Social Justice

Sharing an inclusive partnership with neighbours near and far, Bloor Street listens to the voices of concern, advocates for those having struggles and welcomes the opportunity to support faithful and courageous action to bring ease to difficult circumstances.

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Advent Appeal 2021

The Social Justice Committee is pleased to announce the recipients of this year’s Advent Gift Appeal. We thank the congregation for the suggestions that you have made to this process. One of the criteria of the organization selected is that it represent the social justice values of our church and that there be outreach into the community. The committee, also, always hopes to address in some way a local, national and international need. The recipients of our Advent Appeal are:

  • Locally – Jane-Finch Community Ministry,
  • Nationally – God’s Lake Narrows United Church, and,
  • Internationally, Defence for Children Internationally – Palestine.

Local Recipient—Jane-Finch Community Ministry

We are all used to hearing about ‘Jane-Finch’ on the news—usually it is in relation to shootings, violence, gangs, unemployment etc. It is a pocket of Toronto that struggles with poverty and huge cultural diversity—70 different languages are spoken, representing 110 nations. It is a community of 80,000 people.  In the last few years Jane Finch has had the highest number of gun discharges in the GTA.

But we hear little about the United Church presence in Jane-Finch.

The minister, Barry Reider, speaks of it being a ‘ministry of presence’—quietly and effectively journeying with the community in their pain as well as their hope for a more just society. The ministry provides community development and community organizing support, much needed pastoral care; it engages in advocacy through coalitions and networks. The ministry also works to try to change systems of oppression and decrease some of the violence.

National Recipient – God’s Lake Narrows United Church

God’s Lake is a remote Cree community in north eastern Manitoba, only accessible by air, except in the winter when there is a road (3 hours) from Oxford House. Bloor Street has had a long connection with Oxford House and Rev. John Thompson who has been the minister there since 1997.

John’s wife, Elenor, was ordained on September 19, 2021—the first woman to be ordained by the National Indigenous Council. She was settled in the United Church in God’s Lake Narrows

on the shores of God’s Lake. It is a small community, approximate population of 3,000, and the United Church is one of three churches there. Given their financial situation the congregation is only able to fly Elenor there every three months. She stays for 4-5 days. They provide her accommodation and food.

Elenor has not been able to travel to God’s Lake since her ordination because of the number of COVID cases in the community. She is hopeful that will change soon. There are presently seventeen COVID cases in God’s Lake so no one is able to fly there. The leading Elder looks after the congregation in the interim.

Our Advent Appeal may enable Elenor to travel to God’s Lake more often – perhaps every six weeks – or the congregation to install a much needed sound system.

The United Church and formerly the Methodist Church has had an active presence at God’s Lake since the early 1800’s

International Recipient – Defense for Children International – Palestine

“Defense for Children International – Palestine (DCIP) is an independent, local Palestinian child rights organization dedicated to defending and promoting the rights of children living in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip. Since 1991, [it] has investigated, documented, and exposed grave human rights violations against children; provided legal services to children in urgent need; held Israeli and Palestinian authorities accountable to universal human rights principles; and, advocated at the international and national levels to advance access to justice and protection for children.”

As a national section of Defence for Children International (DCI), an international child-rights movement and non-governmental organization established in 1979, DCI – Palestine pledges to follow DCI’s mandate to “promote and protect children’s rights in accordance with international standards.” At the same time, DCIP is an autonomous organization that raises its own funds and develops its own programs in response to contextual needs in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.

Their work is divided into two broad programs: Accountability and Child Protection. “Both include direct services and advocacy components. The Accountability Program focuses on child rights as they intersect with Israeli military and legal systems as well as the Palestinian juvenile justice system. The Child Protection Program promotes child participation and empowerment so Palestinian children can defend and advocate for their own rights and become agents for positive change.”

Dates and Olive Oil Available

Are you interested in Medjoul dates and Zatoun Olive oil?

Produced by farmers in Palestine the dates are a traditional product of the soils of Palestine. The dates are for sale for $20.00 per box. Please contact Nora McKay if you would like to order any boxes.



The oil has been produced on trees that have seen generations of Palestinian families harvest the olives each season. A 500ml bottle of olive oil is $16.00. Please contact Maure Kentner if you would like to purchase a bottle. To learn more about the Zatoun story click here.

Pickup or delivery arrangements can be made for both products. The dates and olive oil make excellent gifts for family and friends to welcome the coming Advent and Christmas seasons.

Stamps for Oxfam

Yes, we are still collecting stamps for Oxfam! Learn more by downloading the pdf of Oxfam’s newsletter here, and read on for a thank you note from Bill Woodley.

Thank you very much for your stamp donation(s). For us, it is like opening a present every time a new package or envelope arrives! As I may have said before, we can’t get enough current mail to meet all the demands from collectors. Snailmail is out of fashion and heading the way of the dodo bird but it hasn’t totally disappeared yet.

My purpose in writing today is also to update you about a very difficult but (for us) rewarding year.  As you probably can guess, we stamp volunteers are working from home. The Oxfam office is still closed but we are now allowed in occasionally to collect the mail and to process donations.

Donations have been arriving steadily, and so we held another of our mail auctions recently that raised over $10,000. This shows us that there are still many stamp collectors out there and that they have been looking for something to keep them busy during COVID.

We have been getting some impressive donations from long-term collectors once they downsize, and from their estates once they pass on. And so this year we have passed a major milestone: we have now raised more than half a million dollars from stamp sales for Oxfam projects since the stamp program began almost 40 years ago.

In case you haven’t seen it, I am attaching the latest report on the project we have been helping to sponsor for the past 5 years. We are now looking at a new COVID related project in Africa.

We are always happy to get your donations of stamps, old envelopes, postcards, postmarks. Recent envelopes that have received special postal attention are  good too, if they do not divulge sensitive or personal information.

I hope you are keeping well and again, many thanks,

 Bill Woodley

Stamp program

Volunteer co-ordinator

The Heart Garden

The Heart Garden on the corner of Bloor and Robert Street began as “a response to the TRC’s call for permanent reminders of the residential school history. Its goal is to create a welcoming public space for reflection on a very well trafficked corner of Toronto as well as an outdoor space for ceremony. The garden expresses our sorrow for the loss and abuse of so many Indigenous children in residential schools and our hope to build public awareness towards reconciliation with Indigenous people. In the garden, against the backdrop of a church built during the same era that the residential school policy began, we honour Indigenous spirituality.” (TSP)

The children of our church school have participated in learning more about Indigenous culture through a number of visits to the Heart Garden. As well, your BSUC Social Justice Committee made a donation to help in the creation of the garden.

As you watch the video enjoy the voices of the children as they talk about the meaning behind the Heart Garden. Listen to an Indigenous Elder who talks about the impact of the residential school system. Click here to see the video, or watch below.

Afterwards take a few minutes to say the prayer that the children said when they sent hearts to the closing ceremony of the TRC in 2015.

“Help us to open our hearts to others, pay attention to our thoughts, words and actions, notice when we have hurt others and change our behaviour in the future. With this Heart Garden we honour children who were lost or survived the Indian residential System.”


The Social Justice Committee, with input from the congregation and others, arranges educational events and the circulation of educational material on topics that the Committee believes are important to society and of interest to the congregation.

Reflections on a Trip to Palestine/Israel 

Over the next months a number of people are going to reflect on their trips to PalestineIsrael. The most recent travellers in 2019 were Nora McKay, Nena Cervantes and Ron & Maure Kentner. In 2018 Randi Helmers and Martha ter Kuile travelled to the holy land. Over a number of years others from our congregation have joined George Bartlett and Marianna Harris on these trips.  

Each month, following the themes of Kumi Now, there will be one or more personal reflections and specific information on the current topic. We listen to scripture in our services about the holy land in the time of Jesus. These reflections will look at the holy land as it exists at this time. It is beautiful in its geology, magnificent in its history but there are issues that need resolution. 

The Kumi Now project is an attempt by many people and organizations to “stand firm in the face of oppression”, to seek justice and inclusion based on international law and to commit to non-violent resistance. Each week Kumi Now introduces a “different organization working to raise awareness about specific issues in Israel-Palestine”.  The personal reflections will give you an account of what visitors saw and heard during their travels. 

You can read the latest information and reflection here.

If you are interested in joining the Middle East Working Group please click here to find out more information.


The Social Justice Committee and sub-Committees are active in many areas including the following:

  • Togogos support grandmothers in Africa, who are raising grandchildren orphaned by AIDS, by raising money and awareness for the Stephen Lewis Foundation.
  • The Refugee Outreach Program raises money each year to send refugee mothers and children to summer camp.  They also collect toys for an annual Refugee Christmas Party.
  • The Social Justice Committee collects funds and gifts each Advent Season for designated organizations and also raises funds in response to Relief Appeals through the United Church of Canada.


The Social Justice Committee, as part of its educational role, advises the congregation when there is a call to action on particular issues.  This can include information about petitions, letter writing campaigns, demonstrations and lobbying of community or political leaders.  If the Social Justice Committee or others within the congregation believe that Bloor Street United Church as a whole should advocate on a particular issue a proposal can be made to the Church Council for their consideration.

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