I am in the waiting area at Ben Gurion airport. My plane leaves in a couple of hours. I don’t want to be on it.

I do miss Mary Ellen and am looking forward to seeing her. However, I feel that I am leaving home and don’t want to leave here.

Earlier today I was at the Kotel, joining in with hundreds of others for midday prayer. Some were definitively ultra-orthodox; others were from different parts of the Jewish (and likely non-Jewish) world. While I will soon be back davening in a familiar shul (and delighted to be able to count towards a minion) it will feel different. We will be praying towards Jerusalem, not joining in prayer in Jerusalem.

I am not sure how productive my meetings to discuss co-op housing were. At a minimum, I was able to provide links to resources they were not necessarily aware of. There is definitely interest in co-op housing but the nature of such housing and where resources to develop co-ops can be founds are still open questions.

Yesterday I was privileged to be given a private tour of the Old City and its environs, a tour arranged by co-op folks in Israel. I hadn’t taken the opportunity to walk into the Arab area outside the Damascus Gate before, but we had to go through a bit of it to get to the Garden Tomb. While not a lot different than where I had visited before, it was a different world, one not only somewhat isolated from the Jewish and mixed areas of Jerusalem but different from the Arab neighbourhoods I had visited in Haifa and Acre and Hebron. Folk seemed a little more watchful of strangers, a little more tense. From the Garden Tomb, we crossed the old city on the Cardo, which follows the Roman main street, to the Zion Gate to visit David’s Tomb. Just outside the tomb itself a few Chassidic Jews had teffilin which they encouraged Jews who had never worn to put on. My guide suggested that I accept their offer and, after donning the teffilin and reciting the proper prayers my hands were grabbed and I was suddenly in a singing circle dance which, when it ended I was told was to welcome me home. I felt overwhelmed. My guide them had me walk through the entire building and pointed out the Christian and Muslim features as well. For him, the site of King David’s tomb—someone honoured by Jews, Christians and Muslims—was a statement of what might be in Jerusalem.

It was only in my final hours in Jerusalem that I noticed a woman in a niqab. While it is common, but not universal, for women from the diverse faith communities in Israel and the West Bank to wear a scarf or other head covering, a sight that has become common in Toronto turned out to be very rare sight here. I saw a few women in military uniform wearing hijabs, which surprised me.

The recent fires in Israel were frightening. I chose to leave Haifa early and return to Jerusalem just a couple of days before the fires broke out. Some were caused by carelessness, others seemed to have a natural cause but many were deliberately set. Where I had most recently stayed was in the area of Haifa that had to be evacuated. The offer, and acceptance, of help from the Palestinian authority to fight the fires was a positive sign that even people in conflict can find ways of joining together to deal with a crisis.

Cats seem to be a common sight in Israel, which some who have seen my pictures have noted. Many are left to fend for themselves; a few seem to find a home with a caring person. It was pointed out to me that there is a population of cats distinguished by a clipped ear. These cats have been captured, neutered, given shots and treated for any health problems and then returned to where they were captured. This is quite controversial as many rabbis have forbidden the practice of neutering animals so it is most common in Christian areas.

Upon return to Canada I’ll start planning my return to Israel. I am aiming for the end of April but that is not firm. But I intend to return. לשנה הבאה בירושלים


I am now back in Haifa looking back on the events of the last few weeks. I’ll be going back to Jerusalem from here where I’ll be based for the rest of this visit to Israel.

Last week, in Tel Aviv, I had a meeting to discuss ways of bringing the Canadian co-op model here. That meeting promises to lead to other meetings before I go. Tel Aviv is far different than Jerusalem, Haifa or Hebron; it feels more European or Quebec than the other places I’ve visited.

Yet Tel Aviv, like every other place I’ve been in Israel, felt like home. And I still don’t understand this. The land is strange; the language different; there are tensions all around. And yet this is home. It is home in a shul where every word I hear is Hebrew and at a store where the clerk asks if I’m entitled to the seniors’ discount and on a walking tour of a divided city and in an upper floor apartment overlooking a busy street.

It is a place where public tears come.

Standing at the Kotel (Western Wall) feeling it is a place that reaches out to me, drawing me in to my spiritual home I cry. The divine presence welcomes me in a way I’ve not experienced before; like the feeling I once had in celebrating the Eucharist but one without a sacrificial essence. My place in creation somehow is linked to this place and to the millions who have mourned and rejoiced in being close to something immanent and transcendent. I felt I was in a sacred place when I visited the Wall while I was a Christian priest. It feels now that I am in my sacred place, a place where as a Jew I am fully welcome. Tears flow here.

Standing in a rebuilt shul in Hebron, one destroyed in anti-Jewish riots in 1929, and touching the Torah scrolls that were saved during the attack and are not only in the Torah Ark but used regularly. These are the words presented to me at Mount Sinai. I get to touch these centuries old scrolls and tears flow.

I see signs of hope at times. I saw a mixed group of Arab and Jewish school children (distinguishable by their head coverings) laughing together while waiting to get on a bus. I stood in line at a coffee shop where Muslims, Jews and Tourists shared the space and waited patiently for their latte or Cappachino while the clerks shifted from Arabic to Hebrew to English.

In Hebron, I talked to a Palestinian woman who showed pictures of flooding of her store last year. She claimed that the flooding occurred on both sides of the divide and it was only stupid men on both sides that prevented solving the common problem. For her, if they could solve the common problems they could then start working on overcoming differences with some hope of success.

I see signs of despair at times. Having to show bags and go through metal detectors to enter a shopping mall; having to have my luggage go through an x-ray machine to take an inter-urban train; people sleeping rough; empty buildings in a place with an affordable housing crisis—lots of signs of the fear of terrorism and lots of signs of poverty and stress.

There is an odd openness in many places and inward looking tensions in others. Acre and Hebron are divided cities in different ways—Hebron due to rules and regulations; Acre due to tradition and distrust. Tel Aviv and Haifa are places where there are tensions but also openness. Jerusalem seems a place of surface openness and fear lurking just under the surface.

Unusual for me, I do spend time in coffee shops just drinking a latte or other caffeinated beverage, and listening to people. One overhears odd conversations. I heard a group of U.S. Republican supporters feeling betrayed by the appointment of an anti-Semite to Trump’s transition team and a group of U.S. Democratic Party supporters feeling betrayed at the effort to appoint an anti-Semite as the head of the Democratic National Committee.

I did video audition in Yiddish (I haven’t heard back yet if I got the part). It was an odd experience. I auditioned for a part in a film where I would play the head of a Yeshiva in Quebec in the post-war period faced with an ethical dilemma. I don’t know the language or culture but I do think I would do a credible job with the role.

The human politics around the wall distress me; humans should not be putting barriers between the sacred and people. I don’t understand why there is so much tension arising over a 3rd section at the Wall. I hear the arguments and appeals to both tradition and inclusivity but don’t get them.

It is a small thing, but I was delighted when I finally made sense of the currency and could pay the exact amount at a check-out. I don’t know the language but I have learned one of the expectations of living here.

I only have about 2 weeks left in Israel (I leave for Toronto on the 1st). While I am greatly looking forward to being with my family again, I am already trying to figure out the practicalities of coming back to Israel. This is home.


It is still an amazing thing to me. This place feels like home. While I’ve not visited everywhere in Israel (and won’t be able to before I leave the first of December) every city I’ve visited seems like a city I could live in; the shuls I’ve visited feel like ones that if I dropped some of my usual defenses would welcome me; even when I have one of my not uncommon panic attacks I surprise myself by quickly getting myself together and knowing whether to have a latte in a café, find a park to sit in for a bit or to return to where I am staying for a little more unfocused time.

It is also a place that is very hard for someone who can’t always cope with crowds. I found myself honouring Yom Kippur at a shul and not at the Wall which was only a 20 minute walk away because I could not bring myself to join in with thousands of others in a public expression of a shared experience. Religious celebrations often bring strangers together to rejoice in their commonality but efforts by me to join in have not proven fruitful.

I have pushed myself to be more publically Jewish, but that isn’t always easy. Wearing a kippah here includes donning the expectation that one speaks fluent Hebrew. As someone who has barely pushed myself through the Aleph level, being expected to know Hebrew is a problem. And yet this is also encouraging. It means that I am accepted as a Jew and it is only my limitations that interfere in my being more fully a part of the Jewish world here and in Toronto.

Like in my previous visits I listen and observe more than talk. I am hearing more European voices than in my previous visits—more Russians and French talking about growing anti-Semitism at home and difficulties with daily life in Israel.

There have been odd and unexpected experiences. While riding the LRT in Jerusalem I noticed that Orthodox women would sit beside me but not beside Orthodox men. With a couple of noticeable exceptions, store owners in the Suq in Jerusalem or the Arab quarter of Haifa seemed subdued. I see lots of women wearing hijabs on transit but few in the stores.

Every urban centre I’ve visited or passed through is having a building boom. There are objections being raised from a number of perspectives that seem familiar—heritage preservation, need to preserve parkland and agricultural land, urban expansion is taking place on other people’s land. And the responses echo those made elsewhere but come down to ‘the population is growing so more housing is needed.’

I am not seeing some of the positive signs I noticed in previous visits, perhaps due to where I am staying. But I’ve not seen pick-up soccer games of Jewish and Arab youth, which I saw in my first visit. Nor have I been invited to, or come across ads for, cross community events which I noticed in my second visit.

I did take an organised tour of sacred sites in Jerusalem, which included sites sacred to followers of Islam, Christians and Jews. The tour guide stressed the wonder and hope that three such diverse and complex faiths have found in Jerusalem sacred space and despite centuries of tensions still are finding way to honour the sacred in different ways in such a small place.


I grew up in and around Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario in a very left wing household. My parents were members of The Reorganised Church of Jesus Christ of Later Day Saints (now Community of Christ) —one of the many churches within the broader Mormon world. The government of Canada recognises me as Metis, and some of my extended family are what had historically been labelled Status Indians. Thus I grew up between cultures and in a minority faith tradition. I have three living and one deceased sibling, all of whom are substantively older than I. Faith was linked to politics—CCF/NDP and the trade union movement for my father; CCF/NDP and housing and international solidarity for my mother. My family had little contact with the small Jewish community in Sault Ste. Marie but did work on matters of common interest with labour Zionists and some of the Jewish activists in the CCF/NDP world.

I have a varied academic and work background. I have an B.A. in political science/psychology from Algoma University; a B.Ed. from Queen’s University with Drama as a teaching subject and an M.Div. from Emmanuel College, University of Toronto.

To earn a living, I have done everything from acting to working in a lumber yard to community organising, with teaching for a decade and working for housing co-ops for close to 20 years being the substantive careers I’ve chosen. I was ordained and worked within various church structures, from prison chaplaincy with the United Church to peace education with the Mennonite Church to congregational ministry with St. Andrew’s Old Catholic Church.

I have a long history of volunteering with local, provincial and national co-operative organisations and various non-profit organisations, including serving as President of the Canadian Alternative Investment Co-operation, chair of the endowment committee of the Student Christian Movement of Canada and on the Board of Directors of the Co-operative Housing Federation of Canada. Currently I am serving on the boards of St. Clare’s Multifaith Housing Society and Puppetmongers and as treasurer of Home Ownership Alternatives.

Choosing to become Jewish was both a sudden and slow process.

I have worked with many within the Jewish left in Canada on common projects, supply taught for a year with Associated Hebrew Schools, moved back and forth on supporting or opposing Zionism not as fashions changed but as my view of the roll of the state changed, had long discussions with Harold Kandle (a World War one era vet and anarchist Zionist) and had a moment or two of heatedly challenging anti-Semitism.

The big shift occurred when I accompanied my wife to Israel. She was giving a paper at the University of Tel Aviv and I went with her, with the intent of just having a nice holiday together. Upon getting off the plane at Ben Gurion I had the overwhelming sensation of coming home. It stayed with me as we explored a bit of Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Bethlehem.

I chose to test this by going back to Israel, this time as a volunteer. Through Skilled Volunteers for Israel I did placements at both Israel Elwyn and the Jerusalem Centre for Jewish-Christian Relations. I had a chance to meet people from the Christian community there who indicated that there was work I could do there if I chose. However, they didn’t feel like my people. I found myself more comfortable at the Kotel or in conversations with people from different streams of the Jewish communities in Jerusalem. My world view and the way I saw myself had shifted. I was a home but it was a different home than I expected—a shift had occurred and I found myself feeling at home in the Jewish world, not the Christian one. We chose to take the yearlong Living Jewishly course, I was laicised by my religious tradition and I have undergone the hatafat dam brit

Perhaps the final intellectual push for me to move away from Christianity and embrace Judaism was reading Giosuè Ghisalberti’s The Achaia Testament: Paul, Timothy, and the Judaic Hellenistic Foundations of the Gospel. It helped me come to the realization that what I liked about Christianity was what Jewish elements remained in the faith; what I didn’t like were the accretions that were added to it from its earliest days on. The view that Jesus was the fulfillment of the messianic tradition made no sense, especially in light of Ghisalberti’s persuasive argument that Paul and Timothy were responsible for much of this view. Torah makes more sense than Gospel; reason and tradition more than faith; current practices more than focusing on the end times. I have described this as coming to see that the Shema is a clearer statement of my faith and spiritual obligations than is found in the Nicene Creed.

We are members of the Danforth Jewish Circle. I am also in fairly regular attendance at First Narayever, more often at the Sunday morning davening. We have attended services at Makom, which we’ve enjoyed and felt welcomed at, and at Holy Blossom. I have gone to davening at the JCC but find that 7:15 a.m. is hard for me to make. We honour Shabbat at home with following the home rituals, primarily those of the reform tradition, by reading the weekly Torah portion and haftarah portions together and discussing commentaries on these passages. I do recite/read along with the Shema in its entirely most evening and recite the beginning of it upon rising. I try to remember to be consciously in the world and acknowledge the many blessing that around me.

I miss the sacramental aspect of celebrating the Eucharist but find that Jewish prayer/davening a meaningful alternative. In the flow of prayer and in the sense that the community is where the sacred can most easily be approached I do feel something very akin to my previous religious practices.

I find that I struggle more with time than faith—it is hard to break a habit that Saturday is a sleeping in day. This makes my regular attendance at Shabbat services a challenge. I have also struggled with learning Hebrew; I’ve taken two classes and will take more in the future but very little remains with me. I find the lack of Hebrew an actual challenge—reading English translations of prayer makes me feel I’m looking through a window rather than being fully present and sharing with the community around me in a common act.

I find some aspects of communal Jewish life quite challenging. At heart, I am a hermit. I certainly find myself attracted to ascetic forms of spiritual expression, which makes Purim daunting and Tisha B’Av a time of familiar spiritual expression.

I feel trapped, at times, between my life long radicalism and my wanting to be in and supportive of Israel. With many of those I worked with for decades supporting BDS, it is odd to be on the outside of my political worlds. This isn’t the first time—I also found it hard in the 70s and 80s to be strongly critical of imperialist and militarist initiatives of the U.S.S.R. and China when so many peace activists were doing apologetics for these countries.

I am delighted that study and reflection are seen as core expectations of being a Jew. Even in challenging times, and with splits within the Jewish world, reason is respected.

I will continue to take advantage of learning opportunities offered by the Danforth Jewish Circle and other shuls. This is important for me to come to a better knowledge of Jewish rituals and practices.

I will be returning to Israel in the near future, primarily as a volunteer but also to continue to explore longer term options in a place where I have felt so strongly at home.

While I am not 100 certain I won’t change my mind, I think I’d like Baruch Chayim (Blessed Life) as my name. If I am correct this would make my Hebrew name Baruch Chayim ben Avraham Avinu. I think it sums up my understanding of what being Jewish means to me.

[Note: Pieces I wrote at the time of my visits to Israel can be found at my somewhat active blog: , with perhaps different insights available through a couple of YouTube clips I posted: . There are relevant mini reviews of Jewish works mingled with other works on my Tumbler blog: ]

Quick Thoughts Arising from Black Lives Matter and Pride.

For many of us our privileged status could disappear tomorrow; for some such status may never come about. Black Lives Matter and Idle No More raised the later reality into current political debates. It is important, though, for many who think that the issues raised by Black Lives Matter recently and Idle No More a little while ago will never affect them to think again. There is both an idealistic and a selfish reason to work for a truly just and egalitarian society for all. A little bit of reactionary social change and suddenly privilege can disappear. Real solidarity now, radical transformation now, is in the interest of most of us.

During my activist years I learned about a number of very obscure laws, such as Unlawful Handbill Distribution, or that criminal charges and harsh bail conditions can be imposed for such crimes as drawing peace symbols on the pavement of Nathan Philips Square. I was a pretty obnoxious activist and drew police attention as a result. The right skin colour, a real address, a union card in my pocket, etc. did not stop me from learning that police power is all too often arbitrarily exercised and that privilege is not permanent. Stepping back into safety is something available to people like me, but that safety is precarious. I don’t take it for granted.

A lot of the criticism I come across in regards to the tactics and timing of Black Lives Matter and similar groups comes from people who seem to forget what it is like to not have a voice or to be always on the outside or always having to hide something about yourself in order to fit in or to be safe. While there is a rush in the movement of confrontation, if there was an easier, faster and better way to transform the world those methods would be chosen. The social vision that Black Lives Matter raises is key for a better world for all.

The demands raised at this year’s Pride were practical, material and achievable. They move us to a place where more of us are included and, eventually, one where everyone is welcome. I may feel shielded by my social status today, but that could change all too quickly. By challenging privilege, and hopefully pushing aside privilege, they will help create a better world for me. Black Lives Matter doesn’t speak for me; I don’t speak for them. But I support what they want to achieve and the tactics they’ve chosen. My future depends on it.


I’ve watched this movie many times over the years, finding different things each year standing out. In recent years I’ve began to wonder if Dickens’ novel and its various adaptations has undermined the social transformation needed to successfully address poverty and its many ills.

Early in the movie, Scrooge is asked to donate money to a charity. The exchange is an interesting one, where private charity is honoured and any collective (state) efforts to address need portrayed, in their essence, as cruel:

“At this festive season of the year, Mr. Scrooge,” said the gentleman, taking up a pen, “it is more than usually desirable that we should make some slight provision for the Poor and Destitute, who suffer greatly at the present time. Many thousands are in want of common necessaries; hundreds of thousands are in want of common comforts, sir.”
“Are there no prisons?” asked Scrooge.
“Plenty of prisons,” said the gentleman, laying down the pen again.
“And the Union workhouses?” demanded Scrooge. “Are they still in operation?”
“They are. Still,” returned the gentleman, “I wish I could say they were not.”
“The Treadmill and the Poor Law are in full vigour, then?” said Scrooge.

There is no call for adequate social assistance available to all throughout the year, but an effort to appeal seasonally for charitable assistance. Scrooge doesn’t complain about his taxes being used for (albeit far from adequate) relief; just to being asked to make a personal contribution to a charity for short-term help.

Scrooge gives Bob Cratchet a paid holiday—very unusual in 1843 in England. Indeed, it wasn’t until the Bank Holiday Act of 1871 that paid holidays were required by law. This was noted both early in the movie, when Cratchet and Scrooge have a conversation about Christmas Day; very similar to a scene that is included in the visions of Christmas past. Scrooge may cut wages upon taking over a business, but he can also go beyond the minimum expectations of staff. Cratchet’s daughter, in domestic service, wasn’t sure she was going to get the day off and had to run to be home for the family gathering. At the Cratchet dinner, Bob Cratchet makes mention that not many of their acquaintances could afford two rounds of the best gin punch. There are hints that Scrooge is not entirely the grasping businessman tradition has made him out to be.

The development of the story, especially the end, is widely known. Scrooge undergoes a change of heart and devotes himself to good works, especially at Christmas. This redemption is quite moving, but at the end of the day the redemption is only on the individual level. There is no indication that people should work together to solve social problems on an ongoing basis; there is no indication that there is a social obligation to care for others. Indeed, any mention of such shared obligation in the movie is critical of the idea. We are not asked to consider solve the problems of poverty by any concept of permanently addressing problems. We are told that we should act individually to address problems, and most generously at Christmas. If everyone acted as compassionate individuals then everything would be good.

We aren’t asked to work together to provide good quality affordable housing or to ensure universal access to good quality medical care. As long as there is a Scrooge then Tiny Tim can get his medical needs addressed. What to do when there such a relationship doesn’t exist isn’t hinted at.

The world would have been better if such a powerful appeal to private charity hadn’t been written. Already there were writers, utopian socialists and others, calling for a more communal approach to both communal and individual needs. We need appeals to our conscience to encourage us as individuals to act compassionately and justly in the world; but if that appeal is all that is offered we as individuals will quickly wear out and the social problems will continue.

Year End Donation Suggestions for 2015

As 2015 comes to an end, it’s time for my off and on sharing of ideas for sharing our abundance with charities and non-profits that do something to directly help others while seeking to make broader social change. Most of the charities have a link on their website to make donations on line, but all welcome donations through the mail. Several of these charities I’ve been on the board of; others are ones who do unique work that I support. Not all of the groups I suggest supporting are able to give charitable receipts—OCAP isn’t, for example—but all could use your financial support.

1. St. Clare’s Multifaith Housing Society
. 138 Pears Ave, Toronto, ON M5R 1T2.
St. Clare’s still seeks ways to develop new affordable housing efforts while continuing to provide affordable housing to people, most of whom come as a result of referrals from agencies working directly with the homeless, marginalized and difficult to house. St. Clare’s grew out of Toronto Action for Social Change, which organised a number of creative protests during the Harris years. While the website is being redeveloped, more information can be found at:

2. FoodShare Toronto.
90 Croatia Street, Toronto, ON M6H 1K9.
From the good food box programme to community gardening to advocating for sustainable food policies, FoodShare works hard to make sure that social justice includes what is on the table. More information can be found at: As Foodshare has a number of social enterprises it sponsors, it helps to make a note on cheques that the funds are for a donation to Foodshare.

3. Rooftops Canada.
720 Spadina Avenue, Suite 313, Toronto, Ontario M5S 2T9
Rooftops Canada, the international development arm of Canadian co-operative and non-profit housing movements, works with overseas partners in countries from the Baltic Sea to Zimbabwe to “improve housing conditions, build sustainable communities and develop a shared vision of equitable global development. “Rooftops initiatives range from capacity building to microfinance. More information can be found at:

4. Canadian Alternative Investment Foundation (CAIF),
CSI Regent Park,
585 Dundas St East, 3rd Floor, Toronto, Ontario M5A 2B7.
CAIF evolved from the Canadian Alternative Investment Co-operative (CAIC), which does social investing on behalf of Canadian charities. CAIF is a charitable foundation which will be providing grants and loans to charitable organisations involved in community initiatives that further the vision of CAIC’s founders. More information can be found at

5. CHFT Charitable Fund,
658 Danforth Avenue, Suite 306,
Toronto, ON, M4J 5B9
The CHFT Charitable Fund is a project of the Co-operative Housing Federation of Toronto. Its programmes have ranged from diversity scholarships to support for the Green Roof initiative at Hugh Garner Housing Co-operative to a basketball court at Atkinson Co-op. More information can be found at:

6. Ontario Coalition Against Poverty. 157 Carlton Street, Unit 206,
Toronto, Ontario
M5A 2K3
From direct action casework to solidarity with imprisoned refugee claimants to walking picket lines, OCAP activists are a strong voice for economic and social justice. For more information

7. Puppermongers. 388 Carlaw Avenue, Toronto, ON M4M 2T4
I’m not directly involved in the arts these days, but I do serve on the board of a very wonderful puppet troop. This small group does everything from workshops to touring productions. For more information, see:

8. Wilderness Committee. P.O. Box 2205, Station Terminal, Vancouver, BC V6B 3W2
The Wilderness Committee is a mainstream but persistent voice for wilderness and endangered species. In addition to political campaigns, they are a good source of fair trade goods not found elsewhere. For more information see

9. Peace Brigades Canada. 145 Spruce Street, Suite 206, Ottawa, ON K1R 6P1
Peace Brigades Canada is a part of a global network of activists who work with human rights activists in places of conflict. From Nepal to Mexico, Peace Brigades volunteers have accompanied human rights workers as the eyes of the world. For more information see

10. Shoresh. c/o 132 Cedric Avenue, Toronto, ON M6C 3X8
From a community gardens to education on the relationship between spirituality and ecology to a Community Shared Agriculture initiative, this is a great and wonderful fairly new addition to the world of food security in the GTA. For more information, check out:

The above is not an exhaustive list. I donate monthly to Interval House and the CRC. In the past many organisations such as the Elizabeth Fry Society had me among their regular donors. However, I think my top 10 represent a range of places, from social investing to radical peacemaking, that are my priorities at the end of 2015.

A Couple of Brief Thoughts on Means and Ends

It seems like a million years ago, but I clearly recall a conversation among members of the Alliance for Non-violent Action around non-violence and choice.   At the time there were sit-ins and blockades of the Morgentaler clinic.   There were some with ANVA who took the position that because the tactics were similar to those used by ANVA and others in the anti-war/anti-nuke movements they were part of our movement.   Others were clear that it wasn’t just the tactics but the cause that needed to be considered.    It wasn’t just the tactics that determined the nature of the movement but a combination of aims and tactics—non-violence can easily be used to promote a far less just, open and compassionate society.

I also remember a conversation in regards to disruption of events.   For some it was a way to speak truth to power.   For others, such efforts contain echoes of jack boots and were a statement of an unwillingness to accept the value of free speak.   For these later folks our tactics should be ones we’d be willing to tolerate against us—if we would feel intimidated by outbursts of anger and efforts to silence our speech, we shouldn’t use such tactics against others.

One of the major reasons I am politically pessimistic is that some movements I’d like to support are using tactics I oppose and some movements I oppose are using tactics I have long advocated.   I am longing to see a unity of means and ends.

Thoughts on the Canadian federal election and parliament

I’ve been thinking about the upcoming Federal election. It is hard for me to get excited about it. I am not connected to any movement with the strength to hold elected officials accountable. I am not a member of any political party or a part of an organised political tendency. I do have major concerns about issues ranging from lack of decent, safe and affordable housing to the destruction of ecosystems, but none of the political positions being expressed by the various parties running candidates in the federal election engage or inspire me. And one of my major concerns, that of effective governance, does not even seem to be a part of the political discourse.

We seem to expect less of those elected to a national legislative body, in terms of the ability to actually do the work of participating in a deliberative body that sets budgets, policies, laws, etc., than we do of those elected to sit on the board of a non-profit. We would not tolerate directors of a co-operative behaving in a meeting the way we accept Members of Parliament behaving while in session. We would not tolerate the degree of conflict and convergence of interests on the board of community centre that we accept in our legislatures. We expect better chairing, and greater respect for a chair, at the meeting of a rate payers’ association than we accept from our legislators. I accept that the partisan nature of legislative bodies undercuts efforts to find common ground on issues, but it should not result in a destruction of effective governance.

There are major initiatives to change the voting process in Canada. I am more interested in better decision making by those elected—real parliamentary reform.



For those who don?t know me, I am the co-ordinator of 43rd Housing Co-op and have been for 17 years. Celia Chandler will be doing the bulk of the presentation, helping us to learn more about the practicalities of eviction under the new system. I’ll be talking briefly about what is has been like from a staff perspective to deal with the transition.

I’ve been working in the sector for almost 20 years, having worked at three co-ops over the years. I did not get involved to take away housing from people, but to help develop and provide long term affordable housing. Taking away housing, which is what we do when we evict someone, is hard to do and something I find emotionally draining.

43rd Co-op is an acquisition rehab co-op. There are still a few tenant households, people that were given the choice of co-op membership or remaining tenants when the co-op was formed 20 years ago. Effectively we have been using the new eviction model the entire time as the tenant eviction process is the model for the the new process. Historically the tenant process involved three steps—an initial notice, filing a 2nd notice with the tribunal, and going to the tribunal—the later including strongly encouraged on site mediation to reach a settlement prior to a hearing. The co-op process involved three or more steps—the initial notice to appear, the board meeting, serving a notice of the board decision, a possible member appeal, filing for a court hearing and a court hearing. In either case, if the judgement went in favour of the co-op, the sherriff’s office would be scheduled for a formal eviction. The tenant process took approximately 2 months; the co-op options 4 to six months. For arrears matters involving tenants I was able to do all the work. For tenant behavioural evictions and all co-op matters co-op lawyers would do the bulk of the work. With tenant evictions I was the focus of any frustration or anger from the tenant; with co-op member evictions the board was the focus of much of the dissatisfaction but I was still the audience for it. Members realise that different boards have different priorities, seen in offers to settle or the offering of reasonable repayments when the board was seen as more hard line. Getting memorandums of settlement approved by some boards was also problematic.

After co-op eviction law reform the process for co-op eviction has come close to matching the tenant process—-a notice to appear, a decision by the board, a possible member appeal, filing of notice with the tribunal, with a two part tribunal hearing process. The time period seems to be two to three months. The legal costs are lower than going to court. It feels that boards are now more likely to want to proceed to eviction than in the past—perhaps due to lower costs and a clearer process or perhaps hard times are leading to higher arrears and causing more stress in households which leads to more behavioural concerns. Our by-laws haven?t all been brought up to date, which can be problematic if members expect a particular process or to forms to be a certain way based on their familiarity with the old model by-law. It does seem that boards are accepting mediation around arrears more readily with the tribunal system, which is a real plus.

In regards to dealing with member arrears, I have found the new process easier to understand and use, thanks primarily to good sector lawyers who have provided clear guidelines. The process is straight forward and getting to enforceable agreements is quicker, helping to both address arrears and to help avoid evictions. I am still unclear about behavioural evictions—there are different forms and options for non-arrears evictions and there are still some matters that need to be dealt with through the court process. It would be good if the behavioural by-laws contained little more than ?Do not offend others. Do not be easily offended.? 43rd has started the behavioural eviction process but not gone to the tribunal or to court as other resolutions were implemented. Having a new process for eviction may be giving co-ops motivation to reconsider many by-laws addressing behaviour that have been passed but never court tested. Tribunal decisions could help guide such discussions.


I don’t preside over many funerals.   Recently I was asked to preside at a funeral service that was hard for all concerned.   Here is the final version of the service, including homily.

Funeral Service for Ryan Hind                                                                                      March 17, 1974 to February 28, 2015

Introit/Opening Prayer

God our refuge and strength,

close at hand in our distress;

meet us in our sorrow and lift our eyes

to the peace and light of your constant care.

Help us so to hear your word of grace

that our fear will be dispelled by your love,

our loneliness eased by your presence

and our hope renewed by your promises

in Jesus Christ our Lord.



 On behalf of the family of Ryan Hind, thank you for coming this morning to share in honouring his life and memory.   We gather together to celebrate a life and morn a passing of someone dear to many in this room.   Those of us who are not close friends or family are also here to help share the burden of grief and to let those who cared about Ryan know that they are not alone at this time.

 Opening Prayer:

 God of hope,

we come to you in shock and grief

and confusion of heart.

Help us to find peace in the knowledge

of your loving mercy to all your children,

and give us light to guide us out of our darkness

into the assurance of your love,

in Jesus Christ our Lord.


Readings & Reflections

First Reading:

Not, how did he die, but how did he live?

Not, what did he gain, but what did he give?

These are the units to measure the worth

Of a man as a man, regardless of his birth.

Nor what was his church, nor what was his creed?

But had he befriended those really in need?

Was he ever ready, with words of good cheer,

To bring back a smile, to banish a tear?

Not what did the sketch in the newspaper say,

But how many were sorry when he passed away?


 Second Reading:

Remember me when I am gone away,

gone far away into the silent land;

When you can no more hold me by the hand,

nor I half turn to go, yet turning stay.

Remember me when no more day by day

you tell me of the future that you planned;

Only remember me; you understand

it will be late to counsel then or pray.

Yet, if you should forget me for a while

and afterwards, remember, do not grieve:

For if the darkness and corruption leave

a vestige of the thoughts that once I had,

better by far you should forget and smile

than that you should remember and be sad.

(Christina Rossetti)

 Community Memories:  

Friends and Family of Ryan are welcome to share memories


Third Reading:

Because of the LORD’s great love

we are not consumed,

for his compassions never fail.

They are new every morning;

great is your faithfulness.

I say to myself, “The LORD is my portion;

therefore I will wait for him.”

The LORD is good to those

whose hope is in him,

to the one who seeks him;

it is good to wait quietly

for the salvation of the LORD.

It is good for a man to bear the yoke

while he is young.

Let him sit alone in silence,

for the LORD has laid it on him.

Let him bury his face in the dust—

there may yet be hope.

Let him offer his cheek

to one who would strike him,

and let him be filled with disgrace.

For men are not cast off

by the Lord forever.

Though he brings grief,

he will show compassion,

so great is his unfailing love.

For he does not willingly bring affliction

or grief to the children of men.

(Lamentations 3:22-33 New International Version)

My role here today is that of being a representative of the community.   Most of you here are friends and family and acquaintances of Ryan.   I’m not.   But he is a part of my world.   We knew people in common. We lived in Toronto and likely complained about the cold and made jokes about the Leafs or former mayor Rob Ford.   He died tragically.   But he was and isn’t alone.   People care about Ryan; strangers offer prayers for him and his family; in many ways we do what the Jewish community calls sitting Shiva—sharing in the grief and helping to carry the burden of lose in whatever way we can.

And part of our responsibility as members of a caring community is to remind family and friends that Ryan’s life wasn’t defined by what happened at the MacDonald’s.   He was a sports fan, especially of the Colts. He wore a NFL jersey at the visitation. I have heard many people tell of his generosity, his kindness, his exuberance for life.   Everyone of those who knew Ryan, who cared for him, who now grieve for him and feel a sense of lose, have memories of Ryan that should be nurtured and reflected on—you don’t make and keep friends without being a part of good times; family members will remember the cute toddler or the dreamer; you have something good in your minds about Ryan.   These memories should be cherished because only you have them.   The rest of us only have partial glimpses of who Ryan was. You have the depth of knowledge from which wisdom comes. We share your grief but we do not have what you as family and friends have—memories of Ryan not in crisis or the news but in good times.   That is the best way to honour Ryan while respecting your own grief and loss.

I have had the opportunity to visit Jerusalem twice.   I have watched Muslim and Jewish boys play soccer together; I have heard the Muslim call to prayer blended with Christian church bells and the sounds of the shofar (ram’s horn) being blown at sunset.   I heard a busker playing It’s a Wonderful World as children from different races and backgrounds played in a public square.   Yet, walking around the walls of the old city I could see barbed wire and bullet holes—a harsh and vivid reminder that even in one of the most sacred spots in the world, a place where peace is waiting for a chance to blossom, there is violence and hatred and bloodshed.   HaMakom (literally, the place)/Allah/God wants peace while humanity, in our frailty, has problems living this out.

If violence can occur in the sacred places of the world, it isn’t a surprise when violence erupts in our secular temples.   It is always a tragedy with far more victims than the world sees. Ryan would have died at some point—that is part of the human condition.   But he did not need to die when and how he did.   Ryan death would have always been mourned, even if he died in a hospice aged 107 surrounded by loved ones   But his loss is more keenly felt because he died in a violent way in a situation that makes little sense to us on the outside.

Those who have reached my age have watched loved ones die. We know that time transforms but never eliminates grief. We miss those who were one a part of our lives.   At times a memory will cause a smile; at times tears.   While few among us will have the experience of morning the tragic death of someone close to us, many have a lived experience that helps us have empathy with some of what Ryan’s friends and family are living through today.

Our responsibility, as people from the world beyond Ryan’s family and friends, is to remind those close to Ryan to not let his life end where and how it was frozen in time.   Ryan will continue as long as you hold onto the memories of the Ryan who laughed and cried and drank and argued and played games with you—the real Ryan.   The rest of us are here to help carry the burden of grief so that family and friends can honour Ryan and begin their healing journey.

A couple of thousand years ago a wandering teacher in the middle east had a dinner with friends, a meal shortly before he was killed. He didn’t ask a lot from his friends—he was the one more likely to be asked for things—but did ask them to agree that whenever they got together and shared a glass of wine to remember him.   Friends and family of Ryan, whenever you get together in the future whether at a kitchen table or a Timmy’s or a bar, raise a glass in his memory.   You have decades of memories to share and keep alive.

The Lord’s Prayer

 Celebrant: As our Saviour taught us, let us pray,

All: Our Father in heaven,

hallowed be your name,

your kingdom come,

your will be done,

on earth as in heaven.

Give us today our daily bread.

Forgive us our sins

as we forgive those who sin against us.

Save us from the time of trial,

and deliver us from evil.

For the kingdom, the power,

and the glory are yours, now and forever. Amen.

 Final Commendation

Invitation to Prayer:

Before we go our separate ways, let us take leave of our brother Ryan Hind.   May our farewell express our affection for him; may it ease our sadness and strengthen our hope. One day we shall joyfully greet him again when the love of Christ, which conquers all things, destroys even death itself.


Signs of Farewell

Celebrant: Saints of God, come to his aid!

Hasten to meet him, angels of the Lord!

All: Receive his soul and present him to God the Most High.

Celebrant: May Christ, who called you, take you to himself;

may angels lead you to the bosom of Abraham.

All: Receive his soul and present him to God the Most High.

Celebrant: Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord,

and let perpetual light shine upon him.

All:      Receive his soul and present him to God the Most High.

Prayer of Commendation:

 Into your hands, Father of mercies,

we commend our brother Ryan Christopher Hind

in the sure and certain hope

that, together with all who have died in Christ,

he will rise with him on the last day.

Merciful Lord,

turn toward us and listen to our prayers:

open the gates of paradise to your servant

and help us who remain

to comfort one another with assurances of faith,

until we all meet in Christ

and are with you and with our brother for eve:

We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

 The Committal:

 In peace let us release our brother to his place of rest.

May the angels lead you into paradise; May the martyrs come to welcome you and take you to the holy city, the new and eternal Jerusalem.?

May choirs of angels welcome you and lead you to the bosom of Abraham; and where Lazarus is poor no longer May you find eternal rest.?

Whoever believes in me, even though that person die, shall live. I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever lives and believes in me shall never die.

May the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in you that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever:

All: Amen.

Celebrant: Go forth in the name of Christ.

All: Thanks be to God.


The feeling I had last year, stepping off the plane at Ben Gurion Airport is still strong—Israel feels like home.   Leaving here includes planning to come back, the next time to focus on studying Hebrew.   I am feeling quite torn, and the only experience I’ve had that comes close to the same impact was when the (then) most wonderful person in my life left for Greece and I didn’t think I’d ever see her again.

I really don’t know why this particular place on the planet is drawing me so intensely.

This visit, unlike my first, was one where I was not really a tourist.  I did two short term volunteer placements through Skilled Volunteers for Israel.  While primarily focused on helping baby boomers from the Jewish community find a way to contribute to Israel by arranging placements with a range of non-profits, they welcomed my application and worked hard to find suitable placements for me.

My intent to combine volunteering with studying at the Conservative Yeshiva of Jerusalem fell through due to lack of enrolment in the course I wanted to take.

The two placements were very different.   At Israel Elwyn I was primarily a compassionate presence within a programme for intellectually challenged adults. It had been decades since I’ve done work with such vulnerable people.   I had been worried that my many years of working within the co-operative and non-profit world and primarily with well educated, highly skilled individuals would have created barriers that would be hard to overcome.   But that provided to not be the case.  There was mutual comfort with each other.   My role was definitely not that of a therapist but as someone from the broader world who was spending time with those all too often forgotten.   My lack of Hebrew wasn’t a barrier.   My lack of training wasn’t a barrier.   My not being Jewish wasn’t a barrier.   Being a patient person who could smile was sufficient.

IMG_20141113_124427 Brian-at-Elwyn-300x169

Among the things I noticed at Elwyn was that there were a substantive number of followers of Islam on staff.    From women wearing hijab to men at prayer, to an outsider it looked like Israel Elwyn was a place where practical and effective compassion trumped religious and cultural divisions.    It was also the only place where I saw this barrier crossed in any significant way, unlike my last visit where it seemed quite common place and was exemplified by watching young people from the Jewish and Arab communities playing a pick up game of soccer.


The placement with the Jerusalem Centre for Jewish-Christian Relations was a completely different experience.   I specifically focused on trying to get more groups committed to participate in a fair tourism project.   This is an effort to create an on-line catalogue for those organising trips to Israel/Palestine in order to encourages “tourists to engage with multiple narratives, and creates an encounter between visitors and representatives of the local population, both Jews and Arabs.”   This was done primarily via computer.   About 27 groups have agreed to participate so far, with the target being 30.  This is an important initiative in the long term—those going on pilgrimages or group explorations to the middle east need to be encouraged to go beyond their comfort zone to find out more from the diverse voices arising from different communities in a troubled land.

While actually having a longer work week in Israel than I have in my normal life, I did have time to wander about Jerusalem.  The place was far more tense than my last visit.   There was a greater police and military presence even in Jewish neighbourhoods far from the Old City and the Green Line.  Going into shopping centres involved having my backpack searched and going through a metal detector.   In light of the car attacks some schools in Tel Aviv cancelled field trips to Jerusalem.   On a day when I was planning to visit the Temple Mount and specifically the Dome of the Rock I was unable to do so because it was closed due to political tensions and threats of violence.

IMG_20141108_120201 IMG_20141102_132913 IMG_20141108_115532

Even in the commercial heart of the Old City, the suk, there was definite worry brought about by a large drop in visitors and a dramatic drop in sales.   It was my previous experience that many merchants would try hard to get passers by to enter their stores and, with so many tourists about in normal times, most stalls would have possible buyers moving in and out.   One stall owner was a bit more persistent in trying to get me into his store, offering a glass of tea to enjoy while I browsed.    My response was a bit of a surprise to him—I reminded him that I had visited his store with my wife about a year ago.   We had gone  in so she could look at the scarves and came out with a more expensive item.  He laughed and offered  “coffee, not tea, and conversation, not a sales pitch” until a paying customer came by.  I was there over 20 minutes before someone else came by.   He said it had been like that for months; there was a real decline in Israelis visiting the suk and fewer foreign visitors than normal.  This meant a real decline in sales—something worrisome to those selling dry goods and metalwork, but a real crisis to the vendors of fresh meat, fish, fruits, vegetables, baked goods and other perishables.


Loss of tourism dollars has a ripple effect into various segments of the local service economy.   Areas with already high youth unemployment find the problem growing.   Pressure from the Boycott, Divest, Sanctions movement has resulted in the closing of some factories in the West Bank and having production shift to Israel or other countries, increasing unemployment in an area already having high unemployment.

Increased religious fundamentalism woven into conservative political movements is hardening positions across Israel/Palestine.   Even groups founded  to engage in constructive dialogue have, in some cases, become rigid advocates of either Israeli or Palestinian positions that seem set in stone.  Individuals who have devoted many years to constructive engagement have been marginalised and, in some cases, accused of the crime of wanting to normalise things rather than promote the struggle for a Palestinian state on one side or compromising Israeli security on the other.

Petty harassment of Arabs is very real.  As an example, in various trips involving taxis and going through check points, my Arab drivers were always asked for identification which was not the case with other drivers.   Fear of violence was also very real, but cuts across all divisions.  Even if not directly dealing with police and military security, the at times overwhelming presence of armed people is both a source of deeply felt tension and a reminder of the possibility of violence suddenly erupting on a bus or street corner or a place of worship.SAM_2999

Deliberate provocation by political leaders is a real problem, from Knesset members trying to change the dynamics around access to the temple mount to Palestinian Authority leaders calling those that have engaged in self-directed political violence martyrs to Islam.  Those that are advocating for real and effective engagement are pushed aside or threatened for challenging such positions.

And yet, in the midst of conflict and tension, I kept finding hope.   On a small scale when strangers provided directions or let me know of cultural events that crossed divisions, or on a larger scale such as when Reuven Rivlin, the President of Israel, spoke at a memorial for the victims of an Israeli attack on Arabs at Kafr Qasem, Israel isn’t limited by what might appear to dominate its image in the media.   It is still a nation struggling define itself, a place that is truly a Jewish homeland and a land of Christian and Muslim and Druze and Baha’i and Samaritans and other spiritual traditions.  It is a place with an elected leadership representing a wider political spectrum than many in the west are accustomed to.   The full range of Judaism, from those that oppose the existence of the state of Israel to Messianic Jews, have a shared land where many such differences are open and irresolvable and part of the dialogue.

I am still puzzling out in my own mind what is it about Israel that makes me feel that it is home.  None-the-less, it has become so to me.   I’ll be returning to study Hebrew and returning again as a volunteer or in some other way be in Israel in a sustained and meaningful way.   It is a land of peace and conflict and hope and despair—not unique in that regard—but it is a place that speaks intimately to me.

Outline for a Wonderful Family Wedding

Matthew Mackay and Andrea Bodnar
Brantford Golf and Country Club
August 9, 2014




Entrance (procession)


P: The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and the Love of God
and the communion
of the Holy Spirit be with you all.
All: And also with you.

P: Friends, we are gathered here today in the presence of God
and of one another to share together in celebrating the marriage of Andrea and Mathew and to ask God’s blessing upon them.

The bond of marriage was given by God who created us to be in covenant. We acknowledge the reality of human failure; yet we affirm the joy and freedom of lifelong union. In the assurance of God’s promise to be with us, let us open our hearts in faithfulness and in hope.

The Declarations (Statement of Intent)

P: Matthew and Andrea are here to today to declare their love for one another and to receive on their marriage the blessings of God as expressed through and within the Christian faith.

P: Andrea and Matthew, you have made it known that you wish
to have your marriage blessed and honoured according to the rites and customs of the Christian community. Before God and before these witnesses, do you freely confirm that you have come here to give yourselves to each other in marriage and will you honour and love each other for the rest of your life?

Andrea: I do
Matthew: I do

P: Do you, the families of Andrea and Matthew give them your love and blessings and promise to uphold and care for them in their marriage?

Family: We do.

P: And will all of you here today, the friends and community of Matthew and Andrea, give them your blessings and promise to support and honour them in their marriage?
All: We do.


P: Eternal God, our creator and redeemer, as you gladdened the wedding in Cana of Galilee by the presence of your Son, so by his presence now bring your joy to this wedding. Look in favour upon Andrea and Matthew, and grant that they, rejoicing in all your gifts, may at length celebrate with Christ the marriage feast which has no end.

All: Amen.



Reader One: Union by Robert Fulghum read by Emily Beaton

You have known each other from the first glance of acquaintance to this point of commitment. At some point, you decided to marry. From that moment of yes, to this moment of yes, indeed, you have been making commitments in an informal way. All of those conversations that were held in a car, or over a meal, or during long walks – all those conversations that began with, “When we’re married”, and continued with “I will” and “you will” and “we will” – all those late night talks that included “someday” and “somehow” and “maybe” – and all those promises that are unspoken matters of the heart. All these common things, and more, are the real process of a wedding.

The symbolic vows that you are about to make are a way of saying to one another, “You know all those things that we’ve promised, and hoped, and dreamed – well, I meant it all, every word.”

Look at one another and remember this moment in time. Before this moment you have been many things to one another – acquaintance, friend, companion, lover, dancing partner, even teacher, for you have learned much from one another these past few years. Shortly you shall say a few words that will take you across a threshold of life, and things between you will never quite be the same.

For after today you shall say to the world –
This is my husband. This is my wife.

Reader Two: The Rose that Grew from Concrete by Tupac Shakur read by Kyle Dix.

Did you hear about the rose
that grew from a crack in the concrete?
Proving nature’s law is wrong it
learned to walk without having feet.
Funny it seems, but by keeping it’s dreams, it learned to breathe fresh air.
Long live the rose that grew from concrete when no one else ever cared.


Andrea and Matt, you are here in the midst of friends and family to celebrate your marriage. You have honoured us by inviting us to be with you and for that we thank you.  And I am especially pleased to be celebrating a wedding for and with members of my extended family.

In my faith tradition marriage is the only sacrament that is performed not by clergy but by the two people who are coming together in marriage. My primary role is that of witness. We are here to share in their celebration and joy but they are the key participants in a special ministry. And it is a very magical sacrament because we can’t actually point to the moment when the marriage occurs. There is a point in the ceremony where the legal requirements appear but the marriage itself is made real by the people involved. It could have already happened or may happen years from now when they look at each other and realize that something has happened in their life, an ontological change, that changes them from separate individuals to individuals who are somehow and forever a part of each other.

Matt and Andrea are established people in their own right. They are both doing the impossible by going into classrooms encouraging children to learn and by trying to instill a permanent sense of wonder and hope. And they are not strangers to each other. If you heard it, ask them how they met—it isn’t a story you’d find in a newspaper but it is a delightful one that wouldn’t be out of place in a folksong. They have their own friends, their own interests, their own experiences that have shaped them and will continue to shape them. Being married isn’t an ending of their uniqueness; it is an opportunity for something new to grow between them and within each of them.

Because this is a family wedding, I’ll take the liberty of giving some advice from an elder to the next generation. The best of times could always be better; the worst of times could always be worse. Don’t think about that. It is the meaning you find in each moment that is key. And it times of difficulty or tension or boredom, consider the worlds of Galway Kinnell:

“Wait” by Galway Kinnell

Wait, for now.
Distrust everything, if you have to.
But trust the hours. Haven’t they
carried you everywhere, up to now?
Personal events will become interesting again.
Hair will become interesting.
Pain will become interesting.
Buds that open out of season will become lovely again.
Second-hand gloves will become lovely again,
their memories are what give them
the need for other hands.

Matt and Andrea, it will take decades for you to truly appreciate one another. It may not always be fun; there will be stresses and strains; but your life’s journey together will always be fascinating if you remain open to each other. Remember to dream and take risks and cherish quiet time together.

There are a few pieces of advice I want to give to the bride and groom before I conclude:

The first is to remember that you are physical beings. Our creator expects you to enjoy all of life’s gifts.

The second is to remember to take time for both yourself and for each other. You are both individuals and a shared essence.

The third, and final, is to remember that you should engage in true mutual obedience—this does not mean following orders but listening to the way each other lives in the world, the personal story each of you is sharing.

May you always find wonder in your lives.

In the words of my grandmother’s people: Apegish wii-zhawenimik Manidoo (I hope you are blessed by the Creator)

The Marriage


P: Almighty God, you send your Holy Spirit to fill the life of all your people. Open the hearts of these your children to the riches of your grace, that They may bring forth the fruit of the Spirit in love, joy and peace through Jesus Christ our Lord.
All: Amen.


Matthew and Andrea are delighted to be surrounded by friends and family today as the celebrate their marriage. There two here today who are celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary. Andrea and Matt chose today for this celebration not only begin their life as a married couple, but to honour and celebrate the promise of marriage made by Matt’s grandparents, Margie and Danny Murray, 50 years ago and who have asked to renew their vows this day. Margie and Danny (Murray), will you come forward and be prepared to repeat after me:

I, ________, take you ______, for my wife/husband, to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part.

P: Bless, O God, the giving of these rings, that those who wear them may live in faithfulness and love all their days, through Jesus Christ our Lord.
All: Amen.


I give you this ring as a sign of our covenant. With all that I am, and all that I have, I honour you.

P: Amen.

Before God and this congregation Margie and Danny Murray have renewed their marriage vows to each other. May there be truth and understanding between you as you are a joy and a blessing to each other. May you enjoy length of days, fulfilment of hopes, and peace and contentment of mind. Amen.

Personal Vows of Matthew and Andrea

The Giving of Rings

P: Bless, O God, the giving of these rings, that those who wear them may live in faithfulness and love all their days, through Jesus Christ our Lord.
All: Amen.


I give you this ring as a sign of our covenant. With all that I am, and all that I have, I honour you.


P: Let us pray.

Almighty God, in whom we live and move and have our being: look graciously upon the world which you have made, and for which your Son gave his life; and especially on all whom you make to be one flesh in holy marriage. May their lives together be a sacrament of your love in this broken world, a sign of unity overcoming estrangement, forgiveness healing guilt, and joy vanquishing despair. God, in your mercy.
All: Hear our prayer.
P: May Matthew and Andrea so live together that the strength of their love may enrich our common life and become a sign of your faithfulness. God, in your mercy,
All: Hear our prayer.
P: May their home be a place of truth, security and love; and their lives an example of concerns for others and all of your creation. God, in your mercy,
All: Hear our prayer.
P: May those who have witnessed their vows find their lives strengthened and their loyalties and trust confirmed. God, in your mercy,
All: Hear our prayer.
P: Loving God, there is no joy that does not come from you, no pain that does not echo in your heart. See our needs and give us strength to work with you and each other in building a world where love can flourish. We ask through in Christ’s name.
All: Amen.


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P: Friends, let us give thanks to our God.
All: Thanks be to God.
P: Most gracious God,
we give you thanks
for your tender love
in sending Jesus Christ
to come among us,
to be born of human mother,
and to make the way of the cross to be the way of life.
We thank you, also, for consecrating
the union in love
of Matthew and Andrea.
By the power of your Holy Spirit,
pour out the abundance
of your blessing
upon this man and this woman.
Defend them from every enemy.
Lead them into all peace.
Let their love for each other be a seal upon their hearts,
a mantle about their shoulders
and a crown upon their foreheads.
Bless them in their work
and in their companionship;
in their sleeping and in their waking;
in their joys and in their sorrows;
in their life and in their death.
Finally, in your mercy,
bring them to that table
where your saints feast for ever
in your heavenly home;
through Jesus Christ our Lord
we pray,
who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns,
one God, for ever and ever.
All: Amen.
P: In the words that Jesus taught us, let us pray:

All: Our Father in heaven
hallowed be your Name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done
on earth as in heaven.

Give us today our daily bread.

Forgive us our sins
as we forgive those
who sin against us.

Save us from the time of trial,
and deliver us from evil.

For the kingdom, the power,
and the glory are yours,
now and for ever.



The Proclamation

P: Matthew and Andrea have made a covenant of marriage before God and in the presence of all of us. They have confirmed their marriage by the joining of hands, by the exchange of rings and by the giving of a kiss. Therefore, I declare them to be husband and wife.

The Blessing of the Marriage

P: May God bless, preserve and sustain you; may God look upon you with favour; May God fill you with all blessings and give you grace that you may in the life live together in joy, and in the world to come have life everlasting.
All: Amen.

Signing of Documents/Registrar


P: Greet Andrea Mackay and Matthew Mackay, who are joined in marriage.



P: May the blessing of the God of Abraham and Sarah; of the Son, born of our sister Mary; and of the Holy Spirit who broods over the world as a mother over her children, be upon you and remain with you always.
All: Amen.

Sending Forth

P: Go in peace to love and serve the Lord and one another.
All: Thanks be to God.







When I stepped off the plane last December at Ben Gurion Airport I had an overwhelming sense of finally being home. The closest experience I’ve ever had to it was my born again moment when, caught on the wire around the Darlington Reactor site I felt enfolded by the divine presence in a way I’m rarely come close to experiencing again and then only in the rare moments when celebrating the Eucharist I find myself transcending the moment into something wonderful and eternal. Having this experience about a place and particularly within a nation I’ve been very critical of over the years still astounds me. And it puts me in a different space than the political world I’ve been a part of for generations. I still oppose the West Bank settlements; I mourn for and grieve over the deaths and injuries and trauma of Gaza today; I think that a two state solution arrived at sooner rather than later is the best option at this time for long term peace. But I would feel emotionally and spiritually devastated if Israel ceased to be, which is what Hamas and Hezbollah and other similar movements are aspiring to achieve.
This perspective means I’d not be welcome at the People’s Climate March in New York this fall. My belief that peaceful coexistence is more important in the short and long term for the people of Israel/Palestine makes me realise I’d be unwelcome at public expression of opposition to the attacks on Gaza as such gathering are all too often not a demand for peace in Gaza but a gathering to support the regime in Gaza. Peace and an end to violence I’ll always support. Taking sides in a violent dispute is, to me, moving away from advocating an end to war. In the past I’ve marched to end the Vietnam War, in opposition to the Somoza regime, against the coup in Chile, against apartheid, against police violence and the list goes on. It took years for me to get to the point where I saw contradictions in what I was after—a peaceful and more just world—while justifying my participating in such efforts as showing support for the objectives and not the means by which the objectives were obtained. I somehow didn’t make the contraction between teaching in non-violence workshops that means and ends could not be separated and taking part in political campaigns where I could separate the two. I do not believe that I can work for peace between the people of Israel and the people of Palestine if I can not call for an immediate end to violence by both sides. But if I am expected to take a side, it would be the side in which my ideals have a better chance of flourishing. They can in Israel. They can not under Hamas.
I’m hoping to hear back this coming week about my exact placement for my month-long volunteer trip to Israel this fall. Assuming it goes well I plan to return the following summer to study Hebrew and do additional volunteer work. My hope is to be involved with human rights or direct service work. There are homeless people in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv; there are refugees struggling to find a voice; there are hungry people wondering where their next meal is coming from; there are people from religious minorities seeking a way to live in harmony and dignity with their neighbours. There is a fledgling credit union movement. There are cat rescue efforts. There is multi-faith dialogue. There is bridge building between conflicting worlds. There is hope and despair. These seems, surprisingly enough, the possibility that there is a place for me in all that.


FIRST LESSON: 2 Maccabees 1: 1 – 6

The Jews in Jerusalem and those in the land
of Judea, to their Jewish kindred in Egypt,
greetings and true peace. May God do good
to you, and may he remember his covenant
with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, his
faithful servants. May he give you all a heart
to worship him and to do his will with a
strong heart and a willing spirit. May he open
your heart to his law and his commandments,
and may he bring peace. May he hear your
prayers and be reconciled to you, and may he
not forsake you in time of evil. We are now
praying for you here.


O pray for the peace of Jerusalem: they shall
prosper that love thee. Peace be within thy
walls: and plenteousness within the palaces.
Alleluia, alleluia. Praise the Lord, O
Jerusalem: praise thy God, O Sion. Alleluia.

In Jewry is God know: his Name is great in
Israel. At Salem is his tabernacles: and his
dwelling in Sion. There brake he the arrows
of the bow, the shield, the sword, and the

GOSPEL: John 20: 19 – 23

When it was evening on that day, the first day
of the week, and the doors of the house
where the disciples had met were locked for
fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among
them and said, “Peace be with you.” After he
said this, he showed them his hands and his
side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they
saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace
be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I
send you.” When he had said this, he
breathed on them and said to them, “Receive
the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any,
they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins
of any, they are retained.”


On a beautiful summer day in a peaceful
city war seems far away. Unless we are
refugees from places of conflict, are a veteran
or currently serving military or have such
people among our friends and our families, it
is hard even for war to seem real. We have to
work hard to make war alive in Toronto as it
is something that happens elsewhere. And yet
we are at war. Canadian military units are
serving overseas in places of conflict;
individual Canadians are volunteering for
service in the military of countries such as the
U.S. and Israel; Canadians are going to other
lands to take part in religious wars. No
matter how nice it is in our community today,
no matter how comfortable we may feel in
our lives, there are wars being fought and
people are dying and our friends and
neighbours may be involved. Peace is in our
world, but it isn’t present everywhere.
War isn’t what Jesus came to live among
us for. War isn’t what Christians are called
to be—we are called to peacemakers, not
warriors. And, while throughout our history
Christians have taken part in wars, we have
never forgotten that Christ came to bring
peace. We hear it in the scriptures and we
read the pronouncements from church
leaders. We have fallen far from the central
teachings of our faith if we don’t embrace this
essential reality that peace is what we are
called to witness for.


There are times when I wonder how hard
it must be to be part of a peaceful witness.
All we have to do is not pick up a weapon or
strike out at someone. Just like the best way
to address hunger is to feed people and the
best way to address homelessness is to
provide someone a place to live, the best way
to build a peaceful world is to not add to the
violence in it.


Christians in the world need to become
more consistent in our witness for peace.
Our churches can’t send out the contradictory
messages of calling for an end to war and
providing chaplains to the military. God isn’t
on the side of those with the most battalions;
God is on the side of everyone. Our peace activists                                                  have to stop sending out contradictory messages.                                                     We can’t call for an end to war while doing apologetics for one
side or the other in a conflict. God isn’t on
the side of those most in harmony with our
ideas; God is on the side of everyone.

There are among us the unseen victims of
war—from soldiers with post-traumatic stress
syndrome to people who have seen their
entire family killed by a missile. There are
victims of war around the planet, from
Christians crucified by ISIS in their effort to
re-establish the caliphate to those killed when
their shelter was bombed to those whose
aircraft was shot down to the children who
are forever scarred by what they have
experienced while hiding in a bomb shelter.
And, as Dwight Eisenhower stated so clearly:
“Every gun that is made, every warship
launched, every rocket fired signifies in the
final sense, a theft from those who hunger
and are not fed, those who are cold and are
not clothed. This world in arms is not
spending money alone. It is spending the
sweat of its laborers, the genius of its
scientists, the hopes of its children. This is not
a way of life at all in any true sense. Under the
clouds of war, it is humanity hanging on a
cross of iron.”

War is evil. We are called to do good and
to overcome evil. As people that pay for war,
as people who participate in many ways in
supporting movements and institutions that
could be working for peace, as people who are
called to be living examples of the shalom
kingdom, we need to do better. We may not
know how to achieve peace on earth but we
do need to start somewhere. We need to find
ways to avoid violence in our own lives, we
need to find ways to not be so complicit in
violence in our community and around the
world. From praying for peace to being a
voice against war to being a more gentle
presence in a harsh world, we can do things in
our lives that will change the world. Let us
do so; lives depend on it.

You Too Can Be Judas—-Finances 101

YOU TOO CAN BE JUDAS: Money and Finance
Cahoots Festival
May 31, 2013
Mennonite Silver Lake Camp


I’m Brian Burch and I’ve served as a treasurer of a number of co-operative and non-profit organisations over the past several decades. I’m not an expert in finances—-I’m not an accountant or even a skilled bookkeeper. But I have a real interest in the stewardship of the resources trusted to groups I am a part of which has lead into my being involved in the financial management of most of the groups I have been a part of.

I’m curious as to why people are here. Could you go around and briefly introduce yourself and tell us what you hope to get from this workshop. I have a couple of areas I want to focus on, but I hope to leave time to touch on areas I’ve overlooked. I’m also prepared to go off in completely unexpected tangents if the group has different priorities and interests.

Agenda Review

I will be touching on two basic aspects of the financial life of an organisation—-financial statements that tell you about the life and priorities of an organisation; and budgeting, which is the setting of priorities on how to use the resources you are trusted with.

Before dealing with the practical content, let us touch on why I think financial literacy is important to an organisation and why I think that budgeting involves real ethical choices.

The gospels touch directly on making decisions on how to use resources—-the story of the anointment of Jesus.

New Testament Readings

Matthew 26:6-13 New International Version – UK (NIVUK)

While Jesus was in Bethany in the home of Simon the Leper, a woman came to him with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, which she poured on his head as he was reclining at the table.  When the disciples saw this, they were indignant. ‘Why this waste?’ they asked. ‘This perfume could have been sold at a high price and the money given to the poor.’  Aware of this, Jesus said to them, ‘Why are you bothering this woman? She has done a beautiful thing to me.  The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me. When she poured this perfume on my body, she did it to prepare me for burial. Truly I tell you, wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.’

Mark 14:3-9 New International Version – UK (NIVUK)

While he was in Bethany, reclining at the table in the home of Simon the Leper, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, made of pure nard. She broke the jar and poured the perfume on his head.  Some of those present were saying indignantly to one another, ‘Why this waste of perfume?  It could have been sold for more than a year’s wages and the money given to the poor.’ And they rebuked her harshly.  ‘Leave her alone,’ said Jesus. ‘Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing to me.  The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them any time you want. But you will not always have me.  She did what she could. She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial.  Truly I tell you, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.’

John 12:1-8 New International Version – UK (NIVUK)

Six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead.  Here a dinner was given in Jesus’ honour. Martha served, while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with him. Then Mary took about half a litre of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.  But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected,  ‘Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages.’ He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it. ‘Leave her alone,’ Jesus replied. ‘It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial.  You will always have the poor among you,  but you will not always have me.’

Go Round—Question: What are the different values being expressed by Judas and Jesus.

I have come, over time, to side with Judas on this. In times of scare resources, the priority of compassionate solidarity should trump luxuries. In a conversation on Thursday it was suggested that the passages imply that giving money to the poor was the norm and Christ’s behaviour out of the ordinary.


Basic Financial Statements: Overview of CoAction and 43rd statements.

There are two major different forms of financial statements—-balance statements (sometimes referred to as balance sheets) and income statements (sometimes referred to as statements of profit and loss). They serve two different purposes.

Balance statements are historical documents. They present the story of the financial life of an organisation from its beginning. Everything that the organisation has purchased, every expense the organisation has paid, every dollar received is woven into the statements.

Income statements are living documents. They compare what is expected to occur (the budget) with what actually happens (the actuals).

Inside the financial statements are the lived out values of an organisation. An organisation that states it has a priority to deal directly with the needs of people on the streets but has expensive office furniture included in its assets is showing something different in the statements than it projects to the world.

I’m providing financial statements for two co-operatives I’m involved with, one a small co-op that provides services to co-op staff, and the other a medium sized housing co-operative. These are taken from the audited financial statements so there is some confidence in the accuracy of the numbers.

-Balance Sheets (history of the assets)

Things to look at on a balance sheet include:

-Do the assets and liabilities match—if they don’t there is a problem that needs to be followed up.
-what types of assets are recorded?
-what are the natures of liabilities?

-Income Statements (current reality)

Things to look at on an income statement (statement of profit and loss) include:
-what are the budgeted categories?
-are both budget and actual financial figures included?
-is a surplus or deficit budgeted for?
-what is the difference between what is budgeted and what are the actual figures.

Basic Budgeting: Figuring out what you have, what you want to do and setting priorities.

Generally accepted principles: (
1. A budget is a plan for expenses (costs) and revenue (where money will come from)
2. As plans change, so should a budget – with respect to the agency’s budget modification procedures
3. Revenue and expenses should balance
4. Rely upon past budget performance and finance figures
5. When creating a budget, typically it’s recommended to start with expenses, then revenue
6. Give the most attention to identifying and accounting for regular expenses – staff salaries and benefits, rent and utilities, insurance, travel, training
7. Cost-sharing among programs should be fair and consistent
8. Pro-rate and appropriate expenses fairly to “program” or “administration” whenever possible to avoid appearing “top heavy”

Every group I am a part of has resources that are not sufficient to address everything that people would like. St. Clare’s, for example, has to balance out the desire to provide internal subsidies for people and the need to deal with maintenance problems with aging buildings. The members of Ganesh need to contribute a portion of our earnings to meet the organizational overhead, which can have a real impact on our take home pay if there is an unexpected HST adjustment or some substantive payments from one or two clients haven’t arrived. Some donors have priorities that are different that the group’s—do you turn down funds or change priorities?

There is a budgeting exercise that I’d like people to do in small groups—groups of four would be ideal. In dealing with the budget consider the values of the group you are preparing it for. I’m going to ask the groups to report back with their proposed budget and reasons for the allocations.

You have $1000 to spend. You have to spend at least 10% on space; at least 20% on salaries. You have traditionally spent 50% on programmes and activities. You may need to buy a computer next year, which would take 25% of your resources. There are rumours that you may get a large donation. There are rumours that you may have to move. How would you develop your budget? What would it look like?

Q & A

Money is a difficult area for many people to talk about. Are there areas I’ve overlooked that we should touch on while we are together?

One quick thought—if the numbers seem too large to grasp, drop the zeros.  $1.80 is easier to work with than $1,800,000.   As long as you treat all numbers the same, you may find that you can understand the process of budgetting and understanding financial statements a little easier.   The zeros can always be added back for more formal reports.


While there is a more formal feedback process, I do try to get some feedback whenever I do a workshop. I have an evaluation form for those that would like to help improve my presentations in the future. You can also drop me an email at

Notes for A More Coherent Co-op Presentations—Cahoots


Cahoots Festival

Silver Lake Mennonite Camp, May 30, 2014



Thank you all for coming.   I’m Brian Burch. I live, work and volunteer in the co-op sector and have been a part of provincial and national area governing bodies of worker co-ops, financial co-ops and housing co-ops since last millennium.

I’d like people to quickly go round and introduce yourself.   If you could let us know if you are a member of a co-op—if so, please let tell us their name—and what you would like to get out of this workshop.   I hope to have time to touch on areas I’ve missed that you’d like to address.

What is a co-op?

The most basic definition of a co-operative these days is an organisation incorporated under a co-operative act.   But a co-operative is more than that—it is a sharing of resources and vision to meet a common goal.   They are ongoing experiments in the living out of the ideal of Kropotkin’s Mutual Aid.

Types of co-ops?

Co-operatives come in a of variety forms, but they tend to fall into the following broad categories:

Worker Co-ops

Consumer Co-ops

Producer Co-ops

Financial Co-ops

Housing Co-ops

Community Co-ops

Worker Co-operative (From Wikipedia):

A worker cooperative is a cooperative self-managed by its workers. This control may be exercised in a number of ways. A cooperative enterprise may mean a firm where every worker-owner participates in decision making in a democratic fashion, or it may refer to one in which managers and administration is elected by every worker-owner, and finally it can refer to a situation in which managers are considered, and treated as, workers of the firm.   La Sembra in Ottawa comes to mind as an example.

Consumer Co-operatives (From Wikipedia):

Consumer cooperatives are enterprises owned by consumers and managed democratically which aim at fulfilling the needs and aspirations of their members. They operate within the market system, independently of the state, as a form of mutual aid, oriented toward service rather than pecuniary profit. Consumers’ cooperatives often take the form of retail outlets owned and operated by their consumers, such as food co-ops. However, there are many types of consumers’ cooperatives, operating in areas such as health care, insurance, housing, utilities and personal finance (including credit unions).   Karma Co-op in Toronto is an example.

Producer-owner Co-operatives (from Wikipedia)

Producer cooperatives are owned by producers of farm commodities or crafts that band together to process and/or market their products. Purchasing or shared services cooperatives are cooperatives whose members are businesses that join to improve their performance and competitiveness. This form of co-op is most common in agriculture, where farmers often must band together to survive in an industry that is increasingly industrial and centralized.   Gay Lea is one of the best known in Canada.

Financial Co-operatives/Credit Unions (From Wikipedia):

A credit union is a member-owned financial cooperative, democratically controlled by its members, and operated for the purpose of promoting thrift, providing credit at competitive rates, and providing other financial services to its members. VanCity is probably Canada’s best known credit union.

Housing Co-operative (From Housing Connections):

CO-OPERATIVE HOUSING– Co-operative housing is collectively owned and managed by its members (the people who live there). Co-operative members actively participate in decision making and share the work involved in running the housing community.

Co-operative housing in Canada is primarily, but not exclusively, non-profit.   However, there are other forms of co-op housing, including equity and limited equity co-ops and building co-operatives.   Don Area Co-op, where I live, is a non-profit housing co-op. Options for Homes involves building co-operatives.

Community Co-operative (from

Community co-operatives are organisations set up to provide a service or services to a particular community and which use co-operative principles to guide their organisations and their activities.  Forward 9 Co-op, in Toronto, was formed with this in mind.   Community Partners For Success Co-operative Quinte and the Bias Free Co-operative in Ottawa are more recent examples.

What are the co-op principles?

Seven Cooperative Principles:

Cooperatives around the world generally operate according to the same core principles and values, adopted by the International Co-operative Alliance in 1995. Cooperatives trace the roots of these principles to the first modern cooperative founded in Rochdale, England in 1844.

1. Voluntary and Open Membership
Cooperatives are voluntary organizations, open to all people able to use its services and willing to accept the responsibilities of membership, without gender, social, racial, political or religious discrimination.

2. Democratic Member Control
Cooperatives are democratic organizations controlled by their members—those who buy the goods or use the services of the cooperative—who actively participate in setting policies and making decisions.

3. Members’ Economic Participation
Members contribute equally to, and democratically control, the capital of the cooperative. This benefits members in proportion to the business they conduct with the cooperative rather than on the capital invested.

4. Autonomy and Independence
Cooperatives are autonomous, self-help organizations controlled by their members. If the co-op enters into agreements with other organizations or raises capital from external sources, it is done so based on terms that ensure democratic control by the members and maintains the cooperative’s autonomy.

5. Education, Training and Information
Cooperatives provide education and training for members, elected representatives, managers and employees so they can contribute effectively to the development of their cooperative. Members also inform the general public about the nature and benefits of cooperatives.

6. Cooperation among Cooperatives
Cooperatives serve their members most effectively and strengthen the cooperative movement by working together through local, national, regional and international structures.

7. Concern for Community
While focusing on member needs, cooperatives work for the sustainable development of communities through policies and programs accepted by the members.

What does faith have to do with this?

Acts 2:43-47 New International Version – UK (NIVUK)

43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favour of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

From the earliest days of the Christian faith mutual aid and the sharing of resources was a living expression of the Shalom kingdom as a living expression of practical love in the world.   While not a specific Christian form—the On Co-op website lists a number of Muslim co-operatives—-there would be no co-operative movement in Canada if it was not for Christian communities who took seriously the example of the earliest Christians who did the hard and difficult work of sharing their skills and talents to make the world better.   It was no co-incidence that the earliest leadership of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation were people like the Methodist minister J.S. Woodsworth or the Baptist minister Tommy Douglas.   Building the New Jerusalem was a shared work.   From the Social Gospel to Liberation Theology, co-operative initiatives have been seen as the practical way to address social problems while showing that alternative models of social and economic organisation are practical and viable.

Some examples of the faith roots of co-ops in Canada—please feel free to jump in if you know their contribution:

Roman Catholic Bishops, Quebec: Sought Pope Pius X’s approval for priests to manage local caisses.

Canadian Council of Catholic Bishops: co-founder, Co-operative Housing Foundation of Canada, which became the Co-operative Housing Federation of Canada.

United Church of Canada: co-founder, Co-operative Housing Foundation of Canada, which became the Co-operative Housing Federation of Canada; provided a revolving loan fund to develop housing co-operatives in the early 1970s and 1980s)

Student Christian Movement at the University of Toronto: founded Campus Co-op at the University of Canada, the oldest continuing housing co-operative in Canada

“Toyohiko Kagawa, Japanese Co-operator, spoke at a Student Christian conference in Indianapolis during the Christmas holidays in 1935. Four University of Toronto theology students Donald Mclean, Art Dayfoot, Archie Manson and Alex Sim were so moved by his speech that upon returning to Toronto they formed a discussion group to debate the possibility of operating a co-operative. Riding on the tails of a depression, the men decided that a housing co-operative would be the most pragmatic venture to undertake. In October 1936, finally able to gather the minimum number of people to open a cooperative, the men established the first Campus Co-op House that they called Rochdale, at 63 St. George Street, accommodating 12 men, many of the farm youths with a United Church affiliation. The principal of Victoria College used the first floor for offices and the top two floors were vacant.   The Co-op men occupied the top two floors, eleven rooms, including a kitchen and a storeroom, rent-free, paying maintenance fees only.”

St. Luke’s United Church: one of many churches that had a congregational based Credit Union

Fr. Moses Cody: Roman Catholic priest who founded the Antigonish movement, which worked throughout Atlantic Canada to develop worker and consumer co-operatives

Canadian Alternative Investment Co-operative: does social investment on behalf of Canadian charities, all of which are religious and the vast majority of which are Roman Catholic religious orders, although the United Church of Canada, the SCM, CFSC and Trinity-St. Paul’s United are members

Waterloo County Mennonites—founded the Mennonite Credit Union, one of the largest community based credit unions remaining in Canada.: “Founded in 1964, the credit union began with a radical vision for expanding our faith community’s historical commitment to mutual aid.  What started out as $22 in a cash box and a modest attempt to share financial resources among Waterloo County Mennonites has grown into a full-service Anabaptist financial cooperative. We remain committed to the radical dream of our founders: to be a Christian vehicle for the sharing of financial resources within the Mennonite, Amish, and Brethren in Christ communities. And today we’re building on that dream, serving members of other Christian faith communities who share our values.”


Unlike a lot of community based initiatives I have been a part of, co-operatives work. They are not perfect organisations—we are not perfect people and co-operatives reflect this.   But they work.   According to the On Co-op website: “The survival rate of co-operative enterprises is almost twice that of investor-owned companies after five or 10 years in operation. “ (   No matter how bureaucratic a co-operative becomes, and in large co-operatives like MEC or credit unions like Alterna can become rigid and governance remote from the average member, the boards come from the membership and the by-laws that govern them are approved by the members.   The principals that are woven into the life of a small worker co-op or a housing co-op are woven into the core of even the largest co-operative.   I do think it is important for people who are connected to the co-operative movement attend federations and co-op cluster meetings to realise that the dreams of a co-operative and more compassionate world are shared at all levels of the movement and in all sizes of co-operatives.

Humans are social creatures.   Even those of us who are loners are connected in many ways to other people.   The co-operative movement takes the realities of quilting and barn raising bees and applies this sharing to the meeting economic and social needs of each other and the wider world.

The co-operative movement has never been inward looking or isolationist.   Initiatives such as Rooftops Canada and the Co-operative Development Foundation work with partners around the globe to encourage and support local co-operative development and emerging leaders.

Despite many changes in the political and landscape in the world since I attended my first co-op meeting, I remain confident in, and evangelical about, the co-operative movement.   I am, at heart, a CCFer who will not rest contented until it we have eradicated capitalism and established the Cooperative Commonwealth. (paraphrased from the Regina Manifesto)

Q & A


Trivia Question:

When did the co-op rainbow flag first fly

ICA adopted its original rainbow flag in 1925, with the seven colors symbolizing unity in diversity and the power of light, enlightenment, and progress.

An interesting report on Co-operatives in Canada can be found at:

Note for a more coherent co-operative presentation – Fair Trade Fair for Global Justice

Note for a more coherent co-operative presentation
Saturday, April 26, 2016
Fair Trade Fair for Global Justice
Donway Covenant United Church
230 The Donway West, Toronto, Ontario M3B 2V8

Thanks for inviting me to lead a workshop on co-operatives. I have been active in various expressions of the Canadian co-operative movement for over 25 years. From serving on the boards of the Co-operative Housing Federation of Canada and the Canadian Alternative Investment Co-operative to being a member/owner of Ganesh Community Development Co-operative to being the executive director of CoAction Staff Association , which is a co-operative that provides services to its members who are staff of housing co-operatives, I have worked and volunteered in three of the five major areas of co-operatives in Canada—housing, financial and worker co-operatives. I am not directly involved in insurance co-operatives or related mutual societies nor am I active in consumer co-operatives, even though I am supportive of their work and purchase insurance through Co-operator’s Insurance.

What I plan to do is talk for a little while about co-operatives and why I think this is a good time for co-operatives. Hopefully my comments will inspire some questions and debate.

I’m curious if there are people here who are a member of one or more co-operatives. Let’s just go around and let us know if you are a co-op member (wait for responses).

(see for source of stats and Desjardins anecdote)

I’m not surprised at the results—4 out of 10 Canadians belong to one or more co-operatives. In Quebec it is 7 out of 10.

There have been formal co-operatives in Canada since the early 19th century. Related mutual societies, such as mutual insurance companies, go back just a bit earlier. From farmers wanting a better deal for their crops to workers wanting some real control over their employment conditions and the products they produced to people wanting to share the risks of dealing with fire or major illness to people wanting to have affordable housing where costs and control were shared with their neighbours to people wanting stores accountable to those that purchase the products instead of distant shareholders, co-operatives have been a part of the Canadian fabric since well before confederation. At times a way of marginalised to get control of their lives and resources—Alphonse Desjardins founded the first credit union in Canada when he learned of a Montrealer who had been ordered by the court to pay nearly $5,000 in interest on a loan of $150 from a moneylender—at times a way for government to implement social policy which is why most Canadian housing co-ops were developed—and at times just good economic sense, which is why Co-operatives, Gay Lea and Ocean Spray continue to prosper, Co-operatives make both idealistic and practical sense.
Not surprisingly when dealing with social justice, faith communities can be found in the lead. Here are a few examples. Can people suggest what role they had in the Canadian co-operative movement?

Canadian Council of Catholic Bishops: (co-founder, Co-operative Housing Federation of Canada)

United Church of Canada: (co-founder, Co-operative Housing Federation of Canada; provided a revolving loan fund to develop housing co-operatives in the early 1970s and 1980s)

Student Christian Movement at the University of Toronto: (founded Campus Co-op at the University of Canada, the oldest continuing housing co-operative in Canada)

Fr. Moses Coady: (Roman Catholic priest who founded the Antigonish movement, which worked throughout Atlantic Canada to develop worker and consumer co-operatives)

St. Luke’s United Church: (one of many churches that had a congregational based Credit Union)

Canadian Alternative Investment Co-operative: (does social investment on behalf of Canadian charities, all of which are religious and the vast majority of which are Roman Catholic religious orders, although the United Church of Canada and Trinity-St. Paul’s United are members)

This is a very exciting time to be a part of the co-operative movement in Canada. There have been a number of co-operatives start up in the past few years—West End Food Co-op, Solar Share Energy Co-operative, Local 75 Housing Co-op come immediately to mind. Less well known are efforts such as A-Zone in Winnipeg, a co-operative of anarchist worker and community focused co-ops, which obtained financing from CAIC and Assiniboine Credit Union to purchase a major building in downtown Winnipeg. The government of Canada, for the first time in its history, has a multi-party Co-operative Caucus/Working Group to explore ways in which co-operatives can be nourished in Canada. Rooftops Canada and CCA are able to work with partner co-operatives in the developing world with ongoing support from CIDA and a core of dedicated volunteers.

To me there are some good reasons for optimism about the Canadian co-operative movement that I haven’t always felt. I admit that there are current challenges for many forms of co-operatives. It is easier to get the financing for a worker or consumer co-operative than a housing co-operative. There are political uncertainties affective alternative energy co-operatives. Credit unions are being hit with changes to the Income Tax Act. Government policies are not always in harmony with the reality of co-operative decision making.

Yet even with these real challenges, I think that this is a potential boom time for co-operatives. I have four reasons for thinking this way.

One very real need for any co-operative is funding. Co-operatives have benefited from funding from CAIC and from the Community Forward Fund, from changes in rules that have encouraged the use of community bonds and crowd funding and from governments across Canada that have supported local co-operative ventures.

Another is community interest. The co-operative model seems to have found momentum both from the concerns that inspired the occupy movement and the new interest in social and impact investing. Both radical anger at the dominate economic systems and the desire of those with wealth to try to effectively use it for social good seem to have blossomed at the same time.

Thirdly, and related to the above, is the slow, persistent and gentle reminder that co-operatives work. Worker co-operatives are more likely to survive their first five years than any other corporate model. Consumer co-operatives have loyal members and, both on the small scale such as Karma Co-op and the large scale such as Mountain Equipment Co-op, find creative ways to fit into niches in the marketplace and, when faced with crisis, their members have been creative in ensuring the ongoing viability of their co-op. Financial co-operatives—credit unions and related member controlled banks—weathered the recent financial crisis that shook the banking system with far fewer problems than traditional banking institutions.

And finally, one of the things that truly gives me hope is the change in leadership of the movement. My generation is being replaced with a far more diverse body of co-op directors, staff and developers than we represent. On my last term on the board of the co-op I live in, the majority of the directors weren’t born when I moved into DACHI. Problems are being addressed in ways some of us older activists are not comfortable with as the new leadership looks at our shared movement with fresh eyes.

With new leaders, alternative financing models in place, a desire for new organisational models and proof that co-operatives work, this is a good time for co-operatives.

Brian Burch

Some helpful website resources:

Ontario and Canadian Co-operative Movement

Housing Co-operatives

Financial & Insurance Co-operatives

Worker Co-operatives

Consumer Co-operatives

Other Co-op Links

PRESENTATION NOTES—Employment Contracts Workshop


2014 Staff Education Forum

February 13, 2014

Ingersoll, Ontario

Brian Burch,


Welcome everyone to today’s workshop.   I’m Brian Burch, the  executive director of CoAction Staff Association and a shop steward/union rep with Labourers Local 183. I assume that most of   those here know each other but just in case, would people introduce   themselves.


I’m not going to be able to deal with everything related to the CoAction model contract or contracts for co-op staff more  generally. But I hope   to provide a basic overview of employment contract law, give people an realistic overview of the process  through which the model contract was negotiated, touch on some of the major features of the model contract and weave in some thoughts   on negotiating a collective agreement.  I encourage people to ask  clarifying questions along the way but I do intend to have a question and answer session later in the workshop where more  substantive questions can be raised.

I hope that people are familiar with the CHFC publication You, Your  Staff and the Law.   This provides information on the minimum legal  expectations of co-operatives as employers.   Minimums can often be below standard expectations, but do provide a foundation from which contracts can be built on.  This, and other helpful material, can be found at:

To help frame any discussions or information sharing I have a few questions that I’d people to take five minutes or so to answer.  These are on a worksheet provided and are, I hope, straight forward:

What do I want to make my workplace better?

What are these things I want in my workplace that could be included in a contract?

Which of these things that could be included are already in my  contract?

What are those things I don’t have that I would consider a priority to include in any new contract?


Before one talks about employment contracts, it is important to make sure you are an employee. Most co-op staff are employees, either directly hired or through a management services company.  Some people provide specific professional services, such as bookkeepers, and aren’t seen as employees. Entering into a service contract, such as CoAction has with Ganesh Community Development     Co-operative, is based on a different form of relationship than 43rd Co-op has with me. There are people in employment situations who are treated by their employer as self-employed contractors but who are legally employees and therefore entitled to all the benefits of employment including the submitting of statutory payments such as CPP premiums to the Canada Revenue Agency and having a safe and secure working environment.

The Ontario Ministry of Finance offers the following:  “A contract of service, or employer-employee relationship, generally exists when a worker agrees to work for an employer, on a full-time or part-time basis, for a specified or indeterminate period of time, in return for wages or a salary. The employer has the right to decide where, when and how the work is to be done.”   (from:

Thus, any agreement with an employer that sets rates of pay, controls the place where the work is done and that gives authority  for someone who determines the nature and quality of the work to be  performed makes one an employee. These agreements can take many  forms, both formal and informal.  Almost anything that can be included in a contract can be negotiated.   There are exceptions to this—formal collective agreements make reference to this using   language similar to the following (from a Unifor contract in Toronto) :  “it is the exclusive function of the Co-operative to:  …Manage the Co-operative without restricting the generality of the foregoing, to plan, direct and control operations, facilities,programs, systems and procedures, to direct and determine job      descriptions for the Employees, and each of them, to determine the   complement, organization, location and curtailment or cessation of      operations and to exercise all other rights and responsibilities not specifically modified elsewhere in this Agreement. “  At the end of the day, there are reserved management rights that can be  modified by mutual agreement but not removed.

In essence, you are an employee if you are paid, your employer controls the location and time of work, your actual duties are assigned and at the end of the day someone exercises the rights and  duties of management over your work life.   Many of us have  management responsibilities but it is ultimately the board of the co-op that has the authority.

As soon as we have any sort of agreement with a co-op to work we have entered into a contract.  We accept a consideration—pay—in return for our labour.    There are common law and legislative requirements that bind both the employer and employee that exist even if not written down.  Even if not written down in an negotiated contract, employers have to provide a safe and secure work place and employees have to come to work and fulfil their expected duties.

There are minimum expectations in any employment contract oral or  written.   These include:

– rates of pay and benefits provided

– vacation and leave

– probation period

– discipline and termination

– reporting relationships

– duties and responsibilities, which includes hours of work, issues such   as confidentiality and returning property and passwords when leaving employment

There are matters not included in a minimum list of expectations but are commonly included in employment contracts.   These include:

– non-competition clauses.  If one works for a management service  company, for example, this is likely in your contract.    With such a clause a co-op can’t end a contract with a management services company and then immediately hire the staff assigned to the co-op by the company.

– copyright and creative property.  An example of this is a form you develop for your co-op.  In most circumstances, if you develop iton the job this is the property of the co-op and you can’t take it with you nor can you share it without the express consent of   the co-op.   A clause that recognizes joint copyright of any creative work you do would mean you could take the form with you when you change employers or use it in other settings without express consent of your co-op.

Pre-employment expectations:

Prior to actually being hired or as a condition of being hired background checks are being required.   Historically this has been reference checks but in more recent times this has included police background checks and   even credit checks. Contracts and offers of employment often do include the requirement of a successful background check.   Balancing privacy and human rights concerns with the desire of an employer to have an employee they feel they can trust is a difficult one.  As an example, the Ontario Human Rights Code prohibits discrimination on the basis of a criminal conviction for which as pardon has been received.  Background checks will often reveal convictions, even if a pardon has been granted.  Depending on the crime, some boards would not hire based on the result of the background check even it violates the code.  (see:


While any agreement is a contract, we tend to use that term to mean  a formal negotiated agreement.   There are other forms of agreement we may be familiar with that deal with matters such as rates of  pay, reporting structures and so forth.  Two that I know that are  common in co-ops are:

– Letters of employment

– Employment Policies

I’ve included a sample letter of employment, available on the CHFC  website. There are long serving staff who have this as their only employment agreement.   It is a very bare bones document but does include most of the items found in more complex, negotiated contracts; It has four basic sections:  (the letter can be found with the staff resources on:

–     Basic Terms of the Agreement

–     Salary and Benefits

–     Work hours and vacations

–     Termination of employment.

Can people identify something common in most contracts that isn’t       included in this letter?

A key thing missing from the agreement is a dispute mechanism.    Problems arise in any workplace and having a way to resolve them short of dismissal is important for both parties.

The sector does have model polices and by-Laws dealing with issues such as  workplace harassment which are very helpful and I encourage all co- ops to adapt.   However, they are documents of the co-op and are not necessarily mutually agreed to by staff and board.  And such policies and documents deal with big issues and not day to day  issues such as differences around the scheduling of time off.

Model Workplace Harassment and Discrimination By-law (2002)

Policy on Workplace Violence and Harassment (June 2010).

The second is a policy dealing with preventing and responding to violence and harassment in the workplace to help co-ops in Ontario meet the   requirement of the Occupational Health and Safety Act.

The sector documents can be found in the member section of the CHFC     website:

Information on the Occupancy Heath and Safety Act can be found at:

A good management side presentation on contracts can be found at:


I’m not sure if housing co-op staff unionising is a GTA phenomena or if it exists elsewhere in the province.   Is anyone here in a  unionised workplace?  About 20% of CoAction’s members are also members of unions.  In the GTA there are co-op housing staff represented by Unifor, Labourers 183, Christian Labour Association of Canada and CUPE Local 1281.

One real advantage to a collective agreement is in the enforcement of the contract.   With an employment letter or a personal contract  the enforcement of the contract lies with you.  Because it is a party to the contract, the responsibility for enforcement is carried by the union.  Staff associations provide support for their  members—sometimes including some paid legal advice and always   including peer support—but the staff association isn’t a party to the contract.

I’ve included for information in the handouts folder a copy of the contract for 43rd Housing Co-op.   We are a unionised workplace.  There are a number of key areas, many similar to that in the Letter of Employment, and some specific to a unionised setting.   Union dues, for example, and seniority are not part of standard letters  of employment.  However, all employment contracts deal with pay and performance expectations.

The first seven articles and the last article are, in essence, the basic terms of the agreement.   They set out the responsibilities  of all parties and the length of the contract.

Articles eight through ten deal with discipline and termination.    What is included in the union contract that is missing in the letter is a dispute mechanism.  Problems can be dealt with through formal and informal steps internal to the co-op.

Article eleven does introduce a new idea—seniority—that is something in most union contracts.   Courts take length of service into account in   dealing with matters such as service pay and damages upon dismissal, which is different from length of service in terms of addressing particular work place issues such as who is laid off first.

Articles twelve through twenty-one and twenty-four and twenty-six       deal with salary and benefits.

Articles twenty-two, twenty-three, twenty-five and twenty-seven   deal with seniority, hiring and lay-offs.


– Process

The CHFT/COACTION model contract is an interesting  experiment. It was an effort to find common ground between competing law firms, the local federation and a staff association on how to protect the rights of co-op staff while ensuring co-ops continue to be strong, member run entities.   It took approximately two years to negotiate and, although it needs some updating, still serves as a good basic employment agreement for co-op managers and    co-ordinators, particular in single staff settings.

The basic steps were:

–    Getting CHFT on side

–    Confirming the active participation of lawyers who represent the majority of Toronto housing co-ops

–    Seeking input from CoAction members are what to include and what not to accept.

–    Drafting and redrafting proposals to meet different perspectives

–    Reaching Agreement

Getting CHFT on side was easy.   An earlier model contract, available through the Co-op Housing Bookstore, was in need of  substantive updating.   Co-ops were seeking a model contract that had already been vetted by their lawyers, thus avoiding legal fees while ensuring that co-op boards were taking    employment matters seriously.   The sector as a whole was wanting to have a    reputation as good employers.  And there were federation funds available to pay the co-op lawyers who participated in the process as representatives of housing co-operatives.

Getting two completing law firms to co-operate was a somewhat more difficult task.   Part of this was the different philosophical approaches to employment contracts.  One firm had a more minimalist approach, seeing the need for only basic terms and conditions in an agreement.  They also felt that if there was a   significant workplace problem that the best approach was to    negotiate a finance settlement and part ways.  The other firm had a completely different approach.   They wanted detailed contract that addressed most foreseeable workplace issues from a strong  management rights perspectives.  However, both firms wanted to   be able to provide their clients with a workable model agreement that wouldn’t require much work to meet the needs of individual       co-op employers.  Working out a process with the lawyers was   somewhat difficult and evolved over time.   Ultimately, instead of both firms submitting responses to an issue as was first tried, for most of the process one firm drafted a response and the other responded to it.

CoAction member consultations were extensive and ongoing.  What was clear from the beginning was that our members themselves have different view of their role in a co-op.   Some saw themselves as employees;  others saw themselves as equal stakeholders in the co-operative; some saw their roles as being the equivalent of a CEO.  Finding common ground among co-op               staff wasn’t as easy as it might have appeared at the beginning of the process.   There was less difference on RRSP payments, for example, than on management rights with some wanting strong  restrictions on what boards could do while other members felt that co-op housing member control needed to be encouraged and supported.

There is also a problem that never was addressed—the model contract is for managers/co-ordinators only.  It requires substantial work to be adapted for other positions.

The drafting and redrafting of the proposals was a four sided initiative, although CHFT did not make many suggestions other than Tom Clement pushing for higher RRSP contributions than were originally proposed.  CoAction would draft a section, send it to our lawyer for review.   The revised draft would be sent to the first sector lawyer to draft a response.   That revised response would be sent to the second sector lawyer for review.  That revised version would go to CoAction to review and, if necessary, start the process up again with the newest version.  This sounds more complicated that it was.   Often the hardest part was getting      a document from one lawyer’s desk to another.

– Content

In the folder is the guide and contract in one package and the appendices in a second.  The guide, contract and appendices are meant to be treated as one agreement.

The guide is as essential part of the document.  It deals with options and interpretations of the contact, as well as serving as an introduction on how to use the model contract.  It is particularly important to note the recommended process for changing  from existing agreements to the use of the model contract.

The contract itself is not much different in form than the  employment letter, although it does include a dispute mechanism,   and is fairly short.

It contains:

–    Basic Employment Terms (articles one through five)

–    Performance of Duties (articles six through ten)

–    Supervision (articles eleven through fifteen)

–    Payments and benefits (articles sixteen through nineteen)

–    Hours, Vacation, etc. (articles twenty through thirty-three)

–    Administration of Contract (articles thirty-four through thirty-eight)

–    Complaints and dispute mechanism (articles thirty-nine through forty-three).   Note that this does not include the right to grieve termination, which is found in a union contract.

–    Termination (articles forty-four through forty-six)

–    Other provisions (articles forty-seven and forty-eight)

The shortness of the contact does reflect, in some way, the  preference of one of the legal firms.  It does touch all the  essential basics.   It also refers to a far larger set of documents—a series of essential appendixes that are key to   making the agreement work.   Starting with A and going through EE are the building blocks for making the model contract a living document:

A:    Job Description and Related Information

B:    Start Date of Employment

C:    Ethical Conduct and Confidentiality Agreement by Manager

D:    Staff Liaison, Staff Advocate, Board Directions

E:    Performance Review

F:    Manager’s Salary

G:    Benefits

H:    RRSP

I:   Expenses

J:    Hours of Work and Overtime

K:    Taking Time Off and Holidays

L:    Vacations

M:    Medical Leave

N:    Bereavement Leave

O:    Jury Duty

P:    Manager’s Entitlements During Leave

Q:    Continuing Education

R:    Personnel Records

S:    Confidentiality of Personnel Information

T:    Health and Safety

U:    Personal Use of Co-op Property

V:    Claims Against Manager

W:    Violence, Harassment and Discrimination

X:    Complaints

Y:    Manager Complaints about this Contract (Grievances)

Z:    Discipline

AA:   Alternative Dispute Resolution

BB:   Termination of Employment by Co-op

CC:   Effects of Termination of Employment

DD:   Changing this Contract

EE:   Miscellaneous


Are there other questions directly related to your workplace?



During the 1979-1980 academic year students at Queen’s University organised a conference on Human Rights and Social Responsibility. While Chile was a major focus of our discussions, there was a panel on Palestine. To the surprise of many present I called for a return to the pre-1948 boundaries of Israel. Many people from the traditional left felt this was an impolitic statement—not something they disagreed with necessarily but a stand not voiced publicly. It was felt to bear more than a hint of anti-Semitism. My comment wasn’t based on solidarity with the Palestinians. I wasn’t really aware of them. But I saw the existence of Israel as a statement of our shared shame. The Jewish people needed to build a homeland because no place else on earth proved to be safe for them. The existence of Israel let us off the hook; we didn’t have to truly confront our own anti-Semitism.

Over the years I learned more about what was going on in the middle east. I read statements calling for the expulsion of the Palestinians. I saw pictures from Sabra and Shatila. I talked to trade unionists and church people who lived and worked in the West Bank.  I also talked to people from Israel. I talked to survivors of Nazi death camps and dissidents from the Soviet Union. I read more about the history of Israel and the liberation struggle of the Jewish nation in Diaspora. I talked with people from the Palestine Liberation Organisation and learned more about the liberation struggle of an fragmented people. I heard similar dreams and aspirations from two claimants to overlapping territories.

Very recently I had the chance to visit Jaffa, Jerusalem and Bethlehem. I had an opportunity to meet with dreamers and practical people seeking ways to sort out the many issues but mostly I came into contact with people just wanting to get on with things.

Going directly from Yad Vashem to Bethlehem, passing through the divisive wall between the West Bank and Israel, was an exposure to two shocking realities. Yad Vashem makes it clear that the holocaust didn’t arise in a vacuum. There were ghettos and restrictions in advance of mass murder. There were pogroms and other violent attacks on the Jewish community. The genocidal attack on the Jews of Europe was a culmination of centuries of hatred. One could leave the museum with a sense of despair. Yet when one leaves the main exhibits at Yad Vashem you exit to gaze out over a wonderful and welcoming land. The promised land is there as a haven in a world of hate.

And yet the promised land isn’t safe. Thousands of rockets have been fired from the south. Suicide bombers have found their way into the safest of community spaces. There is hope in Israel but also fear than this struggle for a safe and secure haven may never end. One can’t help becoming a Zionist after this experience.

And yet a few miles away the world looks different. The promised land isn’t just a haven. There is evil growing on what should be sacred land. People are being forced away from their homes. Humiliating and discriminatory practices abound. Communal punishment is common. What often appears as random outbursts of violence from Israeli authorities and settler communities makes it hard for anyone to know how to guarantee personal and family safety even if one wants to avoid political struggles. It is easy to draw parallels between the experiences in the occupied territories and the experience of the European Jewish community in the lead up to the holocaust. One can’t help becoming a supporter of the national of Palestine after seeing this.

And then I went to spend several days in the old city of Jerusalem.
Imagine a Saturday towards sunset in the square in front of the Wailing/Western Wall. There is the blowing of ram’s horn announcing the end of Sabbath. Woven into this is a Muslim call to prayer. And, as a part of this tapestry, there are church bells. Even in a place of tension, the children of Abraham all have a voice.

Or imagine sitting in a square eating a bagel with cream cheese. The square has seen the murder of the Jewish people by Romans, Christians and Muslims. But around you today are Christians and Jews and Muslims. Cats come up to you looking for a little something. A busker is playing ‘It’s a wonderful world”. There is something a little out of time going on, as if there is a chance for a better world to come to life in Zion.

I don’t have an easy solution to all the problems in the Middle East.
But I don’t think adding yet more nation states is the solution. There are in place across the many boundaries and barriers civil society organizations and visions that exist independently or parallel to major political apparatuses that already find ways to share ideas, resources and visions. Whether found in efforts such as anarchists against the wall or in multifaith dialogue initiatives, common ground is being woven together despite the best efforts of the state. It is from common ground that hope for peace grows.

There is still a real need for Jews to have a homeland. Everyone needs a place where they can feel rooted. And there is a need for those whose ancestors moved into the middle east over the centuries who are not Jewish to feel that their lives aren’t uprooted. Maybe what allowed the Jewish people to survive through the many centuries of the Diaspora—being a nation without a state—contains the best solution for both people of the Palestine and the people of Israel.

Wedding Service for Rhonda Sussman and Howard Tessler

This service was prepared and written by Howard and Rhonda. It was a pleasure to be asked to participate:



Opening Words

Welcome friends, families, and honoured guests. We are here to celebrate love. Love organizes our large and sometimes unpredictable world. It is that which enshrines and ennobles our human experience. It is the basis for the peace of family, and the peace of the peoples of the earth. The greatest gift bestowed upon humans is the gift of love freely given between two persons.

Officiant’s Welcome

All of you are present today because you, in one way or another, have been part of Rhonda’s or Howard’s life. On behalf of the bride and groom, a hearty welcome to all. Today we witness a marriage that began years before Rhonda and Howard even met. The world of Toronto’s social change advocates is a very small one it seems and for years Howard and Rhonda attended many of the same demos, workshops and meetings without ever connecting. This was a good thing because Howard was then married and otherwise occupied.

No, this was a marriage that began in cyberspace. On Facebook to be precise. And it, as many relationships on Facebook begin, with a posting. Rhonda posted the lyrics of Leon Rosselson’s “The world turned upside down”. Howard commented on the posting. And Rhonda thought to herself, “oh no. Another left academic!” But through their comments on postings, then in emails, and finally at the Vesta lunch counter they met and decided to go down the street together. And today we here to celebrate as Rhonda and Howard go forth together to continue to turn the world upside down.

Officiant’s Address

Today, two among us, who have stood apart, come together now, to declare their love and to be united in marriage.

The words we say today have no magic or prophetic powers. The power of the wedding vows is merely a reflection of a reality that already exists in the hearts and minds of these two people. Rhonda and Howard, nothing I can say, or nothing you can say to each other, will ensure a long and happy, satisfying and committed marriage. Only your love for one another, and your integrity to make your commitment real, can do that. In a traditional Jewish wedding, the couple stands under a canopy with no walls. The canopy or chupa is held upright by four thin pieces of wood held by four friends of the couple. The canopy signifies that all ceremonies and events take place under a common sky. The lack of walls shows that all human events even the most important are open to the winds of nature and time. And the four slim “pillars” held by four friends show the importance of friendship and community even at the beginning of the most intimate and personal of journeys.

But as you can all see Rhonda and Howard do not stand under a canopy. They stand together in front of friends, family, and comrades, protected by wishes and hopes of all those who have come here tonight to be those pillars for Rhonda and Howard.

At this time Howard and Rhonda have chosen to read a poem to each other.

Rhonda reads the Marge Percy poem:
Why marry at all?
Why mar what has grown up between the cracks
and flourished like a weed
that discovers itself to bear rugged
spikes of magenta blossoms in August,
ironweed sturdy and bold,
a perennial that endures winters to persist?
Why register with the state?
Why enlist in the legions of the respectable?
Why risk the whole apparatus of roles
and rules, of laws and liabilities?
Why license our bed at the foot
like our Datsun truck: will the mileage improve?
Why encumber our love with patriarchal
word stones, with the old armor
of husband and the corset stays
and the chains of wife? Marriage
meant buying a breeding womb
and sole claim to enforced sexual service.
Marriage has built boxes in which women
have burst their hearts sooner
than those walls; boxes of private
slow murder and the fading of the bloom
in the blood; boxes in which secret
bruises appear like toadstools in the morning.
But we cannot invent a language
of new grunts. We start where we find
ourselves, at this time and place.
Which is always the crossing of roads
that began beyond the earth’s curve
but whose destination we can now alter.
This is a public saying to all our friends
that we want to stay together. We want
to share our lives. We mean to pledge
ourselves through times of broken stone
and seasons of rose and ripe plum;
we have found out, we know, we want to continue.

Howard reads the Pablo Neruda poem:
One Hundred Love Sonnets: XVII
Translated By Mark Eisner

I don’t love you as if you were a rose of salt, topaz,
I love you as one loves certain obscure things,
secretly, between the shadow and the soul.

I love you as the plant that doesn’t bloom but carries
the light of those flowers, hidden, within itself,
and thanks to your love the tight aroma that arose
from the earth lives dimly in my body.

I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where,
I love you directly without problems or pride:
I love you like this because I don’t know any other way to love,
except in this form in which I am not nor are you,
so close that your hand upon my chest is mine,
so close that your eyes close with my dreams.

Unity Candle

Now, Rhonda and Howard will commemorate their marriage by lighting a Unity Candle. [Rhonda and Howard walk over to candle.]

Light is the essence of our existence. Each one of us possesses an inner glow that represents our hopes, our dreams and our aspirations in life.
Rhonda and Howard have chosen as their Unity Candle, a havdalah candle, a scented candle composed of separate strands that are braided together. The distinct strands represent your lives before this day, individual, unique and special. By each of you lighting the strands that make up this singe candle you symbolize the union of your individual lives. [Place the candle back into its holder — join hands and remain near the candle.] As this new flame burns undivided, so shall your lives now be one. From now on your plans will be mutual, your joys and sorrows both will be shared alike.

Exchange of Rings

Do you Rhonda accept Howard, as your husband — joining with him today in matrimony — offering your friendship and loving care — honoring his growth and freedom as well as your own — cherishing and respecting him, loving and embracing him in times of adversity and times of joy? If so, answer now, “I do.”

Please repeat after me:

With this ring / I thee wed. / Take it as a sign / of my everlasting / and unconditional love / with all that I am / and all that I have / from this day forward / as your wife.

Do you Howard, accept Rhonda, as your wife — joining with her today in matrimony — offering your friendship and loving care — honoring her growth and freedom as well as your own – cherishing and respecting her, loving and embracing her in times of adversity and times of joy? If so, answer now, “I do.”

Please repeat after me:

With this ring / I thee wed. / Take this as a sign / of my everlasting / and unconditional love / with all that I am / and all that I have / from this day forward / as your husband.

Love freely given has no giver and no receiver. You are each the giver and each the receiver. The wedding ring is a symbol, in visible form, of the unbroken circle of your love, so that wherever you go, you may always return to your shared life together. May these rings always call to mind the power of your love.


Rhonda and Howard, in the presence of your family and friends who have joined you to share this moment of joy, you have declared your deep love and affection for each other. You have stated your wish to live together, always open to a deeper, richer friendship and partnership. You have formed your own union, based on respect and honor. Therefore, it is my joyful responsibility to officially acknowledge your union as “Husband and Wife.” You may now seal your marriage with a kiss.

Final Blessing for Your Marriage

May the glory which rests upon all who love you, bless you and keep you, fill you with happiness and a gracious spirit. Despite all changes of fortune and time, may that which is good and lovely and true remain abundantly in your hearts, giving you strength for all that lies ahead.

Introduction of Bride and Groom

Ladies and Gentlemen, it is my privilege to present to you for the very first time and last time: Mr. and Mrs. Howard and Rhonda Tessler-Sussman !

Year End Donation Suggestions for 2013

As Advent begins and our year comes to a beginning and an end, it’s time for my annual sharing of ideas for sharing our abundance with charities that do something to directly help others while seeking to make broader social change. Most of the charities have a link on their website to make donations on line, but all welcome donations through the mail. Several of these charities I’ve been on the board of; others are ones who do unique work that I support. Not all of the groups I suggest supporting are charities—OCAP isn’t, for example—but all could use your financial support.

1. St. Clare’s Multifaith Housing Society
. 138 Pears Ave, Toronto, ON M5R 1T2.

St. Clare’s still seeks ways to develop new affordable housing efforts while continuing to provide affordable housing to people, most of whom come as a result of referrals from agencies working directly with the homeless, marginalized and difficult to house. St. Clare’s grew out of Toronto Action for Social Change, which organised a number of creative protests during the Harris years. More information can be found at:

2. FoodShare Toronto. 
90 Croatia Street, Toronto, ON M6H 1K9.

From the good food box programme to community gardening to advocating for sustainable food policies, FoodShare works hard to make sure that social justice includes what is on the table. More information can be found at:   As Foodshare has a number of social enterprises, it helps to make a note on cheques that the funds are for a donation.

3. Rooftops Canada. 
720 Spadina Avenue, Suite 313, Toronto, Ontario M5S 2T9

Rooftops Canada, the international development arm of Canadian co-operative and non-profit housing movements, works with overseas partners in countries from the Baltic Sea to Zimbabwe to “improve housing conditions, build sustainable communities and develop a shared vision of equitable global development. “ Rooftops initiatives range from capacity building to microfinance. More information can be found at:

4. Canadian Alternative Investment Foundation (CAIF), 
CSI Regent Park,
585 Dundas St East, 3rd Floor, Toronto, Ontario M5A 2B7.

CAIF evolved from the Canadian Alternative Investment Co-operative (CAIC), which does social investing on behalf of Canadian charities. CAIF is a charitable foundation which will be providing grants and loans to charitable organisations involved in community initiatives that further the vision of CAIC’s founders. More information can be found at

5. CHFT Charitable Fund, 
658 Danforth Avenue, Suite 306, 
Toronto, ON, M4J 5B9

The CHFT Charitable Fund is a project of the Co-operative Housing Federation of Toronto. Its programmes have ranged from diversity scholarships to support for the Green Roof initiative at Hugh Garner Housing Co-operative to a basketball court at Atkinson Co-op. More information can be found at:

6. Student Christian Movement of Canada 310 Dupont Street, Suite 200, Toronto, ON M5R 1V9

The SCM “is a youth- and student-led grassroots network passionate about social justice, community in diversity, and radical faith in action.” From social justice pilgramages to worship resources, SCM has spent over a century exploring new ways to make the world better for all.  More information can be found at

Over the years I have also supported the following organisations that are more activist than charitable in focus. These include:

7. Christian Peacemaker Teams.
In the USA:
CPT, PO Box 6508; Chicago IL 60680-6508
In Canada:
CPT, 25 Cecil Street, Unit 310; Toronto, ON M5T 1N1

CPT sends delegations to places of conflict to be a practical resource for non-violence and a witness to the world of violence and injustice. From Columbia to Iraq to first nations in Canada, CPT delegations have been a hopeful presence in many places around the world. For more information see

8. Ontario Coalition Against Poverty. 157 Carlton Street, Unit 206, 
Toronto, Ontario
 M5A 2K3
From direct action casework to solidarity with imprisoned refugee claimants to walking picket lines, OCAP activists are a strong voice for economic and social justice. For more information

9. Wilderness Committee. P.O. Box 2205, Station Terminal, Vancouver, BC V6B 3W2

The Wilderness Committee is a mainstream but persistent voice for wilderness and endangered species. In addition to political campaigns, they are a good source of fair trade goods not found elsewhere. For more information see

10. Peace Brigades Canada. 145 Spruce Street, Suite 206, Ottawa, ON K1R 6P1
Peace Brigades Canada is a part of a global network of activists who work with human rights activists in places of conflict. From Nepal to Mexico, Peace Brigades volunteers have accompanied human rights workers as the eyes of the world. For more information see

The above is not an exhaustive list. I donate monthly to Interval House and the Christian Resource Centre. I support the work of Homes Not Bombs. In the past many organisations including The Canadian Friends Service Committee, Elizabeth Fry Society and Amnesty International had me among their regular donors. However, I think my top 10 represent a range of places, from social investing to radical peacemaking, that are my priorities at the end of 2013.


Thanks for the opportunity to share a few thoughts on financing worker controlled enterprises. I am a member/owner of Ganesh Community Development Co-operative, a worker co-op, and a board member of the Canadian Alternative Investment Co-operative, which provides loans to a number of social ventures including worker co-operatives.

I have a few points about worker co-ops, and similar initiatives, before I start taking about money.

The first is that new worker co-operatives are more likely to succeed than
other new businesses. According to reports cites on the On Co-op website twice as many co-ops stay in business over a 10 year period than other forms of business.

The second is that new worker co-operatives fail. In can be due to poor planning, personal differences between members, an economic downtown or something unique to the venture. But just because you form a co-op doesn’t mean that it will succeed.

The third point is that whether a worker co-op succeeds or fails, the effort is worthwhile. It is exciting and stressful and always a challenge, but being a part of a worker co-op is taking a real step towards building a new world. As part of a worker co-op we are stating, in the clearest terms possible, that we truly believe that with our brains and muscle we can run the economic world.

With these in mind, let’s touch on one practical aspect of co-op development—money.  Starting a co-op, maintaining a co-op and expanding a co-op our different challenges, but at all stages you’ll need access to funds and other resources. I’m going to touch on four basic sources—the co-op members, the broader community, institutional resources and state resources.

1. Own resources:

Member Shares
Member Loans
Cost Sharing
Skill Sharing

These are the resources that the members of the co-operative bring together.
They reach into their own pockets and use their knowledge and skills to support the enterprise. While things can be done informally, I do think that when money is involved things should be done formally to avoid confusion and lessen one common source of tension.

Most co-operatives require the purchasing of member shares in order to become a member. The share amount can be small or large; the number of shares to be purchased vary from co-op to co-op. But share purchasing is a conscious and active decision—it provides the co-op with needed capital and helps ensures that the member has a real stake in the success of the organisation, a collective responsibility individually expressed. There can be different classes of shares; not all shares need to be ownership shares; shares may pay interest. They are an asset for the co-op

Member loans are different than shares. They are investments in the co-operative and are expected to be able to be paid back, usually bearing interest based on the success of the venture. The amounts can be large or small—the initial member loan at Ganesh is $1,000. Member loans can be far larger—purchasing tools and equipment can be quite expensive. They are a corporate liability but for many co-ops member loans are essential for the co-operative to be able to provide a service or a product.

Cost sharing is a part of the reality of worker co-ops. At Ganesh we contribute 10% of our billings to the organisation to pay for our shared rent and other administrative costs. These shared costs may not always be apparent but each member does share a responsibility not only to the governance of the co-operative but to its financial viability. If they are not built into the cost you charge for the co-operative’s goods and services they still need to be met.

Not everyone in a worker co-op comes in with the same set of skills. Even where specialisation is expected—not everyone can develop a 20 year financial projection or skilfully use a lathe— there needs to always be skill and information sharing in order for good joint decision making to occur. The co-op will find hidden skills and interests among their members—the person who brought financial expertise to the co-op might turn out to be the best coffee roaster—essential for the long term viability of the co-op.

2. Community Resources


Co-ops don’t exist in a vacuum. They need support to develop. In the long term co-ops must provide enough goods and services to be financially viable. However, at several points along the way co-ops may need something more from the community they serve. This includes both money and expertise. Whether it to buy a coffee roaster or equip an office, co-ops will have real needs that the members can’t meet on their own. Co-op members do have to become comfortable with asking those that know or service to share in their work
by providing needed funds.

Loans will need to be backed by some form of collateral, which can include promissory notes from co-op members, and are a liability for the co-op. The paying back of loans, both principle and interest, needs to be built into the operating budget. Supportive individuals will usually expect interest on their loans. Loans shouldn’t be taken out lightly, but are often necessary to have the physical resources necessary for the co-op to actually produce goods or provide services.

Some classes of shares in the co-op can be sold to non-members. They have a modified ownership role in the co-op, but the selling of shares can raise necessary capital. They are usually redeemable, either on demand or in a way outlined in the co-op by-laws. Most shares pay interest, which will have to be built into the operating budget.

Community bonds are a way to raise capital from the broader community. Like other corporate bonds they are usually fixed term investments for a fixed rate of return—-for example $1,000 for five years at five percent. They are usually used for a specified purpose—the purchase of a building—and to raise a specified amount—$250,000 in total issued bonds. The rates and class of bonds can vary.
Issuing of community bonds almost always involves dealing with government regulators in some way. They are a liability for the co-op.

Co-ops do need expertise beyond their members. From developing co-op by-laws to payroll services to audits and legal advice the co-op will need to obtain the services of individuals and firms in the broader community in order to be successful. Consultants can help put funding packages in place, engineers can do building assessments, lawyers can make sure the contracts the co-op enters into are clearly understood by all parties.

3. Institutional Resources

In-kind support

Credit unions, investment co-operatives, banks and organisations like the Community Forward Fund can provide loans to co-ops at any stage of development. As well, there are co-op sector organisation that provide loan and related assitance to worker co-ops. Loans should be asked for when substantial funds are required as the work required to obtain a loan is the same for $25,000 as it is for $750,000. The request for loans need to be very well put together and are often reviewed by committees who have expertise in co-op and grassroots based economic development initiatives. Collateral will be required and the repayment of the loan, both principle and interest, built into the operating budget.

Grants are ideal, but harder to obtain, funds to meet specific operating or capital needs. There are foundations that do make grants to support community economic initatives. The type of application to obtain a loan from a credit union is similar to that required to obtain a grant.

It is rare for a co-op to come across a completely new challenge. Sector organisations can provide help and support to address challenges as they come up. Consultants, who need be paid if they provide help in an ongoing way, can be be found through sector organisations for assistance in everything from long term planning to relationship building with fair trade suppliers.

Over the years community organisations such as FoodShare have provided in-kind support.   From free office space to photocopying to website hosts,in-kind support is invaluable and a practical expression of community solidarity.

4. State Resources


Almost every level of government has a programme or programmes devoted to small business development. Co-ops can obtain help through these programmes for everything from loans to grants. Several government departments have advisors or consultants who will make referrals if they do not have the time or expertise to help.

Online Resources

Canadian Community Economic Development Network:

Canadian Worker Co-operative Federation

Tenacity Works Loan Fund

Alterna Microfinancing

Ontario Catapult Microloan Fund                              

Canadian Alternative Investment Co-operative

ON CO-OP (CCA Ontario Region)

CoopZone Developers’ Network Co-operative Network Co-operative

Canadian Co-operative Association Co-op Development Information Service

The International Organisation of Industrial, Artisanal and Service Producers’ Cooperatives

Ontario Ministry of Economic Development Guide to Small Businesses

Industry Canada Small Business Financing Programme

Enterprise Toronto

Service of Holy Baptism for Christian Ty Leandro Chopite Santinelli August 18th, 2013

Service of Holy Baptism with Eucharist for Christian Ty Leandro Chopite Santinelli August 18th, 2013


Celebrant: Blessed be God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
People: And blessed be his kingdom, now and for ever. Amen. Celebrant: There is one Body and one Spirit;
People: There is one hope in God’s call to us;
Celebrant: One Lord, one Faith, one Baptism;
People: One God and Father of all. Celebrant: The Lord be with you.
People: And also with you.
Celebrant: Let us pray.

The Collect of the Day:

Celebrant: Heavenly Father, by the power of your Holy Spirit
you give to your faithful people new life in the water of baptism. Guide and strengthen us by the same Spirit, that we who are born again may serve you in faith and love, and grow into the full stature of your Son, Jesus Christ, who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit now and for ever.

People: Amen.

The Lessons:

First Reading: A reading from the prophet Ezekiel (47:1–9. 12)

The angel brought me to the entrance of the Temple, where a stream came out from under the Temple threshold and flowed eastwards, since the Temple faced east. The water flowed from the right side of the Temple, south of the altar. He took me out by the north gate and led me right round outside as far as the outer east gate where the water flowed out on the right-hand side. The man went to the east holding his measuring line and measured off a thousand cubits; he then made me wade across the stream; the water reached my ankles. He measured off another thousand and made me wade across the stream again; the water reached my knees. He measured off another thousand and made me wade across again; the water reached my waist. He measured off another thousand; it was now a river which I could not cross; the stream had swollen and was now deep water, a river impossible to cross. He then said, ‘Do you see, son of man?’ He took me further, then brought me back to the bank of the river. When I got back, there were many trees on each bank of the river. He said, ‘This water flows east down to the Arabah and to the sea; and flowing into the sea it makes its waters wholesome. Wherever the river flows, all living creatures teeming in it will live. Fish will be very plentiful, for wherever the water goes it brings health, and life teems wherever the river flows. Along the river, on either bank, will grow every kind of fruit tree with leaves that never wither and fruit that never fails; they will bear new fruit each month, because this water comes from the sanctuary. And their fruit will be good to eat and the leaves medicinal.’

Reader: The Word of the Lord.
People: Thanks be to God.

Second Reading: CHILDREN LEARN WHAT THEY LIVE by Dorothy Law Nolte

Children learn what they live.
If a child lives with criticism
he learns to condemn.
If a child lives with hostility
he learns to fight.
If a child lives with ridicule
he learns to be shy.
If a child lives with shame
he learns to feel guilt.
If a child lives with tolerance
he learns to be patient.
If a child lives with encouragement
he learns confidence. If a child lives with fairness
he learns justice.
If a child lives with security
he learns to have faith.
If a child lives with approval
he learns to like himself.
If a child lives with acceptance and friendship
He learns to find love in the world.

Third Reading: The Holy Gospel according to Mark. (Mark 10:13–16)
People: Glory to you, Lord Christ.

People were bringing little children to him, for him to touch them. The disciples turned them away, but when Jesus saw this he was indignant and said to them, ‘Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. I tell you solemnly, anyone who does not welcome the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.’ Then he put his arms round them, laid his hands on them and gave them his blessing. Reader: The Gospel of the Lord.
People: Praise to you, Lord Christ.

The Sermon

Today is the birthday of my son, David. I can not easily recall when he wasn’t a part of our lives. Through all the many challenges of being a parent, having him in our lives has been wonderful and frightening and always better than it would have been without him. His views and way of living in the world are different than mine—being the father of a right wing atheist is always a challenge. But we must have done something right as he cares about others and the world he lives in, values woven into the way his whole extended family on both sides deal with the challenges of life.

As a parent you view the world differently—you want the best possible present and future for your child. You want them to be happy, to be able to control their own destiny, to be do things in the world that matter. In essence, we view our children the way God views creation. God, in what ever way we see the creator, desires the best for us.

As parents, no matter how much we love our children, we know that things aren’t always perfect. They will get sick; they will find that sometimes dreams don’t come true; they will find that people they care about will die.
And, as parents, we wish that sometimes we could do something that would allow things to start over.

The creator sees what happens in creation. God too wishes that the choices humanity sometimes make, either as individuals or on a global scale, would have been different. We make choices in life that cut us off from the life God intended for us; governments make decisions that divert us away from helping to build up the shalom kingdom here on earth. But unlike the limitations we have as parents, God does offer us something that allows us to reclaim all the possibilities of a new life—baptism.

In baptism the past is washed away and new life becomes possible. We are woven into a 2,000 year old family that, even if not perfect, still proclaims that love is better than hate, that sharing is better than selfishness, that we are all equal in the sight of God.

Being baptised doesn’t mean our life will be perfect, but it is a statement that life can be and is transformed. It is a covenant between God and the individual that no matter what happens in life one can start over.

Christian isn’t able to understand the promises that are being made today on his behalf. When older, at confirmation, he can chose to confirm these vows on his own. But people who care about him, his parents and sponsors, are making a commitment on his behalf to care for him, to give him guidance, to be examples of people able to enter into strong and living relationships. They are making a promise to us and before God that they will by precept and example help Christian grow up to be an example to others of who a good person is. All of us gathered here today are also making a promise. We are stating that we are also committed to helping to build here on earth the shalom kingdom, a place where all the promises of creation can be made real.


Presentation and Examination of the Candidates

The Celebrant says: The Candidate for Holy Baptism will now be presented.
Parents and Godparents: I present Christian Ty Leandro Chopite Santinelli to receive the Sacrament of Baptism.

The Celebrant: Will you be responsible for seeing that the child you present
is brought up in the Christian faith and life?  Usted será responsable de ver que el niño presente ¿se crió en la fe cristiana y la vida?

Parents and Godparents I will, with God’s help. (Lo haré, con la ayuda de Dios.)

Celebrant Will you by your prayers and witness help this child to grow
into the full stature of Christ? Por sus oraciones y su testimonio ayudará a este niño crezca ¿a la plena estatura de Cristo?
Parents and Godparents: I will, with God’s help. (Lo haré, con la ayuda de Dios.)

Then the Celebrant asks the following questions of the parents and godparents:

Question: Do you renounce Satan and all the spiritual forces
of wickedness that rebel against God?
Answer: I renounce them.

Question: Do you renounce the evil powers of this world
which corrupt and destroy the creatures of God?
Answer: I renounce them.

Question: Do you renounce all sinful desires that draw you
from the love of God?
Answer: I renounce them.

Question: Do you turn to Jesus Christ and accept him as your
Answer: I do.

Question: Do you put your whole trust in his grace and love?
Answer: I do. Question: Do you promise to follow and obey him as your
Answer: I do. The Celebrant to the Congregation:

Celebrant: Will you who witness these vows do all in your
power to support these persons in their life in Christ?
People: We will.

Celebrant: Let us join with those who are committing themselves to Christ and renew our own baptismal covenant.

Celebrant: Do you believe in God the Father?
People: I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.

Celebrant: Do you believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God?
People: I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord. He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary. He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended to the dead. On the third day he rose again. He ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again to judge the living and the dead.

Celebrant: Do you believe in God the Holy Spirit?
People: I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.

Celebrant: Will you continue in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in the prayers?
People: I will, with God’s help.

Celebrant: Will you persevere in resisting evil, and, whenever you fall into sin, repent and return to the Lord?
People: I will, with God’s help.

Celebrant: Will you proclaim by word and example the Good
News of God in Christ?
People: I will, with God’s help.

Celebrant: Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself?
People: I will, with God’s help.

Celebrant: Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?
People: I will, with God’s help.

Prayers for the Candidate

The Celebrant then says to the congregation: Let us now pray for Christian Ty Chopite who is to receive the Sacrament of new birth:

Leader: Deliver him, O Lord, from the way of sin and death.
People: Lord, hear our prayer.

Leader: Open his heart to your grace and truth.
People: Lord, hear our prayer.

Leader: Fill him with your holy and life-giving Spirit.
People: Lord, hear our prayer.

Leader: Keep him in the faith and communion of your holy Church.
People: Lord, hear our prayer.

Leader: Teach him to love others in the power of the Spirit.
People: Lord, hear our prayer.

Leader: Send him into the world in witness to your love.
People: Lord, hear our prayer.

Leader: Bring him to the fullness of your peace and glory.
People: Lord, hear our prayer.

The Celebrant says: Grant, O Lord, that all who are baptized into the death of Jesus Christ your Son may live in the power of his resurrection and look for him to come again in glory; who lives and reigns now and forever. Amen.

Thanksgiving over the Water

Celebrant: The Lord be with you.
People: And also with you.

Celebrant: Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
People: It is right to give him thanks and praise.

Celebrant: We thank you, Almighty God, for the gift of water. Over it the Holy Spirit moved in the beginning of creation. Through it you led the children of Israel out of their bondage in Egypt into the land of promise. In it your Son Jesus received the baptism of John and was anointed by the Holy Spirit as the Messiah, the Christ, to lead us, through his death and resurrection, from the bondage of sin into everlasting life. We thank you, Father, for the water of Baptism. In it we are buried with Christ in his death. By it we share in his resurrection. Through it we are reborn by the Holy Spirit. Therefore in joyful obedience to your Son, we bring into his fellowship those who come to him in faith, baptizing them in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Now sanctify this water, we pray you, by the power of your Holy Spirit, that those who here are cleansed from sin and born again may continue for ever in the risen life of Jesus Christ our Savior. To him, to you, and to the Holy Spirit, be all honour and glory, now and for ever. Amen.

Consecration of the Chrism

Celebrant:  Eternal Father, whose blessed Son was anointed by the Holy Spirit to be the Savior and servant of all, we pay you to consecrate this oil that those who are sealed with it may share in the royal priesthood of Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, for ever and ever.   Amen.

The Baptism

Christian Ty Leandro Chopite Santinelli, I baptize you in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Let us pray. Heavenly Father, we thank you that by water and the Holy
Spirit you have bestowed upon these your servants the
forgiveness of sin, and have raised them to the new life of
grace. Sustain them, O Lord, in your Holy Spirit. Give them
an inquiring and discerning heart, the courage to will and to
persevere, a spirit to know and to love you, and the gift of joy
and wonder in all your works. Amen.

Christian Ty Leandro Chopite Santinelli, you are sealed by the Holy Spirit
in Baptism and marked as Christ’s own for ever. Amen. Let us welcome the newly baptized Christian Ty Chopite into our community:

Celebrant and People: We receive you into the household of God. Confess the faith of Christ crucified, proclaim his resurrection, and share with
us in his eternal priesthood.

Celebrant: The peace of the Lord be always with you.
People: And also with you.

The celebrant then says: All praise and thanks to you, most merciful Father, for
adopting us as your own children, for incorporating us into
your holy Church, and for making us worthy to share in the
inheritance of the saints in light; through Jesus Christ your
Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy
Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Almighty God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from
whom every family in heaven and earth is named, grant you
to be strengthened with might by his Holy Spirit, that, Christ
dwelling in your hearts by faith, you may be filled with all the
fullness of God. Amen.

The Eucharist


Celebrant: Blessed are you, Lord God of the Universe. You are the giver of this bread, fruit of the earth and of human labour. Let it become for us the bread of life.
People: Blessed be God, now and forever.

Celebrant: Blessed are you, Lord God of the Universe. You are the giver of this wine, fruit of the vine and of human labour. Let it become for us the wine of the eternal kingdom.                                                                                                         People: Blessed be God, now and forever.

Celebrant: As the grain once scattered in the fields and the grapes once dispersed on the hillside are now reunited on this table in bread and wine, so Lord may your whole Church soon be gathered together from the corners of the earth into your Kingdom.                                                                                                              People: Blessed be God, now and forever.

Celebrant: May God be with you.                                                                              People: And also with you.

Celebrant: Open your hearts.                                                                                     People: We open them to God and one another.

Celebrant: Let us give thanks to God.                                                                      People: It is right to give God thanks and praise.

Celebrant: It is indeed right that we should praise you, gracious God, for you created all things. You formed us in your own image, male and female you created us. When we turned away from you in sin, you did not cease to care for us, but opened a path of salvation for all people. You made a covenant with Israel, and through your servants Abraham and Sarah gave the promise of a blessing to all nations. Through Moses you led your people from bondage into freedom; through the prophets you renewed your promise of salvation. Therefore, with them, and with all your saints who have served you in every age, we give thanks and raise our voices to proclaim the glory of your name:               All: Holy, Holy, Holy God, God of power and might, Heaven and earth are full of your glory. Hosanna in the highest! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!

Celebrant: Holy God, source of life and goodness, all creation rightly gives you praise. In the fullness of time, you sent your son Jesus Christ, to share our human nature, to live and die as one of us, to reconcile us to you, the God and Father of all. He healed the sick and ate and drank with outcasts and sinners; he opened the eyes of the blind and proclaimed the good news of your kingdom to the poor and those in need. In all things he fulfilled your gracious will. On the night he freely gave himself to death, our Lord Jesus Christ took bread, and when he had given thanks to you, he broke it, and gave it to his disciples, and said, “Take, eat: this is my body which is given for you. Do this for the remembrance of me.” After supper he took the cup of wine; and when he had given thanks, he gave it them, and said, “Drink this, all of you: this is my blood of the new covenant, which is shed for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins. Whenever you drink it, do this for the remembrance of me.” Gracious God, his perfect sacrifice destroys the power of sin and death; by raising him to life you give us life for ever more. Therefore we proclaim the mystery of faith.                All: Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again.

Celebrant: Recalling his death, proclaiming his resurrection, and looking for his coming again in glory, we offer you this bread and this cup. Send your Holy Spirit upon us and upon these gifts, that all who eat and drink at this table may be one body and one holy people, a living sacrifice in Jesus Christ, our Lord. Through Christ and with Christ and in Christ, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all glory is yours, almighty Father, now and forever.                                                                                                                                All: Amen.


Celebrant: The body of Christ, broken for you. The blood of Christ, shed for you. Let us share, for all things are made new.


All: For the bread we have eaten, for the wine we have tasted for the life we have received, we thank you, O God. Grant that what we have done and have been given here may so put its mark upon us that it may remain always in our hearts. Grant that we may become mature Christians, that ours may be the faith which issues in action; through Christ our Lord. Amen.


Celebrant: Let us go from this place in peace, to love and serve God. And may the blessings of God, the creator, redeemer and sustainer of us all be with you this day and always.                                                                                                              People: And also with you.                                                                                              All: Amen.

Thank you for attending Ty’s Baptism. Your company and presence in this important celebration is greatly valued and appreciated.

In love and faith, The Parents and Godparents of Christian Ty Leandro Chopite Santinelli


Prelude and Postlude Music:


Quiet City for Cor Anglais, Trumpet and Strings (Celia Nicklin, Michael Laird, Academy of St. Martin In the Fields & Sir Neville Marriner)


Symphony No. 1 in B-flat major (Spring), op. 38, IV: Allegro animato e grazioso (Milan Horvat:  ORF Radio Symphony Orchestra)


The Planets, Op. 32: II. Venus, The Bringer of Peace (John Eliot Gardiner & Philharmonia Orchestra)


Dream Children Op. 43: II Allegretto piacevole (Andrew Davis & BBC Symphony Orchestra)


Joan Baez Suite, Op. 144 – 7. Finale (Sharon Isbin)


Il Sogno – Act 2: Sleep (Michael Tilson Thomas: London Symphony Orchestra)


There are times, in celebrating the Eucharist, when I feel transcendent—my feet may be on the ground but I somehow transcend time and place. At other times the celebration is routine, a set of practice rituals. The marriage sacrament is like this. There will be moments in a marriage when it seems magical—that within your private world all the wonders of the universe are somehow within reach. But much of the time marriage will bring the comfort of familiar routine, of making sense of the mystery of two people weaving their lives together.

Marriage is the most time bound and most timeless of the sacraments—it occurs at a particular moment but it is made real over a long period. An ontological change, a change in the essence of those coming together in marriage, occurs over the lifetime of a marriage. It is made apparent in the moment when vows are exchanged and all the documents are signed, but it is made concrete over a lifetime.

Marriage includes a commitment to change the future. You are telling the world that you have confidence that your lives together give more meaning to each other’s life than any other relationship possibly can. You send out ripples into the broader community that something greater than living as individuals in the moment is not only possible but essential in the ongoing world of making visible the shalom kingdom. You don’t bring perfection into the world, and being married doesn’t make things perfect in a relationship, but you do bring more hope and delight into the world. The community gathers with you, whether in a private civil ceremony or in a large gathering of friends and family, to not only share in the celebration but to remember that we are called to be a loving and compassionate community.

There are a few pieces of advice I want to give to the bride and groom.

The first is to remember that you are physical beings. Our creator expects you to enjoy all of life’s gifts.

The second is to remember to take time for both yourself and for each other. You are both individuals and a shared essence.

The third, and final, is to remember that you should engage in true mutual obedience—this does not mean following orders but listening to the way each other lives in the world, the personal story each of you is sharing.

May you always find wonder in your lives.

Apegish wii-zhawenimik Manidoo (I hope you are blessed by the Creator)


The CHF AGM is the second national co-op AGM I’ve attended this year. The first was the Credit Union Central AGM was a short meeting held over lunch time in a boardroom. The CHF AGM has hundreds of people in a ballroom. The core of the meetings were the same—-annual reports, approving audits, presenting awards and director elections.

I was really impressed by Dr. Kellie Leitch, the parliamentary secretary for
Diane Findley, and the first sitting conservative MP to address a CHFC AGM. I was particularly struck by her advocacy for a housing first approach to meet the needs of the marginalised around us. Most of her talk focused on what the current government has done for co-operative and affordable housing, but on occasion idealism did leak out—a return to the spirit of such former Tory housing advocates as Alan Redway and David Crombie.

There were only two motions circulated in advance of the meetings—both on the theme of responding to the end of operating agreements. I find this a ongoing disappointment for me—-our members have a rare opportunity to share ideas and concerns with housing co-op activists from across the country and rarely use it fully.

Unlike many, I do enjoy the financial reports. I truly believe that the values and passion of an organisation is stated in clear language in financial statements. The CHFC financial statements show that the sector spent a lot of time and money helping co-ops in difficulty, in advocating for new co-operative funding, in providing educational opportunities and in work with other organisations that share a desire for new affordable housing. On a side note, there was a slight increase in the value of the endowment funds at the end of 2012—it was stated that the person most delighted with this news was me.

There is a real chasm between myself and most of the participants at this AGM, like at many such gatherings I have attended over the years. I am not a fan of silly exercises or similar breaks in the flow of the meeting. I do find off colour jokes off putting. And, while I am inspired by the many presenters, it would be great to have enough time set aside to ensure that any late motions or other efforts by individuals to participate in the life of the movement from the floor of the meeting are given sufficient time.

During the course of day there were reports on the work of various committees, including the CHFC Diversity , the Aging in Place Committee and Young/Emerging Leaders committees. Important work is being done that is movement and community building among CHFC’s members which is distinct from that which is focused on the institutional needs and political work of CHFC.

In recent years CHFC has developed a tradition of making an appeal to support the work of a local charity working with the homeless. This year the appeal was to support the work of Emma House. This small charity provides housing and support for homeless pregnant women. I forget, at times, the extent that our society doesn’t care for those in need. While we were reaching into our pockets, I hope we were also reaching into our hearts to commit ourselves to building a world where homeless pregnant women is a historical concept.

While the faces throughout the day were friendly, I did leave the AGM feeling not as at home as I usually do at a co-op gathering. Some of that is due to the changes in Ontario Council and the CHFC Board. I will especially miss working with Judy Collins and Anjala Kulasegaram on Ontario Council and Julie Campbell on the national board. However, part of this is due to the fact that CHFC does seem to have gotten to the cusp of having to truly decide if it is a movement controlled by its members or a central body providing services and direction to stakeholders.

This evening there is a dinner/dance. Last year, for the first time in my many years of coming to the CHF AGM, I attended the dinner—or rather stayed until my tendency to panic in social situations took over. During this week I did test myself in attending, for a least a little while, various socials (albeit socials that had a political undertone). However, I did not suddenly evolve into a social butterfly and will therefore be skipping the dinner/dance again this year.

Tomorrow morning I have meetings of both Ontario Council and the CHFC Board, with the major agenda items being election of officers and appointment of committee members. I then head homewards and back to my normal world of meetings interspersed with work.


Over the years I have found myself woven into the co-operative movement in a number of forums. I have chaired meetings, helped prepare budgets, drafted policies for committees, delivered newsletters and spent a lot of energy in the day to day work of building a co-operative community and to live out the dream of abolishing capitalism in all its forms and replacing it with a co-operative commonwealth. This is in addition to years of efforts on serving on co-operative boards on the local, provincial and national level, where I try to stay firmly rooted in my home co-ops.

As a grassroots focused co-op activist, being a participant in the life of the Credit Union Central of Canada is humbling. The assets of affiliates to Credit Union Central are over $152.5 billion. The challenge of ensuring member control of institutions with such economic resources is substantial.

One organisation I am on the board of—the Canadian Alternative Investment Co-operative— is a class c member of Credit Union Central and has sent me on occasion to the annual general meeting of Credit Union Central, where people who find billions of dollars numbers are not a barrier to full participation are the dominate voice, but to whom the co-op principles are essential. The first one I attended was a large gathering in Ottawa, where I was lost in the crowd. This time, I sat in a small board room of people where Denise Guy, the executive director the Canadian Co-operative Association, was a familiar face.

In reports and discussion, the vital importance to the credit union movement of living out the co-op principles to distinguish credit unions from other financial institutions was stressed. The business of the meeting was the same as other annual general meetings—approving the audited financial statements, electing directors, passing resolutions—but there was an underlying sense of shared and mutual stewardship of the resources of millions of people. The Credit Union Central people seek ways to ensure that the individual members of credit unions are valued, that all member investments are not only safe but are used to strengthen our economic and social communities and that the political world in which credit unions function is continually reminded of the credit union difference.

I did have an opportunity to have a brief conversation with Brian Branch, the executive director of the World Council of Credit Unions. Having a rare opportunity to learn about the different expressions of credit unions around the world helped make the meeting unique for me.

I am not a banker; I am not someone whose mind easily grasps billions of dollars. But I understand the co-operative principals. One thing I have taken away from all my experiences with the Credit Union Central is that the co-operative principals have a universal applicability, indeed are key statements of different values from those that seem to dominate our political and economic world.


As I start writing I am sitting at the Resolutions Committee table at the back of the Ontario Regional Meeting. The space is less than 2/3rd’s full. The front of the meeting is focused on various introductory comments, from approval of chairs to reminding of the need for translation devices as the meeting is conducted in both English and French. It many ways it like the first few minutes of a formal religious rite—the words may change over the time but the actual content is independent of time and space.

Over the three days since I arrived I have attended social events, CHFC board and CHF Ontario Council meetings, a meeting of the CHFC Resolutions Committee, a meeting of Essex Non-profit Housing, the Rooftops Canada social and a meet the candidates event. I also attended one workshop—an excellent Social Media workshop, during which I won a mouse.

My participation at the Ontario Regional Meeting isn’t really woven into the decision making process.  I am not running for a position Sitting at a table set aside for the resolutions committee, I am far away from the mikes, making no presentations—more of an observer than a part of the life of the movement.

But in the halls and on the streets near the convention centre I am surrounded by people who know me, many of whom have shared in the work of the co-op housing movement with me for decades. It is a homecoming, a return to a family that finds a way to welcome us square pegs.


Presentation on Co-operatives
Sunday,May 4, 2013
Donway Covenant United Church
230 The Donway West, Toronto, Ontario

Bio Note: Brian Burch is involved with a number of types of co-operatives, including housing (President, Don Area Co-operative Homes; Ontario Regional Director, CHF Canada); financial (Director, Canadian Alternative Investment Co-operative); and worker (Vice-President, Ganesh Community Development Co-operative).

There are days when I feel very old—in 1979 I took part in a conference on Human Rights and Social Responsibility at Queen’s University, which included discussions on fair trade and co-operatives. Decades later, the ebb and flow of social change again brings economic justice to a central role in social justice movements. From the Occupy movement calling for people to move bank accounts to credit unions to community bonds funding new green energy producing co-ops, our world seems again willing and able to embrace the co-operative model.

I’ll touch on a few general points and then have a question and then have a question/answer/conversation period.

The first point is that co-operative initiatives have a long history. I think that the co-operative spirit is woven into what it means to be human. From the pooling labour for harvesting crops to barn raising, from quilting bees to bringing over a casserole when a neighbour has experienced a crisis, we work together. We may think of co-ops as being the formal structures they have become, the Mountain Equipment or Karma Co-ops, but woven into the nature of all co-operatives is the human spirit that encourages us to work together for our common good.

Organisationally, co-operatives as we understand them go back to the middle ages when co-operative trading ventures, road construction companies and similar ventures were formed. However, the formal start of the modern co-op began in Rochdale, England in 1844 where weavers came together to open a consumer co-operative store to sell goods that people could not otherwise afford. The principles these people developed became the modern co-op principles that the global co-op movement has embraced, principles that distinguish co-operatives from other social institutions. These 7 principles are

1. Voluntary and Open Membership: Cooperatives are voluntary organizations, open to all people able to use its services and willing to accept the responsibilities of membership, without gender, social, racial, political or religious discrimination.
2. Democratic Member Control: Cooperatives are democratic organizations controlled by their members—those who buy the goods or use the services of the cooperative—who actively participate in setting policies and making decisions.
3. Members’ Economic Participation: Members contribute equally to, and democratically control, the capital of the cooperative. This benefits members in proportion to the business they conduct with the cooperative rather than on the capital invested.
4. Autonomy and Independence: Cooperatives are autonomous, self-help organizations controlled by their members. If the co-op enters into agreements with other organizations or raises capital from external sources, it is done so based on terms that ensure democratic control by the members and maintains the cooperative’s autonomy.
5. Education, Training and Information: Cooperatives provide education and training for members, elected representatives, managers and employees so they can contribute effectively to the development of their cooperative. Members also inform the general public about the nature and benefits of cooperatives.
6. Cooperation among Cooperatives serve their members most effectively and strengthen the cooperative movement by working together through local, national, regional and international structures.
7. Concern for Community While focusing on member needs, cooperatives work for the sustainable development of communities through policies and programs accepted by the members.

From the smallest worker co-op to Co-operators Insurance, from a community radio co-operative to Gay Lea Dairies, these principles unite the global co-operative movement. These principles are taken seriously as being what makes co-operatives truly distinctive. Non-profit day care centres and Sunkist are equally valued parts of the movement.

The co-operative structure is a very flexible one. There are no areas of human activity where co-operatives can’t find a niche. Co-op members provide medical care and housing, sell beer and gasoline, conduct research and organise communities to address poverty and homelessness. In bringing individuals together to pool resources within a co-operative structure social needs are met in a more creative, accountable and responsive way. Co-ops are a third way, different from state enterprises or traditional corporate structures. At the core, co-ops are groups of individuals who collectively achieve something greater than they could achieve on their own.

Growing up, the first co-op I became aware of was The Algoma Steelworkers Credit Union, which my parents were members of. I then heard of Co-operator’s Insurance, because my family had policies with them. I first became active in co-ops when I helped form a food buying club at University; bulk buying of food meant more money for other things. As a graduate student I become connected to student housing co-operatives and early fair trade initiatives, linking social justice activists in Canada to those struggling to gain control of their own destiny in other lands. I had a chance to learn more about co-operatives from those working to establish them in Nicaragua and South Africa while becoming familiar with worker and housing co-operatives close to home. Co-operatives challenged oppressive regimes by bringing people together to grow food and weave cloth and make goods sold through networks of solidarity activists here at home. Co-operatives, such as Unfinished Monument Press, published my poetry. Don Area Co-operative Homes has given me a place to live for almost 30 years. I still dream of a co-operative commonwealth where all of society is self-organised and all within creation have access to the goods of creation with all acting as stewards of our shared resources.


Co-operatives (From Wikipedia)

A cooperative (“coop”), co-operative (“co-op”), or coöperative (“coöp”) is an autonomous association of persons who voluntarily cooperate for their mutual, social, economic, and cultural benefit. Cooperatives include non-profit community organizations and businesses that are owned and managed by the people who use its services (a consumer cooperative) or by the people who work there (a worker cooperative) or by the people who live there (a housing cooperative), hybrids such as worker cooperatives that are also consumer cooperatives or credit unions, multi-stakeholder cooperatives such as those that bring together civil society and local actors to deliver community needs, and second and third tier cooperatives whose members are other cooperatives.

International Co-operative Alliance:

Canadian Co-operative Association:

On Co-op (CCA Ontario):

Housing Co-operative (From Housing Connections):

CO-OPERATIVE HOUSING(CO-OP) – Co-operative housing is collectively owned and managed by its members (the people who live there). Co-operative members actively participate in decision making and share the work involved in running the housing community. Applicants can apply for co-ops through Housing Connections. However the co-ops, and their selection committees, make the final decision to determine suitability when choosing members. As a member of a co-op, you must volunteer and take part in the management of the building.

ICA Housing:

CHF Canada:

CHF Toronto:

Worker Co-operative (From Wikipedia):

A worker cooperative is a cooperative self-managed by its workers. This control may be exercised in a number of ways. A cooperative enterprise may mean a firm where every worker-owner participates in decision making in a democratic fashion, or it may refer to one in which managers and administration is elected by every worker-owner, and finally it can refer to a situation in which managers are considered, and treated as, workers of the firm. In traditional forms of worker cooperative, all shares are held by the workforce with no outside or consumer owners, and each member has one voting share. In practice, control by worker-owners may be exercised through individual, collective or majority ownership by the workforce, or the retention of individual, collective or majority voting rights (exercised on a one-member one-vote basis). A worker cooperative, therefore, has the characteristic that the majority of its workforce own shares, and the majority of shares are owned by the workforce.


Canadian Worker Co-operative Federation:

Consumer Co-operatives (From Wikipedia):

Consumer cooperatives are enterprises owned by consumers and managed democratically which aim at fulfilling the needs and aspirations of their members. They operate within the market system, independently of the state, as a form of mutual aid, oriented toward service rather than pecuniary profit. Consumers’ cooperatives often take the form of retail outlets owned and operated by their consumers, such as food co-ops. However, there are many types of consumers’ cooperatives, operating in areas such as health care, insurance, housing, utilities and personal finance (including credit unions).

Consumer Co-operatives World Wide:

Financial Co-operatives/Credit Unions (From Wikipedia):

A credit union is a member-owned financial cooperative, democratically controlled by its members, and operated for the purpose of promoting thrift, providing credit at competitive rates, and providing other financial services to its members.

World Council of Credit Unions:

Credit Union Central of Canada:

Credit Unions of Ontario:

Order of Service for Today’s Wedding


P: Dear friends, we have come
together to witness the marriage of
Michelle and Michael and to rejoice
with them.

The union of man and woman in
heart, body and mind is intended for
their mutual comfort and help, that
they may now each other with love,
respect and tenderness.

In marriage, husband and wife give
themselves to each other, to care for
each other in good times and in bad.
They are linked to each other’s families
and friends and they begin a special life
together in the community. It is a way
of life that all should reverence and
none should take lightly.

either of you know a reason why you
may not lawfully marry, you must
declare that now.


Mena: Touched by an Angel
(Maya Angelou)

We, unaccustomed to courage
exiles from delight
live coiled in shells of loneliness
until love leaves its high holy temple
and comes into our sight
to liberate us into life.

Love arrives
and in its train come ecstasies
old memories of pleasure
ancient histories of pain.
Yet if we are bold,
love strikes away the chains of fear
from our souls.

We are weaned from our timidity
In the flush of love’s light
we dare be brave
And suddenly we see
that love costs all we are
and will ever be.
Yet it is only love which sets us free.

Alex: Extract from
‘De Imitatio Christi’

Love often knows no limits but
overflows all bounds. Love feels no
burden, thinks nothing of troubles,
attempts more than it is able, and does
not plead impossibility, because it
believes that it may and can do all
things. For this reason, it is able to do
all, performing and effecting much
where he who does not love fails and
falls. Love is watchful. Sleeping, it does
not slumber. Wearied, it is not tired.
Pressed, it is not straitened. Alarmed, it
is not confused, but like a living flame,
a burning torch, it forces its way
upward and passes unharmed through
every obstacle.


P: MICHAEL , will you give yourself
to MICHELLE , to be her husband, to
love her, comfort her, honour and
protect her, and forsaking all others to
be faithful to her for as long as you
both shall live?

G: I will.

P: MICHELLE , will you give yourself
to MICHAEL , to be his wife, to love
him, comfort him, honour and protect
him, and forsaking all others to be
faithful to him for as long as you both
shall live?

G: I will.


P: Repeat after me:

G: I, MICHAEL , take you,
MICHELLE , to be my wife, to have
and to hold from this day forward, for
better, for worse, for richer, for poorer,
in sickness and in health, to love and to
cherish for the rest of our lives. This
is my solemn vow.

P: Repeat after me:

W: I, MICHELLE , take you,
MICHAEL , to be my husband, to
have and to hold from this day
forward, for better, for worse, for
richer, for poorer, in sickness and in
health, to love and to cherish for the
rest of our lives. This is my solemn


P: We now ask MICHELLE and
MICHAEL to exchange rings. Let
these rings be symbols of the vow and
covenant that they have made here this
day. From the elements of the earth,
through work and faith were taken the
material for these rings, just as from the
elements of life and emotion came your
desire for this marriage. As the perfect
circle of a ring symbolizes eternity, in
the years to come may these rings
remind you of this special occasion
when you were united in marriage and
the love you mutually pledge to one

P: Repeat after me.

G: (placing the ring on the fourth
finger of the bride’s left hand)

MICHELLE , with all my love I give
you this ring, an everlasting
symbol of the vows we have made each
other and as a token of my love.

W: MICHAEL , with all my love I give
you this ring, an everlasting symbol of
the vows we have made each other and
as a token of my love.


P: (bride and groom hold hands and
face the officiant)

joined themselves to each other by
solemn vows, the joining of hands and
the giving and receiving of rings. By
authority given to me by the Province
of Ontario and the Marriage Act, I now
declare that they are forever husband
and wife. You may now kiss the bride.

The spousal greeting/kiss


The elements will be shared with those
present who wish to receive.



P: Blessing of the Apache:

Now you will feel no rain,
for each of you will be shelter
for the other.
Now you will feel no cold,
for each of you will be warmth
to the other.
Now there will be no loneliness,
for each of you will be companion
to the other.
Now you are two persons,
but there is only one life before you.
May beauty surround you
both in the journey ahead
and through all the years,
May happiness be your companion
and your days together be good
and long upon the earth.
Treat yourselves and each other
with respect, and
remind yourselves often of what
brought you together.
Give the highest priority
to the tenderness,
gentleness and kindness that your
connection deserves.
When frustration, difficulties and
fear assail your relationship,
as they threaten all relationships at
one time or another,
remember to focus
on what is right between you,
not only the part
which seems wrong.
In this way,
you can ride out the storms
when clouds hide the face
of the sun in your lives –
remembering that
even if you lose sight of it for a
moment, the sun is still there.
And if each of you takes
responsibility for the quality of your
life together, it will be marked by
abundance and delight.


P: Light is the essence of our
existence. Each one of us possesses
an inner glow that represents our
hopes, our dreams and aspirations
in life.

two distinct candle flames represent
your lives before this day,
individual, unique and special.
Please take the candle symbolizing
your life before today, and together
light the center candle to symbolize
the union of your individual lives.
As this new flame burns undivided,
so shall your lives now be one.
From now on your thoughts will
always be for each other rather than
your individual selves. Your plans
will be mutual, your joys and
sorrows both will be shared alike.
Extinguish the two flames
symbolizing your previous lives and
you are forever united together in

P: It is my pleasure to introduce to
you, MICHELLE and MICHAEL as husband and
wife! Now go in peace and forever
celebrate your love and life together!


Interfaith Spring Holiday Festival
Thorncliffe Neighbourhood Office Youth Centre. 45 – Overlea Blvd. Unit# 108 A
Sunday, April 7, 2013
1:00 P.M.

There are two ways that May Day is celebrated around the world—the first is the deeply rooted celebration of spring and the rebirth of life; the second is the more recent celebration of the value of labour and to seek a world where all can live in a just and dignified way. Some of the spirit of the former infuses the more modern May Day, which is my focus today.

May Day is a somewhat overlooked celebration in North America, but it is here that the labour movement gave birth to this global spanning time to value those whose skills and effort create and provide the goods and services we enjoy. It isn’t just a day for ritual celebration—it is a day to remember those who have died while working to ensure all people are treated with dignity and respect and for the rights of workers to join together to meet common needs.

The first labour Mayday was held on May 1, 1886 as a day of protests and strikes across the United States calling for a 8 hour work day. In Chicago, as a follow up to the day of action and in support of striking workers at the McCormick Harvesting Machine Company who were brutally attacked on May 3rd, 1886, a demonstration was held at Haymarket Square on May 4th. A violent riot broke out after the police arrived en mass to break up the protest leading resulting in deaths and the subsequent arrest, trial and execution of many of the organisers of the May 4th demonstration. Protests around the world were held in support of the Haymarket martyrs and, by 1890 May Day became an annual day of action around the world commemorating Haymarket and calling for economic justice for all.

This sounds very secular but there is a true spiritual component to this struggle and to marking the day. From the food on our table to the maintaining the computers that host our internet servers to providing medical care, the all of the ways we share the gifts of creation and meet our individual and communal needs depends on the labour of others. We do not live in isolation but in mutual dependence. May Day celebrations bring this forward in a clear way. Those that work transform the raw gifts of creation into something new. If we do not respect those that work with creation, how then can we claim to honour the creator? When we cut the wages, benefits and working conditions of those that labour, what does that say about our commitment to living a truly faithful life?

Our sisters and brothers in the Roman Catholic church make this very clear—among the sins that call out to heaven is defrauding laborers of their wages – based on Deut 24:14–15 and James 5:4. Every closing down of a factory to move production to a place with weaker labour and environmental laws; every effort to suppress free collective bargaining, every attack on social benefits such as health care or pensions, is an attack on the wages of those who toil on behalf of all. When we put barriers in the way of people who are seeking employment, who are seeking ways to use their skills productively, we are attacking taking away the wages of workers.

On May Day we come together to remember those who gave their lives for others, to show support for those who are in need and to put forward in the public sphere the demand that those that work for us are entitled to their fair share of what they produce.

In recent years May Day events in the west have broadened the focus to include broader issues of solidarity—community based efforts to weave together the needs and interests of all those that the dominant society tend to marginalize with the ongoing struggle for the rights of workers. At the end of the day these are seen as aspects of the same struggle—-a desire that all within creation have equal access to the gifts of creation and equal responsibility as stewards as these gifts.


11:00 AM., Sunday, March 31, 2013
St. Andrew’s Old Catholic Church
Meeting Room, 138 Pears Ave. (Toronto)


Colossians 3: 1 – 4

If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory.

John 20: 1 – 10

The first day of the week cometh Mary Magdalene early, when it was yet dark, unto the sepulchre, and seeth the stone taken away from the sepulchre.
Then she runneth, and cometh to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple, whom Jesus loved, and saith unto them, “They have taken away the Lord out of the sepulchre, and we know not where they have laid him.”

Peter therefore went forth, and that other disciple, and came to the sepulchre. So they ran both together: and the other disciple did outrun Peter, and came first to the sepulchre. And he stooping down, and looking in, saw the linen clothes lying; yet went he not in.

Then cometh Simon Peter following him, and went into the sepulchre, and seeth the linen clothes lie, and the napkin, that was about his head, not lying with the linen clothes, but wrapped together in a place by itself. Then went in also that other disciple, which came first to the sepulchre, and he saw, and believed. For as yet they knew not the scripture, that he must rise again from the dead. Then the disciples went away again unto their own home.


Today we celebrate the impossible made real, the rising of Jesus Christ from the grave. All our fears and hopes have proven themselves to be grounded in the limits of human expectation when the boundaries of existence and non existence have proven porous.

Hope has been returned to the world, the hope that was offered to us at the time of creation and offered again and again in the words of the prophets and through the examples of the saints. But this is a new hope, one brought forward by someone who is not a stranger but our brother.

The Jesus who came out of the tomb on the outskirts of Jerusalem was not a stranger, nor should have his resurrection been a surprise—he told those around him that he would never leave them alone. Our elder brother may have played tricks on us over the years, but he was always trustworthy.

Jesus promised us that death was not the end and he was proven right. He has risen. Jesus has risen today, just as he did 2,000 years ago. Death only has the dominion over our spirits that we permit it to hold.

Christ’s return from the dead doesn’t mean that there all of the problems in the world disappear. Even though God offered us a paradise on earth, we have all too often chosen paths that lead us astray from accepting God’s grace and gifts. Christ’s return from the dead means that all things are again made possible. We can learn again to share the gifts of creation with all; we can find a new relationship with the divine; we can renew and restore our relationships with one other—all things are made new because Jesus is once again with us, because Jesus has risen.

When we think of Jesus’ return from the dead we use a word with many meanings and connotations—he has risen. Bread and cakes rise; we rise from our bed to start our day; the sun rises…when we think of Jesus’ rising we are also thinking of all the other ways something rising affects our lives. We have running through our minds the memories of every time we savoured a fresh loaf of bread or watched a sunrise over a lake shore or resented having to get out of bed to start a long day at a job we don’t like. Our words carry memories as well as their specific meaning and our entire life experience comes together when we consider what it means to have Jesus risen and walking once again with us. It is not only the words of scripture that brings meaning and understanding to the news of Christ’s return. We each bring something unique to the story of Jesus’ resurrection that no one else can.

The gospel reading we hear today is only one story of Jesus’ resurrection. Mary Magdalene’s experience of the empty tomb was different than Peter’s. Other gospels provide different descriptions. Each of Jesus’ friends and family, each of Jesus’ apostles, had something different to tell of Jesus’ resurrection. When we add our own experiences to what we learn of the resurrection we too find that we have a unique gospel to share with the world.

Poem for Easter (Anonymous):

Do not Stand
at my grave and weep,
I am not there, I do not sleep.

I am a thousand winds
that blow.
I am the diamond glints on snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain.
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awake in the
morning hush
I am the soft uplifting rush
of quiet birds incircling flight.
I am the soft star that
shines at night.

Do not stand at my grave and cry,
I am not there.
I did not die.


Christ has died. Christ has risen.

NOTES FOR A MORE COHERENT SERMON: Passion Sunday: March 17, 2013

St. Andrew’s Old Roman Catholic Church
Meeting Room, 138 Pears Ave. (Toronto)

1 Corinthians 13: 1 – 13

Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing. Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away. When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.

Luke 13:31-43

Then he took unto him the twelve, and said unto them, “Behold, we go up to Jerusalem, and all things that are written by the prophets concerning the Son of man shall be accomplished. For he shall be delivered unto the Gentiles, and shall be mocked, and spitefully entreated, and spitted on: And they shall scourge him, and put him to death: and the third day he shall rise again.”

And they understood none of these things: and this saying was hid from them, neither knew they the things which were spoken.

And it came to pass, that as he was come nigh unto Jericho, a certain blind man sat by the way side begging: and hearing the multitude pass by, he asked what it meant. And they told him, that Jesus of Nazareth passeth by. And he cried, saying, “Jesus, thou son of David, have mercy on me. “

And they which went before rebuked him, that he should hold his peace: but he cried so much the more, “Thou son of David, have mercy on me. “

And Jesus stood, and commanded him to be brought unto him: and when he was come near, he asked him, saying, “What wilt thou that I shall do unto thee?” And he said, “Lord, that I may receive my sight. “ And Jesus said unto him, “Receive thy sight: thy faith hath saved thee.”

And immediately he received his sight, and followed him, glorifying God: and all the people, when they saw it, gave praise unto God.


Scripture doesn’t belong just to a faith community—it lives in the world. An image that we struggle to make sense of theologically is often an image writers and artists struggle with to bring to life in a new way. The image from the epistle reading, “we see through a glass, darkly” has been taken up by writers throughout the centuries and in their words bring to us a different understanding. Three examples, excepts from longer poems by Robin Ouzman and General George Patton and an entire poem by Traci Brimwell help illustrate this point:

Excerpt from Through a Glass Darkly
by Robin Ouzman

Part. 1. Haikai.
Arrow pivots arc
& the archer is transfixed between space & flight:
Moving from towards Finite from infinite arrow Appears & disappears:
Angst of the arrow, As string tautens, bow stretches
& the arrow flies.
At the speed of light Arrow pierces crow’s black heart
Through a glass darkly.

From “Through a Glass, Darkly”
by General George S. Patton, Jr.

I have sinned and I have suffered,
Played the hero and the knave;
Fought for belly, shame, or country,
And for each have found a grave.

I cannot name my battles
For the visions are not clear,
Yet, I see the twisted faces
And I feel the rending spear.

Perhaps I stabbed our Savior
In His sacred helpless side.
Yet, I’ve called His name in blessing
When after times I died.

“Through a Glass Darkly”
By Traci Brimhall

You counted days by their cold silences.
At night, wolves and men with bleeding hands
colonized your dreams. The last time I visited,
you said you trapped a dead woman in your room
who told you to starve yourself to make room for God, 
so I let them give your body enough electricity
to calm it. Don’t be afraid. The future is not disguised 
as sleep. It is a tango. It is a waterfall between
two countries, the river that tried to drown you. 
It is a city where men speak a language
you can fake if you must. It’s the hands of children
thieving your empty pockets. It’s bicycles
with bells ringing through the streets at midnight. 
Come up from the basement. It’s not over.
Before the sun rises, moonlight on the trees. 
Before they tear the asylum down, joy.


Scripture tells us many things about the nature of divinity and what it is like to be human; preachers and theologians work with the words of scripture to find ways of making the messages fresh in every generation. Artists take the same words and help give new meaning to them. The worlds theologians and artists are parallel; words and images link them together but their responses to what scripture tells them is unique.

For those seeking to live a faithful life, having the experiences of distinct responses to scripture is a blessing. The words of scripture aren’t bound into a tradition but free in the world; rather the different approaches to our shared heritage helps to ensure we can make sense of scripture.

If the bible, if any scripture, is held up as an authority only within the faith tradition its meaning can easily be frozen in time. Those within the faith tradition become rigid both in thought and practice. It is only when those who look at scripture with fresh eyes share their insights that scripture truly becomes a living witness. God’s will for those within creation is seen with new eyes and being a faithful seeker of understanding of the divine will becomes easier.
We hear the words of scripture differently when we know they aren’t just ours. The message of love is for everyone, not just a narrowly defined community of
believers. And it is not just us that says God is universal, that the words the founders of our faith put down are universal—it it those outside of our faith that find meaning in scripture and who share their insights that makes our faith something for all.

Because those outside our faith take our scripture seriously we are encouraged to do so as well. Sometimes we feel too close to scripture, too certain in understanding of what God is saying to us, to make real sense of what is being shared with us. We become afraid of thinking about what we read; somewhat hesitant in interpreting the words we hear. But when someone outside our faith, a stranger to our community, finds meaning and truth in our scripture that we haven’t, we realize how exciting our scripture is, how full of meaning each passage is. It is not a relic from the early days but a new and inspiring message God offers to us in the here and now.

We are walking the Lenten journey, observing our brother Jesus as he walks towards his passion, death and resurrection. This isn’t a historic journey but an ever present one. Every day Jesus walks among us on this journey, sharing in our celebrations and fear and suffering and death and hopes. Time is uncertain during periods of life and death, of Lent and Advent. All things become possible in our lives because we can be open to what surprising became possible in Bethlehem and at Golgotha.

Our liturgical journey through the year is a creative response to the words of scripture; poems we heard just a few moments ago are another creative response. In our reading of scripture on our own or in community, let us try to learn from those who see in our scripture an eternally new source of inspiration.


God has given us a gift of time
in which the burdens added to creation
can be shed.

We are given a chance
to restore our Eden.

We are called to wander forever
shaded by Golgotha; protected
in liminal grace.


Non-violence philosophy for animal activism

Multi-faith centre, 569 Spadina Ave. University of Toronto,

Koffler Auditorium (1st floor)

Non-violence philosophy for animal activism

Thursday, December 13, 2012, 7:00 p.m.

Multi-faith centre, 569 Spadina Ave.

University of Toronto, Koffler Auditorium (1st floor)

Thanks for the opportunity to share some thoughts on non-violence.    I apologise in advance for depending on notes and not being as energetic as I might be.  I’m recovering from the flu and my thoughts seem to be ever more scattered than normal.

I’ll start by suggesting some of the best counter arguments to my approach to social change can be found in Ward Churchill’s Pacifism as Pathology.   There are other works available, both in print and on-line, that critically examine non-violence but I find that Churchill raises concerns I hadn’t thought of and he approaches the whole subject in clear and direct language.    If you are seriously considering embracing non-violence either in terms of strategy and tactics or as a life-long set of guiding moral principals do so consciously.   One of the core Gandhian principal is that we are experimenting with the truth—the possibility exists we don’t have it and non-violence does need to be tested both in theory and in practice.

I want people to consider three expressions of non-violence—non-violence to one’s self; non-violence to one’s cause; and non-violence as a movement in and of itself.     I may not formally touch on these ideas this evening, but think about them.   Your wellbeing is essential to the movements you are a part of; the movements you are a part of are essential to the world.

There have been a number of efforts to summarise non-violence, but I find that Ghandi’s and King’s still have the most impact:

Ghandi’s Principals of Non-violence

–          All life is one.

–          We each have a piece of the truth and the un-truth.

–          Human beings are more than the evil they sometimes commit.

–          The means must be consistent with the ends.

–          We are called to celebrate both our differences and our fundamental unity with others.

–          We reaffirm our unity with others when we transform “us” versus “them” thinking and doing.

–          Our oneness calls us to want, and to work for, the well-being of all.

–          The nonviolent journey is a process of becoming increasingly free from fear.

Martin Luther King’s Principals of Non-violence:

1)      Nonviolence is a way of life for courageous people.

It is active nonviolent resistance to evil.

It is assertive spiritually, mentally, and emotionally.

It is always persuading the opponent of the justice of your cause.

2)   Nonviolence seeks to win friendship and understanding.

The end result of nonviolence is redemption and reconciliation.

The purpose of nonviolence is the creation of the Beloved Community.

3)   Nonviolence seeks to defeat injustice, not people.

Nonviolence holds that evildoers are also victims.

4)   Nonviolence holds that voluntary suffering can educate and transform.

Nonviolence willingly accepts the consequences of its acts.

Nonviolence accepts suffering without retaliation.

Nonviolence accepts violence if necessary, but will never inflict it.

Unearned suffering is redemptive and has tremendous educational and transforming possibilities.

Suffering can have the power to convert the enemy when reason fails.

5) Nonviolence chooses love instead of hate.

Nonviolence resists violence of the spirit as well as of the body.

Nonviolent love gives willingly, knowing that the return might be hostility.

Nonviolent love is active, not passive.

Nonviolent love does not sink to the level of the hater.

Love for the enemy is how we demonstrate love for ourselves.

Love restores community and resists injustice.

Nonviolence recognizes the fact that all life is interrelated.

6) Nonviolence believes that the universe is on the side of justice.

The nonviolent resister has deep faith that justice will eventually win.

I see myself as both a Christian and an anarchist and both streams of thought and experience lead me to embrace non-violence.   My anarchist side is primarily influenced by Kropotkin’s Mutual Aid; my faith side primarily influenced by the writings and examples of Dorothy Day, Cesar Chavez and Martin Luther King.

What I find most attractive about non-violence is its immediate practicality.  We respond to the world in the here and now.  We don’t wait for a far off time to attempt to put our ideals into practice; they are important now.    While pushing for an end to segregation, let’s integrate our movement; While pushing for an end to factory farming, let’s have vegetarian/vegan meals together.    While pushing for the legalisation of the contraception, let’s open up a family planning clinic;  While waiting for the abolition of the state, let’s have consensus decision making and radical inclusion in our movements.

Non-violence is very inclusive.   You don’t have to be physically fit; you don’t have to have lengthy training.   Anyone can chose to do less harm in the world and find ways to do so.    Even in the midst of militant campaigns, in the midst of dealing with physical force one can chose not to respond in kind.  Non-violence is not passive; it isn’t cowardly but it is also not just for an elite.    Indeed, looking at the theoreticians and practitioners of successful non-violent movements leaders and theoreticians have been primarily from outsiders and marginalized—women; LGBT communities; people of colour/racialised people; first nations; religious minorities.

Non-violence encourages open and respectful communication and dialogue.   Our opponents are an important part of this dialogue.    We would like them to join us in our struggle for a better world.     This isn’t likely to happen if they are faced with contempt and abuse.   The people who are bringing the pigs to slaughter ultimately see themselves as good people; look at ways to reinforce this.   Conversions do take place.

Non-violence is creative.   It isn’t just occupations or blockades; in many ways it is expressed best as performance art.    From applying for permits to levitate the pentagon to taking a pinch of salt from the sea to climbing over a wall at a shipyard to providing free vegetarian meals to those at or near a slaughterhouse, non-violence looks at ways both legal and illegal to point out alternatives that help build a better world.

Non-violence is both stubborn and flexible in its expression.   To achieve social transformation, one must be persistent.  Change takes time.  But how you achieve isn’t determined or dependent on a one time/one way expression.

My embrace of non-violence wasn’t easy.  When I began my activism the Black Panthers, Weather Underground, Red Brigades, FLQ and other advocates of violence and armed self defence were among my heroes.    I greatly admired the work of Martin Luther King but there was a romance around urban guerrillas that was attractive.    There was resonance in Mikhail Bakunin’s statement “The passion for destruction is also a creative passion.”   Armed revolution leading to the establishment of a radical new social order was seen as possible around the world.

But there were other images too—the young people painting flowers on the sides of tanks during the putdown of the Prague spring in Czechoslovakia; the young man putting flowers in the barrels of guns of the military surrounding the pentagon; a young girl crying because napalm was etching into her flesh.   There were courageous people in the world opposing violence with love and thoughtless violence hurts innocent people.    And there were people coming together from radical opposing sides finding common ground—veterans coming back from Vietnam opposing war ever more fervently than those that were jailed or went into exile to avoid serving.

And while some struggles were being played out in the public sphere, revolution was also happening in quiet ways.  In 1969 the Canadian Criminal Code was amended to permit distribution of information about contraception—after a  many decades long struggle which including lobbying, defiance of the law and a sustained commitment to making lives better in the here and now, not after the revolution.   Our world had changed, not through violence but through persistence compassion.

The final conversion to non-violence came from working with those involved with radical movements for social transformation.   Trainers from the Movement for A New Society brought ideas such as consensus decision making, brainstorming and other ideas of community based non-violent direct action forward—ideas now taken for granted; Grindstone Co-operative provided training and retreats to explore radical organisational forms; and those involved in the early days of Alliance for Non-Violent Action (particularly Ken Hancock) looked at ways of exploring non-violence in efforts ranging from the conversion of Litton Industries from military to peaceful production to gay rights.

I became convinced in the value of non-violence first because it worked.   While people were blowing up mailboxes in support of a nationalist struggle, the feminist world was transforming the way we lived our lives.   Those involved in sustained non-violence were able to set down roots, reach out across differences and show by example the type of world they wished to create—the most radical form of propaganda by deed.

This was also the period when a real transformation of our approach to the world around us began.   The first Earth Day was human centric but it arose from a desire to do less harm to the world around us; it was only after that that I noticed something odd happening in small ways and they growing.   It became common-place to have vegetarian food at potlucks—again something just taken for granted now; we began to care for nature less to preserve it for future exploitation than because it was more readily apparent that our world has value in and of itself.    We began talking less of humane treatment of animals than of animal rights—this transformation started because people engaged in the hard work of doing research, communicating and sharing ideas, persistently asking for vegetarian and then vegan meal options at progressive events.    We are far from the end of this struggle but in 1970 it would not have been expected for main stream media to run a documentary on pig farming or run editorials and op-ed pieces on the conditions faced by factory farmed animals if it wasn’t for the decades long non-violent movement that brought vegetarianism and animal rights from the fringes to main stream.

I am not on the front lines anymore; most of my work involves co-operatives and non-profits and far too much sitting.    These are third way experiments—neither corporate or state—in addressing shared needs and desires.    But through them I get to learn from people in Ghana and Haiti, from the Philippines and Lithuania, who are experimenting with similar structures to meet the needs of struggling communities.   Each new housing co-op; each successful micro-financing initiative; is in itself an experiment in non-violence—the structures aren’t perfect because humans are involved—but they bring people from diverse backgrounds and experiences together to jointly solve problems.

Some suggested print resources:

Mahatma Gandhi:   Hind swarag and other writings

Christopher Key Chapple:   Nonviolence to animals, earth, and self in Asia                       traditions

Clayborne Carson and Kris Shepard, eds.:  A call to conscience : the landmark speeches of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Leo Tolstoy:  The Kingdom of God is Within You

Some suggested on-line resources:

Training for Change:

Ruckus Society:

Waging Nonviolence:


Some Year End Donation Suggestions

As Advent in 2012 progresses and the year comes to a beginning and an end, we may find the desire both to do good in the world and find some funds available to help in this work. Here are a few suggestions of groups which I have supported over the years that would certainly put your gifts to good use.

1. St. Clare’s Multifaith Housing Society
. Suite C – 180 Sudbury Street
, Toronto, Ontario
 M6J 0A8.

St. Clare’s is continues to both develop new affordable housing efforts and provide affordable housing to people, most of whom come as a result of referrals from agencies working directly with the homeless, marginalized and difficult to house. St. Clare’s grew out of Toronto Action for Social Change, which organised a number of creative protests during the Harris years. More information can be found at:

2. FoodShare Toronto. 
90 Croatia Street, Toronto, ON M6H 1K9. Attention: Adrienne De Francesco.

From the good food box programme to community gardening to advocating for sustainable food policies, FoodShare works hard to make sure that social justice includes what is on the table. More information can be found at:

3. Rooftops Canada. 
720 Spadina Avenue, Suite 313, Toronto, Ontario M5S 2T9

Rooftops Canada, the international development arm of Canadian co-operative and non-profit housing movements, works with overseas partners in countries from the Baltic Sea to Zimbabwe to “improve housing conditions, build sustainable communities and develop a shared vision of equitable global development. “ Rooftops initiatives range from capacity building to microfinance.  More information can be found at:

4. Canadian Alternative Investment Foundation (CAIF), 
CSI Regent Park,
585 Dundas St East, 3rd Floor, Toronto, Ontario M5A 2B7.

CAIF has developed from the Canadian Alternative Investment Co-operative (CAIC), which does social investing on behalf of Canadian charities. CAIF is a charitable foundation which will be providing grants and loans to charitable organisations involved in community initiatives that further the vision of CAIC’s founders. More information can be found at

5. Elizabeth Fry Society
. 215 Wellesley Street E.
, Toronto ON M4X 1G1

The Elizabeth Fry Society provides effective support for women involved with the criminal justice system. From transitional housing to jail support, E Fry makes a difference in the lives of women in conflict with the law. More information can be found at:

6. CHFT Charitable Fund, 
658 Danforth Avenue, Suite 306, 
Toronto, ON, M4J 5B9

The CHFT Charitable Fund is a project of the Co-operative Housing Federation of Toronto. Its programmes have ranged from diversity scholarships to support for the Green Roof initiative at Hugh Garner Housing Co-operative to a basketball court at Atkinson Co-op. More information can be found at:

Over the years I have also supported the following organisations that are more activist than charitable in focus. These include:

7. Christian Peacemaker Teams.

In the USA:
CPT, PO Box 6508; Chicago IL 60680-6508

In Canada:

CPT, 25 Cecil Street, Unit 310; Toronto, ON M5T 1N1

CPT sends delegations to places of conflict to be a practical resource for non-violence and a witness to the world of violence and injustice. From Columbia to Iraq to first nations in Canada, CPT delegations have been a hopeful presence in many places around the world. For more information see

8. Ontario Coalition Against Poverty. 157 Carlton Street, Unit 206, 
Toronto, Ontario
 M5A 2K3

From direct action casework to solidarity with imprisoned refugee claimants to walking picket lines, OCAP activists are a strong voice for economic and social justice. For more information

9. Wilderness Committee. P.O. Box 2205, Station Terminal, Vancouver, BC V6B 3W2

The Wilderness Committee is a mainstream but persistent voice for wilderness and endangered species. In addition to political campaigns, they are a good source of fair trade goods not found elsewhere. For more information see

10. Peace Brigades Canada. 145 Spruce Street, Suite 206, Ottawa, ON K1R 6P1

Peace Brigades Canada is a part of a global network of activists who work with human rights activists in places of conflict. From Nepal to Mexico, Peace Brigades volunteers have accompanied human rights workers as the eyes of the world. For more information see

The above is not an exhaustive list. I donate monthly to the Student Christian Movement of Canada and the Christian Resource Centre. I support the work of Homes Not Bombs. In the past many organisations including The Canadian Friends Service Committee and Amnesty International had me among their regular donors. However, I think my top 10 represent a range of places, from social investing to radical peacemaking, that are my priorities at the end of 2012.



Brian Burch, CAIC Board Chair presents Maureen Moloughney, Executive Director of Heartwood House, Ottawa, ON with a token of appreciation for her “heartwarming” presentation to CAIC’s members. — at CAIC.


Canadian Alternative Investment Co-operative

2012 Annual General Meeting

CSI Regent Park, 585 Dundas St. East, 3rd Floor, Toronto, Ontario

December 4, 2012

2012 has been the U.N. International Year of Co-operatives.   Around the world co-operatives in all our movement’s diversity have found ways to honour the alternative vision that the co-operative sector offers the world.    During this year many co-operatives have worked hard to develop legacy projects, ways of keeping the hope and public awareness of co-operatives during IYC alive in the future.    CAIC’s model of diverse investors pooling their resources to fund social enterprises and co-operative ventures has been taken up by other co-operative organisations as their legacy project, including the Canadian Co-operative Association.    CAIC’s legacy project really can be found in such initiatives—-our 28 years of pioneering work is still perceived as new and exciting and our way of doing things seen as being essential in helping grass roots organisations meet real needs.   CAIC may not get the public credit for this ground breaking work—articles in the Globe and Mail and Toronto Star on this innovative approach to supporting local initatives have not mentioned CAIC—but there is real comfort in knowing that our vision continues to be one that is seen as radical and transforming.

Our year that just ended was significant in many ways.   We physically moved to a place where social innovation is a given; our board and staff devoted a great deal of time to considering the long term viability of CAIC and the type of staffing model would best suit the changing times.   We continued to help nurture the infant Canadian Alternative Investment Foundation and watched it take its first steps towards real independence.  And our board and staff worked hard to meet the needs both of our member/owners and those who sought our help.

Moving our office was not an easy task.   Finding new space was time consuming, but having a home at the Centre for Social Innovation is a great opportunity for CAIC.  This work primarily fell on Valerie Lemieux’s shoulders, work which was on top of her ensuring our loans are fully performing, our board and advisory board packages are prepared and distributed, our public face on the web and Facebook up to date and the GMM planned and its logistics worked out.   Fortunately, Gigi Inara has been able to provide additional administrative support for CAIC, taking some of this burden on with great results.

16 applications, both from new organisations and from those we have helped in the past were reviewed by the board during the past fiscal year.     During that time 9 projects had funds advanced; two were approved but for different reasons did not have funds released and others had funds released after year end.  Among those CAIC supported were community loan funds, a fair trade worker co-operative, social incubator sites, a housing co-operative and aboriginal housing. Beth Coates will provide more details of CAIC’s loan portfolio during her presentation later in the meeting.    The board, the staff and the advisory board devoted many hours in reviewing the material submitted.  Beth Coates also spent hours with potential applicants ensuring their proposals were well thought out before they came to the board for consideration.

Our loan work is made a lot easier by those who volunteer to serve on our advisory board.   Jen Heneberry, Andre Schroer, Paul Connolly, Ted Hyland and Karen Knopf have together given over a quarter century of service to the work of CAIC.   They help ensure that CAIC does due diligence on all the loans that come before us, while reminding us always of the social mission of CAIC.

The board of directors of CAIC—Fr. Paul Hansen, Moira Hutchinson, Sr. Doryne Kirby, Sr. Nellie Pomroy and myself—shared in the hard task of being practical idealists.   We all have a history of working for social justice which underlies the stewardship role we have for the resources our members have entrusted to us.  We would welcome additional work, though, both in terms of having more applications to review and in having more money to lend.   And we’ll always enjoy having approval of new members on our meeting agendas.

These last tasks are ones our members share in—you are the eyes, ears and hands of our co-operative.   You know who has needs that CAIC could help address; you know the charities that are out there which share our vision and could be encouraged to join our work.   The strength and viability of the Canadian Alternative Investment Co-operative is our membership; communities that have a common vision of wanting to alleviate poverty, hunger, homelessness, violence and other attacks on those that share in creation.    There is a realisation that our resources can do more together than we can achieve on our own.    CAIC members have helped to reduce homelessness and urban poverty in Canada; CAIC members have helped new incubator centres of social innovation come into being; CAIC members have helped plant seeds of hope across the country and, through the partnerships some of our projects have in other lands, in places far beyond our ability to reach.

Thanks to our truly dedicated staff, our advisors, our board members and our member/owners CAIC continues to be a visionary presence in the world.     Our annual meeting is a time to conduct business, reflect on the world around us and share together as a community which rarely comes together.     It is also our recommissioning, our rededication to the mission of CAIC.  At the end of the day when we leave here, let us leave with a renewed sense of delight in what we have achieved and a continued desire to build a new and better world for all.



The 2012 ONPHA conference is now a moment in history.  I feel tired and drained.   I don’t have the bounce of hope that I leave a co-op gathering with, but I do have a few more skills to draw upon and some confidence that there are people in the world trying to build a better world and a better movement even if the formal structure they work in is more of a civil servant network than an alliance of affordable housing visionaries.

The oddest memory is going into a workshop and having the workshop leader state that she remembered me from being arrested together at the Queen’s Park Plant-in.    TASC and ANVA types seem to have found homes in many movements, but co-operatives and affordable housing have attracted the most.

ONPHA does have an idealistic streak, but it is hard to find within the corporate language and imagery.    ONPHA members house the hardest to house, run shelters, offer RGI housing and afford able market housing in rural areas and provide municipally run housing in the largest cities of Ontario.    In our conservative climate it isn’t much of a surprise when the leadership tries to talk the language of corporate insiders.    Yet, while community orientated activists have adopted the language of the powers-that-be, there was a change in the language of the dominant economic culture.   Corporate leaders are talking about community, environmental sustainability and social investing.   Some reflection brought me to the point of considering that, just like corporations talking about environmental sustainability or their employees are valued stakeholders hasn’t resulted in changes in corporate practices, ONPHA using the language of business may not result in changes in their practices.   With a dominant portion of its membership and leadership from municipal non-profits, it may be immune from having to make real change.

I heard ONPHA described as a mature organisation.  This is used to explain why the actual business portion of the gathering is scheduled for one and a half hours on a Sunday morning during which the annual report, the audit, the election and any resolutions submitted by the board or membership is dealt with.   Members don’t take advantage of a provincial meeting to raise issues they felt urgent for the movement or of local importance they wanted province wide feedback on; rather, except for a few questions of the annual report and a couple of routine questions of the audit, the AGM was a quiet affair.  In my immature way,  I’d like to the AGM to have more motions from members and harder questions posed to the leadership.   To me, a quiet AGM indicates an alienated membership.

ONPHA continues to offer good resources and excellent workshops, but it operates a level very remote from those that live in the homes ONPHA members offer or the dreamers who came together to develop community housing in the first place.


While I may live in Toronto I rarely have an opportunity to explore the co-op and non-profit housing that is scattered across this city. This morning I went on a tour of co-op and non-profit housing in NW Toronto on or near Weston Road. We only stopped at 3 places, but were shown 23 projects that ranged from supportive housing to municipal non-profits to non-profit co-operatives to affordable home ownership sites—approximately 4,000 units in total . It was good to see so many places where people can live with dignity and security in an overlooked area of Toronto. While it is discouraging to see no new affordable non-profit or co-operative homes being build, there is some indication (through various affordable home ownership models) that there is at least new housing coming available for the employed working class. Truly marginalized people hoping for a new home will continue to have a long

While the tour was organised through ONPHA, and therefore the focus was on non-profit housing, four different co-ops were pointed out. We stopped for a while at Beach Hall Housing Co-op, a senior’s non-profit co-op; stopped at the site of a project of Homebuyers Development Co-operative Corporation, a builders’ co-op; had Chord Housing Co-op pointed out to us, an interesting co-op that continues to provide housing for people from diverse backgrounds, including a substantive proportion of families with children facing developmental and/or physical challengers; and stopped at a project of Options for Homes, which supports non-profit builders’ co-ops.

Participants seemed genuinely interested in the different approaching to developing and sustaining affordable housing. Those from various government agencies present did indicate that support for affordable home ownership is their
Priority. The fact that most of the western countries facing major financial challenges have affordable home ownership as a key component of their national housing strategy may be a co-incidence, or perhaps could serve as a warning that depending on a for profit private sector model to deliver essential services is unsustainable in the long term.


I was surprised that the vendors’ displays were taken down over lunch. I finally had free time and hoped to talk to some possible suppliers.


Where the workshop’s I attended yesterday (Death of A Tenant; When to Call Children’s Aid) were focused on meeting human needs, today’s addressed corporate needs—The Taxman Cometh; Refinancing the Sector.
I continue to be pleasantly surprised by the level of engagement of most participants—-effective listening and intelligent questions of the presenters.

Chris Lawrence, the main presenter for The Taxman Cometh workshop, raised issues facing all non-profits as the Canada Revenue Agency tries to figure out the non-profit sector. CRA does not know the size of the sector or the number of non-profits, which can range from unincorporated local clubs to housing providers to groups like the CAA to corporate based non-profits. CRA’s motivation is primarily around tax fairness; it is unlikely that housing providers and similar organisations will end up paying taxes under any foreseeable changes. Co-op housing and non-profit housing providers have faced random audits, as have other non-profits. These resulted in information letters that raised concerns. These have stopped; audits and other interactions with CRA may be occurring but sector organisations aren’t aware of them.

It was suggested that CRA may have a draft paper within a year and any changes that will result will occur with normal government efficiency (discussions, lobbying, draft legislation, elections, etc.)—-5 years is likely to be the time frame to changing a section of the act in place since the late 19th century.

Refinancing the Sector was more of a reinforcement of information I already know than a source of new ideas. It was less well attended than I had expected—-perhaps we don’t need as much money as I sometimes think our sector needs.

One of the presenters, Steve Pomeroy, helped St. Clare’s get our first seed money under the long gone Homegrown Solutions programme. Just under 400 units ultimately came into being because CMHC was willing to support experiments in new affordable housing development.

Presenters were David McCarron from Ottawa Community Housing; Steve Pomery, a consultant, and Steve Rohacek from Infrastructure Ontario. Some good ideas were shared, from looking at non-rental revenue to strategies on communicating with existing lenders when refinancing is needed. Ideas were more on refinancing to meet existing capital needs but there were some suggestions on how to finance new construction such as selling existing real estate (housing; land) to finance the construction of new affordable housing units. Links to relevant websites, particularly Infrastructure Ontario, are helpful sources of information. Steve Pomery’ s presentation was especially helpful. The reminder/suggestion as the need for skilled consultants to help organisations to go through the funding process.


At the end of another day at ONPHA my basic feeling of the convention remains the same. I am an outsider, not part of the masses. I am not at home with pro-profit corporate language. I don’t feel comfortable walking down the halls with those that develop and implement the government policies that are barriers to developing new affordable housing or promote a more competitive, less co-operative and compassionate world. I am even a bit put off by overhearing groups of people in a public space making insulting comments about a member of their group who wasn’t present. It was rare to see strangers talk to each other. At CHF one can’t avoid running into people who never talked to each other before sharing ideas that arose
In a workshop or strategizing about resolutions coming before the meeting; here only a few stay behind to talk to workshop providers and there haven’t been excited conversations outside the workshop rooms.

I am suspicious of the role of elections at ONPHA. Our ballot for the ONPHA board arrived after the deadline for the mailed ballot to arrive. Included with the ballot, though, was a letter which reads in part “Mail-in ballots must be received at the ONPHA office by November 8th to be counted. Otherwise, members may vote in person at the AGM on Sunday, November 18th”. Our ballot arrived after the 8th so I intended to vote tomorrow. As I overheard two candidates today being congratulated for their victory, I am wondering what the purpose of voting tomorrow will serve.

Initial Thoughts on the 2012 ONPHA Conference

I am starting to write this while waiting for the ONPHA opening plenary to begin. Yesterday I attended a wonderful session on making board meetings better, facilitated by a woman who had spent significant time at Madonna House. My approach to chairing was reaffirmed in the session, but I came away from the workshop with ideas to make meetings more enjoyable.

I am unable to check my email because ONPHA hasn’t made arrangements with the Sheridan for this service. It was a surprise to go to a public gathering without access to internet/free wi-fi.

Going to a CHFC AGM it is, for me, a homecoming; going to the ONPHA conference is a different experience. Here I am on the fringes, not really a part of the organisation. I have been at several ONPHA conferences over the years but each time it feels that I am somewhat of a stranger. And the participants are less friendly. People seem to avoid eye contact with strangers, don’t respond to greetings unless it comes from people they know and move in cliques, more like a school ground than a meeting of people with shared visions and dreams. The friendly voices are those that know me from elsewhere, primarily the co-op world but also lawyers, accountants, credit union officials and those from my neighbourhood.

My feeling of being an outsider may be due to the nature of the organisation. ONPHA isn’t a reflection of a movement but is more of a sectoral interest group—primarily municipal non-profits and small and large private non-profits and a very small co-op presence. The participants have things in common, a commitment of service to others and a still lingering sense of the value of a non-profit and non-commercial approach to meeting human needs, but unlike co-op members they do not have a core sense of mutual service. In co-ops we work together to meet our needs as a part of meeting the needs of others. Co-operators both offer and accept efforts to meet common needs. I am a movement person, not someone comfortable with being a part of a group firmly linked to the institutions of our world.

I return to the ONPHA conferences, when they are in Toronto, primarily because of the workshops. ONPHA has the resources to offer a wider range of workshops than CHF can. There are practical services both CHF and ONPHA offer, from bulk buying to policy development, but ONPHA does provide a far wider variety of workshops.


The opening plenary of ONPHA was inspiring but one way—-the information and ideas flow from those at the front of the room. There are no microphones or other indications that ONPHA members have a voice. Those that speak do have an impact—the launch of a three year public awareness campaign was well received and Tonya Surman’s keynote speech had an impact on many participants.

Very corporate language has crept into the overall understanding of the organisation. Sylvia Patterson’s opening remarks referred to ‘the new normal’ of life after strong government support. It came across as a retrenchment speech, not as a call to action. Perhaps because of the strong relationship with government (i.e. the plenary was sponsored by the provincial ministry of housing) it is hard for ONPHA to be a strong advocate for a third sector that is neither corporate or state, something CHFC and other co-op sector organisations excel at.

The three year public awareness campaign, which can found on line at, should be effective in raising awareness of the value of affordable housing across society—from jobs creation to health care costs.
Tonya Surman, from the Centre for Social Innovation, gave an excellent key note presentation. I particularly liked the image of fixing the future. CSI has served as a real incubator of new approaches to working together that the third sector has nurtured. Tonya touched on a number of organisation from collaborative funding (community bonds) to rethinking the ways organisations make decisions.


In all the workshops I attended participants wanted to talk. The number of participants and structure of the workshops sometimes limited the participation to responses to workshop leader(s) or even no direct interaction. All the leaders were knowledgeable about the topic, open to ideas and challenges (during the workshop or afterwards) and enthusiastic presenters.

The majority of participants are women, although a larger portion of males that I have seen in recent gatherings of co-ops and non-profits.

ONPHA does an excellent job in selecting topics that meet the needs of board, staff and tenants of non-profits. Some are very practical ones, such as reading financial statements or finding alternative financing; some are on issues related to affordable housing such as food security; some are on issues such as when to call children’s aid or what to do when a tenant dies that are essential to building safe and secure communities.


At a recent awards night I attended I was repeated annoyed by the comment “I’d to thank”.   Each time I heard it I wondered why they didn’t thank the person they felt some gratitude towards. Saying something like “Mother, thank you for all the encouragement and support you gave me along the way” would be far more meaningful than saying “I’d like to thank my mother”.

I am finding that, as I age, the way language is used becomes more important. Nuanced statements have more attraction. Militarist and sports metaphors detract from arguments being raised to promote solutions to social problems. Corporate values, expressed in the arguments of grassroots organisations, alienate me. Having been formed in the time of inclusive language and plain language, at a time when activists did not use the arguments and language of opponents but chose to use the language that reinforced social transformation, I find myself lost in a world that makes less and less sense as the years go by.
Housing is not an investment, it is a right. Education is not an investment, it is both a right and a process. Movements for a better world have been co-opted; we have chosen to advocate the values of a less inclusive, compassionate world in the way we describe ourselves and our goals.

Progressive movements have lost momentum for a number of reasons, but part of this is due to giving ground on the language we use when engaging the world. Clarity of language is important; equally important is having the words we use help to bring into practical expression the ideals we hold. Building a co-operative world is not strengthened by promoting competiveness when we talk about the co-op model.

Notes for a More Coherent Sermon—July 15, 2012

11:00 AM., Sunday, July 15, 2012
St. Andrew’s Old Catholic Church
Meeting Room, 138 Pears Ave. (Toronto)

FIRST LESSON:   Romans 6: 3 – 11

Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection: Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. For he that is dead is freed from sin. Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him: Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him. For in that he died, he died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God.  Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.

GOSPEL OF THE DAY:  Matthew 5: 20 – 26

For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven. Ye have heard that it was said of them of old time, ‘Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment’: But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, ‘Raca, shall be in danger of the council’: but whosoever shall say, ‘Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.’ Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift.  Agree with thine adversary quickly, whiles thou art in the way with him; lest at any time the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison. Verily I say unto thee, Thou shalt by no means come out thence, till thou hast paid the uttermost farthing.


Good things grow from small beginnings. Communities are built from shared meals, celebrations and tragedies. Bad things also grow from small beginnings, as the epistle and gospel we hear today tell us. Unresolved anger and resentment can lead to fractured families and communities, to violence and despair.
This in true in our personal lives and in global political and economic spheres.
And, as the gospel reminds us, before we try to remove ourselves from the world through prayer and worship, we need to act in the world to heal the harm we have done or prevent the harm that may arise from our thoughts and feelings. The sacred is not something separate from the secular but is only truly approached when we fully engage the world.

The guide to how we, as Christians, are to live in the world is found just a few verses earlier—the Sermon on the Mount:  Matthew 5: 2 – 14a:

And he opened his mouth,
and taught them, saying:

Blessed are the poor in spirit:
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are they that mourn:
for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek:
for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness:
for they shall be filled.
Blessed are the merciful:
for they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart:
for they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers:                                                                                                      for they shall be called the children of God.                                                                Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake:                                   for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.                                                                                                             Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.

Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? It is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men.

Ye are the light of the world.

We are people focused on living in the world as if we are already living in the kingdom of God—the peacemakers and dreamers in the highways and byways. We are the light of the world, an example of what is possible when we let God’s love transform us.

We are angry people that learn to forgive ourselves and others; we are selfish people that learn to reach into our pockets and comfort zones and time commitments to find ways of ensuring that the hungry and homeless are able to find comfort and dignity; we are people prepared for conflict who find ways of resolving tensions.

This is the work we do before we approach the alter. We offer not only prayers of approach but our experiences as people of faith living in the world. We offer up not only what is in our pockets but what is in our hearts and minds.

God doesn’t turn anyone away from the divine presence; God is everywhere. But we are reminded in today’s gospel that we can’t be open to the love of God if we have turned away from being a loving presence in the world.

If we approach God with resentment because a homeless person asked us for a handout on our way to church, we have some work to do before truly being fit for worship; If we felt contempt for someone because of their sexual orientation, we have some work to do before truly being fit for worship; If we added to the amount of violence and hatred in the world, we have some work to do before truly being fit for worship.

Our work is basic—share what we have with others; love one another; be a peacemaker—but the results are wonderful.

We bring God into the world as we do so, weaving the spirit of worship into the fabric of every good thing we do. We will then approach the altar as a continuation of worship, of living a faithful life, and not as a time and place remote from the ebbs and flows of our world.

Eusebius, in the 3rd Century, offered the following prayer for those seeking to worthy of being in the presence of the divine. It seems appropriate to end my sermon with his thoughts from far earlier times in our tradition:

“May I be no man’s enemy, and may I be the friend of that which is eternal and abides. May I never quarrel with those nearest me: and if I do, may I be reconciled quickly. May I love, seek, and attain only that which is good. May I wish for all men’s happiness and envy none. May I never rejoice in the ill-fortune of one who has wronged me. When I have done or said what is wrong, may I never wait for the rebuke of others, but always rebuke myself until I make amends. May I win no victory that harms either me or my opponent. May I reconcile friends who are angry with one another. May I never fail a friend who is in danger. When visiting those in grief may I be able by gentle and healing words to soften their pain. May I respect myself. May I always keep tame that which rages within me. May I accustom myself to be gentle, and never be angry with people because of circumstances. May I never discuss who is wicked and what wicked things he has done, but know good men and follow in their footsteps.” (Prayer of Eusebius, 3rd century)


4:00 p.m., July 10, 2012
Special Housing Working Group
Toronto Reference Library

We tend to become nostalgic for times when it seems our dreams could come true.    Those of us who have been advocating for generations for safe, affordable housing for all can look back to the times of the UN Habitat 1 in Vancouver and Habitat 2 in Istanbul when Canada took a lead on the world stage in successfully supporting the idea of housing as a human right.   We can remember David Crombie, then the mayor of Toronto, flying to Ottawa at the last minute to successfully arguing with CMHC to support the funding of Don Area Co-operative Homes.    We remember better times.

We also remember bad times.   We remember the ending of affordable housing programmes, the slashing of welfare rates and the return to the Victorian concept of making distinctions between deserving and undeserving poor.    Perhaps more seriously we saw the end of the concept of long term planning in social policy. The time when elected members of the Liberal, NDP and Progressive Conservative parties found ways to put aside temporary partisan concerns and attempted to find solutions to problems that would last beyond an election cycle has faded.

The selling off of Toronto social housing stock is a short term solution to a long term problem.    Money is needed to repair social housing stock.   And the selling of houses in desirable neighbourhoods would bring in a welcome burst of cash.   But the problem of insufficient resources to ensure the ongoing viability of social housing stock won’t be addressed.   Underfunding of long-term replacement reserves and the continued need to defer routine maintenance in order to respond to more serious problems will continue.

The terms of the proposed sale are themselves problematic and make access to affordable housing a little more difficult.    Selling the housing at market and not at the accessed value continues the pressure to drive up the price of home ownership in Toronto, making it more difficult for middle income households to afford to put a home in Toronto.     We lose affordable housing stock while making home ownership a less viable dream for many.

There are some creative solutions being proposed that would keep the detached houses that are to be sold as affordable housing—-I am particularly impressed by the land trust model proposed by the Co-operative Housing Federation of Toronto.  But while these efforts will preserve the affordable nature of the social housing under discussion, such sales will not guarantee the long term viability of the affordable housing that the City of Toronto is the stewards of.   Such sales will not address the problems that will come at the end of the operating agreements with the end of many subsidy programmes.   They will not address the need to massively retrofit or tear down and rebuild high rise communities.    They will not even address the need to solve insect infestations and leaking taps 10 years from now.

In conservative times it is hard to raise the reality of more funds must come from the government, but it is dishonest not to do so.  Our shared resources are needed to kick start redevelopment initiatives such as has happened at Regent Park, to properly fund replacement reserves and other long term capital expenditures, and even to meet the maintenance expectations of the Residential Tenancy Act.   Our shared resources are needed to provide the subsidies for low income residents, to provide personal supports so that people can live independently and for the community supports so that social housing is not only affordable, but safe and desirable housing.

New affordable housing is important.   Sustaining the existing affordable housing stock is also important.    In order to meet these concerns we need a return to a spirit of co-operation in the political sphere.  It wasn’t all that long ago that NDP, Liberal and Progressive Conservative MPs came together to support the United Farm Workers.   Currently there is an all-party committee looking at ways of supporting co-operatives.   This spirit must find a way into the discussions around the need for ongoing and adequate funding for the provision of safe, secure, decent and affordable housing for all.

We must be honest in our political debates and make it clear that we are asking for housing to be a spending priority of all levels of government.   We are competing with others for a limited pool of resources.   Yet, like health care and education, housing is a universal need and, as Canada has so eloquently argued in the past, a human right.   The state has an obligation to ensure that rights are not an abstraction but are expressed in concrete and measurable ways.    We may have disagreements about the way to fund education and health care but there seems to be universal agreement in Canada that the government plays a central role in ensuring access to proper medical care and to quality education.    Housing should be equally valued and supported.

On the second Tuesday of the month at the Church of the Holy Trinity is a memorial service for homeless people that have died on the streets of Toronto. We must keep these people in mind when we discuss housing.   We also need to keep in mind those that a loss of a job or end of a relationship can mean the loss of a home.   We need to keep in mind those that are inadequately housed or paying a substantial amount of their income for housing.    Affordable housing and supports of all forms are needed—from emergency shelters to shelter allowances to inclusive zoning to in-home support services to mortgage subsidies for new housing initiatives to preserving existing housing stock—for those that are homeless, for those that have resources but can’t find a place they can afford and for those that are at risk of losing their homes.      It is simple to say that the money is the solution, but that is the case.    The selling off of social housing stock to provide funds for other social housing stock is clear evidence of this.    But that doesn’t solve the problem, or even defer it for long.    To ensure there is housing for all we need to reach into our pockets to pay for it.


The CHFC AGM ended two days ago for most, but yesterday for me. As the newly elected Ontario Regional Director my Sunday morning was spent at an orientation for new Ontario Council members and CHFC directors followed by an Ontario Council meeting followed by a CHFC board meeting. This was the end of a week-long gathering of the co-op housing clan. It was a tiring, renewing, reflective and inspiring time, an opportunity for sharing concerns and dreams that is all too rare.

A regret I have about the week as a whole was one of timing—I was not able to attend mass at the Our Lady of Peace Roman Catholic Church. The chapel, on the edge of the Cistercian’ Mount Carmel Spiritual Centre, dates back to 1837, and is a place dedicated to the inclusive vision of peace for all within creation. Because meetings I was required to attend coincided with all the mass times during my stay in Niagara Falls, I lost an opportunity to share with other people of my faith time in purposeful prayer.

A regret I have about the AGM, of both the Ontario Region and CHFC meetings, is the lack of resolutions coming from the broader membership. This has been explained to me as common in mature movements, where practical matters such as preservation of housing stock, becomes the role of the movement. I don’t totally accept this. Yes, after decades of work a major purpose of CHFC is providing member services rather than movement building, but the movement part of co-operative housing needs to be nourished as well to ensure the ongoing viability of the movement. Local co-ops help to provide direction for, and sustain the work of, the broader sector when they bring forth matters for shared consideration. Issues such as Aging in Place and the need to support new and emerging leadership are recent examples of the membership providing leadership. It would be great to have far more of this.

My being at the AGM as part of the elected leadership and not a delegate is still a bit confusing. I am not there to take or lead workshops; I have little role in the debates on the convention floor; I don’t even have a real role in dealing with visitors or politicians. What I am present for is to meet with others elected to make decisions and to listen, to find out from CHFC’s members what they want the organisation to do and learn about difficulties and challenges that CHFC can respond to. This is an informal role, which I am not really comfortable with—I’m not a social being.   The limited numbers of people I feel comfortable with have been active in the sector for years and have no hesitation about sharing their views on the convention floor or in calls and emails to staff and board.

The national AGM meeting was more of a celebration than a organisational meeting. Excerpts from the play Journey to Tompkinsville, speeches and greetings from co-op partners and leaders from the International Co-operative Alliance Housing and similar addresses filled up a substantive part of the meeting. There wasn’t a lot of questioning of the annual report, the report on follow-up to resolutions from last year’s meeting or the financial report. One question, asking if there was an investment policy with a concern about ethical screening, did bring up a nostalgic memory of my having asked a similar question in the 1980s. The answer back then was that the movement was working on it; the answer this year was yes with an offer to provide a copy of the policy.

There was one motion that I did speak do—a call on CHFC to work with other sectors to press to keep co-op and non-profit housing affordable. One key point I made that as a person whose family has benefited from having a subsidy in the past, I know how important such programmes are. Another was that CHFC is the most effective body in the non-profit world in terms of mounting a political fight. The motion was the most political one dealt with and was a reminder that there is an idealistic core to the movement.

After the AGM and prior to the closing dinner, I attended a reception for co-ops receiving loyalty awards from CHFC.  These are awards for co-ops with 20 or 30 consecutive years of membership.   DACHI, when I live, and CoAction, which I am the executive director of, both received an award for 30 years of membership this year.   I received the award on behalf of DACHI.

For the first time in all the years I’ve attended the CHFC AGM I attended the closing dinner. It wasn’t an enjoyable experience and I’ll likely forgo the experience in the future. I am not a social person. It remains very stressful to engage in social banter with others. I can stand at a microphone to take part in a debate; I’ve stood in front of over 40,000 people to give a fundraising speech at a major demonstration; I’ve been in front of charging police on horseback—all are far easier to deal with than sitting down to share a meal with people I have known for years.

Sunday morning I ran between three meetings—an orientation for newly elected board and council members, an Ontario Council meeting and a CHFC board meeting. There are people who have been part of the leadership of the movement for generations (mysteriously I seem to be among them) and others for whom this was their first AGM.  The only specific role I left the meetings with was as the CHFC board appointee to the Finance and Audit Committee. I didn’t find the meetings difficult—-I felt welcomed to the national table and I have served two terms on Ontario Council—but I found the need to run from one to another difficult. In the fall this running will be even more challenging—leaving the Ontario Council meeting in Toronto to fly to Ottawa for the CHFC board meeting.

The CHFC AGM is now history. Its Facebook page has disappeared. It exists in files, in photos, in memories. Those that came together have departed to places as far away as Kenya and Victoria. Our movement is still strong. It brings together young and old, first nations and immigrants, low income families and well off professions, who share a commitment to diverse communities of affordable member controlled housing. I look forward to next year’s AGM in Calgary.

With the exception of board meetings of DACHI, CAIC, St. Clare’s, 43rd Co-op, SCM and TNRC, I have no meetings until the fall.


Its Friday evening. The CHF Ontario Regional Meeting, the Meet the Candidate’s meeting, even the Staff Networking Lunch is over. I’m having the luxury of quiet time, looking out the window of my hotel at Niagara Falls.

Coming to the CHF AGM is truly coming home to me. I have been coming to the CHF AGM for half my life. I have watched the movement grow when there was a government housing programme that supported the development of new co-operative housing and was there when there was the transformation to a movement where sustainability is a priority. When I first got involved there were lots of people in leadership that remembered the Co-operative Housing Foundation of Canada prior to its transformation to a national grassroots movement and its rebirth as the Co-operative Housing Federation of Canada. Now there are people in the movement leadership who weren’t born when I moved in Don Area Co-op. Co-op housing members remain a tapestry of idealists and pragmatists and cynicists and dreamers and somehow continue to welcome me into their midst.

Those that know me know that going to informal social gatherings, even something with a bit of structure such as a reception for overseas visitors or municipal and provincial housing officials, is incredibly stressful. They can be a migraine trigger and certainly drain me. Yet at the CHF AGM I find that I can spend time at such events before they become overwhelming. Somehow even my normal aversion to social gatherings is abated in the company of co-op housing people and I can last up to an hour before it overwhelms me.

Yesterday I managed two receptions—-one from municipal and provincial housing officials from across Ontario, and one for Rooftops Canada visitors. The evening before I attended the welcome reception for first time attendees. I can’t manage this in my private life but somehow the co-op housing movement is a buffer between myself and the world.

Over the course of today I shared information on unionising with co-op housing staff at a staff networking event, attended the Meet the Candidates meeting and then the CHF Ontario AGM. In all these events there is a formal reason for me to present, making them far less stressful than the social part of the AGM.

The staff networking lunch was good. It was encouraging to spend time with those that share in the difficult task of ensuring that the ideals of living in a co-operative housing community are brought to life while ensuring plumbing works, rent-geared-to-income programmes are properly administered, government reporting is done, housing charges collected, member disputes are resolved and units are made ready for move-in in a timely fashion. A large number of those that came to the networking lunch belong to co-op staff associations; there are some that are in unionised workplaces. There is a different form of solidarity, based on shared experiences, that is really noticed at the CHF AGM when co-op housing staff come together. Out of this sharing come ideas for training, for practical support and for effective ways of making sure our co-op communities are sustainable for the long term.

The Meet the Candidates session was not as intense or rushed as in some years. This is likely due to the few people running for contested positions. By the time of the AGM the CHFC regional directors were all elected and the three at-large and the staff association representative to Ontario Council were acclaimed. This session was shorter than in some years, with the 3 candidates for the two CHFC at-large director seats being the only ones required to present their qualifications to the voters and face questions on their skills and visions for the sector. What stood out for me were two questions—there was a question asking on what the co-op housing movement could learn from the occupy movement and one about whether the national co-op housing movement would be open to all the expressions of co-operative housing (equity, co-housing, building co-ops and not just non-profit housing co-operatives) as part of ensuring the sustainability of the sector. It is encouraging to hear members who see the co-op housing movement as being connected to wider movements and having other forms than many in our movement realise. All the candidates are committed to ensuring the long term viability of the movement and for the development of new co-operatives, on working on the ongoing renewal of sector leadership and finding ways to be relevant in an increasing hostile world.

The later part of the afternoon was spent at the CHF Ontario AGM. This was my last one as a member-at-large of Ontario Council. I continue to be disappointed at how few resolutions come from the members—there are always concerns at the local level that the larger movement needs to be aware of and in the debate and exchange of ideas on resolving matters of a local nature can be found creative ways to meet the needs of our movement as a whole. But I also continue to be inspired by those that come to the meetings—-the diversity of the world in one small place. There was the honouring of co-op staff with 5, 10, 15 and 30 years of experience (I was among them with 15 years experience), an honouring of the life and work of Dave Robertson of the auditing firm Prentice Yates and Clark, a series of straw poles on the makeup of CHF Ontario Council and, substituting for the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing Kathleen Wynne, an address by the Minister of the Environment and former Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing Jim Bradley. There were no major announcements from the Minister but rather a promise to continue to support the work of co-operatives and a commitment that eviction law reform will be a priority of the fall sitting. The Minister did agree to take questions but only three were permitted prior to the Minister needing to leave. One unasked question that would have been interested to hear a response to was a suggestion that a “Use it or lose it” approach to urban property be used to obtain land and buildings for new affordable housing. Towards the end of the meeting the new Ontario council was introduced, including me in my new role as the CHFC Ontario Regional Director (which sits on both CHF Ontario Council and the CHFC Board of Directors).

It is now evening. I have a cup of Irish Breakfast tea to my side. Tomorrow’s CHFC AGM awaits me. Time to myself in the midst of a chaotic work is a rare gift and I am embracing it.

Draft Notes for Union Organising 101

Brian Burch

Brian Burch is a shop steward and health and safety rep with Labourers 183, which represents the staff at 43rd Housing Co-op. He is also a part of the CoAction Staff Association and sees a real need for both types of organisations.

What is a union?

Ontario Labour Relations Act: “Trade union means an organization of employees formed for purposes that include the regulation of relations between employees and employers.”

From Wikipedia: A trade union (British English), labour union (Canadian English) or labor union (American English) is an organization of workers that have banded together to achieve common goals such as higher pay, increasing the number employees an employer hires, and better working conditions.

Why Unionise?

From:    The Canadian Office and Professional Employees Union: WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF A UNION?
The union’s goals in a workplace are its members’ goals:
• Job Security
• Health and Safety in the Workplace
• Pay Equity
• Hours of work
• Employment Equity
• Fair Wages and Benefits
• Dignity and Respect (union security)
• Democratization of the work place

Process of Unionising:

(a) Voluntary Recognition OLRA: Voluntary recognition (3.1) For the purposes of this Act, voluntary recognition of a trade union is considered to occur when an employer and the trade union agree that the employer recognizes the trade union as the exclusive bargaining agent of the employees in a defined bargaining unit and the agreement is in writing signed by the parties.

(b) Certification

In Ontario if 40% of the employees of a workplace sign a card indicating a desire to form a union an OLRB supervised vote is to be held. If the majority of those voting support joining a union, a bargaining unit can be formed. There can be challenges, such as determining the make-up of the bargaining unit, that occur during this process.

Negotiations Process:

Whether there is voluntary recognition or a certification vote, the process of getting a contract is the same. Employees and representatives of the union meet to determine their priorities and the employers do the same. Proposals are exchanged and both parties bargain in good faith until a contract is agreed to. Conciliation and mediation services are available from the Ministry of Labour to assist both parties to come to a mutual agreement.

See: for the formal
steps of collective bargaining in Ontario.

Unions in the Co-op Sector

Co-op housing staff in the GTA are represented by Local 333 of Communications Energy and Paperworkers Union Canada; Local 183 of the Labourers’
Union of North America; Local 304 of the Christian Labour Association of Canada; CUPE 1281;  CHFT staff belong to CAW local 40.


I’ve been watching the Quebec student protests with some interest.  I’m very impressed with the persistence and resilience of the student movement, both its grassroots and its leadership.   Whether the unified movement continues or not, and with oppressive legislation about to be introduced the unity shown could very well be weakened, it has been a wonderful example of how to sustain a public political initative.  It struck home, though, how hard they have to fight for what should be normal access to the political system.   Good governments respond positively to a major petition drive and lobbying effort to change policy and programmes.   Governments should be open to negotiation when organised opposition shows public support.  When doors to elected officials are closed, while people have an expectation that governments are responsive to popular will, militant action fills in the gap.

The demands of the Quebec students are not revolutionary.   The major demand is to freeze tuition at the current level, with the midterm objective being an end to tuition for post-secondary education.  My older siblings had to pay tuition to complete grades 11 and 12 as the senior grades of the public high school system up to the end of the 1950s were not covered the local school board taxes.   In more recent times the senior grades of the separate school boards of Ontario became covered through the tax base.    It took persistent political pressure for secondary school education to be truly a right.   Those parents, teachers and students who achieved the goal of universal access to secondary education, education paid for though the tax base, did so without having to face state repression.  They were welcomed participants in the political system.

As post secondary education is now essential for entry to the job market, and thus fuller participation in society, tuition free access to post-secondary education has become a social and economic necessity.    It should be achievable through discussion, debate, petitioning and lobbying.  It should not be necessary for students to risk plastic bullets, pepper spray and batons for there to be effective negotiations in regards to a relatively minor change in government policy.   Yet access to government decision makers has become so hard to achieve that the types of action and risks that historically have lead to regime change are being used to achieve the minimal expectations of response from elected officials.

Governments that are out of touch with those they serve is not a new phenomena.    In the liberal democracies, though, even if individual elected officials are not responsive, historically most politicians took responsiveness to the electorate seriously.    They would present petitions from their constituents in the legislature that they personally disagreed with in order to fulfil some of their obligations.  They would listen to representatives of contrary constituent groups in order to become more fully informed.    Seeking ways to improve the delivery of services for the benefit of all motivated politicians from across the political spectrum.    With pressure from the CCF and NDP, national health care programmes under the Liberals and affordable housing programmes under Tories arose as a result of fairly conventional political activism.    More militant actions occurred primarily in times of crisis, such as the draft in WW 1 or the use of strike breakers.

Seeking to having universal access to institutions that teach the skills and provide the credentials that the marketplace expects employees to have should not require hospitalisation of protestors, the arrests of protestors, repeated mass rallies that endure police assaults.   If conservative forces don’t want militant protests to occur, all they need to do is ensure access by all to the decision making process.  Issues can be embraced with passion but responding to passionate individuals can be done calmly, peacefully and effectively by elected officials who actually want to meet the needs of the community they are a part of.

If people are going to engage in militant action, perhaps they should have more extensive demands.     Those willing to take a great deal of risk for small scale social change perhaps should consider taking such risks towards building a truly just society.    Occupying factories or stores that are threatening to close in response to union demands, interfering with equipment that will be used to clear cut an old growth forest, preventing the turning of farmland into condominiums, squatting unused buildings and converting them to affordable housing; mass protests that prevent business as usual in the central business district—direct action and militant action that promote alternative social visions are essential for real social change to occur.    In Quebec such strategies and tactics are being called upon for a significant period to achieve conventional political demands; in other times and in other places substantive and permanent political change has occurred as a result of the use of similar strategies and tactics.   Other movements have started to weave themselves into the Quebec student movement, linking environmental, global solidarity and labour struggles to what has occurred on college and university campuses.    The more that this occurs the more likely a better world for all can occur.    As a minimum, one can hope that the political powers that be will become more open to listening to their communities so that a conversation will be listened to as readily as months of blockades and protests.


It’s getting towards the end of the election period. On-line voting for the CHFC Ontario Regional began April 15th and will be closing May 15th, a few days from now. When I’ve ran for CHF positions in the past voting was done at the CHFC AGM. There were all-candidates meetings, opportunities to meet with and talk to delegates, sharing of ideas and participating in debates on issues of the day. This time the election is being done on-line in advance of the AGM. While I’ve had the chance to meet some delegates at the regional meetings I’ve been able to attend, most of the people who can cast a vote will remain strangers to me as they make their decision at computers from Windsor to Timmins to Cornwall to Thunderbay.

It is hard to wait while one’s skills and ideals are being weighed. All those running for a CHFC position—from CHF Ontario Council to the Audit and Finance Committee to the CHFC Board of Directors—share a strong commitment to the co-op housing movement and have something unique to contribute. Each of us running brings something of value to the movement and each of us hopes that the co-op delegates want us to bring our voice to the leadership table. But in the near future some of us will have convinced the majority of voters to support us while others of us will deal with the real pain that comes from being rejected by our peers.

I do feel I can make important contributions to debates at Ontario Council and the CHFC Board of Directors—both of which the Ontario Regional Director sits on.   I have experience in development—I’m the president of a non-profit that has developed close to 500 units of new affordable housing in 12 years. I have experience in funding co-operatives from the perspective of a lender—I’m the president of the Canadian Alternative Investment Co-operative which has provided financing to housing co-ops, worker co-ops, community loan funds and other forms of grass roots initiatives across Canada.

I have experience in other co-operative endeavours, from starting food buying clubs to being a member/owner of a worker co-ops to assisting in the winding down of a credit union. I believe that in the diversity of expressions of the idea that people sharing their own resources to meet their individual and communal needs, which is the core of the co-operative vision, is the expression of the type of world I want to live in.

Since 1984 I have lived in Don Area Co-operative (DACHI) and have served my home co-op in many capacities from delivering newsletters to drafting policies to serving on the board. DACHI is a 75 unit federally funded co-op, with units developed under two different programmes.

For 15 years I have co-ordinated 43rd Housing Co-operative, a 106 unit provincial/municipal co-op.

I have twice reached term limitations while serving on the board of the
Co-operative Housing Federation of Toronto—once representing member housing co-ops and once representing staff associations.

I will be reaching the end of my second term on the CHF Ontario Council at the June AGM. During most of this period I served as treasurer of Ontario Council and on the Finance and Audit Committee of CHF Canada.

I have served the co-op sector in many ways from sitting on the board of Rooftops Canada and the CHFT Charitable Fund to chairing members’ meetings and facilitating workshops to meeting with politicians.

I value the different views on members have on what is important to their co-op communities and try to learn from everyone who shares in our movement. I have been there when our movement has suffered setbacks and been there when we’ve had important victories that secured our control over our co-op homes.

On occasion I reflect on issues, from the need to add a new co-op principle dealing with co-ops as employers to a desire to fund housing instead of the military, that lead to postings on my blog.   These musing can be found at:

It would be great if questions for those running for a CHFC position could be posted on CHFC’s Co-op Talk.    ( .   We may not be having all-candidates meetings for those running for all positions but Co-op Talk provides opportunities for exchanging ideas and information.

DACHI has been a wonderful place to live and raise a family. I want such safe, affordable, secure and member controlled co-op housing to continue to be their for our current members and to explore ways to develop new co-op communities across Canada. I bring skills and dreams to the leadership tables and hope that the Ontario co-ops will trust me to work with them in sustaining and renewing our movement.


NOTES FOR A MORE COHERENT MAY DAY PRESENTATION        INTERFAITH SPRING HOLIDAY FESTIVAL                                                        Interfaith Dialogue Group                                                                                                             85 Thorncliffe Park Drive Party Room                                                                               April 28, 2012

I appreciate the opportunity to share some thoughts and ideas on May Day, the labour holiday, as part of your Multifaith celebration. For me, and for many of my ancestors, May Day is an important holiday and tradition. I’m Brian Burch, an Old Catholic priest. I am also a shop steward of Labourers Local 183, and have been in similar positions with the I.W.W. and OPSEU.

In its original form, May Day was a community celebration of life and fertility—an opportunity to enjoy the promises of the new season and to honour the creativity of those that transform the gifts of creation through arts and craft into the goods that sustain and nourish life. This spirit infuses the modern May Day movement, which is a celebration of those that labour. May Day, like Easter, Christmas and All Saints Day, is rooted in pre-Christian holidays but has taken on new life and meaning over time.

The current expression of May Day began in May 1886 in Haymarket
Square in Chicago. In Chicago, as in many cities across the United States, there was a general strike in support of an eight hour working day on May 1st. On May 3rd there was a rally in support of striking McCormick Harvester workers, during which police opened fire and killed two strikers. On May 4th, in Haymarket Square, there was a mass rally in protest of what happened at the McCormick factory. Dynamite was thrown during this rally, leading to the death of police offices and protestors. Charges were laid against 8 of rally organisers and four were hanged. Since these events May Day has become a time to focus on the needs of workers—for bread and for roses—and a feast day in the Western Liturgical Calendar, honouring first St. Joseph the Worker and more recently the Feast of St Philip & St James, the patron saints of workers. It is a political day—one can not call for social justice without engaging in the political process—-but it also is a religious day—there is a spiritual obligation to care for those that labour on behalf of all

Religious literature does remind us that within the world of the sacred is the call for social justice and the recognition that it is in the transformation of the physical world through our work that we our lives and communities are made possible. We are expected to care for the well being of all and to consider that that all we enjoy is potentially sacred and therefore those that make our goods and provide are services are to be treated with dignity and respect.

Some examples from the Abrahamic family of faith:

Exodus 23:12 “Six days do your work, but on the seventh day do not work, so that your ox and your donkey may rest and the slave born in your household, and the alien as well, may be refreshed.

A Manual of Hadith: When you hire, compensate the workers and treat them fairly.

One: Blessed are you, Lord God of the Universe.
You are the giver of this bread, fruit of the earth
and of human labour.
Let it become the bread of Life.
All: Blessed be God, now and forever.
One: Blessed are you, Lord God of the Universe
You are the giver of this wine, fruit of the vine
and of human labour.
Let it become the wine of the eternal kingdom.

More recently May Day has been an opportunity to look at linkages between workers rights and other issues, from immigration and migrant workers to the impact of environmental problems on workers to gender exploitation. There have been stronger links made between faith based social justice workers, artists and the worker movement. This can be shown in many ways, from the Occupy Movement and Protest Chaplains calling for gatherings on May Day, to Mayworks—Festivals of Worker Art and Culture. The value of individuals and the contributions to meeting the needs of the community is being stressed, often in opposition to social fragmitation and the glorification of personal greed. There seems to be an unintentional reaching back to the older May Day, when life and labour were celebrated in dance and poetry and praise. The spirit of those that gathered in Haymarket Square is still alive, with anger at injustice and the hope that if we join together a just and peaceful world can be brought to life. But this spirit is reaching out beyond those that remember Haymarket into all corners of our society where there are those that are marginalized, forgotten, oppressed and isolated, seeking to bring together into our shared communal space all people so that all can share in the gifts of creation and be encouraged to find ways to themselves offer something unique to the process of linking the sacred world to the needs of the moment.


The Occupy movement transformed the annual Toronto Good Friday walk in a very positive way. For the first time there was a sharing of the Eucharist—albeit with more inclusive prayers and with bread and vinegar as the elements. It felt like some of the centuries old barriers that were still in the minds of those of us coming together from various Christian traditions were finally permitted to melt way. The Occupy Toronto chaplains pushed us forward, a welcome change within a decades long tradition of challenging oppressive systems in this challenging of our own divisive practices.

I have been taking part in the Good Friday walks in Toronto since it began at the end of the 1970s. Some years I helped organise it; other years I took on specific tasks; some years, such as this year, I was a participant, sharing in and reflecting on the work of others. Every year I am reminded that our faith is a public and challenging one, remembering the calls to be peacemakers and to feed the hungry and house the homeless, to seek justice and build up an inclusive, loving community. I fail to fully live out this vision in my life, but the Good Friday walk helps me keep this part of my faith vivid and alive, ensuring that the ongoing search for social justice is a part of my worship and spirituality.

This year there were five stations—the beginning and the end in the sanctuary of the Church of the Holy Trinity and three in various places in down town. Some years there were more stations or a longer walk, but as occurs every year, matters of common concern were brought into the public sphere by people with a life-long commitment to radical, faith infused social justice.

We gathered first in the sanctuary—people from religious orders and downtown congregations, housing activists and peace workers, those seeking justice for first nations in Canada and those seeking access to water in the developing world—we gathered because in community there is something more than when we live in isolation. We share visions and commitment; we prod each other to do just a little more; we support one another in our personal trials; we don’t become of one mind but we do become part of one shared moment in time and place. Through readings, litany and music we were reminded of the suffering and death of Christ and encouraged to consider how the passion is played out in contemporary times.

Leaving the church we went to the square in front of Osgood Hall. Here the focus was on disappeared and killed aboriginal women. Hundreds of aboriginal women have gone missing with little or no investigation of their fate. While the current tragedy was the focus, this reality was linked to several hundred years of dispossession, to the experiences of many who went through the residential school system, to loss of spiritual and cultural traditions and to the ongoing blindness to the lived out realities of first nations people. At one point the question was asked—would our society be so passive if several hundred hockey players had disappeared, if several hundred ballerinas had been killed? We were given the hard task of considering what it is like for the brothers, sisters, mothers and fathers of these women.

The next station was at Dundas Square. Here a silent flash mob were woven into a cross that filled much of the space. A few were asked to hold signs—drawing attention to the needs of the forgotten among our society. It was a different form of witness than we were used to—there were no speeches or prayers or songs. But we were present together, filling the square with a visual reminder of Christ among us. I left the square literally carrying the cross—taking the burden for the next stage of our journey.

It was the fourth station, in the Labyrinth behind the Eaton Centre and near the Church of the Holy Trinity, that the Toronto Protest Chaplains brought us together liturgically. For me a missing piece for all the years of the walk was the inability or unwillingness for the scattered expressions of my faith to come together around God’s table. We have, from the early years, gathered at the end around bread and soup, but we didn’t seem to bridge the sacramental gap. This year we did. In a celebration of God’s community and a call for all to share together—the transgendered, the differently abled, the poor, the dispossessed, the privileged—we were finally united in the meal that was born at the feeding of the multitude, given its nature at the Last Supper and opened eyes at Emmaus. It took the most radical among us to open us up to the most simplest of truths—all are welcomed to share in the gifts of God.

From the Labyrinth, we returned to the sanctuary of Church of the Holy Trinity. I left the cross near the side altar, a welcome setting down of a burden. I did not stay for the final station or the sharing of the meal of soup and bread afterwards. I left feeling confident that there is a community I am a part of that shares in bringing to life a new world where compassion, love and transformation are truly valued and greed, oppression and contempt for creation are no longer dominant.