Anglicans casting a ballot in Canada’s federal election on Oct. 21 will find a range of ecumenical resources to help them learn more about the issues and converse with candidates.
A letter released in September, signed by leaders of the Anglican Church of Canada and Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC), encourages participation in the election and directs Anglicans and Lutherans to resources from the Canadian Council of Churches (CCC) and Citizens for Public Justice (CPJ) to help decide their vote.
The use of resources from ecumenical groups and partner organizations marks a change from the 2015 federal election, when the Anglican Church of Canada released its own election resource highlighting 10 different justice issues.
Ryan Weston, lead animator of Public Witness for Social and Ecological Justice, said the shift in approach emerged out of discussions with the ELCIC.
“We decided in conversation with the Lutherans that we would go this way together…. It makes it a bit less work for us and, I think, avoids some duplication,” Weston said.
He added, “What we hope these resources will do is just to put the issues in front of people and not give them instruction on how to vote or what answer they want—but to think about the questions and what’s important to them, from their own faith perspective and from their perspective as citizens able to vote.”
The CCC and CPJ resources draw upon previous work from each ecumenical organization, bringing attention to issues that have obtained a broad consensus among Canadian churches regarding their significance in federal politics. Both are available for download in PDF format or as hard copies at the CCC and CPJ websites, respectively.
The CPJ’s 2019 election bulletin, “Shaping a Just Canada,” focuses on four key issues: democratic participation and electoral reform; ending poverty in Canada; ensuring climate justice; and upholding refugee rights.
The document includes information about each issue, questions to ask federal candidates and links to additional resources. In advance of the election, CPJ representatives will be touring 11 cities across Canada to speak with people about issues raised in the election bulletin.
Karri Munn-Venn, senior policy analyst for CPJ, is an Anglican who worships at All Saints Anglican Church Westboro in Ottawa. She says that CPJ determines its positions on each issue through a combination of research, discussion internally and with partner organizations, and discernment rooted in scripture and focused on how “we understand our Christian calling to seek love and justice and the flourishing of creation.”
That process of discernment often shows overlap between seemingly unconnected issues.
“For example, on the issue of climate change, which is the [issue] I’m most familiar with, we know that Indigenous people, people living in poverty and newcomers to Canada are more likely to be more immediately impacted by climate change, often because of where they live and the more limited resources that they have,” Munn-Venn said.
“But we also know internationally, one of the major contributing factors to global migration is the climate crisis—that people are being forced to move either within their own countries or across borders to seek refuge, because where they have been is no longer livable as a result of climate change.”
The CCC’s resource, which was still being prepared at the time this article was written, has a similar format to the CPJ election bulletin. It focuses on several issues that the council has worked on—such as nuclear disarmament, climate change, poverty reduction and refugee justice—and likewise includes background on each issue, questions to ask candidates and links to related documents or resources produced by the CCC.
Peter Noteboom, general secretary of the CCC, wrote the resource. He described a need for Christians to educate themselves on the issues and participate in the federal election as Christians rooted in the very tenets of their faith.
“I have always heard Anglicans say this is part of [their] baptismal commitments and vows,” Noteboom said.
“I think our commitment as Christians and as Christian communities to human rights, to seeing faith influence and shape and have an enlightening…effect on public life, is really important. I think faith communities have something unique to offer in that sense.”