Social Justice Activities

Our UUFO Commitment

We commit to strive individually and collectively for a community and world that is governed by non-violence, justice, equity and compassion. Since the Fellowship’s founding in 1996, members individually and collectively have sought to express this commitment, often in collaboration with other actors, local, national, or global.  See below for some of our current projects.  Current issues of concern include: 

  • the degrading of our habitable Earth and our environmental legacy to our children and generations to follow; 
  • acknowledgement of the injustice of today’s “settler” colonial inheritance of this land known to the land’s Indigenous Peoples as Turtle Island, and striving for a just way forward;
  • acknowledgement of and compensation for the genocidal practices of our country in its relations with Canada’s First Nations, and collaborating with them to develop a new relationship consistent with the treaties signed in the 19th century; 
  • the gross economic disparity in Canadian society as evidenced in the numbers of homeless people, the lack of affordable housing, the nation-wide need for food banks, the gross disparity in incomes and the power of the wealthy; 
  • discrimination based in race, gender, sexual preference and other prejudices; 
  • the gross economic and power disparity that exists globally, particularly as evidenced in the 70 million refugees and internally displaced people today.

As Unitarians, a commitment to express our concerns for social justice is central to our statement of faith and practice. 

To read a brief summary, with photographs, of many of the specific actions undertaken in the years 1996 to 2012Click here. Our purchase, with Heartwood House, of the building on McArthur in 2013 gave us a connection to many social justice organizations sharing the building and to many community organizations in the Overbrook-Vanier neighborhood.

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.

Current Projects: 

Follow-up to the Truth and Reconciliation Report

Blanket Exercise
Blanket Exercise: interactive educational program that teaches the history of Indigenous peoples in Canada that, until very recently was absent Canadian formal education. The program was developed by KAIROS Canada, an ecumenical movement for ecological justice and human rights.

Since June 2015, a major focus of our Social Action Cluster (SAC) has been education and action to cultivate a deeper understanding of historical and current relationships with Indigenous Canadians.  The release of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Report in 2015 was a “wake-up” call for many of us.  We made the commitment then to self-education and to engage in actions that seek to remedy past harms and foster a relationship with First Nations based in justice and equity.

As our program, we have brought to the Fellowship congregation videos, films, book reviews and Indigenous speakers at Sunday services. We have encouraged engagement with local Indigenous organizations through making financial contributions, volunteering at  Centre 510, Shawenjeagamik, (before Covid), and participating in community cultural events such as those at the Wabano Centre for Aboriginal Health. We continue to share information about opportunities to learn about Canada’s history of oppression of Indigenous nations and to support their journey for justice and healing.

Climate and Environmental Justice

Climate justice is both a global and a very local issue.  Our education and action work related to climate has often been linked to our efforts to seek justice for and reconciliation with Indigenous nations – e.g. access to clean water in Indigenous communities, advocacy for the community of Grassy Narrows related to mercury poisoning in their water. Support for local water issues has been expressed through support of the Ottawa River Keepers and the Ottawa Water Study Action Group. We recognize the many groups working on environmental issues and use our weekly social action e-newsletter to inform UUFO members of opportunities for action.

Large collage poster for World Water Day

Refugees

The Fellowship had the rewarding experience of sponsoring two refugees from Burundi in 2017 – two brothers who are now settled and doing well in Canada.  

On Mother’s Day, 2021 we launched a new Refugee Support Fundraising drive, in support of Flaming Chalice international. We were thrilled to surpass our goal in just 3 weeks! Read more

We are currently collaborating with a Saskatoon group to bring a family of three Burundian refugees to Ottawa.

Other Social Justice Work

Support of Local Charities and Programs

Each Sunday, we donate half the undesignated donations in our collection 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 purchased in 2013 with Heartwood House at 400-412 McArthur Avenue, we are making a contribution toward the continuing support of 22 local charities.  In addition to sharing space at affordable rents, UUFO members volunteer with Heartwood House organizations and support their social enterprise efforts.

Several times each year the Sunday services will feature the work of some of the non-profit groups we are supporting.  In the past two years these have included SeedChange Canada, Water First and the Assembly of Seven Generations.

Mitten Tree

Our annual mitten tree collection of winter clothing and cash is shared with local organizations, most recently the Inuuqatigiit Centre for Inuit Children, Youth and Families.

As a small congregation we share opportunities to collaborate with other faith groups (e.g. Kairos) and with our sister congregation (First Unitarian Congregation of Ottawa) on social justice initiatives.

Advocacy opportunities

Current social justice issues are used as opportunities for advocacy and education. We hold regular “table talk” events after our services providing information, opportunities for informal discussion, and often petitions to sign.  We also participate in Amnesty International’s Write for Rights program each December.

Sustaining the Commitment

Moving forward the Social Action Cluster plans to act as a source of encouragement and support for other members of the Fellowship to work on their issues of concern. Currently a group is forming to learn about and pursue advocacy for affordable housing.

From our beginnings as a Unitarian fellowship, social action – sometimes as charity, sometimes as education, sometimes as advocacy for justice – has been an important part of our expression of who we are.

The Brief History of UUFO Social Justice – 1996 -2012 recounts some of these early activities undertaken by the congregation and by individuals for building a more peaceful and sustainable world … answering the call of our UU principles and UUFO mission statement.