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Journey to Justice

By Joe Gunn

Actions need to be changed, not the climate


Pope Francis repositioned the entire global debate around climate change when he released the first-ever encyclical on Christian responsibility to protect the environment. Laudato Sí was timely, morally incisive, and prophetic. And now, almost one year later, we have a historic opportunity to direct the way Canada will address climate change.

Will faith communities show up — in timely, incisive and prophetic ways — or leave the moral and ethical issues surrounding climate change up in the clouds?

At the UN on Earth Day, April 22, Prime Minister Trudeau indicated he would present the Paris Agreement to Parliament for approval in May. Minister McKenna announced national public consultations to develop climate change strategies for our country. Through a Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change website ( Canadians are invited to submit their “general ideas on addressing climate change.” Government would like to hear from the public on four specific themes that echo what the first ministers identified as “working groups”: 1) reducing emissions, 2) clean technology, innovation and jobs, 3) preparing for climate change impacts, and 4) carbon pricing.

Submissions from individuals and groups can be delivered by June 1, allowing federal and provincial officials on the working groups to develop their final report by September — all in time for another first ministers’ meeting in October.

The process also encourages “town hall” meetings in communities. Minister McKenna launched the first such event in her own riding of Ottawa Centre on the evening of April 28. Karri Munn-Venn of Citizens for Public Justice (CPJ) was invited to facilitate a panel, and so many people signed up to come — over 200 — that some had to be turned away!

CPJ encourages all people of faith to impress upon our governments that Canada needs an ambitious but socially fair plan to reduce our carbon emissions based on the scientific evidence, committing our nation to respect the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and to rapid conversion to a renewable energy future.

We have worked with Development and Peace — Caritas Canada has insisted that Canada also provide communities in the Global South with the necessary resources to adapt to climate change based on the principle of “common but differentiated responsibilities.” (This means avoiding scenarios where the poorest in the Global South — who contribute least to climate change — are hardest hit by its impacts.) The Ontario bishops will soon launch an on-line study guide on Laudato Sí, and Scarboro Missions has hired an animator to bring workshops to parish groups.

CPJ has launched a webpage ( with resource materials and action suggestions, so that people of faith can get involved, and make their views known. Please ask your own member of Parliament if she or he plans to organize a town hall consultation evening. If they don’t, organize one in your own congregation — we’ll help you do so!

CPJ believes that by sharing stories about our ministries to protect creation, faith communities can enhance our advocacy efforts. Since climate change affects us all, many of us have already been impacted by climate change. You’re invited to contribute to this learning of how faith communities have responded.

As examples, Lutheran pastor Adam Snook in Mahone Bay, Nova Scotia, writes how his church — and his town — risk flooding as sea levels have increased. Sheila McKinley relates how her Ursuline Sisters have achieved GOLD certification from LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) in the construction and operation of their convent in Chatham, Ont. Like the Sisters of St. Joseph in London and Toronto, among others, they used ground source heating and cooling, as well as the most environmentally friendly products available. United Church member Christine Boyle of Vancouver offers testimony of how her involvement in Fossil Free Faith (advocating for institutions to refrain from investments in fossil fuel firms) has assisted her ecological conversion.

You can find, on CPJ’s website, what your own church has said about climate change. Ask your church leaders if they plan to present their views, and how the folks in the pews can participate.

There’s also a template to assist anyone wishing to submit their own opinion to the government — and you can revise CPJ’s preferred message to reflect your own views.

Let’s change our actions — not the climate!

Gunn is the Ottawa-based executive director of Citizens for Public Justice,, a member-driven, faith-based public policy organization in Ottawa focused on ecological justice, refugee rights and poverty elimination.