Crime Victim’s Rights Are A Major Issue For Canada

crime-victims“For many victims, living with the aftermath of a crime is a real and undeniable challenge,” Norm Sterling, Minister Of Correctional Services, told reporters. “The justice system needs to be reminded that a crime continues to rob the victims of their personal sense of safety.” It remained for Detective-Sergeant John Muise, of the province’s Office for Victims of Crime, to explain that victims will not be allowed to “call the shots or make decisions” regarding what happens to criminals. But they will be given a voice, and that voice will be heard by the offender.

It is important to note that Messrs. Sterling and Muise did not say victims need to meet with offenders in order to forgive them, or to try to arrive at some understanding of the criminals’ motivation (“I wish my assailant had told me at the outset that his mother was a drug addict. Had I but known he was disadvantaged I would have given him the family silver and the keys to the mini-van.”). Rather, …

Aboriginal Justice: A Complex Subject, To Say The Least

aboriginaljusticeTwo themes often emerge when I speak to Aboriginal people about their future. Even though they are, reluctant to talk about it, they sincerely feel that they are being neglected and put down by other Canadians and that the legal system treats them with disdain. Because they see no change in the attitudes of people who could help them, they feel powerless to overcome the hurdles they face,

I understand and share their concerns. If, as I felt in my Law School and practicing days, the Canadian system of justice is so marvellous, I now have to ask how it can possibly cause so much pain. It, must be blind to fail to appreciate that not all individuals are equal in society and that some are not well served by it. The system is particularly hard on Aboriginal people and I don’t think it overstates the severity of the situation to say that the manner in which the law is now being administered in remote communities is a travesty of …

Is The Internet A Great Tool For Activism, Or Just Noise?

internetWhen I first heard of the Internet, it seemed to offer great potential for the kind of international dialogue and collaborative writing and publishing that I had envisioned. So I quickly began learning everything I could about it.

The possibilities seemed endless–we could set up a collective space, hold “electronic conferences” to share strategies, create and disseminate working papers on our issues, develop urgent action networks, and on and on.

But my initial enthusiasm was soon dampened by several realities. First, at the time, nearly all the women with access to the Internet were academics. And within that group, very few women were committed to issues of global feminism.

Furthermore, access to the Internet did not always translate to use of the technology. I met many women’s studies professors with e-mail addresses but no idea how to access their accounts. Most knew even less about other information resources available to them online.

Why were so few women participating in this emerging communications revolution?

It’s clear that certain barriers were structural. …

Justice, Religion, Life

justiceMany Christians, particularly evangelicals, focus almost exclusively on calling people to a personal relationship with Jesus. The vision is so individualistic that there is almost no notion of living as body, where different parts take on one another’s pain and poverty.

I think Jesus and Paul would be surprised that these folks think they are resisting our culture and pointing people toward the New Testament. A personal relationship with Jesus is no replacement for joining his body. Individualism destroys–even if ifs in the name of Jesus.

Then there’s us peace-and-justice folks. We emphasize individual rights until all possibility of community is destroyed. We become so paranoid that our rights will be violated that we can’t even work with those closest to us. Rights are no replacement for love. Individualism destroys whether it’s from the Left or the Right.

We need to grasp that “leading people to Jesus” without taking them into the family of God is like a mother abandoning a newborn in a public bathroom. And so is helping …

Sometimes, Outrage And Anger IS Appropriate

angerAnger is a sane response to insanity. Fannie Lou Hamer said “I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired.” That’s anger.

I am angry that in a country with as many resources as the United States, we cannot agree about basics. I’m angry that we debate sending people to the moon or little trucks to Mars when we have not made sure that each child, woman, and man is safe; that every person has adequate dwelling space; that all are assured decent healthcare; and that our schools work. Once we’ve done these basics, then I’m fine to go to Mars. But people disagree on these basics!

The God of the Bible calls each one of God’s people “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139). If that’s true, then we must do the basics.

Of course, our anger must recognize that the structures that perpetuate institutional evils are inhabited by human beings. Right now, I’m organizing Black, White, Hispanic, rich middle-class, and poor to change Nashvilles budget priorities. This means confronting …

Investing Responsibly Is Easier Than Ever

investingrespIt is time for the socially responsible investment community to get serious about “investing its principles” in ways that lead to greater justice. If we truly want to move beyond raising ethical issues to transforming the economic structures of our society, we need a more dramatic change in the way we think about investing.

Essentially, I believe people of faith need a new “theology” of investment. We need to rethink, in economic and investment terms, what we mean by faith, sin, and salvation.

For hundreds of years, the Western church viewed faith in a highly individualistic manner. Sin was a failure to exhibit upstanding personal behavior. And the goal of religious life was personal salvation.

In recent generations, liberation theologians like Gustavo Gutierrez have reminded the church that faith is not only personal but public. Sin, then, is not simply a matter of immoral personal behavior, but of structural injustice that keeps some people poor and marginalized while others live in luxury. Liberation theologians have called the church to a …

Is Canada’s Left Still Viable In Today’s Climate?

canadaclimateIn May of this year, over 100 people gathered to discuss the fate of an organization that to many has represented an exceptional moment in the history of the Canadian Left, and in the Winnipeg activist community’s contribution to that history.

From one quarter there was contention that CHO!CES, a coalition for social justice, had been a moribund shadow of itself for some time. The Friday Morning Group, the direct-action-oriented heart of Cho!ces, ceased to meet some time ago. Others insisted that there still are a few viral things that Cho!ces can do like no other structure can. From all parties, a great deal of emotional investment was at stake in the controversy. Its result, for now, was that Cho!ces would carry on with three projects — Alternative Budgets, a support network for Project Loophole, the lawsuit raking on a large Canadian trust fund for tax evasion, and an annual Youth Activist Retreat.

Despite this outcome, we can fairly say that what remains is not Cho!ces as it was once …

Being Smart With Government Takes Strong Morality

ultimatenaofthOur separation of church and state is intended to allow a multiplicity of visions to flourish.

Our system does not claim knowledge of the ultimate nature of things. It does claim to know quite a lot about less-than-ultimate things, not least that we Americans believe we have been endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights. And from this founding principle many others necessarily follow.

Unless you wish to be remembered in the history books as a policy wonk- -a fate no good American can wish upon you–you must not only talk about but must care deeply, truly, passionately about the moral condition of the people. As George Washington reminded us in his Farewell Address, national morality is the “spring of popular government.”

A system such as ours can only function if its people are largely convinced of and act in accord with the high moral dignity and basic spiritual orientation of a democratic republic. On this point, the normally reticent Washington was quite outspoken: “Whatever may be conceded to …

Union-Busting Remains A Very Real Danger

laborrelationsAnti-union activity is prevalent throughout the United States. What was unthinkable thirty years ago has become commonplace, as the business community has lowered its ethical standards to justify the suppression of workers’ rights.

“People have to walk through a mine field in order to organize,” says Richard Bensinger, former director of the AFL-CIO’s Organizing Institute. “It is more in vogue in management circles to brag about being non-union or to bust a union,” Bensinger claims, “than it is to respect the right to organize.”

Employees at Overnite shipping company have been on strike since October of 1999, after five years of systematic efforts by the company to undermine their joining the Teamsters union. The National Labor Relations Board has ruled against Overnite, charging the company with more than one thousand unfair labor practices, noting that they were directed by the “highest level officials” and are “highly coercive” and “have a lasting effect on election conditions.” Overnite has appealed the NLRB decision, which requires the company to pay millions of dollars …