Canadian Cree Contestant Wins Mrs. Universe Title
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
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
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.
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.
The Cree recognize a Great Spirit named misimanito and an Evil Spirit called macimanito.
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.
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
The 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.
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.
Justice Minister, and future Prime Minister, Pierre Trudeau proposed legislation that would soften anti-homosexuality laws.
Homosexual is decriminalized when Trudeau’s amendments are passed.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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:
- 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.
To Pray or Not to Pray?
The Canadian Supreme Court’s unanimous mid-April ruling banning prayers before city council meetings in Saguenay, Quebec, has stirred up quite a debate across the country. Many municipalities believe the decision is now of the law of land and are following suit. Others are suspending the practice and taking time to debate the matter, and some are ignoring the ruling all together. There are a number of different alternatives being considered.
The Lord’s Prayer
Over the years, many municipal meetings have begun with the recitation of The Lord’s Prayer. This tradition likely evolved out of Canada’s Anglican and Roman Catholic heritage. However, today the country is much more spiritually diverse. It is difficult to dispute the religious sentiment of the text which reads:
“Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy Name; thy Kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those that trespass against us. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory, forever and ever. Amen.”
House of Commons Prayer
In 1927, the House of Commons formalized the practice of opening sessions with its own prayer. There have been some changes made to the wording over time. The current language was implemented in 1994 and is still being used today. The House of Common is independent from the country’s judicial branch and does not have to adhere to Supreme Court rulings, unless the representatives choose to do so. The House of Commons prayer is recited before the public is allowed in chambers and TV cameras turned on. It reads as follows:
“Almighty God, we give thanks for the great blessings which have been bestowed on Canada and its citizens, including the gifts of freedom, opportunity and peace that we enjoy. We pray for our Sovereign, Queen Elizabeth, and the Governor General. Guide us in our deliberations as Members of Parliament, and strengthen us in our awareness of our duties and responsibilities as Members. Grant us wisdom, knowledge, and understanding to preserve the blessings of this country for the benefit of all and to make good laws and wise decisions. Amen”
Another option is for municipalities to agree on a nonreligious “invocation.” One that has been proposed by Owen Sound, Ontario resident Terri Hope is:
“As we approach our work here today, may we be mindful of our role as leaders in Owen Sound, a city of great beauty and opportunity. As we face our decisions, may we be guided by strong ethics, wisdom, fairness and sound knowledge. May we never forget the trust placed in us by the people of Owen Sound.”
Observe a Moment of Silence
A number of city councils opted prior to the April 15 Supreme Court decision to have a moment of silence instead of a prayer. This alternative appears to be gaining steam after the ruling. Some municipalities have adopted the practice as an interim step while they consider the implications and alternatives to the recent ruling. Observing a moment of silence can allow time for personal, independent reflection, regardless of one’s religious beliefs.
Skip It Altogether
There are some municipalities that believe that the Canadian Supreme Court is the ultimate authority of these matters, and the affairs of church and state should be separate. They have chosen to eliminate prayers, and anything comparable, and get straight to the business at hand. Over time, it is possible forgoing a prayer, invocation or moment of silence will become standard practice.
The Supreme Court of Canada’s April 15 decision to ban prayers before city council meetings in Saguenay, Quebec, is bound to have a wide-ranging impact. It remains to be seen what the specific ramifications will be.
Eight of the Most Beautiful Buildings in Canada
Canada is home to people of many different spiritual beliefs. While the nation has a strong Anglican and Roman Catholic heritage, other religions have flourished as well. There are a number of beautiful and significant religious structures that dot the country’s landscape.
Also known as Our Lady of Quebec City, Cathedral-Basilica of Notre-Dame de Quebec was originally constructed in 1647. It was the first church built in Canada, and serves as the oldest archdiocese in North America outside of Florida and New Mexico. The cathedral has been destroyed by fire two times; once in 1759 during the Siege of Quebec and again in 1922. On both occasions, it was rebuilt, improved upon and restored to its former glory. In 2014, the church celebrated its 350th birthday.
Islam is an increasingly popular religion in Canada, and Toronto has the largest concentration of Muslims in the country. Baitul Islam (House of Islam), located in Maple, Ontario, is one of the biggest mosques in the nation. Built in 1992, it features two domes and one minaret, and was designed by architect Gulzar Haider. The mosque is adjacent to Peace Village, a 260-home housing project that sits on 50 acres.
It took sixteen year to build the Basilica of St. John the Baptist, located in St. John’s, Newfoundland. The cathedral was consecrated on September 9, 1855, and is the biggest church in eastern Canada. It holds approximately 2,500 people and is believed to be the largest construction project in the history of the province. It is the shape of a Latin cross and is 279 feet long and 213 feet wide. The highest point of the nave is 157 feet. The cathedral has been named a National Historic Site of Canada.
Congregation Emanu-El is the oldest synagogue in Canada. It is located on Vancouver Island, British Columbia, and was constructed in 1863. The building’s architecture is classified as Romanesque Revival. The first Jewish settlers to the area mostly emigrated from the United States during the Fraser Canyon Gold Rush, which occurred when gold was discovered in British Columbia’s Thompson River.
St. Michael’s Cathedral in Toronto was designed by William Thomas, who was the architect of eight other churches in the area. It was built during the years 1845–1848. The construction of the cathedral was largely paid for by Irish immigrants who lived nearby.
Located in Cardston, Alberta, the Cardston Alberta Temple is the oldest Mormon Temple outside of the United States. The building took ten years to complete and was dedicated in 1923. An addition was built in 1962, and the church was renovated again in the 1990s. It was named a National Historic Site of 1992.
All Saints Cathedral in Halifax opened for worship in 1910. It is believed to be the largest Anglican Church in Canada, and was designed in the Neo-Gothic style. All Saints can seat approximately 1,760 people.
American earth and performance artist Dennis Oppenheim’s public art sculpture Device to Root Out Evil is a different kind of religious structure. It is a church composed of steel, aluminum and glass, and is almost 20 feet tall. When installed, the sculpture is turned upside down and its steeple sticks into the ground. The piece is controversial; New York City refused to take it. Vancouver offed the church a home and it was installed in Stanley Park. Residents protested, and it was eventually relocated to Calgary’s Glenbow Museum.
Churches and other religious buildings have played an important role in the history of Canada. The country has many lovely structures that represent a variety of types of architecture.
Shakespeare In the Ruins Puts Modern Twist on Classic Tale
Mark Antony and Cleopatra are one of most legendary couples of all time. Their doomed relationship was the subject of the William Shakespeare play Antony and Cleopatra, first performed in the early 17th century. In June, Manitoba theater company Shakespeare in the Ruins is staging a uniquely Canadian dramatization of the famous Shakespeare tragedy.
Mark Antony and Cleopatra
Mark Antony and Cleopatra ruled around 40 B.C. In Shakespeare’s play, they have an ill-fated, illicit relationship even though Antony is married to the sister of one of the most powerful rulers of the Roman Republic. Antony and Cleopatra both ultimately commit suicide due to the collapse of their empire and a series of misunderstandings.
The setting of the Shakespeare in the Ruins production is Canada’s pre-Confederation period, which was prior to 1867. Indigenous Canadians of the era portray the roles of Cleopatra and the ancient Egyptians. Antony and the Romans are represented by European fur traders. This interpretation of the literary classic emphasizes the themes of colonization and empire building, which was as applicable in 19th century Canada as in the time of Mark Antony and Cleopatra.
Other Famous Literary Couples
While Mark Antony and Cleopatra were real people, they are a popular literary couple as well. In addition to Shakespeare’s play, their lives were dramatized in other plays, operas and film. There are numerous other famous literary couples. Some who lived happily ever after and others who suffered tragic endings like Antony and Cleopatra.
- Anne Shirley and Gilbert Blythe, Anne of Green Gables Series
While not as famous as Mark Antony and Cleopatra, Anne Shirley and Gilbert Blythe are probably one of most well-known Canadian couples of all time. Their relationship gets off to a bumpy start in Anne of Green Gables, the first book in the Lucy Maud Montgomery authored series, set in early 20th century Canada. Their affection blossoms to love and they have numerous ups and downs over the course of their early lives and later marriage.
- Elizabeth Bennett and Fitzwilliam Darcy, Pride and Prejudice
Pride and Prejudice, written by British author Jane Austen, was originally published in 1813. The novel has become one of most beloved romances of all time and was set in 19th century England. The story revolves around the relationship of Elizabeth Bennett, the second daughter of an English country gentleman, and Fitzwilliam Darcy, a wealthy aristocrat. The two originally despise each other, but end up madly in love despite a variety of obstacles to their relationship including coming from different social classes.
Another tragedy by William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet is the story of two star-crossed lovers from the warring Capulet and Montague families. The couple meets by accident at a ball and later secretly marries. Juliet’s parents arrange for her to marry someone else, not knowing she is already married to Romeo. They threaten to disown her if she does not go through with the wedding. Juliet takes a drug that puts her sleep before her arranged marriage so her family will think she is dead. Romeo finds her and, believing she is dead, kills himself by drinking poison. Juliet awakens and finds Romeo dead. Not wanting to live without him, she stabs herself with his dagger.
- Hermonine Granger and Ron Weasley, Harry Potter Series
Hermonine Granger and Ron Weasley don’t officially become a couple until the very end of the seven-book series by J.K. Rowling. At first, they seem like an unlikely pair because Hermonine is the smartest student in the class and a goody-two-shoes, and Ron is more of a slacker and a lot less concerned about following the rules.
Love stories are one of most popular literary genres. Whether the couples are from ancient Egypt, pre-Confederation Canada, present day or anything in between, a well-told story will always captivate an audience.
Saint-Jean Baptiste Day and the Summer Solstice
Saint-Jean Baptiste Day, also known as La fete Nationale, is a public holiday in Quebec and occurs each year on June 24. It always falls around the same time as the summer solstice, or Midsummer, which has been celebrated since ancient times in France and other European countries including Sweden, Norway, Finland, Spain and the United Kingdom.
In Europe, Midsummer, also called Litha, traditions have been observed since pre-Christian times. The main focus of Litha celebrations have always been centered on the power of the sun, and were particularly important in agricultural societies. The holiday, which usually occurs on June 20 or June 21, is the day of the summer solstice and the longest of the year. The sun reaches the highest point in the sky, or its zenith. The word solstice is derived from the word solstitium, Latin for “sun stands still.” The lighting of bonfires, which stood for the lightness and warmth of the summer, was a common way to mark the occasion.
The ancient Romans honored Juno, for whom the month of June was named, during this time of year. She was the goddess of women, childbirth and marriage. June was (and still is) a popular month to be married.
While the Midsummer holiday is pagan in origin, Christians associate it with the birth of John the Baptist. This prophet and saint predicted the arrival of Jesus Christ. John’s own birth was considered by Christians to be a miracle and has many parallels to Christ’s life. Zechariah and Elizabeth, John’s parents, were past childbearing years when he was born. The Archangel Gabriel came to Zechariah and told him that he and Elizabeth would have a son and they were to name him John. John’s birthday was six months before Christ’s, whom he would eventually baptize.
The first Saint-John the Baptiste Day celebration in Canada is believed to have occurred on the night June 23, 1636 on the St. Lawrence River. A group of French colonists are thought to have commemorated the occasion with cannon shots and a bonfire on the St. Lawrence River.
In the 19th century, the holiday rituals were mostly religious and backed by the Catholic Church. Bonfires, a tradition that dated back to pagan times, were lit and there were also parades. Pope Pius X declared St. John the Baptist the patron saint of French Canadians in 1908. June 24 officially became a public holiday in Quebec in 1924.
Saint-John the Baptiste Day celebrations became more secular in the 20th and 21st centuries. A bill was introduced in the Canadian Parliament in 2011 to make the day a federal holiday throughout Canada, but it has not been passed.
Modern Day Traditions
In modern times, Saint-John the Baptiste Day and the Midsummer are celebrated in a variety of ways.
Saint-John the Baptiste Day
The people of Quebec look forward to this public holiday every year. Some of the following ways they commemorate the day have historical origins and others are more contemporary in nature:
- Musical performances
- Art Exhibitions
Litha is one of the most important days of the year to pagans. Here a few of the ways people celebrate the occasion. Even for non-pagans, the holiday can still be a fun way to mark the summer solstice.
- Take a hike and enjoy nature
- Host a bonfire for family and friends
- Build a Litha altar and decorate it with flowers, vegetables and lit candles
- Learn and grow by reading a new book or taking a class such as yoga.
Saint-John the Baptiste Day and Litha are connected by thousands of years of tradition and rituals. The holidays honor one of the most important figures in Christian history and celebrate the sun and summer.
Royal Succession Law Being Challenged in Canadian Courts
In 2011, the 16 Commonwealth countries, including Canada, unanimously approved giving sons and daughters of British monarchs equal claim to the throne; a first-born daughter would become queen, even if she had a younger brother. Historically, males were always first in line to the English throne, even if they had an older sister. This change in the succession law was brought on by the marriage of Prince William to Kate Middleton. The couple was expected to start a family, and Prime Minister David Cameron pushed for updating the law, stating the revision was much more reflective of the times.
The individual governments of the Commonwealth nations had to agree in order for the new law to go into effect. Two Quebec constitutional law professors are challenging the law in June in a Canadian court. They claim the Canadian Parliament merely “assented” to the change but never sought approval of the 10 provinces, which was unconstitutional.
The law professors, Genevieve Motard and Patrick Taillon, both wholeheartedly support baby girls having equal rights to the British throne. Since the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s first child was a boy, the right of succession is irrelevant, but the case has much broader constitutional ramifications for Canadians. The professors argue that even though the British monarch is considered Canada’s Head of State (the Queen of England is also the Queen of Canada), the United Kingdom is a foreign country, and the action of the Canadian Parliament in automatically applying British law in Canada was unconstitutional.
Motard and Taillon are expected to argue the passage of the Canada Act in 1982 terminated any remaining legal authority England had over the Great White North, including royal succession.
Andre Binette, a member of the Motard and Taillon’s legal team said, “While Australia, New Zealand and the other Commonwealth members involved have made changes in their own laws in parallel to the British law, Canada has chosen to simply assent to the British law.”
The plaintiff’s claims are supported by the Quebec government, and the hearing is expected to last approximately 10 days. If successful, it is estimated it will take around three years to receive the necessary approvals from all the provinces in order to officially change Canada’s royal succession law.
Other Countries With Gender Neutral Succession Laws
The United Kingdom was the last constitutional monarchy to update its succession law when it did so in 2011. Other countries that had already made the change were:
Famous British Female Monarchs
While Princess Charlotte, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s newborn daughter, will probably never rule England, the country has had some well-known, and highly respected, female monarchs.
Elizabeth II, Princess Charlotte’s great-grandmother, has reigned since 1952. She is 89 and ascended the British throne at the age of 26. A popular and beloved figure, Elizabeth has ruled the country and its realms during periods of peace and turmoil and ushered the monarchy into the21st century.
Born in 1819, Queen Victoria is the longest ruling male or female monarch in English history. Elizabeth II will surpass her great-great-great grandmother Victoria if she reigns past September 9, 2015. Victoria ruled during a huge expansion of the British Empire and a period of tremendous industrial, scientific and cultural change.
Queen Elizabeth I ruled from 1558-1603. She never had any children and was also called The Virgin Queen. Her 44 years on the throne is known as the Elizabethan era and considered the “golden age” of England.
The two Canadian law professors who are disputing the royal succession law are highly supportive of gender equality. They are pursuing their case to highlight the importance of the evolution of the Canadian constitution. The country is no longer beholden to English law, even on matters concerning the monarchy.
Canadian Cemeteries You Should Know
Most people probably don’t think about cemeteries unless they have to. The deaths of family members and friends, contemplating one’s own demise and even Halloween are times that can bring thoughts of graveyards to mind. Canada is a land of many distinct and historic cemeteries.
Garrison Cemetery in Nova Scotia is the oldest formal cemetery in Canada. It is a very picturesque spot and situated next to historic Fort Anne in Annapolis Royal, Nova Scotia. There are rolling hills and sweeping views of the Annapolis River. The oldest gravestone belongs to Bethiah Douglass who died on October 1, 1720.
Cemeteries of Titanic Victims
On April 15, 1912, the RMS Titanic sank in the freezing waters of the North Atlantic. One hundred twenty victims of the disaster are buried at the Fairview Cemetery in Halifax, more than any other place in the world. Approximately one third of the dead were never identified. Halifax is the final resting place for an additional 29 people who perished on the Titanic; 19 are buried at Mount Olivet Cemetery and 10 were laid to rest at Jewish Baron de Hirsch Cemetery.
Graveyards of Canadian Prime Ministers
The first Prime Minister of Canada, John McDonald, died in 1891. He is buried at Cataraqui Cemetery in Kingston, Ontario.
John Thompson was the fourth Prime Minister of Canada. In 1894, he died suddenly while in office of a heart attack after serving only two years. Thompson is buried at Holy Cross Cemetery in Halifax.
Mackenzie King was the country’s longest serving Prime Minister. He led the country for 22 years, died in 1950 and is buried at Mount Pleasant Cemetery in Toronto.
Prime Minister from 1957–1963, John Diefenbaker is the only PM buried in Saskatchewan. His final resting place is next to the Right Honourable John G. Diefenbaker Centre at the University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon.
One of the most famous political leaders of the 20th century, Pierre Trudeau is buried in a family vault at St-Remi-de-Napierville Cemetery, a small Catholic graveyard in Quebec.
Other Notable Cemeteries
Mountain View Cemetery – Vancouver
Mountain View Cemetery opened in 1887. It is the oldest and one of the largest cemeteries in Vancouver, and is situated on 106 acres. Over 145,000 people are interred there including many prominent residents of Vancouver.
Notre Dame des Neiges Cemetery – Montreal
Notre Dame des Neiges Cemetery is the biggest cemetery in Canada; it is the final resting place of more than one million people and sits on 343 acres. The third largest cemetery in North America, the property features over 65,000 monuments.
Hamilton Cemetery – Hamilton, Ontario
Hamilton Cemetery is the final resting place for over 30 mayors of Hamilton including the first Mayor of Hamilton, Colin Campbell Ferrie, who died in 1856.
Boniface Cemetery – Winnipeg
This oldest graveyard in western Canada, St. Boniface Cemetery, is also the final resting place of Louis Riel, founder of the province of Manitoba.
Burial vs. Cremation
There is plenty of room at Canadian cemeteries these days. More and more citizens are opting to be cremated rather than buried in a casket at a graveyard. Over the years, the cremation rate has steadily increased in the country. In 1970, the average rate was slightly less than six percent. It was a little over 68 percent by 2010. The popularity of cremations differs by province. British Columbia has the highest rate at 77 percent and New Brunswick is the lowest at 33 percent. It is significantly less expensive and more environmentally friendly to be cremated. Others factors that may influence your decision are religion and culture.
Religious Equality in Canada
The debate over religious equality has been a hot topic in Canada. While approximately 67 percent of the country’s citizens identify themselves as Christians, that still leaves a large part of the population to embrace other forms of spirituality (or claim no religious affiliation whatsoever). Issues such as employers providing time-off for non-Christian holidays and the legality of prayers before municipal meetings have both been issues.
Celebrating Non-Christian Holidays
Having time off to celebrate religious holidays is important to many people. The majority of Canadians receive paid days off for the following statutory holidays. Some are nationwide and a few are province specific.
- New Year’s Day
- Good Friday or Easter Monday
- Victoria Day (except NB, NS, PE, NL)
- Fete Nationale (Quebec only)
- Canada Day
- Labour Day
- Thanksgiving (except NB, NS, PE, NL)
- Christmas Day
While the majority of these dates are secular, two are religious (Easter and Christmas). Christians don’t have to request time off for these days because they are automatically included in the list of statutory holidays. People of different religions often need to ask for time off for their holy days since they are not usually recognized vacation days in Canada. In most situations, employers now have to accommodate the religious beliefs of eligible employees and grant them leave, if requested.
The Canadian courts require companies to allow employees who are not Christian time to celebrate their own holidays, as long it does not place any unreasonable burden on the employer. Federally regulated industries like banks, telecom companies and airlines must comply with this as well under the Canadian Human Rights Act. There a number of ways Canadian employers can accommodate these requests including switching work schedules and offering floating vacation days. There have been several milestone lawsuits that have reinforced this view.
Commission Scolaire Regionale de Chambly v. Bergevin
This case involved three Jewish teachers who requested time off for Yom Kippur, the most important holiday of the Jewish year. The leave had been approved by the school board, but without pay. The Canadian Supreme Court ultimately ruled the teachers should be paid for the time off, and doing so did not impose undue hardship on the school district.
Ontario Human Rights Commission and O’Malley vs. Simpson-Sears Ltd.
Theresa O’Malley, a Seventh Day Adventist, refused to work on Saturdays because it was the day her religion observed the Sabbath. She was subsequently fired from her job. The case made it to the Supreme Court of Canada and the justices unanimously ruled in favor of Ms. O’Malley, and ordered her employer to pay back wages.
Employers’ Undue Hardship
Employers do have a means of recourse. They can claim accommodating these requests places an undue hardship on their business or organization. However, it is relatively difficult to successfully argue these cases, because most Canadian companies routinely adjust work schedules based on holidays or sick days.
Prayers at City Council Meetings
In further support of the need to provide greater religious equality in Canada, the Canadian Supreme Court unanimously ruled on April 15 to ban reciting prayers prior to city council meetings in Saquenay, Quebec. The decision read, “The state must instead remain neutral in this regard. This neutrality requires that the state neither favour nor hinder any particular belief, and the same holds true for non-belief. It requires that the state abstain from taking any position and thus avoid adhering to a particular belief.” A number of other municipalities have already followed suit and done away with their pre-meeting prayers as well. It will take time to understand the full impact this ruling will have on religious equality in Canada.
Canada is considered one of the most religiously tolerant countries in the world. However, it has taken time and lawsuits for non-Christian Canadians to attain greater legal support for exercising their beliefs.
Why Hockey Is Like a Religion
Hockey is an essential part of many Canadians’ lives. At a young age, children are frequently taught to skate and are introduced to the game. A love of the sport often continues throughout life. Some fans even choose to be buried in the jerseys of their favorite players. Hockey is in the hearts and souls of millions of Canadians and can be considered its own unique religion.
Sense of Community
One of the positive aspects of many religions is they build a sense of community among their followers. The same can be said of hockey. It is everywhere, from TV and the Internet to schools and frozen ponds. The sport is something the vast majority of Canadians have in common, even if they don’t support the same team. A love of the game also unites many citizens in the same way that religion can. It does not matter your age, where you live, or your language; hockey binds the country together like spiritual beliefs often can.
Star Players Are Revered Like Gods
To say some of the country’s star players are considered gods may actually be an understatement. Wayne Gretzky is probably the most famous hockey player in history and is nicknamed “The Great One,” which has a certain religious connotation. The team members of the 2002, 2010 and 2014 Olympic gold medal-winning hockey teams will go down in history as some of the most venerated Canadians of all time. Another highly exalted team is the 1993 Montreal Canadiens. Many of the top players in the NHL hail from the Great White North, but the 1993 Canadiens are the last Canadian team to win the Stanley Cup.
Symbolism is integral to many religions, and hockey has its own examples. The Stanley Cup, which has been awarded to the NHL champion since 1893, is often called the Holy Grail. The actual Holy Grail is thought to be the cup Jesus drank from during the Last Supper (before he was crucified). Joseph is also believed to have collected Christ’s blood in it after he was crucified. Its whereabouts, and confirmation of whether it actually exists, are unknown. For centuries, the Holy Grail has probably been the most coveted Christian artifact of all time. Some Canadian hockey fans feel their team’s quest for the Stanley Cup is comparable to the search for the actual Holy Grail.
Hockey Arenas Are Cathedrals to the Faithful
For some hockey fans, their teams’ arenas are places of worship. Some of the stadiums are masterpieces of contemporary architecture and have every last amenity. A few of the country’s top hockey stadiums are:
- Air Canada Centre – Toronto Maple Leafs
The Leafs haven’t had a lot of winning seasons, but they have very loyal fans, which can add even more excitement to the games. Opened in 1999, the arena has all the modern conveniences, including plenty of activities for kids and a wide variety of concession options.
- Bell Centre – Montreal Canadiens
The Bell Centre is the home of the Montreal Canadiens, one of the most storied hockey franchises in the world. Some fans literally consider the arena to be a cathedral of hockey history because 24 Stanley Cup banners and countless retired numbers hang from the ceiling. It is also the largest arena in the National Hockey League and can hold over 21,000 people.
Hockey arenas can literally function as a cathedral at times; fans sometimes take their love of the sport a step further and opt to get married at their favorite arena. Referees have been known to perform the ceremonies and couples frequently incorporate team colors into their wedding attire, or even wear their favorite jerseys.
Hockey is part of the collective conscious of many Canadians, much like a shared religion can be.