OTTAWA (CCN) — The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) has signed an inter-faith declaration seeking action on climate change, poverty reduction and justice for Aboriginal peoples.
The seven-page declaration, On promoting Climate Justice and Ending Poverty in Canada; Faith Communities in Canada Speak Out, released by the Canadian Council of Churches (CCC) on Sept. 25, describes global warming and poverty as a “spiritual, moral and ethical human crisis.”
“On the same day when Pope Francis spoke at the UN General Assembly asking for renewed ambition from wealthy countries in efforts to reach a solid international commitment to lower greenhouse gas emissions, this statement echoes the need for Canada to act,” said Joe Gunn, executive director of Citizens for Public Justice (CPJ), which helped draft the letter. “In the midst of a federal election campaign, climate challenges, ending poverty and responding with justice to indigenous rights cannot be dismissed. These religious signatories are right to call us to greater respect for the common good.”
The document calls on the federal government to provide global leadership and develop a plan on climate change that co-ordinates all levels of government that:
— will influence the upcoming COP 21 negotiations on climate change in Paris later this year;
— will establish a price on carbon and set up more ambitious and stricter emissions targets;
— will contribute to a fund designed to help poorer countries mitigate the negative effects of climate change.
Canada’s fair share would be “at least $500 million.”
The document also calls on federal action to end poverty in Canada. It calls for the federal government to develop a national anti-poverty plan, noting Dignity for All: the campaign for a poverty-free Canada reports almost 4.8 million Canadians who “struggle to make ends meet.”The religious leaders note the faith communities have a long record in working to alleviate poverty and in advocacy to bring about “structural reforms that aim to eliminate” it.
As the UN met in September to adopt the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the faith leaders point out the first SDG “calls on states to end poverty in all its forms, everywhere, including at home.”
The anti-poverty plan should include “adequate federal funding for social housing,” and introduce “a more comprehensive system of early childhood education, affordable care, and support for parents of young children.”
The document concludes with an appeal to government to respond to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s (TRC) Calls to Action.
“Indigenous Peoples in Canada have long experienced the effects of poverty, and are commonly among the first to experience the effects of climate change,” the faith leaders say.
“Faith communities who long to live in a society grounded in right relationships and equity will continue to seek and live into reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples,” the document says.
The document calls on government:
— to use the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) as its foundation for improving relations and for published reports on its implementation;
— to lead and participate in an inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women and girls;
— to co-ordinate with First Nations, Inuit and Métis communities to address needs for clean water, health care and housing and ensure equal educational funding for children living on reserves.
“The undersigned faith communities are united in our prayer that climate justice, the eradication of poverty, and a new foundation for the well-being of Indigenous Peoples become beacons of our commitment to becoming good neighbours — working together and with our elected governments — in these important last months of 2015 and beyond,” they write.
The document was signed by CCCB President Hamilton Bishop Douglas Crosby and a range of other church leaders from Orthodox churches, the Anglican Church and various Protestant denominations, as well representatives from the World Sikh Organization of Canada and the World Buddhist Council.