May 6, 2013
To the faithful of our respective dioceses in the Atlantic Region
Greetings and peace to you in these trying times!
In the past few days, more than perhaps at other times, we have all become more aware of the Employment Insurance Reform (EI Reform) put forward by our government. The policy is not without its critics and it raises particular concern for the population living in the Atlantic Provinces. Our population includes many citizens who are also members of our diocesan churches. Some of the changes put forward will have great impact on our people, particularly those who are seasonal workers and are very dependent on employment insurance to make life more tolerable.
As pastoral leaders, we cannot ignore the hardships and consequences of these changes on members of our churches and on our fellow citizens. We wish therefore, to express our solidarity with them in their struggles and in their suffering, as they face the challenges of making ends meet in difficult economic times. The issues in EI reform are complex. Nevertheless, as pastors it is our duty and responsibility to be pastorally sensitive and of one mind and heart with our brothers and sisters who face the new demands and pressures required to qualify for EI. Not only the members of our parishes and faith communities, but all who are experiencing the impact of difficult economic times, need to be understood and supported.
From the perspective of our Christian convictions, persons who are unemployed are not problems; you are persons with lives, families and responsibilities. Most of you are trying to deal with the realities of daily living as best you can. As religious leaders, as always, we offer our support and encouragement. We believe that it is important for you to be treated with respect, and that you not be submitted to unrealistic regulations to qualify for assistance when it is needed. There is no doubt that some reforms to EI are necessary, especially when the EI system is abused. Still, the present policy’s priorities, it seems to us, should be more focused on the needs of persons, than on the need to cut government costs on the backs of the most vulnerable in our area.
In recent days, voices more qualified in economic affairs than ours have spoken out concerning the impact of EI reforms on the economic development of the Atlantic Provinces and have asked for the EI changes to be studied further. Some have even asked for a halt to the changes. These warnings need to be taken seriously by all concerned. As the pastoral leaders of our respective dioceses, we want to express our concern to our faithful and to reassure you, as well as all of our affected fellow citizens, of our understanding, our support and our solidarity in this struggle for a more compassionate, equitable and fair system of assistance for a significant portion of our population in need. May the Holy Spirit of Wisdom prevail in these difficult times.
Roman Catholic Bishops of the Atlantic Provinces