Letter to Federal Finance Minister Ralph Goodale Concerning the Elimination of Third World Debt

Thursday, September 30 2004

The Honourable Ralph Goodale, MP
Minister of Finance
House of Commons
Ottawa ON K1A 0A6

Dear Mr. Goodale:

On behalf of the Social Affairs Commission of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, I write to you today to encourage you to do all in your power to bring Canada’s firm support to the renewed international efforts to cancel 100 percent of the onerous and unpayable multilateral debts of the poorest countries of the world.

I am aware that this October 1 in Washington, you will join the Finance Ministers of the wealthiest countries on the planet to discuss pressing matters concerning the international economy. We hope at such a crucial meeting that you will be able to advance your role as one of the members of the G8 Commission on Africa by announcing renewed bilateral debt cancellation initiatives. As well, we believe that it would be most important for you, and the G8 Commission on Africa, to advocate complete debt write-off plans from the multilateral financial institutions.

In the Liberal Party’s 2004 electoral platform (Moving Canada Forward: The Paul Martin Plan for Getting Things Done), it states that your government will “Reduce or forgive debts owed by poor and deserving countries as part of a strategy to get crisis-torn states on the road to recovery.” Indeed, Canada showed it can move very quickly when we forgave $750 million in debts owed by Iraq. Your September 22, 2004, announcement to cancel the relatively modest $9 million in debt owed to Canada from Senegal, Ghana and Ethiopia was also appreciated.

I would urge you to recall the 640,000 Jubilee debt remission petitions signed by Canadian citizens in 1999-2000. Many of these signatories were churchgoers, and Catholics. They are still waiting to see the 100 percent cancellation of the multilateral debts of the highly indebted poor countries (HIPC), without in turn imposing stringent and unjust structural adjustment conditions upon these most vulnerable populations.

Earlier this month, Pope John Paul II stated that “Canada’s generous and practical contributions to the building of a world of peace, justice and prosperity are widely recognized by the international community. Indeed, solidarity with developing nations is a well-known and laudable trait of your people… .”

As Chairman of the Social Affairs Commission, I encourage you to make these words even more evidently true by providing leadership in the area of debt cancellation for the poor at your upcoming G8 meetings.

Sincerely yours,

+ Blaise Morand
Bishop of Prince Albert
Chairman, Episcopal Commission for Social Affairs

Cc Hon. Aileen Carroll, Minister of International Cooperation

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