Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Stand Up for Justice



The Conservative government of Canada is squirming under public scrutiny of the total boondoggle of the cost of F-35 fighter jets. Originally insisting that the cost to taxpayers would be nine billion dollars, some estimates now stand at forty-five billion, including maintenance over the life of the planes.

It is a couple of years since I presented a letter to the court of Oshawa Presbytery about the Canadian purchase of fighter jets. I co-chair the Mission, Outreach, and Advocacy Committee and part of our mandate is to be a burr under the saddle of governments about issues of social justice. The discussion was lively, and at least one member of the court suggested this was partisan politics, which it was not. In the end we agreed to send the letter to Defence Minister MacKay. Some weeks later we got a "blah, blah, blah, thank you but go away" response. Here is a portion of what we said:

Dear Mr. MacKay

We write as Canadians who have a deep and abiding appreciation of those who  serve in the Canadian military.  We also believe that our military personnel must be well equipped in order to be effective in the  realities of modern warfare and protecting sovereignty.

Nonetheless, we want to express our strong concern about the current  proposal to purchase  F-35 fighter jets.  Our concerns include the lack of a proper tendering process,  the necessity and effectiveness  of these jets in the current realities of NORAD and the prohibitive cost.  Recent reports suggest that the actual price tag for this purchase exceeds the original estimates by billions of dollars

Most of all, we are aware that there are unfulfilled commitments  in other areas of Canadian life which have not yet been addressed by the Canadian government. These include the resolution of land claims and treaty rights with our Aboriginal peoples and the need to provide a reasonable standard of health care,  education, and housing  in Native communities. 

 
When I am labouring over these letters I do wonder at times why we bother. I never thought that we would get a "by golly, you have a point there -- the purchase is off!" reply. But from my perspecitve there are occasions when we just need to stand up and go on the record, to be faithful, even if our efforts seem amusingly quixotic at best, and hopelessly naive at the worst.
What do you think?  Is this Mission, Advocacy, and Outreach stuff a waste of my and our time?  Where you even aware that this is an aspect of my ministry, which you support? Is social justice an important aspect of the United Church of Canada "brand?" Is justice "gospel" or should we stick to bringing people to Christ, to use a phrase more popular in conservative Christian circles? Are political cartoonists the new prophets?


Can there be a decent novel about climate change? http://groundlingearthyheavenly.blogspot.ca/2012/12/flight-behaviour.html 
 

2 comments:

IanD said...

I think the position stated in your letter is one many Canadians share. I also think that most Canadians that think this way would probably wouldn't bother writing that kind of letter, feeling it would go nowhere.

Continue this kind of a-partisan advocacy as not only is its heart in the right place, it also likely inspires others to raise their voice as well.

roger said...

I like the wording of that letter, and as Ian points out, it would undoubtedly be echoed by many Canadians.

I have written many letters to politicians over the years, including a very scathing one to a particular local politician who betrayed our trust(and who has a fondness for expensive orange juice!). Of course I got no reply.

I sometimes wonder if it is worth the bother, however I guess it is better than not saying anything.

I remember back in the 80's, my father wrote so many letters to our prime minister - none of them complimentary - that he ended up getting a Christmas card and the PM's family portrait mailed to him.