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Descent of a Nation: From Christianity to Charter Values

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Abstract

This article does two things. First of all, it demonstrates that Canada was founded as an essentially Christian country. Secondly, it explains how Canada's Christian foundation was undermined by Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau's Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
13
DR. MICHAEL
WAGNER
MICHAEL WAGNER is an
independent researcher
and writer with a PhD in
Political Science from
the University of Alberta.
Among his books are
Leaving God Behind: The
Charter of Rights and
Canada’s Official Rejec-
tion of Christianity and
Standing on Guard for
Thee: The Past, Present
and Future of Canada’s
Christian Right. He and
his wife have eleven
children and live in Ed-
monton.
CANADA WAS FOUNDED AS a Chris-
tian country and continued as a Christian coun-
try for most of its history, but it is important to
qualify what that statement means. It does not
mean that all Canadians have professed to be
Christians, or that most Canadians have been
true believers in a strict sense. Rather, to say that
Canada was a Christian country refers to the fact
that Canadas legal and political institutions were
broadly founded on a Christian worldview, from
the rst settlement by Europeans until 1982.
It was in 1982 that Canada adopted Prime
Minister Pierre Trudeaus Charter of Rights and
Freedoms, adding it to the constitution and
thereby divorcing the country from its Christian
foundation. From that point forward, instead of
Christianity, something called “Charter values”
has generally informed the governing philosophy
of our political institutions.
A CHRISTIAN COUNTRY
e two European countries that originally
settled Canada were France and Britain. France
was a deeply Roman Catholic nation and its
colony along the Saint Lawrence River reected
that inuence. Roman Catholicism was at the
core of culture in New France. More extensive
and pervasive, however, was the inuence of Brit-
ain. e British government had been ocially
Christian for centuries. Even today there remains
a legally-established Church of England and a
legally-established Church of Scotland.
In fact, in 1643, England, Scotland and Ireland
formally covenanted together and with God to
follow the Bible in both church and state, a bond
known as the Solemn League and Covenant.1
ough largely forgotten today, the Solemn
League and Covenant arguably made Britain into
the most Christian nation (in a Protestant sense)
in history.
e point here is that Canada was originally
settled by Christian nations and from the outset
was itself broadly, if not thoroughly, Christian.
Some of that Christian element remains today.
For example, Canadas current Head of State,
Queen Elizabeth II, took an oath to “maintain
the Laws of God and the true profession of the
Gospel” at her coronation.2 Up to this point in
history, Canadas heads of state have always been
explicitly Christian.
Not surprisingly, therefore, numerous scholars
have noted Canadas Christian heritage. For
example, University of Toronto historian John
Moir wrote: “At least until a generation ago it
was condently assumed by most Canadians that
Canada was a Christian country, and that this
was God’s providential intention.3
Even Tom Warner, a longtime homosexual rights
leader in Ontario, has noted the central role of
Christianity in Canadas past: “Until the mid-
twentieth century, if not longer, Christianity and
most particularly Christian values and morality
were central to the national identity.4
Evidence of Canadas original Christian
identity is present in the political sphere.
Canadas rst Prime Minister, Sir John
A. Macdonald, stated as much in Parlia-
ment. Speaking in favour of a resolution
that prayers be read at the beginning of
each day in the House of Commons, Mac-
donald said that “as a body composed of
representatives of a Christian country and
supposed to be Christians themselves, that
it was quite proper that the blessing of the
Almighty should be invoked upon the acts
of the Legislature.5
PAGE NO.
Ezra Institute for Contemporary Christianity SUMMER 2017
DESCENT OF A
:
CHRISTIANITY CHARTER VALUES
NATION
from to
“At least until a
generation ago it
was confidently
assumed by most
Canadians that
Canada was a
Christian country,
and that this was
God’s providential
intention.”
SUMMER 2017 Ezra Institute for Contemporary Christianity
THE LORD’S DAY ACT
Moreover, Christianity had a direct eect on Ca-
nadian society. University of Toronto law profes-
sor Lorraine Weinrib points to the Lord’s Day Act
as one unambiguous instance of this inuence.
Unlike England, Scotland and Ireland,
Canada did not formally establish Chris-
tianity as our ocial religion. But as
Weinrib has written, “Informal religious
establishment wielded similar author-
ity through entrenched personal, social,
political, and institutional privilege, as
exemplied by the enactment and reten-
tion of the Lord’s Day Act, 1906.6
At the time of Confederation in 1867,
the North American colonies that be-
came Canadas provinces each had leg-
islation enforcing the Lord’s Day. From
early days, however, this law had opponents. e
Hamilton Street Railway challenged Ontarios
Sabbath legislation in court on the basis that
such legislation was a federal matter rather than a
provincial one. e railway wanted to operate on
the Lord’s Day, and having the court strike down
the law would facilitate that.
In 1903 the Judicial Committee of the Privy
Council (JCPC) in London, England (the high-
est court in the British Empire) struck down the
legislation. e JCPC reasoned that Sabbath
legislation was criminal law, and criminal law
was entirely under the jurisdiction of the federal
government.7 With this decision, all of the Sab-
bath laws in Canada – provincial laws – were ef-
fectively overturned. A Sabbath law would need
to be enacted at the federal level in order to be
valid.
Another point about this decision must be ob-
served. In 1912 a case (Ouimet v. Bazin) involving
the Lord’s Day Act made it to the Supreme Court
of Canada. It is notable what the Chief Justice, Sir
Charles Fitzpatrick, said about the JCPC’s ruling
in the Hamilton Street Railway case. Referring
to the JCPC’s members as “their Lordships,” he
wrote: “In the Hamilton Street Railway Case their
Lordships hold, impliedly at least, that Christian-
ity is part of the common law of the realm; that
the observance of the Sabbath is a religious duty;
and that a law which forbids any interference
with that observance is, in its nature, criminal.”8
Here it is stated that the highest court in the Brit-
ish Empire had ruled that “Christianity is part
of the common law” of Canada. is important
detail helps to demonstrate Weinrib’s point about
the informal, yet widely-acknowledged establish-
ment of Christianity as the religion of Canada.
With the provincial Sabbath laws declared in-
valid, many Christians in Canada demanded that
the federal government institute Sabbath legisla-
tion. e government obliged. In the course of
the Senate debate on this new legislation, Con-
servative Senator James A. Lougheed of Calgary
quoted from the Globe newspaper as follows: “As
the Minister of Justice declared, Christianity is
the religion of Canada and the fabric of Canadi-
an nationhood is buttressed by Christian institu-
tions, but the great interests of social economics
are as urgent as the churches that this measure be
made law without weakening or delay.9 us in
the opinion of the Minister of Justice at the time,
“Christianity is the religion of Canada and the
fabric of Canadian nationhood is buttressed by
Christian institutions.” Could this statement be
any clearer?
e Lord’s Day Act was passed in 1906.
THE LORD’S DAY ACT GOES TO COURT
Over time, popular support for the Lord’s Day Act
declined. Nevertheless, its authority was not in
doubt. When it was challenged in the Supreme
Court of Canada in 1963, it was upheld. In 1960,
the government of Prime Minister John Diefen-
baker passed the Canadian Bill of Rights which in-
cluded protection for “freedom of religion.Two
businessmen, Walter Robertson and Fred Rose-
tanni, tried to have the courts overturn the Lord’s
Day Act using the religious freedom provision of
the new Bill of Rights. ey were unsuccessful.
e Supreme Court noted that there had been
laws in Canada enforcing the Christian Lord’s
Day since long before Confederation. us, the
conception of religious freedom enacted in the
Canadian Bill of Rights could not possibly entail
the rejection of Lord’s Day legislation:
14 Descent of a Nation
“With the provincial
Sabbath laws
declared invalid,
many Christians in
Canada demanded
that the federal
government institute
Sabbath legislation.
The government
obliged.”
Ezra Institute for Contemporary Christianity SUMMER 2017
As has been indicated, legislation for the
preservation of the sanctity of Sunday has
existed in this country from the earliest
times and has at least since 1903 been
regarded as a part of the criminal law in
its widest sense. Historically, such legisla-
tion has never been considered as an
interference with the kind of “freedom of
religion” guaranteed by the Canadian Bill
of Rights.10
Robertson and Rosetanni were unsuccessful be-
cause the Bill of Rights conception of freedom
of religion was seen as being situated within
Canadas Christian social and political history.
Canadas Parliament had not undermined the
Lord’s Day Act when it adopted the Bill of Rights
in 1960.
BIG M DRUG MART
However, that all changed with the adoption of
the Charter of Rights in 1982. At a stroke, Christi-
anity ceased to be the basis of Canadian law, and
thus any explicitly Christian legislation could
now be overturned by the courts. is is what
ultimately happened to the Lord’s Day Act.
In 1982, Big M Drug Mart in Calgary was
charged with violating the Lord’s Day Act because
it was open on Sundays. It fought the charges,
and the case went all the way to the Supreme
Court of Canada. In its decision, the Supreme
Court struck down the Lord’s Day Act as a viola-
tion of the Charter of Rights, specically section
2(a), the guarantee of “freedom of conscience and
religion.” According to the Court’s interpretation,
the purpose of the Lord’s Day Act was to enforce
the Christian view that certain activities should
not take place on Sunday. As the court put it,
“e arm of the state requires all to remember
the Lord’s Day of the Christians and to keep it
holy.”11 Because this purpose was religious, the
court held that it violated the Charter’s guarantee
of freedom of conscience and religion, and was
therefore invalid.
is decision is signicant for more than its
striking down of the Lord’s Day Act. It provided
the template for future court decisions based on
s. 2(a) of the Charter. Big M Drug Mart
was a groundbreaking decision that would
be cited frequently in future decisions. It
outlined, in part, how religion (specically
Christianity) would be considered in rela-
tion to law for the future. Christianity was
no longer acknowledged as the foundation
of Canadian law, as had been the case be-
fore 1982.
Professor Weinrib rightly noted that with
this decision, “the Court discarded the
ideas that had animated the enactment of the
Lord’s Day Act, 1906, in eect declaring an end to
the propensity of Canadian legislatures to regard
Christianity as both generic and normative in the
formation of public policy.”12 Christianity was no
longer “normative,” that is, it no longer set the
norms for Canadian society.
CHRISTIANITY IN ONTARIO SCHOOLS
Before 1982, Christianity was also evident in leg-
islation and public policy at the provincial level.
In a pattern very similar to what occurred with
Canadas federal Lord’s Day legislation, Ontarios
public education system contained explicitly
Christian elements that would be thrown out by
courts on the basis of the Charter of Rights. Before
the 1980s, Christianity, in the form of religious
exercises and some course content, was a signi-
cant component of the public education system
of Ontario.
R. D. Gidney and W. P. J. Millar explain the situ-
ation this way:
Did twentieth-century Ontario have a
religion ‘by law established,’ a set of
doctrines and beliefs that were not only
widely shared by its people but incor-
porated into the legal framework of the
state? In the schools it certainly did. Here,
Christianity was privileged by law, required
to be taught ‘by precept and example,’
and integrated into the curriculum in both
formal and informal ways.13
Christian practices and teachings were part of
Descent of a Nation 15
“The Bill of Rights’
conception of
freedom of religion
was seen as
being situated
within Canada’s
Christian social
and political
history.
SUMMER 2017 Ezra Institute for Contemporary Christianity
the Ontario public school system from
the early 1800s through to the late
1980s. Clearly, in some sense Ontario
considered itself to be a Christian society.
Formal religious instruction was rst of-
cially instituted in Ontario schools in
1816 by the Home Board of Education,
which was established and supported by
the government.14 From that time for-
ward, Christianity held a formal place in
Ontario’s education system.
ere are two components to the reli-
gious aspect of public education that are
important to distinguish. First is what
is commonly called “exercises,” usually
“opening exercises” and “closing exer-
cises.” e exercises usually take place at
the beginning and/or ending of the school day
and consist of prayer and/or Bible reading. e
second component is actual religious instruction
where the students are explicitly taught about
Christianity. e reason that it’s important to dis-
tinguish these two dierent activities is because
they would be eliminated from Ontario’s public
education system in two separate court decisions,
one in 1988 and the other in 1990.
For much of Ontarios history, the ocial role of
Christianity in the public education system was
not controversial for most people. However, by
the early 1960s opposition to religious education
in public schools was growing. is opposition
was taken seriously, and in January 1966 the pro-
vincial government appointed a special commit-
tee headed by J. Keiller Mackay, a former Lieu-
tenant Governor of Ontario, to study religious
education in the public schools. It was called the
Committee on Religious Education in the Public
Schools of the Province of Ontario and com-
monly known as the Mackay Committee.
REPORT OF THE MACKAY COMMITTEE
e Mackay Committee released its report in
1969. In the words of Gidney and Millar, this
report “called for the full-scale disestablishment
of Christianity in the province’s schools.15 e
report argued that Ontario’s religious education
program amounted to religious indoctrination.
e material used in the public schools was thor-
oughly permeated by Christianity as the reported
demonstrated:
This material, much of which is denitely
Christian and Protestant in content, is in
our opinion a vehicle leading to religious
commitment rather than to true educa-
tion. The Regulations and Programme
clearly states “that ‘the schools of Ontario
exist for the purpose of preparing children
to live in a democratic society which bases
its way of life upon the Christian ideal,’
and further, that ‘the school must seek to
lead the child to choose and accept as his
own those ideals of conduct and endeav-
our which a Christian and democratic
society approves.’ The teacher is then
counseled ‘to bring home to the pupils
as far as their capacity allows, the funda-
mental principles of Christianity and their
bearing on human life and thought.’”
In accordance with these instructions,
the children of Ontario are exposed to
Christian indoctrination throughout the
elementary grades. This indoctrination
begins in the kindergarten where the
teacher nds readily available Christian
Bible stories, hymns, and busy-work
materials adapted to young children, and
it continues with more or less intensity into
the higher grades.16
Clearly, the Christian content of the curriculum
was prevalent. e Committee’s recommenda-
tion to discontinue the religious education pro-
gram was not implemented by the government.
Nevertheless, the religious education issue would
come to a head in the late 1980s as the impli-
cations of the new Charter of Rights were felt in
Ontario’s education system.
Two major court decisions led to the elimination
of Christian inuence from Ontario’s schools.
In Zylberberg v. Sudbury (Board of Education)
(1988), Christian religious exercises would be
forbidden. Close on the heels of that decision,
a dierent court ruling, Canadian Civil Liberties
Association v. Minister of Education (1990), more
16 Descent of a Nation
“For much of
Ontario’s history,
the official role of
Christianity in the
public education
system was not
controversial
for most people.
However, by
the early 1960s
opposition to
religious education
in public schools
was growing.”
Ezra Institute for Contemporary Christianity SUMMER 2017
commonly known as the Elgin County decision,
forbade Christian religious instruction. ese
Ontario decisions eectively set the tone for the
issue of religion in public education for much of
the country.
THE ZYLBERBERG CASE
In 1985 ve parents within the jurisdiction of the
Sudbury Board of Education applied to have the
daily religious exercises of the Board discontin-
ued. e religious exercises were authorized un-
der Section 28 of the Regulations governing pub-
lic schools. In particular, the parents wanted s.
28(1) to be declared of no force or eect because
it allegedly violated their freedom of conscience
and religion under s. 2(a) of the Charter of Rights.
Basically, s. 28(1) mandated that public schools
have opening or closing exercises with reading of
the Bible and repeating the Lord’s Prayer.
It’s important to note, however, that provision
was made in the Regulations so that parents who
objected to their children taking part in the exer-
cises could have their children excused. at is,
anyone could opt out. e parents who launched
this eort lost the initial court ruling in 1986.
However, on appeal to the Ontario Court of Ap-
peal, s. 28(1) was struck down as violating the
Charter of Rights. e reason oered by the court
for this conclusion was as follows:
Section 28(1) is antithetical to the Char-
ter objective of promoting freedom of
conscience and religion. The recitation
of the Lord’s Prayer, which is a Christian
prayer, and the reading of Scriptures from
the Christian Bible impose Christian ob-
servances upon non-Christian pupils and
religious observances on non-believers.17
As is normal in Canadian court decisions, the
judges relied heavily on the reasoning oered
in previous decisions to arrive at their own con-
clusion. e Big M Drug Mart decision of the
Supreme Court of Canada was one important
source of authority in this case. Of special in-
terest, however, was the reliance on a couple of
important United States Supreme Court rulings,
Engel v. Vitale and Abington School District v.
Schempp.
In 1962 the US Supreme Court ruled in Engel
v. Vitale that public schools cannot ask students
to recite prayers. is was a very controversial
decision. School prayers had been a normal part
of public education in many parts of the United
States, so declaring them to be unconstitutional
was seen as a drastic measure by many Americans.
e following year, in 1963, the US Supreme
Court issued another controversial decision in
Abington School District v. Schempp. A Penn-
sylvania school district had a policy of opening
each school day with a brief religious program
consisting of Bible reading and the recitation
of the Lord’s Prayer. Students could be excused
from participating at the request of their parents.
Nevertheless, this program was challenged by
the parents of two children who objected to it
as violating the Establishment Clause of the First
Amendment. Much like the Engel decision, the
Supreme Court ruled in Abington School District
v. Schempp that reading the Bible as part of a
public school religious program was unconstitu-
tional.18
Many Americans saw these two landmark court
decisions as “putting God out of the schools.
Some people still see them as a kind of turning
point in American history.19 Being American,
these major decisions on religious practices in
schools should not have been pertinent to the
Canadian situation. ey were, after all, based on
a specic clause in the US Constitution. It was
only after the adoption of the Charter of Rights
that these cases became pertinent to Canada, and
played a part in expelling Christianity from Ca-
nadian classrooms, just as they had from Ameri-
can classrooms.
Terri Sussel explains as follows:
As in earlier Supreme Court of Canada
decisions considering the Charter’s
guarantee of religious freedom, the
Ontario Court of Appeal’s conclusions in
the Zylberberg case were based in large
measure on U.S. decisions relating to the
guarantee of religious freedom in the First
Amendment to the U.S. constitution. Thus,
Descent of a Nation 17
SUMMER 2017 Ezra Institute for Contemporary Christianity
notwithstanding the differences in word-
ing between the religious freedom clauses
in the U.S. and Canadian constitutions,
the Court of Appeal relied on two land-
mark U.S. school prayer cases from the
1960s that ruled that mandatory religious
exercises were unconstitutional.20
In some instances, at least, American First
Amendment jurisprudence has become relevant
for Canada due to the Charter. e inuence of
liberal American judges has spread north of the
border.
ELGIN COUNTY
e Elgin County case was eectively a compan-
ion case to Zylberberg, completing the rout of
Christianity from the Ontario public school sys-
tem. It was initiated by the Canadian Civil Liber-
ties Association (CCLA), which supported some
Ontario parents who opposed religious instruc-
tion in the public schools. In the time leading up
to this case, the religious instruction in
Elgin County public schools was decid-
edly Christian.
In 1988 a Divisional Court ruled against
the CCLA. at decision was appealed
and on January 30, 1990 the Ontario
Court of Appeal struck down education
Regulation 28(4) which mandated that
two periods per week be devoted to reli-
gious education. e court ruled that the
religious education program violated the
Charter of Rights. e era of Christianity
in Ontario’s public schools was over. is new
situation was clearly described in a subsequent
Ontario court decision, Re Bal et al. and Attorney
General for Ontario that dealt with private school
funding in 1994:
As a result of the decisions of the Court
of Appeal involving the Sudbury Board
of Education and the Elgin County Board
of Education, religious instruction and
exercises were not permitted in the public
school system. The upshot of all of this
has been that the public school system in
Ontario has been secularized.21
NATIONAL RAMIFICATIONS
These were Ontario court decisions, but their
ramications were felt far beyond provincial
borders. Most importantly, despite the fact that
it was not a Supreme Court of Canada decision,
Zylberberg has been accepted as the authoritative
ruling on religious exercises in public schools for
much of the country:
The ruling of the Ontario court in Zylber-
berg was never heard by the Supreme
Court of Canada but it nevertheless had
a forceful impact on two similar cases,
one in British Columbia, Russow v. British
Columbia (Attorney General), and one
in Manitoba, Manitoba Association for
Rights and Liberties v. Manitoba. In these
cases, complainants presented Charter-
inspired challenges to the provincial
legislative regime regarding opening
exercises in schools, like those litigated
in Zylberberg. The judicial result in the
B.C. Supreme Court and in the Court of
Queen’s Bench in Manitoba was virtually
the same as in the Ontario court, both rul-
ings relying on the reasoning and conclu-
sions of the Zylberberg court. Similarly,
neither province appealed the provincial
court decision to the Supreme Court.22
MARRIAGE IN CANADA
One more example will suce to provide evi-
dence of Canadas Christian origin, where we
have come from and how we got to where we are:
the denition of marriage. From before the time
of Canadas existence as an independent nation
until 2003, marriage was legal only between one
man and one woman. Canada had an explicitly
Christian denition of marriage. A British court
decision known as Hyde v. Hyde in 1866 settled
the denition for Britain as well as for the Brit-
ish colonies, and Canada was still a colony at
that time. Lord Penzance ruled in Hyde v. Hyde
that: “I conceive that marriage, as understood in
Christendom, may for this purpose be dened as
the voluntary union for life of one man and one
woman, to the exclusion of all others.23
18 Descent of a Nation
“On January 30, 1990
the Ontario Court
of Appeal ruled
that the religious
education program
violated the Charter
of Rights. The era
of Christianity in
Ontario’s public
schools was over.
Ezra Institute for Contemporary Christianity SUMMER 2017
In the early 2000s, court proceedings were initi-
ated in British Columbia, Quebec, and Ontario
to overturn Canadas historic denition of mar-
riage. e end result of these proceedings was
a series of rulings, the most earth-shattering of
which was the decision handed down in Ontario,
Halpern et al v. Attorney General of Canada et al.
ere were a number of aspects to this case but
the central one was whether Canadas historic
Christian denition of marriage violated the
Charter of Rights. Section 15(1) of the Charter
guarantees equality before the law and equal pro-
tection of the law. And as the court ruled, “the
common-law denition of marriage as ‘the vol-
untary union for life of one man and one woman
to the exclusion of all others’ violates s. 15(1) of
the Charter.”24
erefore, from June 10, 2003 onward, Ontario’s
denition of marriage included same-sex couples.
Over the next couple of years many of the other
provinces and territories adopted same-sex mar-
riage as a result of court cases within their juris-
dictions. en the federal law on marriage was
formally changed in July, 2005, making same-sex
marriage legal throughout the entire country.
THE CHARTER VERSUS CHRISTIANITY
Osgoode Hall law professor Bruce Ryder has
neatly summarized the eect of the Charter upon
the public place of Christianity in Canada:
The elimination of the Lord’s Day Act, the
amendment or repeal of other Sunday
closing laws, restrictions on religious
prayer and religious exercises in public in-
stitutions, the replacement of a denition
of marriage inspired by Christendom with
one more consonant with the objectives
of contemporary marital regulation – all
of this is conrmation that the Charter has
accelerated Canada’s journey from a de
facto Christian state to a secular pluralist
state.25
Before the Charter, Canada was (in Ryder’s words)
“a de facto Christian state.” But the adoption of
the Charter involved a rejection of Christianity
and its replacement by a dierent worldview.
With the Charter, Canada, in a constitutional
sense, turned its back on its past and its original
Christian underpinnings.
Similarly, Weinrib explains that “the Charter sev-
ers the individual from the social and political
framework of informal religious establishment.
For that reason, early Charter cases dismantled
faith-based Sabbath observance laws and re-
moved religious indoctrination and prayer from
the public schools.”26 In her view, Canada origi-
nally had an “informal religious establishment”
of Christianity, but was severed from this by the
adoption of the Charter.
e Charters severing of Canada’s informal
Christian establishment did not leave a
vacuum. Instead, as St. omas Univer-
sity political scientist omas Bateman
explains, Canada now has a governing
philosophy informed by “Charter values.”
In various Supreme Court of Canada deci-
sions released since the Charters adoption,
so-called “Charter values” are referenced
as authoritative in reaching certain con-
clusions. Unsurprisingly, “Charter values
reect a modern progressive conception
of political life that dovetail closely with leftist
stances on controversial issues.
If the Charter was restricted to governing the
activities and relationships of the federal and pro-
vincial governments (as historic constitutional
theory would suggest), that would limit the
reach of the Charters power. However, modern
progressive constitutional theory will not accept
such limits. It seeks to manage the activities and
relationships of society as well as government.
us, as Bateman summarizes the progressive
view, “Charter values govern not only the actions
of the state but also the life of institutions and
individuals in civil society.”27 In some sense, then,
Charter values” may now constitute the estab-
lished religion of Canada.
CONCLUSION
Canada Christian foundation is a matter of in-
disputable historic record, and this foundation
has to a large degree been abandoned. Although
Descent of a Nation 19
“With the Charter,
Canada, in a
constitutional
sense, turned its
back on its past
and its original
Christian
underpinnings.
SUMMER 2017 Ezra Institute for Contemporary Christianity
there were sociological and other reasons for this
loss, from a political perspective the adoption of
the Charter of Rights is likely the most signicant
reason.
Emphasizing Canadas Christian foundation is
not meant to romanticize Canadas history or to
say that all is well with its past. ere have been
many instances of evil in Canadas history. An
obvious example is the racist policies that dealt
a great deal of harm to First Nations and other
“non-white” people.
Such sinful episodes in Canadas past deserve to
be criticized and, where possible, made right. But
the only way to truly make amends is to start
with widespread cultural repentance for turning
our national back to the eternal Christian prin-
ciples that largely motivated our founders. Few
countries in the history of the world have been as
free and benecent as Canada. Canada is a much
more free and prosperous nation than many
countries, and that is why millions of people de-
sire to come here. Many of the most attractive
aspects of Canada (e.g. the rule of law, prosperity
due to economic freedom, etc.) are the result of
the country’s original Christian foundation.
1 Michael Wagner, The Anglosphere’s broken
covenant (Lewiston, ID: Gospel Covenant
Publications, 2010).
2 Humphrey Waldock, The blind goddess: Law
without Christ (West Vancouver: Metwand Pub-
lications, 1995), 209.
3 John Moir, Christianity in Canada: historical
essays (Yorkton, SK: Redeemer’s Voice Press,
2002), 1.
4 Tom Warner, Losing control: Canada’s social
conservatives in the age of rights (Toronto:
Between the Lines, 2010), 5.
5 Debates of the House of Commons of the
Dominion of Canada. Vol. 3, 40 Victoria, 1877.
Fourth Session—Third Parliament. Ottawa, 27.
6 Lorraine E. Weinrib, “Ontario’s Sharia Law
Debate: Law and Politics under the Charter”
in Law and religious pluralism in Canada. Edit-
ed by Richard Moon (Vancouver: UBC Press,
2008), 246.
7 Paul Laverdure, Sunday in Canada: The rise
and fall of the Lord’s Day (Yorkton, SK: Gravel-
books, 2004), 18.
8 Ouimet v. Bazin, [1912] 46 S.C.R., 507.
9 Debates of the Senate of the Dominion of Can-
ada. 1906. Second Session—Tenth Parliament,
1215.
10 Robertson and Rosetanni v. R., [1963] S.C.R.,
658.
11 R. v. Big M Drug Mart Ltd., [1985] 1 S.C.R., 337.
12 Lorraine Eisenstat Weinrib, “‘Do Justice to Us!’
Jews and the Constitution of Canada” in Not
written in stone: Jews, constitutions, and con-
stitutionalism in Canada. Edited by Daniel J.
Elazar, Michael Brown, and Ira Robinson (Otta-
wa: University of Ottawa Press, 2003), 46.
13 R. D. Gidney and W. P. J. Millar, “The Chris-
tian Recessional in Ontario’s Public Schools”
in Marguerite Van Die, ed. Religion and public
life in Canada: Historical and comparative per-
spectives (Toronto: University of Toronto Press,
2001), 275.
14 J. Keiller Mackay et al, Religious information
and moral development: The report of the
Committee on Religious Education in the Pub-
lic Schools of the Province of Ontario (Toronto:
Ontario Department of Education, 1969), 4.
15 Gidney and Millar, “The Christian Recessional,”
281.
16 Mackay et al, Religious information and moral
development, 21-22.
17 Zylberberg v. Sudbury (Board of Education)
[1988] 65 O.R. (2d), 654.
18 John W. Whitehead, The separation illusion:
A lawyer examines the First Amendment (Mil-
ford, MI: Mott Media, Inc., 1977), 118.
19 David Barton, America: to pray or not to pray?
A statistical look at what has happened since
39 million students were ordered to stop pray-
ing in public schools (Aledo, TX: Wallbuilder
Press, 1988).
20 Terri A. Sussel, Canada’s legal revolution: Pub-
lic education, the Charter, and human rights
(Toronto: Emond Montgomery Publications,
1995), 141.
21 Re Bal et al. and Attorney General for Ontario
et al. 21 O.R. (3d) 1994, 685.
22 John Long and Romulo Magsino, “Religion in
Canadian Education: Whither Goest Thou?” in
The courts, the Charter, and the schools: The
impact of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms
20 Descent of a Nation
Ezra Institute for Contemporary Christianity SUMMER 2017
on educational policy and practice, 1982-2007.
Edited by Michael Manley-Casimir and Kirsten
Manley-Casimir. Toronto: University of Toronto
Press, 2009), 115.
23 Halpern et al v. Attorney General of Canada et
al. [2003] 65 O.R. (3d), 166-167.
24 Halpern et al, 190.
25 Bruce Ryder, “The Canadian Conception of
Equal Religious Citizenship” in Law and reli-
gious pluralism in Canada. Edited by Richard
Moon (Vancouver: UBC Press, 2008), 94.
26 Weinrib, “Ontario’s Sharia Law Debate,” 247.
27 Thomas M. J. Bateman “The Supreme Court
of Canada as Moral Tutor: Religious Freedom,
Civil Society, and Charter Values.” in Liberal
education, civic education, and the Canadian
regime: Past principles and present challeng-
es. Edited by David W. Livingstone (Montreal
& Kingston: McGill-Queen University Press,
2015), 233.
Descent of a Nation 21
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Article
Full-text available
The author describes the Canadian conception of equal religious citizenship, one in which religious freedoms and religious equality rights are allied in advancing the right of religious persons to participate equally in Canadian society without abandoning the tenets of their faith. The core idea is that society must accommodate individuals’ freedom to hold and express religious beliefs and engage in religious practices unless doing so would interfere with the rights of others or with compelling social interests. Canadian law takes a more robust approach to equal religious citizenship than can be found in the human rights jurisprudence of many other countries. The Canadian understanding of religious rights is a positive manifestation of a commitment to a non-assimilationist model of citizenship, one aimed at promoting equality and multiculturalism. The author reviews a number of recent incidents that indicate that in the current climate characterized by fear and outrage directed at the violence and oppression perpetrated in the name of religious fundamentalism, religion is too readily and quickly seen as a threat to equality or security, and all religious freedoms become vulnerable to being too lightly overridden. The resulting downward pressure on religious rights is as great a threat to the Canadian model of multicultural citizenship as that posed by religious fundamentalism.
Chapter
In 1906, the tiny Jewish community in Canada asked national legislators for the opportunity to be "good citizens."1 Parliament had legislation under consideration to mandate Sunday Sabbath observance. Jews pleaded for a policy flexible enough to allow them to keep their own Sabbath without disadvantage. Simple words expressed the essence of the request: 'Do justice to us' according to the standards of other civilized, Christian countries.2 This plea for justice, equal citizenship, and civilized standards proved futile. "Alien immigrants," came the reply, could not enjoy the benefits of their new country without being subject to the rules that, as a Christian community, Canada saw fit to lay down.3.
The Anglosphere's broken covenant
  • Michael Wagner
Michael Wagner, The Anglosphere's broken covenant (Lewiston, ID: Gospel Covenant Publications, 2010).
Losing control: Canada's social conservatives in the age of rights (Toronto: Between the Lines
  • Tom Warner
Tom Warner, Losing control: Canada's social conservatives in the age of rights (Toronto: Between the Lines, 2010), 5.
Ontario's Sharia Law Debate: Law and Politics under the Charter" in Law and religious pluralism in Canada
  • Lorraine E Weinrib
Lorraine E. Weinrib, "Ontario's Sharia Law Debate: Law and Politics under the Charter" in Law and religious pluralism in Canada. Edited by Richard Moon (Vancouver: UBC Press, 2008), 246.
Religion and public life in Canada: Historical and comparative perspectives
  • R D Gidney
  • W P J Millar
R. D. Gidney and W. P. J. Millar, "The Christian Recessional in Ontario's Public Schools" in Marguerite Van Die, ed. Religion and public life in Canada: Historical and comparative perspectives (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2001), 275.
The Christian Recessional
  • Millar Gidney
Gidney and Millar, "The Christian Recessional," 281.
The separation illusion: A lawyer examines the First Amendment (Milford
  • John W Whitehead
John W. Whitehead, The separation illusion: A lawyer examines the First Amendment (Milford, MI: Mott Media, Inc., 1977), 118.
America: to pray or not to pray? A statistical look at what has happened since 39 million students were ordered to stop praying in public schools
  • David Barton
David Barton, America: to pray or not to pray? A statistical look at what has happened since 39 million students were ordered to stop praying in public schools (Aledo, TX: Wallbuilder Press, 1988).