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Connecting Globally Inspired Us Locally

Many Associates of the Sisters of St. Joseph of London are actively supporting global partners in developing countries. Our support ranges from participating in short-term exposure trips to promoting and volunteering at fund-raising events.

Our global involvement inspires us to consider ways we can share from the abundance in our lives. We recognize the privileges we have in Canada with our access to education, health care, employment, clean and abundant water, civic rights, and peaceful communities. We can hope to see our dreams for our children and grandchildren come to fruition. In return we want to express the love of our dear neighbour in ways that alleviate the hardships of poverty.

Along this “camino” of walking with the poor, we take the extra steps and go deeper with questions about what creates and sustains poverty. From there we take action, we lobby, we join solidarity groups, we turn out for events, we weave patterns of “unifying love”.

We have witnessed the transformative potential of micro enterprise support in programs that specifically assist women in Peru, Haiti, Guatemala, and Malawi. We lobby for indigenous rights and environmental protection.

When we consume, we remember the legacy of the lace makers and we choose first to consume fair trade products in loving solidarity. In writing this article I challenged myself to “walk the talk”. I read with interest an article in our London Free Press that Catholic schools in London are doing research on whether the uniforms their students are wearing are made from fair trade practices. I wore 3 different uniforms as a student at a convent in Montreal; my youngest child wore a uniform in her last year at Catholic Central High School in London. I find this initiative to be something I wholeheartedly support. I hope the Catholic School board will find a way to visually stamp each uniform with the guarantee of fair trade practices so that anyone who purchases or wears a uniform will be participating in a local action for global change. It is time to write my letter showing my support and suggesting that idea.

We are all called continuously to “walk the talk” and our Associate voices are growing in unity.

The Associates support these NGOs in Southwestern Ontario


Justice, Canadian Style: How long do we accept this?

Omar Khadr’s official request for transfer to Canada sits on the desk of Vic Toews, the minister responsible for Public Safety. He has been eligible to return to Canada since October, 2011: “On May 21-22, the United Nations Committee against Torture will review Canada’s failure to comply with its obligations under the Convention against Torture to prevent, punish, and remedy the torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment of Canadian Omar Khadr during his ongoing detention at Guantanamo prison” (May 16, 2012, Lawyers Rights Watch, Canada press release). Lawyers Rights Watch Canada (LRWC) and the International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group state that Canada was both a direct participant and was indirectly complicit in the torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment of Mr. Khadr. 

Omar Khadr was fifteen years of age, making him a child soldier and victim of war crimes under international law. He was given no special status as a minor, was interrogated without counsel, and was subjected to sleep deprivation and prolonged solitary confinement. Canadian officials illegally provided the investigative results to his captors and deprived him of access to his own statements. The Canadian government has failed to take any steps to prevent or remedy US crimes against Khadr (May 16, 2012 press release by LRWC).

While every other country has repatriated their citizens who were detained at Guantanamo Bay, Canada has allowed Omar Khadr to remain there for almost ten years. Canada has failed to remedy numerous breaches of law in defiance of the Federal Court and the Supreme Court of Canada. Certainly there is little sympathy for the Khadr family — the al-Qaeda father who sent him to the Afghan war, brothers involved with al-Qaeda, or the sister who wished she had the guts to be a suicide bomber. Yet in addition to Khadr’s words, others, including a psychiatrist, several defence lawyers, and even the guards consider him to be sensitive, caring, and definitely not a threat to others.

Another recent example of injustice comes to mind. A few months ago a UN Committee reviewed the case of Cecilia Kell, an aboriginal woman from Bechoko, Northwest Territories. She and her common law partner had together purchased a three bedroom house in October,1991. In February, 1992 her abusive partner, without her consent, requested the Housing Authority to remove her name from the “Assignment of Lease” certifying the couple were co-owners. The Housing Authority complied with his request in June, 1993. After three years of abuse the woman escaped the abusive relationship and sought refuge in a shelter for battered women. The partner evicted her from the home. Ms. Kell’s attempts to find justice were repeatedly rejected and the three bedroom house was sold to a third party in 2004. The Housing Authority and courts failed to remedy this injustice. On February 2, 2012, the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women concluded that Canada had failed to fulfill its obligations under the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. The Committee recommended that Cecilia Kell be awarded housing commensurate with the one taken from her and appropriate monetary compensation for the material and moral damages she suffered.

If the rights of one citizen, no matter who she or he is, are violated by the government then the rights of every other citizen are at risk of being violated also. No matter one’s opinion about Omar Khadr being returned to Canada or the complicated question of what to do with him when he returns, the issue of injustice to him or to Cecilia Kell is a concern for all of us. Silence and passive acceptance in the face of oppression or injustice is to risk our own freedom.



Human Trafficking Conference in London: A Human Rights Approach

A London Ontario conference on Human Trafficking put the focus squarely on protecting the human rights of people who have experienced situations of human trafficking.  It was a wonderful contrast to much of the discussion on human trafficking in Canada, discussion that is focused on putting criminals in jail. Not that it isn’t important to put traffickers out of circulation – it is! But such a focus becomes skewed when it is not held in tension with the need to protect the human rights of people who have been trafficked.

NGOs that are engaged in the issue of human trafficking are soon confronted with the tension between prosecution and protection. And right from the Palermo Protocol, we see that this tension has not been held well: The Protocol had some articles that were obligatory for nations that signed and other articles that were optional. The articles addressing concerns of prosecution were obligatory; the articles on protecting human rights were optional.

We see a similar kind of development in Canada where our national response to human trafficking has focused primarily on efforts to prosecute traffickers and only secondarily on efforts to protect the human rights of people who have been trafficked. So, we have a Temporary Resident Permit (TRP) which gives temporary status (180 days for a reflection period) to people who have been trafficked but it is critically flawed; so much so that those who should be accessing this permit choose not to do so because they don’t feel sufficiently protected by the process. And even though, a person doesn’t have to be cooperating with law enforcement to receive the initial TRP, NGOs are seeing that the trafficked person’s TRP is unlikely to get extended without that cooperation with law enforcement. This leaves the survivor between a rock and hard place: frightened that they will get deported if their story is not believed by the CIC officer and frightened of what will happen if they testify.  In fact, many internationally trafficked persons choose to go underground when they finally escape from their trafficker because most have huge debts to pay and they can’t take the chance of being deported before they pay off these debts. As a result, they may end up in a situation that is worse than the one they just left.

Canada can and must do better for its temporary foreign workers.  This is key to the prevention of human trafficking.  But then, once we are dealing with situations of human trafficking, it is critical to hold the tension between prosecution and protection.  Ironically, when we lose our hold on this tension, and the emphasis is on prosecution over protection, it actually undermines the prosecution side of the equation because, when people don’t feel protected enough to come forward, it’s that much easier for traffickers to get away with their crimes.



How do we continue to connect the dots?

In May of 2012, heads turned as a series of circular signs appeared and dotted our front yard facing busy Windermere Road. The words on the signs identified some of the issues and problems facing our world today: extreme weather, pollution, health, food security, the economy. The display was inspirational and prompted us to connect the issues on the signs to climate change.

Throughout the month, we have focused on the global invitation to participate in a tangible, active manner in “connecting the dots” and making small, important changes.

The spring rains have been less than plentiful and lakes are receding. We need to think twice before soaking the lawn or washing the car. Preserve tap water that is wasted in waiting for cold water to become hot. Use this water for watering plants, etc. Shortening shower time and drying clothes on the line are other ways to save water and energy.

Although early frosts have decimated some orchards and bees are dying due to ingesting pollen laced with pesticides, we can still seek out rural markets and support local farmers who rely on our business. Produce purchased close to home is fresher and more nutritious than that which travels many miles to market.   

Although the circular signs on the lawn will disappear at the end of this week, our call to be responsible global citizens is urgently before us, calling us to action. In making local choices that help to sustain our earth, we are connecting the dots with the global community. Enjoy creating significant changes!



Engaging Evolutionary Consciousness

What I find wonderful and hopeful, despite our current ‘natural’ and human-made disasters, is the basic reality that we live in an evolving cosmos. This is a scientific fact. The whole universe, some 13.7 billion years of it, is constantly moving and changing. The human species is also evolving, recently by means of technology more than by biology. Our cultures and our consciousness, individually and collectively, are continually developing. Both the fields of sociology and developmental psychology provide evidence that this is so.

God is constantly beckoning us forward! Ilia Delio, OSF, in her book The Emergent Christ states the following: “The God of evolution is the God of adventure, a God who loves to do new things and is always new.”

Letting go of tried, trusted concepts and then opening to new ideas, novel ways of thinking is a challenge for most of us. A group, in the London neighbourhood, which included Sisters, Associates and friends, has done just that!

Throughout a six session study group based on the Evolutionaries, by Carter Phipps, we have explored the emerging evolutionary worldview and engaged with the concept of “evolutionary consciousness”. We have been asked to break the “spell of solidity” (that everything will remain the same), to recognize that all of the universe is “moving”, “becoming” and that, as a human species, we are not only a part of this process, but also integral to it. And, as humans, at this point in the Great Story of “God’s evolving design”, we have a responsibility to make conscious choices that can positively affect the cosmic unfolding.

Wow! What a possibility and what a responsibility! Amen . . . Hebrew for “May it be so”


Copyright 2013. Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph in Canada.