Boy soldierWINNIPEG - Retired general Senator Romeo Dallaire told a packed audience of religious leaders that the proliferation of child soldiers in world conflicts is a sin and a crime against humanity.

Dallaire, the retired general who led the ill-fated UN peacekeeping forces during the mid-1990s genocide in Rwanda, was addressing some 71 delegates and 130 observers at the opening session of the World Religions Summit June 21-23 at the University of Winnipeg.

Another aid group fears CIDA cuts

CCIC logoThe umbrella group for 90 religious and secular development aid groups has laid off all but eight of its employees, put its building up for sale and emptied its $500,000 reserve fund for severance packages as it waits for final word on a funding decision from CIDA that’s now three months overdue.

The Canadian Council for International Co-operation is assuming it won’t get the $1.7 million the federal government normally contributes to its $2.4-million budget, said executive director Gerry Barr.

Rumours of Rome posting for Ouellet downplayed

Cardinal Marc Ouellet Rumours that Quebec Cardinal Marc Ouellet will replace the prefect of the congregation of bishops at the Vatican are just speculation, said an archdiocesan spokesperson.

“We won’t comment on those rumours because they are rumours, especially (because of) the fact that the actual prefect has not retired yet,” said Jasmin Lemieux-Lefebvre, director of communications for the archdiocese of Quebec.

Tracking G8 accountability: hype vs. substance

G8 LogoTORONTO - G8 countries have issued themselves a glowing report card complimenting themselves on how "The G8 has acted as a force for positive change and its actions have made a difference in addressing global challenges."

However, an independent academic assessment of G8 performance and comments by aid agencies and activists from poor countries aren't quite so kind.

Canada has lost its traditional second place ranking in the G8 Research Group analysis, keeping just 17 of 24 commitments it made at the last G8 meeting in L'Aquila, Italy.

Maternal health the right choice for G8

Maternal healthcareTORONTO - Canada has picked the right issue to push at the G8 meetings in Huntsville, Ont., June 25 and 26, but it hasn't got the math quite right, according to aid groups.

Leaked drafts of the final Huntsville communique indicate Canada is offering $1 billion over five years to tackle maternal and child deaths in poor countries — a commitment that comes in less than the $1.1 billion security budget for the G8/G20 summit and less than the $1.5 billion recently pledged for maternal and child health by Bill and Melinda Gates.

Targeting the health of women and children is the right thing to do, said Michael Casey, executive director of the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace.

“It is certainly a huge development priority,” Casey said.

Religious hate crime numbers on the rise

Race, religion and sexual orientation continue to be the prime targets for hate crimes in Canada, with more than one quarter of all hate crimes committed against people because of their faith.

Though race accounted for 55 per cent of hate crimes reported by police, religiously motivated hate crimes jumped 53 per cent between 2007 and 2008 and accounted for 26 per cent of 1,036 hate crimes in 2008.

The Statistics Canada figures on hate crimes are gathered from police services that serve 88 per cent of Canada’s population. Statistics Canada warns that the figures almost certainly underreport hate crimes not only because not all police forces report hate crimes but because many incidents go unreported to police.

First Nations offer forgiveness

Strahl forgivenessOTTAWA - A national coalition of First Nations, Métis and Inuit leaders have offered forgiveness to Prime Minister Stephen Harper for residential schools’ abuses.

They presented the Prime Minister with the Charter of Forgiveness and Freedom, a formal response to Harper’s historic 2008 apology in the House of Commons for Indian Residential Schools. The response took place at the National Forgiven Summit here June 11-13 that drew thousands of residential school survivors, their descendants and well-wishers from across the country.

“We’re going to see Canada a healed nation and today we are much more healed than before because we have been able to come to a place where we can say ‘I forgive,’ ” organizer Kenny Blacksmith told the summit June 12.

“This is the hour of healing and restoration for all our people,” said Blacksmith, who spent 11 years in a residential school, before presenting Indian and Northern Affairs Minister Chuck Strahl with the charter.

G8 can't ignore moral dimension of economy


TORONTO - On any given day on Bay Street, Infinium Group makes between 500,000 and one million trades in stocks, stock options, currencies, futures and financial derivatives. As the largest single trader most days on the Toronto Stock Exchange — bigger even than any of the Big Five banks — that’s what it does every day.

Infinium doesn’t make its trades based on the value of companies involved or their plans for new investment. The thousands of trades per second are triggered by computer programs based on mathematical models.

At the G20 meetings in Toronto June 26-27 European countries want to slow down companies like Infinium and their breakneck, second-by-second bets on financial products. Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper says no.

It’s a pretty sure bet the Pope is not on Harper’s side on this one.

Catholic groups welcome start of Truth and Reconciliation process

Truth and Reconciliation Commission of CanadaOTTAWA - A group representing Catholic religious orders and dioceses involved in the Indian residential schools' system hope some of the positive and bright threads in an otherwise bleak tapestry will get a chance to be told as the Truth and Reconciliation Commission launched its first national event in Winnipeg June 16-19.

Catholic groups involved in running residential schools say they look forward to participating in the commission’s seven national events.

Grouard-McLennan Archbishop Gerard Pettipas, who chairs the Corporation of Catholic Entities Party to the Indian Residential Schools Settlement, announced June 15 he would be attending all four days of the commission’s Winnipeg event, with board members and members of Catholic religious orders that ran schools joining him.

L'Arche experience leads Jesuit to priesthood

Archbishop Prendergast, Teo Ugaban, John MeehanTORONTO - Living in the L’Arche community in France and meeting Jean Vanier led John Meehan to discover his call to become a priest.

“It changed the way I looked at community, the Church, my faith. I wouldn’t be a Jesuit now if it hadn’t been for L’Arche,” he told The Catholic Register.

Meehan, 42, was ordained June 5, along with Teo Ugaban, at Toronto’s Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church, with Ottawa Archbishop Terrence Prendergast, S.J., presiding at the Ordination Mass.

Born in Halifax, Meehan started thinking about the priesthood in his teens. But it was his experience in France that led him to consider the Jesuits. The call came during a European backpacking adventure in 1989 when he decided to volunteer at L’Arche and work with individuals with severe disabilities. His eight months living in community and living “very simply” was what attracted him to the vocation.

CCRL honours Quebec mother's fight for parental rights

Catholic Civil Rights LeagueTORONTO - When Susan Lavallée found her children would be forced to take Quebec’s controversial ethics and religious culture course, the 45-year-old felt she had to stand up for her religious rights as a Catholic parent.

It’s a fight the Drummondville mother of six is willing to take all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada.

“We’re hoping that they will take the case because it’s a very serious case and it’s a case of national interest,” said Lavallée.