Canada’s em­brace of be­lief

Sur­vey finds open­ness to faith in peo­ple’s lives and the pub­lic square

Albany Times Union - - FAITH & VALUES - By John Longhurst Re­li­gion News Ser­vice

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.

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