A Letter and Statement by Canadian Church Leaders on the Occasion of the Summit of the Americas

Sunday, April 22 2001

Dear Heads of State and Government, and all brothers and sisters at the Summit of the Americas,

As representatives of churches from the host country of this Summit, we join in welcoming you and in praying for light on your discussions. With millions of our fellow citizens, we are aware that your decisions will have important consequences for life in the Americas.

We welcome also the participants in the Peoples’ Summit and similar alternative events. We see in them that hunger for social justice and zeal for participation in public decisions that should animate all of us. Let every voice that is raised in sincerity and concern, whether inside or outside the security perimeter, be greeted with respect in this great negotiation process.

The economic integration agreements that you are negotiating are complex indeed, and you face difficult decisions about appropriate checks and balances. Their complexity, however, does not mean that they should be hidden from the public eye. We call for genuine transparency and for public participation to be restored to your negotiations, including full democratic accountability in your national legislatures.

Your coming together in peace as leaders of neighbouring nations can be a sign of hope, an embrace of new energies, a widening of the road to solidarity. On the other hand, it can symbolize a new and threatening conformism, with elected governments bowing to market-driven forces as if these latter were fated to rule humanity.

As communities of faith in Canada, linked with brothers and sisters of faith throughout the Americas, we call upon you to create not simply a trade agreement, but a framework for a more neighbourly economy. We believe that the following critical policy points need your urgent attention:

  1. Conform any new agreements to the human rights standards in UN covenants.
  2. Protect and promote the inherent rights of Aboriginal peoples in the Americas.
  3. Cancel paralysing national debts.
  4. Enhance food security and the security of agricultural communities.
  5. Preserve the integrity of publicly funded health and education services.
  6. Don’t let patents, or trade-related intellectual property rights, block access to public goods like life-saving medicines.

The future of all of us depends in no small part on your doing this great public work wisely, courageously and for the common good of the Americas.

May your deliberations be enlightened and your consciences guided by God who has created all, who has shared our life, and who lives in our hearts today. We offer this prayer for the peoples of the region and for you.

A Prayer for the Americas

Gracious, saving and loving God, from Tierra del Fuego to Pond Inlet, the people of the Americas enjoy the splendour of your creation. Create in us new hearts, so that we may live on this lovely earth as your children, loving our neighbours as ourselves, according to your will. Grant us the grace to share justly the riches of creation and to live in harmony and mutual respect on this land. Help us to forge right relations between people and the earth, between one community and another. Lead us into your future freed from poverty, indifference, and greed.Your wisdom, O God, is from the beginning and is always new: grant our leaders inspiration and courage so that as they meet for the Summit of the Americas, they might find true paths on which we can move together to a more generous, sustainable and neighbourly today and tomorrow. Amen.

The Most Rev. André Vallée
Canadian Council of Churches

Gordon G. McClure
Canadian Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers)

Marilyn Houser Hamm
Director, Peace and Justice Ministries
Mennonite Church Canada

The Most Rev. Michael G. Peers
The Anglican Church of Canada

Rev. Wm. C. Veenstra
Canadian Ministries Director
Christian Reformed Church in North America

The Very Rev. Anthony Nikolic
Polish National Catholic Church of Canada

Rev. Dr. Kenneth Bellous
Executive Minister
Baptist Convention of Ontario and Quebec

The Rev. Messale Engeda
Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church

The Rev. Glen Davis, Moderator
126th General Assembly
The Presbyterian Church in Canada

Bishop Gerald Wiesner, OMI
Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops

Bishop Telmor Sartison
Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada

The Right Rev. Dr. Marion Purdy
United Church of Canada