The Right Honourable Stephen Harper Prime Minister of Canada Office of the Prime Minister 80 Wellington Street Ottawa, ON K1A 0A2 Fax +1 613 941 6900 Re: Ending Poverty in Canada Dear Prime Minister Harper, As nations leaders of Canadian churches and members of the Canadian Council of Churches, we call on our government to take immediate steps to develop and implement a national poverty reduction strategy. Concern for the poor and a commitment to address poverty are deeply held aspects of our Christian faith, as we know they are for many faiths. We believe we are called, as churches and as Canadians, to address the social and economic structures which impoverish thousands of children, parents, and single people in Canada, and keep them in the conditions of poverty. In his life and ministry, Jesus identifies with and is present among “the least of these.” We see all humans as possessing a profound dignity because all have been created in the image of God. Poverty is an assault upon the dignity of the poor, robbing them of the opportunity to develop and share their gifts with the world. Poverty also undermines the dignity of the wealthy, for when we fail to share our goods and selves with the poor we fail to live out the image of God who gave his life for the healing of the world. In Chapter 25:45 of the Gospel of St. Matthew, in the Parable of the sheep and the goats, Christ calls us to acts of compassion: feeding the hungry, giving water to the thirsty, welcoming the stranger, clothing the naked, caring for the sick and visiting those imprisoned. These verses also point us toward a much more profound compassion. It is the nations of the world which are gathered for judgment. Thus we are called, as churches and as a nation, to address the social and economic structures which afflict the poor and keep them in the condition of poverty. The barriers that prevent people from living fully differ across Canada and between communities. This is why developing and implementing a poverty reduction strategy is important. An effective strategy will pay attention to particular groups with specific needs, such as:
the more than 750,000 children whose life chances are limited by conditions of poverty;
the 42% of urban Aboriginals who live in poverty as well as Aboriginal People living on reserves or remote areas;
the increasing number of immigrants who remain in poverty up to a decade after coming to Canada.
Canada is a prosperous country that can afford to do better. We note the growing level of wealth among the richest in Canadian society, while others lack basic resources such as affordable housing and decent wages for the work they do, face discrimination and racism because of their ethnic, cultural or national heritage, or are prevented by poverty from learning the skills necessary to succeed in the 21st century economy. The growing gap between the wealthiest and those living on the margins in Canada threatens the social cohesion that gives Canada a positive reputation in the world. Poverty is also an important social determinant of health. Addressing poverty, then, is an essential step in the building of healthy communities. Reducing poverty in Canada is an achievable goal. Uniting Canadians to remove the barriers that marginalize people and limit their potential to live in dignity and contribute to the development of Canada requires visionary leadership. We are asking you to exercise that leadership. Together, as Canadian Christian religious leaders, we call on the Canadian government to establish a high level government task force mandated to develop a national poverty reduction strategy. We propose that the task force include people living in poverty, immigrants, and representatives of Aboriginal communities, along with people who work with them. An effective national poverty reduction strategy in our view must include measurable goals and timelines, publicly comprehensible indicators that measure the poverty in Canada, and a means for monitoring and evaluating progress. Most of all it must include budget commitments that focus on the needs of vulnerable people. Because the lives of people are at stake, we further urge the government to establish this task force and initiate a poverty reduction strategy within the next budget year. We would appreciate a response from you which indicates what steps your government will take to develop and implement a strategy which will reduce poverty in Canada. Sincerely, The Most Reverend Fred Hiltz Archbishop and Primate The Anglican Church of Canada His Grace Bishop Bagrat Galstanian Primate Armenian Holy Apostolic Church, Canadian Diocese The Rev. Dr. Kenneth Bellous Executive Minister Baptist Convention of Ontario and Quebec The Rev. Jeremy Bell Executive Minister Baptist Union of Western Canada The Right Rev. Maurice Hicks General Superintendent British Methodist Episcopal Church Most Rev. V. James Weisgerber Archbishop of Winnipeg President Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops Dale Dewar Presiding Clerk Canadian Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) The Rev. Dr. Catherine Hubbard Regional Minister Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Canada The Rev. Bruce Adema Director of Canadian Ministries Christian Reformed Church in North America The Rev. Fr. Marcos Marcos Protopriest The Coptic Orthodox Church of Canada The Rev. Fr. Messale Engeda Presiding Priest Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church in the Western Hemisphere The Rev. Susan C. Johnson National Bishop Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada His Eminence Metropolitan Sotirios Archbishop Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Toronto (Canada) The Rev. J.B. Suderman Moderator Mennonite Church Canada The Right Rev. Seraphim Bishop of Ottawa and Canada Orthodox Church in America The Rev. Zbignew Kozar Pastor St. John’s Cathedral Polish Catholic Church The Rev. Dr. J.H. (Hans) Kouwenberg Moderator, 133rd General Assembly The Presbyterian Church in Canada Commissioner William W. Francis Territorial Commander The Salvation Army, Canada and Bermuda Territory The Rev. John Kapteyn Clerk Regional Synod of Canada, Reformed Church in America His Eminence JOHN Primate The Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Canada The Right Rev. David Guiliano Moderator The United Church of Canada CC. The Honourable Stéphane Dion, Leader of the Liberal Party of Canada The Honourable Gilles Duceppe, Leader of the Bloc Quebecois The Honourable Jack Layton, Leader of the New Democratic Party Members of Parliament The Canadian Council of Churches is the largest ecumenical body in Canada, now representing 21 churches of Anglican, Evangelical, Eastern and Oriental Orthodox, Protestant and Roman Catholic traditions. We are one of the few ecumenical bodies in the world that includes such a range of Christian churches. The officers and staff of the Council are drawn from the whole diversity of traditions represented by the member churches.