Citizens for Public Justice
I N S I D E Gerald Vandezande: A Champion... 3 Poverty and Privatization...
Taxes and Democracy: Two Sides of the Same Coin By Chandra Pasma
“No taxation without representation!” was the rallying cry of the American Revolution. The creation of representative democracies all over the world since 1776 has rendered this idea true: if citizens are required to pay part of their income in taxes, they should have the right to democratically decide how their tax dollars will be spent. But could the opposite also be true? Can there be representation without taxation? It doesn’t seem likely, as at least one scholar has suggested. According to Todd Moss, of the Center for Global Development, lack of taxation has contributed to the so-called “resource curse” in which developing countries blessed with abundant natural resources are more likely to be governed by dictatorships than their resource-poor neighbours. In Canada, we’ve been blessed with a long history of democratic government and an only slightly less long history of paying taxes. We don’t always think about the connection between taxes and democracy though, contributing to an impoverished debate about the appropriate level of taxation in Canada.
A Decade of Tax Cuts However, while taxes are an essential element of our democratic system, you wouldn’t know that from the way taxes have been talked about over the past decade, nor from the changes made to our tax system by both federal and provincial governments. In particular, tax rates have been significantly slashed, reducing the amount of revenue available to governments and rendering the tax system less progressive.
Taxes raise the revenues used to pay for democratic institutions and democratic representation. Taxes also pay for government programs and services that Canadians depend on: they build our roads and bridges, pay for our police and firefighters, offer support to families raising children, provide income security for the elderly, and help to ensure our environment is clean and safe. “Taxes are the price we pay for a civilized society,” former US Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes once said.
The initial context for current federal tax cuts was the fight against the deficit in the 1990s which included major spending cuts. Once the deficit was eliminated in 1998, the changes in spending began to generate large government surpluses. But rather than restore public programs, the then Liberal government chose to cut taxes. This pattern of tax cuts was continued when the Conservatives took power in 2006.
From a public justice perspective, taxes help to create a democratic, just and equitable society by empowering the government in its public justice task. As citizens, therefore, paying our taxes is one way we can contribute to the common good.
The changes included major cuts to corporate income taxes, which have been cut from 28% in 2000 to 16.5% in 2011 (with another scheduled cut to 15% for next year), smaller cuts to personal income tax rates and a drop in the Goods and Services Tax (GST) from 7% to 5%.
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Summer 2011 (Volume 34, Number 1)
In Review CPJ’s Annual General Meeting
Citizens for Public Justice
CPJ’s Board, staff and supporters met in Toronto on May 12th to hold the organization’s AGM. A positive financial report for 2010 was received, as well as reports on the year’s most successful activities from Board chair Mark Huyser-Wierenga and Executive Director, Joe Gunn. The members elected Carol Thiessen of Winnipeg to the Board. The highlight of the evening was the presentation by Professor Bob Goudzwaard, whose remarks on living faithfully in a rapidly-changing world will be summarized in several installments on CPJ’s website over the summer. His identification of major themes since the millennium year – such as the revolts in Arab countries, growing indebtedness and “the Lordship of money,” gave much to reflect upon. Toronto City Councillor Joe Mihevc led off a colourful response session that engaged the members in lively discussion about how to recognize the common good - and work towards it. Copies of CPJ’s 2010 annual report are available on-line, or by contacting the CPJ office.
Aboriginal Rights The CPJ Board of Directors fully endorsed activities related to a day of solidarity with Aboriginal Peoples and implementation of the UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Led by intern Jenny Prosser, who worked with our friends at KAIROS to plan activities, all CPJ staff helped organize the June 20th events on Parliament Hill where a CPJ banner was prominently displayed. Over 250 people from across Canada participated, including many Aboriginal people and national leaders of various faith communities.
the Catalyst Wins Recognition!
In late April, the Catalyst won two awards of merit from the Canadian Church Press. In the category of Theological Reflection of a devotional and inspirational nature, Shiao Chong’s piece, Metaphors for Diversity, won second prize. In the Features category, Karri Munn-Venn’s article Hope for a New Day on Parliamentary support for a poverty reduction strategy, was also granted second place. Congratulations to all our writers! the Catalyst Summer 2011 (Volume 34, Number 1)
309 Cooper Street, #501 Ottawa, Ontario K2P 0G5 tel.: 613-232-0275 toll-free: 1-800-667-8046 e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org web: www.cpj.ca Citizens for Public Justice’s mission is to promote public justice in Canada by shaping key public policy debates through research and analysis, publishing and public dialogue. CPJ encourages citizens, leaders in society and governments to support policies and practices which reflect God’s call for love, justice and stewardship. CPJ annual membership fee, includes the Catalyst: $50 / $25 (low-income)
the Catalyst, a publication of Citizens for Public Justice (CPJ), reports on public justice issues in Canada and reviews CPJ activities. Summer 2011 (Volume 34, Number 1) ISSN 0824-2062 Agreement no. 40022119 Editor: Ruth Malloy the Catalyst subscription: $20 (three issues)
CPJ staff with the banner we prepared in solidarity with Aboriginal peoples: (from the left) Jenny Prosser, Daniela Ljomov, Michael Krakowiak, and Chandra Pasma.
CPJ on Top of the Hill After the May 2nd election, Jenny Prosser and Karri Munn-Venn moved quickly to meet with Conservative MP Dean Allison (Niagara West-Glanbrook in Ontario) and NDP MP Jean Crowder (Nanaimo – Cowichen in British Columbia.) Ms Crowder then rose in the House on June 15th and in her speech on the budget debate, quoted CPJ’s research in support of the need for political party collaboration towards poverty reduction. As usual, CPJ staff prepared immediate commentaries after both the Speech from the Throne and the Budget. These documents are available at www.cpj.ca 2
Would you prefer to receive the Catalyst electronically? Some CPJ members have expressed interest in having their copy of the Catalyst sent directly to their computer. Others appreciate having the newsletter mailed to their home. In electronic form, the Catalyst is much more environmentally friendly, saves CPJ printing and postage costs, and you would receive it at least one week sooner. If from now on you would prefer to receive an electronic copy of the Catalyst, simply contact us at email@example.com
Gerald Vandezande: A Champion of Public Justice By Daniela Ljomov and Joe Gunn
Gerald Vandezande (77) passed away peacefully in his armchair at home in Scarboro, ON early on the morning of Saturday, July 16, 2011. Gerald was one of the founders of Citizens for Public Justice in 1963, and continued to be an active member and supporter all the days of his life. He worked as Executive Director until 1988 and then National Public Affairs Director of CPJ for another decade thereafter. The Board, staff and members of CPJ wish to express their deepest condolences – as well as our gratitude – to the Vandezande family.
This became the major recommendation of the Berger Inquiry and led to the Mackenzie Valley Pipeline project being shelved. Gerry met ceaselessly with politicians to discuss social justice issues. He hosted his own radio commentary program and made 200 guest appearances on the TV program Cross Currents. He was a member of the general council of the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, a Gerald being invested as Member member of the Interfaith of the Order of Canada by Governor Social Assistance Reform General Adrienne Clarkson, 2001. Coalition and served as government coordinator for the Ontario Multi-Faith Coalition for Equity in Education.
Born on a snowy Christmas Day in 1933, in Ymuiden, the Netherlands, Gerald Vandezande lived his life reading and sharing the Gospel with others. Gerry, as he liked to be known, believed that Christians must integrate the teachings of the Bible into all aspects of life. Gerry came to Canada in 1950, and after completing night school classes in cost accounting, he met his future wife Wynne in Sarnia, Ontario.
Gerry’s many articles and books included: Christians in Crisis: Toward Responsible Citizenship (1983), Let Justice Flow! Taking Healing Steps in a Wounded World (1994), Political Action in an Era of Budget Cuts: What Faith Communities Can Do About Former CPJ staff member and Poverty (1996) and Justice, Not then General Secretary of the Just Us: Faith Perspectives and Canadian Council of Churches, National Priorities (1999). He Janet Somerville, congratulates was awarded an honorary Gerald on the publication of Doctor of Letters degree from "Justice: Not Just Us." the Institute of Christian Studies, and the Arthur Kroeger College Award in Ethics in Public Affairs. In 2001, Gerry was named to the Order of Canada – a fitting tribute for a man who dedicated his life to his family, his wife Wynne and daughters Karen and Janice, to Christ and always to seeking public justice for all Canadians.
Gerry believed that in order to develop sound public justice positions, it was imperative to listen to what others had to say, especially when there was disagreement. He felt that it fell on Christians and non-Christians alike to exercise their social responsibilities by creating public policies that met real needs. Justice is not “just us.” As a result, much of Gerry’s advocacy work stretched across both party and religious lines. Gerry worked for the Christian Labour Association of Canada (CLAC), from 1961 - 1972. In 1961, Gerry also co-founded the Committee for Justice and Liberty (CJL), which eventually became a parent of Citizens for Public Justice. The Committee focused much of its attention on defending minority rights in education and labour and was officially incorporated as the CJL Foundation in 1963. In 1975, CJL became involved in native issues after oil companies proposed to build an oil and gas pipeline through Aboriginal land in the Mackenzie Valley. Gerry and his colleague John Olthuis appeared before Justice Thomas Berger to recommend that a moratorium be placed Gerald with CPJ staff at the May 2011 on the pipeline project. Annual Meeting in Toronto.
“All CPJ Board members, staff and supporters were saddened to hear of the passing of Gerald Vandezande. In spite of his fragile health, we were inspired and encouraged when Gerald shared suggestions for action during our Annual Meeting in Toronto only two months ago. Gerald’s prophetic witness continues today as CPJ attempts to follow the example of public justice he illuminated for us all.” – Mark Huyser-Wierenga, Chair of the CPJ Board
the Catalyst Summer 2011 (Volume 34, Number 1)
Poverty and Privatization of Health Care By Nuala Kenny, SC
progress, but others insist that Canada must incorporate more market mechanisms of consumer choice, competition, specialization, and the widespread use of financial incentives into health care.
Poverty in Canada directly affects our most vulnerable citizens and residents: • • • • •
single parents (mostly women) and their children, the homeless, seniors, older women caring for family and friends and the socially marginalized.
To Market! To Market! These market mechanisms are globally applauded even with our recent recession. For example, several European nations started with a public health care system. However, co-pays, competition and specialization are now used to “empower consumers.” They cite budget strain, wait lists and individual choice. Holland’s health system is measured by many to be excellent. It has several market mechanisms added in and was considered by the US as a possible model to adapt, but only until dissatisfaction and premiums started to rise.
Direct action on a host of poverty-related issues is, and must be, a national concern. The privatization of Canadian Medicare is steadily eroding what was a great program of fairness and one of deep significance for the poor. Long gone are headlines regarding the protection of Medicare. This is, in large part, because of the lack of federal leadership but also because of changes in public understanding of the good of health care and of the role of the market. Our moral imagination is influenced by consumerism – making it difficult to critically assess what is really happening and its consequences for the poor.
The international evidence seems clear: as market mechanisms are increasingly inserted into health systems, the focus shifts to individual choice and away from equity and the full continuum of health needs. The more health is understood as a commodity, and health care functions as a market good rather than as a public good, the less it is funded and delivered in a manner compatible with justice and equity. This derails any serious attention given to other crucial determinants of health, like poverty and meaningful employment.
It is Not “The Way It Was” After WWII, Canada, like most other Western nations, developed a universal publicly funded system of health care. It was not easy (the doctors went on strike to prevent it), but the values on which Medicare was ultimately based are equity, solidarity and health care as a public good. As Roy Romanow said in his Royal Commission review of the system,
What is at stake for the poor? Health and wealth are directly related. The higher your socioeconomic class, the longer you live and the better your health at every stage of life. The healthier you are, the more economically secure, although catastrophic illness can transport one rapidly from economic security to poverty.
“our tax-funded, universal health care system provides a kind of “double-solidarity.” It provides equity of funding between the “have” and “have-nots” in our society and it also provides equity between the healthy and the sick.” Medicare has been understood as proudly defining Canadians. The 1997 National Forum on Health confirmed that “(T)he public…(has) an abiding sense of the values of fairness and equality and do not want to see a health care system in which the rich are treated differently from the poor.”
The poor are the least healthy and the least able to purchase health care in a system where access to necessary health care is one of the socio-economic determinants of health. Governments have obligations to develop health systems that promote equity and include fair financing for all health needs. The market wants patients who are healthy and well, not the sick and poor.
But things have changed. Just as we codified our promise to cover everything “medically necessary” based on need, not ability to pay, there was an explosion in medical science and technology. Costs skyrocketed so that by 2009 the average health care cost per person in Canada was $5,164. This fuelled concerns that our promise was not sustainable. But sustainability, as the economist Uwe Reinhardt has said, is a moral issue, not an economic issue.
A Sister of Charity of Halifax, Nuala Kenny, OC, MD, FRCP(C) is an Ethics & Health Policy Advisor at the Catholic Health Alliance of Canada
Romanow’s Royal Commission, and a host of other reports, suggested ways to improve the system. This enabled some the Catalyst Summer 2011 (Volume 34, Number 1)
Book Reviews Summer book suggestions from Citizens for Public Justice
to take social action. He provides us with a new lens to see through, offering clarity, focus, and insight. He then encourages us not just to see differently, but to act on what we see: “determined social action is the task of the hour.”
The Globalization of Addiction: A Study in Poverty of the Spirit By Bruce Alexander Oxford University Press, 2010 Reviewed by Trefor Munn-Venn
Invisible Chains: Canada’s Underground World of Human Trafficking
It was the sub-title that first intrigued me about Bruce ’s book. As we try to renew our spirits, understanding what can diminish our spirits is crucially important. The links that Alexander uncovers, and their implications, are cause for concern.
By Benjamin Perrin Penguin Group, 2010
Traditionally, addiction is understood as an illness or a moral defect (sometimes both).
Reviewed by Callandra Cochrane
A missing young Canadian woman is likely to have been trafficked in Las Vegas. After a trip to Cambodia, a Canadian husband and father is charged with sexual abuse and exploitation under Canada’s child sex tourism law. In Toronto, a trafficker uses Craigslist to publicly advertise and sell a fourteen-year-old girl for sex. These are just a few of the disturbing and heartbreaking stories in Invisible Chains.
Alexander argues that addiction is a response to a loss of identity as our ties to families, communities, cultures and beliefs are broken. When these ties break, we begin to experience a sense of dislocation, which is at the core of the modern poverty of the spirit. Too abstract? Think about the dislocation experienced by Canada’s Aboriginal peoples. Alexander states, “British Columbia’s Indians were dislocated physically from their land, socially from their culture and families, linguistically from their native tongues, economically from their livelihoods, and spiritually from their ceremonies, ancestors, and gods.”
Author Benjamin Perrin provides a distressing exposé of the underground world of human trafficking in Canada. Invisible Chains is the first book documenting modern-day slavery in Canada. Perrin collaborated with police officers, social workers and survivors to bring the situation into light. Through the Access to Information Act he is able to accurately depict the stories of victims in Canada.
While dislocation can be endured for some time, it “eventually leads to unbearable despair, shame, emotional anguish… It regularly precipitates suicide and less direct forms of selfdestruction.”
Perrin is a law professor at the University of British Columbia who went to Cambodia where he experienced first-hand the prevalence and atrocity of human trafficking. Broken and inspired, in 2000 Perrin founded The Future Group, a nongovernment organization dedicated to combat human trafficking. He is now a leading expert on human trafficking in Canada.
We have all witnessed the consequences. Plagued with poverty, poor health, and widespread addictions, First Nations peoples are often overrepresented in the drug addict, prostitute, and AIDS populations, or in jails and alcoholism treatment centres. How then does this link to globalization? Alexander’s thesis is that while free-market economics produces great wealth, it also “breaks down every traditional form of social cohesion and belief, creating a kind of dislocation or poverty of the spirit that draws people into addiction and other psychological problems.” It relentlessly pressures people towards individualism, competition, and rapid change, thereby dislocating them from social life.
There are an increasing number of Canadian victims, especially First Nations women and children. Perrin outlines specific actions for individuals to take as well as giving concrete strategies to combat human trafficking in Canada and globally. While the book is an easy read, as Perrin is eloquent and organized, it is difficult to endure because of the vivid descriptions of the nature of human trafficking. In reading the book, I felt broken for the victims entrapped in slavery and many times I had to stop. Soon, though, I picked it up again as I felt compelled to bring this injustice to light. It is a book which gives a voice to the voiceless, a story that needs to be told.
If we want to truly address addiction — and enable spiritual renewal — we must address dislocation by restoring balance. In his book, Alexander shows us the only way to restore balance is 5
the Catalyst Summer 2011 (Volume 34, Number 1)
Book Reviews What Matters? Economics for a Renewed Commonwealth
Journey to the Common Good
Life, Money and Illusion
By Wendell Berry Counterpoint, 2010
By Walter Brueggemann Westminister John Knox Press, 2010
By Mike Nickerson New Society Publishers, 2009
Reviewed by Sheila McKinley
Reviewed by Michael Maher
Reviewed by Daniela Ljomov
Wendell Berry describes himself as “a farmer of sorts and an artist of sorts.” His fifteen essays are written in clear, passionate language about how we have lost our economic way and what we need to do to regain harmony. The essays were written between 1985 and 2009 but the dates are not particularly relevant as each essay accurately mirrors our current economic failures and the positive steps we can take to correct them. Berry’s literary and spiritual background is evident as he skilfully weaves quotations from Shakespeare, Milton, Pope, the Psalms and the Gospels through his writings. He shows how we have substituted a true economy with an antieconomy based on consumption and the fallacy of unlimited economic growth. A properly ordered economy, Berry asserts, puts nature first and consumption last. It is able to distinguish between needs and wants, while placing absolute value on fertile land, clean air and water. It also recognizes the capacity of nature to renew herself. Instead of this, we have a “financial system based on easy credit, cheap energy, overconsumption, unsupportable ‘development’, waste…” (p.33) In the course of the essays Berry addresses a variety of topics including higher education, the sacredness of topsoil, the necessity of diversity and the destructiveness of competition. Our own experience shows us how living in opposition to nature causes untold disaster. Berry invites us back to neighbourliness, community, and reverence for nature. the Catalyst Summer 2011 (Volume 34, Number 1)
A ‘must-read’ for faith communities: this book is vintage Brueggemann and is both an excellent introduction to Brueggemann and a succinct perspective of his Old Testament focus over the years. Defining common good as the practice of neighbourliness, Brueggemann expands the meaning of the practice using the memory of the Exodus narrative and texts from Jeremiah and Isaiah, recognizing competing ideologies around the common good, especially those he finds in the stories of the splendour of Solomon (cf 2 Kings). Brueggemann offers a wonderful exegesis though Genesis and Exodus focusing on God’s call to a journey through anxiety to abundance to neighbourliness. The counter journey, embraced and sustained by the empires of both biblical times and the present, brings us from anxiety to scarcity to greed. In the third chapter entitled From Vision to Imperative: The Work of Reconstruction, Brueggemann formulates a Christian response to an urban economy unwilling to respond to a growing number of vulnerable neighbours. To that prescription, Brueggemann adds an Afterword, a reflection on the current exclusion of the poor, and the failure of faith communities to speak to the real and urgent conflict between the biblical faith narrative and this contemporary counter narrative. This little book is a timely call to “an immense act of generosity… to break the death grip of a system of fear, anxiety, and greed” (p. 29) and to engage in communities of neighbourliness where love of God means love of neighbour.
Nickerson’s book examines how, as society evolved over the ages, our vision of progress has been increasingly tied to economic growth and material expansion. No longer are we buying items for survival; rather, we are consuming as a means to measure our status and wealth. According to Nickerson, two kinds of problems have arisen as a result of humankind’s pursuit of economic expansion. As industry continues to feed our high rate of consumption, the natural environment is paying the price through resource exploitation and accumulating pollution. Material growth has also led to social problems as the gap between those who have more than they need and those who are unable to meet their basic needs grows wider. This book outlines possible steps society can take to bring about a “just” transition to a new sustainable world order. One step is full-cost pricing which takes into account the environmental, social and economic costs of a product. Another step is to eliminate government subsidies to industries which contribute to environmental destruction. These, and other steps, would bring about a sustainable future, says Nickerson. Though at times it was easy to get caught up in all the details, “Life, Money and Illusion” is a great read for anyone interested in ecology and sustainable development. Nickerson offers a compelling argument for society’s need to move from a system which views material expansion as the ultimate good to a system which focuses on the well-being of the individual, the community and natural ecosystems.
Book Reviews eaarth: Making Life on a Tough New Planet By Bill McKibben Alfred A. Knopf Canada, 2010 Reviewed by Joe Gunn
When confronted with the devastating effects of climate change, US-based author and teacher Bill McKibben and some of his students organized a political outcry via the internet. Their “distributed power” went global, in what CNN called “the most widespread day of political action in the planet’s history.” I was on Parliament Hill that day, Oct. 24, 2009, surrounded by hundreds of youth, and could feel the unshakeable certainty that something new was happening here. With that movement even bigger today, McKibben tells us we need a new name for our planet: it has changed so drastically. Increasingly dramatic weather events, species loss, rising acidity in the oceans and a whole range of other effects of climate change do not lie in the future – they are “the new normal.” McKibben's focus is not a vague call for "green" solutions: while Canadians are among the most prodigious emitters of greenhouse gases around the globe, only one in three Africans even has electricity! McKibben is firmly convinced of the need for real change to the global market economy's massive concentrations of economic power. Yet his solutions are based on lived experiences. "Our key projects are local now - that needs to be our focus." While such change is not always easy, he shows that humans can be attracted to leave the "neighbourless life" behind. To restore your own faith in eaarth’s future, see McKibben’s handiwork at www.350.org , read his monthly columns in Sojourner’s magazine, or savour this great book - and be inspired to act.
The Right Balance: Canada’s Conservative Tradition
Beyond Blood: Rethinking Indigenous Identity
By Hugh Segal D&M Publisher, Inc., 2011
By Pamela D. Palmater Purich Publishing Ltd., 2009
Reviewed by Chandra Pasma
Reviewed by Jenny Prosser
In his book, Senator Hugh Segal describes a conservative tradition in which accommodation of the foundational duality of Canada led to respect for the balance between collective identity and individual identity. The Tory worldview, he argues, views culture, language, geography and religion as established realities that a society must work with, in contrast with a liberal worldview that believes reason and optimism can change anything. This respect also implies a commitment to working with and respecting established institutions of society such as families and churches. In some areas, the Canadian conservatism described by Segal is not that foreign to proponents of public justice. In reading this book, I wished I could support a Canadian political tradition just like he was describing. Unfortunately, I think there is a certain amount of wishful thinking on the Senator’s part. While his descriptions hold up for his historical overview, they break down when it comes to the recent Conservative governments of Brian Mulroney and Stephen Harper. Segal describes a coalition-building approach that does not fear dissent, views diversity as strength, and is broadly inclusive in its policies. This does not square with the practices of Conservatives in power. Knowing Senator Segal from his indefatigable efforts to promote a guaranteed annual income for the poor, I have no doubt that he personally understands his own conservative beliefs in this way. We would be better off if there were more – in all political parties – like Senator Segal. 7
In this book, Dr. Pamela D. Palmater argues that under the current Indian Act, the system of determining Indian status based on blood ties will eventually lead to the legislated extinction of Canada’s Aboriginal peoples. Drawing from her own experience as a Mi’kmaq woman denied status, Palmater describes the problems with the current system and proposes an alternative approach. Ultimately, Palmater’s book is a call for individuals, families, communities and nations to look “deeper at what makes those connections between individuals, their communities and nations so strong, [to see] that blood is not only unnecessary as an indicator of our identities; it is completely irrelevant.” Palmater takes a nuanced approach to an incredibly complex issue. Using her own example to describe a court challenge to the current system, she makes the content very accessible. However, the need to examine legislative and case history to gain understanding means that at times the language can be challenging. This book is well-balanced, describing both the positive and negative sides of federal and Aboriginal government approaches. Palmater also acknowledges the challenges of changing current status determination rules. Using both gender and racial analysis she coherently responds to critiques of her position. Those looking to learn more about an issue that is rarely acknowledged in the mainstream can enjoy the opportunity to deepen their understanding of this important facet of Aboriginal politics in Canada.
the Catalyst Summer 2011 (Volume 34, Number 1)
Book Reviews for children of all ages And Here's to You! By David Elliott Candlewick, 2004 Recommended for ages 3-7
Dylan and Dawson agree - "This book is totally awesome!"
Wangari's Trees of Peace: A True Story from Africa By Jeanette Winter Harcourt Children’s Books, 2008 Recommended for ages 4-8 Wangari Maathi, winner of the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize, was born in Kenya. She won a scholarship to study in America.
Handa’s Surprise By Eileen Browne Candlewick, 1999 Recommended for ages 4-8
Handa collects seven delicious fruits to take as a surprise to her friend. As she carries them in a basket balanced on her head, she wonders which one her friend
On the Day You Were Born By Debra Frasier Harcourt Children’s Books, 2006 Recommended for all ages
On the Day You Were Born is a celebration of creation, community, and new life. It tells of how the animals, earth, oceans, sun, the Catalyst Summer 2011 (Volume 34, Number 1)
This book was a real eye catcher for Dylan, age 4. Dawson, age 8, shared his observations that the amazing use of primary colours, textures, and fun characters will attract children to this book. We all enjoyed the variety of the animals drawn and pointing out our favourites. The text highlights aspects of nature like diversity and our human love of (and dependance on) many of these critters. When she comes back, she sees a lot of trees have been cut down. She tries to stop them from cutting down even more trees, but they get mad and put her in jail. She’s not alone, because there are a lot of other women planting trees, and standing tall. By the time she comes out of jail, the green has returned to Kenya. I liked how the women wouldn't give up. They kept planting trees, ignoring the
will like best. But unbeknownst to her, some animals are watching from overhead... At my daughter’s school, there are several copies of this book available so that the children never have to wait too long to get their hands on a copy. It’s a fun and colourful story, appealing to children’s sense of humour. The readers get to see what’s happening before Handa does – so there is always a lot of wriggling and giggling when sharing this story!
moon and stars share the exciting news of a pending birth and culminates with a community of people singing, “We are so glad you’ve come!” The lyrical text is accompanied by simple and rich illustrations that together remind us that everyone is a treasured member of God’s great earth. The book’s positive message makes it a popular read at our house. Oscar (5) says, “It reminds me that people were so excited I was coming into the world.” 8
We think this book will become a repeat read in our house because of the positive messages of love throughout. The book gives fun opportunities for the reader to use their EXPRESSIVE voice to exclaim "How we love YOU!" with (and to) all our little ones on every page. Reviewed by Aaron Helleman, with contributions from Dylan and Dawson Helleman
men's laughter. The moral of the story is that "right is right, even if you're alone." This is a book that should be read by all the Onclers (from Dr. Seuss' The Lorax), as well as people who like good and true stories. Reviewed by future CPJ member Zoe Wind (8) with a little help from her dad, Dwayne Hodgson
The illustrations are rich and beautiful, depicting life in the Luo tribe in southwest Kenya. Some of the animals and fruits will be familiar for children, others might be new, but throughout the story, the words are simple and the story rhythmic to help young readers. A superb book for reading with little ones. Reviewed by Katie Munnik
“I like the eels and all the animals passing the news of the birth. It makes me feel happy and warm,” says Gabriel (7). “Yeah,” adds Oscar, “Like Mummy is cuddling me.” Reviewed by Gabriel and Oscar Munn-Venn with a little help from their mom, Karri
...continued from page 1 “Taxes and Democracy...”
These tax cuts cost the government a significant amount of revenue and contributed to the deficit the federal government has been running since 2009. In 2010-2011, the cost of tax changes since 2006 alone are equivalent to 93.6% of our $36.2 billion deficit.
corporate tax cuts) there was no mention at all of what the government could have spent the lost revenue on rather than tax cuts. What the Future Holds We can’t address the problems in our tax system or properly assess whether or not tax cuts are the best policy option if politicians don’t speak honestly with us about the options. Canadians need and deserve a serious debate about the appropriate level and balance of taxation. This dialogue also needs to take into account the services our taxes pay for. We need to demand transparency from our policy makers about who benefits and who loses from both tax cuts and the service cuts that tax cuts result in.
Sick System? Loss of revenue is not the only concern created by the past decade of continuous tax cuts. Canada’s tax system has also become far less progressive. The principle of progressive taxation – that people should pay taxes according to their ability to contribute – is a basic public justice tenet. It is of great concern then that the overall tax system is now an inverted u-shape, with those at the top of the income distribution paying a lower rate than those at the bottom! Instead of “contribute as you are able,” the foundation of our tax system seems to be “pay only what you can’t avoid.” This loss of progressivity has contributed to the growth in income inequality in Canada. While Canada’s tax and transfer system offsets some of the market inequality in income, it has not changed the trend of increasing inequality. According to the Vanier Institute of the Family, the after-tax income share of the richest 20% of Canadians increased from 41% in 1990 to 44.3% in 2008. All other Canadians have seen their share decrease. The after-tax income share of the poorest 20% of Canadians is now only 4.9%.
In that debate, here are a few policy options CPJ thinks should be considered: • The recent trend of cutting corporate taxes should be reversed. There is a much greater cost to citizens due to lost programs and opportunities than the marginal benefits reaped through corporate tax cuts.
Another concern is that accountability for how our tax dollars are spent is eroding, particularly when Parliament is not given the information it needs to judge whether or not spending decisions are wise and appropriate. The spring election was held because the government was found in contempt of Parliament. Why? They withheld information about cost implications of crime legislation that Parliament said it needed to appropriately assess the legislation. The government’s cost projections for new fighter jets have also differed significantly from what the Parliamentary Budget Officer and the US General Accountability Office (an independent Congressional agency) have said they will cost, leading observers to question whether the government is being transparent about the cost.
• Greater progressivity should be restored to our tax system by creating a fifth tax bracket for high income earners set at $250,000. • The federal government should look at expanding the tax base by redefining taxable income. It is not fair that wages and salaries (the primary source of income for low income Canadians) are fully taxed, while capital gains, dividends, gifts and inheritances (which are most heavily concentrated among high income Canadians) are partially or fully exempted from taxes. • Canada should support and participate in international efforts to create a Financial Transactions Tax that will help to stabilize financial markets and prevent another economic crisis such as the 2008-2009 recession.
These are all significant issues, but perhaps the greatest concern is that there is no real debate or conversation taking place among Canadians regarding our troubled tax system. Instead, there has been a sustained attack on taxes that has resulted in a simplistic debate about what level of taxes is too high. Taxes have been divorced from the public services and democratic institutions which they pay for. Budget surpluses have been spun as over-taxation and budget deficits as over-spending, regardless of the context. Our prime minister has even implied that he believes there is no such thing as a good tax.
While a conversation about tax policy might seem daunting, public accountability for tax policies and government spending is at the heart of democracy. For our democracy to remain healthy, we need to engage in serious conversations about taxes and look at options to rebalance our tax system.
As a result of this heated rhetoric, any serious attempt at discussing the tax mix or raising taxes has been shouted down in recent years. While there was some discussion of corporate tax rates during the election (since two out of the three main federal parties proposed undoing at least some of the recent
Chandra Pasma is CPJ’s Public Justice Policy Analyst 9
the Catalyst Summer 2011 (Volume 34, Number 1)
Mackenzie Valley Pipeline: Then and Now By Jenny Prosser
More than 30 years ago, CPJ made Canadian history with its victory in a landmark case against the National Energy Board at the Supreme Court of Canada. In a major victory for the Dene nations, the project was put on hold.
On the environmental side today, the environmental impacts, for example of the tar sands, need to be weighed against the environmental impact of the possible pipeline.
Now, the Mackenzie Valley Pipeline is under consideration again, with the gas from the pipeline directed towards ‘southern markets’ leaving many concerned it will go to the Alberta tar sands.
On the consumption-based society issue, we have not done a very good job of changing the mainstream society views on this issue, so it becomes problematic for us to continue to say that the project should not go ahead when those most affected see some benefits and the possibility of minimizing or mitigating the impacts.
CPJ’s deep roots in this issue prompt us to re-examine this old debate. Longtime CPJ staffer and advocate for Aboriginal rights John Olthuis was kind enough to share some of his thoughts with us.
So my perspective has not changed, but in the final analysis the Dene people collectively wrestled with their decision about the range of impacts and benefits and a majority, at least at the moment, have reached a different decision than they reached 30 years ago. That has to be respected. CPJ: In the 1970s the Mackenzie Valley Pipeline was an issue on which Canadian churches and civil society were extremely active. Why do you think church groups are so much less engaged now?
CPJ: What were the main motivations for CPJ’s work on the Mackenzie Valley Pipeline in the 1970s? JO:
In the 1970s, three issues were prominent in the discussion of the Mackenzie Valley Pipeline:
1. The Dene people needed time to settle their land claims with Canada, and to be allowed to make their own decision about the development after weighing potential benefits and impacts. 2. The environmental concerns, such as possible permafrost damage.
At the same time, I think we need to continue working for the right of First Nations to make the decisions, as well as work for a sustainable society and environment. By we, I mean KAIROS, CPJ, churches, and so on.
3. The consumption-based society in which this pipeline was to feed the voracious energy appetite of the US that was 6% of the world’s population and used 40% of the world’s energy.
We need a sustainable economy and environment that will reconcile our relationship with creation, even as we try and reconcile our relationship with First Nations peoples. I think we need to work hard to create the socio-economic conditions in which those decisions can be made in a freer way. Then we will make a contribution to a framework in which the decision of the Dene people is less pressured and the window for their free and informed prior consent is opened wider.
CPJ: Has your perspective on the Mackenzie Valley Pipeline project changed over the years? JO:
I think the reason for this is that the issue has often been mischaracterized as a pro- or anti-development issue. I do not see the issue that way. The issue needs to be recast as the right of those most affected by a proposed project to self-determine whether they want the project to go ahead or not and the conditions under which they give their consent.
Many of the Dene regions have settled their land claims and in that context have assessed the project and decided that the benefits outweigh the impacts. In the context of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the Dene have the right to make a free, prior, informed decision regarding the project and they have done so. Now, some Dene communities are still opposed to the project. In my view the selfdetermination of the Dene people means that they alone will make the decision of how to handle internal conflicting conclusions about the pipeline.
Jenny Prosser is CPJ’s Public Justice Intern the Catalyst Summer 2011 (Volume 34, Number 1)
Poverty and the New Political Context By Karri Munn-Venn
Since the launch of Dignity for All: The Campaign for a PovertyFree Canada in 2009, we’ve seen momentum towards increased action to address poverty in Canada. However, we now find ourselves asking whether we can reasonably expect further advances.
At least 118 faith-based organizations have endorsed Dignity for All, including six national Christian churches, 28 individual congregations/parishes, as well as the Canadian Council of Churches, KAIROS, StreetLevel, and the Interfaith Social Assistance Reform Coalition.
Warning bells sounded from Parliament Hill in September 2010 and again in March 2011 when the federal government released its responses to: In from the Margins: A Call to Action on Poverty, Housing and Homelessness (by the Senate Sub-Committee on Cities), and Poverty Reduction Plan: Working in Partnership Towards Reducing Poverty in Canada (by the House of Commons Human Resources Committee). In both instances, getting a job was emphasized as the way out of poverty.
Going forward, CPJ, in partnership with Dignity for All, will focus on four key areas: 1. Policy Development. We will build on the success of the first Dignity for All policy summit, where we developed concrete recommendations on housing, early childhood education and care. The next summit will address income security. We will continue to explore policy areas with the aim of ultimately building a model federal plan to eliminate poverty in Canada.
A narrow response to poverty: get a job According to Finance Minister Flaherty’s June Budget, nearly 540,000 jobs have been created since July 2009. Yet approximately four million Canadians are living in poverty, many of them despite having a job.
2. Dialogue with Parliamentarians. We will continue to meet with government officials individually and at the caucus level to inform and influence social policy. We will also reach out through events such as the “Dish on Dignity,” which provides a forum for conversation between people living in poverty and Members of Parliament.
Why? There are not enough full-time, well-paying jobs. Nearly one million Canadians are working part-time involuntarily. Their jobs are increasingly characterized by instability and insecurity, few or no workplace benefits, and little or no access to government benefits.
3. Public Engagement. To change the political winds, we now have one more tool at our disposal. CPJ’s new publication “Living Justice: A Gospel Response to Poverty” is an ecumenical worship and action guide on poverty and justice in Canada. By sharing reflections, activities and prayers we will mobilize and encourage those beginning to explore the injustices of poverty, as well as those wishing to expand their ministries.
This growing casualization of labour and the failure of entrylevel jobs to provide living wages and necessary benefits serves as a significant disincentive for people otherwise keen to move off social assistance. The absence of additional supports – such as access to child care – adds further barriers.
4. Supporting Provincial Movements. Six provinces have poverty reduction strategies in place and additional plans are under development in Prince Edward Island, Nunavut, and the Yukon. Dignity for All will continue to support these efforts in collaboration with local organizations. Particular attention will be given to efforts in British Columbia where the anti-poverty movement is gaining strength and opposition parties have committed to making poverty an issue in the upcoming provincial election.
Small nods to seniors, the homeless, and Aboriginal Canadians The June budget did indeed commit to some small increases in social spending: • top-up benefits to the Guaranteed Income Supplement of up to $600-$840 per year for single seniors and senior couples respectively; • government/community partnerships to address homelessness, persistent unemployment, and situations of at-risk youth; and,
CPJ will continue to define the issues and lead communities of faith in action against poverty.
• new funding programs for Aboriginal communities. Sadly, the resources assigned to these worthy programs remain vastly insufficient. A faithful response to poverty: respect the rights and dignity of all Canadians Among faith communities, a strong commitment to action remains.
Karri Munn-Venn is CPJ’s Socio-Economic Policy Analyst 11
the Catalyst Summer 2011 (Volume 34, Number 1)
The Crux of Justice By Greg Paul
1 John 3:16-17 “We know love by this, that he laid down his life for us - and we ought to lay down our lives for one another. How does God's love abide in anyone who has the world's goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help?” One day a few years ago, I was walking down Yonge Street with my friend Rudy. I don’t remember what our conversation was about, but I will never forget him turning to me and saying, “Greg, you don’t know Jesus is all you need until Jesus is all you have.” It would have been little more than a silly aphorism coming from most people. But Rudy was homeless, and his authority was undeniable; as he trudged beside me along a sidewalk bordered by miniature mountain ranges of brownish snow, he literally wore or carried everything he owned. He could not afford the trite sayings so often bandied about in churches: those phrases which diminish deep spiritual truth for those who try to follow Jesus and which are also laughably sanctimonious to those who don’t. His statement had authentic spiritual power. As potent as Rudy’s comment was, it would have been another matter entirely if I had made it to him. Because I am a person who does have an abundance of material possessions, it would have been insensitive and condescending at the very least. It would have been no better if I had insisted on telling him about all the things the government and the church and big business should be doing to help poor people, or detailed strategies for effective justice advocacy to those groups. Every word spoken might have been true, but to Rudy they would have been just that: words. The actions I proposed might have been important, but to Rudy at that moment they would have been utterly irrelevant. What he needed was not just affirmation of the truth of his words, but action, in the form of me supplying his real, material need out of my material excess. There are two great and dangerous temptations in the matter of justice for people who ‘have material possessions’: we may spiritualize poverty, or politicize it, to the extent that the human realities of living in poverty become so abstract as to be virtually meaningless to us. We spiritualize poverty by saying things like, “Really, we’re all poor;” or “Doing good works is all well and good, but what people really need is salvation,” while forgetting the Catalyst Summer 2011 (Volume 34, Number 1)
that people need their daily bread. We politicize poverty by focusing on policies or systems and lobbying governments or corporations while passing by individual human souls. The words are undeniably true, and the activism manifestly needed, but when in the grip of them we forget to share what we have with real people in a direct, personal sacrifice, we miss the heart of the matter. What we say and do may become irrelevant or even marginalizing to the people for whom we profess to care. The beautiful words of the Apostle John, quoted above, remind Christians, whether inclined to politics or preaching, that the crux of the good news of justice and regeneration is the cross of Christ. One of the ways we may imitate the sacrifice of Jesus is by laying down our ‘ownership’ of the material goods in our possession. When we give to need out of our excess, we give witness to and in some way continue the work of the cross. It’s because we go beyond merely talking about the gospel, and act it out, that we can “know that we belong to the truth.” Truth is an activity, not merely an abstract proposition. And this active, living truth is the identifying mark of the person who has discovered that “the one who dwells in love dwells in God, and God in him.”
Greg Paul pastors the Sanctuary community in downtown Toronto, which makes a priority of welcoming and caring for some of the most hurting and excluded people in the city. www.sanctuarytoronto.ca Greg is the father of 4 adult children, and contributor to CPJ’s forthcoming worship resource, “Living Justice” of which this article is an excerpt. Order your copy at www.cpj.ca
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