Central to our statement of faith and practice is a commitment to find ways to express our concern for social justice, and to strive individually and collectively for a community and world that is governed by non-violence, justice, equity and compassion. Issues that have engaged the Fellowship in a variety of forms of social action include: increasing disparities of wealth locally and globally; the degrading of Earth’s environment; the injustices in our country’s history of colonizing and settling on the lands of Canada’s First Peoples, and on-going relations with Canada’s First Nations; violence and war and the tools of war; refugees; hunger; homelessness. To read a brief summary, with photographs, of many of the specific actions undertaken in the years 1996 to 2012, Click here.
Social Action Cluster
The Social Action Cluster is a steering/coordinating group that brings specific social justice issues to the congregation and, with congregational support, initiates activities to follow-up with priorities.
Follow-up to the Truth and Reconciliation Report
Since June 2015, the focus of our Social Action Cluster (SAC) has been education and action related to cultivating a deeper understanding of historical and current relationships with indigenous Canadians. The experiences many of us had during the events surrounding the submission of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission report moved us deeply to initiate and sustain this focus. To begin this program, in September 2016 about 60 people participated in the “Blanket Exercise” at a Fellowship Sunday service. This first congregational discussion was continued during the year animated by videos, films, book reviews and two Sunday services. To stay connected with the Ottawa community, several SAC members participate in the Right Relations Network, a group of concerned citizens and churches that meets bi-monthly to share information related to indigenous issues. As part of that network UUFO contributed financially and with volunteers to support the re-opening of Centre 510, Shawenjeagamik, the Odawa Native Friendship Centre’s drop-in centre for homeless and near-homeless aboriginal people in Ottawa. This year SAC will continue with a program of education and community engagement as we continue to further our understanding of how we can contribute to reconciliation.
Fellowship Refugee Sponsorship Fund – A Happy Ending
In October 2018, the Unitarian Fellowship of Ottawa celebrated a special kind of graduation for two Burundian young men (brothers) who had arrived in Canada September 21, 2017, with the support of the Fellowship Refugee Sponsorship Fund.
Their safe arrival in Canada was a singularly gratifying event for members of the Fellowship, who for 18 months had anxiously followed the detailed steps of their processing through Canadian Immigration. They arrived from Kigali, Rwanda, where they had been living in virtual hiding for almost two years as refugees, in hiding to avoid discovery by Burundian security agents who might secret them back to Burundi where they would surely have come to harm. They had been officially registered with the United Nations High Commission for Refugees and subsequently screened by Canadian Immigration authorities and issued visas to enter Canada.
The Fellowship sponsorship was to last one year. Throughout this one year process, many Fellowship members got involved in assisting the two brothers to settle in and get started on their new lives in Canada. At the start, there was finding an apartment for them and gathering furniture; getting them introduced to and registered for all those things we take for granted as Canadians; getting oriented to our city and bus system; finding doctors and dentists; getting them enrolled in English language classes (French was not a problem as that is the lingua franca of Burundi.) It took a lot of volunteer time but the rewards were great because the brothers were so good-natured and quick to learn. There was social time with them: learning to ski and snowshoe, how to make home-made pizza, mutual sharing of our cultures and traditions. Before long the brothers were making their own way: they enrolled in employment-oriented courses, found summer jobs, and are enrolled in college programs that will lead to professional certification.
In October 2018 the one-year sponsorship had to come to an end, and our the two brothers graduated with flying colours, and our Fellowship is immensely proud of them. And as a Fellowship, we take some pride, too, in what we have accomplished. At the start of this process in the spring of 2016 the challenge was daunting, to raise $40,000 and go through the arduous tasks of the sponsorship application process. But, when they arrived at the Ottawa airport in September 2017, we were glad, over-joyed, because we knew we had done a good thing. As we drew the sponsorship to a close in September 2018 we were even more certain of that and we congratulate the brothers on their accomplishments.
Other Social Justice Work:
Support of Local Charities and Programs
Each Sunday, we donate half the undesignated donations in our collection basket to the Emergency Food Program of the Rideau-Rockcliffe Community Resource Centre (RRCRC). Also, the congregation has a small budget to assist local charities. With this we provide some financial support to a youth leadership program at the RRCRC and to the local Boys and Girls Club.
As a co-owner of the building we have recently purchased with Heartwood House at 400-412 McArthur Avenue, we are making a contribution toward the continuing support of 18 local charities. We also collaborate with other congregations to provide lunch for High Horizons, a weekly program for disabled adults and their caregivers.
Each year we also have a service in support of USC Canada, in addition to fundraising for their work through participation in the annual Run for Biodiversity.
The Brief History of UUFO Social Justice – 1996 -2012 outlines many other social justice activities undertaken by the congregation and by individuals related to building a more peaceful and sustainable world … responding to the call of both our UU principles and UUFO mission statement.