CRS enlists local Afghanis for a snow-clearing effort in Ghor through its cash-for-work program. (Photo courtesy of Scott Braunschweig)OTTAWA - Scott Braunschweig sometimes wonders if the development work he is doing in Afghanistan is “in some ways very selfish.” After all, he finds it so personally gratifying.

Braunschweig works with Catholic Relief Services (CRS), the international development arm of the American bishops. He had worked in many other countries in overseas development previously, but often found it difficult dealing with bureaucracy to get things done. But in Afghanistan, “you get this immediate reward... you can see the physical health of the people improve when you put in a water project.”

Afghanistan had been on Braunschweig’s “no-go” list back in 2004 when he was looking at going overseas again. But despite his concerns about violence and negative perceptions about conflict, an intriguing position with the Tribal Liaison Office lured him there.

Interfaith leaders call for inspired leadership in addressing poverty

Joe GunnOTTAWA - An interfaith coalition is calling for “inspired leadership” from the federal government in addressing poverty in Canada.

It also expressed dismay over the Conservative government’s March 7 response to the poverty-elimination plan proposed last November by the Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of People with Disabilities (HUMA).

“We were disappointed that the federal government response did not take advantage of the consensus for co-ordinated action reflected in the HUMA report and did not respond substantively to the recommendations,” said the March 8 Interfaith Declaration from the Canadian Council of Churches (which includes Canada’s Catholic bishops), the Canadian Interfaith Delegation — World Religions Summit 2010, the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada and Dignity for All.

Citizens for Public Justice (CPJ) released a more critical statement, saying that its “hope for Ottawa to meaningfully engage in poverty reduction efforts evaporated” when the federal government released its response to the HUMA report.

Pro-family groups are granted intervenor status in prostitution case

OTTAWA - Three pro-family groups have been granted leave to make a joint intervention in an appeal to a ruling that struck down prohibitions against prostitution, which is to be heard by the Ontario Court of Appeal later this spring.

“We’re very pleased an intervention in support of the dignity of women and of family will be heard in the appeal,” said Catholic Civil Rights League executive director Joanne McGarry. 

The league is making a joint-intervention with REAL Women of Canada and the Christian Legal Fellowship. The three groups intervened previously when the Terri Jean Bedford et al. vs. the Attorney General of Canada case went before the Ontario Superior Court last September.

In that ruling, Justice Susan Himel struck down sections of the Criminal Code that prohibited soliciting for the sake of prostitution, running a brothel or pimping.

Senate urged to quickly pass ‘Medicine for All’ bill

Senator Sharon CarstairsOTTAWA - Supporters of the “Medicine for All” Bill C-393 hope the bill can pass the Senate before a possible spring election call that would see the bill die.

“This is one of those rare moments of life, where you have a precious window of opportunity, you either open it or you don’t,” said Dr. James Orbinski, Dignitas International founder and a University of Toronto public health professor. “Let’s make it happen.”

The bill, which passed the House of Commons March 9, would amend the Access to Medicine Regime and make cheaper generic drugs available to the world’s poor. Opponents are against this as it would infringe upon trademark and other rights held by big pharmaceutical companies.

Baby Joseph 'resting well' after transfer to St. Louis hospital


Baby Joseph Maraachli and his mother, Sana Nader. Baby Joseph has been transferred to a hospital in St. Louis. (Photo from facebook)TORONTO - A private plane jetted Baby Joseph Maraachli to a hospital in St. Louis March 13, ending the family's battle with the London, Ont., hospital that sought to withdraw the breathing tube keeping the seriously ill 13-month-old alive.

The family's legal team of Windsor, Ont., lawyer Claudio Martini and the Washington, D.C.-based American Centre for Law and Justice (ACLJ) helped secure the transfer of Baby Joseph to SSM Cardinal Glennon Children's Medical Centre in St. Louis. The private plane, hired by the New York-based Priests for Life, landed at midnight in St. Louis. Priests for Life will also cover the family's medical costs.

The Baby Joseph saga has been played out for the past month as the Maraachli family battled London Health Sciences Centre, hoping for a tracheotomy for their dying child and the right to bring him home to live out his final days surrounded by family and loved ones. The child has a neurodegenerative disease and needs a breathing and feeding tube to survive. A Feb. 18 Ontario Superior Court ruling ordered the family to consent to the removal of the breathing tube on Feb. 21, confirming the recommendations of the hospital's doctors and the Consent and Capacity Board of Ontario. But Joseph's family defied the legal order.

Baby Joseph's interests trump all others, ethicists say


Moe Maraachli kisses his son Baby Joseph. The toddler has a neurodegenerative disease and doctors say he will not recover. (Facebook Photo)TORONTO - As the Baby Joseph medical and legal drama plays out in Canadian and American media, what must not be forgotten is the toddler's best interests, say Catholic bioethicists.

The Baby Joseph saga has tugged at the hearts of many as the Maraachli family battles London Health Sciences Centre, hoping for a tracheotomy for their dying 13-month-old child and the right to bring him home to live out his final days surrounded by family and loved ones.

Baby Joseph has a neurodegenerative disease and doctors say he won't recover. He requires a breathing and feeding tube to survive. A Feb. 18 Ontario Superior Court ruling ordered the family to consent to the removal of Joseph's breathing tube on Feb. 21. The ruling confirmed the recommendations of the hospital's doctors and the Consent and Capacity Board of Ontario.

Fr. Williams’ 40-year career at Michael Power/St. Joseph's fondly remembered

Fr WilliamsTORONTO - Basilian Father Albert Lawrence Williams was like a “grandfather” to students and teachers at Toronto’s Michael Power/St. Joseph High School.

Known as “Fr. Bob” to his friends, Williams died on Feb. 15, leaving behind a four-decade legacy as a teacher at Michael Power/St. Joseph.

He also taught at St. Michael’s College School and was a former Secretary General of the Basilian Fathers.

‘Advocacy’ cited in KAIROS’ cuts

Bev OdaOTTAWA - An internal background document distributed to members of the Conservative caucus about the KAIROS funding controversy reveals another clue why a $7-million funding request from the ecumenical social justice organization was denied.

The document’s first talking point states: “Our government supports funding to deliver aid and tangible results for the people of developing countries, not subsidizing advocacy.”

In other words, funding is not available for what might be considered community organizing and activism, such as supporting advocacy groups in the developing world whose mandate is to empower disadvantaged people, push for better living conditions or lobby for indigenous rights or environmental protection.

40 days of making a difference for life

TORONTO - The 40 Days for Life campaign is making a difference, said Nicole Campbell, 40 Days for Life Toronto co-ordinator. In fact, she said nine abortion facilities throughout North America have closed as a result of the campaign.

“The thing is with the 40 Days for Life, and with abortion in general, is that it’s not enough to be personally pro-life,” Campbell told The Catholic Register. “It’s great but it does nothing to actually end abortion. It’s only when we’re publicly pro-life that we can impact and change our culture one person at a time through prayer and through our public witness.”

Linda Gibbons to get a hearing before the Supreme Court of Canada


TORONTO - The Supreme Court of Canada is expected to hear jailed activist Linda Gibbons' appeal of a temporary injunction banning protest at downtown Toronto abortion clinics later this year.

Her lawyer, Daniel Santoro, expects the Supreme Court could hear her case in the fall.

Gibbons, a 62-year-old great-grandmother, has been arrested 20 times over the last 16 years, spending half of that time in maximum security prisons for different offences under the Criminal Code. This for violating a temporary 1994 civil court injunction protecting downtown Toronto abortion clinics from protesters such as Gibbons, an injunction that has been upheld by the Supreme Court of Ontario. She is not permitted within 60 feet of the clinics. Gibbons has violated the injunction each time by praying within the no-go zone.

Saguenay Mayor vows to fight prayer ban

The Catholic mayor of Saguenay, Que., is appealing for donations to help him fight a Quebec Human Rights Tribunal ruling that ordered him to stop opening council meetings with a prayer.

Mayor Jean Tremblay said he will appeal the decision all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada.

“We make a prayer, all the council, since the beginning of the city 150 years ago,” said Tremblay in an interview from Saguenay of the 20-second prayer said before the opening of council meetings.

Tremblay has also refused to heed an order to remove a crucifix and a small statue of the Sacred Heart from council chambers.

“We don’t agree with that because those objects for some people that means our faith, for some others our culture, for some other our tradition,” he said.