Federal leaders, from left, Justin Trudeau, Erin O’Toole, Jagmeet Singh and Annamie Paul, will debate Sept 8 and 9.

Faith groups have long list of concerns for leader election debates

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  • September 1, 2021

OTTAWA -- True and meaningful reconciliation with Indigenous Canadians, a “just” economic recovery from COVID, action to address climate change and a country that welcomes refugees and immigrants are among the issues that Catholic and faith-based organizations want Canada’s federal party leaders to address in debates before the Sept. 20 national election.

“We couldn’t have imagined the devastation of the last two years, even if we’d tried,” said Karri Munn-Venn, a policy analyst with the faith-based advocacy group Citizens for Public Justice (CPJ).

“But what if we set out now to imagine — and build — a better future? We want Canada’s next government to extend a full welcome to refugees, honouring their inherent rights and providing them with equal opportunities,” Munn-Venn said, adding that whatever government is elected “must take swift action towards the full implementation of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.”

That sentiment was expressed by many organizations in the days leading up to the leaders debates, Sept. 8 in French and Sept. 9 in English.

Joe Gunn of the Catholic Centre Oblat – A Voice for Justice said the centre is focused — in conjunction with other interfaith groups — on four key areas it wants the leaders to address.

“The four most pressing issues facing Canada are reconciliation with Indigenous peoples, the climate crisis, poverty and growing inequality and racial and religious intolerance,” said Gunn.

Executive director Willard Metzger said CPJ wants to hear what each party will do for the “common good.”

“We envision a society in which individuals, communities, institutions and governments all contribute to and benefit from the common good,. It is our view that public policy should prioritize human and environmental rights, well-being, sustainability and love.”

The common good is a theme the lay Catholic organization Catholic Conscience also stresses. It is looking for someone “who will provide practical and efficient leadership with the good of all in mind,” which to Catholic teaching means “the unborn, the elderly, the young, families and those who are too often forgotten by society.”

For CPJ socio-economic policy analyst Natalie Appleyard, how the parties foster a continuation of the way Canadians rallied during the hardest days of the pandemic will be informative.

“The way communities and various levels of government pulled together at the beginning of the pandemic demonstrated our capacity to mobilize the necessary will and resources in the face of emergency,” Appleyard said. “We want Canada’s next government to take action to end poverty in all its forms everywhere, improve equity and outcomes for individuals and communities facing systemic oppression and implement a fair and progressive tax system that contributes to a more equitable distribution of wealth.”

The debates will feature Liberal Justin Trudeau, Conservative leader Erin O’Toole, the NDP’s Jagmeet Singh and Annamie Paul of the Green Party.

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