Update on the Canadian Unitarian Council’s Truth, Healing and Reconciliation Reflection Guides

As we resume the church year, many people are reflecting back on a summer of fun, sun, and relaxation, while many others are busy getting calendars and programming in place. We here at the Truth, Healing, and Reconciliation Task Force (THRR)  wanted to take a moment to give you a heads up on some programming opportunities, as well as to let you know the status of the Truth, Healing, and Reconciliation Reflection Guides  (THRRG) material.

We are excited to announce that effective October 1, 2017, three of the five THRRG will be available in their final form. Congregations with trained facilitators will be able to access the following levels of the THRRG: Adult, Young Adult, and Upper Elementary. Thank you to everyone who took part in facilitating, participating, or supporting these pilots.

We are looking for congregations to pilot the youth THRRG to begin in the fall of 2017, or starting in January 2018. Please let us know if you’re interested – contact information is below.

We’ve already held a couple of Facilitator Trainings on:

  • Saturday, August 26 from 9-12 Pacific, 12-3 Eastern

  • Wednesday, August 30 from 3-6 Pacific, 6-9 Eastern

  • Saturday, September 30, 9-12 Pacific, 12-3 Eastern

Don’t worry if you forgot to register! You can mark your calendar for the following dates, so that you have trained facilitators in place!

  • Saturday, November 4 from 9-12 Pacific, 12-3 Eastern.

  • Saturday, January 13 from 9-12 Pacific, 12-3 Eastern.

Please keep an eye on the CUC’s eNews for ways to sign up, or let us know you’re interested by e-mailing us – contact information provided below. The cost to participate in this training is $25.00 for Canadian congregations, $50.00 for community groups or Unitarian congregations from outside of Canada.

The THRRG Task Force is also beginning the process of revisioning itself to become a standing committee of the CUC to continue the work of our commitment to Truth, Healing and Reconciliation. We are excited that Amber Dawn Bellemare of the team will step forward as Chair. The team will be transitioning Amber into this role over the coming year.

If your congregation is interested in knowing more and/or offering the THRRG, please contact us at reconciliation@cuc.ca.

Refugee Sponsorship: And I Thought the Paperwork was Hard…Little Did I Know!

Refugee sponsorship is not always a piece of cake, a bed of roses, or even what we had hoped it might be.  Sponsorship is kind of like raising a child from 0-20 years of age, in 12 months flat! Except that you are dealing with someone who speaks another language, comes from a different culture, and is not in fact a child at all.

A good sponsor, like a good parent, needs to teach a newcomer to be self-sufficient and thrive without them. Before a newcomer arrives, we hope, we pray, we believe they will settle and be successful in our community. We have a list from the government that tells us how they can be successful: learn French or English, manage bank accounts, pay taxes, find employment, attend school and more.  We dream, surely, “my newcomer” will do all of these things and more!

Then reality hits…they aren’t picking up the language, they want to move to a different city, they want to go back home, they don’t understand the importance of following Canadian laws, they want to do everything or nothing on their own, they resent not supporting themselves, they are scared. We think, how will we ever help them become self-sufficient?

We may need to manage our own expectations. For a family having dealt with very severe trauma or living with daunting health issues, even learning a new language in one year may only be a dream. Sometimes, you will have to set aside the list of things that “should” be done and simply help them through a difficult day.

Alternatively, the newcomer who expects to find work or start a business within weeks or months after arrival may feel disappointed and frustrated because they are not able to provide the same lifestyle they were accustomed to in their home country. They may feel like they are failing, and all you can do is support them in their disappointment and point out their achievements.

When the person(s) we have sponsored is not meeting expectations, ours or their own, it may be difficult to know what to do.  Knowing when to step back is just as important as being willing to step up and help.

A healthy sponsorship is messy…you are taking a traumatized family and connecting them with a group of volunteers who “just want to help”. And, sometimes the best way to help is to do nothing at all.

Well-meaning volunteers can sometimes cause more harm than good when they disagree about what the next best steps may be. It can cause a great deal of stress when everyone has their own idea about what is best for the newcomer.  If an individual acts on their own without consulting the rest of the group, it can cause a lot of friction and often confusion for the newcomer. Just like in parenting, a unified voice is always the best course of action.

Sometimes volunteers act in their own interests instead of the family’s by creating dependency of the newcomer.  Doing everything for another person instead of helping them learn to do things for themselves is not helping them at all. It may seem easier to just “do it for them”, but remember there is only a short 12 months to get them standing on their own.

We navigate these challenges to the best of our ability, connecting newcomers with professional help when needed. We share our experience and knowledge, encourage them to try things on their own, and then at some point, we let go.

Just like parenting, we won’t do it perfectly, it’s going to get messy, AND it’s going to be OK.

If you have faced the challenges of gathering a group of people together to help another group of people learn to live in Canada, you have succeeded.

Celebrate Earth Day — Stand up for the Environment!

Each year, Earth Day—April 22—marks the anniversary of the birth of the modern environmental movement in 1970. Over the years, our UU communities have marked this day with protests, education, worship and more to live out our seventh principle, “Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part”.

What will your community do this year?

  1. join a local protest
  2. enjoy a picnic with friends and family
  3. hold an Earth Day worship service

Whatever activity you enjoy, we invite you to share what you are doing to mark this important date on the CUC Love and Justice FB group.

For inspiration, check out this years’ campaign for Environmental and Climate Literacy at EarthDay.org, This year’s focus is  to empower everyone to engage in environmental protection.

Moving From Reaction to Crime Prevention

We all worry when we hear about over-representation of Indigenous people in jail, solitary confinement, and incidents of police brutality. We want these things to stop. This is why the Canadian Unitarian Council has recommended to The Hon. Jody Wilson-Raybould, Minister of Justice and Attorney General, that our focus and our resources should be pointed at CRIME PREVENTION. We must address the root causes of violence. We know the programs that work, but we don’t fund them consistently. To reduce violence we have to build in effective evaluation, track what is working and what is not, and only finance what works. Those programs should receive stable, multi-year funding in First Nations communities, in our cities, and in our rural areas.

See our letter and brief to the Minister calling for action on Prevention.

Listen to Dr. Irvin Waller’s Call to Action at the Holtom Peace Lecture giving us the big picture. (this video is the presentation of an individual and does not necessarily express the opinion of the CUC)

What You Can Do

1. Help the Minister of Justice and Provinces achieve their mandates to prevent violence.

2. Meet with Politicians at all levels to share what works.

3. Foster a National Coalition of municipalities, Indigenous groups, churches, NGO’s, professional associations and others to promote a prevention agenda.

4. Volunteer for an organization with a proven track record to prevent crime.

Clean Water: What will you do to make a difference?

Did you know??? In the fall of 2016, 151 drinking water advisories were in effect in First Nations reserves across Canada.

More than 100 water advisories are routinely in effect, with some First Nations reserves living under advisories for nearly 20 years.

Below is A SAMPLE LETTER TO THE MINISTER OF INDIGENOUS AND NORTHERN AFFAIRS, REGARDING CLEAN WATER AND SANITATION, PREPARED FOR YOUR USE BY THE CANADIAN UNITARIAN COUNCIL. PLEASE FEEL FREE TO USE, ADAPT AND SHARE.

March 2017

To The Honourable Carolyn Bennett,
Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs
House of Commons
Ottawa, Ontario, K1A 0A6

As a Canadian Unitarian, I am writing to voice concern regarding access to safe, drinkable water and adequate sanitation in Canada.

Canadians need to see a progress report on your promise to eliminate the need for boil water advisories in First Nations by 2021. Further, I suggest advancing the target to 2018 as being both achievable and consistent with the priority. Canada certainly has the technology, and with a more focused effort and resources, this necessity for clean water can surely be provided for all Canadians.

Our Unitarian Universalist Principles guide us to “affirm and promote the inherent worth and dignity of every person” and to “respect the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part”. In support of these principles, the Canadian Unitarian Council passed a motion in 2015, that called for all to have the right to clean air, water and soil. Delivering on this right for First Nations is clearly a priority.

A good step towards reconciliation with indigenous peoples would be to ensure clean drinking water is available to all First Nation communities. Clean water is a human right. Unsafe drinking water in First Nations isn’t just an Indigenous issue — it’s also a Canadian issue. How can there be reconciliation in a country where many First Nations experience chronic water issues, while neighbouring municipalities enjoy reliable access to safe, clean drinking water?

Your government’s own expert advisory panel states that in order to ensure water and sanitation in First Nations communities meets the standards enjoyed by other people in Canada, the resource gap in infrastructure and training must be closed. The barrier created by federal policies and procedures for funding must be remodeled or removed if the water needs of First Nations are to be met in a fair and timely way. The advisory panel also called for immediate measures to address the needs of those First Nations communities that have no running water or sewage.

I therefore support the recommendations of the David Suzuki Foundation in asking the federal government to:
• Be transparent about its progress toward ending drinking water advisories in First Nations;
• Simplify the process to ensure bureaucracy does not impede steps toward ending the drinking water crisis; and
• Support a First Nations-led approach to drinking water.

Access to safe drinkable water and adequate sanitation are basic human rights. No one should be denied this right. Further delays are inexcusable.