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May 19, 2010

The rise of Christian nationalism in Canada

The Canadian Charger

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Few Canadians are aware that a militant band of conservative Christians, with a direct pipeline to Harper's cabinet, is also attempting to reshape the country's social, cultural and even scientific policies, according to Marci McDonald, author of the recently released book The Armageddon Factor: the Rise of Christian Nationalism in Canada.

The Calgary-based Christian advocacy group the Canadian Constitution Foundation (CCF) is one of the Christian groups Ms. McDonald said is influencing government policy.

She cites, Charles McVety, president of Canada Christian College in Toronto since 1993, and also the current president of Canada Family Action Coalition, as an example of a Christian religious leader reshaping government policy.

Last month, Mr. McVety organized the defeat of Ontario’s new sex education curriculum. The Calgary-based Christian advocacy group the Canadian Constitution Foundation (CCF) is one of the Christian groups Ms. McDonald notes that is influencing government policy.

Ms. McDonald said these evangelical Christians are driven by a belief that Canada has a biblically ordained role to play in the final days before Armageddon and the Second Coming of Christ.

“They say the Fathers of Confederation opened the bible to Psalms 72: 8-9, which leads off the book, and foretells of “dominion … from sea to sea, and from the river to the ends of the earth. They (Christian right leaders) believe this is a divine sign that Canada has a prophetic role in the final days.”

Moreover, Ms. McDonald said these Christian leaders believe that Armageddon will not be all bad.

“They believe true believers will be saved by the second coming of Christ.”

While many commentators claim that religious influence over politics could never happen here, Ms. McDonald said in a CBC radio interview, that she witnessed the same sort of phenomenon happen in the U.S., in 1984 with the rise of the Moral Majority and, currently, the Christian Coalition's significant influence over the U.S. Congress.

As major difference is that the Christian right's developing influence over government policy has been more subtle in Canada, and thus far less noticeable to most Canadians.

The Harper government's handling of the abortion issue is an example, Ms. McDonald said, of subtly trying to change government policy.

While Harper himself won't associate his government with this issue, a couple of Conservative MP's have introduced private members bills to change government policy on abortion.

Two years ago there was a private member's bill to protect the “unborn child” and, most recently, Winnipeg-South MP Rod Bruinooge, chair of the Pro-Life Caucus, attempted to have anybody who “coerces’’ a woman to have an abortion charged with a crime.

When the Harper government cancelled  the Liberals’ long-promised national daycare program for a $25/week taxable stipend per child, Ms. McDonald said it was pandering to the Christian right which believes that the state should have no role in raising children. She said they believe children ought to be brought up by their mothers at home, or go to religious daycares and schools.

Eliminating funding for gay pride events and foreign aid groups like Kairos, a stridently pro-Israel Middle East policy, and an unprecedented amount of grants to bible Schools, are other examples of the Christian right's influence on government policy, which Ms. McDonald said is not just coming from Conservative MPs, but from staff in the Prime Minister's office, such as Darrel Reid (Focus on the Family) and Christian educator Paul Wilson, who advises the Prime Minister.

In her CBC radio interview, Ms. McDonald said Harper talked at great length about his Christian faith in a 2006 Christian radio interview, but he is careful not to do this in the mainstream press.

Passages from the bible, and talk of the end times by religious leaders, have created a sense of urgency, which has motivated Christian right leaders to try and realize their goal of having Canada returned to the Christian nation they believe it once was.

Describing Harper as a pragmatic politician and strategist, Ms. McDonald said in the past he tried to appeal to economic conservatives, but with the current financial crisis, which resulted in policies such as deficit spending, he found that economic conservatives could be very critical of government policy. Thus, realizing he couldn't rely on them, Harper chose policies to placate social conservatives, and not just Christians.

“They said we're going to go after failed conservatives, social conservatives go across borders and include immigrants.”

She added that the Conservative Party enjoyed more support from immigrants in the last election than ever before.

Meanwhile, she said recent polls have shown that more and more Canadians feel they have an affinity for conservative views.

While receiving inspiration and funding from U.S. Christian right groups, Ms. McDonald said Canada's Christian right may, in fact, be in the process of shaping Canadian policies to mimic those of the U.S.

“Take a careful look at the policies. We don't want to end up like the U.S. where the level of vitriol has risen to new heights in the public discourse.”

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