Faith and Religion
Canada is an overwhelmingly Christian country. 97% of the population belongs to one of the Christian sects, the majority being Protestant. Life revolves around church groups and religious activities.
The Churches, not the governments, deliver social services and look after the poor and needy. Most charities are affiliated with a church.
With 2,200,000 members, the single largest Christian denomination is Roman Catholic, the majority of whom live in Québec. Methodists, Presbyterians and Anglicans make up the Protestant Big Three, and account for 2,400,000 believers.
The fallout from Darwin's 1871 treatise on evolution, The Descent of Man, is still being felt. Orthodox religion is having a difficult time reconciling scientific discoveries with Old Testament teachings. Over the past 20 years, the possibility - even likelihood - that the Bible is not the literal truth has caused a crisis amongst Canada's faithful.
Check out the approximate breakdown:
In the midst of this turmoil, new values are creeping into the Protestant Churches. For example, poverty used to be considered the fault of poor people - a result of their laziness or personal habits. Now, the "evils" of industrialization have created more crime, poverty and terrible working and living conditions. Some Churches are beginning to argue that it is the system, not the person, that needs to be changed.
In Québec, conservative Catholicism exercises a very powerful influence, even as the Catholic Church begins to liberalize abroad. A faction called the Ultramontanes argues that Québec should become a theocracy - a religious state - and that Catholic Church rules should form the basis of the province's laws. In 1901, 6% of all single women in Québec are nuns.
Membership in labour unions is discouraged. The cultural uniformity that Catholicism brings creates a powerful sense of family and belonging among the Québecois. But it also means that Québec lags behind English Canada in the creation of an industrial economy.
The juxtaposition of Protestant and Catholic populations within the same territory is not always harmonious. In Manitoba, for example, the establishment of a public school system in 1890 to replace the denominational schools provided for under the province's constitution in 1870, led to confrontation. The Catholics, Francophones for the most part, considered the public schools to be a milieu for Protestant propaganda and an indirect route to eliminating French from Manitoba. They were supported by the other Francophones in Canada, particularly those in the province of Quebec, still shaken by the outcome of the Riel affair only five years earlier.
The federal government's refusal to disallow the Manitoba legislation, and the decisions of the Supreme Court of Canada and the Privy Council in London, which held that the Manitoba government had the right to adopt such a law (while adding that the federal government could intervene), settled nothing.
Sir Charles Tupper, the new leader of the Conservative party and the Prime Minister of Canada, proposed "remedial legislation" that was supported by Church leaders. Liberal leader Wilfrid Laurier, sure of his support in Quebec but fearing the loss of votes in the West and, what's more, not wanting the federal government to intervene in the internal affairs of a province, opposed this legislation. Tupper called a snap election. Unfortunately for him, the Liberal party won the election and in 1896, Laurier, who had promised to resolve the problem, became Prime Minister. After negotiations with the Manitoba government, a compromise was reached which provided for the maintenance of the neutral school system but authorized, under certain conditions, the teaching of the Catholic religion and the use of French where there was a specific number of Francophone pupils.
The Francophones were unsatisfied. However, following the intervention of Rome, which described the legislation as "flawed and imperfect" but called for "tolerance" and urged Catholics to "make the best" of the compromises obtained, spirits were calmed.
The problem, as yet unsettled, resurfaced in 1905 with the creation of Saskatchewan and Alberta, and again in 1912 when Manitoba annexed the district of Keewatin.