Author: admin

Lifespan Corner: Your guide to 2022-2023 programming at UCV

Fall is upon us dear friends, and I hope to see many more of you in the next few months, may health prevail! The past three years have been a deep disruption in our lives and while many of you have been present in-person for Sunday worship, events, or small groups, I still talk with one or two people most Sundays who are coming back for the very first time in two-and-a-half years.  

This is a time of restarting, of renewal, of re-building our trust and belief in each other, in Unitarianism, and in this place we call home to our hearts and souls. Many of us are craving deep connections, meaning, and reassurance that we matter and that we belong here together. This year we are leaning into Covenant, into trust, and into building community anew.  

Olivia and I, your Lifespan Faith staff, have worked hard this summer to plan programs and opportunities for people of many ages, life stages, needs, and interests. My hope is for small groups, classes, and circles to thrive and nurture the deep connections gained in intimate spaces. 

To support and strengthen connections and to find your place in the sea of possibilities you can do the following: 

Join, Create, or Register a Small Group 

Do you want to connect with 6-12 people around a theme, interest, creative endeavor, or spiritual question?  

Do you already organize, facilitate or participate in a Small Group, Book Discussion, Circle, or regular small gathering in-person at UCV or through UCV Zoom?  Tell us about it with this form: 

Join one of our 2022 UU Wellspring groups: spiritual deepening for the UU Soul 

UU Wellspring is a unique 10-month small group program offered in a multi-platform setting. The twice a month, 2-hour sessions offer participants an opportunity for spiritual deepening that leads to more joyful living, increased confidence in Unitarian identity, and faithful justice making in their lives and in their communities.  

Read more about, and register for, Wellspring Sources and our shorter courses, Sacred Earth Reads and UU Wellspring for Young Adults on our website here. 

Stay tuned to our weekly and monthly newsletters  

We have plans for a Unitarian Elders Circle, a discussion circle on Tolerance and our First Principle, ongoing Death Café discussions, Community Dinners, Family Potlucks, and Vespers Circle Worship.  If you can help lift any of these endeavors off the ground, please be in touch with Kiersten and Derrick. 

Children and Youth Program Registration 

For all new and returning families, all children must be registered so that we have vital information about parent/guardians, children’s needs, photo permissions or restrictions, and so we can maintain appropriate child/adult ratios in the classroom. 

Register your child/ren for the 2022-23 Program Year at  

Read on to know what you are registering them for! 

Sunday Morning Programs 

Everyone starts in the service together and Kids leave to do their program after the story. Programs run a little longer than service so parents can enjoy coffee hour. 


Pray ground (Sanctuary friendly – floor zone)

small child and teen work on a puzzle together. Sitting on a gold carpet in the sunlight with pillows.

The pray ground allows parents to be present in worship with their children, it is up front because that is the best place for kids to see what is going on, be engaged as they are able, and teaches them that they belong here. They are safe in a loving community. It is designed for those who need to be near their parents for any reason. 

Our pray ground is the area at the very front of the sanctuary on the right side, with our teen volunteers ready to quietly play during worship or outside if needed. It has carpets and pillows, colouring and stuffies, board books and fidget toys! This zone is designed for those who are too wriggly to sit in a chair for an hour and not ready or willing to join a program. Children who are going to go to a program can hang out here until they are sung out, and those who are not able or don’t want to leave their parents can stay all service comfortably near their parents. 

Superhero Academy 

silhouette of muscled superhero with a cape on a primary color blocked background with sound effect words "wow" and "pow!" Title reads "Superhero Academy coming soon"

Focus: play-based learning about justice, covenant, and community 

Age: 5-9 (grades K-4) 

Time and place: 11:15-12:15 in person at UCV 

Are you a fan of the Teen Titans or Black Panther? Or are you more interested in learning about your values through playing games with new friends? Superhero Academy is our children’s group for this year, and you’re all invited!  


Crossing Paths   

Focus: understanding the religious and spiritual practices of our neighbours and ourselves 

Age: 10-12 (grades 5-7) 

Time and place: 11:15-12:15 in-person at UCV; also includes fieldtrips once a month to other houses of worship in our community (carpool/transit buddies can be arranged) 

Crossing Paths is a core program for UU children. We invite kids beginning to question life-death-and-the-beyond to join with us in exploring many faith traditions and how they relate to our own. We start with Unitarian Universalism and aim to cover many other traditions practiced in our area, from Buddhism to Islam to Paganism to Coast Salish spirituality. This year’s program is a continuation of last spring’s program, which already spent time on Judaism and Christianity. However, there is no need to have attended last year to attend this year.  


Special Program Registration 

Special programs take place at different times outside of Sunday morning. They are often specific to a peer cohort of similar age. They aim to build community within UCV, work on justice in the community at large, and build deep connection to values and identity. Youth may join on their own regardless of parent involvement or membership.  The Our Whole Lives program does have a required parent orientation. 


Coming of Age  

Focus: UU identity and our community 

Age: 12-13 

Register here:  

Time and place: twice a month for two hours each, exact time tbd; in person at UCV 

Coming of Age is a core program for UU kids as they become youth. A group of bridging-in youth become a close-knit community as they ask themselves “what is Unitarian Universalism and why does it matter to us?” UCV elders and our facilitators work with participants to learn what they receive from community, what they give back, and how communities practice their values.  


Youth Group  

Focus: covenant, worship, games, exploration, justice – everything chosen by youth! 

Age: 13-18 or currently in high school 

Contact Olivia Hall: 

Time and place: 1-3 pm Sunday afternoons in person at UCV; also sometimes includes sleepovers on Saturday nights, fieldtrips, and discord game times 

How to possibly describe youth group? Youth group is fun because teens hanging out is fun! Youth group dives deep because teens dive deep! Youth group is led by teens alongside adult advisors in a safe and supported space to be themselves, be weird, find purpose, and give back. This group is open to all teens connected (however loosely) to UCV. You’re always welcome here. 


Bridger’s Program  

Focus: preparing our oldest youth for the transitions in their lives 

Age: 16-19, or gr 11, 12, and first year post high school 

Contact Olivia Hall: 

Time and place: two Mondays a month 7-9 pm in person at UCV; also some sleepovers 

Unitarians call the process of moving from youth to young adulthood “Bridging”, the symbol of moving into a new life stage. We create a metaphorical bridge to existing in the world and as a Unitarian with more autonomy and shared responsibility. 

Bridger’s Program is a small group for our oldest youth who have been part of UCV or a neighbouring congregation for a while. Two Wednesdays a month, and some sleepovers, we will gather to be with each other in this time of transition. Our leaders help youth to plan post-secondary endeavors (What’s a bursary? What’s a course requirement? How do I fill out my application? Do I even want to keep going to school?), read through Wellspring Youth Sources (What are our UU sources? What spiritual practices keep me grounded? How do I take care of myself and others?), and lead our OWL program (What’s a healthy sexual relationship? How do I make space for my own gender and sexual identity?). And it’s fun.  


OWL for Senior High (gr 11-12)  

Focus: trans and queer affirming sexuality education 

Age: gr 11 and 12 

Register Here:  

Time and place: one Monday a month 7-9 in person at UCV; some Saturday evenings as well 

Cost: pay-what-you-can sliding scale, $25-$125; no one will be denied due to lack of funds, no payment is required 

Our Whole Lives Sexuality Education is a program used by UUs and other denominations all over the place to support us at all stages of our lives. The grade 11-12 program focusses on sexual health, lifespan sexuality, building healthy sexual relationships, and sexuality and social issues. Our three leaders (two of whom are queer adults themselves) are trained through the program. Our group this year is a majority queer group of amazing teens. Though OWL is offered through UCV, it’s a secular program. Gr 11-12 OWL is part of our Bridger’s Program for older youth, but youth are able to do this part separately without joining the Bridger’s Program. Please join us! 


In the Interim: Welcome back from summer!

“I was so shocked to learn that the opposite of belonging is fitting in. Because fitting in is assessing a group of people and changing who you are. But true belonging never asks us to change who we are. It demands we be who we are.” – Brené Brown

Welcome back from Summer!

I hope the warm months were nourishing in many ways.  For me, the break was a perfect blend of activity, adventure, personal and spiritual growth, relaxation and preparation for returning refreshed and excited about our year ahead.  This is our final year of interim ministry together, and I am looking forward to moving deeply into the final stages of helping UCV to prepare for its next settled ministry, as well as simply being here with you and for you as your minister.

As we move into this new year together, I want to share with you the 3 Program Priorities that we will all be working towards together through the many ministries of UCV.

  1. Embodying our Covenant.
    Drawing from great suggestions from the Board report and the DMTF report as well as other sources, a variety of activities, presentations, materials and programs will be geared towards building trust, dealing with past and present conflicts, learning about communication tools and building community relationship. The Healthy Relations Team and Ministerial Transitions Team will be working together to engage the congregation in many ways.
  1. Enacting the 8th Principle.
    This will include multiple ways for people to engage in anti-racism and anti-oppression learning and work at many levels, from beginner to advanced. Building on the Widening the Circle, Bystander Intervention Training, Book groups, Giving up Racism for Lent and more that was available this past year. The goal is to incorporate the essence of this new Principle into the body of UCV’s ministry, considering and reviewing whether current practices and culture inadvertently perpetuate systems of oppression, colonization and marginalization, and offering consistent messaging and learning about what we can do differently.
  1. Exploring Landscapes of Ageing.
    Lifespan faith development will continue to support family programming, and will also increase opportunities for specific topics and experiences more relevant to our older demographic. This group has had a harder time engaging in online communications and may be feeling more disconnected or under- served, also considering how much has changed during the past couple of years. An example are the two “Death Cafe” gathering that were held in June and August.

These program priorities are in alignment with the Board’s Strategic Priorities and the vision of UCV. The will help to transform the culture of UCV, build stronger volunteer engagement, increase membership, encourage fiscal stewardship and promote Legacy giving.  Look for opportunities to become involved and to lean into these goals to build this community together.


From our Soul Matters theme of Belonging

You hardly knew
how hungry you were
to be gathered in,
to receive the welcome that invited you to enter entirely…
You began to breathe again… You learned to sing. 

But the deal with this blessing is that it will not leave you alone, will not let you linger…
this blessing
will ask you to leave,
not because it has tired of you but because it desires for you to become the sanctuary that you have found… 

– Jan Richardson 

Richardson begins with hunger. And so do we. Just saying the word “belonging” conjures it up: The primal hunger to be included; the longing to be let in. No one likes standing outside the circle. No one likes leaning against the locked door listening while everyone is laughing inside. From the time we are little, belonging is the thing we seek. It’s the hoped for Holy Grail. The promised resting place.

But Richardson will have none of that. Our own belonging is only the beginning. That’s what she wants us to know. One minute she’s wrapping us in comforting words about settling in and allowing ourselves to finally breathe. The next she’s shaking us awake and telling us to get up and go.

That shaking should tell us something.

In other words, this is no gentle invitation, friends. No sweet reminder to think of others. It’s a warning. A desperate hope that we will wake to the fact that there are two kinds of belonging: one that wants to bless us and another that wants to enlist us.

Deep down we know this. The hard part is to remember it. To use Richardson’s language, if we find ourselves being invited to linger rather than leave, alarm bells should go off. We need to be weary of those who welcome us with a club jacket and a soft couch. They may have let us in, but soon they will enlist us into the work of keeping others out. There will likely even be a part of us that wants to keep others out. After all, closed circles don’t just set us apart, they sit us above.

But they also keep us small. Maybe this is why Richardson’s blessing is so intent on not leaving us alone. It knows that we only grow when the circle does. Circles that keep others out also keep the air out. No one inside a closed circle truly sings; they only suffocate, slowly.

It’s all one big reminder that the true blessing of belonging is not that you get to come inside the circle; it’s that you get to participate in expanding it. Again, as the circle grows so do we.

In this month of “Belonging”  I offer you these questions for reflection:

  1. How does the assurance of belonging most often enter your body? Through words? Touch? Silence? Song? Solitude? Nature? Creative expression? Prayer? Memory?
  2. What one change in your UU church community would increase your sense of belonging?
  3. If someone asked you, “How do you belong to the land?”, what would you answer?

This month’s theme of “Belonging” has had me reflecting a lot about where I belong and who my people are, and I truly feel it is you, the UCV members, friends and community, to whom I belong and who are “my people” in so many ways.  I am grateful to be here with you during this special, transitional time, and will embrace all of the opportunities this coming year offers as your minister.  With that in mind, I want to share with you this somewhat anecdotal and evolving list for your reference as encouragement and invitation to you to reach out to me.

When to Call the Minister?

  • When you haven’t met me yet, but would like to.
  • When you have problems to discuss—about anything.
  • When a sympathetic ear might help.
  • When you’re going in the hospital or know someone else who is.
  • When someone close to you dies or is critically ill.
  • When you’re planning to be married, or thinking about it.
  • When you return from vacation and want to reconnect.
  • When one of your children graduates from university or moves away.
  • When you have a child to be dedicated.
  • When you’re pregnant but wish you weren’t.
  • When you’ve been arrested, or ought to be.
  • When you want to learn more about Unitarian Universalism.
  • When you’re scared or feeling unsure about who to talk with.
  • When you’d like to plan for a bequest to the church.
  • When you’re considering joining the congregation.
  • When a friend of your wants to know more about our faith.
  • When you have suggestions about the programs for the congregation.
  • When you have suggestions for worship services.
  • When you’d like to help with any congregational activities.
  • When you want to discuss community issues.
  • When you’re mad at me.
  • When you’d like to talk religion with me.
  • When you are considering end-of-life issues.
  • When you want to reflect on a meaningful question or even in your life.
  • Call early, call often!

With warmest blessings,

Rev. Lara Cowtan

Interim Minister, Vancouver Unitarians

What do we call ourselves – summary of June 2022 survey


A paper copy of the WDWCO survey was handed out at the Sunday services of June 19 and 26. After June 26, the survey went online with the submission deadline of 06 July 2022. 122 people responded – 81 by paper, and 41 online. 103 were members, 16 were friends, and 3 were visitors.



All Respondents (n = 122)
Very Positive Moderately Positive Neutral Moderately Negative Very Negative No Answer
Keep Current Name 20% 17% 15% 30% 16% 2%
If I Have My choice of a name 53% 23% 14% 4% 6% 0%
Keep Acronym UCV 22% 39% 22% 7% 8% 2%
Unitarian Campus of Van. 5% 7% 9% 30% 41% 7%
Unitarian Centre of Van. 21% 25% 11% 18% 16% 8%
Unitarian Community of Van. 37% 22% 15% 8% 15% 3%
Unitarian Congregation of Van. 24% 29% 17% 16% 10% 5%
Vancouver Unitarians 39% 25% 18% 7% 7% 4%

*Positive means willing, satisfied, important. *Negative means unwilling, dissatisfied, unimportant




While some wish to retain “Church” and others don’t, many expressed a willingness for a name change if it is in the best interests of our future viability.


Love for our spiritual community:

Steven Epperson’s very clear statement at the New U in a Day session in November 2010 that Unitarians are people who form spiritual communities with ”no dogma and no hierarchy” made me want to join UCV, and I signed the membership book at the end of the session that day.

We need younger members – what would connect with this group?  I realize my choice may not be chosen.  But I hope that our wonderful group will remain for 100 more years.

I am new to this community and love the work that is being done here.  I do feel slightly uncomfortable saying “church” so I do not use it when describing where I am on Sundays. Perhaps a name change would entice other younger and possibly those who are racialized or minorities to join.


Love for the WDWCO Task Force:

Thank you for undertaking this survey. I hope you get a lot of responses and I look forward to seeing the results.

 Many thanks to you all – Eva, Louise, Sheila, Carrie, and John – for doing this important work.

 Good work.  Carry on.

 Thank you! I hope enough people complete this survey in time.

 I am very grateful for this opportunity.  Many thanks to the careful wording of this request.

 Excellent survey!

Thank you for asking and for your work!

No love from one survey participant – This survey is manipulative because it assumes name change is happening and hence is worthless.


Love for Church as our name:

 We’re a church.  It’s a flexible word.  It’s a social contract.  It feels weaselly to drop it; like we’re happy to enjoy all the privileges churches have without having to carry the baggage.  Will a more neutral term attract newcomers?  Maybe.  Will it disproportionally attract people who want to escape the work of examining privilege and dismantling systems of oppression by congratulating ourselves that “we’re not like THOSE guys” and rolling gaily on?  Maybe.

 The word ‘church’ helps identify us to others.  What’s more, it translates into French easily.

I am just fine with Unitarian Church of Vancouver. If it ain’t broke, why fix it?

 It’s extremely important to me that spirituality remain at the forefront of our name and activities.  Social action, arts, etc., are integral but not central. “Church” says spiritual/religion to me.  The other names do not.

 If we cease to call ourselves a church, are we still self-identifying as a religion?

 The only “C” word that makes sense to me is “Church.”  The other options all have different meanings to different people.  Either keep Church or don’t, but don’t try to make something fit that doesn’t.

 I’m not unsatisfied with the word “church” being used but I do find myself explaining that we are non-denominational, not “Christian Church” but welcome diverse orientations to faith and belief systems.


Love for a change to our name:

Do not like Church.

I’m strongly in favour of changing the name to something I feel is more appropriate for today.  Mostly I want the word ‘church’ gone.

I am in favour of losing “church” and very open to whatever people are comfortable with.

Please think outside the box.  There are too many long-time members who don’t want to let go of the church.  It alienates and confuses so many people.  if you want to be relevant to newer generations, to survive (I don’t see it ever thriving), you need to move away from “church.

The word “church” could be a barrier for indigenous community.

I think it is important to not use the word “church” – mostly because there are a number of members, I’ve spoken with who really cannot abide this word.

I strongly support a change from “church” – it denotes a Christian denomination which we are not.  Also, some people may have had negative experiences with Christian churches so this word may not be welcoming/appropriate for them.

The only proposed “C” word to replace Church that denotes a religious community  and one that is not necessarily Christian is Congregation (“a group of people regularly attending a particular place of worship”), so I vote in favour of this new version of UCV.

Please register as a concern that the current legal name almost put me off joining UCV.  It most likely has put off many potential members from even visiting UCV.

I have a negative association with church type words such as church, congregation, worship, praise…I feel a visceral sense of discomfort. I know that if I do, so do many others, thus it is a barrier not a draw.  How can we do better?

If UCV changes to any of the above suggestions I will seriously consider changing my status from ‘friend’ to ‘member.’


Name preferences:

VERY WILLING to change our legal name to a name I agree with and I am VERY UNWILLING to change it to a name I object to.

Why not include Universalist in the name?  Unitarian Universalists of Vancouver. 

If we are going to change our name, it should be updated to reflect the theology (UU).  A search for “Unitarian” finds a very different  definition than Unitarian Universalists.  People should know who we are by our name. Unitarian Universalist Church of Vancouver or Unitarian Universalists of Vancouver. 

The other proposed “C” words – Campus, Community, and Centre – can refer to many types of non-religious communities and so will not identify us as a religious/faith community.  This is why they are not acceptable choices to me (and the word Unitarian does not to many people denote a religious community because they do not know that Unitarian refers to a distinct religion with its own principles and practices.)

Congregation has spiritual, democratic, and community connotations.

My personal favourite is Unitarian Congregation of Vancouver.  Congregation is a word used by both Christian and non-Christian groups.

Community is a word widely used, understood and appreciated.  It is suggestive of “people together,” an entity with “things in common.”  Congregation is less well appreciated and understood. What it implies is anything but clear.  It has references to conventional religious traditions that are not who we are.

I hate Vancouver Unitarians!  It’s not a huge deal and I don’t want to outweigh, the many voices who like it, but to me it doesn’t say the right thing to the wider world.  Religious communities have a sense of gravitas, and that name doesn’t do that at all. To me it makes us sound like a club rather than a religious institution, which I think sends the wrong message to people in the community about what we’re about.

I think “campus” is misleading.

If we are called Van Unitarians, what do we call the place where we gather for a service? I don’t feel comfortable with Sanctuary.

I think it’s important to include a reference to our physical space in our name.  How to answer questions such as “Where will the memorial service be held?”  The buildings are a strong part of our identity and should be reflected in the name.  I think “Centre” accomplishes that.

Like Vancouver Unitarians re the group but less easy re the place.

“Temple” is a religion specific term denoting a space of sacred organizing and community ritual or practice.  It’s more specific to what happens here than the other options presented.  Has it been discussed?  Also, should we lose ”Vancouver” in favour of something decolonizing?

My only concern in changing the name is the cost of changing out any signage, stationary, concrete, placards, etc.  however, if changing the name will assist in broadening and diversifying the congregation, it will be worth the incremental cost.  It should be a well-supported new name, though. It would be ironic to me if the change drove more people away than it attracted, particularly if the diversity of the congregation were not improved. 

It’s funny, fundamentalist Xtians sects are also dropping the word “church” because it’s too pagan and/or insufficiently biblical?  That’s why you see so much “Assembly of Christ” and ”Congregation of Christ” when you’re driving through the hinterlands.  Whee!

Should you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact us at

Pivot Legal Society: Our latest Outreach Opportunities Fund recipient

The next OOF recipient will be Pivot Legal Society (July 2022-October 2022).

The work of Pivot Legal Society is rooted in the belief that  poverty and social exclusion are not inevitable.

In 2001, Pivot opened its doors in response to a health and human rights crisis in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. Since then, it has worked in partnership with marginalized people and grassroots organizations to challenge legislation, policies, and practices that undermine human rights, intensify poverty, and perpetuate stigma. Pivot strategically focuses its efforts on the most tangible human rights in order to improve the immediate situation of the people it works with, while creating lasting change that resonates across the country.

Here are some of Pivot’s accomplishments:

  • Protected the constitutional rights of sex workers by successfully challenging federal legislation that puts their lives in danger.
  • Worked with vulnerable people who use drugs to breakdown legal barriers to life-saving harm reduction and drug substitution treatments.
  • Supported victims of police misconduct and excessive force to stand up for their rights and spark changes in policing practice.
  • Helped homeless people secure important legal decisions confirming their right to shelter themselves from the elements and make equal use of public space.


Pivot is currently working with other organizations to end the cyclical displacement and criminalization of poverty  in Vancouver.  Click here for more information.


Introducing our new Forums Coordinator

Eva Allan is our new Forums Coordinator! 

If your group would like to sponsor a Forum, please contact Eva with your preferred date(s)/time(s), the space needed (Sanctuary/Hewett/Fireside/other), and whether any tech support is needed. Eva will manage the bookings and liaise with staff and will get back to you to confirm plans. This will reduce the number of calls from congregants to individual staff members about availabilities. The groups sponsoring Forums will have some way of covering any extra staff costs involved (eg. caretaker or tech support).

Email: Phone: 604-738-4062

Big thanks to Eva!!

Introducing UCV’s Ministerial Nomination Search Committee

On May 22, UCV Board President Bruce McIvor introduced our new Ministerial Search Committee to the congregation as part of Sunday service. The members of the Search Committee are, in alphabetical order: John Boyle, Diane Brown, Carrie Mac, Esme Mac-Demers (alternate), Jenny Malcolm, Michael O’Neil, Nancy Woodham, and Meena Wong.

Here is an abridged transcript of Bruce McIvor’s remarks introducing the Search Committee:

I’m very honoured to be part of such a wonderful group of hardworking volunteers working on behalf of the congregation. It’s an important day, and it’s an important year for this congregation, because we will be choosing a new settled minister and how important that is for all of us and for the future.

We had 14 wonderful nominees who put their names forward, and I just want to say they really reflected the strength of this congregation. Any one one of them would’ve been a fantastic member of our Search Committee. I want to thank everyone for putting their names forward as nominees. Then we had a vote. After the vote, the Board met. The four nominees with the most votes were the first four who were going to be on the Search Committee.

Then, based on the policy we relied on from the UUA, the Board made a decision to add three more of the nominees to the Search Committee based on the criteria and to ensure diversity and inclusivity to reflect this congregation. And then we did something additional, because we all know how important it is for youth to be represented and reflected in our processes. The Board made a decision to add an eighth member to the committee – a youth member who will serve as an alternate. It’s important to note that she’ll be an alternate, but she will be a full member of the committee with equal responsibilities and standing. The only difference is she will only vote, when and if there’s a requirement to vote, if someone else on the Search Committee has to withdraw. I’m really, really proud that we have youth on the Search Committee.

Importantly, there were Board members who were nominated for the Search Committee; they took no part in the process of selecting the committee. Now that the Search Committee has been commissioned, it will operate independently of the Board. The Search Committee is the entire congregation’s Search Committee.

Congratulations to you all.


(Photo: Screenshot from the May 22 Sunday service, with Board members and Search Committee members joining Rev. Lara Cowtan on stage in front of the congregation.)

May 23rd is Komagata Maru Remembrance Day

May 23rd is Komagata Maru Remembrance Day

by Hisako Masaki

On May 23rd, 1914, Komagata Maru, a ship from Hong Kong carrying 376 passengers arrived in Vancouver. However, these migrants, originally from Punjab, mostly Sikh British military veterans, were denied landing. After two months of discussions between the governments, immigration officers, activists and lawyers, all passengers, except twenty-two who had previously lived in Canada, were denied entry. At the time, Canada was inviting immigrants from Europe to build a ‘White Canada’. Asians had been invited to provide cheap labour in building the country, but policies had been established to exclude Asian immigrants. Komagata Maru used to be a German ship which brought many immigrants from Europe to Canada, But after it was purchased by a Japanese company and chartered by an Indian businessman to bring South Asians, it became the first ship of migrants to be turned away from Canada.

In British Columbia, Chinese labourers were recruited to build the railroad in the late 19c. Then, Japanese labourers were recruited to work in mines. As many industries continued to recruit Asian labourers, Asian migrants increased. However, their presence angered white workers who feared them taking jobs and white residents who wanted to keep their city white. After the railroad’s completion in 1885, the Chinese head tax was introduced to limit the migrants from China. Migrants from India started arriving in 1903, filling the drop of Chinese labourers caused by the head tax. However, as the unemployment rate rose, British Columbia pushed harsher Asian exclusion policies. The amount of Chinese head tax was increased, and after the 1907 Vancouver Race Riot, Canada made the Japanese government limit the number of immigrants by the 1908 Gentlemen’s agreement. To limit South Asian immigrants, the entry requisite was increased to $200 and the Continuous Journey regulation was added to the Immigration Act.

The Continuous Journey regulation required the migrants to come straight from their country of origin to enter Canada. Purchase of tickets from India to Canada was forbidden to Indians, and the ship from India to Canada was cancelled. The regulation was so successful, that few South Asians migrated to Canada after. This regulation also denied entries to the Japanese migrating through Hawaii, while European immigrants were allowed to come through other countries.

People of British India believed they were entitled to equal rights and free travel within the British Empire as British subjects. However, in reality, they experienced harsh racism.

After British Empire abolished slavery in 1838, Indians took over slave-like indentured labour across the British Empire. They had been told that the British Empire was their mother/father who looked after them. Indians, especially Punjabi Sikhs, served in the British military and police, and many were proud British subjects. However, the unfair treatment in the British Empire pushed them to start the movement demanding equality. India’s independence movement was also building up as a way to end oppression. Racism in North America, especially the Continuous Journey regulation in British Columbia, provoked resistance.

In Hong Kong, inspired and supported by the local and international South Asian community, Gurdit Singh, a Punjabi businessman, chartered Komagata Maru to challenge Canada’s Continuous Journey policy. The British subjects from Punjab boarded the ship to immigrate to Canada. Challenging Canada’s unfair immigration policy in court was discussed in Indian communities in Asia, Canada and the United States. When the ship reached the port of Vancouver, the passengers could not land. Being denied entry to Canada, they had to stay on the water. However, on the shore, the Indian Shore Committee was formed at the Sikh temple to fight against the government demanding British subjects’ right of entry. The Indian community in Vancouver provided all the support for the passengers, including payment for provisions and other necessary funds.

A lawyer was hired to fight in the court, insisting on their rights as British citizens. However, the judges decided that the Canadian government was allowed to limit the civil rights of citizens, as it had already done to Aboriginal people. The ship was ordered to leave. Passengers fought back against armed police, but the ship was escorted out of the harbour by the military ship. By the time they arrived in India, they were considered dangerous revolutionaries in the wake of the First World War, therefore attacked by British soldiers. 18 passengers were killed and more than 200 were imprisoned.

After the incident, Canada closed its doors to Asian immigrants. Britain oppressed India’s independence. Yet the activism grew in BC and across the British Empire. India eventually won its independence in 1947, and Canada’s immigration removed racial discrimination in 1967.

However, racial oppression continues today in Canada in international relations and its treatment of migrants. The Komagata Maru incident questions our continuing history of racism and reminds us of the continuing resistance against racism.


The story of Komagata Maru is well described in many resources:

I was amazed to learn: how Britain depended on the people of British India to manage the Empire, how Indians worked across the Empire and beyond which built transnational communities, and how they came together under discrimination to help each other and fight against oppression for social justice.

The way Canada sent armed police and military to remove the people of Komagata Maru, who stood for their basic rights, reminded me of Oka (1990), Gustafsen Lake (1995), and Wet’suwet’en (2021).


Komagata Maru (The Canadian Encyclopedia)

The Journey of the Komagata Maru (Descendants of Komagata Maru Society)

British Columbia: An Untold History – Episode 3 Immigration (Knowledge Network)


Continuous Journey

Producer, writer, director, Ali Kazimi; produced in association with TVOntario. (2004)

The Komagata Maru incident is well-told in this documentary, with the creative use of limited visual records of that time. The story starts with the director’s personal experience at the immigration office when he entered Canada, arriving from India as an exchange student. His desire to understand why he was treated like a criminal, unpacks the history of the Komagata Maru incident: how Indians were seen and treated as ‘undesirables’ by Canada. The film ends by portraying how ‘Continuous Journey’ regulation continues today in the refugee claimant system, as some people are still regarded as ‘undesirables’.


Undesirables: White Canada and the Komagata Maru: An Illustrated History

Kazimi, Ali (2011)

The documentary director re-tells the story of Komagata Maru in this book with more historical detail. Beginning with the author’s personal experience of entry to Canada in the 80s when he was met with racism and exclusion by an immigration officer, the book leads us to the study of racism and identity in early Indo-Canadian history. Canada’s relationship with South Asian immigrants is examined, centred around the Komagata Maru incident. South Asian immigrants’ encounter with Canada is well explained from both perspectives with many visual images of that time, such as photographs, posters, newspaper articles, official documents, etc. Beautiful photographs remind us of the strong presence of Indians in Canada, hidden in mainstream history.


The Voyage of the Komagata Maru: The Sikh Challenge to Canada’s Colour Bar

Johnston, Hugh J. M. (2014 expanded and revised)

This book tells the history of Indians, especially Sikhs, as subjects of the British Empire, and how they struggled between the Empire’s ideals of equality and the reality of racism. Transnational resistance against the unjust treatment of its subjects in the British Empire and its relation to India’s independence movement is well explained. The history before Komagata Maru Incident, during and after reveals a complicated relationship between the Empire and the Sikhs. They were landowners and warriors that supported and protected the Empire, many served in the British military and police force travelling to the colonies working for the Empire with the British. However, as protectors of their community with broad knowledge, many also engaged in resistance and/or independence movement of India, and ended up being punished and killed. Both Britain and Canada needed/used Asians as labourers and soldiers but did not want Asians as citizens. Therefore, ‘immigration’ became a crush point. The story of exploitation, control and resistance is well told in this solid academic work.


The Komagata Maru and Canada’s anti-Indian Immigration Policies in the Twentieth Century

Hickman, Pamela (2014)

Clearly written, easy-to-read book for young readers and beyond, which covers core information with many visual images. Starting from India’s history, the book tells the story of Komagata Maru as a crucial part of Canadian history as well as Indo-Canadian history. The book also covers Canada’s story after the incident, such as today’s flourishing South Asian Canadian community, its human rights activism, immigration and refugee issues, and ends with Komagata Maru Incident apology and memorials.




President’s Message

It’s an honour to serve the congregation as president of the Board of Trustees. As per our Bylaws, the Board appointed myself as president and Leslie Hill as vice-president at the Board’s April 19th meeting following the resignation of Mary Bennett as president. Thank you to Leslie for volunteering to fill the vice-president position. Also, a sincere and heartfelt thank you to Mary Bennett for all the contributions she has made and continues to make to our congregation.

This an exciting time of renewal and recommitment for UCV. An impressive group of dedicated members has generously put their names forward for our Ministerial Search Committee. The election closes on May 10th. I encourage all members to read each candidate’s bio and cast your ballot. The entire congregation is proud to have such an inspiring list of dedicated members to choose from.

On behalf of the congregation, I’d also like to express our gratitude to the members who volunteered to serve as part of UCV’s delegation to this year’s Canadian Unitarian Council’s Annual General Meeting.  We know your time is valuable and appreciate your willingness to share your time and skills for the betterment of Unitarian Universalists across Canada.

It’s our annual pledge season. Members support the work of our congregation in a myriad of ways, including giving money and, just as importantly, giving of their time, talents, expertise and energy. On behalf of the Board and the entire congregation, I’d like to express my sincere gratitude to all of you. For those who make an annual financial contribution and have not increased your pledge for several years, I encourage you to give more this year if possible. Our congregation is doing important, life-changing work and we have a collective ambition to do even more to the benefit our members, our community and our planet. Please do what you can to support the congregation in its important work.

Finally, past-president Diane Brown is leading-up our Nominating Committee for the new Board of Trustees that will be elected at our AGM in November. I encourage both long-time and new members to consider putting their names forward to be part of the new Board and to contact Diane at for more information. Serving on the Board is a wonderful opportunity to contribute to the good work of our congregation and to help develop and execute UCV’s strategic goals. It can also be a lot of fun. The Board is a safe, supportive place for members to make significant contributions with a lasting effect–consider joining us in this important work.

Yours with respect and gratitude,

Bruce McIvor


Wild Salmon Action Team – April updates

WSAT announcements Apr 2022

Fish Farm Removal Strategy Needed! *New*

Sponsored by the Wild Salmon Action Team

Our federal government has taken some actions to remove wild salmon-killing fish farms from the B.C. coast, but there is still no overall strategy for removing them all by 2025 as promised.  The deadline of June 2022 for relicensing the farms, or not, offers a golden opportunity to announce that overall removal strategy.

Send a letter to Minister Joyce Murray demanding they announce a strategy for fulfilling the promise to remove all floating, open-net fish farms from the B.C. coast by 2025.

Check out the WSAT website for more information! 

April updates from the Wild Salmon Action Team

Fish Farm Removal Strategy Needed! *New*

Sponsored by the Wild Salmon Action Team

Our federal government has taken some actions to remove wild salmon-killing fish farms from the B.C. coast, but there is still no overall strategy for removing them all by 2025 as promised.  The deadline of June 2022 for relicensing the farms, or not, offers a golden opportunity to announce that overall removal strategy.

Send a letter to Minister Joyce Murray demanding they announce a strategy for fulfilling the promise to remove all floating, open-net fish farms from the B.C. coast by 2025.

Your letter will make a difference!


Mass email letter to signers of CPPIB letter

Re: Help save B.C. wild salmon – remove all fish farms!

Dear ______,

Thank you for writing to the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board asking them to sell all their shares in Mowi, the Norwegian multi-national salmon-farming corporation with extensive operations in B.C. and Atlantic Canada!  Yours was one of the almost 1100 letters received by the CPPIB, so far.  The Wild Salmon Action Team has briefly paused that campaign as we launch another.

Our federal government has taken some actions to remove wild salmon-killing fish farms from the B.C. coast, but there is still no overall strategy for removing them all by 2025 as promised.  The deadline of June 2022 for relicensing the farms, or not, offers a golden opportunity to announce that overall removal strategy.

Send a letter to Minister Joyce Murray demanding they announce a strategy for fulfilling the promise to remove all floating, open-net fish farms from the B.C. coast by 2025.

Your letter will make a difference!

Best regards,

Wild Salmon Action Team

Visit the Wild Salmon Action Team website for more information about their work.