This network is an expression of Canadian churches working together to support anti-racism programs and educators who are working in member churches, sharing resources and learning among anti-racism educators, and supporting long-term change in Canadian churches and church organizations.
The mandate of CEARN is to accompany churches and church organizations in Canada who are working toward racial justice, racial reconciliation, and peace, to transform themselves and their communities.
The goals are:
The genesis of the Canadian Ecumenical Anti-Racism Network (CEARN) can be found in 2001, part of a Canadian response to the United Nations World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance held in Durban, South Africa, that year.
At that major conference, the Canadian church delegates resolved to act on some of the recommendations to the churches made by an ecumenical caucus. The first of these recommendations was “to educate church members, and to be educated, on crimes of racism and racial discrimination and the role of the churches”.
Fall 2001: Information sessions were held in Canada under the umbrella of the Human Rights Committee of The Canadian Council of Churches. Several other ecumenical agencies also participated, including the Women’s Interchurch Council of Canada. The delegates shared what they had learned about the impact of racism and related issues on groups such as Indigenous people, migrants and refugees, Africans and African descendants, and women.
March 2002: 40 anti-racism educators, staff and volunteers in the churches from across Canada gathered to share their experiences and to come to a better understanding of racism in Canada in order to ground their thinking and work more solidly in theological reflection.
One proposal made at the national event led to the establishment of the Canadian Ecumenical Anti-Racism Network (CEARN) that was eventually housed within The Canadian Council of Churches’ Justice and Peace Commission. One of the main objectives for developing CEARN was to create resources for anti-racism education, and anti-racism strategies within our churches and ecumenical bodies.
A Steering Committee of representatives from churches and church coalitions met to provide vision and leadership and to plan programs, including building a national network, hosting a training event in 2002 and holding an Anti-Racism Consultation in 2003.
In the years that followed, CEARN met regularly, providing support for racial justice animators in the Canadian churches. Its second main activity was the production of resources to support racial justice in the Canadian churches. Several workshops, consultations, and book launches were also offered, including workshops on “The Doctrine of Discovery” and “Learning How to Animate Racial Justice Workshops”
In 2017 the ecumenical agency, The Canadian Churches Forum became The Forum for Intercultural Leadership and Learning (FILL), a reference group of The Canadian Council of Churches. This agency, begun in 1921 as the Canadian School of Missions, had long participated in CEARN and had a commitment to just relationships across diversity with a particular focus on racial justice. In 2018, CEARN became part of FILL as its location in The Canadian Council of Churches. CEARN helps resource and maintain FILL’s work on racial justice and the activities of CEARN are enhanced by FILL’s network of program designers and animators and theology and research work.
CEARN seeks to be a space open to anyone engaged in racial justice in and through Canadian churches. A steering group facilitates this wider gathering of community. CEARN remains a space of mutual support and learning from each other. As needs are identified, smaller groups of CEARN members come together for initiatives such as resource creation, workshops, and events.
Since 2006, the CEARN has also developed resources for congregational use.