Canada’s embrace of belief
Survey finds openness to faith in people’s lives and the public square
Canada may appear very secular compared with its southern neighbor, but a new poll suggests there is more openness to religion than appears on the surface, especially among younger Canadians.
The Faith in the Public Square survey by the Angus Reid Institute found 59 percent of Canadians say the free expression of religion in public life makes Canada a better country.
Many Canadians “see the value that faith groups make to society in terms of addressing social issues and the formation of values,” he said.
The survey, done with Cardus, a faith-based think tank, asked 2,200 Canadians 17 questions about their openness to faith in their own lives and the public square. It found proponents of increased faith in public life tend to be younger, more highly educated and more likely to have voted Liberal — the equivalent of the Democratic Party in the United States.
“Millennials are more accepting of almost everything,” he said, noting that they are also more open to LGBTQ people and to seeing Canada accept more refugees.
“Looking at Canada, one could get the feeling it is on an inevitable march to secularism, like in Europe, but that might not be the case,” Reid said.
A key caveat to the findings, Reid noted, is Quebec. The role of religion in public life is viewed much less favorably in that province, and responses from people there skew the national totals.
The survey found 75 percent of Canadians like having people of diverse religious backgrounds in their community; 70 percent consider it important for government decision-makers to know the basics about the world’s major religions; and 68 percent want public schools to teach the basics of those faiths.
But the survey found half of Canadians are uncomfortable with religious garments and symbols in the workplace, and 23 percent feel that society fails to make enough room for their personal expression of faith.
John Stackhouse, who teaches religious studies at Crandall University in Moncton, New Brunswick, is concerned by the almost one-quarter of Canadians who feel religiously shut out and marginalized.