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

  • Canada seeks to get more women into UN peacekeeping operations

    Canada News CBC News
    Canada is looking at ways to help other countries boost the number of female peacekeepers, despite having only a handful of Canadian women in blue helmets and berets. Global Affairs Canada is hosting a session today with representatives from several countries and the United Nations to brainstorm ways to get more female peacekeepers deployed. Source
  • Alberta spent $2.7B in failed bid to cut classroom sizes: auditor

    Canada News CTV News
    EDMONTON -- Alberta's auditor general says the province has spent $2.7 billion over the last 14 years in a failed attempt to reduce classroom sizes. Merwan Saher says in his latest report that the Education Department has not effectively overseen and directed the program. Source
  • Yet again, U.S. debates if teachers should carry guns in school

    World News CTV News
    Utah teacher Kasey Hansen says carrying a concealed weapon in school is "more of a solution" than hiding in a corner and waiting if an armed intruder enters the classroom. But Texas teacher Tara Bordeaux worries that she lacks "the instincts" of a law enforcement officer and can't easily see herself carrying a gun in class. Source
  • Former Nova Scotia teacher who sexually abused students loses appeal

    Canada News CTV News
    HALIFAX -- Nova Scotia's highest court has upheld the convictions of a former teacher who sexually abused two teenage students. Amy Hood of Stellarton, N.S., was found guilty in April 2016 of sexual touching, sexual exploitation and luring minors for a sexual purpose. Source
  • Suspect in gas station break and enter found hiding in the ceiling

    Canada News CTV News
    An Alberta man was arrested early Monday morning after an alleged break and enter at a gas station. The catch? He was found hiding in the ceiling. RCMP were originally called to a gas station in the town of Penhold, an hour south of Edmonton, around 2 a.m. Source
  • B.C. father facing murder charges in deaths of daughters appears in court

    Canada News CTV News
    VICTORIA - A man facing second-degree murder charges in the deaths of his two daughters made a brief court appearance by video on Thursday in Victoria. Andrew Berry did not speak during the appearance. Source
  • Saskatchewan MP Weir unaware of any harassment allegations as deadline for complaints passes

    Canada News CBC News
    Federal NDP MP Erin Weir says he remains in the dark about any allegations of harassment against him, despite the party's deadline for complaints having come and gone. The Saskatchewan MP was temporarily suspended from his duties earlier this month after caucus colleague Christine Moore alleged that Weir had engaged in harassing behaviour towards women, including party staff members. Source
  • Stymied by regulators, Airbnb looks to luxury vacations, hotels for growth

    World News CBC News
    Airbnb is rolling out new services aimed at attracting travellers looking for luxury accommodations and traditional hotels, the latest move to contend with sputtering growth in its original home-renting business. The company on Thursday will unveil a new product that bundles Airbnb's poshest properties with high-end travel services, as well as a separate category of homes guaranteed to be clean and comfortable. Source
  • Ticketed for paying wrong parking meter, Quebec woman wins court fight to overturn fine

    Canada News CBC News
    A Saint-Jérôme, Que., woman who says she made an error in good faith when paying for her parking in the wrong meter has successfully contested her ticket — a ruling at least one legal expert believes could set an important new precedent. Source
  • Union says strong 'no confidence' vote in Toronto police chief

    Canada News CTV News
    TORONTO -- An overwhelming majority of Toronto police union members who voted over the past week in a symbolic poll expressed a lack of confidence in the city's chief of police -- although fewer than half took part in the online survey. Source