Climate Report” indicated that a warmer climate will “increase the severity of heatwaves and contribute to increased drought and wildfire risks.” At the same time, “more intense rainfalls will increase urban flood risks.” Around the world, famine and natural resource wars threaten food and water security and contribute to increases in migration.

Climate change is leading to crisis, after crisis, after crisis. Those who are already socially and economically marginalized are the most vulnerable.

Climate change refers to the human-induced increase of atmospheric greenhouse gas (GHG) concentrations beyond normal levels of variation. Although earth’s climate has always fluctuated, the average surface temperature has increased dramatically – by roughly 1°C – due to human activity since the industrial revolution.

Climate change is an issue that reaches to the core of who we are as people of faith and how we are to live in God’s world. As people of faith, we are called to respect the dignity of every human being as image-bearers of God. We all have a rightful claim to live in dignity, be respected by others and have access to resources needed to live out God’s calling. We also have a duty to act justly, care for creation and work for peaceful relations within society.

This must inform the way we live, work, and play. Future generations have a right to the abundance of creation; we cannot over-consume and deny our children’s children a healthy and secure life.

Indigenous peoples, leaders from low-lying island states, and youth around the world have stressed the moral imperative of taking far-reaching action. We must move away from a model that supports the devastation of the Earth and brings hardship upon the world’s most marginalized.

In a statement at the 2018 UN climate conference in Katowice, Poland, the World Council of Churches declared, “our faiths demand that we act for the protection of the vulnerable and as caretakers of Mother Earth.”

Busting Myths About Climate Change in Canada

8-Working as an International Community

KEY RECOMMENDATIONS

Ambitious action on climate change is not optional. A complete suite of federal measures is needed to address the climate crisis and set Canada on a path towards decarbonization by 2050. Canada’s future must be built on green energy.

To start, the federal government must implement measures that will meet Canada’s emissions-reduction target. Then, it must increase national ambition to a level consistent with no more than 1.5 C over pre-industrial levels.

The urgency of the situation requires that we use all the tools available.

Estimates of Canadian subsidies vary widely, ranging from$1.5 billion to tens of billions of dollars.

Regardless of the figure, research by the office of Canada’s Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development revealed that “inefficient subsidies to the fossil fuel sector encourage wasteful consumption, undermine efforts to address climate change, and discourage investment in clean energy sources.”

2018 Nobel Prize winner, William Norhaus, highlights four objectives achieved by carbon pricing. “It sends signals to consumers about which goods and services are more carbon-intensive; it sends signals to producers about which activities are most carbon-intensive and which are less carbon-intensive; it sends signals to propel innovation to find new, affordable alternatives; and finally, pricing is the best means to convey these signals within well-functioning markets.”

“The climate crisis has already been solved. We already have the facts and solutions. All we have to do is to wake up and change.”

Central to Canada’s way forward is a just transition towards a decarbonized economy. In a just transition, the weight of change that benefits everyone is not borne disproportionately by one group of people. It includes significant investments in low-carbon energy development and energy efficiency, as well as funding for skills development and retraining for workers. As such, it reduces emissions, creates good jobs, and supports communities. A just transition in-corporates a robust Employment Insurance program to assist those who find themselves temporarily out of work. It gives protection to the most vulnerable and increases social justice for all.

Canada has taken some important initial steps with the work of the Task Force on Just Transition for Canadian Coal Power Workers and Communities. In order to meaningfully reduce Canada’s emissions, it is essential that the lessons of this work – and corresponding resources – be expanded upon and applied to the oil and gas sector.

A shift to clean technology development, promises tremendous economic and health benefits to Canadians. Research by the Conference Board of Canada highlights Canada’s “competitive edge” in wind and solar power, energy-efficient turbines, and waste management. The United Nations Environment Program predicts that “green trade” internationally will grow to at least $2-trillion (U.S.) by 2020.

Working as an International Community

In October 2018, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) signalled the scientific imperative of transformational climate action, with the release of their landmark report on the implications of allowing global temperatures to rise 1.5 C over pre-industrial levels. Their research shows that the global community has less than a decade to dramatically change course and avoid catastrophic climate consequences.

Specifically, the IPCC says, “climate-related risks to health, livelihoods, food security, water supply, human security, and economic growth are projected to increase with global warming of 1.5 C and increase further with 2 C.”

Echoing the IPCC’s clear and urgent call to action, “Canada’s Changing Climate Report” lays out, in no uncertain terms, that Canada must immediately invest in a just transition towards a decarbonized economy.

9-No planet b rally

For the Love of Creation

Policy consistency, transparency, and accountability must be brought to bear as Canada adopts an all-hands-on-deck approach to addressing this global crisis.
Our economy, ecology, and society are all wrapped up in one another. We need to take a holistic approach that respects the rights of Indigenous peoples and considers both the health of the economy, and the well-being of plants and animals in the natural environment, as well as the sustainable livelihoods, lifestyles, and health of individuals, families, communities, and future generations.

It is abundantly clear that all of us need to do things differently. We need to consider how we consume, waste and navigate our landscape. We must also acknowledge that the scale of the climate crisis requires a collective response. It is no longer a question of what needs to be done, but rather how quickly we need to do it.

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CPJ’s song, Let Justice Flow, was written by Doug Romanow for our 30th anniversary in 1993.

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Our volunteers are the glue of CPJ. Deeply committed to justice in Canada, our volunteers across the country support CPJ staff daily. We welcome you to join our work! Below you’ll find a list of volunteer positions at CPJ. If you are interested in getting more involved, fill out the form below. You can expect to hear back from a CPJ staff or board member within a week.
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Poverty in Canada. Climate Justice. Refugee Rights. These are just a few of the justice issues covered in the Catalyst. Each edition is filled with articles, reflections, and updates on social justice work happening in Ottawa and across Canada. The Catalyst is a critical resource for justice-oriented Christians looking to be informed and take action.

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Information au sujet de la campagne Arrêtes pour la planète. (en anglais)

Monsieur le premier ministre Justin Trudeau, Nous devons instamment travailler ensemble pour protéger l’humanité et assurer l’avenir de la planète.

J’Arrête pour la planète!

Give it up for the Earth! is a national faith-in-action campaign that raises awareness about climate change and mobilizes people across Canada to reduce household greenhouse gas emissions, engage in acts of solidarity, and collect signatures as a demonstration of support for increased federal government action. Give it up for the Earth! runs from March 2 to April 14, 2022.
Addressing the climate crisis in a good way prioritizes Indigenous autonomy and consideration of people who have been traditionally marginalized and are particularly vulnerable in the climate crisis. Together, through the Give it up for the Earth! campaign, we are calling on the federal government to stop subsidizing the fossil fuel sector and invest in a fair, inclusive, Indigenous-centred green economy. 

Participate Now!

Give it up for the Earth! 2022 includes three action items:

  1. Reduce personal and household greenhouse gas emissions.
  2. Commit to learning about and building relationships with the Indigenous communities on whose traditional territories we live, work, and play.
  3. Send a letter to the Minister of the Environment and Climate Change, Steven Guilbeault, urging follow-through on existing climate action commitments and calling for a legislated just transition that centres Indigenous rights; promotes fairness and inclusion; and creates good, secure, green jobs.

All of the materials you need to participate are included below (as both links and downloads).

Register your community!

If you would like to join the hundreds of churches, schools, religious orders, and ecumenical groups across Canada that are Giving it up for the Earth! this Lent, we invite you to complete the form below to register your faith community.
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Organizers are asked to publicize the campaign in their faith community, encourage dialogue about – and action to reduce – greenhouse gas emissions, and collect campaign postcards. Thank you!Summer 2019 – Vol. 42, No. 1 Download (PDF)

Christians are Called to Advocate for “The Most Vulnerable”

By Serisha Iyar

The Church has long been a defender of those who we consider to be the most vulnerable members of society. We take from scripture that these are the oppressed and persecuted, the poor and the weak, the widows and the orphans, the prisoners and the foreigners.

In Review

10 Years of Pursuing Dignity for All

By Darlene O’Leary and Laura Neidhart

It’s hard to believe, but 2019 marks the 10-year anniversary of Dignity for All, the campaign for a poverty-free Canada, a campaign co-led by CPJ and Canada Without Poverty (CWP). Dignity for All started out with a vision of ending poverty in Canada and a conviction that it was possible through a strong, comprehensive national…

Making the big shift and getting to zero

By Bruno Dobrusin

We don’t have much time. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)’s November report, we have just over a decade to take drastic action and keep global temperatures below  a  1.5 C increase. To do so, we are going to need to mobilize society and our governments.

Finding My Voice

By Willard Metzger

At the beginning of a new relationship, it can take a while to find your voice. Others can be playfully nattering back and forth, but until you have some shared experiences it can be tough to join the conversation. As the new executive director for CPJ that has been a bit of my reality.

400 Students Gave it Up For the Earth

By Taya Lavictoire and Élise Laliberté

Last year, our school La Source, in Orleans, chose a few students to do a leadership project with the theme “Beyond the Borders of my Environment”. We had to partner with an organization to solve a problem in the world. We knew we wanted to help the environment because we knew our planet is in…

A Voice for All: Why Voting Reform Matters

By Antony Hodgson

For those of us who were hoping that British Columbia would become the first jurisdiction in Canada in modern times to move away from our divisive, unfair and exclusionary way of voting, December’s electoral reform referendum loss was a bitter disappointment. Despite the fact that post-referendum polls showed that BC voters continue to hold strongly…

Working together for more than “A Half Welcome”

By Mike Hogeterp and Danielle Steenwyk-Rowan

In 2017, CPJ released the report A Half Welcome profiling some of the challenges of the refugee sponsorship system. As an advocate in the field I appreciated the report’s thoughtful illumination of well-known challenges in Canada’s sponsorship system. So we began working with CPJ staff to discuss the findings of A Half Welcome and the…

Groundings: A Shared Vision of Social Justice

By Natalie Appleyard

For much of my journey of faith, walking in the way of Christ was discussed largely on the individual level (i.e. your personal relationship with Christ). Several years ago, however, I began exploring a more communal vision of our calling and witness. I was also engaging more with social justice issues and was learning to…

Book Reviews

From the Catalyst, Winter 2018 CPJ On the Hill In July, a CPJ delegation including Karri Munn-Venn, grade six student Taya Lavictoire, CPJ board member Martha Wiebe, and the Minister of Glebe-St. James United Church Rev. Teresa Burnett-Cole, delivered over 2,500 Give it up for the Earth! postcards to an enthusiastic Catherine McKenna, Minister of the Environment and Climate Change. In September CPJ’s new public justice intern Serisha Iyar joined Deb Mebude and Mennonite Central Committee’s Ottawa’s Anna Vogt and Rebekah Sears to meet with the vice-chairs of the Citizenship and Immigration Committee NDP MP Jenny Kwan and Conservative MP Michelle Rempel to present over 1,500 petitions on refugee travel loans. These petitions will be tabled in the House in the coming weeks.Darlene O’Leary, CPJ’s socio-economic policy analyst, met with the co-chair of the All-Party Anti-Poverty Caucus and Senator Kim Pate to talk about the new Canadian Poverty Reduction Strategy. Karri Munn-Venn joined Tony Clarke to meet with NDP MP Linda Duncan to talk about a just transition to clean energy.   CPJ In the Community In August, Joe Gunn attended the 98th annual convention of the Catholic Women’s League of Canada held in Winnipeg. In September, Karri Munn-Venn attended the United Church of Canada’s Indigenous Justice and Climate Justice Consultation in Squamish, BC and spoke at the Christian Schools Canada conference in Ottawa. In October, Serisha Iyar gave a presentation on the Canada-U.S. Safe Third Country Agreement at a workshop put on by Development & Peace. Jim McIntyre represented CPJ at the Sarnia Justice Film Festival in Sarnia, ON in honour of Thea DeGroot. Joe Gunn spoke about Canada’s poverty strategy at a panel at St. Paul University. CPJ held a Dignity for All Summit, alongside Canada Without Poverty, which brought together experts in the anti-poverty movement to discuss policy solutions to end poverty in Canada following the release of the Canadian Poverty Reduction Strategy.   Poverty Trends 2018 Report CPJ released Poverty Trends 2018, our annual report on poverty in Canada, a day ahead of the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty. It reports that a staggering 5.8 million people in Canada (or 16.8%) live in poverty. The report uses several low-income indicators, including the Low-Income Measure (LIM), the Census Family Low Income Measure (CFLIM) and the Market Basket Measure (MBM). Each measure of low income provides different information on poverty using different methodologies to calculate rates of poverty. To read the report, visit: cpj.ca/poverty-trends-2018   Staff Changes CPJ is glad to welcome Serisha Iyar, our newest public justice intern, who will be working on refugee rights for one-year. As the child of refugees, Serisha has been a lifelong activist. She is a recent graduate of McGill University where she earned her Bachelor of Arts in Political Science with a minor in World Religions. CPJ is sad to say goodbye to our Executive Director Joe Gunn, who has served CPJ faithfully since 2008. Joe will be going on to work at St.Paul University.Winter 2018 – Vol. 41, No. 3 Download (PDF)

ChewOnThis2018! Bigger and more important than ever

By Darlene O’Leary

For the sixth year, CPJ and the Dignity for All campaign have marked October 17, the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, with our nation-wide Chew on This! outreach and advocacy activities. This year’s Chew on This! was our largest to date, with over 100 groups participating across the country – in every province and territory.

In Review

Irregular vs Illegal – Why Language Matters

By Serisha Iyar

The ‘immigrant story’ has long been the basis on which Canadians unite to embrace multiculturalism. This narrative presents the idea that families from across the world seek out the True North with hopes of a better future for themselves and their children, a future that is contingent on reaching safety. Yet, the means through which this story of migration becomes fulfilled is often forgotten.

Health, Dignity and Dollars: Poverty Costs Canada

By Alex Paterson

Poverty costs Canadians our health, our dignity, and our dollars. The Federal government’s newly announced National Housing Strategy and Canadian Poverty Reduction Strategy both commit Canada to reduce poverty and housing need by 50 per cent over the next one to two decades. Yet keeping the other 50 per cent of people in poverty and with inadequate housing will continue to drain our pocketbooks. When we crunch the numbers, there is a good business case to be made that being more ambitious in addressing poverty simply makes economic sense. This goes hand-in-hand with the human rights-based approach to confronting poverty.

Hopeful Citizenship in a Time of Crisis

By Karri Munn-Venn

In early October 2018, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a much-anticipated report about the implications of allowing global temperatures to rise 1.5 C over pre-industrial levels. The global community has just 12 years to dramatically change course and avoid serious climate consequences. Now, are you ready for the good news? We know what needs to be done and we have the means to make it happen.

A Decade of Justice

By Deborah Mebude

Citizens for Public Justice is grateful for the leadership of Executive Director Joe Gunn, who has served CPJ since 2008. Joe’s passion for public justice has propelled CPJ to where it is today, establishing the organization as a leader on faith and public policy in Canada. Joe will be finishing his tenure of service on February 1, 2019. He sat down with CPJ’s Communications Coordinator to reflect on the last 10 years.

Groundings: The Vulnerable Voices

By Sylvia Keesmaat

One of the astounding things about the Bible is the way that it repeatedly gives voice to those whose stories are normally ignored, the marginalized. These stories tell us who our God is, who we are called to be, and what true healing looks like.From the Catalyst, Summer 2018

Remembering Thea DeGroot

On May 16, 2018, Thea DeGroot, CPJ’s board secretary, passed away at her home in Sarnia, Ont. Thea was a long- time, active member of CPJ and will be sorely missed by all of us.

On the Hill

CPJ’s public justice intern Deborah Mebude joined MCC Ottawa’s Nicholas Pope and Lydia McGeorge of the Chris- tian Reformed Centre for Public Dialogue to meet with Liberal MP Marwan Tabbara for a conversation about refugee resettlement and wait times. Natalie Appleyard, CPJ’s socio-economic policy analyst, attended a social policy forum hosted by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development where she met with Jean-Yves Duclos, Minister of Families, Children and Social Development, to talk about the Canadian Poverty Reduction Strategy. CPJ’s executive director Joe Gunn, along with Campaign 2000, Ottawa ACORN, and Child Care Now, met with NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh and NDP MP Brigitte Sansoucy (below) for a conversation about child poverty in Canada.

In the Community

CPJ held our AGM in Toronto in May. Joe Gunn introduced a panel of contributors to his new book, Journeys to Justice, including Moira Hutchinson, Peter Noteboom, John Olthuis, Jennifer Henry, and David Pfrimmer. In April, CPJ held book launch events in Ottawa (with Tony Clarke, Bill Janzen, and John Foster), Halifax, and Antigonish, N.S. CPJ is planning more events for Journeys to Justice in western Canada for the fall. In late April, CPJ co-hosted Voices for Peace, a conference featuring keynote speakers Jim Forest and Shad (below). The conference was also sponsored by the Henri Nouwen Society, Church of the Redeemer (Anglican), and the Basilian Centre for Peace and Justice.

Refugee Advocacy Resource

In June, CPJ released “Reclaiming Protection,” a new advocacy resource on the Safe Third Country Agreement (STCA). It highlights the first-hand experiences of several refugee claimants, details how the STCA has put refugees in danger, and provides guidance on how to advocate for a just approach to refugee protection in Canada. Download “Reclaiming Protection” at cpj.ca/reclaiming-protection.

New Board Members

CPJ welcomed four new board members this spring. At our AGM in Toronto, CPJ members elected Rene Adams of Brampton, Ont., Harold Roscher of Edmonton, Alta., Cherilyn Spraakman of Newmarket, Ont., and Tiffany Talen of Redwood Meadows, Alta. to CPJ’s Board of Directors. We are excited about the contributions they will bring to our work.

Staff Changes

CPJ is excited to welcome back Darlene O’Leary as our socio-economic policy analyst. Darlene had been on leave since October 2017. We are very grateful to Natalie Appleyard who stepped into this role for eight months. We also said goodbye to Brad Wassink, CPJ’s communications coordinator, who began his parental leave this summer. Deborah Mebude will be replacing Brad for the next year.Summer 2018 – Vol. 41, No. 2 Download (PDF)

Invest in a Just Transition, Not Pipelines

By Karri Munn-Venn

On May 29, 2018, the Government of Canada bought the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project for $4.5 billion. While the federal government’s action polarized Canadians, it also emphasized the need for serious reflection on how we can move forward most constructively.

In Review

Setting a Course to End Poverty

By Natalie Appleyard

After nine years of calling for a national anti-poverty plan, we have finally been told that the government’s Canadian Poverty Reduction Strategy (CPRS) will be released this year. From May 14 to 18, Dignity for All supporters met with and called their MPs with a united message: pass legislation that will set us on a course for dignity for all!

Let’s Stop Asking Refugees to Pay for Travel

By Danielle Steenwyk-Rowaan

Most refugees arrive in Canada already indebted to the government by $3,000 to $10,000 for the costs incurred in bringing them to this land. They must begin repaying this loan within one year, when they have barely begun to regain their footing.

The Language of Love in Activism

By Amy Brierley

On the evening of May 22, 2018 a group of people gathered in a small community meeting room in the People’s Place Library in Antigonish, Nova Scotia to celebrate the launch of Journeys to Justice, and to hear reflections from Joe Gunn and several folks who, for many years, have committed their lives to a pursuit of social justice.

A Carbon Price that Reduces Poverty

By Sarah DelVillano

People living in poverty don’t always have the luxury of worrying about things like climate change. And yet, they are the ones most directly impacted. To offset rising costs, a portion of carbon pricing revenues should be passed on to low-income families in the form of a rebate.

Groundings: Three Simple Promises for Working Together

By David Burrows

Listening, including, and staying committed to one another is of great benefit in poverty elimination, and many other aspects of how people can work to effect change in our society.

Book Reviews

Journeys to Justice: Reviews

Written by Joe Gunn
Equity & Anti-Oppression Statement background illustration
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Restoring Indigenous Rights
Strengthening Justice Systems Event

Strengthening Justice Systems:

Refugee Protection for Central American Survivors of Gender-Based Violence

November 30
Carleton University, Ottawa

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Poverty Trends 2022 Update

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Interfaith call to action: Ending human rights violations in immigration detentions in Canada
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Faith | Justice | Politics

CPJ on the Hill

CPJ’s socio-economic policy analyst Natalie Appleyard, public justice intern Sarah DelVillano, and executive director Joe Gunn attended a meeting of the All-Party Anti-Poverty Caucus on Parliament Hill. Peter Milczyn, the Ontario Minister of Housing, reported on the province’s basic income pilot program. Deborah Mebude, CPJ’s public justice intern, and Joe joined our partners from the MCC Ottawa Office and the Christian Reformed Centre for Public Dialogue to talk with MPs about the issues of wait times, allocation limits, and travel loans in the privately sponsored refugee program. Together, they met with Liberal MPs Rob Oliphant and Jean Yip as well as NDP MP Jenny Kwan.

Letter on Fossil Fuel Subsidies

In December, CPJ joined partners including the International Institute for Sustainable Development, Environmental Defence, Oil Change International, Équiterre, and Climate Action Network Canada to write to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and other ministers calling on them to phase out fossil fuel subsidies.

National Housing Strategy

The Dignity for All campaign, co-led by CPJ and Canada Without Poverty, welcomed the launch of the federal government’s National Housing Strategy. While an anti-poverty plan is still necessary, the housing strategy takes several important steps toward ending poverty in Canada including recognizing housing as a fundamental right and dedicating new funding over the next ten years. Read our entire response here.

CPJ in the Community

In January, CPJ and International Justice Mission (IJM) co-hosted Jesus + Justice, a half-day conference designed to encourage and equip Christians in Ottawa to work together for justice through prayer, acts of charity, and advocacy. Mark Wollenberg of IJM gave the keynote address. Deborah and Sarah, CPJ’s public justice interns, co-led workshops on refugee rights and poverty in Canada. Deborah also spoke on a panel at the University of Ottawa as part of the student- run Conflict and Human Rights Conference in January. She presented on ecumenical organizing at a workshop on the Safe Third Country Agreement (STCA) and explained CPJ’s current advocacy efforts to encourage the government to rescind the STCA. Deborah and Joe joined the Sisters of St. Joseph of Toronto and Becoming Neighbours for two refugee advocacy training sessions. Deborah also joined staff from the Christian Reformed Centre for Public Dialogue and World Renew at a house meeting in Toronto. They met with refugee advocates to share ideas on how to discuss the issue of wait times with MPs. In February, CPJ and Joint Ecological Ministry co-hosted Flourishing of Life for All in Toronto, with Heather Eaton as the keynote speaker. Karri Munn-Venn, CPJ’s senior policy analyst, also spoke about our Give it up for the Earth! campaign.Spring 2018 – Vol. 41, No. 1 Download (PDF)

Our Journeys to Justice By Joe Gunn

Are church communities the best places to go if you want to engage in social and ecological justice? Is the prophetic desire for justice encouraged to burn in the hearts of church-goers today? Do our ecclesial structures promote animation and action towards public justice? A new book by Citizens for Public Justice, Journeys to Justice: Reflections on Canadian Christian Activism, answers these questions head on.

In Review

Canada Must End Fossil Fuel Subsidies By Karri Munn-Venn

Give it up for the Earth! – CPJ’s Lenten climate campaign – has prompted me to think seriously about my personal Lenten journey. In 2017, I decided to “give up” overpackaged goods, and, as much as possible to purchase food in bulk, using reusable jars and bins. The way we spend our money reflects what we deem important. And the same is true of government spending. That is why Give it up for the Earth! is calling on the Canadian federal government to end all subsidies to the fossil fuel industry right away.

Mobilizing Young Adults for Social Action By Monique Verhoef

Young adults often get a bad rap. If they aren’t failing to launch, they are too addicted to their “likes,” unreliable, and unengaged. Besides for a few small caveats, I couldn’t  disagree more. But young adults really care, and when given the proper space, place, and some tools, they exercise incredible levels of ingenuity and creativity to raise awareness among their peers and take action in their communities.

Living in the Gap By Natalie Appleyard

This month, CPJ and the Dignity for All campaign released Living in the Gap: A Snapshot of Precarity in Canada. This report includes six infographics highlighting households across Canada struggling to make ends meet. These profiles represent compilations of typical people’s experiences, with numbers drawn from the actual communities in which they are situated. The main message of the report is that if we are serious about ending poverty, we need more than piecemeal programs and siloed approaches.

Disenchantment for Refugees in Canada By Justine Nkurunziza

I thought you could come here as a doctor, physician, engineer, construction worker, or journalist. As an immigrant, you think you’ll be considered at the same level as your Canadian counterparts. But once you land in Canada, your dream is over because you don’t have “Canadian experience.” Canada does welcome immigrants. But they should be welcomed to Canada with all their dignity, which includes the recognition of their qualifications and various skills.

Groundings:  The Living Relationship Between the People and the Land By Mark MacDonald

Indigenous environmental wisdom is a part of a healing way forward for humanity and ecology. But to be effective it must directly connect Indigenous well-being to the wellbeing of the rest of humanity and creation. With the appreciation of Indigenous wisdom, there must be a moral and practical recognition of the living reality of Indigenous life. Canada has a potentially vital role to play in this unfolding reality.

 

Check out a few of CPJ’s resources to continue or initiate the conversation.

Living Justice Cover

Living Justice

Living Justice: A Gospel Response to Poverty was published in 2011 for Christian faith communities trying to live out the justice mandate to love the stranger, the widow, and the orphan, and to seek just relations within society. It is a resource for people interested in learning more about poverty in Canada, exploring the Christian call to respond, and searching for ways to engage and create change. It includes reflections, discussion questions, activities, and prayers that will provide insight into experiences of poverty in Canada, the challenges and opportunities we face as a society, and actions that we, as Christians, can take.

Living Justice explores poverty through theological perspectives of various Christian traditions – Anglican, Evangelical, Roman Catholic, Christian Reformed, Lutheran, Mennonite, Presbyterian, and United.

Living Justice is now available to download as a PDF.

Visit CPJ’s Poverty in Canada Take Action Page for more ways to get involved!

From the Catalyst, Winter 2017

On the Hill

CPJ staff attended the National Poverty Conference organized by Minister of Families, Children and Social Development Jean-Yves Duclos. It was an opportunity to share updates on the recent consultations for the Canadian Poverty Reduction Strategy. Natalie Appleyard, our new policy analyst, and Sarah DelVillano, one of our public justice interns, met with NDP MP Cheryl Hardcastle to discuss our Dignity for All campaign following her reference to CPJ’s Poverty Trends 2017 report in the House of Commons. During our Chew on This! event, Dignity for All was joined by Liberal MP Julie Dabrusin, NDP MP Brigitte Sansoucy, and Green Party Leader Elizabeth May. Karri Munn-Venn, CPJ’s senior policy analyst, was joined by our social work intern Josephine Adeosun to meet with Conservative MPs Ed Fast and Michael Chong as well as NDP MP Fin Donnelly for conversations about next year’s Give it up for the Earth! campaign and how Canada can best address climate change.

In the Community

In October, CPJ’s executive director, Joe Gunn, spoke on a panel during Citizens’ Climate Lobby Canada’s 2017 National Conference and Lobby Days in Ottawa. Joe also gave a talk entitled “Suddenly Doing the Impossible: Social Justice Challenges Facing Canadian Churches Today” at St. Joseph’s Parish in Hamilton. CPJ’s Karri Munn-Venn led a workshop entitled, “Climate Justice in Action” as part of an exciting day of learning and networking at the Anglican Diocese of Toronto. Joe Gunn and Deb Mebude, one of CPJ’s public justice interns, made a presentation to the Sacred Heart Fathers in Kingston, who have adopted a specific focus on refugee rights work in their communities across Canada and in the United States. Natalie Appleyard presented at a symposium hosted by the Religious Social Action Coalition of Newfoundland and Labrador in St. John’s. Her keynote address focused on poverty in Canada, the forthcoming Canadian Poverty Reduction Strategy, and suggestions for moving ahead.

Welcome to Our New Staff Members!

CPJ is very excited to have four new staff members join our team this fall (below). Natalie Appleyard is our new socio-economic policy analyst. She will lead our work on poverty in Canada, especially around the Dignity for All campaign. For the second time, CPJ has two public justice interns who will be with us for a full year. Sarah DelVillano has been working on poverty in Canada and the Dignity for All campaign, while Deb Mebude focuses on refugee rights. Meanwhile Josephine Adeosun, a social work intern from Carleton University, is assisting CPJ in our ecological justice work.Winter 2017 – Vol. 40, No. 3 Download (PDF)

Canada’s Not So Safe Agreement By Deborah Mebude

While Prime Minister Justin Trudeau began his term in office by welcoming Syrian newcomers at the Toronto Pearson Airport, Donald Trump kicked off his presidency with three executive orders pushing for expedited deportations and strengthened immigration enforcement. When it comes to immigration and refugee policy, Canada and the United States seem to be increasingly at odds.

In Review

CPJ at the UN Climate Conference By Karri Munn-Venn

Welcome! Bula! Willkommen! These were the words of greeting at the site of the UN Climate Conference (COP23) in Bonn, Germany. I was there for CPJ, to learn, to meet others in the climate justice community, and to bring a voice of Canadian Christians into the conversation. And I wanted to see firsthand how the Canadian government would frame their priorities in this international context.

Tax Reform Can Serve the Common Good By Sarah DelVillano

In July 2017, Bill Morneau announced the Liberal government’s proposed tax reform, which seeks to close tax loopholes and ensure a more progressive tax system in which all Canadians pay their fair share. Here at CPJ, we have consistently advocated for a fair taxation system that advances the common good in our society. And we are not alone. As outlined in Taxes for the Common Good: A Public Justice Primer on Taxation, 75 per cent of Canadians believe taxes are good because they pay for important social investments that can contribute to an improved quality of life. But not everyone is happy with these proposals, and they have created quite a stir among the Canadian public.

Give it up for the Earth: Lent in a Catholic High School By Leah Daly

Sometimes my adult faith journey gets stuck in a rut of routine and apathy. During these times, I find myself simply going through the motions of faith, work, and home life. Intentionality and genuine engagement slip away when apathy seeps in. The antidote for apathy and disengagement, for me, comes through my work with high school students.

Faith Groups Join Chew On This! By Brad Wassink

We are on the cusp of seeing Canada’s first national poverty reduction strategy. And faith communities have played a major role in getting us here. It’s been a long time coming. In 1989, Canada’s House of Commons unanimously voted to end child poverty by the year 2000. With 17.4 per cent of children in Canada living in poverty, clearly we failed to meet this commitment.

The Poverty of Loneliness By Courtney Reeve and Becca Sawyer

Our neighbours who are poor, Indigenous, or mentally ill, those who experience racial discrimination, members of the LGBTQ+ community, and other marginalized people are fighting to be seen, heard, and known. And the Spirit is busy calling us to lives of friendship and community building with these neighbours. We cannot ignore this epidemic of loneliness.

Groundings: We Need Refugees By Danielle Steenwyk-Rowaan

We are called to welcome the stranger, because we need them. I need them, in a deep and sometimes mysterious way. This subversive biblical teaching, along with the call to welcome because we have been welcomed, breaks down the charity mindset and the delusion of self-sufficiency.

Want to help your church engage with refugee issues in Canada and beyond? 

These tools will equip your local church community to create a more welcoming Canada.

Use these resources to highlight current issues involving refugees today, create discussion points, engage in direct action, and gain a deepened understanding of the Biblical call to welcome the stranger.

Learn what your national church is doing and saying about refugee issues

Anglican Refugee Action

Catholic Refugee Action

Christian Reformed Refugee Action

Lutheran Refugee Action

Mennonite Refugee Action

Presbyterian Refugee Action

Unitarian Refugee Action

United Church of Canada Refugee Action

Interfaith Refugee Action

World Refugee Day

Observed around the world on June 20th, World Refugee Day (WRD) marks a key moment to acknowledge the tenacity of millions of refugees around the world and bring attention to obligations of the international community to respond to pressing global needs.

World Refugee Sunday, is held annually on the two Sundays failing on either side of WRD. Churches are encouraged to share stories of refugees around the world and explore the Biblical mandate to welcome the stranger.

The Refugee Highway Partnership, has provided resources on their website to equip churches as they engage in the topic of the world’s displaced people. As well, the Canadian Foodgrains Bank has created a package designed to inform prayer and worship services.

CPJ encourages congregations to consider how World Refugee Sunday might help them corporately advocate for refugees and fulfill God’s call to love our neighbour.


Visit CPJ’s Refugee Action Page for more ways to get involved!

From the Catalyst, Summer 2017

On the Hill

CPJ has been busy on Parliament Hill this Spring. In April, we released A Half Welcome, our latest report on refugee sponsorship in Canada, and presented it to both opposition critics for Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship. Bolu Coker, our policy intern who wrote the report, and Joe Gunn met with NDP critic Jenny Kwan. Bolu also joined Mike Hogeterp (director of the Christian Reformed Centre for Public Dialogue) for a meeting with Conservative critic Michelle Rempel. CPJ staff also met with Liberal MPs Joyce Murray and Jonathan Wilkinson (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment and Climate Change), Conservative MP Dianne Watts, NDP MP Linda Duncan, and Green Party Leader Elizabeth May to talk about Canada’s climate change policies and our Give it up for the Earth! campaign. In June, we presented Catherine McKenna, Minister of the Environment and Climate Change, with the postcards from our Give it up for the Earth! campaign. Across Canada, 91 events were held in 56 communities.

Joe Gunn and Darlene O’Leary participated in a small roundtable meeting with Jean-Yves Duclos (Minister of Families, Children and Social Development) along with other major stakeholders in the anti-poverty movement. They discussed the federal government’s consultations on Canada’s first federal antipoverty plan. Over 850 Canadians used our online Dignity for All form to participate in the consultations. Darlene also joined CPJ’s partners at Canada Without Poverty to meet with Liberal MP Julie Dabrusin and NDP MPs Sheila Malcolmson and Daniel Blaikie.

Eugène de Mazenod Medal

Saint Paul University has awarded the Eugène de Mazenod Medal to CPJ’s executive director, Joe Gunn. The medal, named for the founder of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, honours individuals who have made a significant contribution to the development of human capital in their community, in their environment or in society as a whole.

In the Community

CPJ participated in the Cahoots Festival in Ridgetown, Ont. Karri Munn-Venn and Asha Kerr-Wilson, with the help of Karri’s son Oscar, led two workshops. Shaun Loney delivered the keynote address at CPJ’s 2017 Annual General Meeting in Winnipeg. Read more about our AGM. Bolu Coker, presented CPJ’s latest refugee report to refugee sponsoring groups at workshops in Ottawa, Winnipeg, and Victoria.Summer 2017 – Vol. 40, No. 2 Download (PDF)

On Canada’s 150th, What’s Next for Alberta’s Oil Sands? By Kerry Oxford

As Canada marks 150 years since Confederation, I find myself reflecting on Alberta’s role in the Canadian economy as an engine. The past few years have been critical to our development and deepening understanding of who we are as Albertans. I am grateful for the opportunities afforded me living in a strong economy. And I am hopeful that our next 150 years will not only be economically strong, but more principled as well.

In Review

Reconciliation Needs Problem Solvers By Bolu Coker

At CPJ’s 2017 Annual General Meeting in Winnipeg, Shaun Loney delivered a keynote address on the real essence of reconciliation in Canadian society. Loney’s book, An Army of Problem Solvers: Reconciliation and the Solutions Economy, provides deep insights into the connections between reconciliation and economic prosperity in Indigenous communities.

Meeting the Needs of the Dear Neighbour By Leah Watkiss

On May 12, 60 Sisters of St. Joseph of Toronto, along with their associates and partners, gathered to illustrate the faces of poverty and offer solutions. At the Sisters’ residence, they hosted Meeting the Needs of the Dear Neighbour, a story-telling event in response to the federal government’s poverty reduction strategy consultation process.

A Half Welcome for Refugees By Rose Dekker

Imagine that you are a member of a church that was so moved by the refugee crisis in Syria that you decided to sponsor a Syrian family. Imagine further that the family you sponsored was not among the first 25,000 to come to Canada after the Liberal government won a majority mandate, and that family ended up waiting four or six months to arrive in Canada rather than the mere days or weeks of the earlier families. It doesn’t take much imagination because this is what happened after February 2016.

Energy Poverty Requires Creative Solutions By Darlene O’Leary

Energy poverty in Canada is not new. I can recall stories from my relatives about winters in their childhood, waking up to thick frost on the inside of their windows and heating bricks in wood stoves to keep their beds warm. That was a while ago, though not that long. While sufficient and reliable energy use is more common in Canada now, not everyone can access or afford the energy that many of us take for granted.

How Taxes Can Reduce Inequality By Dennis Howlett

We need to tackle inequality at both ends of the income scale. Everyone, even the rich, benefits from a more equal society with better population health, reduced crime, better educational and employment opportunities, and a more vigorous economy.

Groundings: Moving Beyond Greening and Stewardship By Rev. Dr. Mishka Lysack

Greening alone is not enough to solve the big problems of climate change, air and water pollution, ocean acidification, and species extinction. The problems lie with how we have organized our economy and designed our buildings and cities, hardwiring our problems into structures that are difficult to change.

Book Reviews

In the Community

CPJ has been active in getting Canadian faith leaders engaged in the consultation process for a Canadian Poverty Reduction Strategy. In January, CPJ’s Darlene O’Leary presented at a United Church webinar organized by EDGE. Darlene and Joe Gunn have also led day-long discussions in Toronto and Ottawa for church leaders. Contact CPJ to get engaged in this process. In February, CPJ sponsored Grounded, a two-day conference in Calgary on faith and creation care. Keynote speakers included Leah Kostamo and Steven Bouma-Prediger.

On the Hill

CPJ’s Darlene O’Leary and Canada Without Poverty’s Michele Biss met with Liberal MP Sonia Sidhu to talk about housing issues and the work of the Dignity for All campaign. Darlene also joined Joe Gunn to meet with Miles Corak, the newly-appointed Economist in Residence for Employment and Social Development Canada, to discuss the launch of consultations on a Canadian Poverty Reduction Strategy. During Citizens’ Climate Lobby’s annual day on the Hill, CPJ’s public justice intern, Asha Kerr-Wilson, met with Liberal MP and parliamentary secretary to the Prime Minister Celina Caesar-Chavannes to discuss Canada’s climate change policies. Asha also met with NDP MP Richard Cannings, the deputy critic for natural resources.

Safe Third Country Agreement

CPJ wrote to Ahmed Hussen, the Minister of Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship, to ask him to reconsider Canada’s Safe Third Country Agreement with the United States, a policy that disqualifies refugees from coming to Canada after being denied entry into the U.S. We believe the United States’ new immigration policy discriminates against refugees on a religious and national identity basis. Read the letter here.

Climate Infographics

Over the past few months, CPJ posted a series of four infographics on climate change. The infographics, prepared by former public justice intern Miriam Mahaffy, cover a range of topics including the basics of climate change, the impacts of climate change in Canada, and a guide for how to measure one tonne of GHG emissions in your daily life.

Climate Plan Response

Late last year, the federal government released their national climate change plan. CPJ is encouraged by the range of emissions-reduction measures contained in the new plan. Sadly, the target upon which this climate plan is built is out of step with the intent of the Paris Agreement. Read details on how the new climate plan compares against CPJ’s recommendations at cpj.ca/climate-plan.

Guaranteed Livable Income

In March, CPJ released Towards a Guaranteed Livable Income. This paper represents CPJ’s current thinking on a basic income and its place within a larger anti-poverty strategy and offers a set of recommendations for guiding the development of a Guaranteed Livable Income.Spring 2017 – Vol. 40, No. 1 Download (PDF)

On Canada’s 150th, What Are First Nations Kids Losing Out To? By Jennifer King & Cindy Blackstock

As the federal government prepares to spend half a billion dollars to celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday, First Nations in northern Ontario are mourning the loss of three young girls to suicide. These tragedies could have been prevented if Canada provided equitable mental health and other children’s services on reserve.

In Review

Is This Not the Fast I Choose? By Karri Munn-Venn

Fasting is not my strong suit. I have done it occasionally, but not at all gracefully. I really enjoy good food and I’ve been known, on occasion, to get a little “hangry” (you know, hungry-angry) if I haven’t properly fueled my body. For many years, however, I have given something up for Lent. As we approached Lent this year, I found myself reflecting on the purpose of it all.

Because It’s 2017…It’s Time to End Poverty in Canada By Joe Gunn

At CPJ, we’ve decided that the best way to participate in Canada’s 150th anniversary is to renew our resolve to work for public justice and the flourishing of God’s shalom in the land. 2017 is an historic moment, worthy of our every effort to show what love looks like in public. There is perhaps no better way to do this, than by ensuring our federal leaders complete the development and implementation of a robust poverty reduction plan.

An Ice Road to Reconciliation By Asha Kerr-Wilson

Climate change affects the lives, lands, and cultural heritage of Indigenous peoples more directly and dramatically than most Canadians. But many communities in the more isolated and northern regions go unseen and unheard. Climate justice is a part of reconciliation with Indigenous peoples. One road to get us there may well be made of ice and serve a small Ojibway Nation in northwestern Ontario.

A Made in Canada Housing Strategy By Jeff Morrison

The link between access to safe, affordable, sustainable housing and poverty alleviation is clear. Without access to decent housing, it is extremely difficult to pursue education, maintain employment, or raise a family. Safe, affordable housing allows individuals and families to work, which helps to ensure that they can break the bonds of poverty.

Refugees Are a Blessing to Canada By Martha Wiebe

For nearly 40 years, Ottawa Mennonite Church has sponsored refugees from around the world. The experience has been overwhelmingly positive. They have not only contributed to the life of our congregation but also to our community and our country.

St. Patrick’s Anticipatory Interruption By Shawn Sanford Beck

Nestled in the liturgically purple lenten desert is a tiny green shard of resurrection. Like a verdant weed sprouting up in the newly-ploughed spring garden mud, the feast day of blessed Patrick feels like it should belong to the Paschal season, rather than the penitential 40 days which precede it. I’m drawn to St. Patrick’s Day as a parable: a tiny, homely hologram of the power of the Spirit to break in where she is not expected, an anticipatory interruption.From the Catalyst, Winter 2016

On the Hill

On October 17, the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, Dignity for All, co-led by CPJ and Canada Without Poverty, held our fourth annual ChewOnThis! event. Over 60 groups participated, holding events in every province and territory. On Parliament Hill, we were joined by NDP MPs Ruth Ellen Brosseau and Brigitte Sansoucy. CPJ joined Climate Action Network- Canada’s annual lobby day. Senior policy analyst Karri-Munn Venn met with Green Party Leader Elizabeth May, while public justice intern Asha Kerr-Wilson spoke with Catherine McKenna, Minister of the Environment and Climate Change.

Carbon Pricing Response

CPJ responded to the federal government’s plans to introduce a national price on carbon in 2018. While we believe that this is a step in the right direction, the level at which this price is to be set will do little to meaningfully reduce Canadian greenhouse gas emissions.

Welcome Asha and Bolu!

CPJ is very excited to welcome Asha Kerr-Wilson and Bolu Coker to our team! For the first time, we have two public justice interns joining us this year. Asha will be working on ecological justice while Bolu will focus on refugee rights.

Anti-Poverty Recommendations

This fall, CPJ presented recommendations for national strategies on poverty and housing. Restoring Dignity: A Strong National Anti-Poverty Plan, our brief to the HUMA committee, calls for an antipoverty strategy that reflects the Dignity for All model plan. Ensuring Safe, Affordable, and Adequate Housing for All is CPJ’s call for a National Housing Strategy that sets clear goals and is developed in partnership with First Nations, Métis, and Inuit governments and organizations. In October, CPJ signed an interfaith statement calling on the Ontario government to increase minimum wage and support more secure, safe, and stable work.

In the Community

CPJ participated in the “Climate Change and Faith Town Hall” in Toronto on October 1. At the event, people of faith discussed ways to continue our climate action work after the release of the federal government’s Climate Change Action Plan. On October 20, CPJ, along with the Justice, Peace, and Integrity of Creation Office of OMI Lacombe Province (Oblates) and Saint Paul University, organized a conference in Ottawa called “Ending Poverty in Canada”. The daylong event included panel discussions and workshops on policy, research, community action and church engagement. CPJ hosted “Faith and Climate Change,” a panel discussion in Edmonton on key issues related to energy, the environment, faith, and the economy. The panel, moderated by Dr. Elwil Beukes of The King’s University, included Karri Munn-Venn, Mike Hudema of Greenpeace, and Delia Warren, Kerry Oxford, and Matthew Linnitt of Iron and Earth. In British Columbia, Karri Munn-Venn spoke at First Vancouver CRC and at A Rocha Canada about how individuals and communities can respond to the global climate crisis through local environmental action and political engagement.Winter 2016 – Vol. 39, No. 3 Download (PDF)

Breaking the Barriers By Darlene O’Leary

Canada is a wealthy country. So when there are 4.9 million people living in poverty, something is not working. National data, as outlined in CPJ’s 2016 poverty report, Break the Barriers, tell us an important part of the story.

In Review

Faith and the Way We Vote By Brad Wassink

Canadians are eager to see changes to our electoral system – and soon. That was the promise made by the Liberals during the last campaign. But what does our Christian faith have to say about the way we vote in Canada?

Climate Action Through the Arts By Monica Lambton

At the People’s Climate March, participants were organized into different groups. As I looked around, I saw representatives from just about every sector of society: students, scientists, families, the labour movement, women’s groups, political parties, and more. One group that was noticeably missing was the arts community.

Poverty Isn’t a Problem to Be Fixed By Derek Cook

At its root, poverty is not about money but about distorted and marred relationships and the divisions we create between “us” and “them.” It is a wound that needs to be healed.

Let’s Do More to Help All Refugees By Bolu Coker

Alan Kurdi, a two-year-old Kurdish-Syrian boy, drowned alongside his family members in the Mediterranean on September 2, 2015. The world vowed to do more. Many developed a greater compassion for refugees, but more is required.

Meaningful Measures of Progress By Kathy Vandergrift

Sunny ways are clouded these days. With the approvals of the Site C Dam and the Petronas liquefied natural gas project in B.C., there are fears that environmental goals are being sacrificed.

Groundings: Fishing for Solutions to the Climate Crisis By Lois Mitchell

If you were to sit down with a group of fishermen or farmers anywhere in the world and ask them about climate change, it might surprise you to hear the things they could tell you.From The Catalyst, Summer 2016

On the Hill

Darlene O’Leary, CPJ’s socio-economic policy analyst, has been busy with meetings on Parliament Hill this spring raising the importance of a national anti-poverty plan. Together with our Dignity for All partners, Canada Without Poverty, she has met with Liberal MPs Judy Sgro and Wayne Long, Conservative MP Karen Vecchio, and NDP MPs Brigitte Sansoucy, Irene Mathyssen, Jenny Kwan, and Marjolaine Boutin-Sweet. Darlene has also been active at meetings of the All-Party Anti-Poverty Caucus. Senior policy analyst Karri Munn-Venn has led CPJ staff in meetings with Liberal MP Deborah Schulte, chair of the Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development and MP Ed Fast (pictured at right), the Conservative critic for the Environment and Climate Change. CPJ staff also met with Dan McDougall, the Assistant Deputy Minister in the Strategic Policy Branch of Environment and Climate Change Canada. CPJ’s Board of Directors met with Minister of the Environment and Climate Change Catherine McKenna to present her with our brief on Canada’s climate plan.

In the Community

In April, CPJ co-hosted events in Ottawa and Toronto with Steven Guilbeault, cofounder of Équiterre. Guilbeault, who attended the COP21 Paris climate talks, spoke about how we can support climate action and advocacy efforts here in Canada. CPJ co-sponsored two events in Toronto with the Henri Nouwen Society. In May, we welcomed Anne Lamott to speak about social justice and spirituality. Then in June, the Henri Nouwen Society presented Way of the Heart, a conference to celebrate the life and work of Henri Nouwen. In June, CPJ was at the Cahoots Festival in Ridgetown, Ont. Darlene O’Leary led a workshop on poverty in Canada and Miriam Mahaffy moderated a discussion on climate justice. Darlene also travelled to Edmonton where she participated in the Vibrant Cities national summit, “Cities Reducing Poverty: When Mayors Lead.” She met with Alberta NDP MLA Annie McKitrick who spoke in the Alberta Legislature about CPJ’s history in Edmonton and its impact on her decision to run for public office.

Annual General Meeting

CPJ’s AGM in Ottawa was very well-attended this year. We were honoured to have Claudette Commanda (pictured at right) and Verna McGregor lead us in discussion, reflection, and song. Senator Murray Sinclair, who was initially scheduled to speak, was unable to join us because the Senate was debating Bill C-14, legislation on assisted dying.

Welcome Amie!

CPJ is very glad to have Amie Nault interning with us this summer. Amie will be assisting CPJ in our research on Aboriginal reconciliation and exploring intersections between Indigenous justice, climate change, and poverty in Canada.Summer 2016 – Vol. 39, No. 2 Download (PDF)

My Town Is Flooding By Rev. Adam Snook

Mahone Bay is addressing the impacting legacy of pollution, irresponsible stewardship, and disregard for creation.

In Review

Consulting on Climate: Let’s Make Our Voices Heard By Karri Munn-Venn

These consultations offer a unique opportunity for all of us, as Canadians and as people of faith, to help shape climate policy.

We Are All Connected to Climate Change An infographic by Miriam Mahaffy

CPJ has developed this infographic about the need for federal action on climate change to help faith communities engage in the federal climate change consultations.

A Discussion on Basic Income By Jamie Swift and Mary Boyd

Two CPJ supporters explain their arguments for and against implementing a basic income, a system where the government ensures that everyone in Canada receives a certain level of income.

Ski With the Cree By Katherine Walsh

It was a privilege to share in the lives of the Cree, who have been guided by their social bonds within their community and with the land from time immemorial.

Education is Critical to Reconciliation By Amie Nault

Reconciliation is a process that isn’t just a moment, or a handful of moments. It’s a journey that we all have to walk together.

Groundings: Be Encouraged to Address Poverty By Meghan Mast

Be encouraged. Addressing poverty can be overwhelming, but you are not alone and there is so much you can do.

Book Reviews

From The Catalyst, Spring 2016

CPJ on the Hill

CPJ presented our Call for Climate Action to Catherine McKenna, Minister of the Environment and Climate Change. The petition called on the federal government to develop an ambitious Canadian greenhouse gas emissions reduction target. In February, CPJ submitted our pre-budget brief, Making Real Change for the Common Good, to the House of Commons Finance Committee. It identified key commitments made by this government that would advance public justice in Canada, including measures the federal government could take towards eradicating poverty in Canada and limiting global warming to 1.5°C over pre-industrial levels. Joe Gunn presented at the Ontario Government’s Pre-Budget Consultations in Ottawa on behalf of the Inter-Faith Social Assistance Reform Coalition. The brief, Making the Best Investment Possible: People, noted that budgets reflect what we truly value. ISARC proposed that our governments and societies can always find the resources they need for their priorities and can therefore afford to do more to help people living in poverty.

CRA Audits of Charities

CPJ welcomed news in January that the federal government will end its program of auditing charities for their political activity. CPJ raised concerns about this program in our 2015 Election Bulletin and recently spoke with CBC News and the Canadian Press about what this new policy means for charities going forward.

Welcome Chris and Rachel

CPJ is very excited to have two new interns join us this spring! Chris Hynes, our Social Work Intern, is completing a BSW at Carleton University. He is working with CPJ on the Dignity for All campaign and assisting us in our antipoverty work. Rachel DeBruyn is our Communications Intern. She is currently a student at Redeemer University College and is in Ottawa as part of the Laurentian Leadership Centre. Rachel will be assisting CPJ in our outreach to churches and schools as well as conducting research and writing on refugee rights.

CPJ in the Community

In early March, Karri Munn-Venn was at Redeemer University College in Ancaster, Ont. She presented to a third-year sociology class and talked about CPJ’s involvement, as a faith-based organization, in the environmental justice movement. In March, CPJ co-hosted Climate Action after Paris, an event in Ottawa that focused on responses to the Paris Agreement. Dennis Gruending interviewed Mardi Tindal (former moderator of The United Church of Canada) about her experience attending COP21. Karri Munn- Venn (above) led a discussion of next steps for Canadian communities of faith with Graham Saul (Ecology Ottawa), and Tony Clarke (Polaris Institute). CPJ’s Darlene O’Leary, along with Megan Hooft of Canada Without Poverty, presented a webinar entitled Charity to Justice for the United Church of Canada.Spring 2016 – Vol. 39, No. 1 Download (PDF)

Refugee Health Care Restored by Rachel DeBruyn

The federal government fully restored the Interim Federal Health Program (IFHP) to all refugees on April 1, 2016. Citizens for Public Justice is celebrating, and across Canada refugees and their sponsors are sighing in relief—they no longer need to worry about how they will pay for their health needs.

In Review

COP21: Three Next Steps for Churches by Miriam Mahaffy

Faith leaders have declared that climate change is a moral issue requiring concrete action. However, brave words in legal documents or religious declarations alone won’t achieve climate justice. It requires countries, communities, and individuals to courageously embody these intentions.

Stories from “Prayers for COP21 in Paris”

In the lead-up to the COP21 climate negotiations last December, Citizens for Public Justice produced resources to support faithful worship, action, and reflection on climate change. As world leaders gathered at COP21 to draft the Paris Agreement, here are a few ways that people of faith across Canada were using CPJ’s resources to engage climate justice in the pews.

Faith Perspectives Matter in Seeking Justice by Darlene O’Leary

A faith perspective places human dignity, the common good, and the integrity of creation at the centre of economic life. Faith communities are calling for public justice. We want to see Canada’s public policy decisions reflect this understanding of what living together as a beloved community means.

The Earth is Our Mother by Michelle Nieviadomy

The earth is our source, not a resource. Creator gave her as a gift to all humanity to live well, live in harmony, and live in balance with her and all her inhabitants. Yet we are living in a time where our earth is in crisis.

A Chance to End Child Poverty for Good by Anita Khanna

With the election of a new federal government, Canada must seize the opportunity for overdue transformation of its shameful poverty record.

Groundings: Faith Rooted in Migration Stories by Naomi Kabugi

The spirit of migration permeates, and to a large extent defines ,the biblical narrative. We can find theme in Genesis, the Psalms, and Revelation.God’s intention for us is that we live in love and justice with our sisters and brothers all over the world, and in harmony and stewardship with creation, worshipping our God and celebrating our redemption through Jesus Christ. Yet when we try to live out that intention, we run into roadblocks arising from human disobedience, as well as from the political, economic and social structures which we’ve built. These structures are also a part of the brokenness of this world, and we must work to change them as part of our response to God’s law of love and justice. Citizens for Public Justice is a national Christian political organization dedicated to resolving the structural problems which contribute to injustice and which hinder us from being the kind of people whom God wants us to be. Our Guidelines for Christian Political Service and Charter of Social Rights and Responsibilities reflect our understanding of how we should try to live responsibly. These documents have been gradually shaped and refined by the staff, board and members of CPJ over the years as we have struggled together to understand the implications of God’s intention for us. The Guidelines and the Charter cannot just be plugged into any given situation to provide a straightforward ruling on what is a “correct” Christian response. In this complex world, no such simple system could exist. The Guidelines and the Charter are not the last word on a Christian vision for political justice. However, they can help us make better decisions. The Guidelines for Christian Political Service and Charter of Social Rights and Responsibilities belong to all of us. We hope that we can grow together in our ability to see how they apply to our lives and especially to how we are called to act politically.

Guidelines for Christian Political Service

I. PREAMBLE

A. The Context of Politics

God created the world and made it good. This world was meant to glorify God and to provide life and health and peace to people and to all creatures. However, human sin has caused separation from God and, hence, separation from one another and from the rest of the creation. As a result the poor and the weak are downtrodden. The resources of the creation are misused. Countries aggrandize themselves and trust their security to military power. Governments seek to arrogate all power to themselves and try to impose their beliefs upon their citizens. Societies and institutions are affected by our disobedience and in turn become sources of injustice. Through Jesus Christ there is reconciliation between God and humankind and the possibility of reconciliation among people and with the creation. Through Christ’s Spirit all of life can and will be restored and is an area of Christian service. This includes politics. We live in a time in which humankind continues to turn away from God’s forgiving mercy and renewal in Jesus Christ and turn to idols and secular ideologies. Therefore we do not expect finality or perfection in anything in this world. However, Christ’s reconciling work has begun and will continue. Even if there is still much injustice and oppression in the world, political life can be a means of service, blessing and shalom. Christ establishes his Kingdom on earth. Its citizens are a new people called by God to proclaim the gospel and to live accordingly. This Kingdom has many manifestations. One of these is the instituted church, people gathered for worship. There are many other manifestations. Among them is also the realm of politics in which God’s people must serve God by doing justice according to God’s Word.

B. Citizens for Public Justice

The instituted church must proclaim the demands of God’s Word for political life, but it is not its task to become a political organization. Nor should Christians act only in an individual way, because we are united in Christ. Rather, Christians acting together, should, through mutual learning, criticism and support seek God’s will for political life and hence contribute to making politics what God has called it to be. The organization called “Citizens for Public Justice” is one way of acting together. It is a Christian association seeking to hear and obey what God requires politically. It is committed to honouring God and serving our neighbours in responsible cooperation with others through struggling to establish just relations. As we grow in political experience we will be testing and refining these Guidelines to reflect our understanding of God’s call to us.

II. POLITICS

A. Public Justice

The government in a state has a variety of responsibilities to fulfil. Its laws must be clear and consistent. Its use of resources must be stewardly. Its commitments must be faithfully fulfilled. All responsibilities of the government find their meaning in the overriding responsibility, which is maintaining and promoting public justice. Public Public means that the jurisdiction of the government with respect to justice covers all things, persons, communities and organizations within the country, and that each of these has access to the legal protection and resources of the state. Justice Justice requires that all God’s creatures, and also communities and organizations, should have fair and equitable relations with one another. Each and all within the country must have the freedom and access to resources which are rightfully theirs relative to others. Public Justice Public justice characterizes the government’s task. It requires government to use power in an equitable way. Governments must be aware of the different needs of diverse people, communities and organizations and balance and promote their public claims so that each may have the freedom to fulfil their God-given calling and responsibility without oppression either from the authorities or from one another. The Range of the State’s Responsibility As government jurisdiction is limited to the mutual relations of things in society, it must recognize the independent calling and responsibility and authority of other bodies. Governments must ensure just relations among people, associations and institutions, but they must not understand themselves to be the centres or leaders of society, but rather as servants with the office of justly interrelating the tasks, goals and interests of others. Implementing such public justice requires that we must be aware of the nature of the different entities in society, so that governments may act justly in relation to them and establish just relations among them.

B. Societies

We understand the nature and calling of some important entities in society to be as follows: Human Life In the present world, people are often valued only on the basis of their usefulness to others. But all persons, male and female, of whatever religion, conviction or race, at all stages of life, are created in the image of God. Without discrimination they must have both legal freedom and the necessary goods and opportunities to live creatively and responsibly in relation to God, to themselves, to others and to the whole creation. Religious Freedom Religion is not limited to one area of human life. All of life is religion, whether it concerns education, economics, labour relations, politics or any other activity. Human activities always have a religious character, an underlying world view and commitment. Therefore, freedom of religion means that, subject to the restraints of public justice, people, communities and organizations should have the right to live out and express their different beliefs in society, whether those beliefs are described as religious, secular, political or conscientious. Marriages and Families a. General Marriages and families are often treated as economic units, or are made subservient to political goals, or are neglected because of an exclusive focus on individuals. But they are institutions provided by God for mutual fidelity, love, intimacy, procreation and nurture. The law ought to respect and promote and guard their safety and well-being. b. Education The primary responsibility for the education of children before they come of age lies with their parents and not with the state or the church. Governments must protect and assure the right of children to an adequate education, the right of parents to choose the type of education their children require, and give parents the opportunity to form schools to provide such education. Communities Governments must not only protect the rights of individuals, but also those of communities, whether they are faith related, geographical, occupational, cultural or lingual. Governments must protect and promote the ability of such communities to exercise their own responsibility and prevent oppression by others. Associations a. General People must have the freedom to form associations to achieve their goals and exercise their responsibility in cultural life, in economic affairs, in political life, in education, in science and research. Governments must not monopolize such activities, nor allow others to monopolize them, but encourage and protect an equitable diversity of responses and approaches to life in society. b. Economic Enterprises Although economic enterprises may seek reasonable profits and responsible returns to shareholders, they may never forget that their task is not to maximize such profits and returns. Enterprises are called by God to provide needed goods and services in a stewardly way, by means of creative, responsible and rewarding work, respecting the social and natural environment. Governments should by means of legislation, taxation, regulation and advice guide and encourage economic enterprises to behave this way and protect their freedom and ability to do so. c. Unions Unions should not only be concerned with their own members and the interests of their own groups, but also with the economic well-being of the community of which they are a part. They are called to promote the development of stewardly enterprise. Freedom of association in unions must be protected, along with the freedom not to associate. The Natural Environment The natural environment should not be treated, as it often is now, as a collection of raw materials which are just objects for human domination or indiscriminate use. We so not possess the world, but are appointed by God to be its steward. Animals, plants and geographic areas have their own integrity. Governments must ensure that nature is protected from undue exploitation or pollution, so that this integrity is respected when development is needed.

III. THE TASK OF GOVERNMENT

A. Citizenship

Citizenship is a right and responsibility which requires us to promote justice and correct injustice. All people are under the God-given commandment to do justice. The responsibilities of politics are not to be left to an elite but are to be exercised by the population at large in their role as citizens. Citizens must support the government in the proper execution of its task, and call government back to that task when it goes astray.

B. Representation

God is the only and ultimate sovereign Ruler but gives collective political responsibility to citizens to choose a representative government, whereby the most important office holders and policies are accountable to the citizenry at large. This responsibility should be reflected in a democratic form of government. There are a variety of possible representative systems, but the one that is chosen should ensure that real differences of views among the citizens are represented when public policy is made. Special care must be taken so that the rights of minorities are recognized and regarded.

C. Office of government

The state is a community of citizens within a specific geographic area. Within the state there are a variety of offices, of positions of authority, which have particular responsibility. The most important of these offices constitute the government. The responsibility and authority of a government is given by God. As God’s servant a government must promote and preserve public justice. It should have sufficient power to discharge its obligations.

D. Rights of government

Governments may acquire the resources needed to carry out their tasks via compulsory taxation. Such taxation, being itself subject to the mandate of public justice, must to proportionate to the relative ability of people, associations and institutions to bear those taxes. In a sinful world, governments may use coercion to compel adherence to just laws and punish those who violate such laws. Such coercion, too, is subject to the mandate of public justice.

IV. PARTICULAR ASPECTS OF PUBLIC JUSTICE

In the light of our work so far we identify the following issues as areas of particular concern.

A. Public justice and the poor

Public justice requires that governments must pay special attention to the poor. The poor include the widow, the orphan, the stranger, the weak, the prisoner, the sick, the aged, the distressed and all who have low incomes. The poor are those persons, communities, associations and countries which, in relation to others are deprived of their freedom or of the resources needed for a responsible life in relation to God and to others. Governments should ensure that societal institutions allow needy people to be free of poverty so that they may be capable of responsible living. They are to encourage businesses, unions and other organizations to act in such a way that these people have access to necessary goods and services When people are bound in economic poverty, governments must see to it that they have opportunities of meaningful work (or of alternative resources) to be able to support themselves and fulfil their life’s responsibilities.

B. Public justice and economic life

As economic affairs have assumed such importance in our societies, governments must be careful to prevent economic entities from using economic or technological power to determine priorities and exercise control in other areas of life – such as policies, sciences, communications, cultural life and family life. The governments’ own attitude toward economic life should not be as it is at present, one of promoting the increase of the total amount of saleable commodities produced and services provided. Instead, it should encourage the growth of genuinely needed goods and services, and determine its own economic policies in terms of their effect throughout the whole society, rather than in narrower terms of financial profitability and growth in commodity production The world is not ours, but we are co-responsible to God for its care and use. It should be treated in a stewardly way. Resources should, as much as possible, be conserved and increased for the welfare of our and others’ children and of other creatures.

C. Public justice and relations with other countries

Government determination of legitimate national interest must recognize that relations between itself and other countries and the population of other countries must be just. Governments have the responsibility to secure peaceable, just international political order, to ensure that people have freedom of emigration and travel and to regulate trade so that countries are not exploited but co-operate with one another in an interdependent way. In securing such an order, governments have the responsibility to defend, by force of arms if absolutely necessary, their people and territories from aggression. Such defence is itself subject to public justice and so must respect the rights of all parties involved. No such defence can be considered just if it scorches the earth, destroys all of a major part of the technical, cultural and spiritual treasures of humankind or annihilates the human race or leaves alive only a small and wounded fragment of it. This would rule out the use of modern weapons of mass destruction.

D. Public justice and structural pluralism

Justice, reflecting the Word of God, demands that governments must recognize and deal justly with the diversity of beliefs, convictions, cultures and lifestyles that actually exist in its jurisdiction. Government may not be an agent for enforcing adherence to particular religious beliefs, whether Christian or otherwise. It must protect the ability of different groups especially minorities, to live in conformity with their own convictions. It must allow for the expression of diversity of such convictions in churches and other confessional bodies, in economics, politics, education, cultural and personal life.

Citizens for Public Justice Charter of Social Rights & Responsibilities

A. PREAMBLE

Humankind as a community called love

All of humankind is created by God. We are created together as a race,as a community, as a body. All of us are given gifts and needs by God sothat we can serve and be served by each other. We are called to be help-matesfor one another. Hence caring for our neighbours is not a voluntary matter,something we can take or leave. It is an obligation and a joyful opportunitygiven to us as children and image-bearers of God, as stewards of the creationwho are called to share with and build up one another.

Our failure

Through our sin we have failed and we continue to fail, both personally and corporately, at building up and being responsible for one another. In many ways we do not support those whom the Bible calls, “the widow, the orphan and the stranger”. Often we blame those in poverty, such as mothers on welfare, the unemployed or the aged, for their own situation as if the structures in society, government policies or the opportunities they are given did not shape their lives. At other times we blame government, as if it alone bore all the responsibility and as if it were foreign and external to the choices we make ourselves. Sometimes we blame “society” in nebulous terms, and so imply that no one is really responsible.

Our mandate

All of us, including governments and those in need, are responsible for tackling social problems. In each area of our lives, in each organization and institution of which we are members, we must concretely manifest love for our neighbours. In what follows we try to outline some of our specific responsibilities and attendant rights. We call on all people, but especially Christians, as those who have accepted the call to new life in Jesus Christ, to lead the way in taking up these responsibilities and defending these rights in each area of life.

Responsibilities

All of us are responsible to God and our neighbours for the lives we lead. We are called to care for our neighbours, not to pass by any in need and to build up one another in each area of our lives. We are called to exercise our responsibility in many ways, and in particular forms in the different aspects of our lives–personal, communal, corporate, institutional and so forth. Our families, schools, churches, unions, corporations and governments should work toward a society in which the needy are cared for and enabled to exercise their responsibilities. Our society tends to emphasize rights but says comparatively little about responsibilities. If this tendency is unchecked we may end up in a situation where people feel that they can, regardless of consequence, do what they like, as long as it is legal, and expect the government to do the impossible task of correcting all the injustices that result. Each of us is given gifts by God with which we can meet the needs of our neighbours, and we should understand our rights as foundations for us to exercise such responsibility.

Rights

In order to exercise our responsibilities we require rights. God gives us rights, our own areas of freedom and decision, which must be recognized. These rights entitle us to protection from interference and domination so that we can live freely and happily. They are the foundations for us to exercise our responsibility; they give us room and resources so that we can support one another. We are called to exercise these rights to work for a responsible society and a responsible human community. Political rights safeguard the ability of citizens to take part in and be responsible for the political direction of the country. Civil rights protect freedoms, such as freedom of speech, religion, association and so forth from interference and control by the state or by other bodies in society. Social rights ensure access to such essentials as adequate food, housing, employment, income, health care and education.

The charter

In this Charter we address our social rights and responsibilities. We believe that such rights and responsibilities should be expressed in law, but what follows is not intended to be a legal document. Rather, it is a framework which tries to lay out both the particular social responsibilities that we and others have throughout society, and the particular freedoms and protections which we should have to enable us to live our lives properly and to fulfil those responsibilities. Then, in terms of this overall social framework, we outline the task of government.

B. PARTICULAR RIGHTS & REPONSIBILITIES

People

We have the responsibility to provide for our needs when we can, to live in a way that enhances our neighbours, strengthens our communities and provides for those in need, including those abroad. Our own needs must be seen in the context of stewardship of resources, and national and international responsibility. We have the rights to the political, religious and cultural freedom to live out our beliefs and commitments, to be treated equally before the law, to economic resources sufficient to live responsibly, and to participate in the life of particular communities. Some of us do not take up the opportunities that exist to provide for ourselves, and many of us do not respect the needs and rights of others. Often we put individual rights before individual and communal responsibility. Some of us, through unemployment, handicap, age or marriage breakdown, are unable to provide for ourselves. We call on all people, especially Christians, to consider how they, through their lifestyles and career choices, ignore or contribute to the problems of others. We must re-orient our lives and use our time and resources so that we may actively benefit the whole human community.

Families

Family members are mutually responsible for one another’s social and economic needs. Families are also called to care for and share with their neighbours. Parents should encourage this in their children. Families have the right to the economic resources necessary to fulfil these responsibilities, to the freedom to raise their children according to their beliefs, and to a legal and social environment which protects and enhances the family’s ability to be a place of nurture and direction. Some families do not exercise their responsibilities because of selfishness or lack of commitment or cannot do so because of unemployment or other disabling conditions. Economic poverty has also resulted in many broken or weak homes. This can lead to the abuse of children and to delinquency, which may repeat itself in the children’s families. In cases of broken families, economic poverty often results because of the failure of men to meet their financial or other commitments. As marriage partners we must heed our vows to love and care for one another. As parents we must take our responsibility for the nurture of our children. As children we must remember our responsibility to our parents, particularly elderly parents. As families we must reach out to and support one another.

Churches

By proclaiming and live the Gospel, churches must call us to care for one another and our neighbours, and to work for social justice. Churches must concretely serve their members and neighbours and speak prophetically against injustice. Churches should stimulate us to help provide for the needs of others, and not heap burdens on them. Churches and other communities of faith have a right to the freedom necessary to carry out their tasks, and the right to not have their services discriminated against or supplanted by governments or other agencies. Churches often fail to express the Gospel through active service to our neighbours. As a result, churches and we the members, often ignore or condone injustices and, in so doing, marginalize the poor. Churches must proclaim and practice the Gospel in ways that speak to every area of human life. It must manifest the transforming love of Christ in all these areas. We call on churches to develop love and justice ministries which are sources of comfort and help to our neighbours.

Associations

People have the responsibility to form associations through which they can contribute to a responsible society. These associations must be accountable to their members, be politically tolerant of other associations, and not seek to monopolize any religious, cultural, professional, educational, social or political activities. Within the limits of public justice for all, associations should be protected by the right of free association according to their members’ beliefs. Associations formed to provide social services according to their beliefs should have access to government funding on a basis at least equal to that of the government’s own services. Presently many associations are devoted only to meeting the self-interest of their own members, with little regard for the effect this has on others. Other associations, which do try to help others are hampered or denied the right to do so. We call on people to form associations, especially neighbourhood associations, to meet the needs of those about them. We call on all associations to exercise their tasks in the context of contributing to their neighbours’ well-being and building a responsible society. We call for equitable funding of different types of associations as they provide their services.

Schools

Schools have a responsibility to educate students to be aware of their responsibilities in the world, and to exercise these responsibilities, particularly in relation to the poor. Access to good schooling should not be determined by wealth, race, creed or social status. Within the framework of public justice for all, parents and guardians should be free to have their children educated in a school that reflects their commitment. Schools should be free from ideological, political or commercial pressure or discrimination. Presently most schools veer between an ethic of training for society, which emphasizes career enhancement, or of training for self-realization, which emphasizes personal fulfilment. Schools which depart from these models are often discriminated against and denied adequate protection and public funding. We call on all schools to realize that they and those they educate are called to meet the needs of others, and to so teach that they are equipped and willing to be true servants.

Media

Media should be a means of developing a critical, informed awareness of the lives of others, particularly those in need. They have a particular responsibility to inform us of how our lives affect others. Access to the media should be not dictated by financial means or majority views, but should reflect the actual diversity in society. To ensure diversity, media organizations should be protected from monopoly and oligopoly and from government control. The media primarily present programs and give viewpoints that reflect hedonistic and materialistic values. This tends to exclude wholesome entertainment and minority views and to focus on immediate “events” rather than ongoing concerns. This in turn results in adequate attention to the needs of the poor and minorities. We call on the media to present critical analyses of the situation of others, particularly the poor and minorities, to reflect the interdependence of our lives, and to present a wide range of viewpoints.

Unions

As associations of people concerned with economic life, unions have the responsibility to ensure that their members and others have access to work that reflects their human character, gives them responsibility, provides adequate remuneration for individual and family life and has the continuity and stability necessary for healthy life. Unions should have special concern for all working poor, and seek to ensure that their work and income are suitable to a decent life. Unions must be protected by the right of free association, by the right to bargain collectively and by their members’ right to strike. Unions have played the major part in improving the work environment, wages and working conditions, but their concern often does not extend beyond their members, or include the wider ramifications of economic activities, environmental effects and the nature of the products produced. They often focus narrowly on income levels without regard to the need to restructure the business enterprise and work itself. We call on unions to accept and insist on their co-responsibility for the direction of the economy and the enterprise, including responsibility for work, production and the environment. We call on them to consider the needs and defend the rights of those who are not their members, especially the working poor and the unemployed.

Businesses

Economic enterprises should be work communities in which people responsibly pool their talents, work and resources to provide needed goods and services. The work environment should help promote social harmony in the work place and in the lives of those who work there or live nearby. No one should be treated as a factor of production. Wages should be enough to provide a basis for a responsible individual, family and community life. Within the limits of working towards a responsible society, enterprises have the right to decide what and where to produce, how to produce it, and how to market it, and to make profits. They should be protected from unfair competition and state domination. Presently businesses often care only for the interests of their shareholders, and they are supported by the law in doing so. They seek to maximize profits, and only take up other responsibilities if it is profitable. Large corporations often play such a dominant role in our society that they set the pattern for, and encroach on, other areas of life. We call for businesses which are responsible to those who work in them, live near them, and buy from them, as well as to those who own shares in them. We call for businesses in which profits are used to continue and improve the service the enterprise provides. We call for internal restructuring so that resource and environmental stewardship, care for neighbours and consumers, adequate wages and a healthy and rewarding work environment become an integral company goal.

C. GOVERNMENTS

Governments should focus on public justice for all. That means recognizing, protecting and enhancing the rights of persons, peoples, families, institutions, associations and communities within their jurisdiction, and ensuring the just exercise of these various rights. Governments should not see themselves as the provider of economic, social and cultural resources, but through the just protection of rights, should enhance people’s ability to meet their own and their neighbours’ needs. When people cannot meet their needs, or when others refuse to help meet their needs, governments should help do so. This should not supplant associations and communities within society, but wherever possible, should allow and enable non-government structures to provide for people’s needs. In carrying out these responsibilities, governments have the right to acquire the resources they need via taxation and the right to compel adherence to just laws. Government protection and enhancement of rights has focussed on establishing economic infrastructure to increase material growth. Those of us who suffer due to this focus have been left to private or government “charity”. There has been little attempt to build up “social infrastructure” – patterns of life and community in which people, especially the disadvantaged, can find a responsible, mutually supportive place. Welfare support is inadequate. We call on governments to realize that a responsible society is one in which people can and do care for one another in all ways. Governments should seek to enhance this ability by protecting and building up social infrastructure, recognizing it in the tax structure, providing incentives for responsible business, protecting healthy family and community life. Income supports should enable people to live responsibly.The Catalyst regularly wins awards at the annual Canadian Church Press awards ceremony.

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Citizens for Public Justice (CPJ) is a national, progressive organization of members who are inspired by faith to act for social and environmental justice in Canadian public policy. Our work focuses on three key policy areas: poverty in Canada, climate justice, and refugee rights. For more than 50 years, justice-oriented people of faith, along with churches and religious orders, have joined their voices as Citizens for Public Justice. Together, we’re working towards a better Canada.

CPJ defines public justice as the political dimension of loving your neighbour, caring for creation, and achieving the common good. We work to keep public justice front and centre in public policy debates.

Our work focuses on three key policy areas:

Poverty in Canada

CPJ works to research, develop, and advance federal policy measures that build equity and put us on a path to eradicating poverty in Canada. We collaborate with a wide range of partners across the country, centering the voices of people with lived experience of poverty and other forms of systemic oppression.

CPJ meets regularly with parliamentarians to provide input on poverty-related legislation. We specialize in providing timely political analysis on these issues; developing resources for public education and for Christian faith communities, in particular; and mobilizing people across the country in non-partisan advocacy campaigns.

Climate Justice

CPJ plays a crucial role in urging the governments in Canada to adopt better climate change policy. Through research, analysis, partnerships, and government engagement, we raise awareness about the urgent need for action. We often work with church and denominational groups to help them better engage in advocacy on climate justice.

CPJ provides timely political analysis that is often referenced in the media and utilized by community groups across Canada.

Refugee Rights

CPJ is committed to the protection of the rights of refugees and other vulnerable migrants in Canada and globally. Through research, policy monitoring, and publishing, we bring attention to the impact of legislative change on refugees and claimants, and on the groups that privately sponsor them to come to Canada.

We communicate our analysis and framing through public presentations, writing, advocacy, and workshops to audiences ranging from public officials, the media, churches, the public and our CPJ supporters.

CPJ is convinced that Canada needs to engage in serious reflection on core values and faith perspectives and their implications for our public life together – the common good. Faith commitments – each person’s deepest commitments, whether formally religious in nature or not – shapes how each person interacts with our neighbours, our institutions, and our environment.

We believe that all ways of understanding the world, including those that begin with explicit faith commitments, must engage each other in the public square to help shape the common good. This must be done across faith and worldview differences, and also within them. In fact, people of faith often need to challenge each other about how specific political choices are consistent with their faith commitments. They need to influence the shaping of public values which can be the basis of policies contributing to the well-being of all and the integrity of creation. This open and respectful wrestling around core commitments needs to be the hallmark of democracy in a pluralistic country like Canada.

While bringing their deepest commitments out in the open into public life, people of faith must ensure that they are not used as fighting tools. Sometimes the temptation for people of faith, including those who hold to a secular faith, is to try to impose a sense of “just us” not “justice.” If we try to use the government to impose a particular religious point of view to the exclusion of others, faith commitments lose credibility and no longer enrich the common good.

For CPJ, our faith calls out 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 … Public Justice.

Faith and Public Life

Faith commitments – each person’s deepest commitments, whether formally religious in nature or not – shape how each person interacts with our neighbours, our institutions, and our environment. CPJ is convinced that Canada needs to engage in serious reflection on core values and faith perspectives and their implications for our public life together – the common good. Without such a debate, the public sphere will continue to be a place for individuals or groups to advance only their own particular interests rather than come to meaningful consensus on how to address important public issues.

One of the key components of a person’s and a community’s identity is the deepest convictions they hold which shape their private, but also their public life. Faith shapes the most basic questions of identity: Who am I? How did I get here? What is wrong in the world? How can it be fixed? The faith perspectives of Canadians, whether Aboriginal, Muslim, Jew, Christian, Hindu, Sikh or Humanist, shape how they participate as citizens in building and shaping a cohesive and inclusive Canadian society.

Some have argued that people must deny their religion, ethnicity, and culture to participate fully in Canadian life. Some have a deep distrust of religion and a tendency to regard public life as distinctly secular – having no room for faith perspectives. CPJ believes that differing faith convictions should be acknowledged as key elements of how individuals and communities can best contribute to the common good. Learning how to do that in a multi-cultural and multi-faith society is crucial to the common good.

CPJ’s contribution

CPJ’s uniqueness is characterized by its ability to play a vital role in the debate around the fundamental direction of our society. Our contribution includes not simply developing and promoting policy alternatives, but more specifically doing so in the context of the core values and principles which shape society and public policy. This unique approach enables us to speak to, and dialogue with, a broad cross-section of Canadian society.

CPJ is convinced that Canada needs to engage in serious reflection on core values and their implications for our public life together – the common good. There must be a recognition that all sectors of society – private, public and voluntary – share a responsibility for the common good. However, the public space for alternative voices advocating other goals and policies has shrunk in recent years. CPJ seeks to open up that space and give voice to those alternatives.

Without a debate about core values and the common good, the public sphere will continue to be a place for groups to advance their particular interests rather than come to meaningful consensus on how to address important public issues.

Given the current political and social climate, we believe more strongly than ever that Citizens for Public Justice has a vital role to play in the debate around the direction of our society. Our contribution includes both the development and advocacy of specific policy alternatives, and the promotion of core values and principles for public policy. In our experience, many Canadians, including key decision-makers, appreciate the unique perspective which CPJ brings to policy debates. We believe that one of our major strengths is the fact that we speak to, and dialogue with, a broad cross-section of Canadian society – and that, by and large, we are met with respect and with a real interest in the core values perspective we bring.

CPJ’s work is focussed on the point of intersection of public policies and core values. We combine practical expertise in public policy research and development with a profound understanding of the importance of spiritual and religious frameworks and core values. We are one of the few social justice organizations in Canada that combines policy analysis, development, and advocacy with an ongoing critique of these value frameworks and the active advocacy of alternative core values. In fact, CPJ’s Guidelines for Public Justice have been used, adopted, and built upon by a variety of groups and coalitions.

Our commitment to this basic framework enables CPJ to avoid the traps of partisanship, fashionable ideology, and the endless polarizations of left and right, religious and secular, Christian and non-Christian, evangelical and mainline Christian. Instead, we can forge new, creative ways ahead that contribute to the common good.

Pluralism
The public recognition that different people(s) have different beliefs and have the legal right to live in different ways.
From Let Justice Flow (CJL Foundation, 1994)

This approach also gives CPJ a unique role to play in coalitions. In our coalition work with non-religious organizations, CPJ is frequently called upon to inject a broader critique of values, and to propose alternative values that all participants can support. When working with faith communities, CPJ’s policy development expertise is especially appreciated, as well as our ability to articulate core values that unite rather than divide.

Having a carefully worked out and well articulated framework of core values also enables CPJ to move beyond critique and protest, to active advocacy of original proposals based on those core values.

Interaction with Faith communities
CPJ plays an important national role in linking faith and public policy issues. This occurs in a variety of ways. CPJ draws support, insight and values from faith communities, and in turn provides public education to faith communities. At the same time, CPJ functions as a catalyst for faith communities to become involved in the public policy process. CPJ is one of the only national, faith-based social justice organizations that are independent from any organized religious body.

CPJ arose out of and has been shaped by the ecumenical Christian tradition. Our public policy work is informed by the biblical values of love, justice and respect for the Creation. CPJ’s carefully articulated core values perspective allows us to speak to contentious and controversial issues without being swept away by partisanship or ideology.

In addition, our inclusive, pluralistic vision of society discourages parochialism, and enables us to work closely with a variety of faith traditions. Over the years, CPJ has developed strong working relationships across the whole range of Christian denominations, from conservative evangelical through mainline to the Catholic Left. We have also developed mutually beneficial, active partnership relationships with members of other faith communities, including Jewish, Hindu, Sikh, and Muslim. CPJ today enjoys wide recognition, co-operation and support from Canada’s faith communities.

The religious aspect of CPJ’s work is becoming more important than ever. Today, many national mainline Christian churches are cutting back on staffing and resources for speaking to public policy. These churches’ voices, historically an important force for social justice, are being silenced. At the same time newer religious voices are being raised. Some, however, are more parochial. There is growing uncertainty today about the appropriate role of faith communities and their leaders.

With over 40 years’ experience in faith-based public policy work, CPJ is well positioned to play a key role in this situation. Independent, ecumenical and inclusive, CPJ can help fill the growing gap. CPJ has already begun to explore new opportunities for partnerships with churches and other faith communities.

Our Vision

Citizens for Public Justice seeks human flourishing and the integrity of creation as our faithful response to God’s call for love and justice. We envision a world in which individuals, communities, societal institutions, and governments all contribute to and benefit from the common good.

Our Mission

Our mission is to promote public justice in Canada by shaping key public policy debates through research and analysis, publishing, and public dialogue. CPJ encourages citizens, leaders in society, and governments to support policies and practices which reflect God’s call for love, justice, and the flourishing of Creation.

Public Justice

We live in a country that provides us with immense opportunities. As citizens, we are called to participate in the public sphere and encourage our governments to adopt just policies. As Christians, we are called to live out our response to God’s call to love and justice. This response is at the heart of public justice. Public justice is the political dimension of loving one’s neighbour, caring for creation, and achieving the common good. It is particularly the responsibility of government and citizens. It involves seeking out and implementing just policies that allow everyone to live in dignity and participate in society. Read more about public justice.

CPJ’s Investment Policy

CPJ developed its first investment policy in 2014. This policy includes a commitment to “avoid investments in non-renewable, extractive energy industries, tobacco or alcohol, gaming, arms/weapons manufacturers or distributors, in institutions known to engage in unfair or unethical labour or personnel practices, or companies known to be involved in significant, on-going damage to the environment.”CPJ’s principled approach to public policy is captured in the concept of public justice. Public justice is the political dimension of loving one’s neighbour, caring for creation, and achieving the common good. It is particularly the responsibility of government and citizens. It involves seeking out and implementing just policies that allow everyone to live in dignity and participate in society. Rooted in Scripture, public justice unfolds in human history as God continues with redemptive work in creation. It provides norms for decision-making, not a recipe book for good government, a formula for a just society, or a list of isolated moral issues for Christians to address. Public justice offers a coherent approach to social issues, but respects the complexity of creation and contemporary life, rather than flattening public life to its economic dimension alone or to a majority opinion.

Guiding Documents

ADVOCACY TOOLKIT GETTING STARTED DEVELOPING ADVOCACY STRATEGY ADVOCACY HOW-TO’S ADDITIONAL RESOURCES ADVOCACY TOOLKIT GETTING STARTED DEVELOPING ADVOCACY STRATEGY ADVOCACY HOW-TO’S ADDITIONAL RESOURCES Advocacy and activism diagram Adapted from the “Advocating Creatively”

Advocacy Terms

Advocacy-acting or speaking in favour of a policy, cause, or idea. “Political advocacy” means working to change government policy or legislation.

Brief-a document summarizing important information on a specific subject including the background and purpose of an advocacy campaign.

Demonstration-a public event (such as picketing, parading, etc.) displaying a group’s opinion toward an issue.

Petition-a formal request (bearing signatures of those making the request) that is addressed to a person or group of people in authority or power (such as the House of Commons). This request solicits an action on the part of the recipient(s).

Press Release-an announcement of an event or news item sent to the press by an organization, government agency, public relations firm, etc.

Structure of Government Terms

Cabinet-the executive decision-making body of the government (at both federal and provincial levels) that approves departmental drafts of government bills and proposes them to the legislature.

Cabinet Minister-member of the Cabinet chosen by the Prime Minister.  Each Cabinet Minister is the head of one department, such as Citizenship and Immigration or Environment Canada.

Civil Service-those branches of public service concerned with all governmental administrative functions outside the armed services.

Constituent-a Canadian citizen represented by a Member of Parliament.

Governor General-the Queen’s representative in Canada (The Queen is Canada’s head of state).

House of Commons-the elected, lower house of Parliament.  It is the principal means through which Canadians can participate in legislative decision-making.

Legislator-members of the federal or provincial legislature who writes and passes laws.

Legislature-the legislative branch of a federal or provincial government.

Member of Parliament (MP)-elected federal officials in the House of Commons.  Each MP represents a riding.

Member of Provincial Parliament (MPP), Member of the National Assembly (MNA), Member of the House of Assembly (MHA), or Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA)-elected representatives serving in provincial or territorial legislatures. Different terms are used depending on the province or territory the representative serves (MPP-Ontario, MNA-Quebec, MHA-Newfoundland & Labrador, MLA-all other provinces and territories).

Opposition Party Critic-representatives from opposition parties responsible for presenting party policies on a certain issue and critiquing government policy on that issue.

Parliament-the legislative branch of the government, composed of the House of Commons and
the Senate.

Parliamentarian-a Senator or Member of the House of Commons.

Premier-the head of government of a province or territory. Usually the leader of the party with the most seats in the legislature.

Prime Minister-head of the government of Canada and the chairman of the Cabinet. The leader of the party with the most seats in the House of Commons.

Private Members Bill (PMB)– bills that are introduced in the House of Commons by an MP who is not a cabinet minister. These bills follow the same legislative process as a government bill, but cannot use government funds.

Riding/Constituency/Electoral District-a geographical area with representation by one Member of Parliament in the House of Commons.

Senate-the upper house of Parliament, meant to act as a check and balance to the House of Commons.  Senators are appointed by the Governor General, on the advice from the Prime Minister.  Senators can remain in the Senate until they reach 75 years of age.

Supreme Court of Canada-the highest court in Canada. The Supreme Court has nine justices and hears appeals from decisions of provincial courts.

Legislative Terms

Act-a law made by Parliament or a provincial legislature.

Amendment-a change to a piece of legislation proposed in a motion, a bill, or committee report.

Bill -a proposed act submitted to Parliament for approval.  A bill becomes an act if it is passed (approved) by both Houses and receives royal assent.

Legislation-a term to refer to both laws and acts.

Royal Assent– after a bill has been passed by the House and Senate, this is the final step in the passage of a bill through Parliament.  At this stage, the Governor General approves the bill on behalf of the Queen.

Canadian government structure diagram This diagram was adapted from Mr. Gilchrist’s Social Studies Blog (http://kgilchrist.blogspot.com/2011/04/april-29.html)

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At CPJ, we believe that we are called to follow Christ’s example by loving our neighbours, practicing justice and compassion, and being stewards of creation.  We also believe that all people, as God’s image bearers, are created to live in dignity.

The Bible explains in Micah 6:8 what God requires of us: “to act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.”  Throughout the Bible, the well-being of the most vulnerable—orphans and widows—is used as a barometer of justice for a society.  We can measure Canada’s success in following this call by examining the situations of our most vulnerable peoples.

Public justice is the political dimension of loving our neighbour. This means promoting the well-being of the vulnerable in all aspects of life—in our neighbourhoods, our churches, non-governmental organizations, community groups, and governments.  Living out this call includes being active and engaged citizens—getting to know our elected officials, staying informed, and advocating for just policies.

To advocate simply means “to plead in favour of.” Any time you voice your support for a policy, cause, or idea you are advocating.  This includes means speaking to those in power to influence decisions in the political sphere.  Advocacy also means adding strength to the voices of marginalized and poor peoples, collectively creating a voice that cannot be ignored. If we want to exercise this kind of faithful citizenship, it means active engagement in public policy debates and dialogue with elected officials about issues of public justice.

As citizens of a democracy, we have both the right and responsibility to make a difference in the policies and actions of our government. Our political leaders have a responsibility to listen to the will of the people, and each of us has the responsibility to express our views through active citizenship.  This means staying informed, voicing our opinions, and working for justice wherever possible.

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  1. Get Connected: Regularly communicate and network with others working similar issues. You can share information and coordinate advocacy activities.
  2. Be Persistent: Write and call your MP regularly about the issue, especially when new developments occur.  Give the MP adequate time to respond and continue the dialogue.
  3. Diversify: Try to get your message across in a variety of ways.  Be creative in thinking about new tactics!
  4. Be Consistent: It is important that decision makers receive a consistent message from you and your group.  Consistency can be achieved through formulating clear objectives and creating materials that explain your objectives concisely.
  5. Use Your Vote: Your vote is leverage.  When contacting your elected representative, let them know that their actions will matter to you at election time.
  6. Follow Up! After you have taken action, stay informed about the progress made on your issue.  After you have signed a petition, let your MP know why you signed it.  After participating in a demonstration, let your MP know that their constituents were present.  By following up on such actions, you can demonstrate commitment to the cause.
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Being well-informed is an essential part of advocacy. Find out as much as you can about the issue you are passionate about, what is currently being done about it, and the alternatives that have been proposed. The following are some places to begin your research:

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Keep in Mind: Accessing Information. For access to government correspondence or documents pertaining to an issue, contact the government department responsible. You may be able to obtain this information informally, or you may have to submit a formal request under the Access to Information Act. If this is the case, you must fill out an “Access to Information Request Form.” There is a $5 processing fee

Next Steps

When you have spent some time researching your issue (along with the government’s position and the stance other organizations have taken), you will be ready to begin envisioning your advocacy activities. Being informed will give you confidence and credibility and will help you develop clear objectives and an effective strategy. You will also be able to anticipate objections to your cause so you can formulate counter-arguments to those who may oppose your view.
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Building an Advocacy Network

Inviting others to participate in your advocacy work is a good way to build morale and increase your influence. You may know others who are already concerned about the same cause, or you may invite others to learn more. You can also contact organizations that are already working on your cause or that may be interested in getting involved. Building relationships with others can facilitate information-sharing, and increasing your network of advocates will strengthen your campaign!

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Keep in Mind: Get Connected. Social media can be very useful for increasing your advocacy network. Learn more about social media in this toolkit.

Invite those who have personal stories to call, meet with, or write to MPs. This will give legislators a direct connection with those whom a piece of legislation affects, and it can be empowering for those who share their stories.

Keep in Mind Keep in Mind: Coordinate Your Network.
  • Be clear about the responsibilities and involvement of each of the individuals or groups in your network.  Identify a leader and delegate specific tasks.
  • If you have a coalition of several groups, coordinate the timing of all organizations’ advocacy activities in order to have maximum impact.

Working with Government Officials

When it comes to working with government officials, it is important to avoid adopting an
“us vs. them” mentality.  Advocacy is about working with the resources that you have.  If you are unwilling to work with a certain party or with the current government, it will be very difficult to bring about change.  Remember to always interact with politicians in a respectful manner. Whether writing a letter or meeting with your MP, respect will help you further your cause.

Try to find potential allies within the government, and try to find common ground from which to start.  Without compromising the firmness of your position, you can build relationships with people who may disagree with you. Through this connection, you can both gain a better understanding of different perspectives. Make small and respectful steps towards your goals.

Email as an Awareness and Advocacy Tool

Keep in Mind Keep in Mind: Canada’s Anti-Spam Laws. Learn about Canada`s anti-spam laws before using email as an advocacy tool.

You can use email to raise public awareness about a specific issue. These emails should be specific and concise. They should tell about the situation and what those reading the email can do about it. Finish emails by asking people to share the message and take specific actions. Add a personal touch to the e-mail (copied and pasted messages are not as effective). Give people a reason to care about the issue you are concerned with. Educate your audience with concise information, and include resources for further investigation. Be direct with the point and tell them how they can help.

Keep in MindKeep in Mind: Mailchimp. You can email up to 2,000 people at one time with a free account using Mailchimp. This is a good resource for campaigning.

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Building relationships with decision-makers puts you in a good position to advocate for change. By getting to know your representatives-your MP, MPP, MLA, MNA, city councillors or mayor-and building a reputation of credibility, you can open doors for the future. Below are some ways to develop positive relationships with your elected representatives.

Building Relationships

Finding Contact Information for Representatives

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See a sample letter (WORD | PDF)

A personal letter to your MP (Member of Parliament) can be an effective tool for change. Whether you are writing individually or with a letter-writing campaign, the following guidelines will help you know how to write an effective advocacy letter to an MP.

Style

Content

Go Deeper: Styles of Address. For information on addressing your letter, visit the “Styles of Address” webpage from Canadian Heritage.

Sending Emails to Politicians

An email is just as effective as a letter by post as Parliamentary staff handle both in the same way.

When sending e-mails to an MP or other elected representative, be sure to follow many of the same standards included in the “Writing a Letter to an MP” section (p.25). The email should be brief and focused, with the correct style of address for the representative. Be kind with language, and make sure to ask the representative to respond to your email.

Include your address and postal code so that the representative is aware that you are a part of
their constituency.

Letter-Writing Campaign

When MPs receive multiple letters on the same issue, they will pay more attention to it. If you have a large network, share your letter with others as a template. Encourage them to personalize the letter as much as possible.

Go Deeper

Go Deeper: MP contact. Find contact information for your MP using your postal code, visit the Parliament of Canada’s website.

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SAMPLE PETITION (WORD | PDF)

A petition is a good tool for a straightforward issue that has widespread support. There are fifteen minutes set aside daily in the House of Commons for petitions to be read. There is no debate following the reading of the petition, but the government is required to respond to your petition within 45 days. Your petition could spark interest among Members of Parliament or it could influence a debate already occurring in the House of Commons.

General Guidelines for Petitions

Specifics for Official Petitions to Parliament

Go Deeper: Official Guidelines for Petitions. For questions about petitioning the federal government, call the Clerk of Petitions in Ottawa at (613) 992-9511 or visit the House of Commons Petition Guide.
Keep in Mind Keep in Mind: Perseverance. Do not be discouraged when you do not see immediate results. Political change is often gradual and comes when many citizens make continual contributions to the process.

An MP must first submit any petition to the Clerk of Petitions before it is read in the House of Commons. The form and content of the petition is examined to ensure it meets Parliamentary specifications.  If the petition does not meet these standards, it cannot be read for the record. Therefore, it is important to follow the guidelines for an official petition to Parliament.  You can send a draft petition (without signatures) to a MP to ensure that it is correctly worded and to find out if they are willing to read it in the House.

Keep in Mind Keep in Mind: Using Your Petition.
  • Bring your petition to events where you expect there will be people who support it.
  • Follow-up is important because it demonstrates that there is real commitment behind the signatures. Encourage signatories to write, call, or visit MPs to explain why they signed the petition.
  • Any MP can present a petition in the House on any topic. Some MPs have a policy of presenting any petition brought to them by constituents.
  • The Governments must respond to each petition within 45 calendar days of its presentation. If this fails to occur, the Member who has presented the petition designates a committee of the House to look into the reasons why it was not responded to.

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A bill is passed through Parliament and eventually becomes law. In order to influence the legislative process, we need to understand what happens inside the Parliament of Canada.

How a bill becomes a law

  1. Introduction of the Bill.  A motion is introduced to put a bill on the parliamentary agenda.  This is usually done by a government minister, but a private member can also introduce a motion for a private member’s bill (see p. 10).  Any MP can introduce a private member’s bill on any topic, but it may be difficult to pass it (especially in a majority government).  Nonetheless, this is the primary mechanism for the opposition to enact legislation.
  2. First Reading in the House of Commons.  The law is introduced to Members of Parliament, but no debate is held.  The bill is printed and given a number.  A House of Commons bill is given C-# and a Senate bill is given S-#.
  3. Second Reading and Debate.  After the second reading, individual members debate the issues raised in the bill.  At this stage, the general principles of the bill are discussed (not the fine details).
  4. Committee Stage.  If the bill passes the second reading, it goes on to the committee stage.  In this stage, a subcommittee or standing committee (composed of members from all parties) reviews the legislation in detail.  Each clause is discussed and considered, and amendments are proposed.  Witnesses may also be brought in to provide testimony.  When the committee has finished its review, it orders that the bill be sent back to the House of Commons.
  5. Report Stage.  The House of Commons reviews the amendments proposed by the committee.  There is also opportunity for members not on the committee to propose additional amendments.  Each amendment is moved, debated, and voted on by the House of Commons.
  6. Third Reading. The bill is sent back to the House for a final reading and debate.  The final vote is then taken.  If there are unresolved issues with the legislation, then it may be sent back to committee for review and further amendments.
  7. Message to the Senate. If the bill passes the third reading, the House sends a message to the Senate, requesting that it also pass the bill.
  8. Bill passed through the Senate. The bill passes through the same process in the Senate as it did in the House of Commons (stages 1-6).  The Senate only has power to delay passage of the bill or suggest changes to the House.  It cannot defeat the bill.  (If the bill is originally introduced in the Senate, then stages 1-6 occur in the Senate first, and then in the House of Commons.)
  9. Royal Assent. When the bill is approved by both the House and the Senate, it is sent to the Governor General for Royal Assent.  When it has passed this stage, the bill is officially an Act of Parliament.

Federal and Provincial Jurisdictions

Peace, order, and good governance Immigration Anything local or private in nature
Taxation Agriculture Direct taxation
International trade and commerce, communications & transportation Pensions Crown lands and natural resources
Banking and currency Hospitals (health sector)
Foreign affairs Education
Defense Welfare
Criminal law and penitentiaries Municipalities
Naturalization Transportation and business
First Nations Administration of justice
Unemployment insurance and old age pension Property and civil rights
Beforehand Look for signs of new legislation.
Work with legislators to draft legislation.
First Reading Study the bill.
Share reasons for concern or support with others (the media, MPs, etc.).
Ask for withdrawal of the bill if necessary.
Second Reading Same as for first reading, but also begin to ask for hearings in anticipation of committee stage.
Committee Stage Lobby for hearings and suggest witnesses.
Recommend amendments.
Make your views known to media and MPs.
Report Stage Make your views on the proposed amendments known to the media and MPs.
Third Reading Encourage MPs to vote for or against the bill.
Senate (Same process as above) Repeat above process in Senate.
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Books

Aaker, J. & Smith, A. (2010). The Dragonfly Effect: Quick, Effective, and Powerful Ways to Use Social
Media to Drive Social Change.
San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Forsey, E. How Canadian Govern Themselves, Parliament of Canada (PDF)

Longhurst, J. (2006). Making the News: An Essential Guide for Effective Media Relations. Ottawa, ON: Saint Paul University Press.

Milne, G. (2007). Making Policy: A Guide to the Federal Government’s Policy Process. Ottawa, ON.
(Available at www.makingpolicy.com) Sussman, A. (2007). The Art of the Possible: A Handbook for Political Activism. Toronto, ON:
McLelland & Stewart Ltd.

Websites

Apathy is Boring-a Canadian organization that uses art and technology to educate youth about democracy. They envision a Canada where youth are active decision-makers at all levels of the democratic process. Visit their website at www.apathyisboring.com

Canada Revenue Agency: regulations for charities doing advocacy work. Visit CRA’s webpage on Political Activities at bit.ly/cra-political

Community Toolbox; University of Kansas-“Tools to Change our World” at ctb.ku.edu/en

Craftivism (craft+activism) is a non-traditional way to draw attention to the policy or issue using artwork.

Nonprofit Tech for Good-for helpful ideas on how to best use social media for advocacy at www.nptechforgood.com

Parliament of Canada LEGISinfo website-provides information on bills currently undergoing the parliamentary process at www.parl.gc.ca/legisinfo.

Political Advocacy Toolkit for Teens; Florida Youth Commission (PDF) retrieved from bit.ly/teen-toolkit.

UNICEF Advocacy Toolkit (PDF)
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Figuring out what to do about a particular issue can be the most challenging-and important-part of a campaign. The most effective advocacy strategy uses a diversity of methods-or tactics. The tactics you choose will depend on the issue and the political context.  The following chart will help you decide your tactics for action.

Action Why choose this action? Potential Outcomes
Calling Your MP The issue is familiar enough to the legislator, and to you, that you can get your point across in a five-minute conversation. Making a direct connection with your MP. Having an impact while using little time and resources.
Meeting with Your MP Effective even if the issue is not well known to the legislator and even if you do not have a large support network. If you have a petition to present to the legislator, it is a good idea to schedule a meeting in which to present it. A very effective method to get your message across to the MP. You may learn more about the MP’s position and how the MP can help you in your cause.
Writing a Letter to Your MP You would like to clearly communicate to your MP the issue and what you would like to have done about it. A well-written and thoughtful letter can bring the issue to the MP’s attention. He will know that you have spent the time to research the issue and contact him.
Letter-Writing Campaign You have a good-sized
support network.
If the MP receives a large volume of letters, she will know that there are many people concerned about
this issue.
Writing a letter to a Cabinet Minister You desire to see change in government policy (rather than in legislation). Gives you access to the head of the relevant department, as well as access to the Cabinet.
Meeting with
Civil Servants
Legislation is passed, but it needs to be implemented by a government department. You desire change a government regulation or program. Gives you access to those influencing and
implementing legislation.
Writing a One-Page Brief You anticipate contact with decision makers, media, and the public, and would like to send a consistent, accessible message. Provides your campaign with consistency and clarity. Gives others a quick way to find out about your campaign.
Preparing and Submitting a Petition The issue is straightforward (essentially a yes/no question) and has widespread support. Demonstrates public concern for
the issue.Can be read in the House by your MP and can influence Parliamentary debate.
Organizing a Public Meeting The issue affects many people but is also largely unknown. You would like to have a community discussion, or facilitate a debate between two officials. Builds public awareness
and support.Makes elected officials and policy-makers take note.
Organizing a Demonstration There is need for widespread exposure to the issue. Draws attention to the issue and gains public support.  A quick way of demonstrating popular support for the cause to politicians.
Working with the Media You would like to bring attention to a relatively unknown issue.

You would like to comment (positively or negatively) on a newspaper article.

You would like to make a public statement about what the government is, or is not, doing about an issue.
Raise public awareness on the issue.

May impact the way the local media handles an issue.

Can catch the attention of your MP, especially if you challenge him directly in your piece.

You can also write a piece in support of your MP’s position, which will encourage him to continue what he is doing.
Using Social Media You would like to educate your network about this concern/issue. You would like to mobilize supporters of the issue. You can organize, communicate, and mobilize more efficiently
and effectively.
Keep in Mind: Awareness. If you are knowledgeable about specific issues (poverty, climate change, refugees, etc.), you could consider improving public awareness as your tactic. This could mean leading a small group study in your church or university. Awareness is the foundation for effective action.

Charities and Advocacy

Charitable organizations should consider government regulations on advocacy before developing a strategy. According to Canada Revenue Agency’s (CRA) Guidelines for Charities, a charitable organization cannot devote more than 10% of its total resources per year to political activities. Charities can participate in political activity if they are non-partisan (not supporting one political party over another) and connected to the charity’s purpose.

What Does CRA Consider “Political Activity”

  1. Explicitly encouraging the public to urge elected representatives to retain or change any law, policy, or any other Canadian government or foreign country government decisions.
  2. Explicitly including in materials that the intention of the activity is to put pressure on elected representatives to change, retain, or oppose the government of Canada or foreign government decisions.
Go Deeper Go Deeper: Canada Revenue Agency. For more information about regulations for charities doing advocacy work, visit CRA’s webpage on “Political Activities.”
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See a sample letter (WORD | PDF)

A one-page brief is a useful tool to communicate your message to MPs, the media, and others. The one-page brief summarizes the problem, the background information, and the solutions that you propose. This is a good resource to bring to a meeting with an MP, to give to the media (for instance, if you are holding a media-covered event), or for anyone who is interested in learning about your issue.

A one-page brief is particularly helpful if you are working with others on the issue.  Having key ideas summarized in one page will help to maintain consistency within your group or organization.  If one page is not enough to cover the essentials, it may spill over to a second page.  Anything longer than two pages will probably not be read in full.

Your one-page brief should include:

Go Deeper. For more information on political activism, see Amanda Sussman’s book, The Art of the Possible.
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Civil servants are an important part of the policy process.  They play a key role in preparing options beforehand. Once legislation is passed, it is up to the appropriate department to implement these changes.

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There are several reasons to contact a civil servant.  The department may delay the implementation of important legislation.  You may also have concerns about the way in which the legislation is implemented.  In these cases, it may be helpful to contact a civil servant who can put the legislation into action in the desired way.

Finding the right contact

The best way to find out who to contact is by looking at an organizational chart for the government department.  This chart can be found at most departmental websites, which are under “Departments and Agencies.” Study the chart and try to identify the person who will most likely be carrying the file you are interested in.  If the organizational chart does not include names, you can find the given person’s name through the Government Employee Directory.

If you are still unsure of who to contact, call the Minister’s office to find out who carries the file.

Setting up a meeting

The key to securing, and successfully carrying out, a meeting with a civil servant is doing your homework.

Find out as much as you can about what that person’s responsibility is regarding your issue.  Time your request according to when the official will be dealing with the particular file you are interested in.
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After researching your concern, you will be able to define clear objectives for your advocacy work. Your research will help you choose both your direction and targets.

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Keep in Mind: Advocacy Targets.
  • When possible, include people who are being affected by the issue you are concerned with.
  • Targets should be specific and measurable so that you can see progress along the way.
  • Targets should also be achievable within a specified time frame. This will help you keep momentum, as you will not get bogged down with objectives that take more time than you have.

Getting Started

Begin by writing down the problem, the current responses from the government, and the solutions you propose.  Think carefully about what you would like to see happen and feasible ways to make it happen.  For feasibility, think about ways to “break down” the problem (and solutions).

Example: If the problem you want to address is poverty, consider different aspects of poverty that you are concerned with (such as unemployment, homelessness, hunger, low educational attainment, etc.). Next, begin researching and thinking critically about these different aspects of poverty and come up with some possible solutions.

If you are concerned with unemployment, you could begin to research and think about:

  1. How to define and measure unemployment.
  2. To what extent is unemployment a problem in Canada?
  3.  How is the government responding to the problem of unemployment?
  4. What should both the government and citizens be doing differently to respond to the
    unemployment problem?
Once you have clear direction and targets, you are ready to choose your advocacy tactics.
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A quick phone call to your Member of Parliament’s office can be more effective than writing a letter in some cases. As a constituent, you may be able to speak to your MP directly (rather than speaking with their staff). One phone call can be more effective and memorable for an MP if you show that have some knowledge about the issue, that you respect their time, and that this issue is important to their constituents.

Speaking to a member of the MP’s staff can also be very effective. They will have the time to hear your position and they will be able to relay your concerns to the MP.

On the Phone

Keep in Mind: Tips for Calling MPs.
  • Tell the MP that this issue will matter to you in the next election.
  • Avoid revealing party affiliation or sympathies. If you show that your vote is already cast
    for a certain party, the MP may not have the incentive to respond to your requests.
  • Be as brief as possible while outlining concerns.  Show that you respect their time.
  • Remain calm and respectful in dialogue. Be willing to work with them.
  • Follow up: Find out what actions were taken as a result of your call, and respond appropriately.
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Your Member of Parliament is more accessible than you think. If you are passionate about an issue, respectful of the MP’s time, and willing to take the time for a meeting, your MP will likely be willing to meet with you.

Step 1 – Setting up a meeting

Step 2 – Preparation

Step 3 – At the meeting

Step 4 – After the meeting

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Demonstrations can be an effective visible statement of support for a cause. They can increase public awareness or public support for the issue, and they can send a clear and strong message to decision-makers.

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Before the Demonstration
  • Advertise to any organizations and individuals that would be
    interested in participating to ensure that there will be a large turnout.
  • Invite elected officials who support your cause.
  • If you have several groups participating, try to develop a common
    focus and purpose.
  • You may need a “parade” permit from the city in order to hold the demonstration.  Make sure that you follow proper procedures.
  • Think about timing.  If you are in the process of forming relationships with policy-makers, a demonstration with the intent to protest the government could alienate you from them.  On the other hand, a friendly demonstration with the intent to raise awareness could improve your relationships with government officials by giving you more exposure.
During the Demonstration
  • Carry banners or placards with simple messages that can be read three metres away.
  • Distribute leaflets that identify your group and explain your cause.
  • Designate someone as the spokesperson if the media requests interviews.
  • Designate another person to bring a camera and record the event.
After the Demonstration
  • Encourage participants to follow up with their representatives to tell them why they participated in the demonstration.  This shows that the participants are committed to the cause and want to dialogue about it.
Get Creative: Unique Demonstrations.  Protests are simply one type of demonstration. You can do many things “for change” (bake, bike, run, walk, paddle, paint, etc.) to raise money for a cause while improving public awareness. You can have a “knit-in” to protest while creating knitted goods for those in need. Unique demonstrations will gain public and political attention!

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A public meeting can help you to gain support for your cause by educating other members of your community.  It can also catch the attention of the media and decision-makers.  It is a forum for interaction, for discussion of alternative viewpoints, and can provide an opportunity to question a public official.

You can structure the meeting in various ways. The format is up to you and depends on who will be there and what you will discuss. Here are some ideas:

Organizing a public meeting:

  1. Determine the purpose of holding the meeting.  Keep a clear and tangible focus.
  2. Approach other groups who might want to help organize or attend the event, and invite representatives from relevant organizations as well.
  3. Choose a public place with adequate accessibility, seating capacity, and sound system.
  4. Publicize:
  5. Invite local representatives and elected officials responsible for the issue to attend.
  6. Distribute responsibilities for welcoming, chairing the meeting, moderating a debate, introducing speakers, arranging for audio-visual equipment, etc.
  7. Determine meeting format and time limit.
  8. Have informational materials available.
Keep in Mind. Plan your awareness event just before implementing an advocacy strategy. The event will likely increase public support on the issue and provide momentum for your campaign
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Working with the media is an important component of any advocacy strategy. It can increase public awareness and can also catch the attention of elected officials. You may find yourself engaging with the media through writing press releases and letters to the editor, or by offering information to a journalist. The media may also contact you for an interview. It’s important to know how to approach the media and how to get your voice heard through newspapers, television, and the radio.

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Approaching the media

Contacted for an interview?

Go Deeper: Media Relations. For more information, see John Longhurst’s book Making the News.

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SAMPLE PRESS RELEASE (WORD | PDF)

A press release provides information to various sectors of the media concerning a newsworthy topic or event.  It is a great way to get information to the public.  It should be short and should catch the attention of the news editor.  You can send it by email, mail, or fax.

Writing a Press Release

Keep in Mind: Formatting a Press Release.
  • Only use one side of the page.
  • Use wide margins to allow room for editors’ comments and instructions.
  • Try to stay to one page.
  • Write as a reporter-not from a first-person perspective.
  • Provide pronunciation guides for unusual names.
  • Include contact information for people who can answer questions about the release.
  • Type “# # #” centred below the last line.  This signals the end of the release

Sending a Press Release

Most newspapers have an email address for receiving press releases on their contact page. Send your press release in the text of an email (not as an attachment) to all relevant newspapers. This will ensure you have the broadest reach possible and that you do not favour any one newspaper.

Citizens for Public Justice is committed to protecting the privacy and confidentiality of your personal information. To comply with privacy legislation, we have developed this Privacy Policy. Any personally identifiable information about you will be treated in accordance with our Privacy Policy.

Our Relationship with You

To maintain our relationships with members and donors, and to keep you informed about our work, we collect some or all of the following information about you:

Using Your Personal Information

We collect, use and disclose your personal information to:

We do not sell or share our member and donor lists. Your personal name and address information, including email address, is used by staff who are involved in the distribution of our information and publications. We use a mailing house for mailings and sometimes volunteers assist with mailings. On occasion, on behalf of other organizations, we send out publications that we believe are of interest to our membership and supporters. Information related to your donations is used by staff who are involved with fundraising and finances. Historical donation information is provided to board members and volunteers who assist with our annual telethon; volunteers are asked to sign a confidentiality agreement and all information is returned once the telethon is done. Information may be used from time to time to contact you to survey your opinions. Member loan information may be provided to a financial institution in connection with a credit application.

Before using your information for any other purpose, we will explain the purpose and obtain your consent. We will not collect, use or disclose information without your consent, except where authorized by law.

Your Rights

You have the right to access your personal information and request changes, if needed. It is your right to choose not to provide us with some or all of your personal information, or to deny us the use or disclosure of your information for certain purposes. Should you exercise this right, we will not unreasonably withhold requested materials or services.

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Our systems and procedures are designed to prevent the loss, misuse, unauthorized access, disclosure, alteration or destruction of your information. We retain your information for as long as needed for our purposes and/or any legal or regulatory requirements.

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