The CUC: From Colony To Nation, 1961–2002

Rev. Dr. Charles W. Eddis, Minister Emeritus, The Unitarian Church of Montreal.
An address to the Unitarian Universalist Historical Society, Quebec City, June 24, 2002.On July 1, the Canadian Unitarian Council, Conseil unitarien du Canada, will come of age, becoming an independent, self-sustaining religious denomination in Canada.  Why is this clear separation of Unitarians and Universalists in Canada from their fellow Unitarians and Universalists in the United States coming about?  How has the Council developed since its founding in 1961?  How did the separation come about?

The first, the why question is the more elusive one, hidden so no one will fully understand, as men do not fully understand women, or women men, because neither is the other.

Our being here in Quebec City, on this day, the Fête Nationale, St. Jean Baptiste Day, Quebec’s Fourth of July, complete with fireworks, points to the underlying answer.  A short walk from here are the Plains of Abraham, where British General Wolfe defeated French General Montcalm in 1759, bringing  to an end most of the French empire in North America.

The French had hemmed in the English thirteen colonies, down the Ohio Valley, the Illinois and Mississippi rivers, to the Gulf of Mexico.  The defeat of the French opened up the west to the English colonists.  The attempts of England to get them to pay the bill removing the French obstacle to their westward expansion resulted in what Canadians call the American Revolution, waged, as the colonists themselves put it, in defence of “the rights of Englishmen.”  The result was three peoples: the English in the United States, the English in British North America, now known as Canada, and the French Canadians.

Les Canadiens resigned themselves to living under British rule.  The British promised them the right to keep their language and their religion in perpetuity. This guarantee was carried over in time into the Canadian constitution.[2]  Under the sheltering wings of the Roman Catholic church, full of clerical refugees from the French Revolution, the French Canadians devoted themselves to survival as a people by the revenge of the cradle.  With the centuries, their 20,000 grew to four million souls.[3]

The English who left the United States during and after the Revolution were markedly different from the ones who remained to build the new American nation.  Those who remained were, for the most part, Protestants of the dissenting kind, and Whigs.  As Whigs they stemmed from the thinking of such as the English Unitarian John Locke, who stressed liberty, individual rights, and human equality as regards to dignity, worth, and opportunity, but not equality of well-being.  Governments were not to be trusted, and should not acquire undue influence, their chief role being the protection of property.  Tolerance of differences should be observed.  In his masterful book, Continental Divide: The Values and Institutions of the United States and Canada,[4] Seymour Lipset, political sociologist at Stanford University, sums up the American creed as antistatism, individualism, populism, and egalitarianism.[5] On this foundation, Americans set out in quest of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

The Tories who left the United States for Canada during and after the Revolution held the opposite of these values.  Not relying so much on the private initiative of citizens and on voluntary associations, they saw government as playing a more positive and active role in the welfare of society.  The community took precedence over the wants and wishes of the individual.  The voice of the people was not the voice of God, and so was not always to be consulted, trusted, or followed.  (In spite of the efforts of feminists and many others, the Equal Rights Amendment has yet to pass in the United States.  By contrast, when the Charter of Rights and Freedoms was written into the Canadian constitution in 1982, equal rights for women was included.  No vote of the people was held.  Equal rights was included  by the federal government in the process of negotiation with the provincial premiers, with scarcely a ripple, as were affirmative action programs.  Ontario, Canada’’s most industrialized, wealthy, and populous province, has gone on to enact legislation requiring that women receive the same pay as men for jobs of comparable skill.)[6]

Canada was not formed as a country because the people living in British North America wanted one.  It was formed for economic reasons, and to forestall annexation by the United States after the Civil War.  In the Civil War, Britain had sided with the south, and what became Canada with the north.  When the war ended, the United States proposed that in compensation for having supported the south, Britain give it British North America.  The British ambassador told the American Secretary of State that Great Britain “did not wish to keep Canada, but could not part with it without the consent of the inhabitants.[7]  This neither the French, who were conservative, nor the English, who were Tories, not Whigs, wanted.  They got together, French and English, came to an agreement, and asked the British parliament in London to pass the British North America Act, creating Canada, with its own government.

Much has changed since then.  Much underlying has remained the same.

My family moved with me to the United States in 1966.  For about a dozen years we lived in Evanston, Illinois, between the black and white neighbourhoods.  My daughter was mildly curious that 80% of the children in her kindergarden class had dark skin.  What stood out in her mind was not that but the pledge of allegiance to the flag.  I had never said anything to her.  (I suspect my wife had.)  My daughter refused to say the pledge of allegiance.  She also remembers from her early school days that her papers were always returned to her with words incorrectly spelled marked with a red “X” – words such as neighbour and centre, which her mother had told her how to spell.  When the Canadian Unitarian Council met in Kelowna, British Columbia, for its annual meeting last month, it adopted the UUA seven principles and six sources as its own.  Just three minor changes were made.  One was who was doing the covenanting.  This covenant was entered into by member congregations of the Canadian Unitarian Council, not of the Unitarian Universalist Association.  The other two changes were the spelling of neighbour in “loving our neighbours as ourselves” from “OR” to “OUR” and the spelling of  earth-centred in “Spiritual teachings of Earth-centred traditions” from “TERED” to “TRED.

Being an American is more than a matter of birth or citizenship.  It is an ideological commitment.  There is no “Canadian way of life.”  Something or someone can supposedly be un-American.  The word un-Canadian is not in the lexicon at all.  Canada has no ideology.  It is the most decentralized federation in the western world.  Canada is rooted in its own history, a tradition that is absorbed even by those in Canada who do not know it.  It is the Tory tradition, as opposed to the Whig.  The Whigs in England were the believers in meritocracy, in laissez-faire, the builders of factories.  They were generous in good works, private charities, and voluntary associations.  The Tories were the older establishment.  They passed the Factory Acts limiting the hours of work, protecting child labour, and caring for the welfare of society as a whole.  The Tory tradition is more oriented towards the welfare of society than the Whig tradition.  It is more supportive of state intervention.  All Canadian national political parties are to the left of the Democratic Party in the United States.  (The one notable exception is the Reform Alliance Party, a party rooted in western protest with no seats in Parliament east of Manitoba.)  The 1966 UUA Committee on Goals found that a majority of Canadian Unitarians and Universalists then supported the New Democratic Party, the most left-leaning of the then three major Canadian political parties.[8] Once in those days Dufferin Roblin, then the Premier of Manitoba, walked in to a Unitarian gathering in Winnipeg and  for ten minutes  thought he was at a meeting of New Democrats.  He recognized seven members of the legislative assembly, including three cabinet ministers, two Winnipeg city aldermen and one member of the Winnipeg Metro Council, all of whom were New Democrats.[9]  In the nineteenth century the English Unitarians were the Whig party at prayer, as the Anglicans were the Tories at prayer.  The Canadians were and are still somewhat the NDP meditating, if not praying.

The Tory tradition is to be seen in the fact that 87% of Canadians adhere, however loosely, to just three churches, in order of numbers the Roman Catholic, the United Church, and the Anglican.[10]   Two have been established churches.  The United Church was created in 1925 in part to have one strong church in small towns, rather than divisive competition.  The United Church, though on average perhaps more liberal than the other two, from the start took on some of the characteristics of establishment.

Canadians are not very assertive or nationalistic.  Canada, in Seymour Lipset’s words, is the anti-nation.[11] There was no Canadian citizenship until 1947.  For the first sixty years after forming a country Canadians remained British subjects.  We had the same rights in England as Englishmen.  We had no national flag until 1965.  Till then the nearest thing we had was the flag flown by ships registered in Canada – the red ensign – a red flag with the union jack in the corner and a coat of arms with maple leaves in the middle.  We had no national anthem.  We sang “God save the Queen” until “O Canada” was adopted by Parliament in 1967.  True to Canadian form, only the tune was officially adopted as Canada’’s national anthem then.  It took Parliament another thirteen years to decide on the official words, which became official only after “God” was added by the politicians, invoked to keep Canadians “glorious and free.”  Canada got its very own constitution only in 1982, when the British parliament gave up its control over amendments to the British North America Act of 1867.  Queen Elizabeth came to Canada to sign and thereby give royal assent to the newly minted Canadian constitution, she being the legal and constitutional head of state, which she remains to this day.

The United States was formed for “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”  Canada was formed, in the words of the Fathers of Confederation, for the purpose of “peace, order, and good government.”   In Canada, law enforcement preceded settlement.  In the Klondike gold rush of the 1890’s, writes Seymour Lipset,

…Canadian values [upheld by the Mounties and 200 soldiers] stood firm against ‘rampant American individualism’ [80% of the miners were Americans] spilling across from towns in Skagway, Alaska, run by thugs.[12]

Canadians respect authority.  They are suspicious of American suspicion of authority.  Authority has a moral obligation to care for people individually and collectively.  Such sentiment can be called paternalism.  Compared to the United States, this paternalism has given Canadians a much lower rate of homicide, crime, incarceration, and infant mortality, and safe cities, and almost free medical care.  Having faith in and respect for law, Canada has less than half the number of lawyers per capita the United States has.  Although placing no stress on freedom, it has kept alive a culture in which, with the absence of patriotric conformity, Canadians are freer to be themselves.   So Canada’’s elitist, aristocratic, statist society, founded for “peace, order, and good government” is not all bad.  Its leading literary voices tend to be women, not men.  It is anti-hero, Charlie Chaplin, not Superman.  It is not the innocent Adam beginning in a virgin land without a tradition.  Canada, observes Lipset, is Noah carrying with him the weight of a failed history.[13]

Canadians do not have a clear sense of identity.  At the same time, they sense they have a hold of something they appreciate and want to keep.  With all due respect to their benevolent neighbours south of the border, most Canadians do not want to be Americans.  That, most Canadians are agreed on.  “Canadians,” observes Lipset, “are the world’s oldest and most continuing un-Americans.”[14]

What does this have to do with the CUC?

How does this play out?  What has this to do with the creation and coming of age of the Canadian Unitarian Council in the last forty years?  The simple fact is that Canada is not the same as the United States.  The Unitarian Universalist Association has functioned mostly as an American organization, geared to the situation and needs of people in the United States.  But as Dorothy is reputed to have observed in The Wizard of Oz, “Toto, this isn’’t Kansas.”  Perhaps without exception, the UUA has never had a fulltime staff member living and working in Canada.

I tell you, having lived eighteen years in the United States, you cannot understand Canada if you live in the United States unless you make that your chief mission, as have some specialists.  Canadians do not expect Americans to understand them, and that includes American Unitarian Universalists.  The UUA is knowledgeable and effective as a national American organization.  It has been, on the whole, a continental organization as an afterthought, tending to assume that what fits in the United States fits in Canada.  Canadians have sometimes been annoyed to be left out of American resolutions on social issues, and sometimes angered when included, as though the same issues arise in the same way with the same urgency in Canada.  For Canadians, the UUA agenda has sometimes been the wrong agenda.  Canadians have wanted to meet on their own, with each other, to build their own agenda, and act on it.

Let us move on to the evolution of the Canadian Unitarian Council.

The formation of the CUC  was a long-held dream.  Proposals to form a Canadian organization were made by G.C. Holland, minister of the Ottawa church, in 1898,[15] Samuel A. Eliot, President of the American Unitarian Association in 1908,[16] Charles Huntingdon Pennoyer, minister of the Halifax Universalist Church in 1909,[17] and Horace Westwood, a Unitarian minister in Winnipeg in 1913.[18] In 1946 The Commission on the Work of the Churches of the British Unitarians recommended that “the Assembly should interest itself in the formation of a Canadian Unitarian Association which many Unitarians there believe to be necessary.[19]”

The first native seeds were planted with the publication of The Canadian Unitarian in Ottawa from 1940 to 1946, a small newsletter distributed with the newsletters of Canadian churches.  After the Second World War, the growth of the Unitarians in Canada began to show the strength which would make some Canadian organization feasible, if not imperative.  Unitarians, most notably Toronto ministers, generated considerable media attention from the centre of Canada’’s English language media.  The Unitarian Service Committee of Canada, founded in 1945, was receiving considerable attention both in city newspapers and on television, so much so that the word “Unitarian” became a household word, though its meaning was not that widely known.  In 1946 there were six Icelandic Unitarian churches with 272 members, and five English-speaking churches with 1,049 members.  The Universalists had five churches with 459 members.  In 1961 there were three Universalist churches with 68 members, and three Icelandic and eleven English-speaking Unitarian churches with 3,476 members, and in addition 22 Unitarian fellowships with 773 members.  The Universalists almost disappeared in Canada, outside of a small rural church in southwest Ontario, and were probably saved in the other two surviving locations by influx of Canadian Unitarians.  By contrast, Unitarian membership more than tripled in the same fifteen years.  In 1953 there were six Unitarian ministers serving congregations in Canada.  Ten years later there were five ministers in the Toronto area alone.

A groundswell for some sort of Canadian organization began to build up.

Proposals came from British Columbia, the prairies, from Ontario, from the Canadians holding rump sessions late Sunday evenings each year at the annual May meetings of the American Unitarian Association in Boston.  On December 3, 1960, a meeting of seventeen people from eight Unitarian churches in Ontario and Quebec met to form an organization to enable the congregations in the two provinces to work together.  The meeting identified areas where needs were not being met.  Key areas were publications and social action.  (Pamphlets on famous American Unitarians, including Unitarians in the White House, and a Boston headquarters address did not quite project a Canadian image.)  A committee was appointed to draft an organizational plan.  On December 27, the committee met with a plan before it.  I had served as a minister in western Canada for five years, and been the president of the Western Canada Unitarian Conference.  I had visited Vancouver on several occasions and knew Phillip Hewett, the Unitarian minister there.  I knew the plan would be acceptable across the country.  There was no point in limiting the proposal to Ontario and Quebec.  It was adjusted to fit the whole country, and sent to all congregations in Canada.

In early April, 1961, a meeting with delegates from ten congregations was held in Montreal.  The plan was approved 8 to 1, with the understanding that “The Council will function within the framework of the continental Unitarian Universalist Association.”  The next month, the American Unitarian Association and the Universalist Church of America met in Boston to approve the formation of the Unitarian Universalist Association.  That same week in Boston, on May 14,  some fifty Canadian Unitarians and Universalists from Vancouver to Halifax met and approved the bylaws which brought the Canadian Unitarian Council into being, and elected its first Board of Directors.  The Board elected me its first President, a position I held until 1965.

The Board requested a grant of $1,500 from the Board of Trustees of the new UUA.  It was approved.  It was enough to enable a truly national board, with members from New Brunswick to British Columbia, to meet twice a year, to fund some office expenses, and a bit more.   The Council held its first annual meeting on Canadian soil in May the following year, 1962.  The ministers held their first national meeting in Toronto that November, with every last minister from New Brunswick to British Columbia in attendance.

The first pamphlet, “Unitarians in Canada”, was published in 1963.  Its back cover listed the name and location of every church and fellowship in Canada.  Other pamphlets by ministers in Canada followed.  Resolutions on social issues were initiated by congregations, narrowed down in polls, and voted at the national meeting each year.  The first annual meeting outside Ontario and Quebec  was held in Winnipeg, Manitoba, in 1965.  Thereafter, the CUC has met in different cities from coast to coast.

In 1965 the first capital workshop was held in Ottawa.  A panel of journalists discussed “The Ottawa Scene” with a view to increasing Unitarian political understanding and effectiveness, and there were speakers and workshops on the labour movement and penal reform.  Subsequent annual capital workshops dealt with poverty, the future of Canada, international and domestic obligations, Canada’’s aboriginal people, and violence.  In 1970 a Social Responsibility Officer was funded, employing Mary Lou Church for two years.

In 1969 came a crisis that began the transformation of the CUC into an association in its own right.  Confronted with a drastic financial crisis, the UUA proposed cutting the CUC allocation back from the $8,000 it was then receiving annually to its original $1,500.  At the CUC annual meetings in Montreal that May, angry  Toronto area delegates proposed that Canadian congregations separate from the UUA, and the CUC go its own. Twenty four congregations were present as delegates defeated the proposal 29-21.  Negotiations between the CUC and the UUA produced what became known as the First Accord.  In it the CUC was given the responsibility for denominational fundraising in Canada, getting over half the proceeds.  The CUC got to elect, in effect, a member to the UUA Board, and authority to certify ministers to do weddings in Canada.  The UUA also agreed not to oppose CUC membership in the IARF.  (As a continental organization, the UUA had included a Canadian in its IARF delegation, and opposed direct Canadian representation.)  The CUC was accepted into IARF membership in 1972, and invited its Congress to meet in Montreal in 1975, which it did.

Having credentialing authority for the performance of weddings, the CUC decided to institute what are now called lay chaplains.  These are people who are appointed by their congregations and trained and authorized by the CUC to perform wedding ceremonies.  Lay chaplains also do infant dedications and baptisms, funerals and memorial services.  The first lay chaplain was appointed in 1971.  The need for them was acute in 1971.  We had 20 churches and 34 fellowships then, and just 16 settled ministers in the whole country.  The fellowships wanted celebrants available to do rites of passage.  There was a strong demand for Unitarian weddings on the part of the general public.  It was more than the ministers could handle.  Today there are seventy seven lay chaplains.

The First Accord provided that the CUC would keep the first $15,000 Canadian raised, give the UUA the second $15,000, and divide anything above $30,000 equally.  The CUC raised $17,030 in 1970-71, and had little incentive to exert itself to raise more.  A Second Accord in 1972 changed this: the CUC would keep the first $8,000, and share the remainder equally with the UUA.  This pushed the results up a few thousand dollars a year.

A new factor changed the whole picture in 1977, producing the Third CUC-UUA Accord.  Veatch matching funds began, under which the CUC, like the UUA, received from the Veatch Foundation a dollar for every dollar it raised for the Annual Program Fund.  If, for instance, the CUC raised $50,000, the Veatch Fund would add another $50,000.  The CUC would receive its initial $8,000, and share the remainder with the UUA.  This would result in $54,000 for the CUC and $46,000 for the UUA, instead of $42,000 in the absence of the Veatch matching grant.  And the CUC ended up with $4,000 more than it raised.

Since its first years, the CUC had been administered by a devoted competent volunteer, Barbara Arnott.  The CUC “office” was in her bedroom until she retired in 1978.  The CUC mailing address had been that of Toronto’s First Unitarian Congregation, 175 St. Clair Avenue West.  All CUC mail received there had been sent on to her home address, to be dealt with by her in her apartment.  When she retired, office space was rented at 175 St. Clair Avenue, made possible presumably by the Veatch matching funds.  Here the new administrative secretary could work, with additional paid and volunteer help, and meetings of the executive committee and board could be held.

Five years later the next important step came when, after a process of two years of soul-searching and looking to the future involving the congregations, the annual meeting, supported by the congregations, voted in 1983 to hire the CUC’’s first professional executive director.  Kathleen Hunter was chosen, a lawyer and former president of The Unitarian Church of Montreal.

Hiring a professional executive director changed the way Canadians thought about the CUC.  They took it and their responsibilities for it more seriously.  They developed an increasing sense of identity, commitment and confidence.  Canadian giving to the Annual Program Fund thus reached $101,729 in 1986, and kept increasing.  The congregations supported the APF wholeheartedly.  Almost all congregations, whether churches or fellowships, began giving their full fair share as set by the UUA.  Kathleen Hunter, like lay CUC president Mary Lu MacDonald in 1970-71, in time visited all the congregations in Canada.  With an executive director at the helm, the CUC functioned more smoothly and effectively.  The first Unitarians began preparing for the ministry at theological schools in Canada, in Toronto and Vancouver.  Work was found and congregations were helped to develop to expand opportunities for home-grown ministers in Canada.  In the 1980’s seven Canadians were ordained to the ministry, in the 1990’s fifteen.  Soon there will be six more.

Noteworthy in 1988 was a program developed by Mark DeWolfe and Phillip Hewett and used in many congregations, The Language of the Land, an exploration of Canadian contextual theology.  This culminated in programs at the annual meetings of the Canadian ministers, and the CUC itself.

Also in 1988 the CUC launched its first long range planning process.  Its Board members visited 35 congregations, meeting face to face with 10% of our total membership.  They found Canadian Unitarians and Universalists wanted their faith to be publicly visible; they wanted to grow; they wanted better communications.

The first edition of Phillip Hewett’s definitive history, Unitarians in Canada, was published in 1978. [20] The 1980’s saw the Canadian Unitarian Council joining coalitions such as Project Ploughshares, a sophisticated organization doing peace research and education and action, and playing a key role in the Canadian peace movement.  Canadian religious education material continued to be written and produced, including The Canadians… Adventures of Our People, about Canadian Unitarians and Universalists, by Margaret K. Gooding.[21]

An effective program in 1989-90 was “Our Common Future,” a study of the Bruntland Report prepared for the Rio de Janiero summit on the environment.  Different congregations prepared the chapters for the study guide.  During the winter and spring, congregations across Canada studied the report.  The CUC and some congregations were tied into the national nongovernmental coalition working with the federal government, and to NGO individuals who went to Rio and reported back to them.

Canadian Unitarians for Social Justice, an activist group formed a few years previously, was recognized at the 1996 meetings as a valuable leadership group.  It has its own publication and more than 350 members.  Today the CUC itself has social responsibility monitoring groups in the following areas: environment, globalization, choice in dying, gay and lesbian issues, economic justice, justice for first nations, and peace.

I shall now describe what led up to the independence of the Canadian Unitarian Council.

The Fourth CUC-UUA Accord was signed in 1983.  Under this agreement the Liberal Religious Charities Society gave a matching grant as well.  If, for example, $50,000 was raised by the CUC in its APF, the Veatch and LRCS grants would make the total $150,000.  The CUC would get $4,000 plus $50,000 for a total of $54,000.  The UUA would get the balance, $96,000.[22]  It was as if the CUC sent all the APF money it raised to the UUA, the Veatch Fund sent the UUA a matching amount, and the Liberal Religious Charities Society sent the CUC an amount equal to what the CUC raised plus an extra $4,000.  The money did not,  apparently, flow that way.[23] The formula determined the end amounts.  The Fourth Accord did not benefit the CUC.  It did keep the UUA satisfied financially for a time.[24]

This arrangement worked until in 1986 the Veatch Fund decided to stop the matching fund grants, giving the UUA twenty million dollars for capital funding instead.  The LRCS cheques to the CUC stopped two years later.  A new accord, Accord Five in 1987, agreed that the CUC would raise a large endowment fund and pay 75% of its income to the UUA for its services to Canadian congregations.  The fund failed to materialize.  Accord Six struck in 1991 agreed on the estimated cost of services to Canadian societies not paid by the UUA endowments or other funds.  The CUC agreed to get to that level of payment while limiting the amount of the annual increase to three per cent of the previous year’s CUC expenditure budget.  Accord Seven in 1994 added clauses to protect the CUC from rapid year to year fluctuations due to foreign currency exchange rate and the restructuring of the UUA budget to include use of trust funds in its current budget.

Two years later, the UUA expressed its dissatisfaction with the seventh Accord.  At the May 1997 annual meetings in Thunder Bay, Ontario, UUA President John Buehrens, stating that Canada was costing too much, informally offered three officials of the CUC one million dollars for the Canadians to go on their own.[25] After negotiations, in 1998 this Accord was dissolved by mutual agreement of the CUC and the UUA.  Wrote Kim Turner, CUC President from 1999 to 2001,

At the beginning, we had a hard time convincing the UUA that in fact we did not have an agenda to separate – and that we needed the congregations to tell us what they wanted.[26]

To find out what congregations wanted, the CUC Board the year before, in 1997, had established the Commission on Services to Canadian Congregations.  This involved a survey of all congregations, and extensive consultations and visits by Board members and staff, with 93% participation of congregations and “emerging groups.”  The Commission, in its report sent to all congregations before the 1998 annual meetings, set forth four options for the relationship between the CUC and the UUA.  At the meetings, the desire was expressed for evolution, not revolution, some adjustment of services to meet Canadian needs and make UUA services affordable. No decision was taken, nor action approved.

In their ongoing negotiations, the CUC and UUA agreed they wanted a healthy relationship, which would include equal relationship, less dependency, equitable/fair, congregation-centred, not governance centred, permanence/stability, and partnership.

A Stage Two report from the CUC Commission to the 1999 annual meeting called for a gradual change towards greater Canadian service delivery and programs, with priority to religious education and growth.  Again, no decisions were made.  The CUC Board took the discussion and suggestions of the annual meeting under advisement.  Later in the year the CUC negotiators found that the UUA was not prepared to negotiate any new arrangement without consulting the districts.  The CUC negotiators suggested this was the responsibility of the UUA, not of the CUC.

The May 2000 CUC meetings in Calgary by a vote of 79 to 11 (with no abstentions)  authorized the CUC Board to begin the changes recommended by the Commission, and to negotiate with the UUA to make this happen.  In all, three annual meetings were held before the CUC Board had the authority to undertake definitive negotiations.

That September 2000, the negotiating teams[27] met in Regina, Saskatchewan.  There, events took a sudden turn the CUC team had not expected or anticipated.  The UUA rejected the CUC’’s evolutionary approach.  It indicated that “although the evolutionary approach may work in concept for the CUC, the slow evolution would not work for the UUA.  It proposed a greater shift in services to the CUC, ministry, youth, and young adult services excepted.”[28]The UUA could not shift or adjust services gradually, year after year.  It proposed, in effect, that the CUC go on its own, except for the ministry, youth, and young adult services, which would remain continental and primarily a UUA responsibility.

The CUC Board authorized negotiations to continue.  In January 2001, the UUA proposed the transfer of one and a half million dollars (U.S.) (calculated on the value of endowment shares as of December 31, 2000) to fund an independent CUC.  The money was to be handed over on July 1, 2002 if the CUC had a service delivery plan ratified by its members and CUC congregations withdrew from the UUA and the districts.  Both groups agreed that cross-border informal associations and many continental groups, such as the UU-UNO and the Liberal Religious Educators’ Association be maintained.   In February 2001 the UUA negotiators refused to reconsider their position on the membership of Canadian congregations in the UUA.[29]  Asked what the UUA response would be if Canadian congregations did not ratify the agreement, it stated,

If ratification fails, the UUA will NOT negotiate a new CUC-UUA Accord.  All APF funding will go directly to the UUA (at a 2001-2002 rate of $44 US (or approx. $66 Can.) per member.)  All UUA services will be delivered through UUA Districts.  Canadian congregations fitting UUA membership parameters will continue with the UUA. The UUA will not restrict its relation to Canadian congregations, i.e., Capital fundraising and Friends programs will include Canada.  The CUC will in no way be impeded from raising its own monies.[30]

Either number eight was to be the final Accord, or the Accords would end with number seven.  Given that clear-cut drastic choice and no other option, many Canadian Unitarians probably thought the decision —totally unexpected a few months previously— had been made for them.

222 Canadian Unitarians, augmented by guests from the UUA and a full meeting of the International Council of Unitarians and Universalists, converged on Montreal for the May 2001 CUC  meeting.  The interests of proportional representation restricted the number of deletes to 127.  The delegates came from all ten of Canada’’s provinces and belonged to six UUA districts.   They represented forty congregations.  After a presentation, there followed three hours of sometimes passionate debate.  Every delegate was present to cast his or her secret ballot.  The vote was 105 for and 22 against.  The final Accord between the CUC and the UUA was accepted.  The Canadian Unitarian Council would become the primary assocation and service provider of Canadian Unitarians and Universalists on July 1, 2002.  The only exceptions were to be the ministry, youth, and young adult programs, where former arrangements would continue.

In the year that followed, the CUC Board appointed an Implementation Task Force  to plan for the new beginning.  The final proposal was to divide the country into four regions, British Columbia, Western Canada, Central, and Eastern (including eastern Ontario), served by two Directors of Regional Services, fulltime professionals, one in the west, one in the east.  In addition the CUC would add to its staff a fulltime Director of Lifespan Learning.  When the plan was brought before the 2002 annual May meeting in Kelowna, British Columbia, there was some discussion about the lines of accountability for the first two directors.  Then came the vote.  It was unanimous.  Not a single voice was raised against the plan.  Not a vote opposed it.  Amidst the rejoicing, many hugged and broke into tears.

(There have been tears of grief and tears of anger too, shed on other occasions.  Such tears have flowed especially in the five international districts to which Canadian Unitarians and Universalists have belonged.  Some cross-border relations will continue.  The final Accord stipulates, among other matters including continuing high level consultations,  that Canadians shall be welcome at all American meetings, and Americans at all Canadian ones.  But the meetings will not be as frequent and as widely attended as they have been these past forty years.  There has been a richness in the peoples of the two countries working together easily and comfortably in a common cause.  A sense of the prospect of loss here has brought tears.)

Over the years negotiations between CUC and UUA representatives varied in mood, intensity, and effectiveness.  At times there was friendly generosity and easy adaptation.  At times there was implacable resistance, avoidance on one side, anger and frustration on the other, and acrimonious debate.  Sometimes UUA negotiators came to meetings lacking basic information, ill-prepared to negotiate anything.  Too often through the short years faces changed, so that CUC negotiators had to explain everything over from the beginning again.  Unresolved until several years ago was the international mandate of the UUA itself: was it a national, a continental, or a world organization?  Reportedly the issue came to the fore with the UUA Board of Trustees when an application for membership came from Pakistan, claiming a potentiality of 5,000 members.[31]

Apparently a sea change occurred.  Recalled Kim Turner, a CUC member of the final negotiating team, of the meetings,

They were frustrating – as it was clear we had no real “leverage” until all of sudden the UUA side started to view us as being a marginal group (like blacks, gays, etc.) to the point that they had to be very careful not to” impose” upon us their standards, language, views.  Their desire to let Canadians decide their own future was a turning point.[32]

Why did all this happen?  Ellen Campbell, CUC Executive Director from 1990 to 2000, deems the development of the ministry and ministers in Canada a key factor.[33]  Kim Turner observed,

…another huge change when I was on the Board was the move into technology.  We went from discussing whether we should rent fax machines for Board members to having e-groups for discussions.  This has resulted in amazing changes both in decision making and in communication across Canada.[34]

I offer three reasons:

The first is the very existence of Canada, more of a reality than most people living in the United States can appreciate, a country with its own history, politics, logistics and communications, movements of people, media, literature, art, identity, et cetera.  Canadian Unitarians and Universalists needed a way to talk to each other, to visit each other, to work together and for each other.

The second is process, the process Canadian Unitarians and Universalists have used from the beginning in building consensus and trust, in developing projects, arrangements, ideas, in identifying and pursuing goals and objectives.

The third is a growing sense of identity and commitment, and a confidence in their ability to manage their own affairs.  Acquiring the first professional CUC executive director was the big step.  Raising money, over $400,000 in the last endowment campaign begun in 1993, and in increasing amounts in the Annual Program Fund, has added to their commitment and confidence.  The Canadian Council goes on its own on July 1 with a budget of $690,000.  That is a modest amount today.  I expect it will give Canadian Unitarians and Universalists and Unitarian Universalists a good start.  What they lack in immediate cash they will more than make up for with enthusiasm, ingenuity, dedication, and sheer determination.  There is the will. They will find the way.


  1. With apologies and thanks to Arthur R.M. Lower, From Colony to Nation: A History of Canada (Toronto – Longmans, Green and Company 1946 4th rev. ed. 1964 5th ed. 1977 McLelland and Stewart Limited)
  2. Under the constitution, Roman Catholics and Protestants were guaranteed their own publicly financed school systems in Quebec.  This provision was changed in 1998 at the request of the Quebec government, which wanted to base the two school systems not on confessionality but on language (French and English) instead.
  3. According to the 1961 census, there were 4,291,689 in Quebec for whom French was their mother tongue, and 5,123,151 in Canada.  The 1996 census figures are higher, but include growing numbers of  French-speaking immigrants and such factors as many more French-English marriages.
  4. Seymour Martin Lipset, The Continental Divide, The Values and Institutions of the United States and Canada (New York – London: Routledge, Chapman and Hall, Inc., 1990)
  5. Ibid. 26
  6. Ibid. 190
  7. J. Bartlet Brebner Canada  -A Modern History (Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press 1960) 149
  8. Report of the Committee on Goals, Unitarian Universalist Association 1967 (Table 69)
    Asked, “If you live in Canada: For which party did you vote in the l965 national election?”
    51.0% of respondents answered New Democratic (NDP); 37.1% Liberal; 5.6% Conservative; 0.3% Social Credit; Other 0.3%; Did not vote 5.7%.
  9. Report on the May 14-17, 1971 annual meeting in Winnipeg, Manitoba in The CanadianUnitarian, Summer 1971
  10. Lipsey op.cit. 88 (The figures will be out of date due to Canadian immigration since 1990.)
  11. Ibid. 72
  12. Ibid. 92
  13. Ibid. 63, 67f
  14. Ibid. 53
  15. Phillip Hewett, Unitarians in Canada (Toronto: Canadian Unitarian Council 1978, rev. ed. 1995) 248
  16. Ibid. 249
  17. Ibid. 253
  18. Ibid. 250
  19. ”The Commission is grateful to the American Unitarian Association for assuming general oversight of Canadian churches during the war.  For reasons of geography and common interests the Canadian churches must continue to work closely with the American Unitarian Association.   At the same time, however, these congregations are very conscious of their attachments to this country and the Commission believes that the Assembly should, for its part, do everything possible to show how much these sentiments are reciprocated.  It is especially desirable that, as opportunity occurs, one or two English ministers should settle in Canada, and the Assembly should interest itself in the formation of a Canadian Unitarian Association which many Unitarians there believe to be necessary.”  (quoted by A.Phillip Hewett in an e-mail sent to “UUs in the Canadian Unitarian Council” March 26, 2001)
  20. Published by the Canadian Unitarian Council, 55 Eglinton Avenue East, #705, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M4P 1G8 4th rev.ed. 1995
  21. Published by the Canadian Unitarian Council, 55 Eglinton Avenue East, #705, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M4P 1G8
  22. Brian Kiely, A Brief History of the Accord, in The Canadian Unitarian, September 1989(This article outlines the contents of the first five Accords.)
  23. The CUC fiscal year ends March 31, the UUA fiscal year June 30.  This makes it difficult to relate flows of contributions as reported in the CUC audited statements to the Accords, which were apparently governed by the UUA fiscal year. The audited statements for the CUC fiscal year ending March 31, 1983, for instance, show CUC income from APF and Friends of $53,925, $52,127 from the Veatch Foundation,  $4,000 from LRCS, and expenditures of $47,762 to the UUA.
  24. The LRCS money reportedly came from the Holdeen Fund.  Both funds can be found on the UUA web site ( using its Google search engine.  More information may be found using Google directly on the web.
  25. John Hopewell, President 1997-99; Kim Turner, President 1999-2001; Ellen Campbell, Executive Director 1990-2000.
  26. E-mail to author on April 1, 2002
  27. The final negotiating team for the CUC was led by President Kim Turner and included Treasurer Mark Morrison-Reed, Trustee Brian Kiely, Past President John Hopewell, and UUA Trustee for Canada, Katie Stein Sather.  The UUA team was led by Moderator Denny Davidoff and included Financial Advisor Larry Ladd and District Trustees Gini Courter, Judi McGavin and Kathryn McIntyre.  Beth Graham participated as facilitator.
  28. Correspondence from CUC President Kim Turner to author.  For similar words and a longer account see president’s message in Special Report II on the agreement between the Canadian Unitarian Council and the Unitarian Universalist Associationincluded in The Canadian Unitarian (February 2001 Vol.42 No.1).  This report includes a summary of the agreement, and descriptions, explanations, and interpretations.
  29. The UUA found it could not legally compel the Canadian congregations (or any other congregations) to withdraw their membership in the UUA.  I expect such membership will diminish with time. The UUA is revising the boundaries of its districts so that Canadian congregations will be excluded.
  30. Summary from the CUC-UUA Negotiations 5 in e-mail memo, summarizing March 5, 2001 meeting of the Negotiating Teams. Authorship not clear.  May be from the teams themselves together.
  31. Ellen Campbell, Laying the Groundwork: Ten Years at the Canadian Unitarian Council(Edmonton, Alberta: Canadian Unitarian and Universalist Historical Society 2002) (The 2002 Mark Mosher DeWolfe Annual Lecture, May 19, 2002) 5
  32. e-mail of April 1 to author
  33. Ellen Campbell, op.cit.
  34. e-mail of April 1, 2002 to author