The leaders of the Canadian pro-life movement will examine strategies for effective change when they gather June 24-25 for the Toronto 2011 Pro-Life Forum.

Hosted by Campaign Life Coalition, the two-day conference will kick off at a dinner with keynote speaker Brian Lilley of Sun TV News, followed by a full day of panels and speakers. The forum will take place at Hotel Novotel Toronto Centre.

“Be informed, be inspired, be active,” said Alisa Golob, youth coordinator for the Campaign Life Coalition, echoing the conference’s theme. “First you have to know what’s going on… and hear the other side of the story.”

Canadians seldom see pro-life issues reported in the media, said Golob, and when they do, it’s usually negative coverage. This, according to Golob, is why CLC chose Lilley, host of Byline, as keynote speaker for the opening night dinner.

Small budget changes could have big social impact say critics


OTTAWA — The June 3 Throne Speech reiterates modest campaign promises and the June 6 budget is virtually identical to the budget tabled Mar. 22. However, these little changes could have a huge impact on Canadian society, observers say.

Though the 400-page budget document emphasizes stability, a think tank concerned about a flourishing civil society says the Conservative government is “preparing for a coming storm in Canadian politics: one which they intend to shape and survive.”

That storm involves the aging of Canadian society that will see 2.5 workers for every retiree, up from the present 4.7 workers per retiree; a coming health care crunch that has not been publicly addressed; and the ways an increased free trade environment might hurt some sectors of the economy, Cardus warns.

“The increased emphasis on expenditure review and the advanced targets for returning to surplus are just two indicators that this budget is really about battening down the hatches and rolling out the foundations for shaping tomorrow’s social architecture,” said an analysis by Cardus, a think tank that now incorporates the former Centre for Culture Renewal.

OECTA choice ‘undermines’ Catholics


TORONTO - Campaign Life Coalition says the Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association’s choice of prominent gay rights advocate Ilana Landsberg-Lewis to speak at its upcoming conference is “outrageous” and “undermines” Catholic values.

Landsberg-Lewis will be one of the guest speakers at OECTA’s “Common Good Conference: The Soul of Teaching — Changing the Human Condition” which runs July 6 to 8 in Toronto. She is the executive director of the Stephen Lewis Foundation and daughter of Stephen Lewis, a former UN special envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa and a renowned abortion advocate.

Landsberg-Lewis is not an appropriate speaker at a Catholic teachers’ conference because her views on abortion and same-sex marriage reject core Catholic teachings, said Jim Hughes, Campaign Life president.

“Every time one of the Lewises shows up, it undermines who we are as Catholics. There are many other speakers who can speak up on other positive topics that don’t outrage Catholic parents,” said Hughes. “This is another example of why Catholic parents feel they are being undermined by the Catholic teachers.”

Prison mission conference coming to Toronto


TORONTO - When it began more than 30 years ago, Prison Fellowship International was only a handful of national prison ministries that shared a common vision of sharing Christ with the incarcerated. In 2011, representatives from more than 115 countries who now share that vision will gather in Toronto for the fellowship’s international convocation.

From June 28 to July 2, the Sheraton Centre Toronto Hotel will play host to the ninth quadrennial PFI Convocation, where prison ministers will explore their mission of bringing Christ to prisoners, ex-prisoners, victims and their families.

“It’s really a forum for people from various backgrounds, experiences and types of programs to share their stories, their best practices, program models and ideas,” said Ron Nikkel, the president and CEO of PFI. “It becomes a gigantic mixing bowl of creativity and ideas.”

PFI, the world’s largest criminal justice ministry with more than 50,000 volunteers, will feature a variety of speakers throughout the five-day conference, including Rev. Pierre Allard, prison chaplain and former president of the International Prison Chaplains’ Association, and Philip Yancey, Christian author and journalist. Participants will also take part in a number of workshops teaching effective practices and leadership skills for use in prison ministry.

Study shows drug rehab for female inmates works — if they participate


TORONTO - A study from researchers at St. Michael’s Hospital has found that female prisoners who did not participate in a drug treatment program after their release were 10 times more likely to return to prison within one year than those who did.

Published in the June issue of the American Journal of Public Health, the study showed that more than one-third of women  who didn’t participate returned to prison within six months, said Flora Matheson, a medical sociologist at St. Michael’s Hospital who led the study.

“The good news story is that if we can get women into the program and keep them there, then they have a great chance of success,” said Matheson, a scientist in the hospital’s Centre for Research on Inner City Health who collaborated on the study with the research branch of the Correctional Service of Canada.

Researchers examined the Community Relapse Prevention and Maintenance (CRPM) program, developed as part of a continuum of treatment of women offenders under federal supervision in Canada. CRPM is the after-care component of Women Offenders Substance Abuse Programming (WOSAP), which was implemented by Correctional Services Canada in May 2003. The community based program is offered to women on parole.

New Speaker doesn't hide his Catholic faith


OTTAWA - The newly-elected Speaker of the House Andrew Scheer, 32, made history June 3 as the youngest MP to be elected to this coveted role that comes with huge responsibilities and accompanying perks.

But Scheer’s victory has also sent a message to politicians everywhere that one does not have to separate a robust Catholic faith from public life.

The father of four represents Regina-Qu’Appelle which he first won in 2004, but he grew up in Ottawa. His father, Jim Scheer, is a permanent deacon at St. Patrick’s Basilica and his mother Mary is an active member of the parish. His parents and his wife were in the gallery during the vote.

Scheer's Catholicity has got him in the spotlight on Parliament Hill in the past. Last spring, Scheer remained cheerful and unfazed when Bloc Quebecois Leader Gilles Duceppe and NDP MP Pat Martin tried to make a political issue out of his hosting a luncheon for MPs, Senators and Hill staff featuring a talk by Opus Dei Vicar Msgr. Fred Dolan. The luncheon prompted Duceppe to accuse the Conservatives of being influenced by the “fundamentalist religious right,” and Martin to describe Opus Dei as “creepy.” The attacks coincided with the release of Marci McDonald’s polemical book The Armageddon Factor: The Rise of Christian Nationalism in Canada that asserted fundamentalist Christians held too much sway in the Harper government.

League supports Quebec parents opposing religious ban in day care


OTTAWA - Quebec’s ban on God, prayers, songs to Jesus and religious instruction in subsidized day cares discriminates against religious believers, says the Catholic Civil Rights League.

The League has expressed support for Jewish and Catholic parents who are appealing to the Quebec Superior Court on grounds the ban violates the constitution by infringing on religious freedom.

“Quebec is leaning toward suppression and discrimination against believers of any religion,” said Jean Morse-Chevrier, the Quebec director for the League and chair of the Association of Catholic Parents of Quebec.

The ban is similar to Quebec’s mandatory Ethics and Religious Culture program (ERC), she said.  

“In effect, in the name of respect for diversity, the government is abolishing true diversity more and more in educational programs.”

Mexican cardinal's letter led to D&P funding cut


The Canadian funding of a Mexican human rights organization was cut following a letter from the archbishop of Mexico City that directly accuses the Jesuit-founded body of supporting pro-abortion groups.

The Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace (D&P) cut the funding for Centro PRODH, whose director recently had speaking engagements cancelled in Ottawa and Cornwall, after Mexican Cardinal Norberto Carrera said the organization "does NOT represent the sentiments of the Church and has been characterized by its support and encouragement of groups and activities that are an affront to Christian values."

"With respect to the theme of defence of life, the organization has supported pro-abortion groups and promoted the purported woman's right over her body, against unborn life," said a translation of the letter obtained by The Catholic Register.

Carrera's letter was sent to the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, which two years ago cleared Centro PRODH of similar accusations.

Musicians prepare for missal changes


TORONTO - Some 500 parish musicians from across Southern Ontario came together May 28 for a crash course to prepare them for the implementation of the third edition of the Roman Missal.

The musicians gathered at Toronto’s Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary parish for a day-long symposium on the impending changes.

The new missal, which will be used in English-speaking churches around the globe beginning on the first Sunday of Advent, contains changes in almost all parts of the Mass — changes especially important to musicians, according to event organizer Bill Targett.

“The musicians are on the front line,” said Targett, director of the archdiocese of Toronto’s Office of Formation for Discipleship.

French arm of D&P demands restored funding to Mexican group


Members of D&P in Francophone Canada have demanded restoration of funding to the Mexican human rights organization that apparently endorses a campaign for legal access to first trimester abortions throughout Mexico.New funding rules and the process of setting new directions for the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace (D&P) are running into stiff opposition in Quebec and New Brunswick.

Members of D&P in Francophone Canada used their regional assembly meeting to demand restoration of funding to Centro PRODH, the Mexican human rights organization that has drawn heat for apparently endorsing a campaign for legal access to first trimester abortions throughout Mexico.

D&P had ended its funding relationship with Centro PRODH based on doubts expressed by Mexico’s conference of Catholic bishops. In April Archbishop Terrence Prendergast and D&P cancelled an Ottawa speaking engagement with Centro PRODH executive director Fr. Luis Arriaga. Arriaga was photographed accepting an award from an organization that promotes legal access to abortion.

More funding sought for seniors’ home care


TORONTO - The Ontario Community Support Association wants to make home and community care a funding priority in Ontario to allow seniors and those affected by illness to live in their own homes as long as possible.

The OCSA, the voice of the province’s non-profit home and community care sector, launched its Aging With Dignity campaign in May.

“What we need to do is help people live healthily in their own homes rather than waiting until they’re sick and going into long-term care,” said Susan Thorning, CEO of the OCSA.

“(We have) a health-care system that focuses on sickness, on getting sick people well, on doctors and hospitals. We need to do a little bit of a shift and focus on prevention and wellness.”

Keeping people healthy and at home through part-time preventative care, Thorning said, is not only good for the individual but is also more cost-effective than long-term care.