Saturday, September 25, 2010

Staff Changes at the General Council Office

United Church of Canada -General News and Announcements
September 22, 2010

Significant staff changes were announced on September 21, 2010, at the General Council Office as part of a comprehensive plan to build a faithful and sustainable future for The United Church of Canada.

A number of positions are being refocused or eliminated as a result of decisions the Executive of the General Council made at its May 2010 meeting. These steps are being taken to redirect work, reorganize the work of the General Council Office, and address budget constraints. These organizational changes were implemented after prayerful consideration of how best to live into the directions of the Executive and support the work of the United Church in a rapidly changing world.

As part of these changes, 16 valued colleagues have left or will be leaving the General Council Office. We thank them for their faithful service and hold them in our prayers in these days of change. We acknowledge the loss felt by General Council Office staff as they say goodbye to friends and colleagues.

The work of a number of other staff members will change to better support the directions the Executive has set for the General Council Office.

These staff transitions are part of a wide-ranging plan the Executive approved in May to ensure the United Church remains relevant and faithful in a changing context. This plan, which was developed after broad consultation throughout the church, also directed reductions in grants to mission support, global partners, theological schools, and education centres. At the same time, the Executive approved several new initiatives to encourage and revitalize ministries and simplify church processes. These initiatives include the Network for Ministry Development, which will provide services and support for congregational transformation and ministry development, and the New Ministries Fund, directed toward new and innovative ministries.

Today’s changes fulfill the staff reductions related to 2011–13 budget requirements authorized by the Executive in May 2010. As we continue to live into the Executive’s decision and plan for revisioning the future, further staff changes and reassignments may evolve.

The General Council Office supports the ministry and mission of congregations, presbyteries, mission units, and Conferences, and is the national expression of The United Church of Canada, working ecumenically and in global partnership. It is funded by voluntary givings to the Mission and Service Fund.

The Executive of the General Council acts on behalf of the General Council between General Council meetings, and generally meets twice a year. The Executive is composed of 50 voting members elected from across the country. Members are lay or ministry personnel, and represent all 13 Conferences, francophone, ethnic, and Aboriginal constituencies, and various national committees.

Friday, September 24, 2010

University of Guelph Launches BetterPlanet Project, Aims to Raise $200 Million

GUELPH, Ontario September 23, 2010 /Canada NewsWire/ The University of Guelph today launched The BetterPlanet Project, an ambitious plan to help improve the quality of food, environment, health and communities here and around the world.

The BetterPlanet Project spells out a vision of what the University wants to accomplish, a $200-million fundraising campaign to help build human capacity and a strategy for accelerating innovation. Guelph alumnus Tye Burt, president and chief executive officer of Kinross Gold Corp. and vice-chair of the University’s Board of Governors, will lead the campaign.

“The Better Planet Project is a call to action for the University and concerned citizens everywhere to work together to improve life on this planet,” said U of G president Alastair Summerlee. “The world is at a critical point, and the University of Guelph is uniquely positioned to make a significant contribution.”

For nearly 150 years, Guelph has excelled in areas of teaching and research that are essential for finding solutions to today’s global crises, Summerlee said. “We have the interdisciplinary expertise to make a difference, but we need to accelerate the pace of change — we must transform the way we are contributing to make this a better planet.”

The BetterPlanet Project was unveiled to the public today via a website, advertisements in national media and videos that detail the vision and fundraising effort.

The campaign, which has already attracted close to $88 million, will provide the people and tools required for discovery and for translating U of G innovation into practical, useful applications, Burt said.

“We are mobilizing minds and knowledge in ways that make a difference by addressing urgent issues facing us in the 21st century,” he said.

“Everyone from individuals to organizations, business and industry knows that dealing with these issues is vital to sustainability. The BetterPlanet Project will empower people and motivate them to get involved in helping bring about change.”

Burt graduated from the University in 1980 with a bachelor of arts degree in history. He and his family have made a personal gift of $1 million to The BetterPlanet Project to support first-year learning seminars. These smaller classes transform the way students learn and engage them in thinking about how to contribute to improving the world.

Other significant gifts supporting key areas of The BetterPlanet Project include:

...Leadership support of no less than $1 million from the University of Guelph Alumni Association;

...An academic chair in sustainable food production, a North American first made possible by a $3-million donation from Loblaw Companies Ltd.;

...A $9.5-million legacy gift from the late Mona Campbell, a tireless advocate for animals, to support animal welfare research at the Ontario Veterinary College (OVC);

...A faculty chair aimed at improving life for Canadian families and communities, supported by a $1-million gift from the Stephen Jarislowsky family;

...A $5-million gift from Hill's Pet Nutrition, Inc. for a primary health and education centre at OVC;

...A $3-million donation from Royal Canin Canada to help support an endowed chair in canine and feline clinical nutrition.

“There will be many more announcements of substantial support,” said Joanne Shoveller, vice-president (alumni affairs and development). “I fully expect we will achieve our $200-million target by 2014 and perhaps exceed it.”

The campaign will fund student programs, infrastructure across the campus and faculty positions.

“We hope to name 50 chairs by 2014,” Shoveller said. “These dedicated positions will help to accelerate the pace of Guelph innovation and the transfer of knowledge into practical applications.”

The campaign will also seek funding for student scholarships and bursaries, travel grants and learning initiatives. There will be opportunities to renovate facilities and build infrastructure for the School of Engineering, the College of Management and Economics, and the OVC Health Sciences Centre.

“We believe the bigger our ambition, the bigger our results will be,” Summerlee said. “We invite everyone to stand with us — and support us — as we develop the essentials for a better quality of life for everyone.”

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Food Banks Canada Launches Program to Assist Families in Need

Food Banks Canada Executive Director Katharine Schmidt and McCain Foods (Canada) President Darryl Rowe sort food at the Mississauga Food Bank to launch the Feeding Families Program. (CNW Group/Food Banks Canada)

Food Banks Canada providing resources to support families in need across Canada

TORONTO, September 22, 2010 /Canada NewsWire/ - Food Banks Canada announces the launch of Feeding Families, a new program developed to directly provide resources to food banks in their efforts to assist families with school aged children. Food banks provide support to hundreds of thousands of Canadians in need each month, and families are a large portion of clients assisted. Food Banks Canada's 2009 HungerCount reported that 50 per cent of households that turn to a food bank for help are families with children.

The Feeding Families program was established to share with member food banks educational resources and funds that will have a direct impact on families. In its inaugural year, several new initiatives will be launched and made available to food banks including a $25,000 fund for food banks to access for family focused programs.

"We know that thousands of families are struggling in communities across the country and they find themselves turning to food banks for assistance" says Katharine Schmidt, Executive Director, Food Banks Canada. "We are pleased to be able to provide new support for our member food banks that will assist in their work to reduce hunger."

McCain Foods (Canada), a leading global food manufacturer headquartered in Canada, is the founding sponsor of this program. McCain's sponsorship has enabled Food Banks Canada to immediately initiate several new programs to support food banks. As part of the launch of Feeding Families, an educational factsheet, titled 'Doing More With Less' that provides relevant information on how to eat healthily on a limited budget, will be distributed to over 50,000 food bank clients nationwide.

"McCain Foods is proud to be a founding sponsor of Feeding Families and to be part of a program that can have a direct impact on low-income Canadian families" says Darryl Rowe, President, McCain Foods (Canada). "Reducing hunger and the need for food banks requires creative solutions, and our goal is to be a significant partner with Food Banks Canada in its work to assist families."

Close to 800,000 Canadians turn to a food bank in an average month and 37 per cent are children. Food Banks Canada works to provide support and leadership with the goal of reducing hunger across Canada. For more information visit:

About Food Banks Canada

Food Banks Canada is the national charitable organization representing the food bank community across Canada. Our Members, Affiliate Member food banks, and their respective agencies serve approximately 85% of people accessing emergency food programs nationwide. Our mission is to meet the short-term need for food and find long-term solutions to reduce hunger. Please visit for more information.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Anglican Bishops to Invite Thousands of GTA Commuters 'BACK TO CHURCH'

TORONTO, September 20, 2010 /CanadaNewsWire/ - On the morning of Thursday, September 23rd, Bishops from the Anglican Diocese of Toronto, dressed in their ecclesiastical vestments and mitres, will reach out to thousands of commuters across the greater Toronto area to invite them 'Back to Church'.

The outreach is part of an international Christian initiative, which has designated Sunday, September 26th as 'Back to Church' Sunday. On that day, thousands of Anglicans and other Christians throughout the world will be accompanying their friends and relatives back to church.

"Some habits are good!" says the Archbishop of Toronto, Colin Johnson. "Many of us have fallen out of the habit of going to Church. Many have never done so. Here's an invitation to try it again, or even for the first time. My colleagues and I are looking forward to greeting commuters and letting them know they will be warmly welcomed at the Anglican Church in their community, on this Back to Church Sunday or any other. We want to encourage everyone to visit their place of worship ? Anglican or not ? this weekend."

The Bishops will be handing out a simple invitation to all who will accept one. They will be visiting Go stations in Oshawa, Clarkson, Richmond Hill and Barrie South as well as Union Station.

WHAT: Bishops from the Anglican Diocese of Toronto will be inviting thousands of commuters 'Back to Church' or to their place of worship.

WHEN: Thursday, September 23rd, between 5:00am and 8:30 am.

WHERE: Oshawa, Clarkson, Richmond Hill and Barrie South Go Stations as well as Union Station.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Signing on to Save the Soul of Canadian Democracy

TORONTO, September 17, 2010 /Canada NewsWire/ - With Parliamentarians set to return to the House of Commons on Monday, the Moderator of The United Church of Canada, Mardi Tindal, is encouraging United Church members to follow her lead and sign the Raise Your Voices Declaration.

Tindal explains the declaration calls on the Canadian government: respect the right to freedom of opinion and expression act in accordance with Canada's democratic traditions and values be transparent

Tindal signed the declaration as a Canadian faith leader, along with representatives of many other human rights, women's, labour, environment, student, and development organizations. The declaration was publicly launched on June 17 and can be found online at

"I added my signature to this declaration because I believe that the quality and health of democratic life in Canada is under serious threat," says Tindal.

She adds, "Too often voices that are critical of government policies are finding themselves marginalized."

She cites in particular the example of the 2009 funding cuts to KAIROS, a faith-based ecumenical organization that for decades has served as an advocate for social justice.

Tindal says she is also very concerned that Canada's international standing as a leader in human rights is suffering as a result of government policies related to such issues as the global protection of Indigenous Peoples' rights and the continuing violations of Omar Khadr's human rights.

She hopes that as the House of Commons begins its work next week the Raise Your Voices Declaration will ring loud and clear on Parliament Hill.

"It is time for all Parliamentarians, regardless of their political affiliation, to listen to the voices of Canadians who are asking them to govern in a manner that reflects this country's rich history of respect for democracy, free speech, and human rights," comments Tindal.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Canadians Join Millions Worldwide to Stand Up Against Poverty

Ottawa - September 16, 2010 (Canada NewsWire)

Canadians are joining millions of people around the world at “Stand Up” events this week (September 17-19) calling on world leaders to meet their promises to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The MDGs are a set of eight ambitious targets aimed at significantly reducing global poverty and disease by 2015.

Millions are gathering at Stand Up events in workplaces, places of worship, campuses, stadiums and rallies to urge world leaders to eradicate extreme poverty. Stand Up events take place in advance of a crucial UN MDG Summit from September 20th to 22nd in New York. At the Summit, world leaders including Canada’s Prime Minister, will discuss the progress made, lessons learned and critical next steps for the lifesaving Millennium Development Goals.

Make Poverty History and Stand Up campaigners around the world are calling on government leaders at the Summit to commit to a bold action plan to achieve the Millennium Development Goals within five years.

“Ending poverty in Canada and around the world is possible. We have the solutions. What we need is the political will,” says Dennis Howlett, National Coordinator of Make Poverty History Canada.

In 2000, leaders from 189 nations signed on to the MDGs and we are now two-thirds towards the deadline for achieving them. But with only five years to go before the 2015 deadline progress has stalled or even reversed on some of the Goals because of the impacts of climate change, the food price crisis, and the global economic crisis. Progress is also threatened by donor countries who are freezing or cutting aid budgets. Canada has announced it will freeze aid at 2010 levels in 2011.

“Strong breakthrough plans and laws are key to achieving and going beyond the Millennium Development Goals. Canada needs to step up efforts to achieve all of the Millennium Development Goals by 2015. We can't do this without unfreezing Canada’s aid budget and implementing a plan to achieve the internationally agreed to target for aid spending of 0.7 per cent of gross national income,” says Howlett.

For further information about Stand Up and the Millennium Development Goals check out:

Watch the Stand Up video and listen to the campus radio PSA.

About Make Poverty History

Make Poverty History is a national campaign to end poverty at home and abroad. The campaign was launched in February 2005 with the support of a wide cross-section of public interest and faith groups, trade unions, students, academics and literary, artistic and sports leaders.

Make Poverty History is part of the Global Call to Action against Poverty (GCAP). National campaigns are now active in over 100 countries.

Fired for Commuting to Work on a Segway? No Way!

by Christine Lepisto, Berlin

Could you get fired for riding your Segway to work? What if it needs a charge to get you back home again so you plug it in to your employer's socket?

Of course, you cannot answer such a question without a little bit of context. Maybe the guy parked his Segway in the boss' office. Maybe it was just the last in a long line of provocations.

But in this case, the context allows no such conclusion. The employee in question is a 41-year old computer technician, with 19 years of blemish-free performance. He rented a Segway to give it a try. So, could he be fired for that?

The answer is "yes". And "no". Yes, a German computer technician was fired for "stealing" 1.8 Euro cents worth of electricity to recharge his Segway. Without even a warning: the employee removed the vehicle immediately when his boss made the request/demand (hence the calculated 1.8 cents for time on the charger).

And no, the employer did not get away with it. The final appeal has been decided, common sense reigns once again. Although the court did not dismiss the potential illegality of the petty offense, it voided the employer's decision as disproportionate to the value of the "stolen" goods and the length of the employee's service to the company.

Such cases cause great indignation in the general public, spurring lots of discussion. But we feel the media coverage overlooks an important that perhaps should even be considered under the relevant points of law, and which is the reason the word stolen appears in quotations in this commentary: Employees who drive to work frequently benefit from a free parking spot. Bicyclists are granted a place to safely lock and store their bike. This is even required under building codes that demand a certain number of spaces be available for cars and bikes. What does it cost a company in working capitol costs and maintenance to provide these perks?

In this case, all's well that ends well. The employee plans to continue working in the company, and has been elected by his peers in his absence to the worker's council, where he can represent the case for including alternative transportation solutions in the company's social policies. We encourage progressive companies everywhere to consider this case, and set up policies so that employees on the front line of change for the better can stay on the right side of ethical and legal lines... read more story at

Saturday, September 11, 2010

The Public Education System in Ontario is World Class

TORONTO, September 10, 2010 /Canada NewsWire/ - On February 1, 1990, ABC World News Tonight aired a five-minute newscast on "The Best School System in the World" which featured Ontario and was viewed by 20 million viewers all over North America.

Bill Blakemore, a reporter for ABC News, said that, "In Toronto, Ontario, the school system is remarkable because schools where the kids are intent, engrossed in learning all day are not the exception but the rule." It made good sense in 1990 for ABC News to visit Ontario and report on the public education system. It makes even more sense for ABC News to re-visit our province to report on the current system.

On Saturday, the documentary Waiting for Superman will be released at the Toronto International Film Festival. The Premier's Education Summit will begin on Monday with keynote speakers such as President Obama's Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan. The conjunction of these two events may shine a spotlight on public education in Ontario and give us an opportunity to celebrate its successes.

To that end, the Ontario Public School Boards' Association would like to highlight at least three good reasons why the citizens of Ontario should be proud of their public education system - Academic Standing Worldwide, the Equity and Inclusion Strategy, Caring Citizens.

Academic Standing

Ontario students consistently place at or near the top in reading, math and science when compared to other jurisdictions in Canada and worldwide.

Ontario Grade 4 student reading abilities are among the best in the world. In the most recent Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS) assessment taken by students in 45 countries and provinces around the world, only students in the Russian Federation and Hong Kong performed better than those in Ontario. There were 8 other jurisdictions in the same performance range as Ontario.

Ontario's Grade 8 students ranked among the top 14 of 52 countries and provinces in science on the most recent Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) assessment.

And finally, 91% of Ontario Grade 10 students met or exceeded the critical science benchmark in the most recent Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) study. What's interesting about that study is the achievement gap between rich and poor students in Ontario was among the lowest in the world - making Ontario's one of the few education systems in the world that can boast both excellence and equity.

Equity and Inclusion Education Strategy

One of Ontario's greatest strengths is its diversity. There are more than 200 languages spoken as a mother tongue in our province. People who identify themselves as people of colour account for nearly a quarter of Ontario's population.

We envision an inclusive education system in Ontario in which all students, parents, and other members of the school community are welcomed and respected. We also want every student to be supported and inspired to succeed in a culture of high expectations for learning.

The Equity and Inclusive Education Strategy helps us move closer to achieving that vision.

We want to remove all barriers that impede student success. This includes discrimination, low self-confidence and lack of respect. Research tells us - and so do our hearts - that students who feel welcome and accepted in their schools are more likely to excel academically.

Learning to welcome, accept and respect people's differences and work together to find common ground will not be forgotten after graduation. These are lessons that will last a lifetime.

Caring Citizens

We believe that the vast majority of Ontarians support honesty, truth, civility, social justice, and co-operation; and a determination to combat racism, gender inequality, and environment degradation, as values necessary for any kind of equitable, caring and civil society. And we believe all schools in Ontario are committed to transmitting these values to their students.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

I love the United Church of Canada

posted to Wondercafe - Religion and Faith
by Shaaron
September 6, 2010

I love the United Church of Canada. I love our people. I love the singing and I love singing along. I love the old stuff and I love the new stuff. I love listening to a minister who knows so much more than I do and I love learning from him/her. I love that we include everyone. I love that I can say, "I'm United. We love everybody!" and I love saying it with pride.

I love the smell of a well-used sanctuary. I love the old photos of people from way before me. I love our coat of arms plaque. I love the Alpha Omega letters on the pulpit cloth. I love to watch baptisms. I love to see everyone come together to put on a play or to serve delicious food. I love staying around after the service to have a glass of juice and a cookie or two even though I'm rarely spoken to.

I love to see the young with the old together. I love to see traditional families and gay families there all under the same roof, worshipping the same God, who loves us all.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Crowdsourcing History with Historypin

September 1, 2010 News - Canadian Heritage History Network website

Historypin is a digital time machine that uses crowdsourcing to create a new way for the world to see and share history.

The site allows people to upload their old photos, and the stories behind them, and “pin” them onto the Historypin map.

You can search Historypin by place, and also by time. And, best of all, you can compare the old photo to how the same place looks today, using Google Streetview.

Historypin’s goal is to become the world’s largest crowdsourced archive of historical images, in the hope of getting generations talking more, sharing more, and coming together more often.

Historypin is the product of collaboration between We Are What We Do, a global movement that inspires people to use their everyday behaviour to affect big environmental and social issues, and Google.

Check out Historypin today—and start sharing!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Tapping the Energy Below the Earth's Surface

by Lester Brown, Washington, D.C

The heat in the upper six miles of the earth's crust contains 50,000 times as much energy as found in all the world's oil and gas reserves combined. Despite this abundance, only 10,700 megawatts of geothermal electricity generating capacity have been harnessed worldwide.

Partly because of the dominance of the oil, gas, and coal industries, which have been providing cheap fuel by omitting the costs of climate change and air pollution from fuel prices, relatively little has been invested in developing the earth's geothermal heat resources. Over the last decade, geothermal energy has been growing at scarcely 3 percent a year.

Roughly half the world's existing generating capacity is in the United States and the Philippines. Indonesia, Mexico, Italy, and Japan account for most of the remainder. Altogether some 24 countries now convert geothermal energy into electricity. El Salvador, Iceland, and the Philippines respectively get 26, 25, and 18 percent of their electricity from geothermal power plants.

The potential of geothermal energy to provide electricity, to heat homes, and to supply process heat for industry is vast. Among the countries rich in geothermal energy are those bordering the Pacific in the so-called Ring of Fire, including Chile, Peru, Colombia, Mexico, the United States, Canada, Russia, China, Japan, the Philippines, Indonesia, and Australia. Other geothermally rich countries include those along the Great Rift Valley of Africa, such as Kenya and Ethiopia, and those around the Eastern Mediterranean.

Beyond geothermal electrical generation, an estimated 100,000 thermal megawatts of geothermal energy are used directly—without conversion into electricity—to heat homes and greenhouses and as process heat in industry. This includes, for example, the energy used in hot baths in Japan and to heat homes in Iceland and greenhouses in Russia.

An interdisciplinary team of 13 scientists and engineers assembled by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 2006 assessed U.S. geothermal electrical generating potential. Drawing on the latest technologies, including those used by oil and gas companies in drilling and in enhanced oil recovery, the team estimated that enhanced geothermal systems could be used to massively develop geothermal energy. This technology involves drilling down to the hot rock layer, fracturing the rock and pumping water into the cracked rock, then extracting the superheated water to drive a steam turbine. The MIT team notes that with this technology the United States has enough geothermal energy to meet its energy needs 2,000 times over... read more story at