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Climate change, poverty, refugee issues concern leaders

By Deborah Gyapong
Canadian Catholic News


OTTAWA (CCN) — Canada’s Catholic bishops and the Canadian Council of Churches sent congratulations and a wish list to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau Nov. 4, highlighting climate change and poverty.

The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops also reiterated its call for Parliament to invoke the notwithstanding clause to suspend the Supreme Court of Canada’s assisted suicide decision that will come into effect in three months.

CCCB president Hamilton Bishop Douglas Crosby urged the Canadian government to “take responsible action on the urgent climatic, environmental and social challenges facing the world, as outlined so forcefully by Pope Francis in his encyclical Laudato Si’, issued this past May 24.”

“The whole of society needs to be involved, including industry, if there are to be fair, binding and truly transformational climate agreements both nationally and internationally,” Crosby wrote.

Crosby also appealed to the new prime minister to respond to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s (TRC) Calls to Action and the bishops’ concerns regarding “improved access to education, the epidemic of murdered and missing indigenous women, the need for environments supportive of indigenous families and communities, and the importance of strengthening the ability of Canadian justice and correctional systems to respond to Aboriginal realities.”

The CCCB president also reminded the prime minister of earlier calls by the bishops and other religious leaders to expand and speed up private refugee sponsorship programs to respond to the refugee crisis.

He also urged the government to work with the international community to bring peace through diplomatic efforts in world conflicts that are forcing people to flee their homelands.

“An effective and enduring solution to the global crisis of refugees and displaced persons requires a determined international effort to resolve the ongoing conflicts in the Middle East and Africa, as well as Ukraine,” Crosby said. “Each of these not only involves immense human suffering, but threatens international peace and stability.”

Last but not least, Crosby pointed out Canada faces a looming deadline on Feb. 6 when the Supreme Court of Canada’s Carter decision on doctor assisted death comes into effect.

“Together with other religious leaders — Christians as well as members of other world religions — we consider physician assisted suicide ethically and morally wrong,” said Crosby in an open letter Nov. 4. “The court’s decision is divisive; polls indicate almost two-thirds of Canadian physicians would refuse to assist in such suicides.”

“In contrast, there has been near unanimity in the Canadian Parliament on the need to focus on improving access to palliative care,” Crosby wrote. “At the unanimous request of my brother bishops, I request that the Government of Canada invoke the Notwithstanding Clause, in order to protect the interests of the sick, the elderly, the disabled, the socially and economically vulnerable, as well as those who care for them, including their loved ones and health care professionals.”

“We are convinced that our nation and its legislators need to take more time to look closely at the court’s decision and the grave social risk of embarking on policies of assisted suicide and euthanasia,” Crosby wrote.

Also Nov. 4, the Canadian Council of Churches (CCC) president Canon Alyson Barnett-Cowan sent the prime minister the recent statement On Climate Justice and Poverty in Canada: Faith Communities Speak Out that the CCCB had signed with a brief letter of congratulations.

“Today we understand the twin challenges of climate and poverty are linked by a spiritual, moral and ethical human crisis: how will Canadians act as a good neighbour in both the natural and human communities since in the long run the health of one depends on the health of the other?” Barnett-Cowan asked.

The CCC asked the new federal government to: provide global leadership on climate, co-ordinating all levels of government; to develop a national poverty elimination plan; to respond to the TRC’s recommendations; and to respond to a report on a recent meeting the CCC co-organized with the church of Sweden on the Future of Life in the Arctic — the Impact of Climate Change, Indigenous and Religious Perspectives.

A total of 25 denominations signed the Climate Justice and Poverty statement, including about 85 per cent of the Christian faith community. Citizens for Public Justice (CPJ) executive director Joe Gunn said the letter has also been signed by religious congregations of men and women cross Canada, bringing the total number of signatories to 65.

“That was a massive undertaking to get all those faith communities on the same page,” Gunn said.

CPJ has created Prayers for Paris, a resource for church groups to pray for the upcoming United Nations conference on climate change in Paris in December. Gunn said the initiative is part of the campaign to get the climate justice statement “into the pews.” The worship resources, at, include prayers, liturgies and some suggested homilies, including one by Saskatoon Bishop Don Bolen, that go with the readings for the First Sunday of Advent, one week before the Paris talks begin.

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