A Letter to MPs called “The Common Good or Exclusion: A Choice for Canadians”

Friday, February 02 2001

(Ottawa — CCCB) The Episcopal Commission for Social Affairs of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) has sent an open letter to the members of Parliament calling upon them “to work for the common good and toward ending economic exclusion.”

The eight-page letter highlights several challenges facing not only politicians but all Canadian society. These include the widening gap between have and have-not Canadians, the increasing number of children living in poverty in Canada, the need for fairer tax reform based on the common good, the expansion of priority social programs such as home care and pharmacare, using the fiscal surplus to substantially increase aid to debt ridden countries and looking at ways of forgiving their debt, incentives to reduce greenhouse emissions and support for just land rights of Aboriginal peoples.

The letter, sent as the members of Parliament began their first week of official business in the new session of the House of Commons, aims at establishing a conversation on some of the major challenges Canada faces at the beginning of a new parliament and a new millennium.

The members of Parliament are encouraged to make the common good and the goal of ending economic exclusion “the guiding priority of political and legislative commitments.”

The document recalls the Commission’s 1996 Pastoral Letter on the Eradication of Poverty, where it noted particular concern that “four groups in Canadian society, namely, women, the indigenous, newcomers and children, were being marginalized by poverty.”

In 1998, the Social Affairs Commission had observed that “the rising tide of economic growth in Canada had not lifted all boats.” Today, the Commission says it fears that “rather than being marginalized, these groups are even being excluded.”

“What is new and dramatic is that large numbers of Canadians are being shoved into a situation of permanent injustice from which they may never be able to emerge.”

While inequality is not new, the letter says “What is new is that the new economy is promoting greater inequality faster than ever before.”

The open letter concludes by saying “the bishops hope that these suggestions will be enhanced by public debate and discussion, and they welcome feedback from all the Canadian community.”

The Commission also invited members of the new parliament to continue the dialogue with the Bishops.”We are also interested in meeting those Members of Parliament who are willing to deepen their reflection and broaden their dialogue on this topic. For our part, we will increase our own efforts to mirror in our own ministry, personal lives and economic decisions that same inclusiveness that Jesus’ life modelled.”