Briefing Note Regarding Debt Cancellation for the Poorest, Most Highly-Indebted Counties

Wednesday, June 02 1999

To: Members of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops

From: Most Reverend François Thibodeau, CJM
Chair, Episcopal Commission for Social Affairs

Date: June 2, 1999

RE: Debt Cancellation for the Poorest, Most Highly-Indebted Countries

Dear Colleagues in the Episcopacy:

The main reason for this note is to thank all the Bishops for your efforts in making the Canadian debt petition campaign such a successful endeavour. As you may now be aware, on May 11, 1999, leaders of the Canadian Ecumenical Jubilee Initiative (including Archbishop Marcel Gervais of Ottawa, Bishop Brendan O’Brien of Pembroke and Mr. Fabien Leboeuf of the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace) presented 615,000 signed petitions to the Canadian government. This number of signatures exceeded our most optimistic expectations, and should go a long way to convince the federal government of the need to advance debt cancellation initiatives at the Cologne meeting of the G-7 countries in mid-June.

I also wanted to share with you at this time a letter I have sent to Development and Peace which thanks the staff and volunteers for the wonderful job they did in organizing this successful campaign. As I wrote in my letter, CCODP has proved once again to be a great gift to the Church in Canada.

You will be interested to know that Bishop Pierre Morissette of Baie-Comeau will be traveling to Cologne, Germany, in mid-June to represent CCODP and the CCCB at a meeting of Bishops from several continents. They will work together on the debt question and meet with the German Chancellor only a few short days before the G-7 event, in order to press for acceptance of the Jubilee position on debt cancellation. While the G-7 leaders meet in Cologne, they will be presented with millions of signed petitions from Jubilee 2000 campaigns from around the globe.

Although this is a moment to celebrate the successful termination of the debt petition campaign, we must acknowledge that sufficient debt relief has yet to be granted to the countries of the South. We need to remain vigilant and committed to follow-up actions until we achieve the goal suggested by the Holy Father as early as 1994, that is, for “reducing substantially, if not cancelling outright, the international debt which seriously threatens the future of many nations.” (Tertio Millennio Adveniente, no 51). To assist us in doing this, I include an analysis prepared by the staff of the Social Affairs Office. It points to the shortcomings of recently announced debt initiatives and attempts to indicate what we might expect to see from the G-7 meetings.

Please be assured of the Commission’s ongoing interest in and commitment to this issue, in accordance with the wishes of the last Plenary. We would ask that you continue to keep the Jubilee campaign for debt cancellation, as well as the many victims of debt-induced impoverishment, in your thoughts, prayers and action over the next several weeks.