The Dismantling Racism Study Group (DRSG) was formed in May 2019 at the 2019 CUC AGM as part of a resolution passed by the Council. That resolution (Appendix B) tasked the Study Group with identifying and assessing efforts made in our congregations and communities to dismantle racism and other oppressions and explore possible action plans to engage Canadian Unitarian Universalists in serious conversation and action about racism.
The DRSG published a final report containing data and analysis from a Canadian Unitarian Council (CUC) national survey conducted in the spring of 2020. A preliminary report (Appendix A) published in October 2020 describes the survey’s raw data. This final report, presented to the 2021 CUC Annual General Meeting (AGM) in May 2021, includes an analysis of the survey’s findings. The survey was designed and interpreted by the Dismantling Racism Study Group (DRSG).
The Dismantling Racism Survey clearly shows that while some efforts to dismantle racism and other oppressions exist, a gap between our CUC aspirations and reality persists. This is evidenced in another gap between White Canadian UUs’ understanding/awareness of systemic racism in our faith communities, and the lived realities and experiences of BIPOC Canadian UUs. These gaps indicate that we are not living into our vision of being an inclusive, diverse, and just faith community. To narrow or (dare we aspire!) eliminate the gaps described above, we recommend that we do the following:
- Do the work of anti-racism now!
- Listen to BIPOC Voices
- Adopt an 8th principle as an explicit expression of our commitment to anti-racism. This can be done as a national council or as individual congregations.
We, the member congregations of the Canadian Unitarian Council, covenant to affirm and promote:
“Individual and communal action that accountably dismantles racism and other oppressions in ourselves and in our institutions.
- A willed commitment to racial justice work, demonstrated by an investment of resources at the national and congregational level. As evidenced by the THRRG program, such a commitment makes a difference. It provides hope that a similar CUC investment will manifest in increased racial justice initiatives at the congregational level.
a. Create an anti-racism curriculum for White Canadian UUs that includes:
– Understanding implicit and unconscious racial bias
– White racial identity (whiteness)
– The history and ongoing presence of racism in Canada
– Statistics and data on the inequality experienced by BIPOC
– Identification of the ways that racism shows up in our congregations both systemically and interpersonally
– Stories of Canadian BIPOC UUs
– Actions that White people can take to dismantle racism in their congregations and beyond
b. Assemble and disseminate anti-racism educational and worship materials for congregations.
c. Create a best practices guide for Canadian UU congregations and develop a program similar to the Welcoming Congregation program designed for LGBTQ++.
The 8th principle affirms “Individual and communal action that accountably dismantles racism and other oppressions in ourselves and in our institutions.”
1) I have issues with the wording of the proposed 8th Principle. Can we change the wording?
This is intended to show a groundswell of support for the 8th Principle from many congregations. It would not show unified support if individual congregations change the wording at this point. The wording may change as it moves through the UUA/CUC process before it is voted on. Because questions about the wording of the final principle will be deferred, we can focus on what the principle asks of us to do.
2) Doesn’t the first principle of the UUA covenant address this concept?
Although the first principle affirms the inherent worth and dignity of every person, it does not call us to action specifically to address white supremacy, racism, or other oppressions that are destructive of human worth and dignity. In addition, the first principle has existed for many years, and yet racism persists within our minds, within our congregations, and within our denomination.
3) Why is it important for the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) and CUC to adopt an 8th Principle?
The most compelling reason is that BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, Persons of Colour) members have asked the association to adopt the principle to commit us to take action in dismantling racism and other oppressions. Adopting the 8th Principle makes it clear that all UUs strongly support the long-term work of ending white supremacy.
4) Why is it important for UCM to adopt the 8th Principle?
The time needed for the UUA/CUC to fully adopt the resolution could be reduced by a strong show of support from individual congregations.
Adopting the principle at UCM would represent an important step in our ongoing journey to dismantle racism in our own congregation. At UCM, we have been called to action that will make our community more welcoming and open to all people.
The UU principles were always intended as a dynamic and flexible covenant instead of a fixed creed. Unitarian Universalism is the only religion that intentionally builds in the flexibility to adjust to an ongoing revealed truth; much as the 7th principle was added to respond to our interconnection with each other and the earth in response to environmental awareness, adopting and practicing this 8th principle reflects the current urgency and awareness of the need to do the personal and institutional work of acknowledging and eradicating systemic racism.
Dear Canadian Unitarian Universalists,
This letter comes to you from Margaret Wanlin, President of the CUC Board of Trustees and Vyda Ng, Executive Director.
(Full document with FAQs and appendices available here.)
There is no power for change greater than a community discovering what it cares about. ~ Margaret J Wheatley
At the CUC’s AGM on May 8th, our delegates heard the report from the Dismantling Racism Study group.
After this report, there was a spontaneous motion from the floor to immediately adopt the 8th principle, which states: “We, the member congregations of the Canadian Unitarian Council, covenant to affirm and promote: “Individual and communal action that accountably dismantles racism and other oppressions in ourselves and in our institutions.”
Following the AGM, Vyda sent an announcement to the CUC email lists announcing that delegates at the AGM had approved an 8th principle on dismantling racism and other oppressions.
Since then, there has been a lot of conversation about the 8th principle, the process and where we currently stand. It is our goal in this letter to provide more information and to outline a plan for the way forward.
What we know
The work of the Dismantling Racism Study Group (DRSG) is incredibly important work, and their excellent recommendations will provide us with guidance as we work together to build an inclusive and equitable community.
The 8th principle represents a formal commitment to the ideals we share and are already passionate about putting into action. The CUC’s Strategic Priorities for the past several years include a focus and dedication of resources to dismantling racism. Through dismantling racism workshops, surveys, roundtables, ‘Rising Together’ (group for youth and emerging young adults of colour), and Beloved Conversation groups, the CUC and congregations have been laying a foundation for the DRSG report and the commitment to the 8th principle.
We want to begin by honouring the work, commitment and leadership of the DRSG, and to affirm the contributions and lived experiences of UUs from racialized communities. We want to continue our work together to accountably dismantle racism and other oppressions in ourselves and in our institutions.”
We know that this work will be challenging and uncomfortable at times, but following the AGM we have been heartened to see the passion and commitment for it.
What happened at our AGM and why it is important
We want to provide a brief summary for those who were not at the AGM:
The Dismantling Racism Study Group presented their final report, which was made available on the CUC website on Friday, May 7, the day before the AGM.
The DRSG report made several recommendations which included:
· Listen to BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Colour ) voices
· Adopt an 8th principle as an explicit expression of our commitment to anti-racism. This can be done as a national council or as individual congregations
· A willed commitment to racial justice work, demonstrated by an investment of resources at the national and congregational level
· Assemble and disseminate anti-racism educational and worship materials
· Create a best practices guide for Canadian UU congregations and develop a program
There was no motion regarding the Dismantling Racism Report on the agenda or to adopt any of the recommendations until all congregations had had an opportunity to read the report. It was the intention at the AGM to receive the report and thank the DRSG for their excellent work.
After the Dismantling Racism Report, a delegate spontaneously proposed a motion to adopt the 8th principle. As there had been no previous notice given on this motion as required by CUC bylaw, this was ruled out of order by the Chair.
The delegate then proposed a motion to suspend the rules of procedure to allow the motion on the 8th principle. The Chair consulted with Dylan Fijal, CUC Parliamentarian, on the matter.
Delegates have the right to appeal the decision of the Chair, and a motion to suspend cannot be debated and requires a 2/3 majority to pass. This motion was voted on by a show of electronic hands, as no poll on this was previously prepared. The motion carried; however, there was no count taken for abstentions or those against the motion to suspend. [84 delegates were present and 61 voted in favour to suspend the rules of procedure.]
The Chair then moved on to the motion to adopt the 8th principle.
“We, the member congregations of the Canadian Unitarian Council, covenant to affirm and promote: “Individual and communal action that accountably dismantles racism and other oppressions in ourselves and in our institutions.”
The motion to adopt the 8th principle was moved and seconded. The Chair alternated discussion between delegates who were in favour of the motion and those who were against the motion. The speakers who opposed were not against the 8th principle itself, but stressed the importance of following the process that is in place as stated in our bylaws, rules of order and resolutions process, and allowing time for all congregations to discuss the momentous act of adding an 8th principle.
After the time allocated for discussion, the Chair called for the vote. This was done by raising and counting of electronic hands, since there was no prepared poll for this motion. The final tally was 61 for, 22 against.
The status of the motion:
Following the AGM, the Chair, Parliamentarian and Executive Director carefully reviewed the proceedings and AGM transcript. Unfortunately, in allowing the motion to proceed, we did not properly follow the requirement of prior notice for motions, and as a result we violated our own bylaws (refer to bylaw #3). The CUC bylaws supersede all other rules and procedures, thus making the motion invalid and, as such, it does not stand.
We want to be clear that this does not invalidate the passion or commitment we have for this issue. We want to get this right. We want to ensure that there is never a question that Canadian Unitarian Universalists are deeply committed to upholding the principle of dismantling racism and other oppressions, and committed to the work it requires.
What we owe one another
First, we owe you our deepest apologies. There was some confusion about the motion from the floor, and the implications of the vote to suspend the rules of procedure; there were delegates at the AGM who raised this point. But we allowed the vote to proceed. That should not have happened, and we should have called for a recess to review the bylaws more carefully.
We are deeply sorry if this has called into question our collective commitment to anti-racism work, our commitment to the ideals held in the 8th principle, or the intentions of goodhearted and loving Unitarian Universalists who want to uphold our principles and respect our processes. We issue these apologies both on behalf of the CUC, and also personally, and we commit to learning from these errors and doing better going forward. We hope that you will offer all involved the grace to move forward with our common goals in mind.
We also owe each other the time to get this right, and a pledge to make this work a top priority. We have heard from our delegates that there is a deep need and desire to move forward together to address racism in our community. We recognize that, for those who are passionate about this and for some BIPOC people, there is disappointment and hurt, and that this will feel like a step backwards by adhering to the rules instead of seizing the moment.
We know for others that the swift passage represented a lost opportunity to dig in deeply, have the important conversations and hear from those who must be heard. We also know that our youth and young adults in particular have been waiting for leadership and action on this issue.
We believe all of these things can be true at once, and it is our collective responsibility to create a space that honours them all, while not slowing the work towards our goals.
We owe each other gratitude. As a faith community, we owe a debt of gratitude to the DRSG for their diligent work, thoughtful recommendations and leadership. We owe gratitude to those who are deeply committed to dismantling racism. We must not let this error in parliamentary procedure diminish their work in any way.
We are also grateful for those who passionately advocated for the adoption of the 8th principle, and equally to those who reminded us of our commitments to process to ensure all who want to engage in this topic have the opportunity to do so. And as an executive team, we are deeply grateful for the steady guidance and thoughtful input from the UU Ministers of Canada and the CUC Board and staff. As with all work in community, we must commit to listening with an open heart. We are grateful for the opportunity to listen and to be heard.
Our commitment to the way forward
We propose a Special Meeting, to be held on Saturday, November 27, 2021. By holding it in late November, we aim to provide time for congregations to discuss the matter. This meeting will focus on the 8th principle and the process by which it was approved, discussion of the Dismantling Racism Study Group’s findings and recommendations, proposed motions arising from the recommendations, plans from CUC Board and staff on implementation, and an overview of the CUC’s bylaws, rules of order, and resolutions process.
Congregations will receive a package by early June, which will contain the Dismantling Racism Study Group’s report and recommendations, proposed motions, CUC Bylaw and resolutions process, and mechanisms for feedback.
Feedback will be due in mid-October, with any amendments to be sent out with the official Notice of Meeting in early November. We know that conversations and work by many congregations have been in place for while. We hope that between the receipt of the information package in early June and the feedback deadline, there will be opportunity for congregations to hold discussions with their members.
The CUC will continue to prioritize anti-racism work, as has been set out in our Strategic Priorities for several years, and to begin exploring the recommendations in the DRSG report. We commit to engaging our members and elevating lived experiences as we do this work.
This process of engaging with the DRSG report, of considering the 8th principle and championing its ideals, and grappling with the process which allows us to fully commit our faith community to a new path has been challenging, enlightening and, at its core, an act of deep love for one another and our faith. Together we will get this right.
Margaret Wanlin | President, Board of Trustees
Vyda Ng | Executive Director
With thanks and appreciation to the Dismantling Racism Study Group, the CUC Board and staff for their collaboration, and to Kim Turner (Knight Award recipient, former CUC Board President, lawyer, UU Church of Halifax) for her guidance.
Visit the Canadian Unitarian Council’s website and explore the Truth, Healing and Reconciliation pages.
Read the Summary of the Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada: Honouring the Truth, Reconciling for the Future
Reconciliation Canada is leading the way in engaging Canadians in dialogue and transformative experiences that revitalize the relationships among Indigenous peoples and all Canadians. Read their Reconciliation Discussion Guide
What is Reconciliation? A blog post from Indigenous Corporate Training.
21 Things you may not know about the Indian Act – CBC article by Bob Joseph.
Charity TrueNorthAid offers some suggestions to support reconciliation efforts.
To stay up to date on the news, check out the Aboriginal Peoples TV network: https://www.aptn.ca/
To learn more about the local treaties between the Mississaugas and the British, read this article from Modern Mississauga.
You can learn more about the Mississaugas of the Credit by exploring their website, which includes a culture and history section. www.mncfn.ca
From Reconciliation Canada, a video series from Chief Robert Joseph using traditional teachings to explore how to manage life during the pandemic.
For local history, this video from Heritage Mississauga looks at Treaties 22 and 23 (UCM sits on Treaty 22 land).
Multimedia ways to explore the tragic life of Chanie Wenjack as told by Gord Downie of the Tragically Hip at www.secretpath.ca
The Reason You Walk by Wab Kinew. A memoir of ancestry, residential schools and healing.
The Inconvenient Indian by Thomas King. A political and cultural history of indigenous people in Canada.
Legacy: Trauma, Stories and Indigenous Healing by Suzanne Methot. Looks at the legacy of intergenerational trauma and ways to heal.
All our Relations: Finding the Path Forward by Tanya Talaga. Explores the high rates of suicide among indigenous youth and the resistance and resilience responding to the crisis.
One Drum by Richard Wagamese. A gift of traditional Ojibway teachings that was Wagamese’s final, incomplete manuscript.
Our Social Responsibility Committee meets regularly. Check the calendar for the next meeting,
There are many ways that UCM acts for a better world. Join in!
At the CUC AGM today on May 8, we added an 8th principle:
“We, the member congregations of the Canadian Unitarian Council, covenant to affirm and promote: ‘Individual and communal action that accountably dismantles racism and other oppressions in ourselves and in our institutions.’
Rev. Debra Thorne, giving her Minister Observer to the Board report shortly after, likely spoke for many of us when she said her heart was very full.
The motion followed the report by the Dismantling Racism Study, and was not on the agenda. Delegates voted to suspend the rules of procedure to allow this motion. Some delegates were in favour of bringing the motion to next year’s AGM instead to allow for full participation and buy-in from all congregations. The motion to adopt the 8th principle carried by a majority.
In adding a new principle, we also reaffirmed an existing one: the use of the democratic process and the right of conscience both within our congregations and in society as a whole. Thanks to everyone for adding their voices and their votes to this milestone.
Canadian Unitarian Council | Conseil unitarien du Canada
Canadian Newspaper Articles (May 2021):
- ‘Blackness in Canada’ report reveals 78 per cent of Black people believe racism is a ‘severe’ problem in Canada
- Racism and Covid-19 are interlocking pandemics wreaking havoc on racialized communities across the continent
- Data shows ‘troubling’ portrait of Ontario jails
- Teacher has a plan to combat racism
- Isabel Wilkerson, Caste: The origins of our Discontents – Identifying “ways to move beyond the artificial and destructive separations of human divisions, toward hope in our common humanity.”
- Desmond Cole’s, The Skin We’re In: A Year of Black Resistance and Power, 2020 Doubleday Canada
- Robin DiAngelo, White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism, 2018 Beacon Press
- Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me, 2015 Spiegel & Grau
- Ijeoma Oluo, So You Want to Talk About Race, 2018 Seal Press
- Dionne Brand, Bread Out of Stone: Recollections, Sex, Recognitions, Race, Dreaming, Politics
- Robyn Maynard, Policing Black Lives: State Violence In Canada From Slavery To The Present
- Tanya Talaga, All Our Relations: Indigenous trauma in the shadow of colonialism
- Ibram X Kendi, How to Be an Antiracist
- The Guardian: “Respecting the integrity of all families” Charities and voluntourism fuelling ‘orphanage crisis’ in Haiti, says NGO
- The Guardian: “Not About the Needs and Feelings of White People”
- The Globe and Mail: “Racial Disparities in Toronto Police Force”
- Catherine Strickland: “Comparing climate change and antiracism“
- CBC: Isabel Wilkerson on why there’s a caste system at work in North America
- Black Lives Matter: Activist Shorts https://blacklivesmatter.com/activist-shorts/blm-toronto/
- Pam Palmater, Dear Media: Yes Canada is Racist: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HM_Rg79LaVs
- Desmond Cole: The Skin We’re In, CBC Firsthand https://www.cbc.ca/firsthand/episodes/the-skin-were-in
- CBC: Facing Race
- CBC: Out in the Open interview with Ibram X Kendi
- CBC: Curio: “Report on Racial Profiling by Toronto Police”
- Allies for Racial Equity
- Five Ways to Support Black Lives Matter
- Liberal Religious Educators Association
- Blog by Desmond Cole: https://thatsatruestory.wordpress.com/
There are many ways that UCM acts for a better world. Join in!
UCM is a diverse and multicultural community of individuals ‘who are guided by compassion, reason and love on an individual search for truth and meaning’. “we collaboratively try to make sense of the world around us”
For Marc, Unitarian Universalism aligned much more closely with his views on life than the Catholicism of his youth, and gave him a community of people with whom to struggle with how to act justly in the world.
I love the great variety of people and opinions that can be found at UCM. I love that it's a safe space to engage in dialogue about things you might steer away from other places...