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. 

Continue reading

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.

UN expert warns of deteriorating situation for human rights defenders in Palestine and Israel

GENEVA (21 March 2017) – Human rights defenders working to draw attention to abuses associated with Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian Territory are being increasingly targeted as a result of their work, according to a new report from a United Nations human rights expert.

Michael Lynk – the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967 – expressed deep concerns about the shrinking space for civil society in the Occupied Palestinian Territory in a statement to the Human Rights Council in Geneva.

“As human rights defenders – Palestinians, Israelis, and internationals – persist with their intrepid activism to investigate and oppose the regime of human rights violations that is integral to the occupation. All indications are that they will continue to be the prime targets of those who are intolerant of their criticisms, yet alarmed by their effectiveness,” Mr. Lynk said.

The Rapporteur noted with alarm that Palestinian human rights defenders have been subjected to attacks, arrest, detention, and threats to their lives and safety. “They have experienced sophisticated interference with their vital work, and have faced toxic denunciations aimed at silencing them and discouraging their supporters,” he continued.

Mr. Lynk also drew attention to the work of Israeli human rights organizations which call attention to human rights abuses that occur in the context of the occupation. He noted that these organizations “are enduring an increasingly hostile public atmosphere in Israel and from the settlement movement, stoked by the Israeli political leadership and the media, as well as obstructive legislation enacted or being considered by the Knesset.”

The Rapporteur emphasized the essential nature of the work of these defenders: “They provide invaluable advocacy, independent and reliable analysis, effective protection, the courage to investigate and protest, and offer both a progressive interpretation of existing rights as well as a vision of new rights in embryo. The work of these human rights defenders animates and enlarges the enjoyment of human rights for the rest of us.”

In his report, the Rapporteur also highlighted issues of pressing concern with respect to the human rights situation in the OPT. He noted with alarm the rapid pace with which the settlement enterprise has advanced since the start of 2017, referencing the announcement of the construction of 6,000 new housing units. He also expressed concern about the so-called “Regularization Bill”, noting that “removing one of the only domestic legal barriers to settlement construction moves Israel even further from compliance with international law.”

The Rapporteur further drew attention to the situation in Gaza, highlighting the fact that as the 10th year of the blockade begins, the situation is becoming ever more dire as infrastructure crumbles under the strain of a growing population and continued significant import and movement restrictions. Mr. Lynk also noted the decline in the number of exit permits granted at the end of 2016.

“The free movement of people would bring education, training, and increased skills to a part of the world that not only is in desperate need, but shows great resilience and potential for innovation,” the Rapporteur said.

Mr. Lynk called on the Government of Israel to end the blockade of Gaza, and to comply with Security Council Resolution 2334, which reaffirmed that settlements are a “flagrant violation under international law”. He also called on the Government of Israel to fully honour and implement the rights and obligations contained in the Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.

(*) Check the Special Rapporteur’s full report.

In 2016, the UN Human Rights Council designated Mr. Michael Lynk (Canada) as the seventh Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967. The mandate was originally established in 1993 by the then UN Commission on Human Rights. As a Special Rapporteur, Mr. Lynk is part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

UN Human Rights, country pages:

Occupied Palestinian Territories

– See original press release at: https://goo.gl/MhvT7a

BDS Breakthrough at King’s University College London, Ontario

LONDON, ON, March 21, 2017 /CNW/ – After a long and vigorous debate, students at King’s University College in London, Ontario, voted 76 per cent in favour of boycotting and divesting from companies complicit in the Israeli occupation. The referendum question was worded as follows: “Do you as a King’s student support calling upon the KUCSC to lobby King’s administration to boycott and divest from any and all companies and products complicit with Israeli occupation based on principles of human rights, labour, environment, and anti-corruption and change the responsible investment policies to reflect these lobbying efforts?”

The results came in on March 15, the same day the United Nations released its historic report on “Israeli Practices towards the Palestinian People and the Question of Apartheid.” This report shows that beyond any reasonable doubt, Israel practices apartheid against the Palestinian people, and the report calls upon governments to support the Palestinian-led global movement for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS).

Following the outcome of the BDS referendum question and another successful referendum vote to divest from fossil fuels, the King’s University College Student Council (KUCSC) passed a Responsible Investment Sub-Committee resolution at their March 19 Annual General Meeting that brings these concerns to the King’s Foundation Board and the ethical investment and finance committee. The resolution also mandates the KUCSC research and write their annual Advocacy Paper on ethical investments and divestments that will include a five year plan for ethical investing.

Following the trends of other University campuses across Canada who have endorsed BDS through their Student Councils and unions, the King’s BDS Network has taken this initiative one step further to take action on a symbiotic referendum vote through the passing of the resolution at their AGM.

“This historic breakthrough at King’s is the result of a long battle by those of us who chose to stand with the Palestinian people in their struggle for freedom, justice and equality. Here at Western University, we have been up against forces who simply don’t want students to debate issues of human rights and international law,” stated student BDS campaigner Marie Rioux. “Expect to see a reinvigorated campaign at the rest of Western University and throughout London after this victory. More and more students are expressing a drive to stand on the right side of history, just as they did when Canada boycotted South Africa. This is just the beginning.”

Recent EKOS polling shows that 66 per cent to 78 per cent of Canadians find it reasonable to sanction and/or boycott Israel over violations of international human rights law (http://ijvcanada.org/2017/poll-on-bds), with even higher levels of support among students and other Canadians under 30 years of age.

SOURCE KING’S UNIVERSITY COLLEGE BOYCOTT, DIVESTMENT AND SANCTIONS NETWORK  
For further information: Media Contact: Anna Badillo at yestobdskings@gmail.com, King’s BDS Network

Public Consultation on Poverty Reduction

Friends,

The federal government’s consultations for the Canadian Poverty Reduction Strategy has been launched. The United Church of Canada is encouraging all Community and Social Justice Ministries, United Church Women, congregational outreach ministries, and members of the wider church, to participate in the federal government’s Public Consultations on Poverty Reduction (between now and June 2017).

You are invited to:

  • Participate as individual organizations, speaking from your own contexts:
  1. take part in the online discussion forum
  2. complete the online survey for organizations (you must first register and sign-in)
  3. share your story
  4. follow on social media and join the discussion to #ReducePoverty!
  • Provide opportunities and access for the folks you work to support to:
  1. take part in the online discussion forum
  2. compete the online survey for individuals (you must first register and sign-in)
  3. share their story
  4. follow on social media and join the discussion to #ReducePoverty!
  • Host a town-hall if a public consultation is not being held in your area.
  • Provide links to the online public consultation encouraging folks to participate – through your website, in your newsletter or church bulletin, through social media, etc.

For more information see http://esdc-consultations.canada.ca/poverty-reduction-strategy

The Community Social Justice Ministry Reference Group is pleased to announce that Bonnie Morton, Anti-Poverty Advocate/Minister at Regina Anti-Poverty Ministry, has been nominated to serve on the federal government’s Ministerial Advisory Committee on Poverty, to support the development and implementation of the Canadian Poverty Reduction Strategy. The Reference Group unanimously supported this nomination, and Jordan Cantwell, Moderator of The United Church of Canada, signed a letter of support that was received by the Social Policy Directorate in support of Bonnie’s nomination. The deadline for nominations is March 27, so we assume an announcement will be made after that date on who has been chosen to make up the Advisory Committee.

The United Church of Canada is currently working on a Take Action which will direct folks to the Dignity for All website who have developed materials that outline the framework and policies that should make up a comprehensive national strategy. We expect this to be posted on our site within the next week.

Please do keep us in-the-loop and let us know how you and your ministry/organization are engaging in the consultations.

Thank you!
Jordan, Beth and Christie

Jordan Sullivan
Ministry Partnership Animator
jsullivan@united-church.ca

Beth Baskin
Social Analysis and Congregational Engagement
bbaskin@united-church.ca

Christie Neufeldt
Public Witness, Take Action, Advocacy Campaigns
cneufeldt@united-church.ca