canada

Sikhs Continue to Make a Life in Canada
Sikhs make a life in Canada.

Sikhs make a life in Canada.

Sikhs make up about 1.4 percent of the current Canadian population, according to the most recent National Household Survey. Those numbers translate to a community with over 468,000 members in a country of almost 36 million people. As part of the global diaspora of Sikhs, Canadian followers of this faith enjoy more opportunities while facing unique challenges.

Sikhs Arrive in Canada in the 1800s

The first Sikh settlers, a group of British Indian Army officers, came to Vancouver aboard the Empress of India ocean liner in 1897. These and later immigrants typically found work with the Canadian Pacific Railway, on farms, and in the lumber industry. They faced discrimination in many aspects of their daily lives. Sikh workers, along with other South Asian immigrants, were frequently paid far less than white workers performing the same jobs. Additionally, ignorance about their religion resulted in these individuals being classified as Hindus, and thus they were accused of observing a caste system. The Sikh religion adheres to principles taught by Guru Nanak, who spoke against discrimination based on caste, creed, or gender and believed in equality for all humans. Thus, such a characterization of the Sikh immigrants was inaccurate.

Growing Racism Yields Disastrous Results

As anti-immigrant sentiment grew among white Canadians and successive laws against Asian immigrants were passed, many Sikhs were forced to leave for the United States, Mexico, and South America. One notorious refusal of Indian immigrants occurred in 1914 when a chartered ship carrying hundreds of Sikhs from the Punjab region of India was turned away by the Canadian government. When the vessel returned to India, British soldiers murdered over a dozen of its passengers. The Wall Street Journal disclosed in 2016 that the Canadian government apologised for the affair, known as the “Komagata Maru incident,” in May of last year.

Fighting for Equality

Throughout the first half of the 1900s, Sikhs who stayed in Canada fought for their civil rights. This included their activism with the Khalsa Diwan Society, an organisation formed for the religious, social, political, and cultural development of the community. This era also saw them contributing to Canadian society. One famous example is World War I veteran Buckam Singh, who served with the 20th Canadian Infantry Battalion and was wounded twice in the line of duty. While his story and heroics were almost forgotten for over a century, modern Canadian history now recognises and includes his efforts. Furthermore, all Sikhs had earned the right to vote by 1947.

A New Wave of Immigration Brings Renewed Possibilities

Beginning in the 1950s, educated Sikhs began to emigrate to Canada. These professionals joined the medical, technological, legal, academic, and other advanced fields. Over time, they contributed to making Canada a more diverse nation in several aspects, including entering politics and public service. In a November 2015 Washington Post article, Ishaan Tharoor reported that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s cabinet included four Sikh public officials. However, Trudeau’s announcement, along with his later statements about equality and civil rights for people of colour in Canada, have not stood without criticism. Writer Ramesh Thakur opined in a March 2016 piece in the Globe and Mail that the number of Sikhs in Canada’s cabinet is out of proportion with their percentage of Canada’s population, with greater representation than the 468,000 in the country would warrant.

What Does the Future Hold? 

Canadian Sikhs now pursue career, educational, and other opportunities that were once denied to many of their predecessors. However, they may face new challenges ahead as anti-immigrant sentiment has started to increase. The New York Times reported on this trend in January 2017, revealing fears that the right-wing extremism prevalent in United States politics may be moving northward across the border. What happens next for the Sikhs in Canada remains to be seen.

For a Unique Wedding Cake Option, Try a Croquembouche
A French Croquembouche can be a delicious alternative to a traditional wedding cake.

A Croquembouche can be a unique wedding cake option.

With the number of French contributions to our culture, you probably won’t be surprised to find a croquembouche at a Canadian wedding. However, you might not be familiar with the history, details and preparation behind these fascinating pastry desserts. Whether you’ve adopted a French theme for your festivities or just want a different type of wedding cake for your reception, this delightful tower of goodness might be just right for your crowd.

Origins in 19th Century France 

While much of Canada was still under British rule, a young Parisian baker began crafting a pastry creation that would become his enduring legacy. In January 2017, the U.S. media network National Public Radio website published a piece on legendary French chef Marie-Antoine Carême, the famed inventor of the croquembouche. Born to an impoverished family around 1783 or 1784, he was presumably orphaned by social turmoil resulting from the French revolution. Carême began working in a Paris kitchen at the age of eight, and by the time he was 15 years old, he’d landed a position as an apprentice to top-rated pastry chef Sylvain Bailly.

As Carême honed his craft during his late teen years, Bailly regularly displayed Carême’s stunningly elaborate pastries in his bakery shop window. By the late 1700s, this young sensation had fashioned a tower of small, round cream puffs called “choux” festooned with spun sugar. A recipe for this dessert, which he called a croquembouche, was published in his 1815 cookbook “Le Pâtissier royal parisien.” Meanwhile, Carême continued to rise to culinary stardom, designing lavish, beautiful sweets for the likes of Napoleon, Russia’s Czar Alexander I and prince regent George IV of England.

The Croquembouche in the Modern World

While there are many modern variations on this delicious pastry, they still follow the same basic format: a tall mountain of cream puffs covered in spun sugar and other wonderful edibles. You’ll probably have no difficulty finding bakers in any province to supply one for your special day, and it’s an appropriate wedding cake for many types of wedding themes. Wedding Bells Magazine showcased a French vintage matrimonial affair in a 2012 piece on its website, adding that the couple chose a croquembouche to add a delicate grandeur to their festivities.

If you think that such a spectacular wedding cake should get its own entrance and fanfare, you’re absolutely right. In fact, contributor Kim Petyt on The Good Life France blog revealed that a croquembouche is usually not presented until dessert time. With the lights dimmed and celebratory music playing, guests typically begin chanting “Le gateau! Le gateau!” as the star of the hour is brought out to the dining hall while decorated in small, sizzling fireworks. Once the display is over, the staff serves each guest three or four of the sweet, creamy choux to enjoy.

Flavorful Possibilities Abound

In both exterior decorative touches and inner fillings, the croquembouche presents a wide variety of lovely flavors. Traditionally, each choux contains vanilla-bourbon crème in the center. Nevertheless, bakeries offer several popular filling choices which can include favorites such as caramel and chocolate, or less common tastes like rose, pistachio or orange blossom. Besides spun sugar or pastel-tinted icing, a croquembouche wedding cake can be decked out in sugared almonds, chocolate, candied ribbons or even edible flowers.

A Delicious Wedding Cake Idea for Your Nuptial Affair 

The croquembouche is a distinctive and delightful wedding cake that offers a complex combination of aesthetics, French culture and flavor. Its name appropriately translates to “crunch in the mouth,” and your guests will enjoy the taste and texture of this now-classic sweet treat. Add to that the customary celebratory fanfare with which it’s presented during your festivities, and your croquembouche will certainly be a memorable part of your wedding day.

A Religious Tour of Calgary
Having been built in 1883, St. Mary's Cathedral in Calgary is one of the oldest churches in Canada.

St. Mary’s Cathedral in Calgary is a fantastic place to start your religious tour.

If you’ve seen the movies “Doctor Zhivago,” “Unforgiven,” or “The Revenant,” you have seen the landscape of Calgary. Most people are familiar with the Calgary Stampede, a 10-day rodeo and exhibition, or one of the many other festivals in the city. It’s a cultural mecca, home to ethnic restaurants, venues and museums.

Calgary may not be recognizable for its contribution to the religious fiber of the nation, but it has some beautiful churches that are part of the history of the city. Here are some of the best places to explore this heritage.

St. Mary’s Cathedral

The foundations for St. Mary’s were laid in 1887 and the building was completed in 1889, but the church began in 1873 when Father Constantine Scollen founded the first mission in southern Alberta. The Resurrection Glass Panel is a stunning piece of stained glass art.

Central United Church

The original building was dedicated in 1905 and was decorated in antique wood and walnut while he walls were made of sandstone from local quarries. Just 11 years later, the interior was destroyed by a boiler fire and would be refurbished. The church then reopened in 1917. At one time, this congregation had about 3,500 members, the largest congregation in the United Church of Canada, but the growth declined in the 1960s.

Lantern Community Church

This church has a lot of history. It’s over 100 years old, with a majestic pipe organ and what might be the best acoustics in the community. It’s home to many more events than just Sunday service. The most interesting aspect of this congregation is that one Sunday each month, instead of holding service, they go out into the community and do things for their neighbors.

St. Peter’s Roman Catholic Church

This Catholic church is much newer than most, built in the late 20th century. It is more modern, but still a beautiful building. The church is currently undergoing renovations, which indicates the congregations plans to be here a long time.

St. Bonaventure Church

This Roman Catholic Church has been here for many years, and it hosts beautiful windows and statues that are examples of the connections between art and religion.

Knox United Church

Know Presbyterian Church started out when Reverend James Robertson preached in the local saloon. The men decided Robertson needed a better place to worship, and the church found its place in the town. At one time, the congregation shared a tent with the Methodists. Knox has a Casavant organ and a strong musical program. It hosts many musical events open to the public.

Calgary Alberta Temple

This stunning building is the third temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints built in Alberta and dedicated two years later. Group tours are available by appointment, but you should at least visit the outside of this church to experience its magnitude.

St. Thomas More Parish

Another newer parish in the community, this church held its initial meeting in 1979. The new church building was completed in 1985, with Bishop Paul O’Byrne blessing the church at its opening mass in October. The stained glass windows are more modern, which allows you to see how art has changed through the years.

Explore Calgary Through Its Churches

While driving through Calgary, take a look at some of the churches and how they are designed and built. It’s a great way to examine how the churches have contributed to the community and will continue to add value to the city.

Wedding Locations and Choosing Yours Wisely
There are many beautiful wedding locations that can be found in Canada.

Niagara Falls is one of the most popular wedding locations in Canada.

CNN recently reported that a lawmaker in India wants to rein in the rising costs of weddings in the country. The bill, which will be introduced in March to parliament, would require families who spend more than 500,000 rupees ($9810CAD) to donate 10 percent of the overall cost of the wedding to a special government fund. The money in the fund would help poor families pay for wedding locations that they once only dreamed of. Although $10,000 doesn’t sound like much, consider that many families in India spend that much on one luncheon for the wedding.

Almost every bride and groom have to be concerned about expenses for their wedding. It doesn’t matter if you’re having a small ceremony in a church, a destination wedding or a lavish affair. But what many people don’t realize is that location can make a world of difference. In a recent article from the CBC, it was reported that getting married in Toronto City Hall can cost three times what it does for the same ceremony in New York City. It costs $265 for a service and license in Toronto, and the same service can be obtained in NYC for $78CAD.

Popular Wedding Locations in Canada

Here is a look at how much you would get charged in other popular cities in Canada:

  • Niagara Falls $125
  • Brampton $479
  • Sudbury $155.30
  • Ottawa $155.30

In Alberta, licenses are just $40, but B.C. and Manitoba each charge $100 for the license. The license fee in Toronto is $140.

Average Costs of Weddings

Civil ceremonies at City Hall are still much cheaper than a full-blown ceremony and reception. Wedding Bells estimates the average Canadian wedding is about $30,000, but according to Global News, the average cost of a wedding is about $350 per person. One wedding planner told the paper that many ceremonies cost $70,000 or more for only 150 guests. This is in bigger cities, such as Toronto or Vancouver. Windsor bills itself as a “budget wedding” location. Most couples save 30 to 50 percent by coming to Windsor to tie the knot.

Wedding coordinators are also talking to couples about destination weddings and the low cost of some locations versus a wedding in Vancouver. Couples can host a 150-guest wedding in Antigua, St. Lucia or Costa Rica for about $24,000. Wedding cruises are also very popular with couples who are on a budget. The cost can be as little as $5,000. The cruise will keep all guests busy, which alleviates your responsibilities for entertainment. It might be a great option for you.

Think About Your Guests, Too

Unfortunately, with a destination wedding, you are offloading some of your costs to the guests, which means you should consider that when you’re planning. Doing a little bit of research can help you choose a location for your dream wedding that is affordable. Traditional wedding locations, such as Tuscany, Hawaii, Jamaica or Rome, are typically more expensive. Look outside the bigger cities and popular destinations for small towns that have facilities to host a wedding. With some resort sites, you might even find all-inclusive options that are affordable and reasonable, especially when you choose a not-so-popular date.

Budgeting is always difficult during a wedding, but when you look at some of the unhidden costs you and your guests might have, you can find ways to save money for the bigger picture. But remember, the real meaning of the wedding isn’t about the party, the money you spend or the number of guests who attend. It’s in the memories you make in the joining of two families.

Don’t feel as if you have to spend thousands of dollars on your wedding just to keep up with your best friend’s ceremony. Make it your own and stay within your budget by choosing the location of your wedding carefully.

9 Movies for Black History Month
Black History Heading showing Africa and North America.

Here in North America, we dedicate the month of February to celebrating Black History.

Like the United States, Canada celebrates Black History Month during February. This month was chosen because of the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass. The roots of Black History Month began in the early 20th century, but it was in the 1970s when the observance picked up momentum. In Canada, it was in the mid-1990s when the month was officially recognized.

Black History Month has its critics. There are some who say black history is history; it shouldn’t be relegated to one month. Even so, it’s good to remember the contributions of people who often get overlooked in the history books. Not everyone can be remembered in one history text or class. In honor of Black History Month, here are some movies you should see:

Classic Movies About Black History

  1.    “Gone With the Wind” (1939)Margaret Mitchell’s epic book that was made into a movie has its critics. However, what’s interesting to note is that Hattie McDonnell, the actress who played Mammy, was the first black person to receive an Oscar. The producer had to call in a special favor to get permission for McDaniel to be allowed into the no-blacks Ambassador Hotel to accept the prize.
  2.    “Lilies of the Field” (1964)Sidney Poitier became the first black man to receive an Oscar, nearly 25 years following McDaniel’s win. This 1964 classic might seem tame compared to today’s blockbusters, but it’s a great lesson in humility and faith in accomplishing goals.
  3.    “In the Heat of the Night” (1967)Poitier was a big name in Hollywood, and in 1967, he starred as a detective from the North who had to help a racist cop in the South track down a murderer. Through the course of the film, the two men begin to develop mutual understanding. The film represents the changing social-political climate actually occurring throughout the United States.
  4.    “The Color Purple” (1985)This movie, directed by Steven Spielberg, was a highly acclaimed film of its time. It was Whoopi Goldberg’s breakout role, but more importantly, it focused on the plight of the African-American woman. See it in film, read the book or attend the theater version.

More Recent Movies About black History

  1. “Boyz N the Hood” (1991)John Singleton kicked off a decade that gave us many movies about black men just trying to survive in their own urban city under the veil of violence and discrimination. He was the first and youngest African-American to be nominated for Best Director.
  2. “Malcolm X” (1992)This film was placed on the National Film Registry because of its historic significance. Denzel Washington lost the Academy Award for Best Actor that year, but he still took many other awards for his role. The film is highly acclaimed and well received, and it’s a must-see for everyone to understand this man who changed history.
  3. “Hidden Figures” (2016)Released last year, this movie recognizes the contribution of black women to the United States’ space program. It’s based on the true story of three Virginia women who changed history by believing they could.
  4. “Ray” (2004)Ray Charles is one of the most acclaimed musicians in the world, but he came from very humble beginnings. At the age of seven, Charles went completely blind. Still, he overcame his disability and his heritage to become one of the most influential musicians of the 20th century. This film is a story of his perseverance during a difficult time in history.

There are many other movies that give us glimpses into the history of African-Americans. Spike Lee has made many movies that did not fit on this list. Watch some of these great flicks during Black History Month.

Organ Donors and the Demand for Them
An organ donors organ being prepped for transplant.

Simply by signing up to be an organ donor, one can help give the gift of life to someone in need.

The world’s first single and double lung transplants were performed in Ontario in 1983 and 1986 respectively. Canada is a leader in the field of transplantation when it comes to medicine and technology, but when it comes to the number of organ donors, we’re lagging behind the rest of the world, including the United States.

In the last 10 years, the number of deceased organ donors has increased in Canada, but the number of people needing transplants has also increased. In 2014, there were more than 4,500 people waiting for organ transplants. Doctors performed 2,356 organ transplants, and 278 people died waiting for an organ. Kidney transplants account for 77 percent of the need.

Surprisingly, 90 percent of Canadian citizens support organ and tissue donation. It’s something practically everyone agrees on, but according to the Canadian Transplant Society, only about 20 percent of the population has actually made plans to donate.

Qualifications for Organ Donors

Don’t discount your health, age or other factors when determining whether you should be a donor. Your health today doesn’t determine whether your organs qualify to be donated. There are many different organs that can be donated. Your organ donation could save up to eight lives. Tissue donations could improve the quality of life in up to 75 different people. Also consider the improvement in life quality for the families and friends of those individuals who are helped.

There are many myths about organ donations. Some people worry that the hospital staff won’t work as hard to save your life if they know you’re an organ donor. This is simply a myth perpetuated by the tabloids, urban legends and television. Doctors have to focus on your life, not the life of another person.

Another myth that is perpetuated by the tabloids is that you may not really be dead. Doctors perform even more tests on organ donors to determine that they are really dead than they might on someone who hasn’t agreed to organ donation.

If you’re concerned about your religion’s position on organ donation, check with your clergy. Most major religions support organ donation, but you should discuss your theological concerns with someone who is knowledgeable about the tenets of your faith.

Legally, children cannot decide to be an organ donor, but children do die every day, and other children are waiting for organs from smaller people. Parents and legal guardians can give permission for children to be organ donors. There’s no denying that it is a difficult decision. Thinking about your position on organ donation before something happens is one way to have peace about it if it ever happens that you do need to make the choice. 

How to Register

Registering to be an organ donor is the most effective method of identification. You may lose a wallet card, or it might be unavailable when it is needed. Telling one family member is recommended, but again, in the stress of the moment, your decision may be forgotten. Registration is quick and easy.

It actually takes very little time to register as an organ donor. In Ontario, the website is beadonor.ca. You’ll need your health card number and some basic information about yourself. If you’re in another province or territory, the Government of Canada’s website, under health, diseases and conditions, has links to instructions for your place of residence.

Loved ones are asked about your wishes at your death, which is why it’s important to talk to them about your decision. The Canadian Transplant Society has some resources to help you talk to your family, and it offers an End of Life Wishes form for download. Make a difference in people’s lives after your death by choosing to be an organ donor. Get informed.

 

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Marriage Equality in Scotland
Gay / lesbian wedding icons set

The fight for marriage equality is one that is being fought on a global scale.

Next month, the Anglican Church of Canada votes on marriage equality in the church. As the ULC has reported in the past, this topic is hotly debated within the Anglican Church. The Episcopal Church in the United States changed their canon last year. They were given a “time out” by the international church, but have held to their beliefs that marriage equality is for all of their members. Now, the Scottish Episcopal Church has taken small steps toward changing the canon on marriage within their doors.

The Status of the Canon in Scotland

The General Synod of the Scottish Episcopal Church passed a first reading of the change. Currently, in Canon 31, it states that marriage is understood to be between a man and a woman. The proposal is to remove that statement from the canon. This is just one step along the process, because it should be noted that the proposed change is not the final decision. Now that the General Synod has made this proposal, it goes to the seven dioceses within Scotland for more discussion and opinions.

Next year at the General Synod meeting in June, the proposal will get a second reading. To pass, it must get a two-thirds majority of votes. Bishops, clergy and laity are included in this vote. Individual churches send representatives to the General Synod. The first reading received a vote of 5 for, 2 against from the bishops; 43 for, 19 against from the clergy; and 49 for, 12 against, 3 abstentions from the laity. The proposed change does seem to have a great deal of support from the church leadership.

The General Synod is the church’s legislative body, kind of like you might think of Parliament. The Synod members oversee the work of the church and vote on policy. They also might work on national and international issues. A diocese is made up of a group of churches in a particular region. This lets church members and leaders have input into the final canon of the church.

The proposed change would allow clergy to solemnize weddings between people of the same sex. However, there would be a conscience clause for clergy who are opposed to the change. They would not be forced into blessing a same-sex union.

The International Debate in the Anglican Church

Just recently, Reverend Canon Mpho Tutu van Furth, daughter of Archbishop Desmond Tutu, married her girlfriend. Although South Africa recognizes same-sex marriages, the South African Anglican law does not. The church has made it clear in the past that gay clerics must remain celibate. Shortly after Tutu van Furth’s marriage was celebrated, the diocese withdrew her license to practice as a priest in the church. The South African Anglican Church is also looking at new guidelines for church members who are entering same-sex unions.

It’s been suggested that there might be consequences from the Primates and Archbishop of Canterbury, the international governing body of the Anglican Church, if countries move forward with changing church canon concerning same-sex marriage. Some countries with an Anglican church still have laws on the books that make homosexuality a crime punishable by death. Other countries, such as Russia and Lithuania, simply have repressive laws that prohibit a propaganda of homosexuality. The leadership from some of these countries does not approve of the changes in other countries.

Pushing for same-sex marriage equality in the church is becoming an international issue. We’ll continue to watch how things in the church become more inclusive for all the members, not just heterosexual individuals. The Scottish Church is taking positive steps, but there is still a long way to go. It will be interesting to watch the vote at the General Synod of the Anglican Church of Canada this summer to see what happens.

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Great Honeymoon Spots in 2017
Tsusiat Falls, Pacific Rim National Park

Tsusiat Falls, Pacific Rim National Park

A special event is happening in 2017. This year marks the 150th anniversary of Canadian Confederation. It was in 1867 when the Constitution Act formally proclaimed the unity of four provinces, Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick, making up the new country of Canada. Celebration starts early at some of the most beautiful locations in Canada, with Parks Canada offering free admission throughout 2017.

Buying your annual pass this year means that you won’t have to renew it until 2018. Not only does this pass let you get into the national parks, but you also give you entry into historic sites and marine conservation areas that are interconnected with the national park system. It just so happens that they make great honeymoon spots! Here are some of the prettiest places to visit in Canada on your honeymoon, anniversary trip, or family vacation.

Banff National Park in Alberta

If you enjoy the outdoors, Banff National Park has the goods. From skiing and snowboarding in the winter months to canoeing and biking in the summer, you’re sure to get lots of picturesque memories to take home with you. As the first national park, Banff is a great place to camp and view the Northern Lights.

Forillon National Park in Quebec

At Forillon, you can see colonies of seals on the cliffs or walk along a pebble beach. Some enjoy snorkeling when the weather is warmer, and you may get to see up to seven different species of whales that call the area home. With more than 244 square kilometers to explore, you could spend days exploring nature. Forillon is home to some of the first fishing stations in the area, with plenty of historical sites that show how the early settlers lived.

Gros Morne National Park in Newfoundland

UNESCO designated this national park as a world heritage site not just because of the history, but also due to its exceptionally beautiful scenery. Hiking is one of the most popular activities in the area. From May to October, day cruises are offered to get a different view of the terrain. Trek to the historical lighthouse, then enjoy a walk along the coast before having a dinner of fresh seafood at a local restaurant.

Pacific Rim National Park Reserve in British Columbia

Home to the culture of the Nuu-chah-nulth, the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve offers First Nation cultural experiences along with water sports, cycling, birding, boating, and camping. The beaches offer surfing for beginners and experts. Serious surfers don’t wait for the summer. Long Beach and Wickaninnish Beach offer year-round activities, with rentals and lessons available from local businesses. Take a self-guided tour along trails with hand-carved totems. Take home memories from local artisans who appreciate the history of the community. During the summer months, the park also offers educational programs for visitors.

Marine Conservation Areas

Marine areas are not only home to animals that live in the water, but also to birds and mammals. All of these parks feature ecosystems of rich flora and fauna to enjoy together. Every season will have different things to see and do. Most of the sites have other nearby parks and nature reserves to visit while you’re in the area.

  • Fathom Five National Marine Park of Canada, Ontario
  • Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve, British Columbia
  • Lake Superior National Marine Conservation Area of Canada, Ontario
  • Saguenay-St. Lawrence Marine Park, Quebec

Take Advantage of This Special Offer

Explore Canada together with your spouse and keep your travel dollars close to home. Although the price of gas has gone down, the price of groceries is going up. The loonie has been weakening over the last few months, which is keeping more Canadians at home. That doesn’t mean you can’t have a spectacular honeymoon. Canada has plenty to see in your own backyard.

Why Does Canada Still Have a Blasphemy Law?

166575816The killings at the Paris office of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo on January 15 has once again brought the issue of free speech front and center. Should there be limits to what is off-limits? Canadian media coverage in the days since the incident seems to largely portray a collective sentiment (with a few exceptions) in overwhelming support of free speech, no matter how offensive it may be to some. Canadian politicians vehemently condemned the killings and a number of media outlets showed the cartoons on TV and in print. However, this response does seem a little ironic since blasphemy is still technically illegal in Canada.

Section 296 of the Criminal Code of Canada

Per Section 296 of the Criminal Code of Canada, publishing blasphemous libel is an indictable offence and if convicted you can go to prison for up to two years. Anyone accused is permitted to defend himself or herself of the charge provided they use “decent language.”

  1. (1) Everyone who publishes a blasphemous libel is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years. 

(2) It is a question of fact whether or not any matter that is published is a blasphemous libel. 

(3) No person shall be convicted of an offence under this section for expressing in good faith and in decent language, or attempting to establish by argument used in good faith and conveyed in decent language, an opinion on a religious subject.

Definition of Blasphemy

There is a good chance many Canadians don’t know what blasphemy means and have no idea blasphemous libel is a criminal offense in their country. For those who would like a little clarity on the definition, it is “the act or offense of speaking sacrilegiously about God or sacred things; profane talk.” These days it is hard to miss all the blasphemy out there; from TV shows, movies, newspapers to video games, it is on full display.

History

The language outlawing blasphemy was first included in the Canadian Criminal Code in 1892. There have been a handful of times in the last century when Canadians have been accused of blasphemous libel.

  • 1927: Eugene Starry, a Toronto atheist, was sent to jail for 60 days after a being accused of insulting Christianity. He was ultimately deported to England where he had been born.

 

  • 1977: A poet who wrote about a gay Jesus Christ was charged, but not convicted.

 

  • 1980: Owners of a theater in Sault Ste. Marie were accused, but not convicted, after screening Life of Brian (a Monty Python movie), which is a spoof on Christ. An Anglican vicar who had seen the film had complained to local authorities.

The Pope Weighs In

Pope Francis unequivocally condemned the Paris attacks and said there was no way to justify them in God’s name. He said free speech was a fundamental right and it is the duty of people to speak their mind for the common good. However, the Pope also stated there are limits and a reaction of some kind when people make fun of the religious beliefs of others is not unexpected.

Other Blasphemy Laws

There are many countries that still have blasphemy laws and, in some cases, punishment for the crime is death. It is not particularly surprising that Afghanistan, Iran and Saudi Arabia have them, but it is that Ireland and Australia do as well. In 2008, the United Kingdom repealed its blasphemy law. In the United States, there are no federal blasphemy laws since they would violate the U.S. Constitution.

It seems more than strange in this day and age that a progressive western country like Canada would still have a blasphemy law, even if it has fallen out of use. Yet, it’s still there.

Religious Issues In Your Montreal Community

ulc ca blog 1.31Taking a trip to a tourist destination like a big city is fun and romantic, and maybe even a bit frivolous. If you’re visiting Montreal you may be interested in seeing the sights and experiencing the dining and nightlife atmosphere. When planning a weekend trip you may research things to do near the Marriott Hotel, or if there will be any festivals in town. However, if you’re thinking about a long-term move to Canada’s second-largest city, you probably have a whole different set of concerns that may extend further than where to eat and what to see.

Moving to a new city means meeting new people, settling into a new neighborhood, and finding your niche in the community. Many people may have concerns about the culture of their new city, including the religious atmosphere and political goings-on. Whether you are religious or non-religious, you may want to increase your understanding of your new city by researching the important issues related to religion in Montreal.

Religious Issues of a Beautiful City

This historic, French-speaking city was mainly Catholic for several decades. Currently, the area is fairly diverse and multi-cultural. Christianity is still the religion most widely practiced in Quebec, followed by Islam and Judaism. A recent and ongoing religious debate began at the end of last year, with a proposed legislative ban on city officials wearing visible religious symbols. The proposal, Bill 60, is a move toward secularism that would ban religious clothing like hijabs, jewelry with religious symbols, and other overtly religious signs.

Many people, religious and non-religious alike, have raised opposition to the secular move, calling it an attack on religious freedom, as well as a blatant scheme by Parti Quebecois (the political party that advocates for national sovereignty for Quebec) to attract media attention. There have been public protests against the ban as well as many furious articles and blogs written to speak out against Bill 60. The bill’s supporters advocate a move toward secularism by banning civil servants from wearing potential divisive “ostentatious” religious symbols.

Get Involved

If you’re planning on moving to Quebec, you may be participating in the area’s political process in the near future. You may also be looking for a conventional religious community to become a member of – or even a non-conventional group. Keep abreast of the important issues facing your community and your family. Our blog features both secular and religious-based topics. Universal Life Church is an inclusive community that honors all faiths including both religious and non-religious persons.