The Canadian Landscape

Above the bluffs of the mighty St Lawrence River near Quebec City, sit the Plains of Abraham, honoring the patriarch of three Mediterranean-based religions. Blood flowed down the steep slopes in battle at the height of the colonial expansionism period. French settlers entrenched at this continental trading portal, were well on the way to constructing a European style society.[1] Britain lagged French development in the new world and held competitive objectives. English, political, social, and religious ideas rallied in arms attempting to displace French culture and institutions with British imperialism. England recognized and coveted the vast economic opportunities, they envisioned emerging from the capital of New France. Other skirmishes broke out in Atlantic Canada, but during Quebec's battle, opposing military generals, Montcalm, and Wolf both suffered mortal wounds, after-which, Britain precariously declared victory. 


Military advantage in North American disputes often depended upon irregular support from various First Nations, who were often willing participants. Hedging their bets correctly in these offshore wars entitled secondary players to expect a share in the spoils. None-the-less, Quebec remained culturally and religiously French and Roman Catholic until the Quiet Revolution of the 1960s[2]. A more decisive military victory may have solidified Britannia's objectives, but from an indecisive battle emerged a  precarious balance of power that continues today. The province of Quebec retained a particular social arrangement within the Federal arrangement that granted the Quebec National Assembly control over immigration, unlike the other nine provinces, and three territories. Canadian dualism seeded in the battlefield, grew to exert a disproportionate influence over national public affairs.   


In October 1971, the Federal Government of Canada announced a multiculturalism policy, declaring four major objectives;

1. To support immigrants retain an identity based on their country of origin.

2. To enable ethnic minorities to participate as equals within Canadian society.

3. To encourage cultural exchanges within Canada.

4. To help immigrants learn one of the country's two official languages.


Canada's multiculturalism policy received funding from an initial grant of $200 million over a decade. The new department's mandate later expanded to include assisting minorities with human rights problems and promoting anti-discrimination. Directives empowered immigrants to blend into Canadian society while retaining certain distinctive traditions from their countries of origin. Other Western nations adopted a "melting pot" philosophy, expecting newcomers to assimilate within a couple of generations.


Immigrants and refugees provided an easy scapegoat for national suffering, which seems likely the case again. In some countries with a significant Sino demographic, their leaders hurtfully deflect blame onto this minority for their own shortcomings.[3] Post-mortems will determine culpability, but political distractions offer little help in the immediate medical battles taken up against an invisible enemy. COVID-19 is a natural disease with a medical answer and ought not to be politicalized by any sectarian faction.  


Canada is built upon a rich social mosaic of different traditions, with a unique identity, dominated not by English, French, or any other ethnicity. Ideally, being "Canadian" encourages identification with multiple cultural systems, loyalty to an individual's roots, and tolerance for different peoples. Jesus always makes a point of expanding civil requirements when preaching..[4] Admittedly, the Gospel's social reconstruction project remains a work in progress, delivering as many setbacks, as advances. Multicultural lockdowns will remain a topic of critical public discussion with COVID-19 cases soaring in some places and under control in others.  


Whether multiculturalism continues to be desirable, attainable, or successful post-COVID-19 will be argued at a later time. An Angus Reid poll showed that 78 percent of Canadians supported the government's policy. The majority Anglophone population (people whose mother tongue is English), while espousing multiculturalism in principle, found practical difficulty reconciling diverse cultures into the Canadian mainstream. Quebec's francophone population (those whose mother tongue is French) focused on its own distinct identity and usually presented their case within North America's broader culture. The reaction of Allophones (those whose mother tongue is something other than English or French) varied. Clearly, this pandemic disproportionately hurts society's marginalized members and the world's poorer countries. A COVID-19 vaccine controlled and distributed only by and to wealthy nations falls well short of gospel values and humankind's best interest.


          The King will reply, 'Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and                      sisters of mine, you did for me.[5]


Successive Canadian governments have promoted a society that entices educated and economically ready people away from their native cultures. Wealthy and competitive states sometimes even engage in a type of labor proselytizing. Urban revitalization certainly benefits from an influx of immigrants, as religious entities lend subject-matter expertise, to secular reintegration. According to Statistics Canada, among G7 countries, Canada contains the highest proportion of foreign-born residents (21.96%), followed by Germany (14.7% in 2019) and the United States (14.0% in 2019). Most of the 1.2 million immigrants who arrived in Canada between 2011 and 2016 chose to settle in Toronto, Montréal, and Vancouver, representing just over one-half (55.6%) of Canada's total immigration. The Diocese of Calgary welcomed approximately (8 %) of Canada's immigrants, but these are not necessarily Roman Catholic, or even church attendees. Adaptations to temporal and sacramental operations will undoubtedly carry a distinctive ethnic flavor throughout this pandemic.


The dominant religion in Canada remains Christianity, with about 22,102,700, or about two-thirds the entire population.  Roman Catholics are by far the largest Christian denomination, with nearly 13,728,900 people identifying with this tradition. In 2011, people who identified as Muslims made up 3.2% of the population, Hindu 1.5%, Sikh 1.4%, Buddhist 1.1%, and Jewish 1.0%. Roughly, 7,850,600 people, or nearly one-quarter of Canada's population (23.9%), declared no religious affiliation. An increase of 16.5% over a decade earlier, suggesting an increased secularization of Canadian society (Statistics Canada).


The pandemic has indiscriminately gripped Canada's, both spiritual and secular, with equal fervor, but differing remedies. Church and State critique each other's efforts against the backdrop of their respective theological and sociological stances. Federal, provincial, and municipal governments must also balance priorities against harsh economic perceptions and realities.[6] Collaboration between all levels of secular government layers and the church should bring prudence with the human tragedy mounting. 


[1] In 1608, the French began construction of a small European modeled community and adopted the Algonquin name Quebec that means where the river narrows.

[2]R. Durocher (2013) Quiet Revolution, Canadian Encyclopedia.  “The rapid and dramatic development of government institutions and the vastly increased role of the state in the province's economic, social and cultural life unleashed forces that would have major consequences. Most notably, the Catholic Church's role in society diminished, prosperity for French-speaking Québécois grew, and a nationalist consciousness expanded.” Para 3.

[3] Outgoing US Administration Trump alongside supporters from other countries, including Canada, unproductively blame Western's country’s latent pandemic response on Chinese transparency.  

[4] See Mat 5. Jesus speaks against anger, retaliation, and adultery saying love describes the path to God.

[5] See the Gospel of Mathew, 25:40.

[6] The church’s “option for the poor” does not always find favor with government fiscal management policy.