Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of June 21, 1999
Debt petition goes to Cologne
Local organizers push for cancellation of debts of poorest nations
By ANH HOANG
WCR Staff Writer
When Finance Minister Paul Martin checks his email this week, he'll notice some from Mayor Bill Smith and a handful of Edmontonians, all with the same message.
Dear Mr. Martin,
Please encourage your G-8 friends to cancel the debts of the already-poor countries of our world.
Mayor Bill Smith, Development and Peace, Change for Children, Edmonton District Council of Churches, etc., etc.
Smith joined local organizers of the Drop the Debt campaign June 14 for a press conference, where he showed his support by sending the first email to the finance minister.
"We can't end the debts of all the countries right away, but we have to start somewhere," Smith said.
The email coincided with the week-long G-8 meeting in Cologne, Germany, which Martin is attending.
The email urged Martin to back the sentiments of the more than 600,000 Canadians who signed a petition calling for the cancellation of debts of the world's most impoverished countries.
These include the Philippines, Mozambique, Zaire and Guatemala, many of which face high interest rates and are paying back three times what they borrowed.
Prime Minister Jean Chrétien has already taken the first step in support of the campaign by announcing the cancellation of bilateral debts to about 30 debtor nations.
Campaign organizers plan to leave a copy of the petitions signed by millions of people worldwide on the table where the G-8 leaders will meet.
The campaign kicked off September 1998, with Smith being the first to sign the Edmonton petition. Since then Bob Schmidt, of Development and Peace in Edmonton, said his office received more than 25,000 signatures.
"This is much much more than a local action," Schmidt said of the 630,000 signatures collected nationwide.
Schmidt said that not only does the campign encourage debt cancellation, but also seeks to ensure that future loans to developing countries be used on social programs rather than other government interests such as the military.
Smith said that relieving these debts could help poorer nations to increase their health and education spending.
"In Mozambique, three per cent is spent on health programs, eight per cent on education and 33 per cent on paying back their debts," Smith said.
The campaign continued June 17 with a public rally at Canada Place. Local churches joined churches worldwide in ringing their church bells in support of debt cancellation.
Those interested in emailing Martin calling for debt cancellations, can do so at Martin.P@parl.gc.ca.