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 - When asked what advice or encouragement Cardinal-designate  Thomas Collins might need in his new position, Cardinal Jean-Claude Turcotte laughed.

“I will it say it’s courage,” the cardinal said from his office in Montreal. “To be a cardinal, it’s a lot of work. It is not only to elect the Pope!”

Collins will become a member of many congregations, or dicasteries, in the Holy See, Turcotte said. “Cardinals are the counsellors of the Pope in those different congregations.”  He can expect to do a lot more travelling to Rome, he added.

OTTAWA - Over the years, Ottawa Archbishop Terrence Prendergast has come to appreciate the depth of Archbishop Thomas Collins’ scholarship, his love for the Scriptures, his joy in sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ and his courage in professing his faith in the public square.

Though Prendergast had crossed paths many times with Collins, it wasn’t until the two were in Rome together in 1999 to receive the pallium that they began to know each other. The pallium is a wool band the Holy Father presents to Metropolitan Archbishops as a sign of their jurisdiction in the Universal Church and of their closeness to the Pope.

OTTAWA - A Conservative backbencher is using a private member’s motion that could re-ignite the abortion debate in Parliament.

MP Stephen Woodworth, who represents the Ontario Kitchener Centre riding, tabled a motion Feb. 6 that Parliament appoint a special committee of 12 members to review the section of the Criminal Code that states a child becomes a human being “only at the moment of complete birth.”

Though Woodworth told journalists he was not addressing abortion in his motion, Justice Minister Rob Nicholson issued a terse statement, saying “The Prime Minister has been very clear, our government will not reopen this debate.”

OTTAWA - On Feb. 2, Pope Benedict XVI named new bishops to the Quebec dioceses of Trois-Rivières and Mont-Laurier upon accepting the resignation of their Ordinaries who had reached the retirement age of 75.

Bishop Luc Bouchard, who has been serving the bilingual northern Alberta diocese of St. Paul since 2001, has been named to Trois-Rivières, replacing Bishop Martin Veillette, while Bishop Paul Lortie, an auxiliary bishop in the Quebec archdiocese since 2009, will become bishop of Mont-Laurier, a diocese in southwestern Quebec, north of Gatineau, replacing Bishop Vital Massé.

OTTAWA - The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada has warned Ontario legislators that passage of anti-bullying Bill 13 as is could result in years of tax-funded litigation.

“Before overriding the choices parents make in education, legislators are cautioned that this is not a right to be overridden casually,” write EFC legal counsel Faye Sonier and Don Hutchinson in an open letter sent to Ontario MPPs Jan. 25. “There is an obvious constitutional violation in forcing religiously based schools to establish clubs not endorsed by the faith community, parents or students, or to implement curriculum that disrespects their beliefs.”

OTTAWA - The historic Crown-First Nations Gathering revealed stark differences on how the relationship between Canada’s founding peoples and the government, embodied in the Indian Act, should continue.

And whatever is resolved, an advisor to the Catholic Church said, must re-affirm historic treaties signed between the two.

It is about recognizing the sacred importance of covenants, said Gerry Kelly at the one-day gathering held in Ottawa Jan. 24. Kelly is the former director of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops’ secretariat on aboriginal affairs and now advises Catholic entities regarding the Indian Residential Schools legacy.

“Our whole understanding of our relationship with God is understood scripturally in terms of covenants,” said Kelly. “We understand what it means. A covenant is sacred. We can’t hold that position and not recognize the covenant relationship established by treaties. It is timeless and it is binding.”

Assembly of First Nations National Chief Shawn Atleo called the Indian Act “a breach” of the government’s commitment to First Nations peoples that was “built on a disgraceful premise of our inferiority.”

“It is well past time that we began to undo the damage that Act has inflicted on our peoples, and to our partnership,” Atleo said, noting it formed the basis for the reserve system, residential schools and prohibitions of spiritual and cultural practices.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper, however, promised an incremental approach to remedying some problems inherent in the Act, but bluntly stated his government had “no grand scheme to repeal or to unilaterally re-write the Indian Act.”

“After 136 years, that tree has deep roots. Blowing up the stump would just leave a big hole,” Harper told the more than 150 First Nations leaders at the gathering. “However, there are ways, creative ways, collaborative ways, ways that involve consultation between our government, the provinces and First Nations leadership and communities, ways that provide options within the Act, or outside of it, for practical, incremental and real change.”

The gathering was called to find ways to improve the relationship between Canada’s First Nations’ people and the federal government. It had been planned for some time, with the date finalized during the period in late 2011 when images of the poverty on Canada’s reserves were brought to the forefront with the poor housing conditions that plagued Attawapiskat in Northern Ontario.

Kelly said incremental approaches are not problematic in themselves.

“So much of this depends on good intentions and fairness,” he said. The challenge in the past has been with First Nations and bands being pressured “to give up their full rights for a limited parcel of rights.”

The other problems with an incremental approach are strictly practical, he said.  

“The longer this process takes, the more resources are taken from First Nations lands in the context where their rights to resources and benefiting from those resources are ignored.”

Aboriginal entrepreneur and consultant David Acco, a Catholic and Montreal-based member of the Cree First Nation, said the gathering could not have taken place in the 1960s or ’70s with the kind of aboriginal inclusiveness of today. Aboriginal people have developed the leadership abilities and legal skills to put them in a better position to negotiate, he said.

Acco, president of Acosys Consulting, said a long-term vision is needed that takes into consideration how current negotiations will affect future generations.

“I don’t think aboriginal people are going to get another opportunity to right the wrongs of the past like we have now in another 100 years,” Acco said.

He also raised concerns about incremental approaches creating a hierarchy of “haves” and “have-nots” that will see some First Nations rewarded and others, like Attawapiskat, left behind. Communities like Attawapiskat need the Indian Act for their survival, Acco said, because of the fiduciary responsibility the Crown has to First Nations. An incremental approach decentralizes and potentially fragments any unity among First Nations, he said.

The gathering’s “outcome statement” affirmed principles in the Joint Action Plan the government and First Nations developed in June 2011 that included improving relationships and partnerships “respectful of aboriginal and treaty rights,” transparent and accountable governance, empowering success through education and opportunity, promoting self-sufficient communities and assisting economic development that will benefit all Canadians.

The statement called for immediate action on a renewed relationship that includes multi-year funding, improved financial accountability on the part of all with the goal of First Nations financial self-sufficiency. It affirmed an incremental approach to “removing barriers to First Nations governance,” by working around and through existing mechanisms in the Indian Act, which cannot be replaced overnight,”and committed both parties to “respect and honour our treaty relationship and advance approaches to find common ground on treaty implementation.”

A battle is looming between the Ontario government and Catholic schools after the Education Minister rejected a key component of a new anti-bullying policy from the Ontario Catholic School Trustees’ Association (OCSTA).

Laurel Broten is insisting that Catholic schools permit single-issue clubs such as gay-straight alliances despite the OCSTA’s outright rejection of such groups in a long-awaited document titled Respecting Differences.

Released Jan. 25, Respecting Difference affirms the Catholic identity of Catholic schools by stating that all clubs and activities must be “respectful of and consistent with Catholic teaching.” The document follows the Accepting Schools Act introduced last November by the minority Liberal government of Dalton McGuinty that would require all schools to accommodate gay-straight alliances or similar clubs under a different name.

OTTAWA - This year the Ukrainian Catholic Church in Canada marks the 100th anniversary of the arrival of his first bishop, Blessed Nykyta Budka, with a number of special events planned in celebration.

The anniversary will be marked with events that are historically significant in themselves, said Winnipeg Ukrainian Catholic Archbishop Lawrence Huculak, including the annual Synod of Ukrainian Catholic Bishops in Winnipeg Sept. 9-16, gathering bishops from around the world.

Huculak said Canada’s hosting of the Synod comes “as an affirmation of Bishop Budka’s life and the life of Ukrainian Catholics in Canada” who came here for economic or political reasons to make better lives for themselves.

OTTAWA - An editorial in the Canadian Medical Association Journal warning of a distortion of the male/female balance due to sex-selection abortion in some ethnic communities shows the need to reopen the abortion debate in Canada, say pro-life groups.

In the editorial, Journal interim editor-in-chief Dr. Rajendra Kale urged the sex of a fetus be kept from pregnant women until 30 weeks gestation, when it is unlikely an abortion will be performed except for exceptional medical reasons.

“Female feticide happens in India and China by the millions, but it also happens in North America in numbers large enough to distort the male-to-female ratio in some ethnic groups,” said Kale.

OTTAWA - Despite the many cases in recent years of unfaithful priests, an expert on sexual abuse and pornography predicts a future with a “much healthier Church and healthier priests.”

Peter Kleponis is a Pennsylvania psychologist who has counselled priests who sexually abused minors as well as men addicted to pornography, his specialty. He says the Church has gone through a painful phase and, although “it’s not over yet,” there is reason for optimism.

“There is hope. There is change,” said Kleponis. But, he adds, “there is still more purification and purging that needs to be done.”