Letter to the Minister of Finance from the Episcopal Commission for Social Affairs

Wednesday, April 16 1997

The Honourable Paul Martin
Minister of Finance
House of Commons
Ottawa, ON
K1A 0A6

Dear Mr. Martin:

We are writing to follow up on the concern that the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops has expressed, for some time now, in regard to the question of debt forgiveness for the lowest income countries.

Following the leadership of Pope John Paul II, we have monitored the issue over past years, and will continue to do so in the context of the coming Jubilee of the Year 2000. We are encouraging this occasion to be celebrated by righting historical injustices, as a nation and a global community. In Biblical times, the Jubilee meant forgiveness of debts, release of slaves, and the return of lands to persons needing them in order to feed their families. The upcoming celebration should call us all to conversion of heart, changing those economic structures that create poverty and suffering. The overwhelming debt loads of the poorest countries on the face of the globe condemn millions of people to debt slavery, penury and underdevelopment. The situation cries out for redress.

At present, the world is watching for an early and fair treatment of the Ugandan debt. This would serve as a sign that the “Highly Indebted Poor Countries” (HIPC) initiative is a credible strategy by the international financial institutions, worthy of broad and positive support. We appreciate Canada’s commitment to early decision and completion points for Uganda, and ask you to move resolutely to convince your G-7 colleagues of the justice of this position. Additionally, we encourage you to ensure that Uganda does not suffer from onerous calculations of export performance that will postpone, or minimize, urgently required debt relief. Further, pressures to impose new conditionalities will create new delays, thus effectively weakening relief commitments.

The multilateral debt issue requires firm and decisive action. We encourage you to redouble your efforts to ensure that true debt relief to countries like Uganda is delivered quickly and at a level that will rebuild human community and restore international confidence in resolve of the North to address the debt question as an issue of justice. Canada has shown leadership on debt relief issues in the past. We would ask that this precedent be strengthened.

I wish you success in your efforts in this regard.

Sincerely yours,

Most Rev. Francois Thibodeau cjm
Episcopal Commission for Social Affairs
Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops