Our History

It was the dawn of Beatlemania. The Leafs won the Stanley Cup. Lester Pearson was Prime Minister. We flew the red ensign as our national flag.

This was Canada, circa 1963. But beneath the surface of Canadian society, something unique was stirring: a movement to extend the Gospel’s Good News well beyond church walls and into the very fabric of our life, including political life. A small group of young Christian activists in Edmonton created the Christian Action Foundation, which would later join with the Committee for Justice and Liberty to become Citizens for Public Justice.

Some 50 years later, CPJ now has a long history of speaking out for public justice across Canada. From the early beginnings promoting a Christian view of the government in the 1960s, the Mackenzie Valley Pipeline moratorium in the 1970s, social policy, recycling, and tax reform in the 1980s, to deepening work on child poverty and refugees in the 1990s, our move to our nation’s capital in 2007, the launch of the Dignity for All campaign in 2009, and the reemergence of a public justice perspective on the environment, CPJ has remained a constant, active voice in Canadian public affairs.

Our history includes many people of different backgrounds coming together to speak with one voice. Explore our history below – and join us as we move forward in the next chapter of CPJ.

Annual General Meetings

Each spring, CPJ holds an Annual General Meeting for members to come together to discuss CPJ’s work and vote in new board members. 

2013: 50 years of work for public justice!

In 2013 we celebrated CPJ's 50th anniversary: a time to share and honour all the ways CPJ inspired and transformed public policy in Canada, to learn more about people whose courage and insight have led to lasting change, and to lift up visions for the future. Thank you to everyone who joined us in this celebration! Read more

2011: Remembering Gerald Vandezande

Gerald was one of the founders of Citizens for Public Justice in 1963, and continued to be involved as an active member and supporter all the days of his life. He worked as Executive Director until 1988 and then National Public Affairs Director of CPJ for another decade thereafter. Gerald passed away in the summer of 2011, leaving a rich legacy. Read more 

2008: CPJ's 45th Anniversary

In 2008, CPJ's 45th anniversary year, members and supporters gathered in Ottawa for the organizational AGM. It was a chance to celebrate CPJ’s 45 year history with old friends, say goodbye to long-time executive director Harry Kits, and look to the future with renewed enthusiasm and vision. Read more

2007: CPJ is Called to Ottawa    

In 2007, with an increasing focus on federal policy issues, it became clear that it was time to move. According to then-executive director, Harry Kits, “Our presence is needed [here] to speak to all parties and work to bring together different viewpoints in answers that serve the common good. CPJ will bring our particular understanding of Jesus’ Gospel of love and compassion.” Read more

2003: CPJ's 40th Anniversary

During 2003 and 2004 Citizens for Public Justice and the Public Justice Resource Centre celebrated their 40th Anniversary in Halifax, Ottawa, Toronto, London, Winnipeg, Edmonton, Calgary, and Vancouver. In each location where we celebrated, Executive Director Harry Kits repeated: "We thank God for the blessing of all of you - a loyal supporting community. Thank you for celebrating with us tonight. We continue to feel blessed by God who has sustained these organizations in good times and bad, and has given them an opportunity to be a blessing in Canadian society. We rely on your continued prayers, participation, challenges, and financial support as we go forward, past and future together." Read more

The 2000s: A Decade of Change

The turn of the millennium was accompanied by many other changes for CPJ and Canada. It saw new ideas about security. There were many different political scenes, including a minority government. Then there was the economic recession that shook the country. But it wasn’t all bad. The new millennium brought amazing new staff members and structural changes that re-invigorated the future of CPJ.

The 1990s: CPJ in the eye of several storms

By any standard, the 1980s had been a gung-ho decade for Citizens for Public Justice. The growing team of Board and staff members had taken on new issues for research and action. They had opened offices in three provinces. They had gone all-out for change on concrete issues from the land rights of the Dene Nation to the recycling of city garbage. They had agreed on foundational documents, seized moments on radio and televison, and started Catalyst.

The 1980s: a big appetite for faith-fed advocacy

The CJL (Committee for Justice and Liberty) Foundation came roaring out of the 1970s in overdrive. As an incorporated organization it was only 17 years old in 1980, and there had been full-time staff (Gerald Vandezande and John Olthuis) only since 1972. But some early successes had been deeply encouraging.

The 1970s: Sinking roots in a Seventies Canada

CJL breathed life into its support for pluralism – the right of different peoples to live out their lives according to their beliefs – through its support for Aboriginal rights in the 1970s. Bold work on the frontlines of Aboriginal support work led to new alliances, introducing many people to CJL for the first time.

The 1960s: Birthing a Christian political movement

Much of the inspiration for CPJ’s formation came from Alberta, where a small group of Christians had launched the Christian Action Foundation in 1962. It pushed for Christian action in politics, labour and education, energized by the vision of a radically different society based on Gospel values.

The Names of CPJ

For over half a century, the work of CPJ has been publicly known under different names and carried out through a variety of organizational and corporate structures.

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