Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Ola! la la from Canada

Citizens for Public Justice, the reformationally-founded and now ecumenical Christian political-advocacy group, released its January email newsletter a week ago. It has a great improvement now over earlier editions, with brief intros to which are attached live links to the larger articles online. This issue leads with an important feature on the Canadian minister for immigration matters. Also an article on asylum-seekers and refugees which is (one of CPJ Canada's main policy concerns) in the light of the Asian Tsunami. This feature online is by Chris Pullenayegem, a staffer who himself is a recent immigrant to Canada (2001) from Sri Lanka. Chris was on a visit to his natal island, working with a team of Canadian mental-health med-docs who go annually to help out in hospitals where many victims of the Civil War there show up, as well as other patients suffering mental illness (a kind of illness with which I strongly identify). Well, it seems Chris was walking in the sand of the beach just a week or so before the Tsunami hit and had a bit of an epiphany about his natal home's paradaisal qualities (which I've heard about from others, as I have a close friend who lives and works in Sri Lanka at the Butterfly Gardin in Batticaloa). After the CPJ staffers returned to his new home and work in Canada, the Tsunami came smashing upon Sri Lanka's coasts. While Chris soon learned his family was safe, the heart-rending stories of the disaster flooded in and turned his visit-memories into visions from the realm of near-fantasy.

¶ Most of the current Ola! items come from its policy concern on Child Benefits conceived in a wholistic way. No price tag appears in the newsletters' short items, but CPJ has a very good economist on staff, Greg Magetti; and his Child-Benefit contributions usually are well-argued on the price-tag issues. But the costs are high enuff to put into question other priorities in the minds of government ministers. On the other hand, these competing costs that the ministers prioritize do not include much for the near-nonexistent Canadian military, since most of Canada's defense expenses are absorbed by the United States and contribute to the US deficit instead. That latter factor is rarely if ever mentioned in CPJ Canada calculations. And, it seems, the freer admissoin of asylum-seekers, refugees (some false), and immigrants (some illegal) is always articulated at the expense of national security and border-stringency, in CPJ's vanguard Christian leftist politics overall. Nevertheless, if Canada isn't going to carry its fair share of continental defense and isn't going to seriously address national security and border watch, then those hypothetical monies should be directed to at least some significant elements of CPJ's suggested Child Benefits package, instead of other priorities of the current expenditure schemes of the Federal government.

¶ Having said all this, I remain a strong but critical supporter of CPJ as a reformationally-initiated ecumenical Christian political advocacy group. But at the same time I wish and pray daily for a clearly reformationally-articulated Christian-democratic political party not afraid to keep watch for persecuated Christians worldwide and Christian communal interests in Canada. I think such a party would have to acknowledge from the outset that there is an overlap between Christian communal interests in Canada and middle-class interests, without making the two identical and without abandoning a persistent service to the poor and to children.

¶ I support the idea of creating a neo-constantinian Christian-democratic party in Canada that would be anti-pearsonian in foreign policy and adopt an expansion-of-freedom-worldwide bias alongside a bias similar to CPJ's for the poor and children. Such a party which would contextualize its strong support for the poor (without pandering to adults capable of work and not qualifiying for Disability for health reasons); that would maintain a strong support for children, stable marriage and parenting, pluralized support of schools where parents could require character-building on the basis of religious commitments so that the kids supported by government may have opportunities other than the sick pop-culture and history-unconsciousness of youth today; such a party should enable itself, by a fine-tuned balance to attract a large Christian middle-class constituency in due time, which CPJ lacks.

CPJ's politics remain mired in a single-channel do-gooder model that casts the group as a vanguardist entity devoted to Christian heroics around an all-pervasice oh-the-poor-victims orientation. The interests of the Christian community and its large middle-class element, tho CPJ's small membership and staff has mostly the same income status, do not play a part in CPJ policy research and lobbying. Nor does CPJ actually nominate candidates anywhere and take on the difficultires of party-building and financing (however, more financial strength wold result for the very programms CPJ advocates, were a fuller model than the Goudzwaardian one upon which they/we are presently based. Again, however, on the issues they/we do zero-in on, Citizens for Public Justice in Canada has remained a membership organization (unlike CPJ USA which has taken the thinktank model to a great extent) and in Canada has done a formidable amount of homework, lobbying, and advocacy given its size and financial resources. CPJ Canada's guiding light for many years, Gerald Vandezande, has just received another civic award, this time for Ethics (congratulations, Gerald, my dear friend!) and the award applies in my mind to the entire staff, work, and witness in its area of competence - despite my far -reaching critical reservations.


Go to the website's frontpage and navigate to the various articles. While you're at it, subscribe to receive the monthly newsletter Ola! in your email Incoming box.

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