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In grim accounting, Canadian report says assisted suicide saves health care money

Thu, 10/22/2020 - 16:03

By Catholic News Agency Staff

[Ottawa – CNA] – A Canadian report has put a dollar figure on legal assisted suicide, claiming that legalization has saved millions of dollars in health care costs—and that a looming expansion of legal assisted suicide, known by backers as “medical aid in dying”  (MAID) would save millions more.

A new Parliamentary Budget Officer report, released Oct. 20, is intended to provide economic and financial analysis of legislation to improve parliamentary debate and promote “greater budget transparency and accountability.”

While the report acknowledged cost savings of assisted suicide, it said “this report should in no way be interpreted as suggesting that (medical aid-in-dying) be used to reduce health care costs.”

At the same time, the report acknowledged the “disproportionately high” health care costs to care for people in their last year of life, especially in their last month. Such patients represent 1% of the population and 10% to 20% of total health care costs.

Access to medically assisted suicide, the report said, reduces health care costs for Canada’s provincial governments, the primary health care providers. Since the legalization of assisted suicide in June 2016, the report estimated some $66 million has been saved because individuals are helped to die rather than receive health care or palliative care.

A Quebec superior court last year ruled that it was unconstitutional to limit medically assisted suicide only to those whose natural death is “reasonably foreseeable.” Canada’s Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada chose not to appeal the decision, a decision lamented by Canada’s Catholic bishops.

The federal government has introduced Bill C-7, crafting legislation which would no longer require natural death to be “reasonably foreseeable” for a patient to be eligible for assisted suicide.

The bill provides easier eligibility rules for people near death and stricter eligibility rules for people who are not near death. It removes a 10-day waiting period for those whose natural death is “reasonably foreseeable.” For persons whose natural death is not reasonably foreseeable, eligibility assessments must take at least 90 days unless loss of capacity to consent is imminent.

According to a summary of the bill at the website of Canada’s Department of Justice, two independent doctors or nurse practitioners must provide an assessment and confirm the requester is eligible. At least one doctor or practitioner assessing the person’s eligibility must have expertise in the medical condition causing his or her suffering.

The bill allows the possibility to waive final consent for assisted suicide for patients whose death is reasonably foreseeable and who are at risk of losing the ability to consent. It would also reduce the number of required witnesses for patient consent from two to one.

Under the legislation, the patient must be informed of options to relieve suffering, including counseling, mental health and disability support, community services, and palliative care. Mental illness as a sole underlying condition would not be sufficient to access legal assisted suicide.

The report’s financial analysis predicted an estimated 6,465 assisted suicide deaths in 2021 under the current law, with over $66 million saved in provincial health budgets due to these deaths. The number of dollars saved is reached by subtracting the costs of palliative care from mean end-of-life costs, and then subtracting estimated costs to administer that number of assisted suicides.

The new legislation to expand access to assisted suicide will result in another 1,164 assisted suicide deaths in Canada in 2021, the report predicted, with an estimated $46.8 million in health care costs saved. This would increase total estimated savings to some $113.4 million, compared to a situation in which assisted suicide was illegal, the Parliamentary Budget Officer report said.

“While this amount may appear significant, it only represents 0.08% of total provincial health care,” said the report. The cost reduction “represents a negligible portion of the health care budgets of provinces.”

Justice Minister David Lametti introduced the latest assisted suicide bill in February but its progress was halted when the House of Commons adjourned in mid-March because of the coronavirus epidemic.

The re-introduced bill, now numbered C-7, is characterized as a “medical assistance in dying” bill. It would modify Bill C-14, passed by Canada’s Parliament in 2016 to legalize and regulate doctor-assisted suicide.

In February the Catholic Bishops of Canada voiced “the greatest concern and dismay” about efforts to expand assisted suicide. They condemned “the lamentable legislative aim” of broadening access to assisted dying, and insisted “that every opportunity for due diligence be taken during the parliamentary process.” They have said better palliative care is needed.

“We unequivocally affirm and maintain the fundamental belief in the sacredness of all human life, a value that we share with many others in our country, including persons of different faiths and no faith at all,” Archbishop of Winnipeg Richard Gagnon, president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, said in an October letter to the government about Bill C-7.

‘The proposed legislation of Bill C-7 remains deeply flawed, unjust, and morally pernicious,” reiterates a CCCB statement of Oct. 20. “The bishops of Canada call on Catholics and all people of good will to make their voices heard in opposition to the Bill. Similarly, all Canadian legislators should recall that no law that permits the taking of innocent human life can ever be morally justified. Such a law would always violate the intrinsic dignity of the human person.”

The CCCB statement signed by Gagnon added: “Over 70 of Canada’s leading disability rights organizations and advocates stated they were ‘deeply troubled’ with the expansion of ‘MAID’, and that the Quebec Superior Court’s decision would ‘entrench stereotypes and exacerbate stigma for Canadians with disabilities.’ With even further disregard, the Government of Canada sidelined and ignored the stark apprehensions brought forward by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities concerning the implementation of ‘Medical Assistance in Dying’ in Canada from a disability perspective. And most recently here in Canada, more than 50 religious leaders, including Jewish, Muslim and Christians, released an open letter to all Canadians in opposition to Bill C-7.”

RELATED: “Faith leaders and other groups denounce expansion of euthanasia in Canada

Assisted suicide opponents have warned that legalizing such killings helps increase social or financial pressure on a person to kill him or herself, whether this pressure comes from insurance companies, private or government health care administrations, or relatives. They question how society can campaign against suicide for the healthy or in favor of better palliative care for the ill while justifying assisted suicide at the same time.

They say there is a danger that assisted suicide further marginalizes the disabled, the elderly and the terminally ill and undermines the duty to respect and care for them. People facing treatable conditions could be presented assisted suicide as a better option, they warn.


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Campus life back to a “virtual normal”

Thu, 10/22/2020 - 15:37

By Wendy-Ann Clarke, The Catholic Register

[Toronto – Canadian Catholic News]University campuses are a lot quieter this fall semester as lectures and student club activities have transitioned in large part to the online space.

At the University of Toronto, the Newman Catholic Students Club continues to hold virtual events and offer a masked and physically distanced welcome to visitors looking for information at the Newman Centre in downtown Toronto.

In August the executive team chose Italian Catholic computer programmer Blessed Carlo Acutis — beatified by Pope Francis earlier this month — as the club’s patron saint for the 2020-21 school year. Inspired by his deep love for the Lord and the Eucharist and his use of technology to share that love, he was the perfect pick for the team that remains optimistic about the student ministry despite the continuing COVID-19 crisis.

“The main thing that our student club is dedicated to is socials and service to create a sense of community among Newman students,” said Maria Gamboa, in her second year as president of the club. “Last year we would do things like sports socials, pub socials and Christmas socials but unfortunately, since we can’t do that anymore, we’re looking at more ways to move those online. There’s definitely opportunities out there and options that we can choose from.”

In early October the group celebrated the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary in a virtual four-hour chain rosary devotion. A statue of Mary was set up surrounded by candles and a camera as the session was streamed via Zoom.
Gamboa says the virtual vs. in-person experience has been different, but considers the group’s first online rosary service a success.

“I think it was really great that we got to start our year off in prayer,” said the third-year student majoring in Christianity and culture. “It was really powerful, and it was a good way to bring the community together, uniting everyone through prayer in such a wonderful way.”

To simulate the casual drop-in atmosphere of the in-person Newman Centre, online socials have been organized and there will be “office social hours” via Zoom. This will provide students the chance to meet new people, play online games and cultivate new friendships.

Campion College, the Jesuit institution federated with the University of Regina, has also found a silver lining in the transition to the online space. While adjusting to the new normal, the school, like many across the nation, has been investing in new equipment to make the experience as seamless as possible. The virtual experience so far is off to a promising start.

Five classrooms at Campion have been outfitted with smart screen computers, boom microphones and cameras to facilitate lectures taking place via Zoom. While smart classrooms like this have been on the radar for some years, it was the global pandemic that accelerated progress, which staff expect will have a positive impact on their institution beyond COVID-19.

“Technology and software has proven essential for allowing education to continue during COVID-19,” said Dr. Tom Phenix, dean and associate professor of Psychology. “The adoption of these tools has not been easy, but faculty are discovering new ways to perform their work and some of these new approaches will likely outlast this pandemic.”

As the only Canadian Jesuit undergraduate institution, Campion has a hope that this will accelerate virtual collaborations in the future. New technology will allow Campion to connect with other Jesuit institutions across the world and also provide online options for students who occasionally are not able make it to school due to the harsh Saskatchewan winter.

Shannon Kotylak, Campion’s director of marketing and communications, says that while by no means has this replaced the in-person experience, the university is happy to be able to continue to educate students, and hopes it will enhance education down the road.

“The possibilities have really opened up,” said Kotylak. “Everyone starts thinking and getting excited about what kinds of things this could mean and how we could reach so many more students and people with this knowledge that could change a life.”


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Fighting the “virus of racism”

Thu, 10/22/2020 - 15:29

By Michael Swan, The Catholic Register

[Toronto – Canadian Catholic News] – Canada’s Jesuits are asking Canadians to examine their collective conscience in the wake of Joyce Echaquan’s death in a hospital in Joliette, Que.

The 37-year-old mother of seven recorded racist verbal abuse by nursing staff at Centre hospitalier de Lanaudière in a Facebook Live video Sept. 28. She died in apparent pain a short time later. In response, the Jesuits of Canada have issued a plea to Canadians “to transform the places where the virus of racism lurks within us.”

Nobody can deny that racism exists, or that it is systemic, or that it has been particularly harsh in its effects on Indigenous Canadians, said Fr. Peter Bisson, SJ, who heads up the Indigenous relations desk for the Jesuits in Ottawa.

“It’s not just random acts, but patterns that we can come to expect,” Bisson told The Catholic Register. “We don’t like to think of ourselves as racist, but we probably have some racial prejudices. It’s the unconscious stuff that we especially need to be worried about.”

Confronting systemic racism in health care or the Church isn’t easy, said Deacon Michael James Robinson, Indigenous spiritual care provider at Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre.

“When I saw this thing with Joyce Echaquan, I knew at one point in our history at the hospital that we were there,” said Robinson.

In hiring Robinson, who is a Catholic deacon, a pipe carrier, eagle staff carrier, traditional pow wow dancer and drum carrier, the Thunder Bay hospital has begun to reckon with its past.

“We’ve made a lot of changes for the better in our hospital. Mind you, we haven’t fully eliminated anything by any means,” Robinson said.

One key to better outcomes for Indigenous patients has been more and better spiritual care, said Robinson. Treating people simply as bodies that need to be fixed just doesn’t line up with the Indigenous or Catholic view of health, which includes physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health, he said.

“It’s our spiritual side that never really gets fully looked at nowadays, in modern times,” he said. “I find that (spiritual care) helps a lot of these patients. They’re not revolving door patients after a while. … That gets them out of the discrimination and systemic biases that exist. That address of spirituality is really important.”

Robinson believes white Canadians need to understand how they are also victims of racism. Learning from a young age that Christopher Columbus discovered the Americas, which were already inhabited, or that civilization inevitably evolves into white, European culture, has left white people with a skewed understanding of their own history, he said.

“Systemic racism is just implanted in people’s minds. It becomes a part of who they are, part of their being,” he said. “They don’t even realize that they’re exhibiting these behaviours. They don’t acknowledge it, they can’t see it. In some ways, they’re being victimized themselves.”

“A big challenge in this kind of conversation is changing your idea about your own identity as nice people. That’s been a big part of the conversation with Indigenous people,” said Bisson. “For us, for the Jesuits, it was tough to recognize that there’s a whole dark side to our history with Indigenous people.”

Basilian Fr. Bob Holmes, CSB, of the Christian Peacemaker Teams and the Basilian Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation committee understands why some people resist the idea of systemic racism. People who don’t regard themselves as racist think of systemic racism as a subtle accusation.

“I’m not guilty of it. But it is our history and it’s still operative. And we need to do something about it. To do nothing is to side with it and to allow it to go on,” Holmes said.

Catholics have the spiritual resources to confront systemic racism, said Bisson.

“At every Mass, we acknowledge that we’re sinners,” he said. “But when someone actually agrees with us, that’s not so easy.”

A little research into history can go a long way, but ultimately a real examination of conscience needs help from other people.

“At some point you will need the help of people who experience racism too,” he said. “But a good start is asking God to show us in what ways are our feelings, thoughts and actions racist.”


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Political party representatives respond to questions based on Catholic social teaching during Saskatchewan provincial election campaign

Thu, 10/22/2020 - 13:36

By Kiply Lukan Yaworski, Catholic Saskatoon News

As the days wind down in the 2020 provincial election campaign, representatives of five political parties in Saskatchewan recently participated in online interviews on a range of issues, with questions posed from the perspective of Catholic social teaching.

The video project was initiated by the province’s Roman Catholic dioceses and Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy in collaboration with the organization Catholic Conscience as part of a “Catholic Action” effort to educate Catholic voters about Catholic social teaching and how that teaching relates to relevant political issues, while also mobilizing the Catholic community to take an active part in the political process, including getting out to vote.

Video conversations with political parties:

The five Catholic bishops of Saskatchewan – Bishop Bryan Bayda of the Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of Saskatoon; Archbishop Donald Bolen of Regina; Archbishop Murray Chatlain of Keewatin Le-Pas; Bishop Mark Hagemoen of Saskatoon; and Bishop Albert Thévenot of Prince Albert – together issued an invitation to each of the six political parties with candidates running in the Oct. 26 election, asking them to participate in this video discussion of issues of interest and importance to the Catholic community. Catholics make up an estimated one-third of the provincial population.

Those responding to the bishops’ invitation included Wade Sira, interim leader of the Buffalo Party of Saskatchewan; Naomi Hunter, leader of the Green Party of Saskatchewan; MLA Nicole Sarauer of the New Democratic Party of Saskatchewan; Ken Grey, leader of the Progressive Conservative party of Saskatchewan; and MLA Gord Wyant of the Saskatchewan Party. (The Liberal Party of Saskatchewan did not respond.)

Catholic Conscience election resources:

Myron Rogal, coordinator of Justice and Peace in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon, introduced the video. “Catholics have a duty to vote, through prayerful and thoughtful discernment of their own conscience. We hope these conversations will help SK Catholic voters reflect on their vote,” he said, urging Catholics to vote with the common good in mind.

“Together let’s pray for the future of our province and for all the voters as we collectively determine who will govern in this place we call home,” said Rogal.

Catholic journalist Alison Bradish of St. Joseph Parish, Moose Jaw, in the Archdiocese of Regina posed questions to the five party spokespersons, including “Why should Catholics vote for your party?” and seven questions related to principles of Catholic social teaching.

The questions, including the time when posed in the video, are:

1. Life and human dignity [9:39] – Recognizing the division of powers between the federal and provincial jurisdictions, would your party support any of the following policies to ensure the protection of the sick, marginalized, elderly and vulnerable persons in our province:

  • Requirements for parental consent to abortion procedures on minors;
  • Conscience and employment protection for all health care professionals and institutions whose personal or corporate ethos does not permit them to be complicit in the taking of human life; and,
  • Adequate funding for palliative care in all areas of the Province and increased provision of hospice end-of-life care, not including euthanasia.

2. Stewardship of creation [21:26]: How does your political party propose to achieve an ecologically sustainable future for Saskatchewan, to protect the God-given dignity of coming generations and our fellow children of God around the world?

3. Community and the common good (including Catholic education) [33:18]: How does your party propose to ensure the continued right of Catholic education in Saskatchewan, for Catholics and/or for others who choose it, and how will you strengthen education of the whole person for coming generations?

4. Option for the poor and vulnerable [41:39]: What does your party propose to do to ensure a living and fair wage is available for all Saskatchewan’s workers; to address the injustice of poverty in our province; and to ensure that our economy serves people rather than the other way around?

5. Rights and responsibilities [54:18]: How does your party propose to encourage and enable the great breadth of civil society in Saskatchewan to employ their time, talents, and treasure in the service of the common good, and promote the full participation of every person in our society?

6. Solidarity [1:05:54]: How does your party propose to work in partnership with the people of northern Saskatchewan, to reduce suicide rates in their communities, address the suffering they face, and support local initiatives to build a better future for the people of northern Saskatchewan?

7. Justice and peace [1:18:11]: Central to the province’s stewardship of the people’s resources is its management of the provincial budget. How does your party propose to address the budgetary imbalances within our province resulting from the COVID-19 crisis, and how do you propose to steward the enormous fiscal resources of the province?





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Conversations about “Fratelli Tutti” – A better kind of politics

Wed, 10/21/2020 - 00:07

By Kiply Lukan Yaworski, Catholic Saskatoon News

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon has launched a video series to assist in reflection about Pope Francis’ latest papal encyclical Fratelli Tutti on human fraternity and social friendship.

The first in this video series is a timely conversation about Chapter 5 of Fratelli Tutti “A better kind of politics,” which calls for a social and political order based on “social charity” and “political love.”

In conversation are: Myron Rogal, coordinator of Justice and Peace for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon; Dr. Brett Salkeld, Theologian for the Archdiocese of Regina; Matthew Marquardt, President and Founder of Catholic Conscience; and Brendan Steven, Executive Director of Catholic Conscience.

With Saskatchewan in the midst of a campaign for an Oct. 26 provincial election as well as for Nov. 9 civic/ municipal elections, the discussion is particularly timely.

NOTE: For more insights about discerning how to vote as a Catholic, a range of resources and reflections are posted at

Video – “A better kind of politics”


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Faith leaders and other groups denounce expansion of euthanasia in Canada as MPs debate bill to expand medically-assisted death

Tue, 10/20/2020 - 10:00

By Brian Dryden, Canadian Catholic News

(with additional files from Catholic Saskatoon News)

[Ottawa – CCN] – Leaders of the Catholic Church in Canada have joined with religious leaders from all faiths and creeds across the country to denounce the federal government’s plan to make it easier to get a medically-assisted suicide in Canada.

An open letter to Canadians has been signed and endorsed by some 50 religious leaders in Canada, including Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) president Archbishop Richard Gagnon of Winnipeg, Rabbi Dr. Reuven P. Bulka, the Canadian Council of Imams, the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, and Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at Canada. The faith leaders join other opponents of Canada’s euthanasia/ assisted suicide system who are working to stop the federal government from expanding who qualifies for medically-provided euthanasia.

“It perplexes our collective minds that we have come so far as a society yet, at the same time, have so seriously regressed in the manner that we treat the weak, the ill, and the marginalized,” says the open letter by Canadian faith leaders that was released on Oct. 5.

“We the undersigned remain inalterably opposed to euthanasia and assisted suicide, the intentional killing of human beings, euphemistically being called ‘Medical Assistance in Dying,’ (MAiD) but which is more accurately, and tragically, nothing less than murder,” the statement says.

On Oct. 20, 2020, the CCCB also released a separate statement in response to Bill C-7 (in English / in French) calling on Catholics and “all people of good will” to raise their voices in opposition to the bill.

With the legislation introduced this month unchanged from that which was tabled before the COVID-19 pandemic in February, 2020, the Canadian bishops again express their serious concerns regarding Bill C-7, and call upon Canadians to speak up against the bill.

‘The proposed legislation of Bill C-7 remains deeply flawed, unjust, and morally pernicious,” says the CCCB statement of Oct. 20. “The bishops of Canada call on Catholics and all people of good will to make their voices heard in opposition to the Bill. Similarly, all Canadian legislators should recall that no law that permits the taking of innocent human life can ever be morally justified. Such a law would always violate the intrinsic dignity of the human person.”

A number of other civic groups against the expansion of euthanasia in Canada have also come forward to speak out against the federal government’s proposed Bill C-7.

The Council of Canadians with Disabilities (CCD) ethics committee chair Dr. Heidi Janz recently “denounced” the federal government’s proposed euthanasia eligibility changes. A recent joint public statement by a number of disability rights organizations and advocates makes “an urgent call to re-think Bill C-7” and how “the lives of Canadians with disabilities can be both protected and supported, while maintaining a careful balance of equality rights and autonomy rights.”

The Christian Legal Fellowship has issued a statement condemning the legislation’s move to expand eligibility for medically-provided euthanasia and to remove safeguards, stating: “In its current form, Bill C-7 undermines our constitutional commitment to the equal and inherent value of all lives, as well as our ongoing struggle to meet Canada’s international commitments to persons with disabilities. Perhaps most concerning of all, Bill C-7 eliminates key statutory protections that help protect those considering MAiD from being euthanized against their true wishes.”

As well, the group Canadian Physicians for Life is striving to influence MPs from all political parties to reject Bill C-7, as the proposed changes to the rules around medically-provided euthanasia are debated in the House of Commons.

Dr. Ryan Wilson, President of Canadian Physicians for Life, says in a recent press release: “This bill significantly expands euthanasia. The federal government is focused on streamlining death. There is no waiting period. You do not have to be dying. You do not even have to consent at the time of your death. The bill creates an atmosphere that is ripe for abuse and poses a great danger to marginalized Canadians.

“We are deeply concerned that this proposed legislation sends the message to persons with disabilities that their lives are not worth living. People facing challenges, be it at the end of their lives or in a time where they are more vulnerable as in the case of mental illness, should be offered support and solutions, not just the option to die. Unmet needs should not be a cause of death.”

A “MAID to MAD” campaign by Physicians’ Alliance Against Euthanasia protesting the removal of protections and the expansion of eligibility for medically-provided assisted suicide recently released a statement opposing Bill C-7, signed by hundreds of doctors from across the country.

“As medical doctors, we feel compelled to voice our dismay at how individuals who have little lived experience of the realities involved in the everyday practice of medicine suddenly and fundamentally changed the nature of medicine by decriminalizing euthanasia and assisted suicide,” says the Oct. 19 statement from doctors objecting to the expansion of medically-provided euthanasia in Canada.

“Bill C-7 would allow those who are not dying to end their lives by a lethal injection at the hands of a doctor or nurse practitioner. Shockingly, most of the safeguards that Parliament deemed necessary in 2016 to protect the lives of vulnerable individuals from a wrongful death are being removed,” says the statement.

The physicians’ statement continues: “Under the new bill, an individual whose natural death is considered to be ‘reasonably foreseeable’ could be diagnosed, assessed and euthanized all in one day. We are very concerned that removing the 10-day reflection period and other safeguards will lead to an increase in coerced or tragically unconsidered deaths.”

ARTICLE: B.C. doctors sign statement opposing expanded euthanasia

“The reckless removal of safeguards previously deemed essential will place desperately vulnerable patients directly in harm’s way and may cost them their very lives,” says the “MAID to MAD” statement.

“Under the new bill, an individual whose natural death is considered to be ‘reasonably foreseeable’ could be diagnosed, assessed and euthanized all in one day. We are very concerned that removing the 10-day reflection period and other safeguards will lead to an increase in coerced or tragically unconsidered deaths.”

The federal government’s effort to change the “medical aid in dying (MAiD)” system to comply with a 2019 Quebec court decision which ruled that requiring a person’s death to be “reasonably foreseeable” in order to qualify for euthanasia was too restrictive, does not reflect “Canadian values,” according to the Oct. 5 open letter by Canadian faith leaders.

“Palliative care addresses pain in a loving and caring environment, wherein people go out of their way to offer comfort and solace. It makes everyone into a better person,” says the faith leaders’ open letter to Canadians..

“Palliative care is a viable and life affirming alternative, which does not discriminate against any group and which gives expression to the ethics of caring and inclusion, hallmarks of Canadian values,” the letter by faith leaders states, adding “How precipitous a fall we have made into a moral abyss. This is not what we, as Canadians, have in mind when thinking of ourselves as a caring, compassionate and inclusive society.”

When the new Bill C-7 was introduced in the House of Commons Oct. 5, a federal gvoernment statement said that “the bill reflects emerging societal consensus and was informed by views and concerns raised by Canadians, experts, practitioners, stakeholders, Indigenous groups, as well as provinces and territories during the public consultations undertaken in January and February 2020.”

Bill C-7 would remove the requirement for a person’s natural death to be reasonably foreseeable in order to be eligible for medically-provided euthanasia, introduces a two-track approach to procedural safeguards based on whether a person’s natural death is reasonably foreseeable, excludes eligibility for individuals suffering solely from mental illness, allows a waiver of final consent for eligible persons whose natural death is reasonably foreseeable and who may lose capacity to consent before euthanasia can be provided, and expands data collection about medically-assisted suicide / euthanasia in Canada.

The government points to an online consultation process that it quickly put together after the Quebec court decision as proof that Canadians are in favour of the medically-provided euthanasia system and making it easier to access.

Public opinion polls have shown that Canadians support medically-assisted suicide/euthanasia, including an Angus Reid Institute 2020 survey on social values in Canada that indicated “four-in-five (80%) of Canadians now say it should be easier to make their own end-of-life decisions, compared to nearly three-quarters (73%) in 2016.”

The Catholic Church in Canada has consistently taken the position that on issues of right and wrong and the sanctity of human life, popular opinion at any given time should not matter. This is also reflected in the recent open letter to Canadians from faith leaders.

“With our world-renowned health care system now endorsing euthanasia as a ‘solution’ to human suffering, we will be undermining the creativity and resolve that is needed to confront some of the most complex cases of care,” says the faith leaders’ open letter.

“We are, in effect, imposing the intentional taking of human life as a solution to human suffering. This is not just deeply troubling; it is unacceptable for a civilized society.”



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MPs want to help bridge gap between faith communities and politicians

Tue, 10/20/2020 - 08:39

By Brian Dryden, Canadian Catholic News

[Ottawa -CCN] – A group of MPs from different political parties are working together to try and get a new all-party caucus going in parliament that would not only cross political party lines but faith differences as well.

Religious organizations and MPs interested in fostering more dialogue and respect between Canadian faith communities and federal politicians are hopeful that they will be able to create an all-party interfaith caucus that will help bridge the gap between Canada’s diverse faith communities and the political arena.

Geoffrey Cameron, director of the Office of Public Affairs for the Baha’i Community of Canada, said in an posting that the effort is to try and get past the polarization between religious communities and politicians that has developed in Canadian public life.

“The most recent federal election campaign featured discussion of religion primarily as a source of division and polarization,” Cameron said.  “Whether it was the moral positions of the Conservative leader or the debate over Bill 21 in Quebec, religion was seen as a conversation stopper for politicians.”

“It became clear that we need new language and concepts to engage with religion in the public sphere,” Cameron said.

“At an individual level, religious communities help to educate young people to dedicate their lives to the betterment of the world and to serve others. Religion also reinforces the bonds of community ties that help to foster neighbourhood vitality and relationships of social trust,” said Cameron, who participated in an online discussion with MPs from the Liberal, Conservative and Green parties Oct. 15 to discuss creating an all-party interfaith caucus.

According to Cameron, an all-party interfaith caucus would “exert a countervailing influence on growing partisanship by bringing together parliamentarians from across the aisle.”

The online meeting to discuss such an interfaith caucus included Conservative MP Garnett Genuis, former Green Party leader Elizabeth May and Liberal MP Anthony Housefather and was part of the DemocracyXChange Festival from Oct.16 -22 that included virtual workshops on how to strengthen democracy in Canada.

One of the main themes during the online meetings was how to better foster interaction between faith communities and Canadian politicians.

May, who has been a Green Party MP since 2011, said that for MPs such as herself who take faith seriously in their lives, an interfaith all-party caucus would be a positive forum where different ideas and viewpoints can be exchanged in a respectful manner that cuts through the overt partisanship that has become a defining feature of Canadian politics today.

“We learn more about each other when we talk to each other in a respectful way,” May said, adding that while she is happy that there already exists Christian-based events through the House of Commons that she is an avid participant in, creating an “all-faith” caucus is a way to strengthen the ties between Canada’s MPs and the diverse range of faiths that intermingle in Canada.

Liberal MP Housefather, who is Jewish, said such a caucus would be a valuable way for Canada’s MPs who come from faith communities to engage with each other and leaders and of faith communities who at times feel that Canada’s politicians don’t respect their views if they are informed by their faith.

“Faith communities in Canada should not be embarashed for engaging in the public sphere,” he said.

“Faith communities need to be treated equally,” Housefather said. “Faith can not be the be-all and end-all, but faith communities must be treated with the same respect as any other group that wants to engage with their politicians.”

Conservative MP Genuis said his support for an all-party interfaith caucus will hopefully help faith communities expand their engagement with Canadian politicians of all political persuasions and not with those who already share their viewpoint on a particular issue.

“The more discussion we have, regardless of viewpoints, the more we come to understand each other and are willing to see and consider different viewpoints,” Genuis said.

“I would hope we actually have meetings and have caucus discussions,” he said, adding that there are numerous issue-related caucuses in parliament that cross party lines but some of them only meet when they are formed but really don’t function much beyond that.

“We have to flesh this out. This is important, is important for us to make it meaningful,” Genuis said.


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In Exile – A column by Fr. Ron Rolheiser, OMI: “The Prince of Lies”

Mon, 10/19/2020 - 06:00
The Prince of Lies

By Fr. Ron Rolheiser, OMI 

Looking at our world today, what frightens and unsettles me more than the threat of the COVID-19 virus, more than the growing inequality between the rich and the poor, more than the dangers of climate change, and even more than the bitter hatred that now separates us from each other, is our loss of any sense of truth, our facile denial of whatever truths we judge to be inconvenient, and our slogans of “fake news,” “alternate facts,” and phantom conspiracies.

Social media, for all the good it has brought, has also created a platform for anyone to make up his or her own truth and then work at eroding the truths that bind us together and anchor our sanity. We now live in a world where two plus two often no longer equals four. This plays on our very sanity and has created as certain social insanity. The truths which anchor our common life are becoming unmoored.

This is evil, clearly, and Jesus alerts us to that by telling us that Satan is preeminently the Prince of Lies. Lying is the ultimate spiritual, moral, and psychological danger. It lies at the root of what Jesus calls the “unforgiveable sin against the Holy Spirit.” What’s this sin and why is it unforgiveable?

Here’s the context within which Jesus warns us about this sin: He had just cast out a demon. The religious leaders of the time believed as a dogma in their faith that only someone who came from God could cast out a demon. Jesus had just cast out a demon, but their hatred of him made this a very inconvenient truth for them to swallow. So they chose to deny what they knew to be true, to deny reality. They chose to lie, affirming (even as they knew better) that Jesus had done it by the power of Beelzebub.

Initially Jesus tried to point out the illogic of their position, but they persisted. It’s then that he issued his warning about the unforgiveable sin against the Holy Spirit. At that time he’s not accusing them of committing that sin, but he’s warning them that the path they are on, if not corrected, can lead to that sin. In essence, he’s saying this: if we tell a lie long enough, eventually we will believe it and this so warps our conscience that we begin to see truth as falsehood and falsehood as truth. The sin then becomes unforgiveable because we no longer want to be forgiven nor indeed will accept forgiveness. God is willing to forgive the sin, but we are unwilling to accept forgiveness because we see sin as good and goodness as sin. Why would we want forgiveness?

It’s possible to end up in this state, a state wherein we judge the gifts of the Holy Spirit (charity, joy, peace, patience, goodness, endurance, fidelity, mildness, and chastity) as false, as being against life, as a malevolent naiveté. And the first step in moving towards this condition is lying, refusing to acknowledge the truth. The subsequent steps also are lying, that is, the continued refusal to accept the truth so that eventually we believe our own lies and we see them as the truth and the truth as a lie. Bluntly put, that’s what constitutes hell.

Hell isn’t a place where one is sorrowful, repentant, and begging God for just one more chance to make things right. Nor is hell ever a nasty surprise waiting for an essentially honest person. If there’s anyone in hell, that person is there in arrogance, pitying people in heaven, seeing heaven as hell, darkness as light, falsehood as truth, evil as goodness, hatred as love, empathy as weakness, arrogance as strength, sanity as insanity, and God as the devil.

One of the central lessons in the gospels is this: lying is dangerous, the most dangerous of all sins.

And this doesn’t just play out in terms of our relationship with God and the Holy Spirit. When we lie we’re not only playing fast and loose with God, we’re also playing fast and loose with our own sanity.

Our sanity is contingent on what classical theology terms the “Oneness” of God. What this means in lay terms is that God is consistent. There are no contradictions inside of God and because of that, reality can also be trusted to be consistent. Our sanity depends on that trust. For instance, should we ever arrive at a day where two plus two no longer equals four, then the very underpinnings of our sanity will be gone; we’ll literally be unmoored. Our personal sanity and our social sanity depend upon the truth, upon us acknowledging the truth, upon us telling the truth, and upon two plus two forever equaling four.

Martin Luther once said: sin boldly! He meant a lot of things by that, but one thing he certainly did mean is that the ultimate spiritual and moral danger is to cover our weaknesses with lies because Satan is the Prince of Lies!


Oblate Father Ron Rolheiser, theologian, teacher, and award-winning author, is President of the Oblate School of Theology in San Antonio, TX. He can be contacted through his website

Now on Facebook

Find Fr. Rolheiser’s past columns online, along with an explanation for the column’s title “In Exile”:

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John Hickey will assist parishes with evangelization initiative being launched in the diocese of Saskatoon

Sun, 10/18/2020 - 09:45

By Kiply Lukan Yaworski, Catholic Saskatoon News

John Hickey brings extensive experience evangelizing young adults to his new role of encouraging evangelization efforts in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon.

Hickey’s ongoing work as the Saskatoon campus leader for Catholic Christian Outreach over the past 15 years has provided him with a range of experience and best practices for helping others to encounter Jesus Christ and engage in their Catholic faith.

These insights from a university setting will now be shared with parish leaders in a new additional role for Hickey as part-time Evangelization and Mission Leader for the diocese.

Growing up in Saskatoon, where he and his wife Heather are also now raising their four children, Hickey has had a long-time interest in expanding evangelization efforts in parish and diocesan settings.

“While most of my career has been spent with university students, a particular passion of mine and some of the favourite projects that I have been working on through CCO have been more parish and diocesan related,” he says of the new opportunity to assist parishes in focusing on evangelization.

The new position of Evangelization and Mission Leader came out of extensive reflection by an Evangelization Commission recently created by Bishop Mark Hagemoen. As the chair of that commission, Hickey has been among those in the diocese discussing practical ways to implement priorities in the diocesan Pastoral Plan to “Proclaim Christ and God’s Kingdom Today.” The first priority of that three-year plan is to draw people into greater intimacy with Jesus Christ.

“A lot of the commission’s reflection was looking at the lay of the land, and seeing where we are now in light of these objectives, and what are some of the supports we could offer and recommendations,” Hickey describes. “One of the things that kept coming up was the importance and need for people to hear the gospel proclaimed in a clear and simple way – that was something that we kept hearing. People need an encounter with Jesus, they are searching for that personal encounter.”

The committee of both urban and rural representatives also recognized a hunger among many Catholics to find ways to share their faith effectively. “There are many people in our diocese who are excited about faith sharing, and who want to get involved in evangelization, but they feel that they don’t know how. It became apparent to us as a committee that we need to activate these missionaries in our diocese.”

As the Pastoral Plan demonstrates, the need is great. “There are too many people who have never encountered Jesus or don’t know him well enough right here in Saskatchewan — and the Lord is calling us to be missionary,” says Hickey.

“What we are trying to do is activate people. Every person has a missionary call, received and conferred on them at their baptism. Unfortunately, because life is busy, it takes effort to hear that voice from the Lord, that calling,” says Hickey. “What we are hoping to do is use this movement as sort of a rallying point in order for people to get behind this, and give them a bit of direction and encouragement to take up that missionary call.”

This new Evangelization and Mission effort in the diocese of Saskatoon is echoing what is happening in other settings around the world, adds Hickey.

“The diocesan Evangelization Commission looked at a number of models, and the one that closely mirrored what we felt called to, is what’s happening in the Archdiocese of Vancouver – a similar movement to ours, called the Proclaim Movement, but adapted for our diocese.”

Focus on Alpha and Discovery as resources for evangelization

Part of that adaptation for the diocese of Saskatoon will see Hickey providing practical resources to parishes for sharing the basic gospel message of Jesus Christ – namely Alpha and CCO Discovery programs.

“The reason that we have picked Alpha and Discovery is that we know they are good programs, they are designed with a narrow focus for helping people understand in a clear and simple way the basic gospel message,” says Hickey. “They are people-focused, and I am familiar with them, and we will be able to coach people to do both programs well.”

He stresses that in both Alpha and Discovery, the people are meant to be the missionaries, and not the program.

“Both Alpha and Discovery provide the context for people to come together and ask questions, and explore their faith and to hear the Kerygma (the basic gospel message of the saving power of Jesus Christ). But each program relies on the people and the relationships you build to actually do the work of evangelization.”

The disruption and restrictions of COVID-19 in some ways make this process a bit more challenging, but also provide an opportunity as well as renewed motivation, suggested Hickey.

“There is disconnection (given the restrictions on numbers that can gather, etc.) – but there is also an opportunity,” he said. “People have had a lot of time for reflection, for asking the big questions of life… there is an opportunity in that increased willingness to hear the Gospel and in people searching for an encounter with God. It is right in front of us, we just have to be creative in how we seize this opportunity.”

Diocesan events highlight the new evangelization initiative

During a recent online Administration Day meeting Hickey introduced himself and announced an upcoming Transform conference Saturday, Nov. 21, which will launch the Evangelization and Mission initiative in the diocese of Saskatoon.

In addition, Hickey is one of the speakers involved in a two-day inspirational online event in the diocese of Saskatoon — Congress Days will be held Oct. 23 and 24 exploring the theme Proclaim Christ and God’s Kingdom.

In his new part-time role as Evangelization and Mission Leader (as part of the diocesan Office of Evangelization and Catechesis funded by the Bishop’s Annual Appeal), Hickey says that his initial goal is to find a couple of parishes in the city and one or two in the rural area “to really invest with a lot of energy into evangelization through this movement this year.”

“What I can offer is some coaching, some best practices — in terms of recruitment and how to run the Alpha or Discovery programs well, and how to reach people who don’t necessarily normally come to such programs.”

Hickey concludes: “If people reading this have a heart for mission and are feeling a nudge from the Spirit and want to be involved in evangelization and the mission of the church, they should talk to me.”

Reach John Hickey in his new role as Evangelization and Mission Leader by e-mailing him at or calling (306) 659-5847.


VIDEO: Bishop Mark Hagemoen speaks about Evangelization and Mission, supported by gifts to the Bishop’s Annual Appeal





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Bishop Mark Hagemoen visits parishes across the diocese to install new pastors

Fri, 10/16/2020 - 15:55

By Kiply Lukan Yaworski, Catholic Saskatoon News

[Article updated Oct. 20, 2020]

This fall, Bishop Mark Hagemoen is once again visiting a number of parishes with newly-assigned pastors, to celebrate Eucharist and an optional liturgy for the installation of a pastor.

The installation prayers are a chance to reflect prayerfully on the role of the pastor, highlighting the pastor’s sacramental ministry through a series of prayers at different spots throughout the church building: the altar, the ambo, the tabernacle, the baptismal font, the entrance of the church, etc.

Fr. Joseph Thazhathemuriyil, VC – Oct. 17, 2020 at Immaculate Heart of Mary, Outlook

Bishop Mark Hagemoen prayed prayers of installation for Fr. Joseph Thazhathemuriyil, VC, during a live-streamed Eucharistic celebration Oct. 17 at Immaculate Heart of Mary parish in Outlook, SK.

In addition to serving as pastor in Outlook, Fr. Thazhathemuriyi is also pastor of Sacred Heart, Davidson, SK; St. Andrew, Kenaston, SK; and Holy Redeemer, Elbow, SK.

A Vincentian priest originally from India, Fr. Thazhathemuriyil previously served as pastor of the parishes in Leader, Lancer, and Liebenthal, SK.

Photos of the Oct. 17 installation at Outlook: Fr. Gerard Cooper – Oct. 11, 2020 at the Cathedral of the Holy Family, Saskatoon

The first installation celebration this fall was held on the Thanksgiving weekend at the Cathedral of the Holy Family, with Fr. Gerard Cooper officially installed and blessed as the new pastor and rector of the cathedral parish at the Sunday, Oct. 11 live-streamed celebration. Bishop Mark Hagemoen also acknowledged Fr. Deyre Azcuna, who has served for several years as Associate Pastor at Holy Family Cathedral.

Photos of the Oct. 11 installation at the Cathedral of the Holy Family in Saskatoon:



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Celebrating Mass in the football field: priest-chaplain staying connected at E.D. Feehan during COVID-19

Fri, 10/16/2020 - 13:13

By Kiply Lukan Yaworski, Catholic Saskatoon News

In these ongoing days of the COVID-19 pandemic, E.D. Feehan Catholic High School is creatively finding ways to stay connected to priest-chaplain Fr. Mick Fleming, CSsR, pastor of St. Mary Parish, Saskatoon, as one part of spiritual care provided to students.

“To reduce the spread of the coronavirus, we are restricting the number of people that come into our building, and unfortunately that includes Fr. Mick, who continues to serve his parish of St. Mary’s at the age of 71,” reports lay Teacher-Chaplain Ryan LeBlanc.

LeBlanc recently shared with the school community that “Father Mick continues to pray for all of us every single day, and his generous, adaptable spirit even managed to visit us outside.”

The Redemptorist priest celebrated Mass Sept. 15 and Sept. 22 in the school football field: “On each day, one class cohort gathered in the cool, windy air with him,” says LeBlanc.

Now that the weather is colder, however, liturgies are now being celebrated in the school’s newly-renovated chapel, with permission to distribute communion following sanitization policies set by the diocese in accordance with provincial health guidelines.

“Some families might continue to be unable to attend Mass at their parish, and so this is an opportunity for Catholic students to receive Communion if they wish,” notes LeBlanc.

A student cohort at E.D. Feehan Catholic high school gathers for outdoor celebration of Mass recently with Fr. Mick Fleming of St. Mary parish, Saskatoon. (Photo by David Schrader)


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Alberta COVID-19 outbreak showed workers’ vulnerability and resilience

Wed, 10/14/2020 - 15:11

By Andrew Ehrkamp, Grandin Media

[Edmonton – Canadian Catholic News] – The largest single outbreak of COVID-19 in North America may be one of the biggest lessons in the Catholic social principles of sacrifice, the value of work, care for the common good, and solidarity.
Over 1,500 cases, resulting in three deaths, were linked to the Cargill meat-packing plant at High River in mid-April.

Most of the employees were newcomers to Canada: either permanent residents or temporary foreign workers. The crisis situation created strong feelings of being scared, hungry, vulnerable and needing some reassurance.

“Someone who is sacrificing of their life for another, I look at the workers in a realm that is very close to that,” said Ric Morales, executive director of the Calgary Catholic Immigration Society, which mobilized teams to help the Cargill workers and their families.

“Here are people going out into a situation that some of them knew could be very risky. You’ve have people who are going out knowing that they’ve have to provide not only for their families in Canada, but there are people from their country of origin that are relying on them.”

For 11 days, roughly 60 CCIS staff, along with volunteers and staff from the Alberta International Medical Graduates Association and Action Dignity, worked remotely with Cargill employees and their families in High River, putting in extended shifts.

Morales said in a matter of days, cases skyrocketed from the mid-30s to more than 300. Staff, volunteers and other settlement organizations mobilized to provide support, from accessing government help, to culturally appropriate food, to the simple reassurance that they would get through the outbreak together.

CCIS workers were also helping workers and families at the JBS meat-packing plant in Brooks, which initiated a citywide emergency response to a COVID-19 outbreak in that city.

Six months later, CCIS workers are still providing support. For Morales, it’s an example of Catholic Social Teaching in action, as Canada’s bishops release their own statement asking everyone to reflect on what the COVID-19 pandemic has taught us – and how can continue to care for one another.

Morales will be a part of a COVID-19 panel discussion Nov. 2 on the Value and Dignity of Work.

“Our sole goal was to intervene as quickly as possible, so you wouldn’t have the possibility of fatalities or community spread,” Morales said. “You can well imagine the sort of uncertainty that was existing at this time for all those clients. There was a lot of people expressing a lot of fear. This was deemed the single largest national outbreak in Canada.”

“What happened in High River was a perfect example to see the impact on newcomers.”

Ric Morales is the executive director of the Calgary Catholic Immigration Society. (Submitted photo – Grandin Media, CCN)

Canada as a whole has been weathering the storm of COVID-19. According to CCIS workers on-site in High River and Brooks, that pales when compared to what the foreign workers were experiencing.

They worried about food, their jobs, their families, and their own lives.

Some of the workers lived in multi-family homes, and many of them shared commuting to work as a group.

“The irony here is the job is not temporary, but the workers are deemed to be ‘temporary,’” Morales said.

“So they don’t have a permanent footprint within their communities. You could see once you have a spread started, how easily it was for that chaos to take place.”

Prior to the suspension of work at the plant, “There were some allegations that some workers felt they had to go to work because the plant was offering them $500 bonuses,” Morales said.

“A lot of clients were saying they didn’t want to, but some felt given the wages that they were making, $500 would go a long way. Despite the threat of COVID, some took the risk. For some, one can imagine what the extra income could mean.”

Morales said many however had to make “the choice to stay home for their own personal safety or to go to work.”
The Cargill plant eventually suspended operations, encouraged employees to get tested for COVID-19, and compiled with directives from Alberta Health Services prior to opening.

Some of the experiences occurring at this time for the newcomers is that some were reluctant or too humbled to access mainstream social services like a food bank, or unaware how to do it. Others didn’t understand the gravity of the situation and were at times relying on myths as to how to combat the virus.

“COVID is just another layer in coping in a different cultural context. You have people coming with different cultural ways of dealing with outbreaks,” Morales said.

“Some people have a lot of myths about it. We’ll take some ginger. We’ll take some garlic. We’ll take some lime. We’ll have these cures. Some people tend to minimize what was happening. Some people didn’t understand because of the language barriers.”

“At the end of it all, our staff were trying to reassure people that everything is going to be well,” Morales said. “We had to assist people who were dealing with isolation. So there was a great deal of chaos all the while trying to bring some sort of reassurance during that time.”

In High River, Morales said there were also isolated “incidents of shaming and blaming”. Some workers were refused entry into grocery stores or banks, based on their ethnicity, and their employment at Cargill. Conversely, there were also benevolent acts of kindness, as some people offered support and donations were given to the food bank. This was a community whose memories of the 2013 flood was only years ago.

“Community members reached out to our office and said ‘What can I do to help?’ ” Morales said, noting local school divisions donated money to food banks to help, as did Cargill itself. “That’s one of the teachings that came forward that I saw being demonstrated: empathy, this love for their fellow man.”

Long-term, Morales said the outbreaks in High River and Brooks shone a light on hidden areas.

It highlighted the vulnerability of Canada’s food supply in a province famous for touting its beef, and ironically, it showed the disparity in society, Morales said.

In Alberta it’s difficult to know the impact based on race, age, gender, or economic status.

In the U.S., black people are dying at more than twice the rate of whites. In Toronto, visible minorities and households considered low income are much more likely to be COVID-19 cases.

“We’re in the same storm but we’re in different boats. Some may even be in a yacht. While some are in these little dinghies that’s traversing through this storm. You can see how disproportionate, you can see the inequalities in the way sometimes people are impacted through this.”

Working in a meat-packing plant may be seen as a less-than-desirable occupation only left to foreign workers.

It’s ironic that “When you take a look at how quickly this industry could be impacted, and you don’t have the workers to man those plants, you could see how a way of life could be threatened not only directly to the workers, but to the general public, the agricultural sector,” Morales said.

He noted that COVID-19 proved that [foreign workers] don’t have the same level of access to services even though they are critical to keeping Canada fed.

“When you consider the fact that many people went through a whole lot to get to Canada — and then to deal with this — we saw the faith, the resilience of the human being not only in the faces of one of the greatest terrors of their own lives, but they came out and came back with a great deal of humility.

“I think it’s a big learning lesson for us all,” Morales said. “They were essential workers. They were workers who were providing an essential, stable food product to feed the entire country. It forced us to reassess some those things that we take for granted. We take a look at redefining the value we put around people’s jobs.”


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National study reveals that help for homeless youth suffers with COVID-19

Wed, 10/14/2020 - 14:58

By Michael Swan, The Catholic Register

[Toronto – Canadian Catholic News] – When COVID-19 forced frontline workers to shift their support for homeless youth online, the result was more loneliness, more depression, more drug use, more overdoses and more thoughts of suicide, according to new research from Covenant House, Canada’s largest shelter serving young people.

“We need more boots on the ground,” lead researcher Dr. Naomi Thulien told The Catholic Register. “Virtual supports are great, but we need to think of the young people who don’t have access to these supports.”

The study — “Pandemic Proof: Synthesizing Real-World Knowledge of Promising Mental Health and Substance Use Practices for Young People Who are Experiencing or Have Experienced Homelessness” — is being published in two online centres for the study of homelessness, “A Way Home Canada” and “Lived Experience Lab.” The research was funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.

Thulien, who teaches at Hamilton, Ont.’s McMaster University School of Nursing and also runs a nurse practitioner clinic at Covenant House in Toronto, thought her survey of frontline workers who deal with homeless youth might turn up success stories about online counselling.

“I thought maybe we would learn about some really cool virtual stuff. Instead, what we found was, if I had to use one word, I would say disconnection,” she said. “What keeps coming up is the importance of relationship.”

The 188 frontline workers in nine provinces who took Thulien’s survey told her they worry that kids so poor they are homeless probably don’t have steady, reliable access to the Internet and may not even know their services are available.

“Young people who are the most marginalized are probably not accessing this support,” Thulien said. “Even the young people who are accessing them, there’s concern that a lot of them, just like all of us, are missing that in-person kind of connection.”

The most marginalized include Indigenous, Black and brown, gay and transgendered kids, according to the study.

“Many of the reasons why our young people are struggling with anxiety and depression is because they don’t have enough connections. By that I mean, just connections to mainstream society through employment and education.”

Even before COVID-19, homeless services weren’t having much success transitioning youth out of homelessness.

Current research shows that 76 per cent of young Canadians who have been homeless report at least two failed attempts at exiting homeless.

“They leave the shelters and they come back,” said Thulien. “Why do they come back? Often they can’t afford to live. We haven’t set them up for success.”

Covenant House and other shelters serving youth are not going to end homelessness. It will require governments to fund broader and deeper health and social service systems, said Thulien.

“We (at Covenant House) need to focus our efforts on actually working ourselves out of a job. Not making it so young people will depend on us,” she said.

Brought to Toronto in 1982 on the invitation of Toronto Archbishop Cardinal Gerald Emmett Carter, Covenant House has supported more than 100,000 homeless young people over almost four decades. Open 24/7, the agency sees more than 300 young people every day.


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Chrism Mass celebrated Oct. 8 in diocese of Saskatoon: usually held in Holy Week, the celebration was delayed by COVID-19 restrictions

Wed, 10/14/2020 - 13:17

By Kiply Lukan Yaworski, Catholic Saskatoon News

Delayed by COVID-19, the 2020 Chrism Mass was finally celebrated Oct. 8 in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon.

The annual celebration of the diocesan Mass of Chrism in Holy Week was one of the events disrupted by the shut down of public gatherings this spring because of measures implemented to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

The well-loved diocesan celebration includes Bishop Mark Hagemoen blessing the sacred oils used in sacraments to be taken back to parishes by representatives from across the diocese, as well as the renewal of priestly commitment by ordained priests in the diocese.

Bishop Mark Hagemoen blessed the sacred oils during the 2020 Chrism Mass. (Photos by Kiply Lukan Yaworski, Catholic Saskatoon News)

Although numbers were restricted, each parish was invited to have a representative present at the afternoon celebration of the Chrism Mass at the Cathedral of the Holy Family in Saskatoon. The celebration was also live-streamed, with the archived video also available for those who wish to join in the prayers of the Chrism Mass.

Parish representatives gathered at the Cathedral of the Holy Family Oct. 8 for the 2020 Mass of Chrism: distancing, masks and limited numbers meant the 2020 version of the diocesan celebration was much different than usual.


At the conclusion of the Chrism Mass, parish representatives came forward to receive the sacred oils, to take back for celebration of sacraments throughout the year. (Photos by Kiply Lukan Yaworski, Catholic Saskatoon News)

Live-stream video of Chrism Mass:


Bishop’s message:

Bishop Mark Hagemoen began his homily by reflecting on how different the worldwide context is for this year’s Chrism Mass, compared to the previous year’s celebration.

Bishop Mark Hagemoen – Chrism Mass homily PDF

The bishop expressed his thanks to all in the diocese: “I have felt and received much support from you as we carry out our priestly ministry in service of the mission of Jesus Christ and his Church for all the People of God – in a very challenging and extraordinary time.”

He added: “I continue to be inspired and invited to never underestimate the height, width and breadth of the life and mission of Jesus Christ, and how God’s people – with great faith, creativity, trust, and zeal, — inspire a Christ-like response to new challenges and situations.” Those challenges have included the unprecedented impact of the global COVID-19 pandemic.

“The scriptures for our Chrism Mass are the same ones we use each year, yet, as I reflect on these – oh how they speak quite differently to me versus just a year and a half ago,” said Bishop Hagemoen. “I am amazed at how profoundly appropriate they are this year – especially now that we have just received what some are already calling the most defining and distinctive encyclical from Pope Francis, Fratelli Tutti: “On Fraternity and Social Friendship.”

Priests from across the diocese gathered for the Chrism Mass, recommitting themselves to priestly service with a special blessing from the bishop. (Photos by Kiply Lukan Yaworski, Catholic Saskatoon News)

Bishop Hagemoen explored aspects of the new papal encyclical, reflected on the document from the perspective of the priesthood of Jesus Christ, shared by all the baptized and lived out in a particular way by those ordained for priestly ministry.

He pointed to a number of challenges raised by the papal encyclical, including calls for:

  • true care and support of the vulnerable,
  • absorbing the lesson of the Good Samaritan parable that “belief in God and the worship of God are not enougn to ensure that we are actually living in a way pleasing to God” (#74),
  • recognizing that “excellence” must be applied to moral development and what is best for others, to live out solidarity as a key feature of priestly service,
  • giving priority to closeness with the poor,
  • cultivating an attitude “gratuitousness,”
  • keeping “our feet on the ground,”
  • recognizing the need for change and ongoing conversion, and
  • priorizing forgiveness and reconciliation.

“I conclude with the cross of Christ – the means of our salvation; the bridge between God and humanity; between death and life: between darkness and light,” said Bishop Hagemoen. “The cross is the guide and hope for the world, and it is the cross of Christ that inspires and gides our reflection and renewal of following the Lord as Prophet, King and priest.”

Photo gallery – Preparation and Celebration of the Chrism Mass:




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Religious leaders speak out against proposed expansion of euthanasia/assisted suicide eligibility

Wed, 10/14/2020 - 09:28

By CCCB Communications staff

[Ottawa – Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops] – Some 50 religious leaders from across Canada released an open letter to all Canadians Oct. 14 expressing opposition to Bill C-7 An Act to amend the Criminal Code to expand the criteria for medically-provided suicide / euthanasia.

The inter-faith message is a response by religious leaders to the legislation introduced by the federal government on Oct. 5, 2020 which seeks to expand the eligibility criteria for euthanasia and assisted suicide (euphemistically called “medical assistance in dying”) by removing the “reasonable foreseeability of natural death” criterion currently in the Criminal Code, and by loosening some of the existing “safeguards” allowing patients whose death is “reasonably foreseeable” to waive final consent to receiving euthanasia by making an advance directive.

“We are obliged to express our strong concern and opposition to Bill C:7 which, among other things, expands access to euthanasia and assisted suicide to those who are not dying. It perplexes our collective minds that we have come so far as a society yet, at the same time, have so seriously regressed in the manner that we treat the weak, the ill, and the marginalized,” stated the religious leaders.

The message reflects a unity of thought and concern among many of Canada’s diverse religious communities in the face of human suffering, dying and death, and about the inadequacy of euthanasia and assisted suicide as a response.

The religious leaders further expressed: “We are convinced that a robust palliative care system available to all Canadians is a much more effective response to suffering and to protecting the sacred dignity of the human person. Palliative care addresses pain in a loving and caring environment, wherein people go out of their way to offer comfort and solace. It makes everyone into a better person.”

The development of the message was initiated by the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB), Rabbi Dr. Reuven P. Bulka, CM, Ph.D., the Canadian Council of Imams (CCI), the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada (EFC) and Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at Canada.

 Read the letter – LINK.

ARTICLE: “Critics say the government’s proposed euthanasia changes go too far”




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Pope Francis urges laity to “take a step forward” in evangelization

Wed, 10/14/2020 - 06:40

By Courtney Mares, Catholic News Agency

[Vatican City –  CNA] – Pope Francis called for the laity to “take a step forward” in carrying out the Church’s mission of evangelization in a preface to a book written by an Italian bishop.

“The time is now. The mission of the laity is not a privilege of a few and it involves total dedication,” Pope Francis wrote in the foreword to the recently published book “Symphony of Ministries: A renewed presence of laity in the Church,” by Bishop Fabio Fabene.

“The laity themselves are asked to be joyful in self-giving and prayer, to grow and to operate within the Christian community to share and support their journey, the mutual exchange of gifts aroused by the Holy Spirit,” the pope said.

Pope Francis stressed the importance of “the co-responsibility of the laity in the building up of the Church,” as highlighted in St. John Paul II’s 1988 exhortationChristifideles laici.”

“If the heart of the priest’s identity lies in consecrating the Eucharistic bread, the center of the lay mission consists in consecrating the world according to God’s plan,” Pope Francis wrote.

“The ministries established carry out this dual mission in favor of the Church and the world, making the laity (women and men) active subjects of evangelization and mission,” he added.

The pope mentioned that the recent synods on the family, young people, and the Amazon had recommended new lay ministries “for a more synodal and outgoing Church” and asked every bishop to conduct a careful discernment of which ministries are needed for his territory.

He also warned Church leaders against the temptation to “clericalize” the laity and said it was vital to recognize lay people’s specific vocation.

“It is necessary to avoid the risk of transforming ministries into forms of power, which is a temptation always lurking,” the Holy Father said. “An entirely ministerial Church manifests a people with a thousand faces. It is a Church where the role of women is central.”

Published in Italian by Edizioni San Paolo, the 112-page book proposes that the laity should play an important role in the Church’s pastoral care in light of a fall in priestly vocations in recent years.

Bishop Fabene, the author, has served as under-secretary of the Synod of Bishops since 2014. Prior to this, he earned a degree in canon law from the Pontifical Lateran University and worked in the Vatican’s Congregation for Bishops.

“It is time for the laity to take a step forward, a step further. And find in the Church the necessary space to do so, a way to respond to their vocations,” Pope Francis wrote.

“The Holy Spirit is always active in the People of God, enriching them with new gifts each time, and we must be careful not to extinguish them and not to discourage them,” the pope said.


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Pope Francis says Blessed Carlo Acutis is a model for young people to put God first

Tue, 10/13/2020 - 15:45

By Courtney Mares, Catholic News Agency

[Vatican City – CNA] – Pope Francis said Oct. 11 that the life of Blessed Carlo Acutis provides a witness for young people that true happiness is found when one puts God first.

“Yesterday in Assisi, Carlo Acutis, a fifteen-year-old boy in love with the Eucharist, was beatified. He did not settle into comfortable inaction, but grasped the needs of his time because in the weakest he saw the face of Christ,” Pope Francis said in his Angelus address Oct. 11, 2020.

“His witness shows today’s young people that true happiness is found by putting God first and serving Him in our brothers, especially the least. Let’s make a round of applause for the new young Blessed,” the Holy Father told the pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square.

Blessed Carlo Acutis, a Catholic teen with an aptitude for computer programming and a great devotion to the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, became the first millennial to be declared ‘Blessed’ on Oct. 10.

At the age of 15, Acutis was diagnosed with leukemia in 2006. He offered his sufferings for Pope Benedict XVI and for the Church, saying “I offer all the suffering I will have to suffer for the Lord, for the pope, and the Church.”

Pope Francis first presented Acutis as an example for young people in post-syondal apostolic exhortation on young people, Christus Vivit. The pope wrote that Acutis’ provided a model of how young people can use the internet and technology to spread the Gospel.

“It is true that the digital world can expose you to the risk of self-absorption, isolation and empty pleasure. But don’t forget that there are young people even there who show creativity and even genius. That was the case with Venerable Carlo Acutis,” the pope wrote in 2018.

“Carlo was well aware that the whole apparatus of communications, advertising and social networking can be used to lull us, to make us addicted to consumerism and buying the latest thing on the market, obsessed with our free time, caught up in negativity. Yet he knew how to use the new communications technology to transmit the Gospel, to communicate values and beauty.”

In his Angelus message, Pope Francis said that the Church today is called reach the geographical and existential peripheries of humanity where people can find themselves on the margins without hope.

The pope urged people “not to rest in comfortable and routine modes of evangelization and witness of charity, but to open the doors of our hearts and our communities to all because the Gospel is not reserved for a select few.”

“Even those on the margins, even those who are rejected and despised by society, are considered by God worthy of His love,” he added.

The Lord “prepares his banquet for everyone: just and sinful, good and bad, intelligent and uneducated,” the pope said, referencing chapter 22 in the Gospel of Matthew.

“The habit of mercy, which God offers us ceaselessly, is a free gift of his love … And it requires to be received with amazement and joy,” Francis said.

After praying the Angelus, the pope prayed for the victims of violence between Armenia and Azerbaijan, expressing his gratitude that a ceasefire had been reached.

Pope Francis also encouraged all laity, especially women, to exercise Christian leadership by virtue of their baptism.

“We must promote the integration of women in the places where important decisions are made,” he said.

“Let us pray that, by virtue of baptism, the lay faithful, especially women, will participate more in institutions of responsibility in the Church, without falling into the clericalisms that nullify the lay charism and also ruin the face of Holy Mother Church.”


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Catholic Studies class staying connected to parish

Tue, 10/13/2020 - 14:33

By Kiply Lukan Yaworski, Catholic Saskatoon News / Photos by David Polzen, Cathedral of the Holy Family

St. Joseph Catholic High School teacher Wendy Dale has been striving to keep her Grade 9 Catholic Studies class connected to the parish next door, with regular Wednesday “audiences” at the Cathedral of the Holy Family in Saskatoon.

In September, when the Saskatchewan Catholic bishops were gathered together at the Catholic Pastoral Centre to virtually attend the Plenary Assembly  of the Canadian Catholic Conference of Bishops, Dale brought her class on an outdoor tour of the cathedral building. Archbishop Donald Bolen of Regina (formerly the bishop of Saskatoon) happened to come by.

“We chatted with him a bit from across the road, and he gave us a blessing,” Dale described.  At the suggestion of rector and pastor of the cathedral parish, Fr. Gerard Cooper, the class is making a visit to the Cathedral of the Holy Family a weekly event.

The class returned for another outdoor “audience” on the Feast of the Holy Rosary Oct. 7, meeting with Fr. Gerard Cooper at the front of the building for conversation and the blessing of rosaries students had made in class.

A Grade 12 class at St. Joseph High School is also endeavouring to build similar connections with the cathedral parish, Dale noted. “It’s especially important to build those connections right now,” she added, pointing to measures related to the ongoing pandemic.





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Papal encyclical on human fraternity and social friendship speaks ‘to a moment in time’

Tue, 10/13/2020 - 12:51

By Michael Swan, The Catholic Register

In an encyclical that might be characterized as being “ripped from the headlines,” Pope Francis speaks some hard truths to Canadians, to Catholics and to the world.

In Fratelli Tutti, Pope Francis addresses COVID-19, the migration crisis, the environmental crisis, our degraded, polarized politics, an economic system that profits from more poverty and fewer jobs and global, digitized media steamrolling over local cultures, languages and Indigenous people. Pope Francis reads the headlines and sees moral decay. He reads the gospel and wishes it were alive in the hearts and minds of people.

That focus on the headlines is not new to encyclicals, said St. Joseph’s College, University of Alberta Associate Dean Indré Cuplinskas.

“They (encyclicals) are always speaking to a moment in time. That’s what they do,” Cuplinskas said. “These aren’t things that are hovering up above history.”

The first social encyclical in 1891 took up the crisis of an oppressed and exploited working class in our newly urbanized and industrialized world. Rerum Novarum became a template for future popes seeking to teach in the context of their times, said Cuplinskas.

In 1931 Pope Pius XI’s Quadragesimo Anno responded to the rise of antidemocratic politics in Europe and in 1991 Pope John Paul II’s Centesimus Annus took on the twin legacies of capitalism and communism after the Berlin Wall fell.

Pope Francis proposes a single, common starting point for unravelling our current problems. “Isolation and withdrawal into one’s own interests are never the way to restore hope and bring about renewal. Rather, it is closeness; it is the culture of encounter. Isolation, no; closeness, yes. Culture clash, no; culture of encounter, yes,” insists the Holy Father.

Cuplinskas points out that Pope Francis doesn’t just say this. He does it. The encyclical is inspired by the Pope’s own encounter with Grand Imam Ahmad Al-Tayyeb of al-Azhar University in Cairo, she notes. It’s an example of dialogue across the boundaries of culture and faith and in the context of a complex, often tragic history.

“It’s not an abstract text. He’s modelling dialogue,” Cuplinskas said.

The pope’s love of dialogue is perhaps matched by his hatred for ideologies — all ideologies, from libertarian liberalism to state-run communism. “Often, as we carry on our semantic or ideological disputes, we allow our brothers and sisters to die of hunger and thirst, without shelter or access to health care,” writes Pope Francis.

Pope Francis’ insight into the sickness of ideologies accords with common sense and common experience, said Cuplinskas.

“We all experience that. We’re never really convinced by someone who is shouting at us,” she said. “So it’s all about encounter…. You shift out of ideologies when you, as he says, look at another human being and say ‘Yeah, you are fully human, let’s talk.’ ”

A clear recognition of our common humanity makes Fratelli Tutti both inspiring and challenging, said Sr. Sarah Rudolph of the Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary, better known as the Loretto Sisters.

“When we read this, we can recognize that it affirms our own dignity and the inviolable rights we all have. This is based on our creation in the image and likeness of God. We can take it to heart,” Rudolph said.

As a former federal government policy analyst, Rudolph recognizes the down-to-earth practicality of Pope Francis’ insistence upon dialogue.

“We have to actually be thinking about what Francis is talking about. How do we make sure that nobody is excluded from the way forward?” she asked. “If we’re going to be talking about rebuilding our economies, our social networks (post COVID-19), then we have to make sure that the most vulnerable are part of these conversations — that solutions are provided for them.”

If the Church is going to act on the pope’s call for encounter, it will have to shift its focus outward, Rudolph said.

“We want to be a Church that serves and leaves home and goes forth from its places of worship, goes forth from its sacristies, in order to accompany life, to sustain hope, to be a sign of unity,” she said.

“So that really is a challenge to the Church, that we cannot stay behind the walls of our churches, the literal walls of our parishes. We have to go out into the world to encounter those whom we meet there. It is a challenging message for many Catholics, and for myself. It’s a challenge for everyone.”

Global Catholic Climate Change Canada co-ordinator Agnes Richard immediately thought of a practical challenge to the Church in Canada as she read the encyclical.

“Development and Peace has been doing the work that is called for in this encyclical for 50 years,” she said. “And they deserve more support than they’ve seen of late.”

But Richard also came away thinking the pope had given himself and Church leadership at the Vatican a challenge.
“(Fratelli Tutti) addresses the marginalized, the poor, whoever is victimized by social elites, by power, by business. The stronger those paragraphs became, the more I felt, ‘OK Vatican, Pope Francis and leaders of the Church, if you are serious about those critiques you had better be ready now for a frank and transformational discussion about the role of women in the Church,’ ” she said. “Otherwise, they are telling the world to do what they’re told, but not to follow their example.”

Mount Royal University religious studies professor Jacqueline Ho also saw that Fratelli Tutti sets itself up for a much deeper and more detailed discussion of women’s contributions to the world.

“A deeper elaboration of women’s issues would add to Pope Francis’ call for continued reflection,” Ho told The Catholic Register in an e-mail. “While Fratelli Tutti briefly discusses the subjugation of women in regards to issues of forced abortion, an elaboration of political issues regarding the oppression of women would be an enhancement of the encyclical.”

As a non-Catholic whose students are very often either formerly or indifferently Catholic, Ho read the encyclical thinking of its potential to revitalize and reframe Catholic faith for a younger generation.

“By opening up these conversations, it could inspire a lot of people to look at the Catholic Church in a different light, to revisit their faith,” Ho said.

She looks forward to assigning the encyclical to her students. In her own reading of the 92-page document, Ho was delighted by the Pope’s openness to religious experience outside his own tradition.

“This encyclical is meant to be, as he says, an open conversation,” said Ho. “He’s just opening up that conversation and he invites people to consider the idea of universal love.”


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Tens of thousands of Canadians sign petition to protect the unborn

Tue, 10/13/2020 - 12:37

By Brian Dryden, Canadian Catholic News

[Ottawa – CCN]– A petition signed by thousands of Canadians calling on the federal government to grant full legal protection to unborn children has been presented to the House of Commons.

While the petition, which was started by Alliance for Life Ontario, was able to collect just under 40,000 signatures from across the country, one of the organizers of the effort concedes that is a far cry from the number of Canadians who signed a similar petition more than 40 years ago, which was the inspiration for the latest effort.

Organizers of the new “Petition of One Million” say they collected 39,500 signatures, with 35,255 of those officially accepted when the petition was tabled in the House of Commons by Conservative Provencher MP Ted Falk on Oct. 5, 2020.

“If you were around in May 1975, you may recall the Petition of One Million. It was initiated by Alliance for Life Canada, gathered 1,027,425 signatures and gained support from MPs, pro-life groups, churches, organizations and individuals from coast to coast,” an online description of the petition said.

“Although more than 40 years have passed since the first petition, Canadians are still waiting for the Canadian government to provide protection for children in the womb. We know more about life in the womb than we did decades ago and the empirical evidence proving the harmful effects of abortion on women, families and society is undeniable and yet the debate around the issue of abortion remains stifled,” said the preamble to the latest petition.

“That’s why we’re launching a new petition asking PM Justin Trudeau to provide full legal protection for Canadian pre-born children,” said the preamble to the “Petition of One Million.”

Even though the petition presented to the House of Commons earlier this month only has 35,255 officially sanctioned signatures, one of the key organizers of the effort said the campaign was successful in continuing to make the pro-life case against abortion in Canada. “Compared to a lot of the other petitions that are presented to the House, that is a lot of signatures and shows that there are a lot of Canadians that want to speak out against abortion,” said Jakki Jeffs, executive director of Alliance for Life Ontario.

“Yes, the times have changed and some people are getting tired of not having any impact or of being dismissed whenever people of faith speak out on moral issues,” said Jeffs, a Catholic who acknowledges that even within her own church not everyone wanted to sign or get involved with the petition.

According to the federal government’s website, of all the petitions that have been filed with the House of Commons and have had a mandatory government response filed since April, none of those petitions had more than 5,000 signatures and only two of have had more than 4,000.

Jeffs said Alliance for Life Ontario has taken an educational approach to continuing to stress the pro-life message to advocate for the rights of the unborn. “As religious people this is at the heart of who we are and what we believe, that all life is precious,” Jeffs said in an interview with the Canadian Catholic News.

“We have to keep bringing this up and raising these issues and speak up for the hundreds of thousands Canadian babies that have been killed,” she said, even if, for the most part, Canada’s political parties do not want to address the issue of abortion in any meaningful way.

“Nobody wants to get into this, nobody wants to have a real discussion about hat we are doing in this country,” she said.
An official government response to the petition, which calls “upon the House of Commons to enact legislation granting full legal protection to the child not yet born from the beginning of his/her biological development as a human being – the same protection granted to any other human being,” has yet to be filed. An assistant in MP Falk’s office said the government has up to 45 days to file its official response.


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