Category: Social Justice

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

Bill C-262 rally supported by UCV members

The Canadian Unitarian Council was a co-sponsor of the pass Bill C-262 rally on Saturday, April 6th. Representatives of all 4 Greater Vancouver Unitarian congregations spoke including Leslie Kemp from UCV.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission has called Canada to adopt and implement the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Bill C-262 will ensure that Canada’s laws are in harmony with the Declaration.

Please sign this online petition to urge the Senate to pass this bill without delay.

From Colonization to Reconciliation (?) – Resources and Future Plans

Ryan McMahon, the Anishinaabe activist, challenged us to read and engage with our foundational laws, treaties, Acts, and official Commission reports and recommendations. “Let’s use pre-existing documents, studies, inquests, etc. that have done ALL the heavy lifting for us,” he said. “It’s not too late to look back at where we’ve been, determine what went and is wrong, and fix things on a go forward basis.”

Our reading and discussion group met on Wednesday evenings in February and March. About 20 people participated in our lively discussions.

Steven will announce plans for further discussions in the coming months.

Truth and Reconciliation Resources

Truth and Reconciliation Commission Report Executive Summary

Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada: Calls to Action

Beyond 94 – Truth and Reconciliation in Canada

The Indian Act

The White Paper

Highlights from the Report of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples

Citizens Plus/Red Paper 1970 response to the White Paper

Kelowna Accord

UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

Talking About Trans and the UU World Article

You may have come across through email or facebook the responses to an article included in the most recent issue of UU World called “After L, G and B”.

Posted here are various statements in pdf form that you can download and read. We’ve also made some hard copies that will be available on Sunday morning on the bulletin board.

The UCV Genders & Sexualities Alliance (GSA) will be discussing further educational and awareness gatherings we might sponsor, such as the Transforming Hearts Collective six-session program called Transgender Inclusion in Congregations.

In the meantime, do consider how we as a congregation might mark March 31, the Transgender Day of Visibility, and save the date of May 3 for the film screening of “She’s A Boy I Knew” at UCV. 


UU World Article: After L, G and B

Tips for Talking About the Article

UU World Apology from Editor

CUC Statement on behalf of CUC, UU Ministers of Canada and Religious Educators: In Solidarity with Trans and Nonbinary UUs

Trans Day of Visibility Guide from City of Vancouver

Trans Style Guide by Zr. Alex Kapitan

Vancouver Unitarians protest NEB approval of TMX

At least 10 Vancouver Unitarians rallied around our Vancouver Unitarians banner and joined hundreds of others on Friday, Feb. 22, to raise our voices in protest to the National Energy Board report that recommended going ahead with the Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion project.

We marched down Burrard Street and then along Georgia Street to the final rally on Georgia Street between the CBC and the Queen Elizabeth Theatre.
We were proud to be among the voices speaking out.

NEB rally, Feb 22, 2019

Building Bridges Registration Deadline is March 8th

This event takes place at UCV on March 30 and  is co-sponsored by the UCV Social Justice Committee and the Vancouver Quakers. The facilitator is Kathi Camilleri.

During this experiential workshop we will explore our personal role in supporting the revival of the values that worked so beautifully in Indigenous villages for thousands of years. We will also explore in-depth the affects of Residential Schools and Canada’s Policy of Assimilation.

This workshop is geared to solutions rather than recrimination and is a great forum in which to ask questions. The workshop is done from a non-blame and non-shame perspective and invites all participants to become a part of the healing that IS already happening.

Kathi’s work has been inspired by Jann Derrick’s teachings of Jann Derrick’s “The Circle and The Box” and by many Elders’ teachings.

Please register by March 8th: Click here for EventBrite registration page

Cost:   Suggested donation $20 per person

Lunch  (soup and bannock) and other light refreshments will be provided.

Time: Saturday, March 30 9:30 am to 4:00 pm

Additional info:


UCV Members March in Support of the Unist’ot’en

Many UCV members came to listen to and march with Indigenous supporters of the Wet’suwet’en people who are defending their land by opposing construction of a gas pipeline by TransCanada Coastal GasLink.

The Solidarity Action with Wet’suwet’en took place on Tuesday Jan 8, 11:30 in Vancouver. Similar rallies and marches took place locally, nationally and internationally.

Supporters followed the Indigenous led march from the Provincial Courts Building to Victory Square.

Iraqi Refugee Family Arriving Next Week

from Huguette Sansonnet, Refugee Committee

An Iraqi family of a couple with a two-and-a-half year old child will be arriving from Jordan by way of Frankfurt on January 22nd. The refugee committee has been busy assembling furniture and household items to move into the new apartment for them. If you have or know someone who has 4 chairs and a bed appropriate for a young child, please contact Huguette right away or phone the congregation’s office at 604-261-7204.

The family is originally from Iraq.

Donations to support the Refugee Committee’s sponsorship efforts can be made to the church, marked “refugees” and are tax deductible.

How Refugee Sponsorship Works at UCV

By Kaitlin Duck Sherwood, Leader of a Refugee Sponsorship group

The Refugee Committee helps refugees in two different categories:

Private Sponsorship, where the refugees are named and known (what I call the “let’s bring in grandma” category) and

the Blended Visa Office Referral (BVOR) program, where you want to help somebody but you don’t care so much who.

With the Private Sponsorship, the sponsors are legally responsible for 100% of the financial support for the first year; with BVOR, the sponsors are legally responsible for a portion (around 60%) of the financial support. With both Private and BVOR, the sponsorship group is responsible for 100% of the logistical and emotional support.

While the Vancouver Unitarians Refugee Committee does all of the support for some of the refugee families, a very important role is to facilitate sponsorship for other sponsorship groups, such as my own group of private individuals. To sponsor a BVOR family, a sponsorship group must partner with a Sponsorship Agreement Holder (SAH) such as CUC. By facilitating the work of other sponsorship groups, the Vancouver Unitarians Refugee Committee acts as a “force multiplier”, allowing sponsorship of many more refugees than the Refugee Committee members could handle by themselves

The Unitarian Church of Vancouver, as a constituent of Canadian Unitarian Council (CUC), makes sure the sponsorship groups raise enough money to support the family, vets the sponsorship groups, holds the money, advises the sponsorship group, helps pick a family off an anonymized list (that only the SAH has access to), coordinates communication between the sponsorship group, CUC, and IRCC (Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada), meets the family and signs the legal documents to formally take responsibility of the family at YVR airport, and passes along in-kind physical donations (like clothing/furniture/kitchen supplies) from UCV members, and provides more advice. And more advice.

Ultimately the Unitarian Church of Vancouver is responsible if for any reason the sponsorship group is not able to meet the government requirements. And the Canadian Unitarian Council is responsible if UCV is not able to meet the requirements. So we all work closely together to make sure everything is done well. And this works.

Once the sponsorship group (which might be the Refugee Committee itself) finds out when the family’s plane will arrive, it kicks into high gear.

For example, we got the news seven days in advance that the Eritream family of three would arrive on March 6, 2018. After we got the news, we arranged temporary housing, got them a phone and cell plan, stocked their temporary housing with some food, found a permanent apartment, helped them fill out a massive number of forms, helped them get Social Insurance (SIN) cards and a bank account, got them winter coats, took the father to a medical appointment, showed them how to use their debit cards to buy transit Compass Cards, took them shopping for essentials (like underwear!), helped them phone their friends back in the camps, took them to the Ethiopian Church, and did a lot of talking, orienting, and many other details too minor to call out explicitly.

Shortly after those urgent matters, we will co-sign the lease on their apartment, move donated furniture into the apartment, buy a small amount of furniture, help them buy groceries and cleaning supplies, help them register the boy for school, register for English classes, take a bus/Skytrain ride, get library cards, and get to eye and dental exams.

Longer-term, we will check in periodically to make sure they are adjusting well and give help as needed (e.g. to help mediate disputes or help them find trauma counselling), and help them find jobs.

As the leader of a sponsorship group, I am deeply grateful to the work the Refugee Committee does. Not only would it not be possible for us to sponsor a BVOR family without the Refugee Committee’s legal umbrella, it would have been much more difficult to muddle through without easy access to their institutional knowledge and large stockpile of donated objects.

People ask: How can I help?

For the family who just arrived, things are pretty much in hand. There are always expenses before, during and after the settlement, so donations to the UCV Refugee Fund is the most obvious way of helping. (Yes, tax receipts are issued). If you attend on Sundays, bring stuff for the thrift sale table and buy stuff. Julia absolutely refuses to give a “price”– it’s all by donation. All items that are donated find a good home. If they’re not needed by our refugee families, they’re sold at UCV. If they’re not sold after a while, they’re donated to the Mennonite Central Committee who ensure they’re used.

Now, speaking of that table, Julia and George do a huge job storing, setting up, distributing items. If you have storage space or a way to transport items around, I’m sure they could use help.

Help out at a fundraising lunch or event.

The big ask is: When we have families arrive, they need temporary housing for about two weeks. On short notice.

An even bigger ask: Form a group of five and take on the responsibility (and joy) of sponsoring a family. We can put you in touch with other leaders who can show you the ropes. It’s a big job–and a very rewarding one.

The committee meets monthly: show up and learn more and you’ll see where the needs are.

Do you have other questions or offers? Send an email and we’ll forward to the right people.


Transitioning: Are You Mystified About Gender?

by Mairy Beam   

Are you mystified about gender? Don’t really get what the fuss is about? Perhaps you are curious. Maybe you are as fascinated as I was when I met my first transgender person. There is a lot more information available now but it is still an area where knowledge and awareness are increasing.

I first met a trans person in 1993. I was fascinated. At that point I was writing short stories, not plays, and Roberta immediately became a feature in my stories. My interest in trans gender has ebbed and flowed over the years. Peaking when a colleague or friend came out as trans, ebbing when life got busy. It is only now 25 years later that I understand the intrigue.

In 2013 a group of students in the ACT II program at Ryerson University decided that it was time that the queers should be more visible. ACT II is a theatre program for people over 50. You would think that theatre would be progressive, and in many ways it is, but all the roles were either male or female, and often we lesbians found ourselves playing some man’s wife.

We created a documentary theatre piece called Closets and Cubicles where we told our coming out stories. Mostly we talked of sexual orientation, but we included some reference to gender. Gender was something we struggled with, that we didn’t fully understand ourselves. The audience loved our play mostly, except for the gender parts which they just didn’t get.

In 2015 I organized a smaller group of two gay friends and one other lesbian to explore gender more. I wrote a play for this group, but they were not much interested in it. It was a role reversal called My Way or the Highway. It takes place in a world where women have the power, and a husband is struggling to assert himself. It was produced in Toronto in 2016 and had a reading here at UCV in 2017. People found it quite funny.

Meanwhile the group was developing a play about a transwoman coming out, and the reactions from her partner, her sister, and her brother in law. This play called Out and About was a much more honest look at the issues arising from an adult deciding to transition. It was a great group to try to grapple with the issues. I remember at our first meeting when we learned about the concept of cisgender. It’s a little like learning that white is a race (not just the standard or default). Out and About was produced in Toronto and Vancouver in 2017.

A year ago I completed yet another play about gender as my fascination had continued unabated. At its heart it is a dialogue between a trans man and a non-binary gender person. I wanted to delve into how a person who believes strongly in the binary gender, who has the physical characteristics of one gender but feels their essence is the other, how such a person talks to someone for whom gender has no meaning. This play is called Body Parts. It will be produced as part of the New Ideas Festival in Toronto in March 2019.

So, why this fascination about gender? It’s not just because it’s a hot topic, and plays on this topic are more likely to get produced. No, it’s much more personal than that. I have decided that I’m non-binary gender. All the reading and research that I did on the topic, talking to others who are trans of some type, it all started making so much sense to me. All my life I’ve had characteristics that society generally deems masculine, for example being very analytical. On the other hand I’ve no desire to be a man (though there clearly are advantages to that). I don’t want to leave the company of women, but I’m reassured that many women’s gatherings now include non-binary people.

I don’t mind which pronoun you use for me – she/they/whatever. I don’t intend to have any surgery or make drastic changes in my life. I am happy just to discover the benefits of living a freer life, a life not defined in any way by gender. I will join the fight for more inclusive language, and to get rid of the practice of having only two check boxes for gender. I will join in the high energy of the Trans march – the best part of Pride weekend, in my opinion.

If you are curious, I recommend the book, Gender Failure, by Ivan Coyote and Rae Spoon. It is entertaining and informative. Ivan Coyote is a great story-teller. You may have heard them on the CBC. They also wrote Missed Her which I recommend.

It’s always great to hear from a variety people speak of their personal experiences. For this I recommend Beyond Magenta: Transgender teens speak out by Susan Kuklin, and Trans/Portraits: Voices from Transgender Communities by Shultz, Jackson Wright.


PS – Are there books (or films) you’d recommend for people interested in exploring the concept of gender? Please send to our UCV Genders and Sexualities Alliance at Various members of our group take turns responding to email. If there is interest, a book club, film or theatre group around gender and sexuality diversity might emerge at UCV or online.

For GSA events and posts just search for GSA in the search bar. We host regular potluck socials and have various initiatives coming up.

– Mary Bennett for GSA Email

Inspiration and Resistance for Global Citizens in 2019 and Beyond

The seventh Unitarian Universalist principle calls us to affirm and promote respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part. When human and other life is so critically threatened by human-induced climate change and kleptocracy as it is now, it is even more important that we find ways to affirm life. Following are some links to a few inspiring books, films, and podcasts to help us remember that our efforts toward environmental protection, climate change mitigation, and opposition to tyranny matter, and, collectively will make a difference. (All of the podcasts are accessible through iTunes and the Apple podcast app.)

CBC Tapestry podcast: “Finding Hope in the Climate Crisis”- 4 Jan 2019. Link. Excerpts from the 2018 Parliament of the World’s Religions in Toronto. The podcast features comments by Margaret Atwood and Vandana Shiva. Host: Mary Hynes. Related Film: The Seeds of Vandana Shiva. Trailer.

CBC Front Burner podcast: “China’s plans to dominate space” – 7 Jan 2019. Features comments by Namrata Goswami about China’s very long range plans to secure resources from beyond the earth to sustain their culture. Host Jayme Poisson. Link.

Slate’s Live at Politics and Prose – podcast link: YouTube Video.

“Timothy Snyder, On Tyranny: Twenty lessons from the twentieth century.” 9 Mar 2017 – Published just after the election of Donald Trump as 45th President of the USA, Snyder succinctly alerts readers and listeners on strategies for resisting tyranny. Two years old now, this book and podcast ring truer than ever. The Youtube version shows the lively nature of this bookstore and we get to see the people asking the questions. Snyder also has a more recent book “The Road to Unfreedom”. Both books are available from the Vancouver Public Library.

Slate’s Live at Politics and Prosepodcast – Sarah Kendzior “The View From Flyover Country.”

A series of essays originally published in Al Jazeera English on the rise of oligarchy in the USA and globally based on Kendzior’s experience as a reporter and scholar on Western Asian autocracies.

Gaslit Nation – podcast – Sarah Kendzior and Andrea Chalupa host a very hard-hitting, no holds barred commentary against oligarchies.

 And…Gaslit Nation has one of the best-ever graphic images. Image source.

The UrbanDictionary defines “Gaslighting” as “A form of intimidation or psychological abuse, sometimes called Ambient Abuse where false information is presented to the victim, making them doubt their own memory, perception and quite often, their sanity.

USC Canada – Like Vandana Shiva, USC Canada (formerly the Unitarian Service Committee) is a Canadian Charity that is strategically focusing its work on building resilience through ecological agriculture, and especially through global seed security and diversity. Link.