One element of exercising due diligence is ensuring the environment in which we provide our ministry is safe. In addition to being safe, we want all people to feel welcome. The means by which we achieve a safe and welcoming space is determined not only by internal factors but also by external pressures such as legislation. The challenge is in being aware of and meeting the requirements of the external pressures.
"Environment" includes not only the physical space but also the people who deliver the services. Health and safety policies and screening practices are only two ways of developing a safe environment. The atmosphere created by individuals as they interact with one another is another element of the environment. The following section looks at various aspects of creating the safe environment—the "caring community."
Looking to develop or enhance your own program for due diligence and screening? Need resources to assist in the process? In addition to the United Church resources listed here, check out Plan to Protect® from Winning Kids Inc.
The Camp Safety DVD and accompanying information booklet [PDF: 24 pp/184 KB] is a starting point for understanding and managing the safety issues, and includes links for more detailed information. The Camp Safety DVD (including information booklet) is also available to order from UCRDstore.
The three short videos on the DVD are available on YouTube. Click on the We Are Camp playlist for all three: General Safety, Waterfront, and Emergency Search. The information booklet provides more information and links to other resources.
If you are involved in programs that involve waterfront, especially boating, the Canadian Safe Boating Council's Smartboater website may be valuable. This site includes free downloadable educational videos and other resources.
Much concern has been expressed over what impact the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) will have on church structures. The concern has been around financial costs, availability of physical space, practical consideration, and the opportunity to live out a commitment to being a welcoming community of faith.
The 2012 Building Code was amended in December 2013 and came into effect January 1, 2015, with new requirements for accessibility. These amendments apply to new builds or major renovations as defined under the building code (related to size of the area being affected). The Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing website describes the requirements in detail under Building Regulation. Before proceeding with any work, the congregation or ministry should consult with the local municipal offices for detailed information about the building code as it applies to their specific property and project.
As welcoming communities of faith, we should continue to strive to eliminate all barriers that may limit access to our facilities. Where possible, making the physical changes to be more accessible is a positive for the ministry and for the community as a whole.
For more information on the Accessibility Standards, please visit AccessON.
All ministries in Ontario have an obligation to meet the requirements of the new Accessible Customer Service Standards, and the January 1, 2012, deadline will be here before we know it.
In the spring of 2010, staff representatives from Hamilton, London, and Toronto Conferences met to collectively develop a resource that can be used by their presbyteries to assist ministries in meeting their obligations. This resource is available on the Hamilton Conference and Toronto Conference websites:
Conferences in Ontario are welcome to adapt the resource for their own Conference. Conferences outside Ontario may find the resource useful as we strive to be a welcoming church to everyone.
Check out AccessON for stories, videos, and tips on how to provide services to individuals with disabilities. A number of tools are available to help you meet the compliance requirements, including online training resources.
In April 2005, the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act was passed into law. Unlike previous versions, this Act has implications for those who fail to meet the various standards that were to be developed and implemented. The first of these standards, Customer Service, has been passed with a compliance deadline of January 1, 2012, for service providers.
Most of our congregations and many of our other ministries will be required to do the following:
Accessibility and the Church [RTF: 2 pp/108 KB]explains the Customer Service standards in more detail and suggests where to find more information (updated December 2010).
Social networking is more than a communications tool. It is a way for people, particularly young people, to hang out together, an extension of their social lives and places of self-expression. It is an alternative form of community. As such, it poses some of the same risks that a physical community may present.
Those in leadership roles who use social media tools as a means of enhancing communication, sharing faith, and deepening relationships need to be cognizant of the power of this medium and the accompanying risks. It is important to continue to employ the rules regarding relationships, boundaries, and ministry practices to ensure a safe environment is created for all. These guidelines [PDF: 2 pp/85 KB] are provided to assist church leaders when they use this growing community.
For more information contact
Program Coordinator, Duty of Care & Incorporated Ministries
Tel: 416-231-7680, ext. 4094
Toll-free: 1-800-268-3781, ext. 4094
E-mail: Duty of Care
(Note: The United Church of Canada is not responsible for the content of external sites - links will open in new window)