Social Justice

David Connolly acrylic

The Reconciliation Working Group was started in 2012 as the Aboriginal Awareness Group (the AAG), and is an approved social action project of First Unitarian Congregation of Toronto.


To better understand and to be supportive of the social justice issues of importance to Canadian indigenous peoples and to deepen our knowledge of indigenous spirituality.


  1. Educate the congregation on indigenous issues through speakers, films, and discussions.
  2. Deepen the congregation's awareness of Aboriginal cultural and spirituality through drum circles, singers, stories and speakers.
  3. Recommend action plans that could be undertaken in partnership with Aboriginal groups, agencies and individuals.
  4. Inform the congregation of learning opportunities in Toronto, such as Toronto Council Fire, the Native Cultural Centre and demonstrations organized by Idle No More.


Since 2012, the Reconciliation Working Group has offered several speakers, films, discussions and experiences after the Sunday service. These include:

  • Dr. Cynthia Wesley-Esquimaux on the Treaty Relationship with First Nations in Canada
  • John Martin Doran, a Mi’kmaq, on his experience of being taken from his family at age 3 and his adoption by white American Amish parents as part of the Sixties Scoop
  • An indigenous film series, followed by discussion led by the film-maker
    Michael and Ulla Muller (First members) on living in an indigenous community in Northern Ontario for a week
  • Doug Buck and Kate Chung (First members) on visiting the indigenous community in Hartley Bay, B.C., which had been threatened by pipeline development
  • Reconciliation Working Group members have reviewed books on indigenous issues for Issues and Ideas.


  • Indigenous art exhibits in Sunderland Hall (with the Arts Committee)
    Food catered by indigenous kitchens
  • Smudging ceremonies
  • A guided tour of an indigenous art exhibit at the Art Gallery of Ontario, led by First member and art historian Gerta Moray
  • A standing invitation to attend the Annual Pow Wow at Fort York every June.
  • Distributing the hide patches of the Moose Hide Campaign.

Truth and Reconciliation

Since 2015, this congregation has been working to educate ourselves about the need for healing and understanding. This has been addressed through:

  • A participatory workshop on the major themes of the Truth and Reconcilliation Report (Nov. 2015).
  • Meaningful sermons from Rev. Shawn Newton, Rev. Lynn Harrison, Intern Minister Danielle Webber, and Ministerial support at Standing Rock (Dec. 2016).
    An acknowledgement at every Sunday service that First Unitarian stands on traditional First Nations lands.
  • Journey group theme discussions in February 2017.
  • A six session workshop on Truth, Healing, and Reconciliation led by Danielle Webber (February to April 2017).
  • A Blanket Exercise, a powerful tool in understanding the loss of indigenous territory, led by Danielle Webber at a Sunday service in June 2017.

Volunteer opportunities

We continue to expand our outreach through volunteering:

  • NaMeRes (Native men’s Residence) on Vaughan Road (kitchen)
  • Reconciliation Working Group – planning and fundraising

If you wish to be involved please contact Gilbert Salgado This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Indigenous reading list (Prepared by Nancy Lee)

These titles are available in the Toronto Public Library, but some of them have waiting lists.

Previously knows as the "Green Team", our Green Sanctuary Group is an umbrella under which many environmental projects and actions are developed.

Working collaboratively with congregational members, it provides guidance and implements programs to help the congregation adopt environmentally responsible practices.

Our mandate also includes helping the congregation conserve energy and recycle, to include environmental themes in Worship and religious education, to work in the community for environmental justice, and to engage the church in projects for sustainable living.

All members and friends of the congregation are welcome to join the Green Sanctuary Group.

Green Sanctuary Program

The “Green Sanctuary” program goes well beyond mere ecological environmental issues. It goes to the core of our Principles. It could even be seen as the Manual for the Implementation of First’s “Vision and Property” declaration passed in 2008. It includes social actions in the widest sense. It encompasses all aspects of our religious life. Our congregation was awarded Green Sanctuary Status in August, 2011, and plans to continue many activities that promote protecting and emphasizing a green environment within and around the church, saving energy and connecting with the larger community in promoting environmental causes. We see the status as a principle that all congregants are involved in honouring in many aspects of their lives, no matter what age.

In fulfilment of its mandate to “provide guidance and execute actions that help the congregation and its members adopt environmentally responsible practices” and to “help initiate and coordinate these environmental practices”, the Green Sanctuary Group has prepared a Green Sanctuary Checklist.

The UUA website has more information on their Green Sanctuary program, including a downloadable 40+ page Green Sanctuary Manual.

Green Self-Audit

Find out how your home scores using the Green Self-Audit.

Green Tips

  • Are you thinking of planting a tree? LEAF (Local Enhancement & Appreciation of Forests) can help you plant a tree in your backyard. The City of Toronto will plant a tree in your front yard.
  • Are you thinking of installing a solar system for electricity or hot water? There are community programs that can help. Check out Our Power.
  • Are you in the market for a new refrigerator, washing machine, computer, windows etc. Check out the list of Energy Star qualified products.

Pulse Recipes

Members of the Green Sanctuary Group have provided recipes using pulses for Appetizers, Entrees, Soups and Sweets. Find out more about pulses.

For more information, please contact the Green Sanctuary Group by This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

2016 is the International Year of Pulses!

Pulses include all peas including snow and snap, chickpeas or garbanzos, green beans, wax beans, soybeans, and lentils and peanuts. The term is used interchangeably with “legumes,” except that legumes includes things we don’t eat like clover, alfalfa, lupins, wisteria vines, and trees including Honey Locusts, Redbuds, and Tamarind.

Most people in the world eat pulses. South Asians eat bean and lentil curries. Middle Easterners enjoy hummus, and for breakfast, Egyptians eat a broad-bean dish, fuul. East Asians have tofu, Mexicans eat chilli and refritos, and there’s Quebec’s Maple-syrup flavoured feves au lard and molasses-flavoured Boston baked beans.

North American Indigenous people’s staples were “The Three Sisters”: corn, winter squash, and climbing beans, planted together in hills. The corn, planted first, gave the beans something to climb up, beans nourished the soil, and large squash leaves growing close to the ground discouraged weeds and shaded the ground, preserving moisture.

There are many recipes using pulses for Appetizers, Entrees, Soups and Sweets.

Cooking tip

Beans need to be soaked before cooking. Traditionally, this is done by soaking over night, but there is a “quick-soak” method: put beans in four-times the volume of water, and bring to a boil. Boil two minutes, turn off the heat and let soak for one hour. Discard the soak water, or save for plant watering, then cook beans in fresh water. Lentils don’t require pre-soaking.

Why to Eat More Pulses

How many of you serve pulses at least once a week? Fred Lautenschlager says there are not many areas where we are able to implement many of our principles than by eating more pulses/legumes. They make life-supporting proteins accessible at a much lower cost to our grocery bill and to the environment.

There are so many advantages to eating pulses, both health wise and environmental. The disadvantage is they are bland on their own; but with seasoning, they come alive. Some people have digestion difficulties with some pulses. I eat them many times a week and my system has adjusted, but if you need help, there’s “Beano,” a product containing an enzyme which helps to digest carbohydrates.

Environmental Reasons for Eating Pulses

Have you heard of the “Yes Men”? They create colossal hoaxes or frauds, impersonating experts at business meetings. One of their most successful was a campaign by their volunteers proudly saying that they “gave up 55 showers in order to enjoy a 4 oz. hamburger.” Yes, it takes 1800 gallons, or 6813 litres of water to produce one pound of beef, including water to grow fodder. In the world each year, nearly four billion people now experience water shortages in at least part of the year, and that will get worse with climate change and disappearing glaciers.

Farm animals also produce methane, a combustable gas, which is 21 times as damaging to the environment as the same amount of CO2. Methane comes from decaying organic matter including landfills, thawing permafrost in the arctic, and from the digestion processes and the breathing of animals destined to become human food. Cows release 70 - 120 kg. of methane per year. One cow produces the equivalent of burning 1000 litres of fossil fuel per year, which would allow a car to drive 12,500 km a year. Beef and dairy cattle produce twice the emissions of pork; four times as much as chicken, and 13 times as much as pulses.

Because legumes have nitrogen fixing bacteria in their root nodules, planting legumes every other year and allowing the roots to rot creates a “green manure” in the soil that eliminates the need for chemical fertilizer, which in turn drastically reduces the storm runoff pollution of rivers and lakes. Also no nitrogen runoff from feed lots where animals are fattened up prior to slaughter.

40% of the earth’s land surface is used for for food production, but 3/4 of that is used for food for animals that we eat. Livestock uses 1/3 of the world’s fresh water. Meat eating is not evenly distributed: Americans eat 270 lbs. of meat a year; a Bangladeshi, 4 lbs.

Industrial Reasons for Eating Pulses

Happily, Canadian farmers are important producers of all things pulse-ish, and pulses production, preservation, and transport require much less energy than animal food.. Saskatchewan exports 65% of the world’s supply of lentils. Due to demand, especially from India, pulse production in our Prairies will increase in 2016. Health

Not coming from animals, pulses contain fewer hormones and antibiotics, their low fat content enables better/easier obesity control and reduces heart disease. They contain excellent protein, generally 14 - 17 grams per cup of boiled pulses, which is essential for muscle growth, plus dietary fibre to help regulate you-know-what, and folate, thiamine, manganese, magnesium, potassium and iron.

Social/Economic Reasons for Eating Pulses:

A pulse diet can be vegan, and eating vegan eliminates poor treatment of farm animals. We know that legumes will play a much larger role in our future diets, as the price of meat will increase sharply in the future, and alternative protein sources are desperately needed. This should encourage us to show leadership in diet modification. As much as you can, eat local, eat organic, and eat pulses!

Pulse Lunch Comments by Doug Buck

Pulses are our future food; legumes, the word I grew up with, means the same thing. Many know that, given the amount of food and water it takes to grow a serving of meat, the world simply cannot produce enough to feed us all. It takes an incredible 6813 litres of water to produce one pound of beef. Meat is already a luxury: U.S. citizens eat 270 pounds a year; Bangladeshis, 4 pounds.

Livestock also produce quantities of methane, a combustible gas that’s 21 times as damaging to the environment as the same amount of CO2. In one year, one cow produces the methane equivalent of burning 1000 litres of fossil fuel.

Pulses, on the other hand, take little water to grow and little fossil fuel to move to market. And they enrich the soil: all legumes have nodules in their roots that fix nitrogen, which fertilizes the soil and decreases commercial fertilizer runoff into water sources.

More good news is that Canada is a major grower of pulses, and I’ve learned that more pulses will be planted in in the Prairie Provinces in 2016.

And now a word on cuisine: creative preparation of pulses, livens up a pleasant but bland taste: garlic, onions, fruit, ginger, basil, oregano, cinnamon, cumin, soy sauce, hot peppers and many more. They can be baked, boiled, barbecued or fried. So now, let’s love our legumes, let’s pursue our pulses!



The bread we served at the Pulse lunch is from Queen Street Bakery, Romano Bean Bread and Breakfast Bread (white bean). Available at specialty grocery stores like The Sweet Potato on Dundas St W, and Best Cooking Pulses (free shipping on orders over $34.99).

Advances in modern medicine allow doctors to prolong the life of a critically ill patient longer – but at what cost to the dignity of the dying person?

The Unitarian Church has always been a leader in addressing important social issues, and Dying With Dignity Canada works to improve the quality of dying and expand end of life choices. Since 1993, The CUC (Candian Unitarian Congress) has been an important supporter of Dying with Dignity Canada.

There is much more to writing an Advance Care Plan than simply filling in a form. The most important part of the planning process is to take time for reflection and discussion to ensure your Plan reflects your values, beliefs and wishes for end of life care.

From Fred Lautenschlaeger

They’re simple to make and you can enjoy them year round, as well as during the holidays.

The Batter:

1 cup chick-pea flour (available at specialty and Indian stores)
¼ tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
½ tsp .turmeric
½ tsp .ground cumin
½ tsp fresh ground pepper
1 tbsp. chopped fresh coriander (cilantro)
½ tsp. cayenne pepper
¾ c. warm water
Peanut oil for deep frying

The Fillings:

1 small head of cauliflower broken into 1" florets
3 medium onions sliced thin
3 medium potatoes, scrubbed, skin left on, sliced in thin rounds
¾ pound green beans, trimmed, cut in half
½ to3/4 lb. Anaheim or Italian green chili peppers halved, seeded and deveined, rinsed and patted dry.
      or a combination of
1 cup yellow split peas, simmered 20 minutes and mashed
1½ cups mashed cooked carrots
1 cup mashed cooked turnip

  1. Place one of the fillings in a small bowl. Salt and pepper to taste.
  2. Or: With a ¼ cup measure or ice cream scoop, scoop up the split pea, carrot and turnip mixture and form 2" balls. Set aside.
  3. Make the batter by sifting flour, baking powder, and salt. Mix in the spices. Gradually add about ¾ cup of warm water in a stream (use just enough water to make a batter thick enough to coat the vegetables). Beat until smooth.
  4. Let stand, covered , in a warm place for about 30 minutes. (The batter may be made 1 day in advance, covered and kept chilled. Allow to return to room temperature before using.)
  5. Heat 2" oil in a deep fryer or deep heavy skillet or saucepan until hot (350 degrees) but not smoking. Whisk the batter and dip the vegetables or vegetable balls into it to coat and fry them in one layer, slowly, for 2-3 minutes, or until golden brown.
  6. Transfer the pakoras with a slotted spoon to paper towels to drain. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and serve immediately with any of the following: bottled chili sauce, tomato ketchup with Worcestershire sauce, chutney, yogurt spiced with fresh pepper and minced garlic, or soy sauce mixed with dry mustard and rice vinegar.

From Fred Lautenschlaeger

CeCi nuts ( pronounced chae-chee) are a traditional snack. Ceci remains were found in the Middle East (or Southwest Asia for you geography buffs) dating back more than 7,500 years, and it’s no wonder why they’re still around today. This is really one nutritious dish with two separate and distinct tastes. Makes 2-3 cups.

1 can chick peas, drained and rinsed 
½ cup unsalted butter 
¼2 tsp.minced garlic 
2 tsp.minced garlic 
1 tsp. dry mustard 
1 tsp.chili powder 
¼ tsp. cayenne
2 tsp.salt or to taste
1 tsp. onion salt
1 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. ground coriander
½ tsp. turmeric
1 tbsp. soy sauce or Maggi seasoning 
1 tsp. cumin 

  1. Divide chick peas into two parts. Melt ¼ cup of the butter in each of 2 skillets over moderately low heat. Add 1 tsp. garlic to each pan and saute 1 minute.
  2. Add half the chick peas to each skillet and saute very slowly, shaking the pans and stirring often until beans start to sizzle and turn a dark golden brown. Taste for doneness - they should take 10-12 minutes. Turn off heat.
  3. In a small bowl, mix mustard, chili powder, cayenne, cumin, salt and onion salt.
  4. In another small bowl, mix ginger, coriander, turmeric and soy sauce.
  5. Sprinkle one mixture over one pan and the other mixture over the other pan. Toss to coat them well. Transfer to separate bowls and serve hot.. Ceci nuts may be made ahead and reheated in a 350 degree oven for 5 minutes or until hot.