SK Conference The Call Echoes weekend June 16-18

You’re invited to The Call Echoes, SK Conference events June 16, 17, 18 in Saskatoon
Register: www.sk.united-church.ca/register/ or call the Conference office.

In need of some faith revival and community? Come and be fed . . . Saskatchewan Conference does not have an annual general meeting this year, but The Call Echoes, Saskatchewan Conference’s Ministry event, is for you. This is an exciting get together for renewal, justice-seeking, learning, and celebration of our ministry is for everyone. Please help promote these events! (See below for promotion resources and details).

Come join us for a Friday retreat, Saturday singing and workshops, and the celebration of ministries banquet, and Sunday’s celebration of new ministries service. We even have a micro brewery tour and tasting! It all takes place June 16 – 18 in Saskatoon. Please register as soon as possible as registration is only open until June 5th. Some events have limited enrollment.

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Workshops and bios: June 17, Call Echoes event

Workshops and great workshop leaders! June 17, 2017: SK Conference Education Day at McClure United Church. (Map. And a flyer about the whole weekend.)

Scroll down for bios of our amazing facilitators. Please indicate your workshops preferences at www.sk.united-church.ca/register/ or call the Conference office at 306-721-3311. Workshops are free and open to the community. Lunch is $12 and you must register for it in advance. Registration and coffee at 8:30; worship is at 9:15 and workshops will begin by 10:15AM. Lunch: 12:30- 1:30, then afternoon workshops at 2:00PM- 4:15PM. Click here for a workshops flyer.  (PDF) Continue reading

Update: Philippines emergency continues

Update received from United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP): Emergency Continues. 

The national United Church of Canada received the following update from the UCCP this morning, May 27, regarding the emergency situation in Marawi, on the southern Philippines island‎ of Mindanao. (See an earlier post for background.)  Please continue to pray for and support the people of Marawi and those related to the UCCP’s Dansalan College: 

  1. In MARAWI — 50 college-related families remain trapped, and need to be evacuated. Food and medicines are scarce, given extreme limitations on movement in the city, even for rescue and relief efforts.
  2. In ILIGAN City — 30 college-related families are in temporary, make-shift shelter.
  3. CAPTIVES — Whereabouts and conditions are still unknown of the seven (7) hostages from the college including the School Principal. 

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Prayer request: United Church of Christ in the Philippines

Patricia Talbot, General Council staff (Team Leader for Church in Partnership, and Northeast Asia Partnerships), wrote to all  Conferences with an update on the violence gripping communities in Mindanao, the southernmost island in the Philippines. In addition, please see the UCCCP Bishops’ statement on the violence. (Note that we will post updates in separate posts; please see the home page on the right side for a list of updates.)  Continue reading

Bill C-16 stalled in the Senate: take action for transgender human rights

Trans* people are ministers and leaders in the United Church and across the country. They are members of our families, our loved ones, our friends, colleagues, and neighbours, and they deserve to have their identities protected by the law.

Bill C-16 would amend the Canadian Human Rights Act to prohibit discrimination on the grounds of gender identity and gender expression. It will also amend the Canadian Criminal Code to include gender identity and gender expression as a recognized group when offences are motivated by bias, prejudice, or hate.

Bill C-16 passed its third reading in the House of Commons in November 2016, and is now in its second reading in the Senate. Some groups are actively campaigning the Senate to block this bill. Please take action by contacting your senator as soon as possible, and urge the Senate to make Bill C-16 law.

Saskatchewan Senators: https://sencanada.ca/en/senators

Raynell Andreychuk raynell.andreychuk@sen.parl.gc.ca

Denise Batters: denise.batters@sen.parl.gc.ca

Lillian Eva Dyck: lillian.dyck@sen.parl.gc.ca

David Tkachuk david.tkachuk@sen.parl.gc.ca

Pamela Wallin: pamela.wallin@sen.parl.gc.ca

Response to the 2017 Provincial Budget Saskatchewan Conference, The United Church of Canada

Saskatchewan Conference of The United Church of Canada is gravely concerned about the nature and impact of the provincial 2017 budget cuts announced March 22. (This statement was updated May 1 and May 15 to reflect recent developments.)

On March 22nd, the government of Saskatchewan released its 2017 “transformational” budget. Premier Wall had warned that “everything is on the table”, made necessary, he said, by the need to eliminate a $1.3 billion provincial debt, a debt caused mainly, we’re told, by the decline in the revenues from oil, gas, and potash.

As a Christian community which shares these treaty lands with diverse Indigenous and settler communities alike, we speak against the values that underlie this budget. A budget is, at heart, a statement about our collective values. This budget erodes community fabric, denies our communities full and respectful consultation, places exceptional burdens on vulnerable people, and violates Treaty relationships.  Our society is required to act with the compassion and justice that characterize the message of Jesus and that of the prophets and sages of every age. In this budget, the government has failed this test.

Taking action
The Local-Global Advocacy Network and the All My Relations Network ask that individuals, pastoral charges, and presbyteries discern which concerns they wish to address, with a focus on measures that will unnecessarily and unjustly cause hardship to many thousands of the province’s people, or which dishonour our Treaty agreements.  Please send a letter and/ or phone call to your MLA and to the Premier. Not sure who your MLA is? Look here. For full contact information, use this link.

Action options and a summary are now posted by the group Stop the Cuts.

Specific concerns about the 2017 Saskatchewan budget
Below we name just a few of the cuts implemented. We note with dismay that in almost every case, these cuts came with no warning and no consultation. How these cuts were arrived at is almost as damaging as the cuts themselves.

– The end of the Saskatchewan Transportation Company (STC), and with it, the almost immediate elimination of the jobs of 224 staff. In the long term, this cut means the loss of the primary means of transportation for many citizens who have depended on the STC to get them to medical appointments, meetings, family visits, and so on. The disproportionate impact on low income people, the elderly, and rural and isolated communities will be enormous, and will eat away at our community fabric. A citizens’ Facebook group fro advocacy and education, Save STC, has been set up: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1256678351047292/

Major cuts to grants to public libraries: This has been reversed for now, after one of the biggest series of public demonstrations in SK’s history. However, long term funding is still in doubt.

Spiritual care. The government ended all base funding to the seven Saskatchewan members of the Canadian Association for Spiritual Care. These are highly trained professionals who provide holistic care for hospital patients and their families. Pastoral care in times of grief and tragedy is at the heart of our communities. What does this cut say about our values in this province? We are now the only province in Canada that does not fund spiritual care. For resources on addressing this with government, refer to this post on our Conference’s Faith Formation blog.

– Even before the budget was released, the government announced that the Saskatchewan Pastures Program that has long provided ranchers and others with access to Crown land will be phased out. Fifty-one pastures covering 170,000 acres will be put up for sale or lease. Unique prairie habitat may be put at risk. Please see this overview from Trevor Herriot, in which he reviews point by point the impact of this disturbing decision.

Saskatchewan Conference President Rev. Krystal Sheremata has written to Premier Brad Wall to express opposition to the provincial auction of Crown land.  Please see her letter here and share widely (PDF). The letter is also posted to the All My Relations Network blog. In March, the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations protested the auction, noting “The Saskatchewan government is completely disregarding its Treaty Land Entitlement obligations by selling off Crown land to the highest bidder and not allowing the First Nations the time they need to weigh their options on the selection and purchase of Crown lands.”

A reduction or end to the Grants-in-lieu program for cities. This program has existed since the 1930s and was ended with absolutely no warning. Municipalities provide a very wide range of day to day services which are especially crucial to low income people. These cuts, and the way they were carried out, will pose a major problem for 109 communities across the province.

These grants take the form of money sent from federal government agencies, provincial Crown corporations and municipal utilities to Saskatchewan cities in lieu of these government agencies paying municipal property tax on infrastructure. The provincial budget eliminated grants-in-lieu from the provincial Crown corporations SaskPower, SaskEnergy and TransGas to municipalities throughout the province. A few days after the budget, some of the cuts were reduced; Saskatoon and Regina’s 100% cuts remain in effect.

The cuts to education, i.e., to school operating budgets, that were announced as 1.2% ($22 million) have turned out to be 2.9% (more than $54 million) once the difference in the province’s and the school system’s fiscal years are taken into account. These cuts, as the Teachers’ Federation has said, will have a serious impact on the classroom through cuts to staffing and provision of resources.

The Saskatchewan Conference All My Relations and Local-Global Advocacy Networks.

Further information
A commentary from Dr Howard Leeson on the values of this budget. http://leaderpost.com/opinion/letters/premier-wall-should-either-resign-or-call-an-election-on-the-budget

Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN) statement on the auction of SK Crown lands.

Government release about changes to Social Services: https://www.saskatchewan.ca/residents/family-and-social-support/information-on-social-services-program-changes.

Report of the UNJPPI Annual Gathering

Pathways Forward to Justice and Reconciliation: Stories from Canada, Palestine, Israel

The Fifth Annual National Gathering of the United Network for Justice and Peace in Palestine and Israel (UNJPPI)    Saskatoon, SK, September 23–25, 2016.   [Print PDF]

Our national gathering this year brought together 61 members of UNJPPI from across the country along with many friends and allies who are also working for a just peace in Palestine and Israel.  Our home for the weekend was the tranquil Queen’s House Retreat and Renewal Centre on the bank of the South Saskatchewan River.

Things kicked off Friday evening with registration followed by a delicious dinner at the Centre.  We then carpooled to Grace-Westminster United Church for a public screening of Canadian-Israeli filmmaker Lia Tarachansky’s documentary On the Side of the Road, which explores Israelis’ collective amnesia of the events of 1948 in Palestine.  A lively Q / A period followed during which Lia was joined by Palestinian human rights lawyer Jonathan Kuttab, Professor Priscilla Settee of the University of Saskatchewan, and the Right Reverend Jordan Cantwell, Moderator of the United Church of Canada.

Our Saturday program began with Ethel Ahenekew welcoming us to Treaty 6 land and the land of the Cree, Assinobian, and Saulteaux people and the homeland of the Métis.  Esther Epp-Tiessen of the Mennonite Central Committee then spoke on the spirituality of advocacy — “We need to listen with our hearts if we want to be allies with those who suffer.” After a break, Priscilla Settee and Jonathan Kuttab facilitated two sessions on the experiences of the indigenous peoples of Palestine and Canada with a focus on colonization, land, and human rights.

The afternoon’s offerings began with two rounds of workshops. Topics included: Palestine and Israel: How did it Come to This?; An Introduction to UNDRIP; Exercising our Influence Effectively with Members of Parliament; Ending Occupation Through Non-Violent Resistance; Christian Zionism; and The Situation of Indigenous Children in Canada and Palestine — Are There Parallels?”

After a break we gathered for a session on Progressive Social Change, during which we watched the documentary Reserve 107.  It recounts how a First Nations’ land claim in Laird, Saskatchewan, provided an opportunity to create new friendships and right the wrongs of the past. In small groups we discussed how change comes about, and what it means to be allies.

Our evening gathering focused on the Boycott / Divest / Sanction movement (BDS) and exploring what it is and isn’t.  Dimitri Lascaris, former Justice Critic in the Green Party of Canada’s Shadow Cabinet, spoke about his experiences authoring a controversial boycott resolution that was adapted at the Green Party’s recent national convention.

The long day ended with a time of refreshments and socializing.

On Sunday we joined the congregation of Third Avenue United Church for worship where the Right Reverend Jordan Cantwell spoke on Isaiah 58: 6-12, “Called to be a People of Hope.”  After a communal lunch that was generously provided by Langham UCW, we headed into a strategy session facilitated by UNJPPI co-chairs Marianna Harris and Steve Berube.  Highlights of this time were short presentations by Christi Neufeldt and Wendy Gichiru of the Central Council office, Jonathan Kuttab, Dimitri Lascaris, Joanna Hiebert Bergen of MCC, and Harold Shuster of Independent Jewish Voices (IJV).

By mid-afternoon we were beginning to say our goodbyes.

What were the strengths of our time together? The quality and depth of the programming must be near the top of the list.  Passionate and informed speakers such as Lia Tarachansky, Jonathan Kuttab, Priscilla Settee, and Dimitri Lascaris provided us with a range of thoughtful perspectives.  In addition, they were generous with their time, engaging with attendees over meals and between and after the official sessions.  We also benefitted from the representatives of our allies in advocacy — MCC and IJV in particular — and learned more about their activities.  And of course, we all got to know each other better, sharing experiences and forging relationships that will contribute to more effective advocacy.

The success of the gathering was due in large part to the members of the planning committee — Marianna Harris (chair), Brenda Curtis, Debbie Hubbard, Donna Wilson, Helen Allen, Jim Wicks, Julie Graham, Kathy Bergen, and Vicki Obedkoff.  We also have to mention Rev. Donna Wilson and the staff at Third Avenue United Church for their hospitality and support, which went a long way to making the conference possible.  A huge thanks to you all and everyone else who contributed their time, energy, and expertise.

Several United Church conferences and presbyteries demonstrated their support for UNJPPI’s mandate by helping fund the gathering.  These include B.C. Conference, General Council, River Bend Presbytery, Saskatchewan Conference, and Toronto Southeast Presbytery.  Thank you.

UNJPPI is a network of mainly United Church of Canada people working toward the goal of a just peace in Palestine and Israel by calling for an end to the illegal Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands and equal rights for all who live in Palestine/Israel through education and advocacy.