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Advocacy Issues

Five Recommendations for Police Reforms

Date 9 Nov, 2021

Category Advocacy Issues

Today our Advocacy Manager, Didi Dufresne, is speaking to the BC Legislative Assembly on Reforming the Police Act with the following recommendations:

5 Points Overview of Recommendation: 1. Granting self-governance to Indigenous People, who will no longer be subjected to police authority without consent. 2. Banning police street checks. 3. Decriminalizing sex work, drug possession, public intoxication, poverty discrimination, immigration status, and Indigenous land defense. 4. Establishing police accountability through independent, transparent, third-party oversight bodies. 5. Banning police from carrying lethal force weapons in Indigenous, Black, and low-income neighbourhoods. For Didi’s full recommendation and rationale for on Reforming the Police Act and rationale, click here.

For immediate release: BC Tenants’ Rights Advocates Unite to Call for Eviction Ban

Date 9 Nov, 2021

Category Advocacy Issues

For Immediate Release

March 24, 2020

Vancouver, Coast Salish Territories

Yesterday, Canadians were given a clear and direct order from Prime Minister Trudeau: “go home and stay home.” But how can renters stay home when threatened with losing their homes through evictions?

Tenants’ rights advocates in BC are calling on the provincial government to ensure renters can stay in their homes by issuing a complete moratorium on all evictions and enforcement of evictions. The Community Legal Assistance Society (CLAS) along with the Tenant Resource and Advisory Centre (TRAC), First United Church Community Ministry Society (First United) and Disability Alliance BC (DABC) are urging the government to take these extreme measures to ensure the safety not just of renters, but of the community as a whole.

“This is not just a tenants’ issue. Evicted tenants trying to secure new housing are forced to have significant contact with others when viewing rental units, hiring movers, taking public transit and by opening up their current rental units to prospective tenants,” said Didi Dufresne, legal advocate at First United. Vulnerable renters facing the threat of homelessness would add additional pressure to shelters and other community services.

Ontario and Quebec have led the charge in Canada by halting evictions over a week ago – a week which saw the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in BC more than quadruple in number. Bans on evictions in other jurisdictions and a recommendation to social housing providers for a moratorium on evictions for non-payment of rent from BC Housing have led to confusion among BC’s renters about their rights during this time. “We have had calls from tenants wondering if they can be evicted right now,” said Zuzana Modrovic, a lawyer with TRAC. “They see what is happening in other places and the messaging to self-isolate and some assume that they can’t be evicted. Unfortunately, for most tenants, that is not the case. Aside from the few organizations like BC Housing that have recommended a halt on evictions for non-payment of rent, there is nothing in place right now to prevent the majority of tenants from being evicted.”

Allowing any evictions to continue during this time conflicts with the measures taken by various levels of government to enforce social distancing. Parks and recreation facilities across Metro Vancouver have been closed. Government health officers are repeatedly asking people to maintain social distances. Businesses that violate the City of Vancouver’s State of Emergency Bylaw by failing to comply with social-distancing orders could be fined as much as $50,000, and individuals could be fined up to $1,000. Yet evictions, which necessitate close social interaction, are continuing.

Many renters rely on in-person service delivery from both legal advocates and the Residential Tenancy Branch (RTB) which provides dispute resolution services for landlords and tenants. As health officials and government leaders continue to urge individuals to socially-distance, legal advocacy organizations are increasingly challenged to provide client services, and may eventually be left with no other choice but to shut their doors, possibly leaving many renters to navigate complex legal matters on their own without any legal supports or services. The RTB has already ceased in-person services and is delivering services either by phone or online only. While some renters may still be able to navigate the transition to a world of online-only services, this transition will adversely impact vulnerable renters who are not able to access these services.

“A complete ban on evictions and enforcement of evictions is the only way to effectively protect our communities from COVID-19,” said Danielle Sabelli, CLAS lawyer. “We are hopeful the BC Government will be announcing this ban tomorrow.”

Send media requests to:

Brenda Jones, APR brenda_jones@shaw.ca Cel. 604-312-1070

Open Letter to Minister Shane Simpson on COVID-19 Supports: April 7, 2020

Date 9 Nov, 2021

Category Advocacy Issues

We appreciate Minister Simpson’s quick and responsive action for people with disabilities, low-income workers, and others dependent on income assistance to meet their needs in the face of COVID-19. We are relieved to see that many of the actions we called for have been implemented by the provincial government.

But we know there are still people left behind. We want to ensure no once falls through the cracks during this pandemic, including people relying on CPP-D, sex workers, street vendors and binners. We also ask the Minister to ensure that everyone who needs to access the BC Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction, can do so safety, and without barriers – even if they don’t have a phone, or a computer, or rely on the help of an advocate.

Click here to read our full follow-up letter to Shane Simpson, B.C. Minister of Social Development and Poverty Reduction.

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Advent 2021

Date 9 Nov, 2021

Category Ministry

This year we’re preparing resources for use in your Sunday services during Advent. We’re offering reflections from our ministry staff for each of the advent themes: Hope, Joy, Peace, Love, and Christmas.

Over the coming weeks we’ll also be sharing five short videos that we hope you’ll use in your services and to inspire your community. Watch this space for updates! We encourage you to sign up for our e-newsletters and follow us on social media for all the latest updates about Advent, FIRST UNITED, and the Downtown Eastside.  





Coming soon



Coming soon


Downloadable Candle Lighting Liturgy

Download “Advent in the time of Truth and Reconciliation” Candle Lighting Liturgy Here

If you’d like a version of this resource that you can edit, we would be pleased to send you a Microsoft Word document directly. Please contact Director of Development, Amanda Burrows at aburrows@firstunited.ca to inquire.

Learn With First: Indigenous Theology

Date 9 Nov, 2021

Category Ministry

Join us for a friendly discussion on Indigenous Theology led by First United’s Dr. Cheryl Bear, Director of Community Ministry and Lauren Sanders, Indigenous Spiritual Care Chaplain; and featuring special guests Hubert Barton, Ray Aldred, Adrian Jacobs, Tink Tinker, and First’s very own Carmen Lansdowne.


Grab a tea, a pen and paper, and get comfy with First United.


What have you learned so far? Take time to reflect on the teachings.



Whether you’re brand new or experienced in Indigenous theology, we hope you learned new lessons and will take these forward with you. Check out our YouTube channel for more cool videos.


Subscribe to stay connected with First United!

Newsletters & Toast Talks

Toast Talks

Date 9 Nov, 2021

Category Newsletters & Toast Talks

Exactly one year ago, the COVID-19 pandemic upended our world, forcing us to change the way we operate and serve our community. On this anniversary, we invited our outstanding community to break bread with us virtually and look back on what we’ve learned and how we’ve grown.

We’re thrilled that 120 of our nearest and dearest were able to join us for annual report highlights and stories from the frontlines shared by members of our program team.

The March 19th session of Toast Talks was recorded; we hope you’ll watch below for a slice of how our community has rallied to support each other through COVID-19, and take note of a few breadcrumbs about the work to come at First United.


You can also read and download the full 2020 Annual Report here.

To make sure you never miss another event or update about our work, sign up to receive periodic email communications, delivered straight to your inbox!

Toast Talks: June 2021

Date 9 Nov, 2021

Category Newsletters & Toast Talks

Toast Talks are a new series of information sessions during which members of the FIRST UNITED team offer updates, insights, and information about our work to our communities of faith, volunteers, donors, stakeholders and friends.

Couldn’t make it to the June edition of Toast Talks, or want to watch it again? Our June 24th session was recorded! For years, we’ve been exploring opportunities to enhance the level of community, connection, and care that we offer to our community members. We’ve dropped a few crumbs about what we’re planning, but now we’re eager to share a bigger slice!

In this edition we highlight our summer newsletter and some exciting details about the upcoming redevelopment of FIRST UNITED. Plus, Amanda Pellerine, our CVITP Income Tax Coordinator offers an inside look at the impact of our tax program—just one of the many programs that will grow and thrive as we move forward.

Learn more about the redevelopment, tax program, and check out a preview of our recent op-ed Truth and Reconciliation, A Living History in our Summer 2021 edition of First Things First, our triannual newsletter.

To receive invitations to future Toast Talk events, get the newsletter delivered straight to your inbox, and more, subscribe to our email updates.

Reconciliation in Action

On Residential Schools

Date 9 Nov, 2021

Category Reconciliation in Action

Take a moment to read a poem by Dr. Cheryl Bear, First United’s Director of Community Ministry. Cheryl wrote the poem in response to the bodies of 215 children discovered in May 2021 at Kamloops Residential School in Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation territory.

CW: residential schools, trauma, grief

take your time take days sit with the grief of these daunting days sit with her and let her weep let her crawl into bed way too early and out of bed way too late let her cancel all the shopping trips all the plans and just sit with her stroke her hair and tell her, reassure her that things will get, no are getting better even if they are only won in court battles or through shaming the government into action (shame, shame on them) all of this work was not in vain every lecture every slide every chart exposed the truth and now everyone can see it took all of us to get here, to heal to change now it will take all of us again to get there to heal to change so our grandbabies can truly be free and can have better days and lives and deaths

…words spoken on a tear soaked day, still reeling from the news and praying for our courageous and powerful Elders, our Residential School Survivors – for my late mom, my Aunties and Uncles, grandparents, for all our relations.

Sunday May 30, 2021

In peace, Cheryl (Nadleh Whut’en First Nation) Director of Community Ministry, First United

National Day for Truth and Reconciliation

Date 9 Nov, 2021

Category Reconciliation in Action

September 30 is Canada’s first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation – a day we honour the lost children, the 150,000+ children who attended residential schools and those who have died since.

September 30 is a now federal statutory holiday and the leadership at FIRST decided to recognize it as well, to enable staff to have time to reflect, learn and deepen their own understanding.

Although the stories of unmarked graves are no longer making headlines, we recognize there are now confirmations of well over 6,000 graves across the country – surely with many more thousands to come.

Wear Orange

On Orange Shirt Day, which also takes place today, we remember those children who were taken from their families and recognize the impact it’s still having today.

Orange Shirt Day is based on the experience of Phyllis Webstad, a Northern Secwpemc (Shuswap) from the Stswecem’c Xgat’tem First Nation, who arrived on her first day of residential school dressed in a new orange shirt.

Her orange shirt was taken away from her and has become a symbol of how freedom, culture and self-esteem were systemically taken away from our Indigenous children and their families over generations.

On September 29, we held a community engagement event and handed out free orange shirts to community members – designed by one of our staff, Joseph Robertson (Haisla First Nation) – so that anyone in our community who wanted to wear an orange shirt today had access to one.

Our truth and reconciliation priorities

So where do we go from here? We see today as a rallying cry to focus on changing priorities and encouraging our leaders to take action.

FIRST is working toward reconciliation in action, and an important part of that is acknowledging the histories of colonization, systemic racism and the impacts of residential schools, the 60’s Scoop, and the disproportionate number of Indigenous children in non-Indigenous foster care.

We advocate for the enactment of all 94 of the TRC Calls to Action and the 423 recommendations of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, and the implementation of 231 ‘imperative changes’ called for by the National Inquiry on Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Girls.

We have signed on to an open letter to the BC Government with other members of the MMIWG2S+ Coalition calling for more protection for Indigenous women, girls and Two-Spirit people.

We encourage you in your learning journey and to educate your children in the TRC Calls to Action.

We’re committed to deepening our practice of reconciliation and the pursuit of justice, today and every day. Let’s do this together, as a community and as a nation.

Truth and Reconciliation, a Living History

Date 9 Nov, 2021

Category Reconciliation in Action

This op-ed was originally published in The Tyee on June 14, 2021. You can find the op-ed on The Tyee’s website.

By the Rev. Dr. Carmen Lansdowne (Heiltsuk First Nation) Executive Director; Dr. Cheryl Bear (Nadleh Whut’en First Nation) Director of Community Ministry; and Lauren Sanders (Prairie Band Potawatomi and Kickapoo Nation of Kansas) Indigenous Spiritual Care Chaplain.


Reconciliation has been a buzzword since the conclusion of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in 2015. Everyone wants to know how to “walk in reconciliation” but doesn’t often want to hear the answer. Many of our Indigenous Chiefs and leaders have said Canada uses those words to distract us while they are busy carrying on with business as usual behind the scenes.

The phrase “truth and reconciliation” was chosen by residential school survivors based on the South African model. They could have just asked for truth, but instead the victims of some of the most horrendous crimes in Canada asked for reconciliation.

One of our Grand Chiefs said that everything we as Indigenous people have today, we won in the court. It’s not reconciliation if it had to be won through the courts.

The news of the 215 unmarked graves of children in Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc territory did not surprise any Indigenous people. We all knew because we listened to the stories of the residential school survivors, and we believed them. Sadly, many in Canada did not. Now there is proof. And there will be more proof.

We also need you to grieve with us, and not only to grieve but to act, to change, so that our descendants can have a better future.

We are all deeply grieving. One Elder we know, a residential school survivor, ended up in the hospital with chest pains after hearing this daunting news. It has brought up memories of the trauma we have all experienced as Indigenous people directly connected to these schools.

We have been leaning into ceremony, gathering, trying our best to grieve these children — our lost babies. We need prayer, yes. But we also need you to grieve with us, and not only to grieve but to act, to change, so that our descendants can have a better future.

The late May confirmation of the mass grave has shocked us back into a state of realization that truth and reconciliation is not just a question of a dead history whose remains have been forgotten. There is important work that needs doing. As Indigenous people, we need all Canadians to witness and participate in that work.

As Indigenous people, we need all Canadians to witness and participate in the work of deconstructing the myth of “dead history” and engage with truth and reconciliation as a living history. All Canadians must listen to the truth-telling of residential school survivors and accept that the trauma of residential schools is ongoing and continues to impact Indigenous communities.

All Canadians must ask themselves who benefits from seeing residential schools as a “dead history,” and who benefits from the understanding that residential schools and truth and reconciliation is a living history.

Truth-telling is not an Indigenous-only practice. Truth-telling requires non-Indigenous people to accept the truths being told with respect, to apologize and to accept responsibility. These 215 babies now have the chance to tell the truth. The grief of Indigenous peoples helps them tell it.

For non-Indigenous people, the bodies of 215 children were unearthed from a dead history. For Indigenous people, this history was never dead — a history that all Indigenous people are currently, and have never stopped, living.

Now it is the turn of non-Indigenous people. The framework has been given. The protocol from the TRC has to be followed. Acceptance of the truth, apology and taking ownership of responsibility are the steps.

Call to Action number 58 is for “the Pope to issue an apology to Survivors, their families, and communities for the Catholic Church’s role in the spiritual, cultural, emotional, physical and sexual abuse” of Indigenous peoples. To date, the Anglican Church and the United Church have issued apologies and have both committed to the full adoption of the TRC Calls to Action, making structural and staffing changes in order to continue the work of the truth and reconciliation journey.

While the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops has again issued a statement of “deep sorrow,” they continue to uphold the 2018 position of the Vatican not to offer an apology when it was requested by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in 2017.

Repentance is a core value of the Christian faith commonly understood as an expression of remorse or regret. In this sense, we believe the statement of deep sorrow from our Roman Catholic brothers in leadership. Another faithful biblical interpretation of repentance is the act of turning around in a return to right relationship — right relationships with the Creator, with each other, with the whole of creation. It is all our responsibility to continuously pursue repentance in our relationships with God and all that God has created; otherwise, absolution would be unnecessary.

As Indigenous women who are in ministry leadership, we pray that the discovery of the bodies of these children remind everyone that their legacy lives on. We pray the Pope chooses to hear the cries of the spirits of these 215 babies, change the Vatican’s previous decision, and make the apology requested by the survivors of Canadian residential schools.


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Recent Updates

9 Nov, 2021
Five Recommendations for Police Reforms
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9 Nov, 2021
Advent 2021
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9 Nov, 2021
Learn With First: Indigenous Theology
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