Bishops to release refugee statement

 — Feb. 21, 201421 févr. 2014
By Michael Swan, The Catholic Register

The fate of refugees and the struggles of immigrants in general is on the agenda for Canada’s Catholic bishops, but the bishops are steering clear of a national campaign supported by several church and lay groups which has been critical of the government’s record on refugee rights.

The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops is currently working on a statement concerning refugees, migrants and immigrants to be released at an unspecified date.

“In general, the conference does not release preliminary information about the development and eventual timelines of its various projects,” said CCCB spokesman René Laprise in an e-mail. “This is in order to ensure that the bishops and their advisors, both internal and external, have full freedom in drafting, developing and approving any eventual texts. This also avoids raising expectations and risking disappointments about the topics, nature and publication schedules of possible future texts.”

In December, the bishops declined to sign a Human Rights Day statement calling on Ottawa to change course on refugee rights. Co-ordinated by the Canadian Council for Refugees, the statement called for fairness, respect and compassion in the treatment of refugees. “Canada can and must do better,” said the Dec. 10 statement.

Signatories to the open letter ranged from former solicitor general Warren Allmand to Blue Rodeo guitarist Jim Cuddy. They also included the provincial superiors of both the English and French Canadian provinces of the Jesuits, the primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, the national bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada, the moderator of the United Church of Canada and the moderator of the Presbyterian Church of Canada.

However, the signatures represent only four of the 22 churches in the Canadian Council of Churches. When the text of the letter was brought up at a CCC board of governors meeting in November, several churches had reservations about some of the wording, said Laprise.

“These hesitations were because of a strong preference for several paragraphs to be formulated differently. As we understand, the Canadian Council for Refugees preferred not to delay its project by developing and circulating a revised version,” Laprise wrote in an e-mail.

There wasn’t time to rewrite and recirculate the CCR statement, said the Canadian Council of Churches associate secretary for the commission on justice and peace.

“It was circulated a little bit late in the process,” said Peter Noteboom.

While the CCC board of governors generally agreed with the CCR letter, they decided against signing it on behalf of all 22 members, Noteboom said.

“It was perhaps, by some, interpreted to be just a little bit too political,” he said. “But there was strong support for all the policy points mentioned.”

Church involvement in refugee issues used to be ecumenically co-ordinated and staffed by coalition of church-affilated groups, said Noteboom.

“All those tables have now gone. There’s no single table any more where church people doing refugee work gather. The default has been to see that the Canadian Council for Refugees is really the policy expert place where that happens. But there hasn’t been, let’s say, a caucus of faith communities or churches meeting on the topic,” he said.

For the Jesuits, signing the CCR letter was a straightforward decision, said English Canadian provincial superior Fr. Peter Bisson.

“Both Jesuit provinces are involved in refugee work and support the work of the CCR,” he said.

Refugees and international migration issues are one of five international priorities of the Jesuit order world-wide. Changes to Canada’s refugee regime which have resulted in fewer refugees being resettled in Canada should concern Canadians, said Bisson.

“The danger we’re flirting with is of not welcoming real refugees to Canada who need asylum. The danger is of them either being sent home where they certainly will be in danger or being sent to some third party where they could be in danger and from which they could easily be sent back to danger back home,” Bisson said. “Canada has a tradition of welcome and of respect for human rights. I think this needs to be supported and encouraged.”

Posted: Feb. 21, 2014 • Permanent link:
Categories: Catholic RegisterIn this article: Canadian Council of Churches, migration, refugees
Transmis : 21 févr. 2014 • Lien permanente :
Catégorie : Catholic RegisterDans cet article : Canadian Council of Churches, migration, refugees

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