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Canada joined the war in Afghanistan in 2002 for just reasons but now it’s time to bring the troops home. So Prime Minister Stephen Harper made the right call in finally ending Canada’s physical engagement in that war-weary nation.  

Actually, it was overdue. Canadian troops still in Afghanistan on training assignments, about 900 of them, will all be home by March 2014, despite neither the surrender nor defeat of the Taliban.

Compared to most other larger, richer NATO allies, Canada contributed more than its fair share in lives and resources to the cause of the beleaguered Afghans. But exiting a war is more difficult than entering one.

Canada's bishops say "stand up for faith"

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Canada’s bishops have called on Catholics to become courageous defenders of freedom of conscience and religion.  They call these rights inalienable, universal and precious, and urge Canadians to profess and safeguard them with the steadfast fidelity of Thomas More.

Their message needs to be heard and heeded.

Thanks for St. Peter’s Seminary

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Speaking recently about priesthood, Pope Benedict XVI said a priest must not ask what he can gain for himself but ask what he can give back to Christ and others. That sentiment, if not those very words, will be evident this week as St. Peter’s Seminary celebrates its 100th anniversary.

It has been a century of forming men to follow faithfully and selflessly in the footsteps of the first disciples. By their work in parishes and missions across Canada and throughout the world, graduates of St. Peter’s in London, Ont., have helped write the history of the modern Church in Canada.

Get it right with anti-bullying legislation

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Rather than going back to the drawing board, the Ontario government’s flawed anti-bullying legislation has instead gone to all-party committee hearings where, hopefully, common sense and good law-making will finally prevail. Under the circumstances, that is a positive development.

For several months the governing Liberals and opposition Conservatives have bickered over competing pieces of legislation to curb schoolyard bullying. To break the deadlock, the parties agreed to send both bills to committee to meld them into a policy that can be quickly passed and implemented by September. The committee discussions are likely to focus on controversial sections of the Liberal bill that place special emphasis on gender issues and homophobia-based bullying.

Wither free speech

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It’s difficult to judge which was the sadder sight in the House of Commons on April 26,  Conservative MP  Stephen Woodworth being ridiculed from all quarters for standing in defence of human life or the bleakness of him standing there alone.

The one certainty is that Woodworth has won our respect for rising as a lone voice in a hostile environment to promote values that are widely belittled in society, but also for rising, perhaps inadvertently, as a champion of the right to speak freely in Parliament.

Step down, Bev Oda

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International Development minister Bev Oda has defended large cuts in Canadian foreign aid by saying stricter accountability has created more efficiency in how taxpayer dollars are spent overseas. Sadly, the minister doesn’t seem to apply that same discipline to her own office.

Oda is the minister responsible for managing Canada’s $5 billion aid budget. It’s her job to sign off on which starving nations receive Canadian aid as well as how much money each receives. More than most Canadians, she is familiar with the misery of the world’s poor, or at least she should be. So it’s alarming to learn the Conservative minister approaches her important work with a let-them-eat-cake mentality.

Fight for religious freedom

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The right of religious freedom means much more than merely being allowed to hold faith beliefs and go to church. Those are essential, of course, but a society that truly endorses religious freedom goes further. It also allows citizens to outwardly live their faith through the public activities they take up and, equally important, through those their conscience informs them to avoid.

In defence of that traditional understanding of religious freedom, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a bold statement four days after Easter. Titled “Our first, most cherished liberty,” the 12-page document is a manifesto for religious freedom that is blunt, provocative, timely, commendable — and worthy of export beyond American borders. Canadians should take note.

Happy 85th to Pope Benedict XVI

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When he turns 85 on April16 Pope Benedict XVI will be just the sixth pope to reach that milestone age and the oldest pontiff in 109 years. Last month, the Pope warmly told former Cuban president Fidel Castro, who is eight months Benedict’s senior, “Yes, I’m old, but I can still carry out my duties.”

Benedict was described as a transitional figure when he became pontiff seven years ago. He was 78. It had been 300 years since the Vatican welcomed a new pope that old. But although less robust than on the day he ascended the throne of Peter, Benedict is still keeping a busy schedule and serving the Church with faith and distinction. Some transition.

Parliament rules on brothels

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The decision by the Ontario appeal court to legalize brothels is misguided but the judges got one thing right. They agree it is not their place to make laws and have urged Parliament to act.

On March 26, the court ruled that prostitutes have a Charter right to work in safe environments and therefore should be allowed to operate brothels and hire bodyguards. Pimping and public solicitation remain illegal but otherwise the court gave a green light to red lights.

Take a stand on D&P

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In a perfect world, agencies dedicated to lifting people out of poverty would be well financed with both private and public funds. But the world of 2012 is far from perfect so it should be no shock that Development and Peace is reeling from a 68 per cent cut in government funding.

Governments everywhere are scrambling to reduce huge budget deficits and ballooning debts exacerbated by global economic turmoil. In Canada, amid expensive national infrastructure and bailout programs, the Conservative government changed its approach to foreign aid in 2010. Where foreign aid used to be based on a percentage of GDP, it is now capped at $5 billion annually.

Abandon Ontario's casino plans

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An indisputable fact about casinos is that they hurt people. Not all people, of course, and perhaps not even the majority of people. But as sure as a roulette wheel spins, the casino business causes personal harm to land on some gamblers.

An important duty of government is to protect its citizens. We spend billions of dollars on such safety nets as policing, social programs and health care because society accepts a collective responsibility to look out for one another and then entrusts government to implement policies to make that happen. So it stands to reason that governments should not be supporting any type of high-stakes gambling business that can harm citizens.