Climate change protests like this one at Queen’s Park last month are challenging politicians for action. Photo by Joshua Santos

Planet and the poor top voting priorities for Canadians

  • October 18, 2019

Voters who live together under vows of poverty, chastity and obedience have added their two cents on the Oct. 21 federal election.

Under a banner headline that reads “In the name of our deepest solidarities!” the Canadian Religious Conference is urging Canadians to cast their votes in favour of a cooler planet, more welcoming immigration and refugee policies and eradicating poverty.

“To vote is to express the values and principles that inhabit us,” said the organization that represents over 12,000 religious sisters, brothers and religious order priests.

Canada’s 240 religious orders are hoping Canadians take time to think through their votes, rather than voting in anger against one or another of the parties or leaders, said Sr. Denise Kuyp, provincial superior of the Sisters of Our Lady of the Missions in Winnipeg.

“Discernment skills are clearly lacking, for sure,” said Kuyp, who sits on the CRC governing board. “A number of people are cynical about the whole thing. Who do you believe and who do you trust? When it’s a matter of one leader bringing down another leader, it’s not helpful. … What’s best for the people of this country is very hard to figure out from what they (politicians) are saying.”

The CRC board decided against mentioning abortion, euthanasia and life issues because all the federal parties have made it clear they won’t change the status quo, Kuyp said.

“It’s not that it’s not important. I would say we’re pro-life, for sure,” Kuyp said. Instead the religious have highlighted issues that require us to value life, especially the lives of the poor, she said.

“People’s lives are at stake. That’s what we’re talking about,” Kuyp said. “And the planet’s at stake. That’s where many of us are putting our energies.”

On the environment and migration, the religious echo the priorities of Pope Francis. “We would all agree that we have a climate emergency,” said Kuyp, echoing Pope Francis’ declaration of a climate emergency in June.

“A fair distribution of wealth must be demanded for the common good of Indigenous peoples, citizens and newcomers alike,” said the Oct. 11 statement from the CRC. “The value of our society is measured by our ability to live in harmony.”

On refugees, the CRC again urges Canadians to follow the Pope’s priorities.

“Pope Francis invites us to welcome, protect, promote and integrate those people in fragile situations,” said the CRC election statement.

Ultimately, the CRC approach to politics is based on their religious vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, Kuyp said.

“Certainly obedience is related to discernment,” she said. “Listening to the signs of the times, to what our Creator is saying and to one another. That’s what obedience is about. In terms of poverty, we share all things in common. It would be lovely if we could have a society that does the same, that looks out for the commons, the common good. In terms of chastity, that’s the ability to love — to love the other who is different, to welcome the stranger. That’s what it’s about.”

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