Category: Social Justice

News from the Social Justice Committee or related to social justice and posted by another group

HomeStart Foundation – Outreach Opportunities Fund Recipient

Our OOF recipient for the months March 2023-June 2023 is the HomeStart Foundation that furnishes homes to help families in need rebuild their lives.

The Refugee Team suggested HomeStart as an OOF recipient. A few months ago, George from the Refugee team, visited the HomeStart warehouse and selected furniture for our recent Burundian refugee. This included dressers, shelving, kitchen table+chairs, end tables, lamps, sofa, and armchairs – a complete apartment excluding beds which we are required to supply new. Homestart delivered all of this to the apartment on the same day at no cost to us. This saved the refugee team hundreds of dollars and much time, eliminating a major worry!

Homestart could also benefit the UCV congregation by providing our members with an economical means for down-sizers to donate unwanted furniture. Homestart charges donors a reasonable $75 to have 2 people come to a location in their serving area and pickup donated items which are taken to their warehouse for re-distribution to those in need. They accept pre-arranged drop-offs at no charge to donors. Refugee team members are often approached by UCV members who offer donations of furniture which we can’t accept.

Justice for DeeCee Spirit Zone

On Sunday, March 12th, Vancouver Unitarians signed letters that call on the Premier, local MLAs and other officials to change the policing approach when it comes to de-escalating mental health crises.

March 12th marked the 4 month anniversary of Dani Cooper’s (DeeCee) death.  Dani died after being shot by police during an episode of psychosis. The Social Justice team set up a table in Hewett Hall  that displayed the sign “Justice for DeeCee Spirit Zone”. People stopped by to sign pre-written letters to officials and to learn more about who Dani was and what we can do to support.

Dennis Cooper, Dani’s father, made this video for Vancouver Unitarians.  Please watch it and share it with those who might be inspired to write letters and/or want to gain a better understanding of the reality of police involvement in mental health crises.


The North Shore Unitarian congregation, of which Dani was a member, has posted more information on their website.

Vancouver Unitarians will continue to hold the 12th of each month as a day  to raise awareness of this tragedy and suggest changes that could lessen the chance of future similar tragedies.

Send your letter to these email addresses:,,,,,,,

Additional Information:


Letters signed at UCV on March 12, 2023

Write for Rights Success Stories

Thank you to everyone who came to write letters  on December 11th.  We wrote 52 letters!

The main goal was to use the power of letter-writing to influence world leaders to protect individuals or communities whose human rights have been denied. The messages help convince government officials to release people imprisoned for expressing their opinion, stop the use of torture and end other human rights abuses.


Please click on links below or scroll down the page to read about  successful cases:

41 Human Rights Wins to Celebrate – Amnesty International

More Write for Rights Success Stories







Doctrine of Discovery & Terra Nullius Forum Recording

Thank you to everyone who came on Nov 20th to attend our first forum on the topic of the Doctrine of Discovery and Terra Nullius.

Members of the IPA, Environment, Social Justice and Truth and Reconciliation teams joined together to organize and facilitate this forum. They were inspired by Bruce McIvor’s talk, and his book, Standoff: Why Reconciliation Fails Indigenous People and How to Fix It,  to educate themselves about The Doctrine of Discovery and Terra Nullius.

They discovered that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission called on all religious denominations and faith groups to repudiate the Doctrine of Discovery and Terra Nullius, and that the UUA and many Canadian churches had repudiated this doctrine – including the Anglican Church of Canada and the Catholic Bishops.  They planned this forum to start the the important conversation as to whether UCV might want to  join in denouncing this doctrine.


Q&A transcript – Forum held on Nov 20



Please contact any of these UCV members if you would like to be involved in future discussions:,,

Overdose Prevention Society: Our Outreach Opportunities Fund recipient

Our OOF recipient for the months November 2022-February 2023 is the Overdose Prevention Society.

The mandate of the Overdose Prevention Society (OPS) is to be leaders in the harm reduction movement with a continual push for change and justice, offer employment and advancement opportunities for members of the Downtown Eastside community, and continually work to break the stigma of addiction through  empowering drug users and fighting against preconceptions of substance use.

OPS continues to challenge the normalization of the opioid crisis every day. We are a community driven, grassroots initiative that bring people in from the alley and provide a safe and welcoming place to use drugs.

Please watch this informative interview with Sarah Blyth, Executive Director and other OPS staff. 

Services offered by OPS:

  • Safe clean environment for people to use drugs
  • Drug testing
  • Harm reduction supplies
  • Jobs for DTES community members
  • Housing support
  • Food distribution
  • Clean and safe washroom for homeless

We are also home to MYSAFE

Contact for those interested in volunteering:

History of the Overdose Prevention Society:

OPS was founded in September 2016 by three women who were concerned about how little was being done about the growing fentanyl crisis in Vancouver. In potential violation of the law, they set up a drug injection site in an alley in Vancouver’s downtown Eastside to combat the many overdose deaths and have saved hundreds of lives. Their peer-based services are beneficial to the health authority, to the community, and to the participants themselves and ensure access to health and welfare services to excluded, vulnerable and marginalized people.

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.


Mobilizing Faith and Spirit for the Climate Crisis

Our next Climate Dialogue event will feature Sameer Merchant

Monday, June 13 at 7 p.m. 

Book your seats in the Sanctuary now:

All events will be available to join in person or online at


About the Speaker

Sameer Merchant spent two decades as a software engineer in Seattle and Vancouver working for Microsoft, Hulu, and Tableau. He is currently taking an extended sabbatical to get a better understanding of the climate crisis, what we can do to reduce our individual and collective contributions to the problem, and to understand the psychology behind climate denial and climate inaction. His faith tradition is Ismaili Muslim, which is central to his views on humanity’s role as stewards of the Earth.


About the Series: Mobilizing Faith and Spirit for the Climate Crisis 

Every day we are reminded that we are in a climate emergency. Unprecedented heat waves, droughts, fires, extreme weather events, floods, refugees – the list goes on. Taken together with the current pandemic, it’s understandable that many of us feel frightened, overwhelmed, powerless.  Where can we find the individual and collective strength to clearly face the truth of the emergency, mourn the damage being done to our blue planet, and inspire ourselves and others to action?

The Vancouver Unitarians are hosting a series of talks by prominent Canadians from faith, spiritual and secular backgrounds to support us in answering that question.  They will educate, nourish, and inspire us, drawing on diverse faith and spiritual traditions including those of Indigenous peoples. They will delve into how these traditions and practices, and the values they represent, help them contend with the climate emergency and the actions they are taking.  And, in this way, they will help us engage more effectively with the crisis and create our way forward to a sustainable future – for ourselves and our families, our communities, our nation, and for the health of our loved ones and our planet.


About the Format and Venue

The speaker series is being live-streamed from the campus of the Vancouver Unitarians to audiences online and in-person in the Sanctuary. Two Vancouver Unitarians are moderating the series – introducing the speakers, leading discussions after each talk, and providing continuity over the course of the full program.  The series will include occasional panel discussions of key themes and learnings from what we heard. 

All events in this series are being held in the Sanctuary at UCV. It is recognized as a remarkable mid-twentieth century architectural legacy – a well-received spiritual gathering place and a civic gathering place for events in the arts, public affairs, and discourse on the issues of the day.


Past Events in this Series 

Oct. 28, 2021: Seth Klein

Jan. 26, 2022: Dr. Carmen Lansdowne

Feb. 9, 2022: Rabbi Hannah Dresner

Mar. 9, 2022: Sukhvinder Kaur Vinning

April 13, 2022: Corina Bye, Catherine Hembling, Karl Perrin, and Tamiko Suzuki

May 11, 2022: Dr. Fred Bass

Courthouse solidarity and Women’s Memorial March: Vancouver Unitarians take action

​U​CV ​members were out in numbers to support two downtown events on Monday.

Catherine Hembling at the Courthouse

At 9am we gathered under our banner with a crowd over 300 strong, on the steps of the courthouse to support the brave Brunette Six who were to appear before a judge for sentencing. The Six planned to plead guilty to breaking the TMX injunction and take whatever jail sentence would be meted out. 

​Led by Earle Peach, we​ sang uplifting songs, chanted our anger and resolve to keep up the fight against the oil and gas industry. On the steps, the Brunette Six read out parts of their court statements which expressed their love and concern for the environment and the future of future generations. One of the Six, Zane Haq gave an impassioned speech calling for more people to stand up because it was only when a mass of people get arrested that the government will change.

An overflow room was set up so people could listen in on the courtroom proceedings. Elizabeth posted at 3pm that Judge Fitzpatrick sentenced Jeannette, Ruth and Catherine to 14 days in prison. The other 3 would be sentenced on Tuesday.

UCVers at the courthouse: Cheryl Amundsen, Cynthia Lam, Elizabeth Dunn, Evelyn Pinkerton (W​​SAT), Hanno Pinder, Jane Kinegal, John Boyle, Karl Perrin, Katherine R, Leslie Kemp, Mairy Beam, Mary Lage, Melody Mason, Nan Gregory, Rob Dainow, Ron Gibson , Rory O’Brien, Rosey Cornell, Skye Richards, Tamiko Suzuki, Ursula Litzke, Yvonne Marcus, and Catherine Hembling.


Women’s Memorial March

A short time later, some ​UCV​ers joined a crowd of ​thousands at the ​Women’s Memorial March at Main and Hastings to bear witness to the families of the missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls. The stories that were told were unbearably sad and filled with so much pain. Some families have been looking for their mother, aunt, daughter or sister for  decades, fighting police and societal indifference, sexism and racism. ​Others have lost loved ones in the last few years showing that things have not changed​. One speaker’s words resonated with me when she said that the extractive industry and its assaults on the Earth were connected to the attacks on Indigenous women. The word ‘ecocide’ was used along with genocide. This reminded me of the Brunette Six who had spoken about how TMX was destroying the environment and contributing to the ultimate assault on our future, Climate Change. 

The march slowly walked their route through the DTES stopping at spots to drum and honour women who had died. Then we reached the intersection of Water St and Powell St and stopped in front of a group of young Indigenous activists who had thrown ropes around the statue of Gassy Jack Deighton. To the crowd’s frenzied cheering and drumming, they proceeded to pull the statue down, throw red paint on it and erect red dresses in its place. The statue had memorialized a  40 year old man who married a 12 year old Squamish child,  who made his money plying people with alcohol and whose name has been celebrated while hers has disappeared into obscurity. An Ode to Madeline Deighton. The anger was palpable as was the joy at the toppling of the statue which was one tiny act against a long history of racism and destruction. 

While some expressed discomfort with the destructive turn of events, there was no denying the impatience of the young to DO SOMETHING. It was just like Zane of the Brunette Six, who earlier had demanded we get out of our comfort zone and stand up. 

​UCVers at the Memorial March: Cynthia Lam, Hans Elfert, Hisako Masaki, Kiersten Moore, Leslie Kemp, Lynn Armstrong, Margo Elfert, Melody Mason, Nan Gregory, Nancy Barker, Skye Richards, Tamiko Suzuki, Yvonne Marcus.


Statement Condemning Violent RCMP raid on Wet’suwet’en Territory

The Vancouver Unitarians condemn the violent RCMP raid on Wet’suwet’en territory, including the arrest of over 30 unarmed land defenders and two journalists. The RCMP action is a direct violation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) which states that “Indigenous peoples shall not be forcibly removed from their lands or territories” (Article 10). In allowing this action, the BC and Canadian governments are abrogating their commitments to implement UNDRIP. The RCMP raid is also a violation of Canadian Supreme Court decisions, specifically Delgamuukw v. British Columbia, which affirms the Wet’suwet’en hereditary leadership’s jurisdiction over traditional territory.


We stand in solidarity with Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs and land defenders. We call on the government to drop all charges against the arrestees and respect Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs’ jurisdiction over their territories.


This statement aligns with UCV’s vision and our UU Principles:

Our Unitarian Principles and UCV’s vision call us to take action when we see injustice.

Issuance of a statement in solidarity with Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs aligns with four of the Unitarian principles. Specifically:

  • Principle 2: “Justice, equity, and compassion in human relations”
    • The militarized RCMP response against unarmed people is inhumane and unjustified.
  • Principle 6: “The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all”
    • The government of British Columbia has approved legislation to implement The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). UNDRIP is a critical document that ensures Indigenous Peoples’ rights are respected including the right to live without persecution on their land. The RCMP raid, including arrests and burning of cabins, violates this commitment.
  • Principle 7: “Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part”
    • The actions taken by the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs and their supporters were to protect the land from devastation caused by the construction of the Coastal Gas Link pipeline. Specifically, they are trying to preserve the water quality of the Wedzin Kwa which provides their drinking water and is their essential salmon habitat, and as such, is clearly connected to our interdependent web of existence.
  • Principle 8: “Individual and communal action that accountably dismantles racism and systemic barriers to full inclusion in ourselves and our institutions”
    • Indigenous People routinely face disproportionate police violence and violations of their basic human rights. As a congregation that has committed to dismantling racism and systemic barriers, we must stand in solidarity with those  who are currently being oppressed.


Statement of UCV Vision: “Because we envision a more compassionate world, we seek to deepen our spiritual and religious lives, grow and enrich our congregation, and advocate for love and justice”.



Taking Action: UCV contributes funding to supporting marginalized communities

Outreach Opportunities Fund donates $5000 to residential school survivors society 

From June to October of this year a portion of our Sunday collection was put aside for the important work of the IRSSS. It was the single biggest donation of the Outreach Opportunities Fund in the last 10 years. This is a modest contribution, and just one part of our commitment as an organization to dismantling racism and colonialism.

R&A Koerner Foundation Community Fund Award supports marginalized students at Langara College 

RAKFCF is funding a bursary programme for Langara College, comprising annual grants of $10,000 for three years for further education of marginalized youth in financial need, starting January 2022. One bursary of $2,000 each will be awarded to an Indigenous youth, an IBCOP youth, a youth with a disability and two bursaries of $2,000 each will be awarded to youths who are single parents.

Langara College will select students in accordance with its policies and procedures and the Langara College Foundation will administer the programme. Additional contributions to the RAKFCF’s bursary programme can be made by any person, society, or foundation: if any congregant would like to give additional funds to this programme, please contact Melody Mason.