October 2016

Take a Religious Tour of Vancouver
Religious tours give great insight as to how churches function.

While taking a religious tour, you get to see the inner workings of how churches function.

Even if you aren’t religious, there’s a lot that can be learned by taking a religious tour within a city. You may need to call and make arrangements if you want to tour the inside of the church, but you don’t even have to go inside to see the architecture of the building. Make sure you don’t interrupt worship services. Vancouver is not one of the oldest cities in Canada, but there’s still a lot of heritage within the city. Here are some of the best churches to visit when you’re in town.

Different Churches to Visit On Your Religious Tour

  1. Paul’s Anglican Church was built in 1905. It is now a heritage building that cannot be torn down, nor have the integrity of its design altered. It’s a Gothic Revival design, and when you go inside, there’s a replica of a medieval labyrinth laid in the floor. It’s not a maze, but a walking path that leads into the centre and back out again. People of all faiths use it for meditation and reflection. The labyrinth is open to the public during certain times of the day.
  2. Christ Church Cathedral is noted for its stained glass windows. It’s such a popular exhibit that the church has a self-guided tour that can be downloaded to walk you through the building. The church itself is an excellent example of Gothic Revival architecture built at the turn of the 20th You might even think that it was taken out of the English countryside and moved to its location in Vancouver. In 1995, the church began a restoration project that took about 11 years. Visitors are invited to take a walking tour through the building to enjoy its rich heritage.
  3. The Holy Rosary Cathedral is home to the Roman Catholic faith. Pope John Paul II visited this church when he came to Vancouver. This building was built in the French Gothic style, and it features 21 beautiful pictorial stained glass windows. It’s one of three places in British Columbia where bells are hung in the English way. The bells made three oceanic crossings before the final installation. After one installation, the bells were not considered melodic enough and had to be sent to England to be melted down and recast.
  4. Andrew’s-Wesley United Church is a short walk from downtown. The Gothic building was completed in 1933, and it’s a popular venue for music concerts. Every Sunday, the church offers Jazz Vespers in the afternoon and candlelight and music service in the evening as extra worship services for the community. The church also houses many stained glass windows and liturgical hangings to help understand the faith.
  5. Holy Trinity Ukrainian Orthodox Cathedral is a beautiful building that did not receive the designation of Cathedral until 1983, but the parish was established in 1937. On the first Friday of the month, the church hosts a Ukrainian supper featuring pirogies and cabbage rolls at great prices. The inside of the Cathedral features beautiful paintings of icons. Worshippers venerate, not worship, these icons and show respect for their faith by genuflecting before the icon painting.

Learning more about faiths outside of your own opens your eyes to the similarities and differences between different religions. It can bridge gaps between individuals and in communities. Take a religious tour of your own town if you can’t get to Vancouver to explore its religious heritage. Look at the difference in architecture, decorations and stained glass windows. You don’t have to be a believer to see the beauty in the history of the building and interior décor. Understanding how religion affects someone’s life helps you understand their morals, their celebrations and their lifestyle. And it gives you a better understanding of the world.

Why Are Churches Losing Attendance?
Why are churches are losing attendance?

Why are churches are losing attendance?

Pick up any Christian magazine or read one online, and you’ll find many theories about why churches are losing attendance. Many people believe that the church is no longer relevant. Some think that adults are choosing to ignore God. There are others who see the church as too hierarchal. In Canada, about 25 percent of adults identify as having no religious affiliation. Many studies have been done about the actual number of people who stop attending church, but very few look at the reasons why. The Church of Scotland, which is Scotland’s national church, commissioned a study about the lack of attendance. The findings were surprising.

One of the key beliefs in failing congregations is that the members lose faith in God and this is why they stop attending. Another issue that has been thought to ravage church membership is disagreements. Women still do not find support in leadership in many churches. The LGBTQ community is also disenchanted with the church, which is another reason that people stop attending. However, Dr. Steve Aisthorpe, the researcher who carried out the study for the Church of Scotland, found something interesting.

Are People Leaving Church or God?

Dr. Aisthorpe discovered that about 66 percent, or two-thirds, of those who left the church now practice and worship in different ways. Many still gather with like-minded individuals to discuss theological issues and pray together. They choose different venues, such as homes or parks, or even do activities together where they can share their faith and address questions they have about their convictions. Aisthorpe also found that this phenomenon was not different in rural and urban churches.

This suggests that it is the organization of the church that keeps people away. More people are turning away from large congregations for a more personalized worship ritual. Arguments and division may turn some people away from church, but this doesn’t indicate that they stop believing in God. A spokesman for the National Secular Society states that “Churches are out of step, and the people in the pews are voting with their feet.”

The Health of the Church and Religious Community

Although Dr. Aisthorpe carried out the majority of his research in Scotland, he did not only look at his own country to get information. He looked at related research from the Western world. He found changes in the attendance of Sunday morning worship, but he doesn’t believe that should be the only measure of the health of the Christian community and faith. His research suggests that churches are in a transitional period, rather than a decline.

What happens now with the church, in whatever denomination, is up to the individual community. Pastors, priests, and religious leaders need to find what works for their own congregation. The Christian community is not the only religion that is having a hard time filling their seats. Many Jewish synagogues are finding it difficult to maintain membership rolls. In Japan, religious organizations are facing the crisis of having to close Buddhist monasteries because the smaller communities cannot afford to support the monks. The rural areas do not have the number of people they once had, and those areas with more of a population are finding that nationals are not using the services of the temples.

Another key element that Dr. Aisthorpe’s research demonstrates is that the church leaders have to stop assuming and stereotyping those who do not attend church. The reasons that keep people away may have nothing to do with their actual faith in God. It’s easy to point to other problems when the congregation fails. Instead of pointing fingers, churches need to become more relevant and change their delivery system. This is how the world works. Most faiths are buried deep in rituals and traditions that are difficult to change, but as culture changes, so must religion.

World Heritage Sites to Explore on Your Honeymoon
Exploring beautiful landscapes is a great way to spend your honeymoon.

Exploring beautiful landscapes is a great way to spend your honeymoon.

Traditionally, a honeymoon gave the bride and groom time to celebrate their new union by sharing private moments. Taking a trip on the honeymoon became popular in 19th century England when couples would take a bridal tour to visit relatives who could not attend the wedding. Today, couples go to romantic and exotic locations to have time together and make memories that will last a lifetime. Here are some of Canada’s best locations, designated by UNESCO as World Heritage Sites because of their cultural or natural significance. Consider visiting one of these great locations on your honeymoon to make the trip even more memorable.

Dinosaur Provincial Park

Along the Red Deer River in southeastern Alberta are a prairie and badlands, which offer many remains of birds, mammals, and dinosaurs. Take a tour of the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Paleontology, the only museum in Canada totally dedicated to prehistoric life. With over 800 fossils on display, you’ll be able to see some of the largest land animals that are known to man. Scientists find new specimens each year. You can also enjoy a bus tour of the area. Explore Canada’s history during the Ice Age and appreciate today’s civilization.

Red Bay Basque Whaling Station

In Newfoundland, on the northeastern seaboard, is the Red Bay Basque Whaling Station. Named as one of the World Heritage Sites in 2014, it’s been a historic site for much longer. It’s an archaeological center that has preserved the heritage of whaling. The days of whaling may be over, but this site gives a glimpse into why whales are on the endangered list. It’s a beautiful location with much to offer.

Historic District of Old Quebec

If natural history isn’t your thing, the historic district in Quebec is an example of a colonial town that is fortified. The ramparts in this city have been preserved. You can observe the original bastions and gates that provided defense for Quebec in the early 17th century. Outside of the historic district, Quebec is a modern city with more to see and do. Understand Canadian heritage and see how your ancestors lived and defended themselves before today’s technology.

Old Town Lunenburg

In Nova Scotia, the town of Lunenburg was a British settlement. However, the British government recruited Protestants from Germany, France, and Switzerland to settle in the town as a balance to the French and Catholic presence already established in Nova Scotia. It’s a well-preserved example of British settlement, which made it a World Heritage Site in 1995. Early settlers were mostly involved in the fishing industry and faced many agricultural challenges and hardships in the early days. Many films use the location as a picturesque backdrop and historical site.

L’Anse aux Meadows

The Vikings have come back into popularity in the last few years with television programs examining the culture. Explore a historic district in Newfoundland, L’Anse aux Meadows, which is the first authentic Norse site discovered in North America. There are three building complexes that remain, and archaeologists have found evidence of Danes dating back to the 9th century. Inshore fishing supports the community today, which means you’ll find plenty of fresh seafood on the menu.

Nahanni National Park Reserve

On the opposite coast, in the Northwest Territories, sits a wilderness with mountains, great views, rivers, and hot springs in the Nahanni National Park Reserve. Settlers were drawn to the area by the lure of gold in the early 1900s. Gold was never found, but the land was thought to be beautiful and unique. Canada included the area in its national park system in the 1970s. It’s a mecca for bird watchers, as more than 120 species have been recorded. Those who enjoy canoeing believe the Nahanni River is one of the best in the world. Honeymooners can enjoy hiking and camping while seeing the beauty of Canada.

Celebrating a Marriage in an Indian Tradition
Beautiful Indian bride hands

Beautiful Indian bride hands

Understanding the traditions from other cultures is important to building relationships with those outside of your own community. When Prime Minister Justin Trudeau appointed four Sikhs to his cabinet this November, he brought their culture to the forefront. Sikhs have been misunderstood for generations, not just here but around the world, including in their own country. Indian wedding traditions show an importance of family. Learn more about the heritage, in case you ever get invited to a wedding.

How Long Does the Ceremony Last?

An Indian wedding ceremony traditionally lasts three days. This does not mean that guests are expected to attend each part of the ceremony. Day one is typically for the bridal party and close relatives. The priest performs a ceremony known as the ganesh pooja. Day two is the mehndi ceremony, where the bride and female friends and relatives have henna patterns placed on their hands and feet. The bride is not expected to do any housework until the henna fades away. In the evening on day two, the wedding guests are invited to a sangeet, which is the introduction of families, a meal, and dancing or other performances.

On day three, the main ceremony takes place. In India, the groom might arrive on a decorated elephant or horse, but in today’s world, the groom would probably choose a luxury vehicle. Floral garlands are exchanged as part of the ceremony. In some parts of India, family members carry the bride and groom while they attempt to place these garlands on each other.

This main ceremony can take three hours. The bride’s parents give her to the groom, and the bride’s father requests that the groom accepts his daughter as an equal partner. The priest is there to lead the ceremony and ask for prayers, but traditionally he only facilitates the wedding. The groom ties a sacred thread around the bride’s neck, which is a symbol of his promise to take care of her. He places vermillion on her forehead, a symbol which welcomes her as his partner.

The bride and groom take seven steps with each other to confirm their eternal friendship. It is symbolic of the friendship they need for a relationship and that they will take part equally in the good and bad times of their marriage. The wedding may take place around a fire, which is representative of the fire god, Agni, one of the witnesses to the wedding. Circling the fire seven times is symbolic of the goals of the marriage, including prosperity, sensual gratification, and moral duties.

What to Wear and Bring

Indian wedding ceremonies are bright and colorful. The family often dresses very colorfully, in traditional saris and lenghas. Don’t be afraid to wear jewel-tones and your fancy jewelry. For women who wish to emulate their hosts, a shawl can mimic the look of a sari while complementing most dresses. Most invitations will specify no gifts at the wedding. Send gifts to the home of the bride or groom. There’s too much happening at the reception and ceremony for the family to be concerned about managing gifts.

The Reception

Following the third-day ceremony is a wild party with lots of food and dancing. Today, most receptions will include both traditional and contemporary music and dances. The bhangra is a folk dance from Punjab, and most people pick up the moves quickly.

Food at the reception varies based on the families’ preferences. Curries and naan, a flatbread, are common, as are samosas, which are a pastry filled with meats or vegetables. There may be a large dessert display including cake, ice cream, and other decorated sweets.

Indian weddings are all about the family and the joining of a couple for life. It’s a grand festival to bring not just two people together, but their families.

The Government Relies on Churches for the Syrian Refugee Crisis

Syrian Refugees immigrating from Europe to the west

The Canadian government is making the Syrian refugee crisis part of the political climate, but what is it really doing to make a difference? According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), there are about 60 million refugees around the world right now. Not all of these are from Syria, but currently, that is the biggest population. If Canada is accepting 10,000 of these refuges, that is just 1/60 of one percent. Germany is expecting 800,000 refugee new arrivals in 2015, or about 80 times what Canada is allowing. Canada leaders want you to believe they are doing something, but the real people making the difference are the churches.

Where the Parties Stand

  • Conservatives – They have pledged to resettle an additional 10,000 refugees from both Syria and Iraq over the next few years, in addition to the 10,000 that had already been pledged.
  • NDP – This party has pledged to fast-track private sponsorship and increase the number of refugees that the government sponsors by 9,000 per year over four years.
  • Liberal – They are pledging to help 25,000 refugees through government sponsorship and boost private sponsorship capabilities. The party also wants to put $100 million each into refugee processing and UNHCR relief work.
  • Green – The Green party is pledging to welcome 40,000 refugees.

Why the Government Is Turning to Private Sponsorships for Syrian Refugees

The UNHCR has very limiting criteria when it comes to relocating vulnerable refugees. Religion and ethnicity cannot be considered unless the refugees are at risk in the country where they are seeking relocation. Churches that offer private sponsorship for refugees help the government target those minorities who are facing problems in the refugee camps.

The Armenian churches are the most active sponsors in Canada, but they are working with other denominations to make a difference. It takes money and time to get a refugee relocated into a Canadian city, and this commitment doesn’t end once the family or individual is here.

So far, 1,106 of the 10,000 refugees that the government pledged to take have been received by Canada. As of September 8, 888, or 80 percent, of those have been through private organizations. It appears that the churches are the ones making the difference in the count. However, it is going to take every citizen to work together to make the difference.

Funding and Government Promises

Just last month, in September, the Canadian government promised to speed up the process to get refugees into the country. It also promised to increase funding to organizations willing to sponsor refugees, but critics are concerned that the funding won’t be distributed quickly enough. Groups that take in donations aren’t guaranteed any matching funds, even though the funding is supposedly going to “match” donations made by citizens. Organizations still have to apply to receive this money, and there’s no indication how long it will take to distribute it. Although it’s understandable that the government wants to maintain the integrity of its money, bureaucracy moves slowly, which makes it more difficult for the churches to move forward and step up to get families relocated.

Who Is Responsible for Syrian Refugees?

The entire world is wondering who needs to take responsibility for the displaced families of Syria. This is a political battlefield, and it would be wonderful if the war in Syria would end. Unfortunately, at this point, even that would probably not stop the problem. The country has been torn apart, and it will take years to rebuild the infrastructure. In the meantime, every other country in the world that has the resources to help these innocents make a new life should step up. It’s a humanitarian need, not a political statement to be used to get elected.

 

The Battle Over Niqab

Beautiful blue eyed woman in traditional niqab veil

Zunera Ishaq, a woman who holds devout Muslim beliefs, moved to Ontario from Pakistan in 2008. When she was going to participate in a citizenship ceremony, she had to decline because she would be required to remove her niqab, a head veil that is a symbol of her faith and modesty. This set off a battle in the courts. On September 17, 2015, the Federal Court of Appeals upheld Ishaq’s right to wear her niqab, stating that, “banning face coverings at such ceremonies was unlawful.”

Head Coverings – What’s the Difference?

Muslim women wear different types of head coverings. If you aren’t familiar with these articles of clothing, the names can be confusing. Here is a primer:

  • Hijab – A hijab covering is the most common in the West. It covers the head and neck while leaving the face clear.
  • Niqab – A niqab is a veil for the face that usually leaves the eyes clear. It’s typically worn with a headscarf.
  • Burka – A burka is a one-piece veil that covers the face and body and has a mesh screen for the eyes to see through.
  • Shayla – A shayla is a long scarf that is wrapped around the head and leaves the face clear.
  • Chador – A chador is a full cloak that covers the entire body and is typically worn when outside the house.

The Argument Against Head Coverings

One of the reasons that the government is arguing that Muslims should remove their veils during the citizenship ceremony is so they can hear them say the oath. However, it is possible to hear someone speak under the veil. Another argument is that of identification. Again, women who wear these garments are willing to accommodate the need to be identified. One survey of Muslim women found that they would be happy to remove their veils for facial identification. Wearing veils during the ceremony doesn’t change who they are.

Earlier this year, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper went so far as to condemn the wearing of the niqab because it is “rooted in a culture that is anti-women.” The Conservatives are being charged with practicing divisive policies because they have taken this fight over the niqab so far. The Conservatives say that they will appeal the most current ruling of the Federal Court, making some wonder why it is so important to them when the women are not complaining.

Freedom of Religion

Advocates for the right to wear the niqab believe that it is a restriction of religious freedom when the state tries to use its power to dictate what a woman can or cannot wear. Justin Trudeau believes that in a free country such as Canada, individuals should have the right to wear a niqab, just as others can choose to dislike it. However, the state itself should not be in the middle of it unless it poses a threat to society.

How Do You Respond to a Woman Wearing a Niqab?

The Canadian Council of Muslim Women (CCMW) surveyed Muslim women across Canada to give them a voice by asking why they wore the niqab. Not one of the women surveyed answered that they are forced to wear the veil. The two most common reasons that women gave for wearing it were for religious beliefs and personality identity. The CCMW is working to ensure Muslim women are not denied their rights just because so many people do not understand this minority.

If you are in a position of authority and need to see a woman’s face for identification purposes, politely explain your position and make the request. A woman may be more comfortable allowing another woman to identify and see her face, but most agree that they have to cooperate with the government as part of their religion. Otherwise, you should just consider the niqab as any other item in a woman’s attire. Respect their choices, even if you don’t agree with them. As for Ishaq, she plans on taking her lawyers to the citizenship ceremony, just in case.

Understanding Civil Disobedience

Protesters exercising Civil Disobedience

Civil disobedience is a way that people rebel against what they feel is an unfair law. Mahatma Ghandi, Rosa Parks, and Henry Thoreau are just a few of the most common names associated with civil disobedience, but historians know that the concept is much older than Thoreau’s essay from the 1800s. Sophocles depicts civil disobedience in his play “Antigone.” The heroine, Antigone, defies the King of Thebes, who won’t let her give her brother a proper burial. He not only threatens her with death, but carries it out. However, her conscience is clean.

Ride With Pride Controversy

A bus driver for Calgary Transit refuses to drive any bus that is decorated in rainbow colors. Jesse Rau states that his religious beliefs are being violated and that he shouldn’t have to support the LGBT community. In a news conference, he told reporters that he would quit first. The Transit Authority says that this is a personnel matter between an employee and the employer. Is this civil disobedience?

The United States Gay Marriage Controversy

In the United States, Kim Davis has the spotlight after not issuing marriage licenses in a protest against gay marriage. She states that she is acting under “God’s authority” and doesn’t want her name on the licenses issued to gay couples. The issue has gone all the way to the United States Supreme Court, and it doesn’t seem finished yet. Davis is still in office, but refusing to comply with the law. Some people believe that what Kim Davis is doing is civil disobedience.

What Is Civil Disobedience?

Ronald Dworkin, a philosopher, asserts there are three types of civil disobedience:

  • Integrity-based civil disobedience – this is when a citizen disobeys a law that they feel is immoral.
  • Justice-based civil disobedience – A citizen disobeys a law in order to claim a right that has been denied.
  • Policy-based civil disobedience – A person breaks the law so that the policy changes.

One of the principles of civil disobedience is that it must be publicly announced. Most people believe that it should be non-violent, but this is highly debatable. However, one article states that civil disobedience should be “carefully chosen.” Think about Nelson Mandela’s stand against apartheid in South Africa, or the northerners’ approach to slavery with the Underground Railroad during the United States’ Civil War.

Just Don’t Take the Job

Drawing a line in the sand isn’t always easy. The Ontario government put together an advisory panel on assisted suicide and euthanasia. They selected a prominent bioethicist, Moira McQueen, to serve on the panel to bring a Catholic counterweight to the table. McQueen is a professor of moral theology at St. Michael’s College in Toronto. She turned down the job, with the reason being that there is no way to mitigate the damage “when something is seriously wrong in the first place.” She asserted that she could not do more than make a moral objection to the process.

Civil Disobedience in Canada

In 2012, when Bill 78 was passed, thousands of people came together in Montreal to protest the new law. College and university students went on strike. Citizens banged on pots and pans daily at a specified time to express opposition. The demonstrations worked. The punitive sections of the bill were repealed in September after the general election.

Civil disobedience isn’t always cut and dried. Rosa Parks sat down on the bus to obtain basic human rights that were being denied to her. Nelson Mandela lingered in jail for years because he threatened the South African government. Bill 78 was wrong, and people came together to abolish the bad parts.

On the other hand, Jesse Hau could have gone to his employer and requested an undecorated bus for the duration of the festival. The city isn’t going to be intimidated by Hau, but will continue its message of inclusivity and diversity. It would seem that Jesse Hau wanted publicity, and that his actions were not civil disobedience.

The Religious Movement in Canada for Syrian Refugees

Map showing where syrian refugees come from

Since the Syrian civil war broke out in 2011, it’s estimated that there are more than four million people who are refugees, according to the United Nations Refugee Agency. After the photo of a young Syrian boy found dead on a Turkish beach was published, it brought the issue to the forefront of mainline news. The UN Refugee Agency made an appeal to every nation to help resettle 100,000 Syrian refugees. Canada committed to another 10,000 on top of the 1,300 that it had already said it would help. However, only about 2,500 refugees have been taken in at this point.

Why Syrian Refugees Cannot Get Help

Mayors in practically every city in Canada want to help Syrian refugees, but there are a number of obstacles that make it difficult. One of the biggest challenges is that refugees fall under federal jurisdiction. While the will is there to accept people into the community, it takes time to get all of the paperwork and screening done. These are a few of the challenges:

  • Canada is focusing on minorities, which indicates that it is choosing refugees based on religion.
  • Bureaucratic red tape is slowing down the process. Limited staff and paperwork obstacles delay the status of refugees. It can take from 11 to 19 months or more to work through the paperwork.
  • Private and community organizations must get a proof of refugee status from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees or a foreign state, which adds another layer of red tape for this vulnerable population.
  • The Immigration and Refugee Board is not fully spending the budget it has to help resettle refugees.

Who Is Stepping In?

It’s estimated that only about 27 percent of the refugees entering Canada are doing so with government assistance. It’s the religious sector that is stepping in and meeting the need. Not only are Muslims taking steps to bring Syrian refugees to Canada to settle them, but those of different faith are as well. This worldwide crisis brings together unusual pairings, all in the name of human rights.

The Mennonites in Edmonton started working with the Muslim community in 2014. It’s estimated that the group has reconnected 32 individuals from Syria with relatives in the area. It has another 100 refugees in line to be resettled to Edmonton by the end of the year. The Mennonites is a religious group known for its sponsorship for those displaced. Since the 1970s, it has sponsored more than 70,000 people who were fleeing their homeland due to war or conflict. But in order to help the Syrian refugees, it had to work with the local imams.

In Ontario, 21 churches came together to raise the $32,000 necessary to pay for living costs of a sponsored refugee family. However, this group also had to reach out to the Muslims to work together to bring two entire families to the community. They raised money through bake sales, bazaars, and online donations. This small group inspired more congregations to beef up their own efforts to bring families into Canada.

The Archdiocese of Toronto has already helped 120 Syrian refugees to date, but it has ramped up fundraising efforts. Over the next 100 days, the goal is $3 million, which will bring in 100 families. A Jewish congregation in Toronto is also sponsoring a Syrian family by working with Lifeline Syria.

Working Together Builds Relationships

Interfaith groups that bring these refugees to Canada aren’t just bringing them over and leaving them on their own. Once the families arrive, they often need language assistance and integration into the community to be able to find their way. It’s not just financial assistance that needs to be provided by the sponsoring organization. Getting these families out of the camps that they are currently living in is going to take everyone coming together and not considering religious background.

Canadian Cree Contestant Wins Mrs. Universe Title

Native american women in tribal headdress.

August 29, 2015, was a historic date for the Cree First Nations People. It is the day one of their own, Ashley Callingbull Burnham, was crowned Mrs. Universe. The contest was held this year in Minsk, Belarus. Burnham is the only Canadian and first First Nations participant to ever win the pageant. Her victory may help bring attention to some of the problems indigenous people face including the tragedy of missing and murdered aboriginal women.

Quick Facts on Mrs. Universe 2015 Ashley Callingbull Burnham

  • 25 years old
  • Actress and model who starred in APTN TV show Blackstone
  • Grew up on a reservation near Edmonton in poverty
  • Taught performing arts to Cree students
  • Experienced physical and sexual abuse at the hands of her stepfather when she was young
  • Named second runner-up in the 2010 Miss Universe Canada contest
  • Married in February 2015 and began competing in Mrs. Universe pageant
  • Wore traditional beaded powwow jingle dress to pageant’s national outfit parade
  • Wore buckskin dress by aboriginal designer Lyn Kay Designs for pageant’s talent competition

Who Are the Cree?

The Cree are Native Canadians and Native Americans, and are the one of the biggest tribes in North America.

  • Canadian Cree
    • Approximately 220,000 members including roughly 38,000 who reside in Quebec
    • Live mostly in Alberta, Manitoba, Northwest Territories and Saskatchewan
    • Largely, the number of Cree is often attributed to their belief in intertribal marriage
  • American Cree
    • Reside primarily in Montana on Rocky Boy, Fort Peck or Fort Belknap Indian Reservations
  • Language

Numerous Cree speak English and French. There is a Cree language as well. It is similar to the one spoken by the Algonquin tribe, and is the most popular Canadian aboriginal dialect. The Northwest Territories is the only place where the language is officially recognized. In the Encyclopedia of the World’s Endangered Languages Cree is named as “one of fifty five languages that have more than 1,000 speakers which are being actively acquired by children.” Cree may also refer to themselves by one of the following names: nēhiyawak, nīhithaw and nēhilaw

Religious Beliefs

The religious beliefs of the Cree vary. Depending on their upbringing, they may be practicing Catholics, and there are Catholic missionaries serving Cree/First Nations communities. Some Cree are also Anglicans and Pentecostals.

The Cree and other Native Canadians/Native Americans have been historically hesitant to share tribal (non-Christian) religious beliefs and practices with outsiders. However, over time more information on this topic has become available.

  • Animism

The traditional beliefs of the Cree are largely based on animism. Animism is the view that animals and inanimate objects, and even natural elements such as wind, thunder and shadows, have spiritual powers (called manitowak). Due to their faith that everyone and everything has spirits, the Cree don’t believe in supernatural forces.

  • Good vs. Evil

The Cree recognize a Great Spirit named misimanito and an Evil Spirit called macimanito.

  • Hierarchy

While elders are typically regarded as the most knowledgeable members of the tribe on religious matters, there are also other men and women who have some religious authority. However, there is no true hierarchy and the Cree do not have priests or shamans.

  • Ceremonies

Historically, the Cree didn’t have traditional religious ceremonies, but there were certain occasions that were clearly more significant than others. Over time, some tribes have incorporated more Christian rituals in some of their practices.

The Cree are known for “tea ceremonies” which occurred in fall and spring, and were celebrations of Thanksgiving. They have also held feasts and dances when tribe members had fruitful hunts. Weddings are four day events, and include singing, dancing and other festivities.

The new Mrs. Universe comes from a proud line of Native Canadians who have high hopes she will use her title for the good of the world and her people.

 

The History of Gay Marriage in Canada

Canadian thumbs up in front of gay marriage flagThe United States Supreme Court heard arguments on the legality of same-sex unions on April 28. It is a long time coming, and the gay marriage movement has steadily been gaining support south of the border. Thirty-seven states in the U.S. allow same-sex weddings, but they are still banned in 13 others. In 2005, the Canadian Supreme Court ruled gay marriage was legal throughout the nation.

Legal Ruling in Favor of Gay Marriage

Canada was the fourth country after the Netherlands, Belgium and Spain to permit same-sex unions. Prior to the Supreme Court of Canada’s decisive ruling on the issue on July 20, 2005, eight of the 10 provinces and one of the three territories had already legalized it. Ontario was the first province to sanction same-sex unions and did so on June 10, 2003.

Major Events and Milestones

Canada has a long and varied history on gay rights and same-sex unions.

1965

Northwest Territories resident Everett Klippert admitted to having sexual relations with men over a period of two decades. He was deemed an “incurable homosexual,” labeled a “dangerous sex offender,” and sent to jail in 1967. The Canadian Supreme Court endorsed his imprisonment in controversial 3–2 vote.

1967

Justice Minister, and future Prime Minister, Pierre Trudeau proposed legislation that would soften anti-homosexuality laws.

1969

Homosexual is decriminalized when Trudeau’s amendments are passed.

1971

Everett Klippert is released from prison.

Feb. 5, 1981

Over 300 men were arrested in Toronto after police raided gay bath houses. The next evening, more than 3,000 people march to protest the arrests.

1985

In 1985, The “Equality for All” report is released by Parliament’s Committee on Equality Rights. The committee members expressed dismay at the treatment of many Canadian homosexuals including discrimination, harassment, abuse and hate propaganda. They proposed the Canadian Human Rights Act be altered to make discrimination against individuals due to their sexual orientation a crime. The following year, the government issues the “Toward Equality” paper stating, “The government will take whatever measures are necessary to ensure that sexual orientation is a prohibiting ground of discrimination in relation to all areas of federal jurisdiction.”

1988

British Columbia politician Svend Robinson announced he is homosexual. He is the first MP to do so and is re-elected for the eighth time the following year.

1992

In August of 1992, the Ontario Court of Appeals ruled sexual orientation should be included in the Canadian Human Rights Act and any failure to do is prejudicial. Later in the year, the ban on gays in the military is ended by the federal courts.

1999

A May ruling by the Canadian Supreme Court grants homosexual couples the same access to social program benefits to which they contribute as heterosexual common-law couples. Despite this ruling and the resulting changes to numerous laws to comply with it, Parliament votes by a wide margin to keep the definition of “marriage” as the union of two people of the opposite sex.

June 10, 2003

On June 10, 2003, Toronto couple Michael Leshner and Michael Stark are wed after the Ontario Court of Appeals upholds a lower court decision permitting gay marriages.

July 20, 2005

Bill C-38 is passed officially legalizing same-sex unions across Canada.

7, 2006

Conservatives attempt to continue the discussion on the legality of gay marriage and the measure is defeated in the House of Commons by over 50 votes.

Famous Gay Canadians

There are number of well-known gay Canadians including:

  • K.D. Lang – Musician
  • Kathleen Wynne – First openly homosexual premier
  • David Furnish – Writer, film director, producer, and husband of Elton John
  • Rick Mercer – TV host and comedian
  • Rex Harrington – National Ballet of Canada former principal dancer

Canada has been one of the most progressive countries in the world on gay rights and gay marriage. It remains to be seen if the United States will follow suit.