Letter from the Episcopal Commission for Social Affairs to Federal MP Réal Ménard Concerning Proposed Legislation on Anti-Poverty

Tuesday, January 28 2003

[CCCB translation]

January 29, 2003

Mr. Réal Ménard
M.P. for Hochelaga-Maisonneuve
House of Commons
Ottawa, ON
K1A 0A6

Fax: (613) 947-4579

Dear Mr. Ménard:

I am pleased to learn that your proposed anti-poverty bill will be presented to the House of Commons in February.

As you know, the Episcopal Commission for Social Affairs of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops has long supported and continues to support the addition of social condition to the list of prohibited grounds of discrimination in the Canadian Human Rights Act. As we stated in our October 17, 1998, concerning the eradication of poverty:

In Canada, the Senate has recently passed a bill designed to add “social condition” to the list of prohibited grounds for discrimination in the Human Rights Act. This legislation is designed to shield the poor from the kind of discrimination they often report from banks, telephone companies or federal agencies. In this year marking the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Human Rights, this legislation could have the symbolic effect of encouraging Canadians to see poverty as an important human rights issue, beyond a simple concern for our personal charity. The Social Affairs Commission encourages members of Parliament to introduce and pass this legislation in the House of Commons without delay.

Since your draft bill includes this question, we hope that anti-poverty groups as well as other political parties will be attentive to this initiative and lend their support to this very positive proposal. Broad support should also be forthcoming in favour of your bill’s intention to prohibit refusal of banking services by reason only of an individual’s low income, as well as your request that the government present an annual report concerning the state of poverty in Canada.

As a citizen and as a Christian, I wish to thank you for your tenacity in working for the eradication of poverty in Canada.

Sincerely yours,

Most Reverend Jean Gagnon
Bishop of Gaspé
Episcopal Commission for Social Affairs
Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops