[Apply Today!] Active Citizens

Ottawa, October 18 2018:  The United Nations Association in Canada (UNA-Canada) is pleased to announce that Her Excellency the Right Honourable Julie Payette, Governor General of Canada has kindly accepted the request that she serve as UNA-Canada’s Honourary Patron.

Kathryn White, President and CEO of UNA-Canada, notes that “we are pleased that Her Excellency has continued this meaningful tradition of previous Governors-General for over 60 years. It speaks to the recognition of and support for the work of a historic, national charitable organization providing a leading policy voice on multilateralism, innovative programming focused on the Sustainable Development Goals and engagement of the next generation of youth in Canada and internationally.  Our mission is to educate and engage Canadians in the work of the UN and the critical international issues that affect us all”.

“We believe that a strong and effective United Nations is essential if we are to secure a future based on equality, dignity and justice for all. Our mandate is to promote full and constructive Canadian participation in the United Nations system and to grow global citizens in Canada who embrace the principles of the UN Charter


What is it? Formerly called Active Citizens Social Enterprise, Active Citizens is a social leadership training programme designed to help young social innovators develop the soft skills required to better understand and address the needs of their communities, through the lens of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)
What will you do?

  • Attend a three-day workshop with a diverse group of change-makers in your community
  • Build your network and learn from peers, experienced facilitators and local experts and community leaders
  • Boost your leadership skills, expand your network, and learn how to take an entrepreneurial approach to solving your community’s most pressing challenges
  • Have the chance to showcase your social action project at the Youth Innovation Summit in Ottawa in March, 2019.

Who is it for? Motivated, open-minded young people, aged 18-35, who are interested in developing or improving their leadership skills and tackling a social and/or environmental issue in their communities. There is no cost to attend. Please help us spread the word and forward to your networks! 
Want to join us in Toronto? Click here and complete this form by November 12, 2018.



Andrew Sheroubi: Winner of the John Gibbard Award

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By: Andrew Sheroubi Presented: October 21st, 2018

UNAC Vancouver – John Gibbard Memorial Award Speech

Thank you all for inviting me to be part of this wonderful service.

I am very honoured and thankful to be here, receiving the John Gibbard Memorial Award. My name is Andrew Sheroubi and I am a recent graduate from the University of British Columbia with a degree in Chemical and Biological Engineering and a minor in Entrepreneurship.

A bit of background about myself: I am originally from Egypt, but I lived a good part of my life in Saudi Arabia. When I was 15, my family decided to move to Canada after the events of the Arab Spring which was quite a turbulent time. We were, and still are, Coptic Christians, an already persecuted minority in the country. Growing up, my parents faced many challenges and were denied opportunities, and with the events of the time it didn’t look like things were getting better.

Not too long after I arrived in Canada I made a startling realization: I can do stuff. There were several existing frameworks and resources, along with a general willingness by the community, to support new ideas and initiatives. I joined a few student action networks where I was connected to like-minded students who showed me the possibilities of what could be done. I then became more involved and started leading my own projects. My first major project was a cancer awareness program at my high school through the Canadian Cancer Society. They provided training and resources to help me start and run this program, and is an example of some the great systems in place to encourage youth involvement. I also got involved with the Canadian Red Cross through their Humanitarian Issues Program. I had the chance to facilitate their global issues symposium in 2013, which was a 4-day overnight camp to educate, inspire and provide youth with the tools to enact change in their local and global community. I still keep in touch with some of the participants of that event, and they continue to do great humanitarian work that was inspired by our time together. Sadly, due to restructuring, this program was cancelled.

I was not ok with that. I have seen the impact of this program and the ripple effects it creates; so I decided to take matters into my own hands. I wanted to ensure that high school students continue to receive the training and resources that inspired and empowered me. Some time passed, and through a collaboration between the SFU and UBC Red Cross clubs, the Red Cross Student Movement was formed. My goal was to develop the youth outreach branch of this group to deliver the same support that the Canadian Red Cross did. Now 4 years later, I can proudly say that we are. The Red Cross Student Movement is now an independent organisation that hosts a variety of events throughout the year. Our flagship event is our Humanitarians in Training conference, which is a day-long event where we educate youth about global issues through interactive simulations and experiential learning; connect them with community leaders and likeminded peers; and give them the tools they need to take action. This year’s conference is actually going to take place on Saturday, November 10th at UBC.

In my first couple of years of university, I was working on humanitarian projects mostly independently from my engineering studies. I then attended a talk that revealed something that should have been very obvious to me: the idea of humanitarian engineering. Specifically, I realized I could use my training to address water security challenges around the world, which was the subject of two projects in my final year. It seems silly at first that I didn’t think of that on my own. After a bit of reflection I realized why. It wasn’t covered or touched upon in our curriculum. We weren’t taught how to apply our technical knowledge to help the most vulnerable members of our world. The Engineers Without Borders chapter at the university was doing great work, but it focused more on advocacy and raising awareness.

However, many engineering students were attracted to it in hopes of applying what they were studying towards helping people. I decided to start my own program to do just that. I mentioned this to a UBC staff member who recommended that I deliver this program through a course. This was shocking to me; can I do it? Am I qualified? Despite my doubts, I decided to go for it anyway. The interest I received for this courses exceeded my expectations and was quite heartwarming. Students wanted to do good in the world!

This course was approved as a full 3-credit course at UBC as a student-led seminar. The goals of this course were to train engineers to be more globally minded and aware of the context and underlying factors behind humanitarian and social issues. It also aimed to provide an avenue for students to apply their technical knowledge towards addressing some of the problems in the world. The course covered topics from political science and international development as well as technical knowledge on three streams: food, energy, and water security. My proudest part of that course was the final design project. Students were grouped into multidisciplinary teams and chose a problem statement provided by non-profits and charities from around the world. These were real-life technical problems that the organizations were facing. Along with working on a solution, the teams had to analyze the underlying issues that the organizations were trying to address. I am extremely proud and happy with the work that the students have done, and the organizations feel the same way. All of them are using the final project reports in some capacity. This course is easily the highlight of my university career.

There is some exciting news regarding it too. As a rule, student-directed seminars were only allowed to run once. However, due to the success of the course, which I have to attribute to the great students involved, allowed a professor and myself to get two new courses, one theoretical and one practical, approved for a (hopefully) permanent spot in the engineering curriculum. These courses are anticipated to run in the fall of 2019.

I want to pause here and take a moment to thank you again. These projects happened because of people like you, and organizations such as UNAC-V, that provide the necessary support for initiatives like mine. It is wonderful to see a society that cares so much about the betterment of people’s lives. So once again, thank you. I want to end by sharing what is currently inspiring me. Here it is: I will not change the world. Let me repeat that one more time: I will not change the world. Allow me to explain.

I have always struggled to answer the question, “why am I involved in these issues?” I finally realized it’s because that’s the wrong question. In my opinion, this is a responsibility; a given. I have to be involved, there’s just no other way to be. The focus however of a particular action is how to best help the people affected by that specific issue. This is why I constantly tell myself that I will not change the world; because it’s not about me or what I am doing! It is about people struggling every day to meet their most basic needs. It’s about people who are discriminated against; people in conflict; and people without a home. Most of the issues I have come across are incredibly complex. To improve a community’s water security might damage their food security and vice versa, for example. These complex problems require systemic solutions to truly address them. For those reasons, it is important to take the self out of the equation. Just do the best you can with what’s in front of you. I won’t change the world. You probably might not either. Together, however, as a local and global society, we just might.

Thank you.

2018 John Gibbard Award Ceremony In Celebration of UN Day

In recognition of the United Nations Day on the 24th October, UNAC-Vancouver Branch Presented Andrew Sheroubi with the John Gibbard Award. 


October 21 – Thank you Way Kent for your always warm welcome to the Vancouver Branch of the UN Association of Canada. The connection between UNAC and the Unitarian Church goes back a long way and remains as strong as ever.

The United Nations Association of Canada (UNAC) is a national non-governmental organization with branches across the country. Its goal is to advocate for and educate Canadians about, the work and the ideals of the United Nations.

Founded out of the ashes and rubble of WW 2 the goals of the UN are stated clearly in the preamble to its Charter:

  • “To save succeeding generations from the scourge of war
  • To reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small.
  • To establish conditions under which Justice and respect for international law can be maintained.
  • To promote social progress and better standards of life.
  • To practice tolerance; to live together in peace as good neighbours.
  • To unite our strength to maintain international peace and security.

The annual John Gibbard Award which we are presenting today, is presented by the Vancouver Branch of the UNAC on the occasion of United Nations Day 24th October, which celebrates the UN and its work for human rights, justice and international peace and security.

The award is made in recognition and memory of John Gibbard, a Canadian academic who following WW1 became a committed supporter of the UN’s predecessor – the League of Nations.

After WWII when the UN was formed he became an active member of the UN Association of Canada. He was especially dedicated to involving young people in the creation of a better world.

This award is given annually to a young student or group of students in recognition of their dedication and commitment to work for humanity and a better world.

This year the Vancouver Branch of UNAC has unanimously decided to make the award to Andrew Sheroubi.


Andrew is an engineer who very recently graduated from UBC specializing in Chemical and Biological Engineering.  He is just beginning his career, but his list of humanitarian accomplishments – started in the Middle East where he lived for a while, continued in Canada with the local branch of the Canadian Red Cross and now extends across the globe, for example to St. Lucia in the Eastern Caribbean. He recently persuaded UBC to offer a Humanitarian Engineering Course – of which he is the first coordinator.


I will ask Andrew once he has received his award to tell us more about himself and some of the amazing work he does, but before he does that I want to quote from his nominee Tasha Nathanson who is a youth development worker and mentor:

She wrote: “Andrew stands out as a young person who has already accomplished more than many adults do in a lifetime. He has done it entirely voluntarily on top of an already supercharged academic programme.”  Later in her nomination, she wrote how Andrew had just started his professional career and she said, “Andrew confessed to me his concern that he still has time to pursue the humanitarian projects that motivate and energize him. I have no doubt that he will continue to be a leader in this realm. He will see a need and he will organize to fill it – no matter what else is on his plate.”

Congratulations Andrew. We are all very proud to include you among the distinguished recipients of this award. I am sure that you would make John Gibbard very proud! I am equally sure that we shall hear much more about you in the coming years.

George Somerwill, Past President & Current Board Member, UNAC Vancouver



Marta Santos Pais provided the Dean’s Distinguished Lecture, hosted by the UBC Faculty of Education and the Janusz Korczak Association of Canada on September 13, 2018, in the Robert H. Lee Alumni Centre, Jack Poole Hall. Her lecture is available below.


Marta was appointed as the United Nations Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Violence against Children in 2009. As a high-level global independent advocate, Marta promotes the prevention and elimination of all forms of violence against children in Justice setting, in the home, in institutional care, in schools in the workplace and in the community. She acts as a bridge builder in all regions and across all sectors and settings where violence against children may occur.

Since her appointment, she has been strongly committed to mobilizing action and political support to maintain momentum around this agenda to achieve steady progress across the world. Marta has more than 30 years of experience on human rights issues, engagement in United Nations and intergovernmental processes.

She is the author of a large number of publications on human rights and children’s rights. She has served the UNICEF as Director of Evaluation, Policy and Planning. She was a member of the UN drafting group of the 1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child.


“The concept of children first and above legal, political, social and economic differences was forever captured in the ground-breaking provisions of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child adopted almost 30 years ago. Since then, children’s rights have moved from the periphery of the debate to the hearts of the international and national agenda.

In line with the vision of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, Ms. Pais highlighted how the achievement of sustainable development for all must start by placing children first, starting with an investment in early years and ensuring all children grow up in a safe, loving environment. By investing in children, we create the conditions for every child to grow up free from want, from fear and from violence. In turn, by safeguarding children’s safety and protection, we enhance the chances to reach all the sustainable goals and targets.”

Ms. Pais went on to speak about the progress achieved in terms of data, legislation, and policy and programme development but told us that available figures remain astounding and the voices of children continue to remind us of the need to act now, across all sectors of society. We must not spare any effort to translate the provisions of the Conventions into reality for all children everywhere and at all times.

Next year is a significant opportunity to stand up for the world’s one billion children who are affected by violence each year. 2019 marks the 30th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Also in 2019, the High-Level Political Forum in July will review Goal 16 and the UN General Assembly will host its first overall review of the implementation of the entire 2030 agenda for Sustainable Development, including 16.3 on ending all forms of violence against children. This is a unique milestone that the international community cannot afford to miss.

Patsy George, a Past President and current Honorary Director of the Vancouver Branch of the United Nations Association in Canada who attended the lecture, encourages everyone to contact their members of parliament to eliminate section 43 of the Criminal Code of Canada which allows corporal punishment of children.

Her hope is that when Canada reports back to the United Nations at the 30th anniversary of adopting the Convention of the Rights of the Child, the best interests of the children in Canada will be seen as a priority for the government of Canada.

Remembering Kofi Annan 1938 – 2018


UNAC Vancouver acknowledges with sadness the death on Saturday 18th of August after a short illness, of the seventh UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan. He was 80 years old.

Born in Ghana in 1938, Kofi Annan was educated in that country and in the US. He joined the United Nations, working in the New York mailroom, in the mid-sixties.

Kofi Annan served two 5-year terms as UN Secretary-General from January 1st, 1997 to December 31st, 2006. He was the UN’s first African Secretary-General and the first, and so far only, Secretary-General who rose through the ranks of the organization.

In a BBC interview on his 80th birthday in April 2018  Kofi Annan said that for him, his greatest success was the setting up of the Millenium Development Goals (MDGs) in 2000, which for the first time set development targets, as well as evaluating and quantifying the development progress (or lack of it) of each of the UN’s 153 Member States.

For those of us who had the honour to serve in the UN under Secretary-General Annan, one of his greatest successes was in 2003 when a hopelessly divided Security Council was wrestling with the decision to endorse, or not, the American and British governments’ plans to invade Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. After days of acrimonious public debate and behind the scenes diplomacy Kofi Annan ensured that the United Nations would not lend its diplomatic and moral support to what many people judged to be an illegal invasion.  The governments of George W Bush and Tony Blair invaded Iraq anyway but without UN diplomatic cover, and they never forgave Annan who continued to serve as UN S-G for another four years.

Kofi Annan was a realist who realized that the UN had very human faults. While acknowledging the failings of the organization – including some poor decisions taken by himself, he would always add that if the UN did not exist, the world would need to create something else like it.

For more information about Kofi Annan, visit the website of the Kofi Annan Foundation and the UN website. Kofi Annan’s autobiography, “Interventions,” was published in 2013.


George Somerwill

UNAC-Vancouver Board Member

Ocean Plastic Pollution, A Global Crisis – What Can We Do?

turtle.jpgPhoto Credit: greenpeace.org

In September of last year, Kenya joined the growing list of countries to ban plastic bags. This recent ban bars the production, sale and use of all polythene plastic bags, with a fine of up to $40,000 or four years imprisonment for failure to act in accordance with the law (1). This ban was imposed by the government after identifying that the toxins from plastic bags were impeding the water sources within the country. Kenya isn’t the only country to realize the destructive effects of plastic bags, Bangladesh was one of the first countries to enforce a ban after their plastic bags started blocking drainage systems, causing serious flooding across the country. In 2008, China also joined in banning thin plastic bags and began charging more for thicker ones.

Through these very tangible experiences of plastic bags impeding society, global citizens have become more aware of a world that could be headed toward a plastic pollution nightmare. We see the pictures of plastic pileups on beaches and the islands of waste floating in oceans (the last episode of Planet Earth-Two was especially troubling), but what’s causing this catastrophe (2)? The popularized chants of, “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle,” and “Save the whales” inspire citizens to be more conscious waste consumers, but without knowing how our waste consumption is actually affecting the environment, how can we be motivated to make more permanent changes?

According to an article by Linda Nowlan, the Head of the Marine Program at West Coast Environmental Law in Vancouver, close to 90% of seabirds have plastics in their guts (3). This alarming statistic is merely a side effect of the main problem: up to 12 million tonnes of plastic is entering the ocean every year. To put that into perspective, that’s a garbage truck emptying out its contents into the ocean every minute Plastic accounts for more than 80% of marine litter, making it our primary debris in oceans (4). As more marine animals consume the plastics, the toxins are absorbed in their bodies and passed up the food chain– where humans will inevitably experience these detrimental health effects. While you may not be dumping your garbage straight into the ocean, you may be contributing to this pile up without even being aware of it.

Plastics are entering our ocean ecosystem through litter, drains, and landfills (5). When plastic bottles and plastic bags are littered on the streets or beaches, they are often blown into rivers or drains that flow into the ocean. In the case of drains, many people aren’t aware that the tiny microbeads in toothpaste and makeup products are made of plastic, and when they have washed down the sink they are being added to the plastic pile in the ocean. The industrial leakage in landfills is also one of the biggest problems for plastics. While we may believe that we are responsibly disposing of our plastics by putting them in the garbage, the reality is that many of our plastic bags and containers in landfills are blown away, and like the litter, end up in our oceans.

While global initiatives should continue to be pushed as they drastically help create a more sustainable, healthy environment, all Vancouver citizens are capable of helping by making practical contributions to the movement. A great place to start is by joining the 72,300 others who have signed the #CleanSeas pledge the UN launched in 2017. The pledge challenges citizens to reduce their use of plastic straws, water bottles, containers, bags and packaging by replacing them with reusable alternatives.

You can join the #CleanSeas pledge here: http://www.cleanseas.org/take-action


Another way to contribute to cleaner oceans is by responsibly disposing of your plastics. Instead of putting your plastic bags in the garbage where they’ll go to landfills and can take up to 1000 years to break down, you can recycle them at Recycling Council of British Columbia (RCBC) depots for free. There are two sites that help Vancouver citizens get clarity on what gets recycled, and where, that you can find in these links:




UNAC-V, OceanWise, Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup, Surfrider Vancouver and the City of Vancouver are organizing a World Oceans Day Cleanup and Celebration event on June 9th from 10:30am-2:00pm. Join us for a panel discussion addressing solutions to plastic pollution, an educational fair with like-minded organizations and a shoreline cleanup! You can find more information here: https://education.ocean.org/oceanmatters/calendar/event/36153

We hope to see you there!


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About Our Writer: 

Julianna Driedger

Julianna Driedger is currently a Media and Communications student at Trinity Western University (TWU). She is passionate about women’s advocacy and has been involved in the sexual misconduct policy reform for TWU. Julianna has led ideas for marketing campaigns in her University and is currently completing an internship in Communications at Lehigh Hanson. She looks forward to her semester as an intern in Parliament Hill, Ottawa in the Fall.

Dr. Patsy George


UNAC Vancouver is pleased to announce that UNAC-V Past President and current Honorary Director of the branch, Ms. Patsy George, has been awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Laws (LL.D) by the University of British Columbia.

Patsy George is an internationally recognized former social worker and ongoing activist who has devoted her long career to fighting for social justice both within Canada and internationally. She is a recipient of the Order of Canada and the Order of British Columbia.

Please read and be inspired by Patsy’s acceptance speech, below.

Thank you to the Chancellor, President and Vice Chancellor, other distinguished guests on stage, Faculty, students, parents and friends. Let me express my deep appreciation to the original peoples of this land to have welcomed us all to their unceded territories.

Congratulations to each and every one of you graduating today and to your families and friends who are proud of you. I accept this honour with a great deal of emotion and gratitude and want to thank not only UBC but also Canada.

I arrived in Canada as an international student 58 years ago after a brief period in the US where I experienced a traumatic incident because of my colour. I am eternally grateful to the then president of that university in Texas who advised me to give Canada a chance, instead of packing my bags and returning to India which was my home at that time. She had a PhD from a Canadian University and convinced me that I would find like minded people in Canada who are progressive and who truly believe in equality and human rights .So today I thank her as well, a woman who had the wisdom to counsel a young 20 year old in tears, to move to Canada.

It is a Canada that embraced me and gave me opportunities to finish University, work as a public servant both at the Provincial and Federal levels, take on leading roles in the nongovernmental sector and contribute as a volunteer locally, nationally and globally. Canada gave me opportunities to build on the already existing good will in our communities in different parts of this great country. It offered me room to grow and fit in and offer my talents to bring people and resources together to work for an even better Canada where diversity is respected and celebrated. Where else would a young foreign student with average interest in music and reading become so passionately involved in listening to Western classical music and opera and later on get doors opened to serve as a Trustee of one of the largest public libraries in Canada! Cultural minorities and people in the margins of society are guaranteed rights in our Human Rights Codes, and in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, unlike the early 1960’s USA I left behind.

Canada gave me opportunities to represent her overseas at various UN conferences, Peace and Social Development Forums organized by the women’s community and my own profession of Social Work. I was able to share with the world the nature of Canadian Multiculturalism with pride and confidence. My colleagues and I, at the provincial government level were able to develop racism free structures in our bureaucracies and support community based anti racism programmes. I shall remain grateful to the Government of Canada for giving me the job as a Commissioner representing Canada to determine eligibility of refugee claimants and welcoming them from many parts of the world to this country. One can count on Canada to provide opportunities for such experiences whether you were born here or chose Canada as your home as I did.

Even though we  in Canada have reasons to feel proud of our Human Rights legislations, the Charter and various UN treaties we have adopted , we still have a lot of work to do to live up to the  expectations of the UN Declaration of Human Rights , which a Canadian helped to write, as we are proud to note. As yet we are a long way from the UN Declaration of the Rights of the Indigenous Peoples recommended to us by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

While Canada does provide opportunities and the environment, in which we have the potential to achieve the said goals, we need to remain committed to furthering the goals as stated in those declarations.  The idea of Canada can only sustain itself through a symbiosis between people and purpose, through resonance and resolve of its pluralistic fabric that continue to evolve through its respect for the rights of the indigenous peoples and the rest of us settlers from around the world . It is a challenge for this graduating class, together with our families, neighbours and friends. We must continue to work together for equality, peace and justice in Canada and around the world.

As human beings, we need to experience a sense of belonging which I have felt in this country and among my colleagues and friends working together to eliminate poverty, racism, sexism, violence against women and children and all other prejudices and ill conceived notions of gender , about people with varying abilities and about the aging populations in our communities. We are interdependent locally and globally. Let us prove to the world that Kipling was mistaken when he expressed the sentiments that “East is East and West is West and never the Twain shall meet”. We can and we have brought the world closer and smaller in Canada by bringing diverse people and a diversity of ideas together.

Let me emphasize. Seeking to be part of change –social change – means one must become that change. Social activism is not what others do. It gives you meaning in life .Belonging and valuing others, serving something beyond yourself helps you to connect to a higher reality. In the words of Mahatma Gandhi “be the change you want to see in this world”

Whether you spend your future choosing a career in business, take on public service, become a politician or diplomat, create art and music or serve your fellow citizens as a teacher, a nurse, a social worker or a technician or working with others to keep the planet alive for the future generations, the key to feeling fulfilled is to recognize the urgent and persistent question in life. What are you doing for others? In other words recognize our common humanity and work towards strengthening those bonds. That is the ideal Canada is built on.

If it were possible for the president of my former US University to be here today, she would smile and remind me that it is a good idea to listen to your elders and teachers, at least sometimes, while you are seeking your own truths and finding your own way in this complicated world.

May each of you be blessed with opportunities to fulfill your life’s potential, seek the truth; and contribute to the betterment of humanity, no matter where or how you pursue your career goals. Follow the advice of Ferdinand Magellan, one of the Portuguese explorers, “the sea is dangerous, and its storms terrible but these obstacles have never been sufficient reason to remain ashore”.

All of you who are graduating today must thank this institution, the University of British Columbia for providing the tools, role models, inspiration and values to go out into the world and fulfill your dreams. It is my prayer that you will find yourselves as global citizens, dedicated to creating peaceful and just communities and toward creating ONE WORLD.

Martin Luther King told us the following: “If I cannot do great things, I can do small things in a great way”. Let that message ring in your ears whenever you are called upon to take on responsibilities. Congratulations to each and every one of you.

Patsy George, May 24, 2018