Congregation of Notre Dame Sisters join in efforts to raise the alarm over destructive practices in the Alberta Tar Sands

MONTREAL – The Congregation of Notre Dame, which has over 1,000 members and a presence in eight countries around the world, has joined in efforts to raise questions about the oil extraction process taking place in the Alberta Tar Sands.  Alerted to the pressing nature of the issue by a Pastoral Letter from Roman Catholic Bishop Luc Bouchard of the Diocese of St. Paul (January 25th, 2009), the community prepared letters of support for Bishop Bouchard from four parts of its organization including the General Conference of the Congregation, which constitutes leadership representation from each of the organization’s provinces (divisions).  “We saw this as a very important issue, and we were very thankful to Bishop Bouchard for his vision and courage in writing the pastoral letter, so we wanted to express that from as many sources as possible”, said Sister Sheila Sullivan, member of the Congregational Leadership Team and liaison to the Congregation’s Social Justice Network. 
The sisters are concerned that large scale production is continuing to expand in the oil sands, despite the fact that several problems remain unsolved.  Serious concerns regarding environmental degradation and injustice to indigenous peoples and others in the region are being raised by Bishop Bouchard, First Nations, and groups like KAIROS, the Pembina Institute, Tar Sands Watch and the Polaris Institute. 
Sister Mary Corbett, CND representative to the NGO Forum of the United Nations and member of the Advisory Committee to the Visitation Province’s office on Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation (JPIC), explained that “getting involved in the Tar Sands made sense to us, as it brought together many issues that we had set as a priority for our work:  the environment, specifically extractive industries and the climate crisis, indigenous peoples, the vulnerable and those living in poverty, especially those who are trafficked.  It also links into our work for peace.  We had looked at this issue before, but since reading the pastoral letter we realized just how many problems may stem from this industry.  This topic also gives us an opportunity to speak about what we are working towards:  living in right relationship with creation and each other and building a peaceful future.” 
The CND is continuing with Tar Sands work through the JPIC office’s development of a workshop that links faith and questions that arise from the implications of the Tar Sands production.  The workshop is being presented across Canada to groups of Sisters and Associates and other interested groups, particularly youth in the church.  The CND community is currently spreading the word about its Tar Sands work and seeking out groups who are interested in hosting a workshop and/or forming a network of religious communities taking action on this issue. 

Source: Monica Lambton, Coordinator