Un-Haunted: Leaving Guns Behind in America

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In the end, we didn’t choose a house in the sprawling metropolis that is Waterloo. We took a home in a small rural town just outside the city. It reminds me of rural Pennsylvania: quaint, quiet, with lots of room for the kids to run and play. We can walk to school, the library, and the downtown shops. Kids run our streets playing ball hockey, riding bikes — all unattended by adults.

My friends in this town groan about the fact that due to the new practice of locking school doors, they can’t walk their kids all the way into the building anymore.

“I miss being able to help Olivia take off her coat, hang up her bag, and get her ready for class,” Kirsten tells me.

I nod respectfully, but I’ve never gotten to know what they’re now missing.

I want to be smart about my relief. I know there are certainly many ways my children can get hurt, even here. Still, I’m so grateful that my friends don’t know what I’m missing from life down in the States. I’m so glad that when I drop Noelle and Nathan off at the school doors each morning, I leave un-haunted.

I'm a Canadian Mennonite Living in the States. Who Gets My Allegiance?

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It’s a pretty sweet situation to be in. I’ve been mostly satisfied with my lack of national allegiances.

But I am starting to feel that my neither-here-nor-there status is not the responsible choice for me. This land where I’ve lived for 23 years is my home, and I feel like I need to fully claim that fact. I lingered for a long time on the fringes of this community. Living on the edge is nice because I can keep my hands clean of the messiness of American civic life (and it does get messy), but this also keeps my hands out of the activity of helping clean up the mess and build a stronger nation. My hands aren’t stained with the faults of this country, but neither are they calloused from building it up.

Quebec Bills Aim to Prevent Islamic ‘Radicalization,’ Limit Face-Covering

Photo via REUTERS / Todd Korol / RNS

Imam Syed Soharwardy speaks at a memorial service in Calgary, Alberta, on Oct. 24, 2014. Photo via REUTERS / Todd Korol / RNS

The government of Quebec has introduced two bills, both aimed at Muslims.

The first would attempt to stanch the radicalization of Muslim youth through a 59-point plan that includes expanding the powers of Quebec’s Human Rights Commission to probe hate speech — enhancing training for police and teachers to recognize signs of radicalization, dedicating a police unit to patrol social media, and establishing a hotline staffed by social workers to advise families and friends of suspected extremists.

Canadian Supreme Court Rules Against Prayer at City Council Meetings

Photo via Peregrine981 /  Wikimedia Commons / RNS

The Supreme Court of Canada building. Photo via Peregrine981 / Wikimedia Commons / RNS

Canada’s Supreme Court has ruled that a small town in Quebec may not open its council meetings with prayer.

In a unanimous ruling April 15, Canada’s highest court ruled that the town of Saguenay can no longer publicly recite a Catholic prayer because it infringes on freedom of conscience and religion.

The case dates back to 2007, when a resident of Saguenay complained about public prayer at City Hall.

Just last year, a divided U.S. Supreme Court ruled that legislative bodies such as city councils could begin their meetings with prayer, even if it plainly favors a specific religion.

But the Canadian high court ruled that the country’s social mores have “given rise to a concept of neutrality according to which the state must not interfere in religion and beliefs. The state must instead remain neutral in this regard. This neutrality requires that the state neither favor nor hinder any particular belief, and the same holds true for non belief.”

The court said a nondenominational prayer is still religious in nature and would exclude nonbelievers.

Mapping the Reach of Canadian Mining

In Emilie Teresa Smith’s cover story "Oh, Canada!" (Sojourners, May 2015), she describes the results of Canadian mining practices around the world, which include murder, kidnapping, and the destruction of sacred lands. The map below shows just how widespread Canadian mining operations are. There have been moments of success—for instance, a Canadian court ruled that the company Hudbay could be held legally responsible for gang rapes and murders of members of the Indigenous Mayan Q'eqchi' population at its former mine in Guatemala. But the battle to end destructive mining is far from over, and there are many more battles ahead. 

Zoom into this interactive map to capture the scope of mining: More than 2,000 mining projects in 31 countries, generating more than 200 local conflicts. 

Where is the closest mine to you?

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Canada's Shameful Exports

CANADIAN MINING companies have left a trail of destruction around the world—mostly in places where people are poor and vulnerable.

The earliest conflicts caused by Canadian mining exploded in Guatemala in the early 1960s when the nickel company Inco dug into the northern mountainside of Guatemala’s largest freshwater lake, Lago Izabal. Almost 155 square miles of traditional Kekchi-Maya land was expropriated to create Inco’s Exmibal mine. As the region descended into bitter war, Guatemalan oligarchs and their military, with the support of Canadian-mining and U.S. geopolitical interests, exterminated all popular dissent. Dozens of Kekchi leaders were killed or disappeared; four prominent leaders who had published a report condemning the Inco-Exmibal deals were brutally assaulted and two of them assassinated. The Exmibal mine operated for three years before Inco abandoned it, never paying a nickel in royalties to Guatemala.

Meanwhile, in the Philippines, Vancouver-based Placer Dome arrived on Marinduque Island and sunk in a filthy copper mine. Over the next three decades, Placer Dome operated the Marcopper mine, devastating the local environment and its communities. From 1975 to 1991, Placer Dome dumped 200 metric tons of toxic waste into Calancan Bay, and in March 1996 a massive rupture from the tailings pond flooded 60 villages with toxic waste, permanently destroying community lands, rice fields, and shrimp marshes. The Boac River was declared dead, and the U.N. pronounced it a major environmental disaster. The entire Marcopper mine project was abandoned; no major attempt at clean-up ever took place. In 2006, Placer Dome was taken over by the giant, Toronto-based Barrick Gold, one of the world’s largest mining companies. In 2008, the provincial government of Marinduque began a lawsuit, but Barrick has fussed and delayed, dragging the court case on endlessly.

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An Enormous Sponge

The following reflection is a sidebar for "A Watershed Moment" by Ched Myers.—The Editors

I WORK FOR Kairos Canada, and we are trying to build in Canada and globally an ecumenical movement for transformative change in the areas of ecological justice and human rights. We particularly focus on the impacts of resource extraction on Indigenous communities.

For example, the Athabasca watershed is an enormous sponge that stretches north to the Arctic Ocean. Right in the middle of it is the Alberta tar sands, from which bitumen (a form of heavy oil) is extracted. We don’t know what kind of destruction is being left behind, because we can’t get verifiable, systematic, cumulative studies of the environmental impacts of this 40-year-old project.

What we do know is that traditional ways of life of the Indigenous peoples of the area have been disrupted. I’ve had elders tell me they can’t eat the meat they hunt, because when they butcher the animal the interior organs look really strange. They could be gathering berries or fishing, but because they live in a watershed that’s downstream from this incredible petrochemical industry, they’re terrified to eat it. So they have to eat flown-in food that’s alien to their culture, that’s bad for them, and that they can’t afford.

We have a responsibility to use the Earth’s wealth relationally, not exploitatively. For us in Canada, watershed discipleship in the churches focuses on right relationship with the land and with Indigenous peoples.

Sara Stratton lives in the Humber-Don watershed in Toronto.

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