Diocese of Quebec divests from fossil fuels, mining

Quebec is the first diocese in the Anglican Church of Canada to fully divest from both mining and fossil fuels. Photo: Mark Agnor/Shutterstock
Quebec is the first diocese in the Anglican Church of Canada to fully divest from both mining and fossil fuels. Photo: Mark Agnor/Shutterstock
Published December 22, 2015

In mid-December, the diocese of Quebec completed a four-year process of divestment from fossil fuels and resource extraction, making it the first diocese in the Anglican Church of Canada to fully divest from both mining and fossil fuels.

In a report to the synod of the diocese of Quebec in November, Drainville noted that since the Church Society of the Diocese of Quebec passed a motion to divest from resource extraction holdings at its annual general meeting four years ago, $525,000 has been divested from gold and copper mining operations. Following a subsequent motion in 2014 calling on the investment committee to get out of oil and gas, $1.72 million has been divested from fossil fuels.

“The church has a responsibility to respond to the needs of the world,” Drainville said in an interview with the Anglican Journal. “When we respond to those needs, we respond with all our resources, whether they be people, buildings or money…for us to hold stocks in organizations that we know are involved in violence in the developing world, and not adhering to good pollution standards and good employment standards, raises questions.”

As Drainville explained, the diocese of Quebec is unusual because it is governed by both a synod and a church society, the latter being responsible for most of the diocese’s investment activities. It is also one of a few dioceses in Canada that, through legislative documents going back to the colonial period, has the power to create its own instruments of investment.

Drainville said this arrangement has given the church society’s investment committee greater flexibility, and has been a boon to its divestment efforts even as it has allowed the diocese to grow its investment revenues.

“It’s been very helpful,” he said. “This year, the Canadian market is down somewhere around 7%, the American market has flatlined, but so far, by the end of the year it looks like we’ll have either 7.9 or 8% return on investment. But it is because we have an exceedingly good investment committee, and because we have this capacity to put together our own instruments of investment.”

It is a financial picture very different from the one that existed 10 years ago, when Drainville first became involved in diocesan leadership as a missioner.

In 2006, the diocese of Quebec was hemorrhaging money, with operating losses at almost $800,000 for its church society and almost $100,000 for synod, Drainville noted in his charge to synod. He said the crisis was brought on by the ongoing exodus of Quebec anglophones, precipitated by economic and social changes in the past couple of decades. An estimated 4,000 Anglicans remain in the diocese, according to the 2015 Anglican Church Directory.

Given that the diocese could no longer rely on congregational offerings in order to remain solvent, Drainville said it began to liquidate assets and turn to investment as its main source of revenue.

“It’s important to understand [that] in the diocese of Quebec, [the] bottom line [is that] we will always have great challenges, because there is virtually no more English population in central and eastern Quebec,” he explained. “So we’re always going to be behind the eight ball, but the difference now is that we are structured to operate on the basis of the monies that we have and the monies that we have coming in.”

Drainville predicts that by 2017, both the church society and synod will be operating “in the black,” which he argued is evidence that ethical investing does not necessarily mean losing revenue.

“Five years, 10 years ago, when people were speaking about ethical investments, you would always hear people…say things like, ‘fine, but you’re not going to make any money investing ethically.’ Well, that’s nonsense, that’s absolute nonsense,” he said. “There’s a world of investment out there-you just have to be educated and make the kinds of choices that are appropriate.”

While Quebec is the first diocese to complete this process, the dioceses of Ottawa and Montreal followed its lead at their 2015 synods, both passing resolutions to move toward divestment.


  • André Forget

    André Forget was a staff writer for the Anglican Journal from 2014 to 2017.

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