Christian-Right–a Rising Power in Canada

By Antonia Zerbisias, Toronto Star, 11 May 2010

Marci McDonald should count her blessings.

The timing of her potentially bound-to-be-explosive book, The Armageddon Factor: the Rise of Christian Nationalism in Canada, which hits bookstore today, might be is, if not sublime, downright divine.

That’s because, Tuesday morning on Parliament Hill, hundreds of elected officials, lobbyists, assorted Parliament Hill types as well as the nation’s faithful are gathering for the 45th annual National Prayer Breakfast, where they will “pray in the spirit of Jesus Christ for Canada.’’

By Antonia Zerbisias, Toronto Star, 11 May 2010

Marci McDonald should count her blessings.

The timing of her potentially bound-to-be-explosive book, The Armageddon Factor: the Rise of Christian Nationalism in Canada, which hits bookstore today, might be is, if not sublime, downright divine.

That’s because, Tuesday morning on Parliament Hill, hundreds of elected officials, lobbyists, assorted Parliament Hill types as well as the nation’s faithful are gathering for the 45th annual National Prayer Breakfast, where they will “pray in the spirit of Jesus Christ for Canada.’’

 
What’s more, The Armageddon Factor, which examines the religious right across the faiths and how Stephen Harper’s government has forged bonds with it, comes after weeks of reports on Conservatives opposition to abortion and family planning, the defunding of activist womens’ groups, the withdrawal of subsidies to gay pride events across the country, the cuts to KAIROS and the publication of an unprecedented amount of grants to Bible schools.

“My problem was, as my book went to bed, headlines were coming daily,” McDonald says over the phone from her Toronto home. “All my worries about having to prove my case that this government is intent on cultivating the social conservative constituency in this country were nothing to worry about. They were doing it so openly that you could hardly keep up with the headlines.”

The book, which sprang from her controversial 2006 piece for The Walrus, “Stephen Harper and the TheoCons,’’ is a clarion call to Canadians — and to the Ottawa press gallery — to pay attention to how the religious right, especially evangelical Christians who belong to many ethnic groups, is increasingly influencing both foreign and domestic policy. That while growing and gaining greater access to the corridors of government.

“This was not a polemic I wrote; I do not reveal that Stephen Harper has a secret altar in his basement. But I did try to connect the dots because everybody was telling me this isn’t happening here, not in nice, tolerant, moderate Canada,” says McDonald.

In her book, she tracks how the transformation of Canada has been happening incrementally but inexorably.
Consider one of the Harper government’s first moves: the cancellation of the Liberals’ long-promised national daycare program for a $25/week taxable stipend per child.

“That showed the canniness of Harper’s strategy,’’ explains McDonald. “Most people saw it as, ‘Oh yes the neocons don’t like government-funded social policies.’ What they didn’t realize was that he was also pandering to social conservatives who don’t believe that the government should have any role in child-rearing, who believe that mothers should be at home bringing up their children or who send their children to religious daycares and schools. It was one of those policies that cut across both of his constituencies, economic and social. That would characterize most of his policies.”

Then there’s abortion. Despite Harper’s repeated claim that he doesn’t want to re-open the debate, his caucus never closes it.

For example, two years ago, it was a private member’s bill to protect “the unborn child.’’ Most recently, it’s an attempt by Winnipeg-South MP Rod Bruinooge, chair of the Pro-Life Caucus, to charge anybody who “coerces’’ a woman to have an abortion.

Says McDonald: “Harper won’t associate the government with (abortion) by putting forth a government bill. He will test the waters with private members’ bills. That’s where the gradual erosion will take place. You get a restriction here, a restriction there, and pretty soon …”

Her voice trails off.

Many of these policies are coming not only from MPs and the party grassroots but straight from the PMO where senior staffers such Darrel Reid (Focus on the Family) and Christian educator Paul Wilson advise Harper.

“I just want people to know the facts,’’ says McDonald. “It is the connections, the depth of the organizational roots, that these organizations have put down in Ottawa. These are not known. Four years ago, they were not being catered to, they weren’t being invited to VIP receptions, they weren’t being asked for special election events, they weren’t having special letters read out their rallies, they weren’t getting (security) passes to Parliament Hill.

“And I am talking about fairly radical groups.’’

These groups have been aided in their mission by some of the most extreme elements of the Christian right in the U.S. Groups headed by the likes of Pat Robertson and the late Jerry Falwell, who blamed 9/11 on “the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians.” Groups led by Toronto’s Charles McVety, who railed against same sex rights in Canada, and who, last month, organized the defeat of Ontario’s new sex education curriculum.

“Without the same-sex marriage debate, I don’t think this movement would be as strong, it wouldn’t have come together, it wouldn’t have been galvanized,” notes McDonald. “American groups wouldn’t have jumped to fund or to send in their rhetoric here practically prepackaged because they were afraid the infection would seep over the border. So why should we be surprised when Gay pride is defunded?”

According to The Armageddon Factor, evangelicals believe Canada has to clean up its act on abortion, feminism, and homosexuality because it has a special role to play in the “end times.”

That’s because of 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.”

Never mind that it was likely about an ancient tribal leader’s turf. Many evangelicals see it as a sign, as they see how Parliament Hill’s Peace Tower clock, which stopped because of electrical problems for the first time ever in 2006, stopped at 7:28.

That brings us to The Rapture which, as McDonald describes it, is “that mythic moment when some born-again Christians expect to be snatched up to salvation before the battle of Armageddon.’’

But only if you’re saved of course.

“Canada seems to be the only country to have its geography described in the Bible,’’ notes McDonald, not entirely joking. “Canada must fulfill its Biblical destiny. That’s why evangelicals want to see Canada declared a Christian nation.’’

Don’t think it can’t happen. There is, officially, no separation between church and state in Canada, despite what many assume.

“I think we should be vigilant,” says McDonald. “We have to decide what kind of a country we want to live in. We have to stay on top of these issues because this is a government wedded to secrecy.

“It’s the old story about cooking a frog. You don’t put the frog in boiling water, it will jump out. You put it in a pot of cold water and slowly turn up the temperature.

“This government has chosen a strategy (that) risks changing the Canada that most of us have agreed we want to live in and the tolerance that we have built, faulty as it is.’’

6 comments
  1. Why was this article

    Why was this article published in Keghart? What does it have to do with Armenian news? If Keghart is going to reprint irrelevant articles from Canadian newspapers, I suggest they at least go up-scale and reprint from the National Post or the Globe and Mail.

    1. Read the Slogan

      Hello Perouz, I've been reading Keghart for several years and I don't find it specifically dedicated to Armenians only.  I enjoy reading human rights related articles in keghart from foreign sources.
       
      As the slogan says: "…non-partisan website devoted to community activities, human rights and democracy".
       
      It doesn't have to be only Armenian, which is a good thing and I have seen a lot of comments by foreigners as well.  We need to open-up to non-Armenians so they will know our cause and history.
      Even our telethons should be targeting non-Armenians…
  2. Non-Armenian

    Take it easy, Perouz. The article you mention appeared in Keghart FOUR years ago. Perhaps your comment indicates that even Keghart's old issues are read years later.

    1. Old Issues

      It's worth to note that Keghart.com, for all I know, is the first and only Armenian site that archives its articles and enables one for easy search. It is a unique feature indeed and a tribute to the foresightedness of its founders.

  3. Vitriolic Attack

    Mesrob, this vitriolic attack on the Government of Canada and its Prime Minister did not warrant an initial publication in Keghart.com, let alone reprint. It has absolutely nothing to do with issues that relate to Armenians anywhere. Keghart.com goes into mailboxes internationally, and much of what this woman has written is personal opinion disguised as fact, which may be trusted by readers outside of Canada because of its publication in a respected site like Keghart.com.

    To the nonsense quote "…evangelicals want to see Canada declared a Christian nation,’’ she responds by saying, "Don’t think it can’t happen." What is the purpose of publishing this ridiculous statement and her equally nonsensical response in an Armenian news site? Canada, of course, has long held separation of religion and state. 

    April 24 is approaching, and this Prime Minister, whom she so fiercely denigrates, will again stand up and voluntarily use the Genocide word. When Turks have attempted to block Armenian Genocide acknowledgment, Genocide studies in schools, false burials, etc., both Liberal and Conservative Members of Parliament have listened to me with respect and documented my concerns. Over many years, I have spoken with politicians in every political party, and  in municipal, provincial, and federal levels of government. Not only have they always spoken and written the Genocide word without any hesitation, not one of them has ever said one word to me about their religious beliefs or asked me about mine.

    Citizenship in this country, which allows everyone to believe, or to not believe, with equal rights, is desired by hundreds of thousands of people of many differing faiths, and by those of no religious faith, who have applied for entry. This country gave my parents shelter when our people were being butchered.  It did not ask them what they believed. It asked them what they feared.

  4. Varant:Of course,

    Varant:
    Of course, non-Armenians are always welcome to Armenian sites. Of course, we want them to read about Armenian life and Armenian issues throughout the world. However, if Armenians or non-Armenians want to read up to date, reliable, general, Canadian news, I suggest they try the Globe and Mail or the National Post. This article is proof that Keghart is not able to deliver in that sphere.

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