Preliminary Report of the Unicamp Charter Review Committee

(updated Sept. 18, 2022)

Unicamp AGM Resolution

At the September 18, 2021 Annual General Meeting (AGM) of Unicamp, the following motion was adopted by the delegates:

To strike a committee of delegates to facilitate a community engagement process to review the mandate and charter of Unicamp that would be gathered and reported on at the next AGM with recommendations. 

Unicamp Charter Review Committee 

In October 2021, the delegates who volunteered to serve on the committee, the Unicamp Executive Director and the President of the Board, began meeting regularly to work on this task. The Executive Director of the Canadian Unitarian Council participated for a number of months. A consultant with the Unicamp Evaluation Advisory Group also assisted the committee with the community engagement phase. A list of committee members appears at the end of the report. 

What is a Charter? 

A charter, more commonly referred to as articles of incorporation, is a key governing document that gives an organization its legal status. It identifies the characteristics of a corporation such as its name, charitable purposes and other financial and legal powers and authorities. 

Committee Review of Current Unicamp Charitable Purposes

Unicamp was incorporated as a charitable organization in 1969. The original charitable purposes of the charter have not been updated since that time and were the focus of our review. Charitable purpose statements describe the objectives or aims the organization was created to achieve. We recommend that the remaining statements in the charter regarding financial and legal authorities be reviewed and updated by the Unicamp Board of Directors. 

The AGM resolution included a review of the mandate of Unicamp. The committee decided that any review and update of the mandate statement, revised in recent years, should occur after the process of updating the charitable purposes and thus was not addressed by this committee. 

The original and current statement of purposes (objects) of Unicamp found within the existing charter are: 


For the following objects, that is to say:

  1. To organize, operate and maintain camps with related services for Unitarian religious training of children and to provide, operate and maintain facilities for church and leadership conferences and seminars.

We reviewed the legal requirements for charitable purposes, which are regulated by the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) and the Ontario Not-For-Profit Corporations Act (ONCA). We reflected upon Unicamp’s core identity and the breadth of its programs and activities as they relate to the existing charitable purposes. We concluded that some aspects of the purposes are still relevant (such as operating camps for children), but the language is outdated. The purpose relating to offering church and leadership conferences and seminars does not adequately describe or reflect Unicamp’s diverse programs and activities. Unicamp has significantly changed and evolved since its formation. Charitable purpose statements should serve as a clear guide for an organization’s activities but the existing purposes cannot adequately do so. We concluded that the 50+ year old charitable purpose statement needed to be updated. The Canadian Unitarian Council (and others) recommend that charitable purposes be reviewed and updated, if needed, every ten years.  (Note that an excellent recounting of the history and evolution of Unicamp is available.)

Development of New Charitable Purpose Statements 

We spent considerable time reviewing the policy guidance documents of the CRA in order to understand the legal requirements for charitable purposes and to draft updated purposes that would comply. The ONCA regulations were also reviewed. Charitable purposes are the aims the organization was created to achieve – its reasons for being. References to some policy guidance documents appear at the end of this report. 

We reflected on who we are presently as a religious charity, how we have evolved over time and what we aspire to be. We considered the ways in which Unicamp’s many programs and activities fulfill, or aspire to fulfill, the charitable purpose of advancing religion. Then we engaged in a process of creating updated charitable purpose statements that would reflect our current aims as a religious charity and would comply with the legal requirements. 

The process of working on this together as a committee was challenging, meaningful and enjoyable and we are excited to share this updated charitable purpose statement with the Unicamp community for their consideration. We believe these proposed purposes can play an important role in guiding leadership for Unicamp, for deepening the spirituality of Unicamp programs and activities and strengthening our UU faith and community, as well as maintaining our charitable organization status. 

The Proposed New Charitable Purposes for Unicamp 

Below are the three charitable purposes we are proposing, in addition to an introductory statement that provides additional information required in charitable purpose statements.

The statement of purpose of Unicamp of Ontario is to operate a Canadian Unitarian Universalist (UU) campground and Spiritual Retreat Centre for UU’s, member congregations, and the general public of all ages to:

  • Provide camps, programs, services and gatherings, that advance Canadian Unitarian Universalist principles, engage in religious exploration, and build a welcoming, inclusive, multigenerational, community;
  • Nurture leadership and life skills by offering programs and opportunities to children, youth, and adults through grounding learning in the Canadian Unitarian Universalist Principles;
  • Engage people in practicing environmental stewardship and living out the Canadian Unitarian Universalist principle of respecting the interdependent web of all existence. This will be realized through: education, conservation, and the enhancement of Unicamp’s natural habitat.

Charitable Purposes: Advancing Religion, Means and Beneficiaries

The CRA requires that charitable purpose statements meet legal requirements and provide particular information. 

“To be eligible for charitable registration, a purpose should identify three elements:

  • the charitable purpose category (relief of poverty, advancement of education, advancement of religion, or certain other purposes beneficial to the community in a way the law regards as charitable)
  • the means of providing the charitable benefit—to define the scope of the activities that can be conducted to directly further the purpose and ensure the provision of a charitable benefit…
  • the eligible beneficiary group—to ensure the charitable benefit is provided to the public or a sufficient section of the public…”   (CRA. How to draft purposes for charitable registration. B. 9.) 

The graph below may be helpful to illustrate how the proposed purposes meet these requirements. 

How the purpose advances religionMeans of providing charitable benefit Beneficiaries 
a)     -advance Canadian Unitarian Universalist principles,- engage in religious exploration, – and build a welcoming, inclusive, multigenerational, community;– provide camps, programs, services and gatheringsUU’s and the general public of all ages
Exclusion – seasonal camping requires UU congregational membership in good standing
b)       Nurture leadership and life skills through grounding learning in the Canadian Unitarian Universalist Principles;-by offering programs and opportunitiesUU’s and the general public of all ages
Children, youth and adults
c) Engage people in practicing environmental stewardship and living out the Canadian Unitarian Universalist principle of respecting the interdependent web of all existence-education, conservation, and enhancement of Unicamp’s natural habitatUU’s and the general public of all ages

Note Re Charitable Purpose Category

The committee was operating under the assumption that Unicamp was designated as a religious charity type by the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA). We discovered however, that Unicamp is currently designated as “other purposes beneficial to the community.”  CRA was unable to provide any clarification as to why or when this designation was made and said we could apply for the religious charity designation in the future. The committee recommends seeking designation as a religious charity in the future.

Engaging the Unicamp Community   

The resolution at the 2021 AGM called for the committee to “facilitate a community engagement process” for the review of the charter. We believe it is vital to hear from the many different groups of people who are involved in Unicamp activities. Do the updated charitable purposes reflect who we are and what we seek to achieve as a religious campground and spiritual retreat center? 

We worked with a member of the Unicamp Evaluation Advisory Group with expertise in evaluation and community engagement processes. To obtain feedback on the updated charitable purposes, we held focus groups representing diverse perspectives (Board, campers, staff) and broadly distributed an online survey for Unicamp participants and members of congregations interested in providing input.  We expect that the report, including the results of the community feedback, will be available by the end of 2022. It is expected that the work to update Unicamp’s charitable purposes will continue in 2023.

For More Information 

Dianne Heise, Committee Chair, Grand River Unitarian Congregation Delegate

Ed Bennett, Grand River Unitarian Congregation Delegate

Aukje Byker, Unitarian Fellowship of Peterborough Delegate

Terri Marks, Unicamp Board President 

Lauren Renzetti, Neighbourhood UU Congregation Delegate

Yvette Salinas, Unicamp Executive Director 

Lorna Weigand, Don Heights Unitarian Congregation Delegate

With contributions from Vyda Ng (Canadian Unitarian Council Executive Director) and 

Kitty Corbett, Unicamp Evaluation Advisory Group

Unicamp Charter Review Committee Members

If you would like to learn more about the requirements for charitable organizations and charitable purposes, please refer to the summary prepared by the Canadian Unitarian Council or the Canada Revenue Agency website. Some links are provided below.

Canadian Unitarian Council – Reviewing and Updating Charitable Purposes

CRA – What is Charitable 

CRA – How to draft purposes for charitable registration