By Christopher Wells
Although his native Canada is far from the Amazon in terms of distance, Bishop Lionel Gendron said there are many similarities between the two. He pointed to the vast dimensions of the two regions, and the important forest ecosystems in both; as well as the presence of numerous indigenous peoples. In an interview with Vatican News, Bishop Gendron, a member of the Sulpician community, said that in both areas we see lack of respect for the land, and lack of respect for the rights of native populations.
At the Synod, Bishop Gendron noted that around half of all mining companies in the world are Canadian; or rather, “they probably are not Canadian, but they fly the flag of Canada”.
He said that the Bishops’ Conference of Canada, with Development and Peace (the Canadian member of Caritas Internationalis) and other non-governmental organizations, have been working to get an ombudsperson or inspector who would have legal authority to investigate what those mining companies are doing in other nations. Such an office would be able to inquire as to whether the actions of such companies are “in line with what a Canadian company should be doing” as far as “respecting the rights of the people, respecting the land” and so on.
Although efforts have been made in the past, the Bishop said, the ombudsperson have not been given real power to investigate, much less to hold companies responsible by requiring them to adjust their practices.
Bishop Gendron emphasized that despite the distance, the experience both of Canada and the Amazon shows that an integral ecological conversion is necessary. “We cannot always be simply consumers, consumers of everything”, he said, noting that our actions have an impact, “a very direct impact” on people’s lives.
It was precisely this need for a “change of hearts” that has been part of the discussion at the Synod, the Bishops said, emphasizing the need to go forward as one Church “because we are one Body, the Body of Christ, and we share the same Spirit”.