Chapter and group reports – 2016

West Coast Chapter

North Shore Unitarian Church

CUSJ members based at NSUC have worked as an informal coalition this year, communicating mostly by email. We stay in touch with action alerts and arrange carpools to attend public meetings or protests. This has been a quieter year of activism for us, as internal congregational responsibilities intensified:  a 4-month renovation after a flood left that left our basement unusable, our time-consuming but rewarding involvement in a year-long Ministerial Search, and the positive result of an 8-year application to receive rezoning approval to start our move to a new church property.

However, we did find ways to contribute even as priorities shifted. For many of us, activism played out in the electoral process during the early fall, as we worked to ensure the defeat of the Harper government through involvement with a variety of campaigns. We also raised our concerns about a number of issues at all-candidates’ meetings.

Joy Silver continues as our link to the national CUSJ. Many of us remain active supporters of Dying with Dignity Canada, which lost its charitable status in early 2015. Two NSUC members helped the non-profit refocus as an advocacy organization following the Supreme Court Carter decision early in 2015: former DWD CEO Wanda Morris and current Board president Jim Stephenson. The inadequacies in the Liberal Government Bill C-14 introduced in April 2016 are a major disappointment, as it lacks many of the key provisions of the Special Parliamentary Committee Report issued in February 2016. Lobbying of MPs and ministers is ongoing as I write this.

Besides the actions mentioned above, individual members have sent donations, signed petitions, and attended meetings, marches, or rallies organized by the following advocacy associations: Wilderness Society, Burnaby Residents Opposing Kinder Morgan Expansion (BROKE); Forest Ethics Advocacy; Dogwood Initiative; Council of Canadians; Unitarian Service Committee; North Shore NOPE (NO Pipeline Expansion); AVAAZ; Leadnow; Ecojustice; Change; SumOfUs; Canadian Centre For Policy Alternatives; David Suzuki Foundation; West Coast Environmental Law; Amnesty International; and Ceasefire.

In 2015, some of the members of CUSJ joined with a few others to form a small Action Study group based on the principles of Joanna Macy’s book Active Hope at NSUC. On May 18, 2015, volunteers from that group teamed up with our church administrator Janni Kretlow, some of our youth and their parents to welcome individuals from the Otesha Project with a vegetarian potluck dinner. (The Otesha Project is a national youth-led charitable organization that uses experiential learning, theatre and bicycle tours to engage all ages to take action for a more sustainable world.) They camped for two nights at NSUC while touring and giving presentations in the area and learned about Unitarianism in the process. Members of the Active Hopegroup also helped collect donations for homeless shelters on the North Shore in December.

On October 1, 2015, some of our CUSJ group joined the protest outside the Federal Court on Georgia and Howe in Vancouver to show solidarity with eight First Nations bringing their lawsuit to block the Enbridge Northern Gateway Project.

In the week before the Global Climate March, Linda Vance and Marcia Stephenson helped paint sections of the new banner that Vandy Savage designed for CUSJ-West Coast Chapter. On November 29, 2015, over 15 people from NSUC joined the rally that started at the Vancouver Art Gallery and took turns carrying our banner on the march. Lynn Armstrong of UCV worked hard to connect with us by email and cell phone, and if it hadn’t been for the crowds in the plaza, we probably could have created a mass formation from 2 or 3 congregations. Next time: better coordination is the goal.

In mid-January, 2016, CUSJ people from NSUC attended rallies protesting the expansion of Kinder-Morgan outside the Delta Burnaby Hotel where the National Energy Board hearings were taking place.

~Marcia Stephenson

Beacon Unitarian Church

  • Very actively involved in the Como Lake Food Bank
  • Presented third cycle of “Climate Change Changes Me,” a four-session workshop covering “Causes & Energy, Transportation, Food and Finding our Democratic Voice.”  For those interested in specific areas, an on-line course was created: “Keeners Korner.” (Details available on request.)
  • Refugee sponsorship of a specific Syrian family is confirmed and everything is ready for them. Now looking forward to arrival date.
  • Sharing the Plate; ‘I’s on the Street’ receives half the non-designated funds collected in services. This is an outreach and support services program that engages homeless or at-risk-of-being-homeless persons with mental illness and addiction issues into a supervised work/pre-employment program.

South Fraser Unitarian Congregation

  • Donations of funds were given to three designated Food Banks in the area.
  • Sponsored the White Rock delivery of “Climate Change Changes Me”
  • Involvement in Kiva, Burns Bog Conservation Society, and activities related to concerns about the US thermal coal proposal at Fraser Surrey Docks.
  • Ongoing support of “Sources – Women’s Place” through donations of funds and clothing.
  • Honoured as a UU-UNO “Blue Ribbon Congregation” for 2014-2015.

Unitarian Church of Vancouver

Social Responsibility at the Unitarian Church of Vancouver (UCV) is supported by three committees: Social Justice, Environment and Refugee.

Regular Sunday after-service discussion forums are organized on the full range of social justice issues. Recent topics have included affordable housing, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement, Site C Dam, reducing fossil fuel consumption, Amnesty International “Write for Rights,” Israel/Palestine issues, opposing the Kinder Morgan pipeline and more.

We had a 5-session “Active Hope” study group discussing the book by Joanna Macy, “Active Hope: How to Face the Mess We’re in Without Going Crazy.”

Some of us are actively involved in local public protests. And we had a good turnout for the November ‘Great Climate Race’ raising funds for solar panels in Vancouver.

Our Refugee supporters have been especially active this year. In June a Palestinian family arrived. Then in August, a Tibetan family followed by two young Eritrean women. Now plans are underway for several Syrian families. We’ve also been offering support to other local groups wanting to sponsor refugees.


Joint endeavours of West Coast congregations

Discussions are underway to strengthen the West Coast Chapter through increased collaboration among the four Lower Mainland congregations.

All four congregations were represented at the November 29 Global Climate March where NSUC folks carried a new and beautiful CUSJ banner. Despite best efforts, we did not quite manage to meet up as a full group but we’ll look for future opportunities.

A new Climate Change Covenant Group started meeting in New West in January with participation from both Beacon and UCV.

~Lynn Armstrong