Our Mission Statement forms the basis for our Respect and Dignity policy:
Our mission is to empower spiritual growth and shared action for the care of our world.
As a Unitarian Universalist Congregation, we affirm and promote:
- The inherent worth and dignity of every person.
- Justice, equity and compassion in human relations.
- Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations.
- A free and responsible search for truth and meaning.
- The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and society at large.
- The goal of community with peace, liberty and justice for all.
- Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.
In addition to the above principles guiding our actions and behaviours, as a legal entity in the province of Ontario, we are committed to an environment of respect and dignity for every individual in our congregation in keeping with all legal requirements.
The Ontario Human Rights Code provides for equal treatment in the areas of services, goods and facilities, accommodation, contracts, and employment and without discrimination on the grounds of race, ancestry, place of origin, colour, ethnic origin, citizenship, creed, sex, sexual orientation, disability, age, family status, marital status, same-sex partnership status, the receipt of public assistance and record of offences.
The Code provides for freedom from harassment or other unwelcome comments and actions. It is the privilege and responsibility of every person in Ontario to honour and adhere to the letter and spirit of the Code, and to support its aim of creating a climate of understanding and mutual respect for the dignity and rights of each individual.
Our Congregation is committed to ensuring these principles and behaviours are upheld in all of our activities. Moreover, in relationships of trust, power, authority, and confidentiality, the greatest care will be taken to ensure that no one involved in our Congregation will take advantage of trust, abuse power, or misuse the responsibility of authority.
We will provide our members with the support and education to meet this mandate and policy statement. A confidential complaint process for both informal and formal complaints, which will deal with harassment issues in a timely manner and ensure a fair process to all, is included.
1. This policy applies to every member of the Congregation: every volunteer, the minister, employees, and lay people involved in activities of the Congregation. Activities include those in the Congregation building, off-site meetings related to Congregation activities, and to social functions or planning functions sponsored by the Congregation. These could include, but are not limited to, committee meetings, retreats, seminars, or social functions sponsored by the Congregation. It also includes telephone conversations, email, regular mail, internet communications, or other forms of congregational communication.
2. Adherence to this policy is mandatory. The minister, interns, employees, volunteers and members are expected to be familiar with the policy, consent to it, and adhere to it at all times.
3. Where a person suspects on reasonable grounds that a child needs or may need protection as a result of being at risk, the suspicion must be reported to the child protection authority. In Ontario, such authority is the local Children’s Aid Society. This provision specifically includes an obligation on the minister or other clergy. A person does not need to be sure that a child is or may be in need of protection to make a report to the Children’s Aid Society. “Reasonable grounds” are what an average person, given his or her training, background, and experience, exercising normal and honest judgment would suspect.
4. Professional counsellor/client relationships are to be respected and maintained by all adults involved in any service the Congregation offers.
5. All employees and volunteers have the right to work in an environment that is free of sexual misconduct or any behaviour related to the Ontario Human Rights Code.
6. The Neighbourhood Unitarian Universalist Congregation will actively try to prevent any harassment through prevention and education of all staff, minister, lay ministers, and members of the Congregation.
7. A complaint will be dealt with promptly, seriously, and in a systematic fashion as outlined later in this document. When necessary, there will be co-operation with the proper authorities as appropriate.
8. This policy is not intended to preclude a complainant from seeking legal counsel or a civil remedy. However, if there is notice that civil proceedings have commenced or a complaint has been filed with the Ontario Human Rights Commission, any procedure under this policy will normally be suspended, except for the offer of emotional support as outlined in this policy.
9. All complaints under this policy are confidential. However, confidentiality may be limited as necessary for the administration of this policy, or as is required by law, or where anyone is at risk, or if confidentiality is waived by the parties.
10. Anonymous complaints generally will not be acted upon.
11. No person or persons shall knowingly make a false or vexatious complaint. If it is determined that there was no misconduct and the complaint was initiated maliciously, then appropriate disciplinary action will be taken by the Committee on Ministry to deal with the person appropriately.
12. Where misconduct has been established, appropriate actions will be undertaken. These could include, but are not limited to, training, supervision, counselling, caution, warning, censure, or dismissal from employment or from a volunteer position in the Congregation or from the Congregation itself.
13. Complaints will be brought to the Committee on Ministry. The Committee on Ministry will review the policy periodically as necessary.
14. The Board of Directors will be responsible for the educational component and training of members, volunteers and clergy.
Commitment to Prevention
1. We are committed to the prevention of harassment through appropriate education and training for the Board of Directors, Committee on Ministry, the minister, other clergy who work with our congregation, chaplains, volunteers, employees, and members of the congregation.
2. In addition to this policy statement, a training package is available for all members, and all volunteers are required to be trained in this topic.
3. Any new staff member hired by the congregation is required to take training in the Right Relations workshop, and to sign a written agreement to adhere to the policy as stated.
4. All volunteers will participate in the training on Right Relations, and have this policy statement available for review at all times.
5. The policy statement document and the training package will be posted on the congregational bulletin board.
6. New members attending the Orientation program given on a regular basis will receive a summary policy statement, and the policy will be reviewed with emphasis on the Principles upon which we affirm our faith.
7. This policy will be reviewed with Board Members periodically, and with new Board Members as required for Orientation purposes.
8. In our services, activities, and training, we will affirm and promote the dignity of every person.
Processes to Deal with Complaints
Religious or spiritual community is not a courtroom. It is a place where complaints and concerns are aired with the aim of growth and learning. This document is submitted in trust that it will be used in good faith by the Congregation.
Normal conflict between two individuals is not harassment, and can be dealt with using our Conflict as Opportunity process.
The following processes outline the procedure to make a complaint. We believe that the informal process will be effective in most cases. Therefore, we encourage every member to be familiar with the training program, the emphasis on prevention of harassment, and the resolution of conflict. We assume participants will work through this process in a timely manner.
If a person feels they have been harassed, or is in conflict with another person, they are encouraged to speak to the other person involved, telling them how the behaviour makes them feel and asking them to stop the specified behaviour in the future. If there is a request needed for resolution, they need to communicate that request. (See training package for specific examples.)
If a person does not feel comfortable, for whatever reason, to speak about the situation with the other person responsible, then the person may go to any Board member or member of the Committee on Ministry with whom she/he feels comfortable.
If only an informal complaint is made, and with the consent of the Complainant, the Board member or the member of the Committee on Ministry will go to the other person involved and inform him/her of the complaint and seek to arrive at a solution to the situation by facilitating communication between the parties.
The Board member or member of the Committee on Ministry must be impartial and ensure private and confidential discussions take place with both parties.
If the person hearing the complaint believes, at any time during this process, that any other person is at risk, appropriate next steps will be taken.
If the complainant wishes to proceed to the Formal Process these are the steps involved:
The complaint must be made in writing to the Committee on Ministry. The complainant may request help in writing the letter of complaint from any Board Member, Minister or Director of Lifespan Learning. This will be given confidentially and in a timely manner.
The complaint letter should detail what happened, and its effect. It should include times, places, and other details to clarify the matter.
The Committee on Ministry must meet in a timely manner following the receipt of the complainant’s letter. The Committee on Ministry will, without undue delay, provide a copy of the complaint and of the policy to both parties.
If both parties are employees, then the Congregation will make every reasonable effort to accommodate a request from either party, should it be made, for minimal contact.
Both parties are required to engage in Conflict as Opportunity, our Congregation’s conflict resolution process.
Pastoral care will be offered to both participants, within the resources of the Congregation. Pastoral Care could come from the minister, or from the Congregation’s Caring Network.
The incident may be examined by a member of the Committee on Ministry or a person designated by that committee.
Confidential interviews with relevant parties will be conducted. Each party will have the opportunity to tell their story. The Committee on Ministry can ask for additional information from other relevant parties, as needed.
The Committee on Ministry will offer a written recommendation to both parties and the Board of Directors. We expect that this entire process, after the receipt of the formal complaint, will be concluded within 30 days. The recommendations will be kept confidentially in the Congregation office.
This process may be stopped at any time during the investigation at the request of the person making the complaint.
Special Considerations: Children, Adolescents and Vulnerable Adults
Any employee of the congregation who is the subject of a complaint in which children, adolescents or vulnerable adults are at risk will be immediately suspended with pay while the investigation is underway. Any volunteer under investigation will not be allowed to be with children or any children’s activities in the Congregation, and may not under any circumstance speak to the child involved.
Pastoral care will be offered to the family involved. Pastoral Care could come from the minister, or from the Congregation’s Caring Network.
The Committee on Ministry will work in conjunction with the proper authorities in any investigative procedure, as well as try to maintain the proper balance of support and pastoral care for those involved.
An employee of the congregation found guilty of sexual assault of a child or a vulnerable adult in the criminal or civil court process will be dismissed immediately. A volunteer found guilty will be removed from the Congregation.
If the investigation is not conclusive, or if the accused is found not guilty, the Committee on Ministry will determine the appropriate course of action.
The Committee on Ministry in all cases of harassment and abuse will communicate with the President of the Board and keep that person informed during all investigative processes.
OTHER FACILITATIVE PROCESSES
Every person in the congregation is responsible to help ensure that all activities in the Congregation or any related to Congregation activities, wherever they occur, remain respectful and harassment-free at all times and under any circumstance.
Training and education programs will be offered on a regular basis to all members of the Congregation to ensure that preventative measures work to keep the environment harassment-free.
There will be one spokesperson for the Media, who will be determined by the Board of Directors.
The Ontario Human Rights Code
Neighbourhood Unitarian Universalist Congregation Resource Materials
Human Resources Guide to Managing Sexual Harassment by Lynda Ackroyd
Legal Review by Iler Campbell, Barristers and Solicitors
A Practical Guide to the Ontario Human Rights Code by Nancy Eber
Policy and Educational Processes developed by Galina Coffey-Lewis
Revised by the Committee on Ministry