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In advance of Wednesday’s federal throne speech, Winnipeggers who want Ottawa to create a universal basic income, plan to hold a prayer vigil at the St. Boniface office of cabinet minister Dan Vandal.
"There’s a rumour (universal basic income) will be in the throne speech," said Lorraine MacKenzie Shepherd, minister at Westworth United Church, who is organizing Tuesday’s event.
It will feature prayers from different faith traditions and comments from speakers who believe a basic income will help Canada’s poorest citizens.
MacKenzie Shepherd said the pandemic has been a "tremendous challenge" for many but it is also an opportunity.
"The pandemic has made more people aware of the many Canadians who are vulnerable," she said. "It has shaken us up and maybe made us more open to trying new things that once were sealed off from discussion."
People of faith should attend the vigil since it is a way to "put their faith into action," she said.
"As a Christian, I take my guidance from Jesus and the mandate he gave for his ministry to proclaim good news to the poor," she said. "Following Jesus means I need to be concerned for those who are marginalized."
Participants in the vigil are asked to take a candle, wear a mask and observe social distancing guidelines.
Those who can’t make it are invited to light a candle at home or work during the day or evening and post a photo on social media, tagging Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and #UCCanlivableincome.
The Winnipeg vigil is one of a number being organized across the country by the United Church of Canada.
"Building on the positive experience of the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit, this is a unique opportunity to make an important policy change to ensure greater income security for all Canadians," the church said in a statement.
"A guaranteed livable income program would address the inequities that exist within the present wage and social benefit structures in our country," it went on to say, adding "particular attention should address the barriers experienced by Indigenous peoples in accessing relief programs related to COVID-19."
The Anglican Church of Canada and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada also support the call for a universal basic income.
The prayer vigil at Vandal’s office is scheduled for 12:30 p.m.
John Longhurst has been writing for Winnipeg's faith pages since 2003. He also writes for Religion News Service in the U.S., and blogs about the media, marketing and communications at Making the News.
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