Religion

Helping Your Children Find a Spiritual Center
Teaching your children to make moral decisions can be a challenge, but fortunately there are ways to help your children discover their spiritual center.

Teaching your children to make moral decisions can be a challenge, but fortunately there are ways to help your children discover their spiritual center.

Being a parent is a difficult, though rewarding, experience. While you want to guide your children through life as best you can, you may also realize there are some areas where your little ones have to make their own decisions. Spirituality, for example, can be tricky. You may belong to a particular religion or ascribe to a certain system of beliefs but feel like your children have the right to find whatever it is brings them the most comfort. This may be challenging for some parents. Luckily, there are ways to help your children discover their spiritual center.

Teaching your children to make their own decisions comes down to providing them with the right materials. Consider these tips and see if you can find a way to guide your little ones to their own spiritual paths.

Spirituality and Religion

There are many differing opinions out there about spirituality and religion. Some people believe they are two separate concepts, while others firmly state spirituality and religion are one and the same. Before approaching a discussion of this nature with your children, you might find it helpful to determine how you view these topics. How do you define your faith when questioned about your religion? Are you Catholic? Buddhist? Do you practice your religion with a community, or is worship a private affair? These may not be questions you’ve spent much time on in the past.

By taking a bit of time to define a few points for yourself, you may find it easier to answer certain questions your children bring to you. If you identify as a Catholic and never attend church, your child might ask why. Without an answer, you could miss an opportunity to talk openly about religion with your kids. It can even be helpful to discuss this all with your significant other and approach the conversation like a team.

Moral Compass 

For many, religious and spiritual beliefs help to define specific morals. Though children tend to discover morality through a number of life experiences, spirituality plays a very big part in how a child reacts to various situations. Stealing, for example, is considered an offense in almost all organized religions. Some say stealing upsets God; others say it is wrong to commit an act you wouldn’t want committed against you. Regardless of the reason, spiritual teachings can help a child avoid bad choices by remembering what he or she learned.

The morals and values learned through life may start as generalities like “don’t steal” and “don’t kill,” but personal spiritual beliefs tend to get much more specific as one grows older. A person who finds appreciation for nature and connects it to spirituality is likely to always show respect to the land. Someone who views kindness as a virtue is likely to practice being kind. Teach your children the morals you’d like to impart without force. Try to explain why certain things are good or bad, and your children will start to develop their own moral compasses.

Talk Tradition 

Living a spiritual life is about more than personal beliefs and morals. The rituals associated with spirituality can also carry a lot of weight. Talk to your children about the traditions you know or that come from your family, whether it be prayers or relics or events. These are the concrete reminders of spirituality that your children are likely to remember throughout their lives. Even if your kids follow different spiritual paths, they may carry on certain traditions because they connect them to their family.

Guiding your child to his or her own spiritual path is a process. Over the years, you’re likely to have many conversations on the topic with your little ones. As long as you’re ready to engage and feel like you can teach them something, you’ll be doing the best you can to help your children along their way.

Canadian Pastor Sentenced to Hard Labor in North Korea Released
A Canadian pastor sentenced to hard labor for life in North Korea was released last year after a successful advocacy campaign on his behalf.

A Canadian pastor sentenced to hard labor for life in North Korea was released last year after a successful advocacy campaign on his behalf.

The Canadian government and a large church in Toronto were able to find a solution to the plight of a 60-year-old pastor who had been sentenced to life in prison with hard labor for crimes against the North Korean regime. Reverend Hyeon Soo Lim is a pastor of the Light Korean Presbyterian Church. Although he grew up in South Korea, he made Canada his home in January 1986, at the same time he formed the church. He since became a Canadian citizen. In the 1990s, he became involved in humanitarian aid. He has worked in many different countries, but his focus has been North Korea. He was released in August of 2017.

Why North Korea?

In the ‘90s, North Korea experienced a four-year famine, in which hundreds of thousands of people died. North Koreans were not unfamiliar with famine, having been in crisis since the time of the war in the 1950s. In the 1990s, the North Korean economy collapsed when the Soviet Union collapsed. The Soviets had been providing aid to the agricultural center of North Korea. The local government could not respond to the crisis, and food production decreased. China tried to fill in the gap, but when it faced grain shortfalls in 1993, it, too, had to reduce its aid to the country.

In the following years, Korea, both North and South, experienced massive floods. It wasn’t just the destruction of current crops that caused a famine, but the destruction of emergency reserves of grain. Every social class was affected, with child malnutrition reaching 14 percent in 1997. In perspective, it was 3.21 percent in 1987, and 7 percent in 2002.

Humanitarian Work

Hyeon Soo Lim has worked with children’s organizations in North Korea since 1997. He and the church have tried to improve the lives of many people in the country by starting businesses and importing food and other goods. He and the church have fed thousands of people. Lim’s efforts have been focused around the district of Rajin, which is in the Rason Special Economic Zone where North Korea is making an effort to improve foreign investments.

Imprisonment in North Korea

In January 2015, Lim traveled back to North Korea and disappeared. It was later determined that he was arrested for crimes against the government. Specifically, the court determined that Lim attempted to “undermine its social system with religious activities.” However, Lim had confessed to assisting North Koreans in defecting. It is suspected that Lim only confessed because of coercion. The prosecution originally sought the death penalty, but Lim was sentenced to life imprisonment on December 16, 2015.

North Korea and China are both clamping down on Christian activities. Another North Korean missionary, Kenneth Bae, was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor, but after two years of being imprisoned, he was released. Three other Americans were released this past spring under an easing of tensions between Trump and Kim Jong-un.  Lim ended up being in custody for 2 years and 7 months, and had originally been sentenced to life in prison with hard labor.

Canadian diplomatic efforts were made through the Swedish embassy in Pyongyang, since Canada does not have an embassy there. Lim suspected he was released as a gesture of goodwill by Kim Jong-un after rising tensions with the West. He said both faith and propaganda had helped him through the ordeal.

Zoroastrianism, Abrahamic Religions and the End of the World

Some evidence suggests that the “end times” ideas in the three Abrahamic religions may have been influenced by an older system of thought: Zoroastrianism.

Although most individuals tend to think of religious doomsday-style predictions within a Christian context, you might be surprised to know that “the end of the world as we know it” doesn’t just exist in Christianity. Islam also has an anti-Christ figure, and some Jewish writings reference a final “Day of the Lord” in which the wicked are punished. However, some evidence suggests that the “end times” ideas in these three Abrahamic religions may have been influenced by an older system of thought: Zoroastrianism.

Zoroastrian End Times Theology

The earliest manuscripts of Zoroastrianism’s chief apocalyptic text, the Zand-i Wahman Yasn, date to the early 15th century C.E. These writings describe several key events that the religion’s deity, Ahura Mazda, reveals to the prophet Zarathustra:

  • A battle between good and evil
  • The arrival of a savior figure known as the Saoshyant
  • A resurrection of the dead
  • The physical suffering of wicked people
  • The righteous transformed into a divine, immortal state
  • Humanity living as one under Ahura Mazda

Curiously, the state of the world prior to the Saoshyant’s arrival seems somewhat like what’s described in the Book of Revelation. Both writings describe worsening climate changes that lead to famine and nearly unlivable conditions on planet Earth. Also, each book insists that people’s deeds become increasingly wicked prior to good’s final showdown against evil. 

Influences During the Babylonian Exile 

If the Zand-i Wahman Yasn may have been written at least two millennia after Zarathustra’s lifetime, what are we to make of the possibility that “end times” concepts could have existed before the three main Abrahamic religions were even founded? To see the potential connections, it’s important to remember that Zarathustra himself lived and spread his teachings much earlier in human history. The Encyclopedia Britannica explains that most scholars place his existence before the 6th century B.C.E., and BBC Religions writer Joobin Bekhrad mentions that he was likely alive between 1500 and 1000 B.C.E.

Both the ancient Greeks and the Jewish people of the Babylonian exile would have been exposed to his philosophies during the 6th century B.C.E., thanks to the Persian conquests of ancient Israel, Judea and Greece. In fact, it was the Greeks who gave him the moniker “Zoroaster” and helped propagate his notion that good and evil coexist as opposing forces. Along with this key concept, many of his other ideologies were eventually adopted by the three Abrahamic religions:

  • Monotheism, or the existence of only one god
  • Humans being either righteous or wicked
  • Two spiritual destinations in the afterlife, Heaven and Hell
  • The existence of angels and demons
  • An adversarial figure who opposes God
  • A final judgment determining the fate of every human for all eternity

During their captivity in Babylon from 598 to 538 B.C.E., Jewish exiles would have read and heard Zarathustra’s teachings. These trickled into their theology and culture around the same time that they impacted Hellenistic philosophies. From there, they would have been passed down into Christianity through New Testament writers such as Saint Paul and John of Patmos, who themselves may have also been influenced by Hellenistic ideas. Eventually, Islam would have inherited these same ideas, drawing from a similar ideological pool.

Its Eschatological Legacy Continues Today

Statistics Canada estimates there are only around 5,000 Zoroastrians in our country, and one of its last famous adherents, Freddie Mercury, died in 1991. Yet when we talk about the “end of the world” or fear Revelation-like conditions developing around us, we are rehashing ideas promoted by its ancient Iranian prophet over three thousand years ago. Its influences on religion and culture in the West are still apparent today thanks to his concepts leaking into the three major Abrahamic religions as well as Greek philosophies.

 

When Religion and Medicine Clash
Religious views can pose a distinct danger to personal health and safety when modern medicine is shunned in favor of prayer.

Religious views can pose a distinct danger to personal health and safety when modern medicine is shunned in favor of prayer.

In multicultural societies, religious conflicts can be common. Canadian news headlines are replete with reports of opposite ideologies or needs colliding. We may think of a law such as Quebec’s Bill 62 that forbids wearing certain face and head veils when receiving public services. However, another recent story proves that these incidents can be more than just a clash of beliefs. In some extreme cases, religious views can pose a distinct danger to personal health and safety. An example of this would be when medicine is denied to a child.

An Unusual Child Custody Case

A June 2018 National Post article revealed some disturbing details that surfaced during a child custody case in British Columbia. Post writer Adrian Humphreys reported that the couple in question contested a Provincial Court order that removed their daughter from their home, claiming that they’d been discriminated against because they were Christians.

However, investigations revealed that their religious views had caused them to be banned from attending several local churches. To make matters worse, they did not vaccinate the child or allow her any access to medicine. The proverbial nail in the coffin was their refusal to accept legal help, then bringing a stuffed lion to hearings and claiming that Jesus Christ would advocate on their behalf by speaking through the lion.

Religious Stances on Medical Care

The National Post piece documents an unusual case of harm caused by extreme religious views. Nevertheless, a few other groups have adopted controversial stances concerning modern medicine. A February 2018 CNN piece mentions the backlash that American televangelist Gloria Copeland received when, during a broadcast, she directed listeners to “inoculate [themselves] with the word of God” instead of getting flu shots. Meanwhile, Sandee LaMotte points out that Copeland isn’t the first religious figure to decry certain forms of medicine. For instance, Jehovah’s Witnesses will not receive blood transfusions, and the Amish generally forbid heart transplants since they regard the organ as “the soul of the body.”

Faith Healing Controversies

The most well-known opposition to medical treatments lies within the Christian Science denomination, established by Mary Baker Eddy during the late 1800s in the United States. In her 1875 text “Science and Health,” Eddy proposed that illness was an illusion, and that believers could end it through prayer alone. Referred to as “spiritual healing,” this belief has been one major cause of the controversies faced by the movement. It’s gained media attention thanks to several troubling incidents over the last 30 years:

  • Several outbreaks of measles between 1985 and 1994 at Principia College, a predominantly Christian Science institution in Illinois
  • The death of a two-year-old Massachusetts boy from a treatable bowel obstruction in 1986
  • An 11-year-old Minnesota boy who died in 1989 due to complications from untreated type 1 diabetes

While Christian Science’s current official stance doesn’t forbid followers from seeking treatment, it still focuses on what it sees as the importance of prayer in healing and encourages members to request prayers from Christian Science practitioners. In the meantime, children with parents in other faith healing groups have died under similar circumstances. A May 2016 CBC News article discussed the case of Alex Radita, a Calgary teenager who died from malnutrition because his parents attempted to treat his type 1 diabetes through prayer instead of caring for him with medicine as prescribed by doctors.

Freedom of Religion Versus Health and Safety?

Although it’s easy to believe that clashes between religion and medicine are a purely American phenomenon, the tragic case of Alex Radita and the unusual custody case documented in the June 2018 National Post article both prove that Canadians aren’t immune to these issues. As the religious landscape of our country changes, it is up to policymakers, religious leaders, and society to determine how to strike a fair balance between religious liberty and matters of life and death.

Is Atheism on the Rise in Canada?
Statistics appear to show the number of Canadians who proclaim no religious affiliation, including atheism, may have increased during the last two decades.

Statistics appear to show the number of Canadians who proclaim no religious affiliation, including atheism, may have increased during the last two decades.

The last two decades have brought gradual transformations to Canada’s religious landscape. Data tables from Statistics Canada appear to show that the number of Canadians who are irreligious, including adherents of atheism and humanism, may have increased during this period. Is atheism on the rise, as some sources in Canada purport? Comprehending the answer to that question requires a wider examination of recent shifts in religious beliefs within our country.

Counting Canada’s Atheist Population

As a 2013 Huffington Post article revealed, around 7.8 million Canadians disclosed on the 2011 National Household Survey (NHS) that they claimed no religious affiliation. That’s almost 24 percent of Canada’s population, and a significant increase from the 16.5 percent that claimed no religious affiliation in the 2001 survey. Notably, the NHS groups several belief systems under the “no religious affiliation” umbrella, including atheism, humanism and agnosticism, along with those who simply answered “no religion.”

Atheism on its own totaled almost 48,700 adherents, or nearly 0.15 percent of all Canadians surveyed for the 2011 version. According to Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance, around 18,600 declared themselves to be atheists on the 2001 edition and over 13,500 responded the same way on the 1991 survey. That would suggest a slow, steady increase over the last two decades, with their numbers more than doubling since 2001.

Are There Problems With the Numbers?

On the other hand, data from the 2011 National Household Survey has been scrutinized and criticized due to a lower-than-expected response rate. As CityLab contributor Aarian Marshall pointed out in a 2015 article, policy changes enacted in 2010 meant that response to the NHS became voluntary instead of mandatory. Only 69 percent of respondents sent back their long-form surveys, raising some serious questions about data precision in the 2011 edition as well as possibly the 2016 version. Moreover, concerns remain about accurate counts for underserved populations such as those living in poverty, immigrants, First Nations communities and people of color.

In the face of these possible trends and worries, questions arise concerning what the 2011 NHS numbers really mean. Meanwhile, the 2016 NHS’s census profile has been released on the Statistics Canada website, but the current data does not include information regarding respondents’ religious affiliation.

Understanding the Bigger Picture 

With the absence of reliable numbers, journalists, theologians and scholars rely on other data sources and anecdotal testimonies to understand the larger picture of religion in Canada. A March 2015 Angus Reid Institute report revealed several key developments:

  • An increase in the number of Canadians “inclined to reject religion”
  • Dwindling numbers of those who “embraced religion”
  • A sizable group of respondents who said they were “in between”

Nevertheless, these figures only tell part of the story. A 2015 CBC article explained that traditional Protestant Christian congregations are losing members while Catholic and evangelical churches, along with Muslim mosques and Sikh temples, are experiencing increases. Although misgivings remain about the 2011 NHS data, these observations are supported by its finding of sharp upswings in Sikh and Muslim populations between 2001 and 2011. Simultaneously, more Canadians may also be embracing Neopagan paths, African orisha-based religions or the First Nations spiritual practices of their ancestors, but it’s difficult to make any concrete guesses without solid data.

Faith in Canada: A Complex Picture

While there are serious doubts about the accuracy of NHS data on Canadian religious affiliations, some general observations can be derived from multiple sources. Atheism, humanism and agnosticism adherents in Canada may have grown within the last 20 years, but the overall picture of faith in our country is more multifaceted. With immigration causing shifts in membership and more people adopting non-Abrahamic spiritual paths, it’s important to remember that there are larger, more complex stories behind the data and headlines.

 

Trickster Deities in Canadian Religions
Trickster deities bend or outright violate rules or norms of social order and play important parts within several religions observed by Canadian people.

Trickster deities bend or outright violate rules or norms of social order and play important parts within several religions observed by Canadian people.

Just as real life is not without its tricksters, these individuals play important parts within several religions observed by Canadian people in modern times. Broadly speaking, trickster deities either bend or outright violate rules or norms of social order through their clever and cunning ways, often with humorous results. In his writings, psychiatrist Carl Jung spoke of this trope within First Nations mythologies, describing it as an archetype that apparently combines qualities seen as divine along with human tendencies. According to mythology, tricksters are usually deities, human folk heroes, anthropomorphic animal characters or some combination of the three. 

“Let There Be Light,” or Raven Steals the Sun 

As the Canadian Encyclopedia reveals, trickster deities frequently appear in the creation stories of many First Nations cultures. You might be familiar with Raven, a figure present in the tales of multiple groups such as the Inuit, Nisga’a and Haida. One famous account depicts Raven bringing light to a dark world by stealing the sun, a feat he accomplishes by turning into a hemlock or pine needle that’s swallowed by the Sun Chief’s daughter. She gives birth to a child strangely resembling the brazen bird who then begs to see the sun, which has been secreted away in a box. Once the Sun Chief obliges the child, the avian god steals the sun and flies away. Some editions of the story insist that Raven’s feathers were white prior to his theft and that the burning sun turned them black. 

Baron Samedi: Lord of the Dead 

Canada’s National Household Survey doesn’t include Haitian Voodoo as a separate religious category. Nevertheless, a 2010 piece in the Globe and Mail disclosed informal estimates that its practitioners make up between 30 and 80 percent of Haitian nationals in the country, which numbered more than 248,000 according to the 2011 survey. Significant spirits in most versions of Voodoo are called “loa,” and Baron Samedi is a charismatic loa said to dig the graves of the newly departed and escort them to the afterlife.

The Baron fits the “trickster” idea in both his demeanor and behavior. He’s described as having a jovial cheekiness manifesting itself in his liberal use of profanity, indulging in scandalous humor, frequent flirtations with mortal women and love of rum and tobacco. Such irreverence matches the “trickster” profile, but it’s his ability to defy the forces of death that’s most notable. The Baron has been known to refuse to dig some graves, which effectively saves the individuals in question from dying. 

Loki and Mohini: Breaking the Gender Binary

As many trickster tales include some sort of physical transformation, it’s no surprise that some tricksters shift genders. Loki, a well-known charlatan from both ancient Norse legends and modern-day Heathenry, aids Valhalla’s finest in several stories while bringing ruin and death in others. One gender-bending account shows him shifting into the form of a mare and giving birth to Sleipnir, Odin’s eight-legged steed. Some texts from Hinduism speak of Mohini, a goddess and avatar of Vishnu whose ruses include the following:

  • duping a group of demons into handing over an immortality elixir
  • charming another demon into mimicking her dance moves until he turned into a pile of ash
  • causing Shiva to be overcome with lust and temporarily lose his cosmic powers

As long as humanity has existed, people have been fascinated with “trickster” characters. Within many cultures, these personae have often manifested as deities who frustrate plans of humans and gods alike. Although their mischief is sometimes meant in fun, in other cases it breaks the rules or challenges authority to accomplish their own agendas. Whether these actions have altruistic, selfish or more complex motivations, examining the stories of divine beings with a trickster disposition becomes a fascinating study in human nature.

 

The Christian and Pagan Roots of Halloween
Halloween blends Pagan and Christian traditions.

Halloween blends Pagan and Christian traditions.

Halloween is a billion-dollar industry in Canada, ranking only second behind Christmas among profitable holidays. As with many modern holidays, it appears to be a mingling of Christian religious observances and Celtic pre-Christian traditions originating in an older festival known as Samhain. So where does Samhain end and Halloween begin? Keep a dish of sweet treats nearby to nosh on as you read through the mysteries behind this popular spooky celebration.

Is Halloween a Celtic Import?

The Canadian Encyclopedia reveals that Halloween’s most popular traditions came to North America sometime in the 1800s. The first documented instance in Canada of costume wearing occurred in Vancouver in 1898, while “trick or treat” was first recorded in Alberta in 1927. The Canadian Encyclopedia’s entry further suggests that these customs likely migrated here with Irish and Scottish immigrants. South of the border, the United States Library of Congress’ American Folklife Center appears to back up the assertion that Halloween came to us from Celtic Europe, with its observance rooted in older Samhain practices.

Samhain: A Time for Harvests and Spirits

The modern Irish term “Samhain” (pronounced “SOW-in”) refers to end-of-harvest revelries. It’s hard to ascertain when ancient Celts began marking the end of autumn, but the oldest documented example appears in Irish literature from around the 10th century C.E. Prior to that, Irish mythology mostly existed as spoken word traditions. Samhain’s festivities were held starting at sundown on October 31 and ending at dusk on November 1, a date that originally lined up with the Celts’ New Year. It’s also one of the four major seasonal holidays, along with Imbolc, Beltaine and Lughnasadh, on the ancient Celtic calendar.

Besides heralding the arrival of the cold season, these pre-Christian Celtic peoples believed that the barrier between the land of the living and the realm of the dead thinned at Samhain, allowing the souls of the dead to enter the waking world. Bonfires were lit to honor them and encourage their return to the Otherworld, a vast supernatural plane in which fairies, demons, deities and departed souls dwelled. Because these beings were thought to wander around on Samhain, offerings of food and drink were left out so that they’d leave the living alone.

Christianity and All Hallows’ Eve

Multiple sources have pointed to Catholicism’s adoption of pagan holidays into its own liturgical calendar. For instance, the December 25 date of Christmas also coincides with older celebrations of Saturnalia in ancient Rome and mid-winter celebrations across the rest of Europe. The American Folklore Center remarks that Pope Gregory I actively sought to absorb older customs and celebrations from non-Christian cultures in hopes of converting more people.

As Church leaders demonized native Celtic beliefs and condemned their Druids as devil worshippers, the All Saints feast was also moved to November 1. The day before became known as All Hallows’ Eve, yet the association of October 31 and November 1 with the mythology of Samhain never completely faded. Older Celtic practices of playing pranks, wearing disguises to confuse the dead and leaving out treats to mollify malicious spirits continued. 

Modern-Day Celebrations in Canada

While some fundamentalist Christians condemn Halloween as evil, the Canadian Encyclopedia disclosed that 68 percent of Canadians participate in its festivities every year. Followers of Celtic Neopagan spiritual paths might mark the day with bonfires, magical and ritualistic celebrations, and gatherings with friends and family. Moreover, the people who buy candies, dress up for trick or treat and throw Halloween parties come from many different faiths. With pagan and Christian contributions to the modern holiday and the childlike wonder and fun it can bring, there’s little surprise as to why it remains popular with Canadians in the 21st century.

 

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.

Lent – A Season of Fasting
Lent is a time for religious people to give something up for their religion for a set amount of time.

During Lent, religious artifacts, such as this crucifix, will be covered for the entire duration of the fast.

One common thread between most Christian religions is the celebration of the resurrection of Christ, or Easter. The weeks leading up to Easter are often used as a time of remembrance of Christ’s ministry and what he went through before his death. In Christianity, the season of Lent is the 40 days before Easter. Because the date of Easter is based on a lunar, rather than solar, calendar, the beginning of Lent changes each year. Traditionally, the first day of Lent is called Ash Wednesday, which in 2017 falls on March 1.

Traditions of Lent

On Ash Wednesday, Christians attend a worship service in which the minister or priest makes the sign of a cross with ashes on the forehead of the worshipper. This symbolizes the sinfulness before God and human mortality. In the Bible, in both Hebrews and Numbers, the ashes of a red heifer would sanctify the ceremonially unclean. Ashes were thought to be purifying.

Human sorrow is represented by ashes. In the book of Esther, the Jews “lay in sackcloth and ashes” as a way of mourning the edict of the King that allowed for the destruction of the Jews. Job used dust and ashes as a symbol of repentance.

Fasting is one of the most common ways that Lent is observed. In older times, the tradition would be to have one full meal per day, with smaller meals allowed. The idea was that a person should have enough food to sustain strength, but never enough to feel full. Each community would have their own traditions, but generally, animal products were forbidden. Fish and fowl might be allowed on Fridays.

On Sundays, the fast would be suspended, but during Lent, Christians would refrain from saying “Alleluia” or the “Gloria in excelsis Deo” rite. These rituals were associated with joy. Because Lent was a time of sorrow, the words would be replaced with another phrase or simply omitted during the season.

During Lent the religious objects such as the cross, statues and pictures might be veiled for the entire 40 days. However, Anglican and Methodist churches traditionally only cover the objects on Good Friday. In more progressive churches, the liturgy of Lent might not be observed at all. Instead, the emphasis is on Easter Sunday, rather than penitence.

Fasting for Social Change

One current trend seen around Lent is that of a positive fast. People don’t just give up food or pleasure, but instead contribute to environmental stewardship. At Greenanglicans.org, people are remembering the 40 days that Jesus spent in the wilderness by doing one thing every day to be more environmentally conscious. For example, have dinner by candlelight and then talk and play games together.

Charisma House, a Christian publisher, is suggesting a 10-day word fast from complaining, criticism, sarcasm and gossip. According to Isaiah 58:6: “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?” The study asks you to watch what you say for just 10 days, to help you change a pattern of discouragement and negativity.

Another interesting concept is taking on atheism for Lent. For 40 days, a Christian examines literature that speaks to who God is and his or her beliefs in God. It’s a time to examine ideological structures of religion.

You do not have to honor Lent to celebrate Easter, but respect those who do. It’s a Christian tradition that means a lot to those who do partake in the season.

 

Prime Minister Trudeau Introduces Legislation Protecting Gender Diversity
The heart painted

There have been huge strides in the LGBT Community recently.

Even if you don’t follow politics in the United States, you’ve probably seen something about the transgender bathroom policy debate. In a nutshell, there are certain locations in the United States that are passing laws to limit bathroom use based on a person’s sex at birth, whether the person identifies as a different sex today. It’s turned into a national debate, with businesses, states, cities, and the federal government each weighing in. While this situation should be watched, the real news in Canada is that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has introduced a bill that extends human rights protections of gender diversity to all Canadians.

Gender identity is described as an individual’s personal experience of gender. It’s not the same thing as their sexual orientation. Essentially, it is a sense of being a man or woman, or neither, or anywhere along that spectrum. Often, when a person’s gender identity is different than their assigned sex at birth, they may be called transgender. Cisgender is the term for gender identity that conforms to the gender given at birth. Gender expression is how people present the gender in public, which might be through dress, hair style, body language or voice.

Five Key Things to Understand About the Legislation

On May 17, 2016, the Government of Canada introduced a bill that would give basic human rights to the gender-diverse community. According to the Department of Justice website, there are five things that you should understand about the new legislation.

  1. Gender diversity is an umbrella term that includes gender identity, gender expression and transgender.
  2. The “Canadian Human Rights Act” would prohibit discrimination based on gender identity and gender expression.
  3. The Criminal Code will be amended to include hate crimes based on gender identity or expression. These types of criminal offenses could have longer sentences.
  4. According to a study from 2010, 18 percent of transgender participants had been denied employment based on their gender identity. Transgender individuals face much higher levels of discrimination than cisgender individuals.
  5. Transgender individuals face higher risks of violent crime. One study estimates that at least 20 percent of the participants had been physically or sexually assaulted. Many people do not report these crimes to the police.

Currently, the “Canadian Human Rights Act” prohibits discrimination based on:

  • Race
  • Ethnic origin
  • Sex
  • Religion
  • Colour
  • Age
  • Sexual orientation
  • Marital status
  • Family status
  • Disability
  • Convictions when a pardon or suspension has been ordered

The proposed legislation would make it clear that transgender individuals have protection under the law.

Social Media Discussion

PM Trudeau opened the discussion on Twitter with the hashtag #FreeToBeMe. Overall, the bill has support from many different organizations and leaders, including the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board; Bill Morneau, Member of Parliament for Toronto Centre and Canada’s Minister of Finance; Eric Alper, SiriusXM Host; and TELUS, a communications provider. The hashtag is also being used on Facebook with a great deal of support.

Once the legislation is passed, it will be a huge step forward for LGBT rights in Canada and in the international venue. Canada is on the forefront of human rights for all its citizens. Jody Wilson-Raybould,

Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, issued this quote:

“In Canada, we celebrate inclusion and diversity. All Canadians should be safe to be themselves. The law should be clear and explicit: transgender and other gender-diverse persons have a right to live free from discrimination, hate propaganda, and hate crime. We are committed to making Canada stronger by ensuring Canadian laws reflect the rich diversity of our people.”

More governments need to take up the fight for inclusion and safety for all their citizens. Trudeau and the other leaders who support this legislation make us proud to live here.