The federal election is an opportunity for us to shape the future of Canada. As citizens, we have the chance to call on those who run for public office to clearly articulate their convictions on significant issues.
An election is also an occasion for Christians to consider the political implications of our faith—a time to discern with humility how Jesus’ call to love our neighbours may be reflected in the public good. Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) Canada believes that governments should maintain a just and peaceful social order, and that Christians individually, and churches collectively, have a responsibility to help governments be faithful to this calling.
We encourage you to raise important issues with candidates in your electoral riding. We have prepared the following resources to help you navigate key issues in this election season:
- MCC Election Primer - including key issues and corresponding questions to ask candidates running for election (browse themes below or download the primer here: 2019 Federal Election Primer, 2019 Federal Election Primer - church bulletin version)
- MCC Election Resource Companion Guide: Having Better Conversations on Divisive Issues - MCC's tips for respectful dialogue
- MCC's Tips for Respectful Dialogue Pocket Guide
We invite you to use these resources to guide Sunday school class or small group discussions, and to share them with family members, friends, and colleagues.
Additionally, we invite you to pray for wisdom—for candidates as they campaign, for yourself as you prepare to vote, and for those who will be chosen to provide leadership for our country.
The themes below are structured around key issues that are important to MCC and MCC partners:
A mural painted on the wall of the Fray Matias Human Rights Centre (Centro de Derechos Humanos Fray Matias de Cordova) in Tapachula, Mexico. The Fray Matias Human Rights Centre is part of an advocacy network that includes MCC Mexico partners. (MCC photo/Anna Vogt)
No matter the specific situations, and where they are located, all people on the move deserve to be treated and talked about with dignity. MCC partners highlight the need to address the root causes of why people are leaving their homes and support people to migrate with safety and dignity. Everyone should be able to chose to migrate, legally and safely.
International Migration: More than 70.8 million people are forcibly displaced from their homes. Of these uprooted people, there were 28 million new internal displacements in 2018 alone. Unresolved conflicts, new waves of violence and extreme weather events were responsible for most of the new displacements. 85% of refugees remain in neighboring countries in the global south with no prospect of either going home or resettling to a third country that can offer them a durable solution. It is imperative that these host countries receive adequate support from wealthier countries and that Canada play a role in addressing the reasons people are forced to leave home in the first place.
Commitment to refugee claims and resettlement in Canada: While the number of people crossing into Canada irregularly to claim asylum has increased over the last few years, by global standards they are relatively low. Canada considers these refugee claimants through the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB). It is important that enough resources are in place to ensure that the IRB can hear these cases in a timely manner. If we move to restrict access to refugee claims in Canada, we risk sending people back to situations where they have a well-founded fear of persecution. It is also important that Canada continue to uphold commitments to resettle those most in need of a durable solutions, through well-established global processes in partnership with the United Nations High Commission on Refugees in a way that makes sense for the global context, not simply economic priorities in Canada.
Questions for candidates:
- How will you ensure that migrants are treated and talked about with dignity, in this campaign, and if you form the government?
- How will you strengthen Canada’s commitment to refugees and asylum seekers by increasing efficiencies within the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) process for asylum seekers, and ensuring that Canada increase its focus on refugee resettlement, not just economic immigration?
- What will you do to address some of the root causes of forced migration worldwide, including responding to climate change and supporting peacebuilding and nonviolent conflict resolution?
A group gathers in front of the Canadian Senate to advocate for the passing of bill C-262, An Act to ensure that the laws of Canada are in harmony with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. (MCC Photo/Anna Vogt)
MCC has committed to the Truth and Reconciliation (TRC) Calls to Action 48 and 49, including the call to engage in ongoing public dialogue and actions in support of the United Nations Declaration on the Right of Indigenous Peoples. The UN Declaration is the minimum global standard to protect the human rights of Indigenous peoples. This is important because throughout Canada’s history, violence and assimilation techniques have been used to eliminate Indigenous peoples and criminalize their ways of life, creating a legacy of violence. As of 2015, Indigenous adults made up 3% of the adult population in Canada but accounted for 25% of all homicide victims and 25% of those in federal correctional facilities. Indigenous women were over three times more likely to be victims of violence than non-Indigenous women. The TRC and the National Inquiry on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls contain recommendations for Indigenous justice systems and include changes to policing, education, and call for more resources for culturally relevant, victim-centered justice services, including the expansion of restorative justice.
Questions for candidates:
- How will your party work to ensure that Canadian laws are in harmony with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples?
- How can Canada implement the needed changes to the criminal justice system to address Indigenous overrepresentation, including the support of Indigenous justice systems? How will issues in policing, such as racial discrimination and targeting of Indigenous people be addressed?
The Restorative Justice Committee in Dorchester Penitentiary, a Minimum Security Institution, is run by the John Howard Society of South East New Brunswick, an MCC partner. The group of offenders and local volunteers meets every month to discuss different topics on restorative justice and how they can learn to live more restoratively. (MCC Photo/Shane Yuhas)
Practices of restorative justice incorporated into Canada’s justice system strengthen communities and individuals. One way this is done is through Circles of Support and Accountability (CoSA), where teams of volunteers and staff, supported by professionals, meet with men and women with histories of sexual offending to hold them accountable for their actions and support them as they reintegrate into the community after release from prison. The result is fewer victims of violent and sexual crimes across the country. Programs such as CoSA make a significant contribution to safer streets and communities through enhanced public safety and protection of Canadians.
Questions for candidates:
- What kinds of programs and services do you support that provide opportunities for healing for victims, offenders, and communities?
- How you will fund and integrate restorative justice into policies and practices?
A group of MCC staff and community members walk through the town of Kabay, Haiti during a partner encounter about climate change and food security. (MCC Photo/Anna Vogt)
The current climate crisis is an opportunity for Canada to be a global leader in envisioning a just transition to clean energy and the creation of equitable global systems that ensure the dignity of all. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report warns that deep reductions in greenhouse gas emissions are essential to limit global temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius, a limit that even if met, will still result in catastrophic environmental and human impacts. MCC partners globally report that a changing climate is already causing declining crop production, loss of livestock, increased stress on water resources, and more frequent or severe droughts and flooding. Such stresses have also exacerbated root causes of conflict and forced migration.
Governments, international agencies and NGOs are increasingly focused on adaptation projects to reduce or prevent harm from climate change by building the resilience of communities to respond to the impacts of climate change. Yet any approach must also include mitigation, through a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. This includes the targets set in the 2015 Paris Agreement, where Canada committed to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by 30% below 2005 levels by 2030.
Questions for candidates:
- How will you work to ensure Canada takes bold action on addressing the current climate crisis, including a just and timely transition to clean energy?
- How will you support funding for climate adaptation projects, focusing on those most impacted by climate change, as part of Canada’s commitments to international aid?
The separation wall as seen in Bethlehem, the West Bank. (MCC Photo/Emily Loewen)
Palestine and Israel
MCC is committed to a just and lasting peace for all in Palestine and Israel. Conditions for peace are challenged by the continuing and rapid expansion of illegal Israeli settlements as part of Israel’s 52-year military occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. Official Canadian foreign policy recognizes the illegality of settlements in the Palestine and is concerned that settlements are a barrier to a just peace for all.
The humanitarian crisis in Gaza also continues to worsen. Canada has increased humanitarian aid to Gaza, which helps meet immediate needs, but sustainable change requires a much more systemic approach.
Meanwhile, approximately 500-700 Palestinian children are arrested and detained in Israeli military detention every year – most from villages near settlements. UNICEF and MCC partners report that these children often do not have access to legal counsel and are abused by authorities. Canada, as a signatory of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, and an ally of Israel, has an opening in which to speak to this issue.
Questions for candidates:
- Given the expansion and construction of Israeli settlements in Palestine, how can Canada, a self-proclaimed ally of Israel and friend to Palestinians, raise these concerns and support a just and sustainable peace through our bilateral and multilateral relations?
- As the humanitarian crisis continues to worsen in Gaza and aid does little more than maintain the status quo, what additional strategy should Canada take to respond to the growing crisis in Gaza?
- How can Canada respond to the Israeli military arrest and detention of 500-700 Palestinian children a year?
Kichan Shukur Amin stands in her kitchen garden in Qasim Baghzada, a small village in the Kurdistan region of Iraq, a project supported by MCC partner REACH through the Canadian Foodgrains Bank. (MCC photo/Kaitlin Heatwole)
Syria and Iraq
Canada has been involved in a military mission in Iraq and the surrounding region since 2014 as part of the Global Coalition against ISIS. In the last few years, ISIS has lost influence, but continues to wreak havoc and threaten communities in regions with little government presence. However, the influence of ISIS only scratches the surface of the root causes of conflict and forced displacement in the region. This includes the destructive impacts of past foreign military interventions, fueling the power vacuums and sectarian divides that led to the rise of groups like ISIS.
Foreign military interventions in general, and especially in complex conflicts, such as in Iraq and Syria, are deeply problematic as they often undermine the work of local peacebuilding organizations and initiatives within communities. While the mission shifted slightly in 2016 to increased collaboration with humanitarian and development actors, creating additional challenges by linking military action and aid, the military training and exercises continue, hindering the work of MCC partners.
Question for candidates:
- In the context of complex and protracted conflicts in the Middle East, how can Canada support sustainable peace in Iraq and Syria, without a dependence on military means?
Want to learn more about MCC's work on these issues and find out how you can get involved in advocacy action? Browse the MCC Ottawa Office website here.