Delegates to the annual Western Conference of Social Justice met Oct. 4 - 6 in Edmonton, addressing a range of issues related to Catholic social teaching. (Photo by Dick Mynen)
EDMONTON — Delegates gathered from around Western Canada Oct. 4 - 6 for the annual Western Conference of Social Justice, held at the Providence Retreat Centre in Edmonton. The conference brought together diocesan employees and volunteers as well as staff from Development and Peace/Caritas Canada. This year, delegates from 11 dioceses met.
Each year the western bishops send a bishop ponens to attend, report, and participate. The current bishop ponens is Archbishop Murray Chatlain of Keewatin-Le Pas, who opened the conference with greetings from the western bishops and an update about some of the justice projects the bishops are involved in.
The conference, which serves as a networking opportunity as well as a consultative body to the western bishops, covers a plethora of questions in relation to Catholic social teaching. In-house experts are tasked with creating presentations reporting the work they are doing in particular areas. Topics are selected to represent the wide range within Catholic social teaching in relation to where that teaching is being brought to life at the diocesan and parish levels.
The presentations covered a range of topics, including the work of the St. Vincent de Paul Society (SSVP) at the crossroads of justice and charity; Development and Peace/Caritas Canada’s fall campaign focusing on agroecology; welcoming new Canadians as church; and the connections between pornography, prostitution and human trafficking.
Chatlain opened the meeting, conducting a discussion on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Calls to Action for churches. A Catholic Response to Call to Action 48 of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission on Adopting and Implementing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples was examined, as was the CCCB’s repudiation of terra nullius, commonly referred to as the Doctrine of Discovery.
Freshly pressed and discussed were the Canadian Catholic Aboriginal Council’s Eight Commitments of Walking Forward Together. The theme of reconciliation was complemented the following evening during a showing and discussion of the short film Reserve 107, which tells of a hopeful model of healing among the Young Chippewayan First Nation and their relationship with surrounding Mennonite and Lutheran settlers in Saskatchewan.
The presentation by Peter Ouellette, president of the SSVP Western Region, was illuminating. Ouellette illustrated how with minimal paid staff SSVP was making a huge difference in the lives of many. He also explained the North of 60 Project in which SSVP was able to send food, furniture and miscellaneous items to several communities in Nunavut.
A presentation on Development Peace/Caritas Canada was given by Anu Ranawana (animator for Alberta/NWT) and Sara Farid (regional co-ordinator for Alberta NW, B.C., and Yukon). Ranawana and Farid provided delegates with an outline of Development and Peace’s Fall Action Campaign, “At the Heart of the Action,” which highlights the work as well as the challenges faced by small family farmers in the Global South and their importance in feeding most of the people on the planet.
Another presentation raised awareness about the connection that exists between pornography, prostitution and human trafficking via video feed from Vancouver by Evelyn Vollet, director of the Service and Justice Office of the Archdiocese of Vancouver, and Sister Nancy Brown of Covenant House, Vancouver. Vollet and Brown outlined the link between prostitution, pornography and sex trafficking. They showed how this violent trade was linked to organized crime.
“Welcoming New Canadians as Church” was presented by Marilou LeGeyt, co-ordinator of the Social Justice Office in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Calgary. LeGeyt reviewed the responsibilities of sponsoring a refugee family. Refugee families suffer a deep sense of loss, stressed LeGeyt. The church must continue to accompany these families and individuals to help them overcome their loss with a sense of community and support.