OTTAWA – Dr. James C. Wallace of LACUNA Group International was one of four presenters to Canada’s 4th Annual Parliamentary Religious Freedom Forum in Ottawa today. Organized by MP Colin Mayes and MP David Anderson, the event speakers discussed how Canada has engaged with religious issues throughout its history, and where the current dynamics are with religious freedom within Canada.
Addressing a group of 200 people, Wallace articulated the four models for how Canada has related to religion and religious communities throughout its history. Those were: 1) the official state church; Canada had both the Church of England Upper Canada and the Roman Catholic Church in Lower Canada functioning as the state church for the first 200 years of Canadian history, then the United Church of Canada became an influential factor after its defeat of; 2) laicite, the French model of secularism, 3) separation of Church and State, from the United States model, and 4) total secularity.
“In Canada, we have only had 32 years for the Supreme Court to rule on the Charter of Rights
and Freedoms and, thereby, to create the superstructure for religion in Canada,” said Wallace. “With each Supreme Court case, with each opinion interpreting the meaning of freedom of religion in
Canada, the relationship between religion and state becomes more settled and secure.”
Wallace suggested that Canada might continue with the multiplicity of models functioning simultaneously or, one might move into the forefront. Canada’s strong commitment to multiculturalism has brought with it a respect for diversity of beliefs. In any case, Canada will remain a world role model for religious freedom, he said.
The other presenters were Dr. Janet Epp Buckingham, author of Fighting Over God, A Legal and Political History of Religious Freedom in Canada, and Don Hutchinson, former legal counsel for the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, who analyzed how the Supreme Court of Canada has shifted in recent history in its perspective on religious freedom. Finally, Natasha Bakht, Associate Professor at the University of Ottawa, challenged forum participants to recognize how the seeds of religious intolerance in Canada can be seen in the range of reactions to women who wear niqabs.
LACUNA Group International is a consulting firm which focuses on providing research, analysis, and solutions to businesses, governments and NGOs where their work is impacted by religious issues and communities.
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