Canadians Launch Jubilee 2000 Initiative
01 December 1998

Canada's churches recently kicked off their response to a worldwide campaign to lift the poorest countries out of their debt abyss. They held a series of workshops, forums and events on Parliament Hill in Ottawa to mark the launching of the Canadian Ecumenical Jubilee Initiative.


Canada's churches recently kicked off their response to a worldwide campaign to lift the poorest countries out of their debt abyss. They held a series of workshops, forums and events on Parliament Hill in Ottawa to mark the launching of the Canadian Ecumenical Jubilee Initiative. The events took place on the eve of a Commonwealth finance ministers' gathering there.

Jubilee 2000 calls for the remission of the unrepayable debt of the poorest countries. They plan to present the largest-ever petition to the meeting of the G8 industrial nations in Germany in 1999.

'Cancelling the debt will save the lives of literally millions of children,' the Rev Christopher Mwakasega, leader of the Jubilee 2000 campaign in Tanzania, told 350 members of churches, NGO groups, students and supporters. 'This is a matter of life and death for us.'

Other speakers included Roman Catholic Archbishop Marcel Gervais, Anglican Bishop John Baycroft, British economist and writer Susan George and Senator Lois Wilson, former Moderator of the United Church of Canada.

Susan George said that after World War II Germany had been forced to pay 3.5 per cent of its export revenues as reparations. That had been considered almost more than the country could bear. But today more than 20 per cent of some poor countries' export revenues went into servicing their debts.

Bishop Baycroft said that economists were convinced that it was feasible to cancel the debts of the poorest countries. 'I have been persuaded that in the foreseeable future there is a realistic possibility of us making an immense difference,' he commented.

Archbishop Gervais pleaded: 'If we don't develop sight and feel for people of this world, nothing will happen. We will go through the motions perhaps but we won't really invest ourselves. Then there is another step. We have to prevent this from ever happening again.'

Earlier the speakers had met Paul Martin, Canada's Finance Minister, to urge him and the Commonwealth finance ministers to endorse the campaign.

Martin supported the call for wholesale debt forgiveness as a way of kick-starting the development of Third World countries. 'It doesn't make any sense for the poorest countries to be paying more in debt service than... they are able to devote to health care or to clean water,' he said.
Joy Newman


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