Today is August 29, 2015


The Unitarian commitment to social action is contained in three principles:

  • The inherent worth and dignity of every person
  • Justice, equity and compassion in human relations
  • The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all

Action based on these principles starts at home and then spreads outwards.

Pastoral Care

During every service there is a time for people to express joys and concerns. The congregation is informed about new concerns and challenges at this time. The congregation has two pastoral care co-ordinators, Jenny Leach and John Berry, who contact church members who are in the hospital or who have restricted mobility. Please contact Jenny at 905-684-0841 or John at 905-327-3051.

Social Responsibility

The second aspect of Unitarian social action is captutred is under the area of Social Responsibility where Unitarians modify their own behavior or take direct action in a socially responsible way.

Harvest Festival

The UCN was one of the sponsors of the Harvest Festival in downtown St. Catharines in the Fall of 2010 and 2011. Here are links to a poster for the 2010 festival, and to a photography contest related to it.

Sexual and Gender Diversity

In 2007-08, our congregation undertook a series of intensive two-hour workshops, with curriculum provided by the Canadian Unitarian Council, that dealt specifically with raising awareness surrounding the experiences of our lesbian, gay, trans, bisexual and queer citizens, usually shortened to LGBTQ. Of course, there are other identities that are within and beyond that acronym. In 2008, the CUC accredited us as a Welcoming Congregation.

Our national organization recognizes, as do we, that what sets us apart from the vast majority of other congregations and faith traditions is our unconditional support and celebration of the LGBTQ community.

Since 2008, we have tried consciously to include, in our Sunday addresses and in our social action activities, a continuing and important involvement in the LGBTQ community.

These are some of our church activities:

  • We hang the rainbow flag in our church, probably the only congregation in the region to do so. And our sign out front has a rainbow stripe on it.
  • We have a Facebook page dedicated to LGBTQ issues.
  • We attend the annual rainbow flag-raising ceremony at city hall with our banner.
  • We participate in Niagara's annual Pride in the Park festival and at the yearly OUTformation Fair.
  • We have donated hundreds of dollars to the My Name Fund, a resource that covers the cost of a legal name change in Ontario for our trans citizens.
  • For many years, this church was known nationally as a leader in supporting and performing same-sex marriages.
  • We host and participate in the annual winter solstice service organized by PFLAG Niagara.
  • We periodically invite LGBTQ advocates and allies to speak at our weekly services.
  • We have marched in the Toronto Pride Parade with other Unitarian congregations from the GTA.
  • We screen movies/documentaries, often with an LGBTQ-centred theme, at our monthly film nights.
  • We maintain a presence at PFLAG Niagara.
  • Many of us as individuals also act as allies to the LGBTQ community.

As a congregation, we must continue to make ourselves visible supporters of the LGBTQ community. In our personal and professional lives, and as members of UCN, we must respectfully call out bigotry when it confronts us. We must be informed and vigilant, because LGBTQ rights can be taken away as easily as they are given. If ever there was a cause to promote and affirm our first principle, the inherent worth and dignity of every person, it is in our support of the sexual- and gender-diverse community.

Out of the Cold

The Unitarian Congregation of Niagara is at it again. For the past 14 years, every Friday night from the beginning of November until the end of March, several Churches in St. Catharines, including Knox Presbyterian Church have provided a hot meal and overnight accommodation for those in need in our community. Knox Presbyterian has a large, well equipped commerical kitchen and large auditorium where the homeless can spend the night. Volunteers provide the meal, interact with guests during the evening, supervise those staying overnight and provide breakfast in the morning.

In 2013 we will do Out of the Cold on January 4 and a date to be determined in the fall. Volunteers from our UU Congregation will be providing and serving a meal for approximately 120 - 150 people. We are grateful that our Congregation is able to provide, in a small way, to this program.

For more information, contact David Jordan.

Background of UCN and Out of the Cold

On January 30, 2009, volunteers from our congregation provided and served a meal for approximately 80 people. We repeated this once in 2010 and twice in 2011 and 2012, with about 140 people served each time. We are grateful that our congregation is able to provide, in a small way, for those less fortunate individuals.

Social Justice

The third aspect of Unitarian social action is the Canadian Unitarians for Social Justice organization. The Canadian Unitarians for Social Justice attempts to change the behavior of government bodies. It is affiiated with but distinct from the CUC. This allows the Canadian Unitarians for Social Justice to lobby governments without jeopardizing the CUC's charitable status. David Jordan is the CUSJ co-ordinator. Please contact David at 905 397-8485.

Social Action Issues

Community Store

Planning is in progress to build a community food store in downtown St. Catharines. Follow this link. to a blog on the subject created by Rev. Rose Ann Vita of Silver Spire United Church.

Women 4 Women

Women 4 Women is a weekly drop-in centre that provides women of the Queenston Street area with a safe place they can call their own "under the roof of Westview Christian Fellowship." We donated money, food, clothing and personal care items. As well, members of the congregation volunteer at the drop-in centre.

Health-Care Issues

Subject: Welland General Hospital

The City of Welland has put the full report from the Task Force on the future of the Welland General Hospital on its website, as per the council resolution of November 16, 2010. In the Report, the heads of hospital departments slated for closure under the HIP make a strong case for the preservation of their specialty at the Welland site.

I invite you to read the Report; it states what our doctors recommended. The title, Strengthening the Welland Hospital Site, indicates their objective.

On November 16, the Chair of the Task Force, Dr. Peter Willard, made a PowerPoint presentation to Welland Council, reporting the results of negotiations with the NHS as of that date. Willard made it clear that the NHS has made very few concessions. The Welland General retains its ER, along with day surgery. Within five years, everything else is gone.

Mental health was not represented on the Task Force, or in the report. Some years ago, Dr. T.M. Abraham's successful fight to preserve in-patient mental health at our hospital cost him his job as Chief of Psychiatry for the Niagara Region. Since the publication of the HIP, Dr. Abraham, who had by then retired from the Welland General, nevertheless fought valiantly against the NHS/HIP proposal to integrate all in-patient psychiatry at the new hospital in St. Catharines. He has been the only champion for the mentally ill of this part of Niagara, and it is a shame on this city that his observations and recommendations, drawn from long experience in this community and elsewhere, have been ignored by medical colleagues and City Council, as well as the NHS. If we do not support those who are willing to fight for our best interests, then we truly deserve what we get.

The full report is available at this link.

Fiona McMurran

Child Adoption

We had talked about UCN adopting a child from the "Plan" or World Vision" or one of the other non-profit groups; however, I remembered that "Child Haven" is a group founded and operated by 2 dedicated and renown Unitarians, Rev. Fred and Bonnie Cappuccino.

Child Haven gives us an opportunity to adopt a post-high school child or a younger student with special needs, your decision. They do not have individual sponsorship of children in Child Haven but we have several opportunities to help and donate.

If each member (assuming there are 60) donates $6.00, we can donate $360 per year to help in whichever way you choose. I have included a link to the Child Haven website.

Take a look and let me know what you think.

Marie Belliveau

Freshwater Preservation

The Victoria Times Colonist reports that, "RAVEN (Respecting Aboriginal Values and Environmental Needs) is a charitable organization that provides financial resources to assist Aboriginal Nations within Canada in lawfully forcing industrial development to be reconciled with their traditional ways of life..."

"(They have) produced a documentary film, Blue Gold, the Tsilhqot'in Fight for Teztan Biny (Fish Lake)... The film looks at Taseko Mines Ltd.'s proposed 'Prosperity' mine that would see Fish Lake (Teztan Biny), Little Fish Lake (Naba) and the surrounding area destroyed as they gain access to the gold and copper reserves in the earth."

"Recent changes in the Fisheries Act allow for the destruction of freshwater bodies in Canada. Once added to Schedule 2, lakes and rivers lose the protections of the Fisheries Act and are allowed to be used as toxic dumpsites for metal mining corporations."

To watch the 40-minute video 'Blue Gold, the Tsilhqot'in Fight for Teztan Biny (Fish Lake)' on-line, go to this link .

The Victoria Times Colonist article is at this link.

The Council of Canadians encourages you to sign the on-line petition to defend Teztan Biny.

Bottled Water

March 22 is International Water Day! UCN Night at the Movies ran "Blue Gold:The Water Wars" Friday, March 19th and I am excited to add the "Polaris" film "The Story of Bottled Water" to our website for your viewing. Just go to this link to view the film. I have a lot of material on WATER and would be pleased to pass it along if anyone is interested, just ask me. Marie Belliveau

GM Food

Please read the press release below, from the Canadian Biotechnology Action Network (CBAN)

Canada at the UN Codex meeting on GM food labeling: Negotiations continue, U.S. increasingly isolated

Congratulations! Your action worked!

Thanks to your letters, the Canadian government delegation to the UN Codex meeting last week did not boldly ally itself with the U.S. position against GM food labeling. The U.S. failed in their attempts to stop the negotiations.

The Canadian government did not speak up to support the nonsensical position from the U.S. that GM foods are no different from foods produced through conventional methods. Though not yet actively supporting a positive position on GM labeling, Canada did not obstruct the meeting and the U.S. was not able to put an end to the negotiations. Out of the over 50 countries at the negotiations, the U.S. was only supported in its position by Mexico, Costa Rica, and Argentina.

Codex recommendations on GM labeling could protect developing countries from challenges brought through the World Trade Organization.

The U.S. was trying to put an end to the UN Codex negotiations on GM labeling but the negotiations will continue. There will be an important Codex meeting in May 2011 in Quebec City - and we must continue to pressure the Minister of Health. The Canadian Biotechnology Action Network (CBAN) will continue to take action and monitor this issue, as well as collaborate with U.S. groups. Please see below from Consumers Union in the U.S.

Press Release: Consumers Union Calls on U.S. to Support Genetically Modified Food Labeling Agreement

U.S. Stands Nearly Alone in Opposition at Recent International Meeting

Yonkers, NY Consumers Union, the nonprofit publisher of Consumer Reports, today called on the Obama Administration to endorse a compromise on guidelines for labeling of genetically modified (GM)/genetically engineered (GE) food, that was supported by the overwhelming majority of nations during international negotiations last week in Canada. Consumers Union again expressed serious concerns that the current U.S. position in opposition to the compromise on GE/GM labeling could create major problems in the long term for U.S. and foreign producers who want to label their products as free of GM/GE ingredients.

At a meeting that concluded last Friday in Quebec of the Codex Committee on Food Labeling (CCFL), an arm of Codex Alimentarius, the United Nations food standards agency, the U.S. fought for a guideline that Codex would not suggest or imply that GM/GE foods are in any way different from other foods. The U.S. also refused to agree to comprise language stating that Codex recognizes that each country can adopt different approaches regarding labeling of GM/GE foods. However the U.S. failed to rally support for its views. Out of the approximately 50 countries present for the discussion, the U.S. was supported in its position by only three other countries: Mexico, Costa Rica, and Argentina. The CCFL Chair decided that the guideline should be mediated in the near future in Brussels, with Ghana chairing the meeting, so that the countries would could try and reach a consensus.

The U.S. opposes any draft Codex guideline that explicitly recognizes that there are differences between GE/GM food and non-GE/GM, or that states that countries can adopt different approaches to labeling of GE food, in line with existing Codex guidance. The U.S. position states that mandatory labeling of food as GE is likely to create the impression that the labeled food is in some way different and would therefore be false, misleading or deceptive.

The current U.S. position could potentially create significant problems for food producers in the U.S., and worldwide, who wish to indicate that their products contain no GE ingredients, as well as for countries that require labels on GE/GM food, said Dr. Michael Hansen, senior scientist at Consumers Union, and the lead spokesperson for the 220-member Consumers International at the meeting. The U.S. government clearly recognizes that there are differences between GE and non-GE food. USDA organic rules specifically state that GE seed cannot be used in organic production. The FDA has also taken the position that within the U.S., voluntary labeling as to whether or not a product contains GE ingredients is permissible. It is unclear why the U.S. has taken a contrary position on GM/GE food at Codex.

Codex guidelines are widely adopted by developing countries and are used to settle trade challenges at the World Trade Organization (WTO). The U.S. position at this international meeting is not consistent with the U.S. position at home. We urge the U.S. to bring its position at Codex into alignment with domestic policy and allow the compromise to go forward, said Dr. Hansen.

Prior to the meeting, Consumers Union and more than 80 farmers, public health, environmental, and organic food organizations sent a letter to Michael R. Taylor, Deputy Commissioner for Food at the FDA, and to Kathleen Merrigan, Deputy Secretary at the USDA, expressing serious concerns with the U.S. position. FDA and USDA are the lead agencies representing the U.S. government at Codex. A copy of the letter can be found online: In addition, more than 111,000 concerned citizens signed a petition, urging officials to change their position. A recent Consumers Union poll found that two-thirds of consumers would be concerned if they thought that GE/GM ingredients were in organic food.

Environmental Stewardship

The seventh Unitarian article is "Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part". Respect for the enviroment and our ecological connectedness starts at the church and our homes and extends to ecologocical communities that we impact.

Climate Change Day of Action

The Unitarian Congregation of Niagara participated in Climate Change Day. The congregation has experimented with paperless services. Also the congregation has an electronic newsletter system in place.

The congregation has registered with and is now proudly diplayed on the world map showing projects around the word. Clicking on the following link to the website will bring up initatives in the Niagara area. Please be patient while the orange circles are drawn as the orange circles correspond to initiatives. Zooming down to the St. Catharine's area will display our congregation. Zooming out will display eastern Canada then the world. Over 140 countries participated in this event.


Unitarian Congregation of Niagara
We are a welcoming congregation
223 Church Street
Saint Catharines, Ontario L2R 3E8