In the summer of 2020, CPJ’s Board of Directors elected Cherilyn Spraakman as its new chair. Cherilyn was born and raised on a farm in Olds, Alberta, and she has lived in Newmarket, Ontario with her husband and family for the past 28 years. Seven years ago, she retired from a long career in physiotherapy and has now embraced social justice causes. Cherilyn spoke with Brad Wassink about her new role as CPJ’s Board chair.
What types of social justice initiatives are you involved with locally?
At Holy Cross Lutheran I lead the Global Justice Team. We connect with KAIROS and CPJ campaigns and support Canadian Lutheran World Relief and a street outreach van.
We have a local KAIROS group that I help to coordinate it. I am also the co-regional representative for the KAIROS Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Region.
Since 2015 I have been on an advisory board for homelessness in York Region. This board, aligned with the United Way, has become very busy because of COVID-19 in helping to allocate millions of dollars from the federal government to address homelessness.
When did you start to make connections between your faith and social justice?
As I ponder this question, I think the first connection of faith and social justice is learned in Sunday School, from the stories of Jesus’ care for the sick and the poor.
Working in health care gave me a grounding in social justice. As an older adult I can look back and connect health care and justice, which I would not have recognized as a new physiotherapy graduate. Faith and health care and justice definitely overlapped when I began working in cancer care and palliative care at the Newmarket hospital in 1999.
How did you become connected with CPJ?
I first heard about CPJ in 2013 when I attended a Toronto conference. Joe Gunn, then-executive director of CPJ, was a featured speaker. People at the conference spoke of him with deep respect. In 2018, through Lutheran connections, I was asked to apply to be on the Board of Directors of CPJ.
What excites you most about the work CPJ is doing?
What is exciting to me is the keen interest of university students in pursuing an internship or student placement at CPJ. There are always many applicants for the positions. These young people bring new perspectives and enthusiasm to their placement at CPJ. They benefit from the wise and experienced mentorship of CPJ staff. A recent example of the contribution by interns is Restoring Indigenous Rights by Keira Kang.
The second exciting piece is “The Intern Exchange” podcasts. There are 20 in the series, featuring interviews with past interns. They are distinctive in political podcasts, representing social justice advocacy and a positive message.
What do you think CPJ brings to Canadian faith communities?
At the local level, CPJ’s campaign resources assist in enhancing the education and community outreach ministries of congregations. CPJ resources give guidance and structure to sometimes overwhelming societal issues.
CPJ specializes in its campaigns of climate justice, refugee rights, and the elimination of poverty. The research and advocacy tools developed by CPJ staff are available for regional and national faith organizations to use in their social justice causes.
You are taking over as CPJ’s Board chair after a period of some transition, with a new executive director and a new house in downtown Ottawa. Where do you see CPJ going from here?
Yes, CPJ has had many changes in the past one and a half years, now compounded by staff needing to work from home because of COVID-19 restrictions.
I see CPJ as being well-positioned with our 2020-2022 Strategic Plan, approved in November 2019. This emphasized expanding individual and organization membership and starting chapters of CPJ in cities across Canada. The goal is for increased visibility of CPJ.
I look forward to the continued relationships with the range of organizations with which CPJ collaborates. The number is far reaching and enriches the campaigns. CPJ will continue to change and progress with influence from such groups as Leading in Colour and The Tamarack Institute with whom we are sharing webinars during Chew on This! 2020.
What will happen when the COVID-19 pandemic subsides? CPJ will need to continuously reassess what is happening in Canada. In planning for the future CPJ has signed-on to “A Just Recovery for All,” a national campaign with nearly 600 signatories. We will continue to advocate for equal opportunities for all vulnerable citizens in Canada.