Citizens for Public Justice celebrates the past, looks to the future

OTTAWA, ON—A Christian organization dedicated to promoting public justice in Canada is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year with a series of events, special articles and online reflections.

Started in 1963, Citizens for Public Justice (CPJ) has spent the last five decades shaping public policy debates through research and analysis, publishing and public dialogue. The organization aims to encourage citizens and governmental leaders to "support policies and practices which reflect God's call for love, justice and stewardship."

At an event on May 30 at The King's University College in Edmonton, Alberta, John Olthuis—one of CPJ's founders—will talk about his involvement with the organization in the 1970s, when CPJ raised awareness about the environmental and social impacts of a plan that proposed oil and gas pipelines be built through the traditional land of the Dene people in the Mackenzie Valley of the Northwest Territories.

Olthuis will also speak in Calgary on June 3.

CPJ is planning additional events in Vancouver, Winnipeg and Toronto, which will likely take place in September and feature different speakers. CPJ has 1,500 members across Canada, and Joe Gunn, CPJ's current executive director, says people are celebrating in different ways in different cities. The Winnipeg event will focus on ecological justice and feature a talk by Gunn.

In the past, CPJ has worked in the areas of reducing poverty, caring for the environment and advocating for Canada's Aboriginal peoples. Some of this history is documented in reflection articles on the organization's website, www.cpj.ca.

But Gunn says that the organization's 50th anniversary is as much about looking to the future as it is about celebrating the past.

"The big issues for us in the future are really our work on poverty and ecological justice," Gunn says. "That will continue to be the focus in our 50th year and going forward."

He adds that reaching today's generation of young people is important. CPJ is doing that in two key ways: a contest for high school students where the goal is to create a three-minute video in which entrants share their thoughts on a key public issue, such as climate change, poverty or food justice; and an internship program.

"For our 50th year, we're also trying to fundraise so that we can support two interns instead of one," Gunn says.

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Aaron Epp is a Winnipeg-based freelance writer, Musical Routes columnist, and former Senior Correspondent for ChristianWeek.