Unitarians at Toronto First have been pioneers in many social justice issues in Canada. Over the last 150 years our liberal faith has inspired us to make positive contributions in the larger society, both individually and through group action.
We were the first church in Toronto to give equal rights and status to women (in our Charter, signed by our founding members in 1846).
Emily Stowe, who joined our congregation in 1879, became the first practicing woman doctor in Canada and the foremost figure of her day in the campaign for women’s rights.
Joseph Workman, one of our founding members, was superintendent of the Queen Street Asylum, and helped modernize and humanize treatment of the mentally ill. He was also the first Chairman of the Toronto Board of Education.
In 1950, several women members led by Helen Tracy formed the Elizabeth Fry Society, regularly visiting women in prison and assisting them with rehabilitation after release.
A group from Toronto First joined in the march from Selma to Birmingham, Alabama, in honour of the martyred Unitarian minister, James Reeb.
In recent years, our members have carried our banner in Toronto’s annual Pride Parade.
In the 1970s, Frank Lewis of Toronto First was a national leader in the campaign to abolish the death penalty in Canada.
Over the last 150 years, we have practiced social justice through support, advocacy, direct service, education, and direct action.
We have provided financial and moral support to organizations whose objectives reflect our own, including:
- Amnesty International
- Canadian Abortion Rights Action League
- Canadian Civil Liberties Association
- Canadian Mental Health Association
Our advocacy has included letters, petitions and briefs to governments on many issues, including:
- Civil and human rights
- Divorce and adoption reform
- Family planning
- First Nations issues
- Peace and disarmament
- Penal reform
- Race relations
- Religious freedom in schools
- Affordable housing
Our direct service to those in need has included:
- Assisting and counseling conscientious objectors during the Vietnam War
- Collecting food for food banks
- Sponsoring foreign university students
- Sponsoring refugee families
- Helping the homeless at Out of the Cold
We have held forums to educate the public and our own members on many topics such as:
- Forest management practices
- Nuclear disarmament
- Penal reform
- Urban transportation
- World peace
- Rights of Indigenous Peoples
- Climate change and environmental issues
Please join us in continuing our proud tradition of Social Justice.