On March 5, 2017, the Unitarian Church of Montréal (UCM) voted to divest from fossil fuels, thus becoming the eighth Canadian UU church to do so. This was truly an event of historical significance, since UCM is the oldest UU congregation in Canada, having been founded in 1842 by anglophone progressives, among them merchants like John Molson. Being an older organization entails a certain age-related aversion to change. (For example, university student associations are typically keen to divest, but their university boards are not.) Our dilemma was also reminscent of the story of the rich man in the New Testament.
However, the current UCM Board of Management courageously took up the challenge, and finally brought it to a vote–and succeeded. I am so proud of them.
Attendees at the Finance meeting were given two votes–one on whether to divest (the Yes vote won), and a second on whether to divest ALL or HALF of the fossil-fuel holdings. We chose the former option, so the Board’s next task will be to decide where and how this money–representing 10% of UCM’s current holdings–will be reinvested.
UCM’s divestment will be added to the estimated 5.46 trillion that has been divested from faith organizations, governments, universities and other organizations.
Historical and demographic footnotes: The CUC passed a divestment motion in 2015, following in the footsteps of its US counterpart, the UUA, who voted to divest in 2014. In the US, 27 UU congregations (out of 1038, or 2.6%) have voted to divest or divested, compared to 8 in Canada (out of 46, or 17%). However, it is important to note that most congregations do not have investments! If one assumes that only 20% of congregations have investments, then the percentages are 13% and 88%, respectively.
UUers continue a long and venerable tradition of taking action in the world!