OTTAWA – Immigration Minister Jason Kenney will address the annual Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) plenary in late September, offering an opportunity for frank dialogue on controversial issues.
Members of the Development and Peace Facebook group leaked a notice of the meeting July 22 and began proposing questions for the minister.
The questions posted range from concerns about budget cuts to KAIROS and more recently to Development and Peace, to recent reductions in health care benefits for some refugee claimants.
Both Kenney's office and the CCCB have confirmed the minister will address the plenary.
"Minister Kenney routinely meets with different ethnic, religious, and cultural communities across Canada," said his press secretary Alexis Pavlich.
"He looks forward to meeting with the CCCB – which he has not yet done – to discuss recent changes to Canada's immigration and refugee system as well as other relevant topics of interest to the bishops."
CCCB General Secretary Msgr. Pat Powers said Kenney would address the bishops during the plenary Sept. 24-28 in St. Adele, Quebec.
His talk, however, will not take place when the bishops' meetings are open to invited guests and accredited media.
"It is not unusual that ministers, even premiers, meet with regional Catholic bishops or presidents of the conference," said Powers. "Those meetings are always private and off-the-record."
Kenney, who is Catholic, has not always had a smooth relationship with the Catholic bishops in his role as immigration minister.
Relations seemed to reach a low in Dec. 2010, when he blasted an open letter from the CCCB's justice and peace commission that criticized Bill C-49, the previous anti-human smuggling bill then before the House of Commons.