High hopes minority government will put social justice at top of agenda

House of Commons, Parliament Hill, Ottawa (Photo - Wikipedia Commons)

By Brian Dryden, Canadian Catholic News

OTTAWA – Human rights and climate change are among the issues Catholic and faith-based organizations hope will feature prominently in the throne speech on Dec. 5 that will indicate what priorities the newly-elected minority federal Liberal government will pursue.

The fact that Canada now has a minority government, but with a majority of progressive MPs sitting in the House of Commons, has raised optimism that action on climate change and human rights will be pursued vigorously, but it has also led to deep concern that other issues such as the restrictions around euthanasia / medically assisted dying will be eased even further than recent court cases have required.

“We are very hopeful that we will see some movement on some of the key issues we have been raising,” said Elana Wright, an advocacy officer with the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace / Caritas Canada.

“Both the NDP and the Bloc support a lot of our demands,” she said. “It does create a real opportunity for the Trudeau Liberals to join them and move some of these things forward.”

Among the issues that Development and Peace, the international development arm and charity of the Canadian Catholic Church, want to see action on is an increase in international aid, an ombudsman with real powers to investigate as needed the activities of Canadian mining and other companies overseas, and that any future trade discussions take human rights concerns into account.

“Any trade discussions with Brazil must include human rights in the Amazon basin and for Indigenous peoples,” said Minaz Kerawala, a Development and Peace communications officer.

The faith-based organization Citizens for Public Justice (CPJ) said in a statement that as the “new parliament prepares to take office, CPJ looks forward to working with newly elected MPs from all parties to enhance cooperation to address the climate crisis and ensure a just transition, address systemic racism in Canada and the barriers faced by the most vulnerable refugees coming here, and reduce economic and social inequality so that Canada meets our commitment to end poverty in Canada by 2030.”

For CPJ a “just transition” from fossil fuels includes taking into account how climate change policies will impact provinces such as Alberta and Saskatchewan where the economy is heavily reliant on the oil industry.

“Canada has long benefited from the contributions of Alberta — and Albertans — to the economy,” said CPJ senior policy analyst Karri Munn-Venn. “Just as we all feel the impacts of climate change, we all feel the impacts of climate policy.

“This is why a just transition is so important. In a just transition, the burden of change is shared across society,” she said. “A just transition reduces emissions, creates good jobs, and supports individuals and communities vulnerable to change.”

But with a new minority Liberal minority government that likely relying on support from the NDP and Bloc on a number of social issues in the House of Commons, the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition fears that regardless of what is in the Speech from the Throne, regulations restricting euthanasia and assisted-dying rights in Canada will continue to be eroded.

A recent court decision in Quebec quashed the section of Canada’s euthanasia law requiring that a person’s natural death must be reasonably foreseeable. Both the federal and Quebec governments decided not to appeal that court ruling, which gave the governments six months to bring their assisted-dying regulations in line with the ruling.

Liberal Justice Minister David Lamette is one of five Liberals who voted against the original bill allowing medically assisted-suicide because it did not go far enough on the issue of who qualified to give consent for an assisted-death and that does not bode well for those worried about the further expansion of who can consent to euthanasia / medically-assisted suicide.

“When they brought it in there was supposed to be a review after five years, but the courts keep changing the restrictions and the government is not challenging those decisions,” said Alex Schadenberg of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition.

“What is the purpose of a five-year review if the government eliminates the restrictions in the law previous to those consultations,” Schadenberg said.

When the House of Commons reconvenes for the throne speech on Dec. 5, there will be 157 Liberal MPs, 121 Conservatives, 32 Bloc Quebecois, 24 NDP MPs, three Greens and one independent.