Deborah Gyapong, Canadian Catholic News

Deborah Gyapong, Canadian Catholic News

Deborah Waters Gyapong has been a journalist and novelist for more than 20 years. She has worked in print, radio and television, including 12 years as a producer for CBC TV's news and current affairs programming. She currently covers religion and politics primarily for Catholic and Evangelical newspapers.

OTTAWA - The violence plaguing Syria has forced the Catholic Near East Welfare Association (CNEWA) to put many of its projects there on hold, even though Christians so far do not seem to have been specifically targeted.

But support for Iraqi Christians who fled to Iraq, many of whom struggle to survive in the slums of Damascus, is still ongoing, said CNEWA Canada national director Carl Hétu.

OTTAWA - The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada (EFC) is urging the federal government to make families, compassion and charities priorities in its upcoming 2012 budget.

Though the national association for Evangelical Christians does not usually engage in pre-budget consultations, it stressed that “a budget is fundamentally a moral document.” In a budget, political leaders “decide what is ‘right and wrong’ for public expenditure, and as such biblical principles are relevant to the budgeting process.”

The budget should shore up the key building blocks of Canada, it said.

OTTAWA - Shannen Koostachin had a dream for “safe and comfy” culturally sensitive schools for First Nations children like herself.

On Feb. 27, a vote in the House of Commons brought that dream closer to reality.

The House of Commons voted unanimously to “adopt Shannen’s Dream” by declaring First Nations children’s “equal right to high-quality, culturally relevant education” and to provide the necessary policy changes, consultation and funding support to make a First Nations’ education system “at a minimum” equal in quality to provincial systems.

OTTAWA - A bill to create a national suicide-prevention strategy received overwhelming multi-party support Feb. 15, sailing through a second reading vote 285-3 in the House of Commons.

Bill C-300: An Act Respecting a Federal Framework for Suicide Prevention, now goes to committee for further study.

A national suicide prevention strategy was among the recommendations of the Parliamentary Committee on Palliative and Compassionate Care that the bill’s sponsor, Conservative MP Harold Albrecht, chaired with NDP MP Joe Comartin.

OTTAWA - Parents’ groups and organizations defending religious freedom have reacted with disappointment to a Supreme Court of Canada decision concerning the rights of parents to exempt their children from Quebec’s mandatory Ethics and Religious Culture (ERC) program.

Canada’s highest court ruled Feb. 17 the program does not violate the religious freedom of Catholic parents because they were unable to prove the course harms their children.

Correction: This story has been updated as incorrect details were included in its first printing. The Register apologizes for its error.

OTTAWA - A private member's bill that would axe the controversial Section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act has passed second reading and will now go to committee for further study.

Conservative MP Brian Storseth's Bill C-304, which would repeal the so-called hate speech provision act, passed second reading by a 158-131 vote Feb. 15.

OTTAWA - An Ottawa-based think tank said mandating gay-straight alliances (GSAs) as part of Ontario government’s anti-bullying strategy will only force students into activism.

The Institute of Marriage and Family Canada (IMFC) warns of negative effects on freedom and equality if Ontario’s Equity and Inclusion Strategy forces students to move “beyond tolerance to acceptance and respect.”

“Diversity will only flourish in Ontario schools when students are encouraged to respectfully interact with different thoughts and opinions,” said the IMFC in its study entitled Ontario’s Equity and Inclusive Education Strategy Reviewed. [DOWNLOAD REPORT HERE]

OTTAWA - A fiery debate over contraception and religious freedom has pitted the Catholic bishops in the United States against President Barack Obama’s health care policy, but a Canadian Catholic health expert said such a debate is unlikely in Canada.

Obama’s Health and Human Services (HHS) mandate would force all Catholic institutions, including universities, hospitals and charities, to offer insurance to employees that offers contraception, which is against Church teaching.

OTTAWA - When the Companions of the Cross met for its General Assembly Jan. 30-Feb. 3 in Cornwall, Ont., the priests had their first chance to reflect on the impact of last year’s death of founder Fr. Bob Bedard.

“The passing of a founder, of a spiritual father in Christ, is a watershed for any community in the history of the Church,” said moderator Fr. Scott McCaig, who was re-elected Feb. 3 for a second six-year term as the order’s leader.

OTTAWA - Archbishop Richard Smith is inviting Catholics to open their hearts to those in need by contributing generously to this year’s Share Lent campaign.

The annual fundraising campaign kicks off Feb. 22 and runs through April 7. It is the major fundraiser for the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace, the Canadian bishops’ development agency, accounting for about 30 per cent of its annual budget.