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

  • Scrap 'dangerous' hospital policy allowing workers with COVID-19 back on the job, unions tell Ontario

    Canada News CBC News
    Unions are calling for the Ontario government to reverse a pandemic policy that allows hospital workers to return to work while infected with COVID-19 if a facility's staffing situation becomes dire. "We believe that this whole concept is a dangerous threat to the well-being of hospital patients and to those hospital staff who are healthy," Michael Hurley with the Canadian Union of Public Employees said at a news conference on Thursday. Source
  • 'My absolute dream job': Unique program brings physicians to housebound seniors

    Canada News CBC News
    An animation gif shows physicians Eugenie Phan and Christa Sinclair Mills, and occupational therapist Leslie Coulter, visiting patients of House Calls in Toronto on Jan. 21. (Evan Mitsui/CBC, Cole Burston/AFP/Getty Images) Patients of family physician Eugenie Phan don't go to her office. Source
  • Star releasing huge bursts of energy may be 1st of its kind ever discovered

    World News CBC News
    Scientists have detected what appears to be an incredibly dense star behaving unlike anything else ever seen — and suspect it might be a type of exotic astrophysical object whose existence has until now been only hypothesized. Source
  • Children who are severely immunocompromised should get 3rd dose of COVID vaccine, NACI says

    Canada News CBC News
    Children age five to 11 who are moderately to severely immunocompromised should get a third dose of COVID-19 vaccine, Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada's chief public health officer, said on Friday. The National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) issued the updated recommendation on Tuesday, but Tam highlighted it in a COVID-19 briefing on Friday. Source
  • Ontario reports 68 more COVID-19 deaths as hospitalizations drop to 3,535

    Canada News CTV News
    Ontario health officials reported 68 additional deaths related to COVID-19 while hospitalizations dropped again on Friday. Of the deaths logged on Friday, 67 took place over the past 13 days – 36 of which occurred this week – according to the spokesperson for Ontario’s Health Minister. Source
  • B.C. spending scandal: More details unveiled on controversial purchase of wood splitter

    Canada News CTV News
    A surprise disclosure temporarily delayed proceedings at the B.C. Supreme Court trial of the former clerk of the legislature Thursday, while a key witness shed light on the controversial purchase of a wood splitter “for emergencies” that was stored at the clerk's home. Source
  • 'In a very dangerous place': Why one expert says the Russia-Ukraine crisis won't be a traditional war

    World News CTV News
    As western governments and intelligence services attempt to figure out what comes next amid growing tensions between Russia and Ukraine, whatever escalation materializes is unlikely to be a traditional war, says one Canadian expert. While diplomatic channels are flowing back and forth to prevent what the U.S. Source
  • More than 300 charges laid in investigation into auto theft ring, $11.1M worth of cars recovered

    Canada News CTV News
    Two dozen people are facing more than 300 charges combined in connection with an investigation into what police are calling a “prolific auto theft ring” in the Greater Toronto Area. According to Peel police, the investigation—dubbed “Project High 5”—spanned multiple jurisdictions over a six-month period. Source
  • NYC gives final salute to slain NYPD officer

    World News CTV News
    NEW YORK -- Police arrived by the thousands in their finest dress blues on Friday, as a light snow drifted under an overcast sky, to honour a fallen brother -- during the first of two funerals that again brought sorrow to the New York Police Department. Source
  • Prince Andrew gives up membership of prestigious golf club

    World News CTV News
    LONDON -- Prince Andrew has given up his honorary membership of the Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews, one of the world's most prestigious golf clubs, as he fights allegations of sexual abuse that have forced him to retreat from public life. Source