Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of June 17, 2002
Put people, not profits first - Canadian bishops
Focus on poverty, not security, clerics counsel G-8 leaders
By RAMON GONZALEZ
"This is something that's too important to be left to a few political leaders."
- Bishop Fred Henry
According to the bishops, the leaders of the G-8 "should always have before them in Kananaskis the Millennium Development Goals which they have committed themselves to realize by 2015," including halving the proportion of people earning less than US $1 a day and halving the proportion of people suffering from hunger.
"Canadians expect their leaders to provide inspired leadership toward the achievement of these goals. But the Kananaskis meeting is taking place in a context where increased concerns over security could drown out the other stated items of the agenda, namely strengthening global economic growth and building a new partnership for Africa's development."
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"There can be no security without justice, however," it says. "If the governments of the richest countries spend more on their own increased security measures than on the development needs of the world's poorest peoples, they will frustrate the aspirations of the poor majorities and avoid the major economic changes required of the North to meet the Millennium Development Goals."
According to the United Nations, there are still 1.2 billion people in the world who subsist on less that $1 U.S. a day. The gap between the rich and poor continues to grow in the countries of the North as well, says the document, noting Canada's poverty rates have increased in times of economic growth.
The Kananaskis summit should also rally support for crucially important environmental measures, "in particular a commitment to ratify the Kyoto Accord on climate change," the bishops say in their statement.
They also call on G-8 leaders to cancel the foreign debts of the African countries.
Calgary Bishop Fred Henry said the statement is not directed only to the G-8 leaders but also to the Canadian people. "We want people to discuss some of the issues because, unfortunately, up to now the main concern here in the City of Calgary and in the Kananaskis area is internal security while most of the major focus of the agenda is being ignored. And, of course, this is something that's too important to be left to a few political leaders."
The Church, Henry said, wants the
G-8 summit to focus on the poor, especially in Africa where more than 60 per cent of people do not take part in any kind of formal economy. "We want to kind of prick their conscience a little bit so they might look at some of the basic human needs and the situation of African women, the whole HIV/AIDS situation and get real commitment to eradicate poverty in a way in which they haven't been focused enough."
Meeting with the G-8 leaders is not in the cards, Henry said. "All we are trying to do is point to some of the tragic situations, especially in Africa, and hopefully move their consciousness a little bit to broaden their frame so that they just simply are not thinking about security.
The Calgary Diocese is encouraging people to participate in the G6B: the People's Summit to be held at the University of Calgary June 23-24. This alternative summit will focus on six themes, including trade and the economy, education, health, human security and democracy.
"We yearn for this Canadian meeting of the G-8 to show determination to work for the global common good, rather than end in the frustration of silenced aspirations of billions of people," the pastoral letter says.
The statement is signed by the 12-members of the permanent council of the CCCB, including Henry and Archbishop Thomas Collins of Edmonton.
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