Quebec Anglican diocese looks to secure future through ethical investing

MONTREAL -- There are a lot of empty pews in the Anglican Diocese of Quebec's churches, but the treasury is fuller than it has been in years.

See Full Article

As shrewd investing is replacing weekly parishioner offerings as a main revenue source, the diocese is looking to ethical investment to build its portfolio in a socially responsible way that better reflects its values.

In December, the diocese completed the process of selling off its $1.72 million in fossil fuel investments and the $525,000 it had invested in gold and copper mining. In doing so, it added its name to the growing list of organizations that have chosen to divest from oil and gas over climate change concerns.

Bishop Dennis Drainville says the next step for the Quebec Anglicans is an investing shift to renewable energy.

"It's not just an issue of taking money out and divesting, its also a question of using our money in a way that will help us to build a better world," he told The Canadian Press.

The origins of so-called "ethical" investing among churches date back to the 1970s, when many opted against investing in companies with questionable human rights records or those dealing with guns, tobacco, or gambling.

These days, faith-based organizations like Drainville's are looking even more closely at investment choices.

Drainville said the church decided to pull its money out of the mining sector about four years ago over concerns of environmental degradation and poor working conditions on Canadian-owned mining sites in the developing world. A couple of years later, they decided to join the fossil fuel divestment movement.

They aren't alone. The United Church of Canada voted in August to divest the $5.9 million it had invested in the large "Carbon 200" companies, and completed the process at the end of 2015, according to chief financial officer Erik Mathiesen.

"This was not an investment decision but rather a church decision intended to bring attention to the issue of climate justice in solidarity with other faith communities around the world," he wrote in an email.

Mathiesen said the church has also signed a United Nations pact for responsible investing and the Montreal Carbon pledge, which both commit to measuring and reducing carbon intensity.

The Anglican dioceses of Ottawa and Montreal have also voted to end their own fossil fuel investments, as have several Unitarian churches, and other faith-based organizations.

As church congregations dwindle, Drainville's diocese is depending on its portfolio to not only build a better world, but also to save it from extinction.

Drainville says the diocese decided to begin closing churches, selling off properties and reinvesting the proceeds about eight years ago at a time it was "hemorrhaging money" and losing hundreds of thousands of dollars a year.

While by no means on safe financial footing, there is reason for optimism a decade later.

The diocese's treasurer said in a November report to the governing body that while cash flow and debt problems remain, the church's pooled funds have grown from $8.6 million in 2008 to $17 million last year.

The diocese hopes to break even by 2017, an impressive feat given dwindling numbers in the pews.

In 2014, Drainville's territory -- an area including Quebec City, Trois-Rivieres and Sherbrooke -- had only about 4,000 active parishioners, with 80 per cent boasting a regular attendance of less than 25 people.

Drainville chalks it up largely to shifting demographics: the church's traditional base of English-speakers now make up less than five per cent of the population in many of those towns.

Without investments, Drainville says the Diocese of Quebec, founded in 1793, would have disappeared.

"I see the church as a community of people who care deeply about how we live and how we share our resources with people, and investments have to be a part of all those considerations," he said.



Advertisements

Latest Canada & World News

  • Recovery and reconstruction go slowly after Mexico quake

    World News CTV News
    MEXICO CITY - Wearing a hardhat, Rodrigo Diaz Mejia steps onto the hood of a crushed car and then gingerly into an apartment cracked open by the Sept. 19 earthquake. Inside he spots a photo of two young boys hanging on a wall spider-webbed with deep cracks. Source
  • China offers conflicting goals as Xi Jinping looks to extend rule

    World News CTV News
    BEIJING - China's ruling Communist Party is expanding its role in business even as it promises freer markets and support for entrepreneurs on the eve of President Xi Jinping's second five-year term as leader. Party officials are tightening their control over state-owned enterprises and want a voice in how some foreign companies are run. Source
  • Texas man’s execution halted amid alleged confession scheme

    World News Toronto Sun
    HUNTSVILLE, Texas — A man who became known as Houston’s “Tourniquet Killer” because of his signature murder technique on four female victims was set for execution Wednesday evening. Anthony Allen Shore confessed to the four slayings after a tiny particle collected from under the fingernail of a 21-year-old murder victim was matched to his DNA. Source
  • Explosion at Indian fireworks factory kills 8

    World News CTV News
    NEW DELHI - An explosion at an unlicensed firecracker factory killed eight workers and injured 20 other people in eastern India as Hindus celebrated their most popular Diwali festival, police said Thursday. A police officer said rescuers cleared debris of the collapsed building in a town in Balasore district in Orissa state on Thursday morning. Source
  • Jury asked to decide if injury that left Paralympian a quadriplegic was from unsafe pool

    Canada News CTV News
    REGINA - A jury in Saskatchewan is being asked to decide whether an injury that left a Paralympian a quadriplegic was a tragic accident or because of an unsafe pool. Miranda Biletski is suing the University of Regina for negligence. Source
  • Prized $50,000 rodeo horse hit and killed after being let loose: RCMP

    Canada News Toronto Sun
    The Mounties were investigating after a prized horse that appeared in Canada's biggest rodeos was hit and killed on a highway near Bonnyville, shortly after a herd was intentionally released from a livestock pen. Early Tuesday, someone opened a gate on a property south of Muriel Lake, RCMP said in a news release. Source
  • Wainwright soldier pleads not guilty to online luring, child porn

    Canada News Toronto Sun
    A Wainwright-based soldier has entered not-guilty pleas to charges related to online luring and child porn. Steven Massey, 32, was arrested and charged in June after a joint investigation by the province's Internet Child Exploitation Unit and U.S. Source
  • Magnitsky human rights law, protections for journalists' sources get royal assent

    Canada News CBC News
    Two private member's bills, one protecting journalists' sources and another that allows Canada to get tough on human rights abusers, received royal assent Wednesday. One of those laws is the so-called Magnitsky Act, the Justice for Victims of Corrupt Foreign Officials Act or Bill S-226. Source
  • Catalonia to press ahead with independence if Spain imposes direct rule

    World News CBC News
    Spain's political showdown with Catalonia is set to reach a new level on Thursday when political leaders in Madrid and Barcelona are expected to make good on pledges made to their supporters to stick to their tough positions over the region's future. Source
  • 'I felt a burning sensation': Hotel guard describes getting shot before Las Vegas massacre

    World News CBC News
    The gunman who unleashed the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history first wounded an unsuspecting hotel security guard in a hallway who promptly radioed for help, according to a TV interview broadcast Wednesday with the guard and a hotel building engineer whose life he is credited with saving. Source