Passionate debate broke out Wednesday morning, July 25, at the General Council meeting over francophone representation in the national courts of the United Church.
Initially, it was recommended that no action be taken on a request from Montreal and Ottawa Conference for four seats on the Denominational Council, and one or two seats on the Denominational Council Executive.
However, General Council strongly supported an amendment that “La Table des Ministères en francais be empowered to propose names to the Nominating Committee for inclusion in the various Councils and Committees of the Church.” La Table is a decision and support network of francophone ministers and ministries in The United Church of Canada.
This amendment received generous support from across the church, and in particular from Indigenous commissioners to the General Council.
Elaine Jacobs from the All Native Circle said, “Best wishes and intentionality is not enough. They need to be part of the structure.”
Cathy Hamilton, from Montreal & Ottawa Conference, who introduced the amendment, said that without representation, “there will be great hurt—there is already great lament.” Hamilton asked, “How will we be sure we have francophone voices in our courts?”
Etienne Lesage, from Hamilton Conference, said, “We are bringing something that is very rich and unique. My fellow francophones are bringing what the church needs. We are going to be so poor if we don’t encourage the leadership in French.”
Hamilton, who is standing for election as Chair of the General Council Nominations Committee, says the amendment effectively “expanded the pool. It expanded the pool to be more diverse.”