Last Updated:Friday - 09/24/2010
October 13, 2008
Alberta must share its resource wealth
Once again, Canada's contribution – or lack thereof – to the development of the world's poorer nations has failed to garner much attention during a federal election campaign. Perhaps this is not surprising given the anxiety many are feeling about the financial crisis in the United States and the effect it may have on Canadian jobs and prosperity.
But, truth be told, the fate of the world's poor is never a top-drawer concern. Despite the growth of technology over the past century that has increasingly enabled us to become aware of the sorrows and joys of those halfway around the globe, our main concerns are almost always in our own backyard.
For people who are naturally oriented to meeting their own necessities and security, this is understandable. It is less understandable for Christians who are called by our own faith, by the core beliefs that we say motivate us, to have a broader awareness.
If there is anything that Christians can bring to the public square, it is the conviction that fullness of life can only happen when we move beyond concern for self. If we fail to bring that higher, broader ideal into public life, we betray our faith.
We have a responsibility to speak.
We have a responsibility to act.
We have a responsibility to call our community, our nation, to move beyond insularity.
As individuals and as a nation, we are defined by the way we relate to the least of our brothers and sisters – the poor, the disabled, the sick, the lonely.
Canada has done OK in some respects. But we could do far better. In 1969, former prime minister Lester Pearson called on the wealthier nations of the world to commit 0.7 per cent of their gross national income to development aid to poorer nations. Successive Canadian governments have said they would meet that goal.
Yet by 2007, Canada was still only providing 0.28 per cent of its GNI to official development assistance. Canada ranked 16th out of 22 donor countries.
Not much has been made out of this failure, either during the election campaign or at other times. We seem content to fall far short of realizing this commitment.
In 2000, the nations of the world – Canada among them – committed themselves to realizing eight "millennium development goals" by 2015. Those goals include such laudable aims as eradicating dire poverty, establishing universal access to primary education, achieving gender equality and ensuring environmental sustainability.
The United Nations reports that progress has been made in reducing extreme poverty, but 1.4 billion people still live on less than $1.25 a day.
Moreover, progress is being undercut by higher prices – particularly of food and oil – and the global economic slowdown.
It has to be said that Alberta's current prosperity is based on exactly those factors – higher oil and food prices – that are perpetuating global poverty.
If we are concerned about the poor of the world, we should demand that Premier Stelmach's government use a significant portion of its exploding revenues for Third World development assistance.
We ought also to insist that the federal government do more than talk about contributing 0.7 per cent of our national income to development aid, it should establish a clear plan for meeting that goal and then set out immediately to implement it.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church, the basic statement of Catholic doctrine, says, "Rich nations have a grave moral responsibility toward those which are unable to ensure the means of their development by themselves or have been prevented from doing so by tragic historical events" (no. 2439).
Our nation will not respond to this "grave moral responsibility" without its people, especially its Christian people, demanding that it be a priority.
Will we ensure that Canada take this responsibility to heart?
- Glen Argan
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