CWL delegates Shari Guinta, left, Fran Lucas (second from right) and Rolande Chernichan meet with MP Alexandra Mendes, Assistant Deputy Speaker, House of Commons at Parliament Hill. Photo courtesy CWL

CWL take concerns to Ottawa policy makers

  • February 25, 2023

A three-member delegation representing more than 63,000 members of the Catholic Women’s League nationwide brought their concerns on national issues to Parliament Hill.

Fran Lucas, National President and Chairperson of International Relations, Shari Guinta, National President-Elect and Chairperson of Organization, and Rolande Chernichan, Chairperson of Resolutions, paid a three-day visit to Ottawa in mid-February for a series of meetings with parliamentarians and policy advisors to make sure their voices are taken into account when enacting legislation on a number of issues of national interest — from food loss and waste to mental health, and the conscience rights of health-care professionals who wish to opt out of assisted dying services.

Lucas and Guinta explained that the delegation’s visit to Ottawa is the culmination of a long process of reflection, research, study and discussion by the entire organization.

“CWL’s resolutions come from the parish level,” Lucas said. “The League’s position at the national level is a true reflection of the opinions expressed by its members. Issues and concerns are raised, studied and discussed at the grassroots level before being adopted as resolutions at provincial and national levels. These resolutions are presented annually to provincial and federal governments as statements of concern.”

The reduction of food loss and waste was at the top of the agenda for the CWL. The resolution “urges the federal government to enact legislation to reduce food loss and waste in Canada’s agri-food, industrial, commercial and institutional sectors.”

“Food loss and waste is a major concern across the country,” said Guinta. “It has multiple consequences — for food security, for the environment and for people’s health including mental health.”

The trio met with Jerome Cote, senior policy advisor to Marie Claude-Bibeau, Minister of Agriculture and Agrifood, and Ryan Worms, senior policy advisor to Steven Guilbeault, Minister of Environment and Climate Change, to present CWL’s newest resolution and to discuss various policy initiatives that address the issue.

“Ryan explained that he was designated to meet with us because of his Catholic connections,” Chernichan told The Catholic Register. “He was previously with Development and Peace/Caritas Canada, Caritas Internationalis and other Catholic organizations.”

They discussed two CWL resolutions with Worms — the resolution to ban plastic microbeads in personal care products and the resolution to reduce food loss and waste. The group also talked about the effects of the disposal of wasted food in landfills and the impact of emissions on the environment and climate change. 

It was an opportunity, not only to ask about future measures to combat pollution and food waste, but also to express appreciation to the government for having acted on past requests. For example, the government passed the Microbeads in Toiletries Regulations which ban the use of microbeads in these products as requested in the CWL’s 2015 resolution. The women were also happy that regulations to prohibit five types of single-use plastics have been introduced, and the sale of these items will be prohibited as of December 2023.

“We referred to Pope Francis’ encyclical, Laudato Si’, that speaks about all food being sacred,” Chernichan said. “Worms explained there are ongoing initiatives to try to reduce food waste, that there is much need for education and awareness, for citizens to take personal initiative to reduce food waste, and that the federal government tries to support municipalities in their initiatives in that regard.”

The delegation also met with Brian Rourke, director of operations for Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations, Marc Miller, policy advisor to Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez, and Craig Docksteader, director of policy at the office of Donald Plett, Leader of the Opposition in the Senate. MP Alexandra Mendes, assistant deputy speaker of the House of Commons, arranged these meetings.

In addition to their meetings with government officials, the delegation met Dr. Robert Di Pede, assistant general secretary of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, and Margaret Shea Lawrence, director and commission secretary for evangelization  and catechesis. 

A highlight was a luncheon hosted by Archbishop Ivan Jurkovic, the Apostolic Nuncio in Canada. 

“We had a great conversation with the nuncio. He told us how happy he was to host Pope Francis who visited Canada in the summer of 2022,” Lucas said.

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