For Canada's Sake

For Canada's Sake: Public Religion, Centennial Celebrations, and the Re-making of Canada in the 1960s

Copyright Date: 2005
Pages: 340
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  • Book Info
    For Canada's Sake
    Book Description:

    Breaking away from the traditional analysis of church policy, sermons, and clerical scholarship, For Canada's Sake presents an exemplary analysis of the meaning behind religiously informed public celebrations and rituals such as centennial hymns and prayers and Expo pavillions. Miedema argues that the 1967 celebrations reveal the continued importance of religion to Canadian public life, showing that a waning "Christian Canada" was being replaced by an officially "interfaith" country. The author throws into bold relief the varied attempts of government officials and religious leaders to come to terms with new Canadian and global realities, as well as the response of Canadians to their own increasing religious diversity.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-7278-2
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. xi-xx)

    On Saturday, 1 July 1967, Canadians gathered on Parliament Hill to celebrate their country’s one hundredth birthday.¹ The first eager citizens, encouraged by blue skies, a slight breeze, and temperatures forecast to be in the eighties, began to appear around 9:30 A.M. The best spots close to the freshly built platform were quickly taken. In the next hour, the rear edge of the crowd moved slowly back until the lawns were covered with an estimated twenty to twenty-five thousand people.

    The growing crowd was entertained by the Canadian Guards band and the Peace Tower carillon, as well as by last-minute...

  5. Illustrations
    (pp. xxi-2)
  6. 1 Public Religion, Public Celebrations, and the Construction of Nations: Theoretical Considerations
    (pp. 3-13)

    This study uses public exhibitions and celebrations to highlight the ways in which understandings of Canada in the 1960s included religious understandings, as well as the ways in which both changed. Without doubt, that is an ambitious and slippery task that raises several important questions. How do we understand public religion? What is it, and what does it do? What do we mean when we talk about changing understandings of Canada? Is it even possible to define national identities - identities that might arguably have a thousand definitions instead of one? For that matter, how can we make sense of...

  7. 2 “The Things That We Believe in in This Country Stand for Christianity” Christian Canada to the 1960s
    (pp. 14-40)

    As the 1 July prayer service on Parliament Hill explicitly revealed, religion played an impressive role in the state-sponsored, public celebrations of the Centennial of Canadian Confederation in 1967. More specifically, while the service continued to be recognizably Christian, it also hinted that the privileging of Christianity in Canadian national public life was not without challenge.

    To understand that challenge, we need to first understand why and how Christianity came to be publicly privileged in Canada in the first place. At its heart, the public identity of Canada as a Christian country was, like other such identities, shaped by human...

  8. 3 An Inclusive State, a Servant Church, the Waning of a Christian Canada
    (pp. 41-64)

    The public expressions of Christianity in the Centennial celebrations of 1967 had a long and cherished history in Canada’s dominant culture. Until well after the Second World War, Christian identities were embedded in Canadian public life. Nonetheless, in the 1950s and 1960s Canada was a country in transition. The development of both church and state institutions altered the relations between them, changing demographics met with more inclusive attitudes to push Canada away from its racially and religiously exclusive representations, and minority groups seemed determined to end their exclusion from public life. The result was a list of serious challenges to...

  9. 4 The 1967 Centennial Celebrations, the Canadian Interfaith Conference, and the Building of an Inclusive, Pluralistic Canada
    (pp. 65-88)

    Into the early 1960s, the privileged nature of the Christian religion in Canadian public life continued to reinforce Christianity as an important element of Canadian national identities. Legislation regulating divorce, birth control, adoption and immigration, school curriculums, public rhetoric, and public radio all pointed to that conclusion. At the same time, however, abundant evidence in the postwar years indicated that in fact the historic privileging of Christianity was not as strong as it used to be. In the post-1945 period, in particular, Canada was rapidly changing from a country still secure in a racially and religiously exclusive national identity to...

  10. 5 “The National Interfaith Conference Has Been Lost Sight of in This Area”: Public Religion as Contested Ground in the 1967 Centennial Celebrations
    (pp. 89-113)

    In 1967 even the energetic and optimistic directors of the Canadian Interfaith Conference had to admit that promoting an inclusive, pluralistic interfaith Canada was no easy task. According to their parent body, the Centennial Commission, religion in the Centennial was to serve the purpose of building national unity by encouraging Canadians to celebrate their Canada together, regardless of their faith differences. The wishes of the commission, however, were only one side of the CIC coin. On the other were the sometimes very different plans and purposes of religious groups and individual Canadians whom the CIC hoped to reach. In the...

  11. 6 Changing the Meaning of the Word “Canada”: State-Sponsored Public Religion at Expo 67
    (pp. 114-136)

    If the centennial celebrations were Canada’s birthday party, Expo 67 was birthday cake.² Held in Montreal in the summer of 1967, the Universal International Exposition was an astounding project, not unlike the staging of an Olympics in size, complexity, and international prestige. It involved the municipal government of Montreal, the provincial government of Quebec, and the federal government of Canada in a joint venture eventually transformed the middle of the St Lawrence River into a dream-land of national cultures, cutting-edge technology, and thrilling entertainment that would captivate citizens of Canada and the world.³

    Officially linked to the Centennial celebrations, Expo...

  12. 7 “Should the Government of Canada ... Decide That All Denominations Must Cooperate or Unite Before They Can Be Present at Expo 67?” Negotiating a Religious Presenceon the Expo Isles
    (pp. 137-160)

    Expo 67 was a dreamland, a magical paradise planned to the smallest detail by organizers anxious to announce to Canadians and to the world a new era of progress and global cooperation. When the gates of Expo 67 opened in April of the Centennial year, however, the Expo reality did not always reflect official plans. The actual presentation of religion on the Expo site, in particular, did not at all seem to resemble the dreams of Expo's CEO, Pierre Dupuy. Instead of one pavilion displaying the common unifying force of world religions, Expo had three pavilions devoted entirely to religion,...

  13. 8 The Christian Pavilion, the Sermons from Science Pavilion, and the Pavilion of Judaism: Varying Constructions of Public Religion in 1967
    (pp. 161-199)

    In the summer of 1967, Expo 67 proclaimed to Canadians and the world a message of hope for a better future. For Canadians, the people who claimed the exhibition as the centre piece of their birthday celebrations, that message was intended to bear particular symbolic power. The magic islands offered to them a sense of pride in their national accomplishment, a sense of coming-of-age in their sophistication, and the hope for a better world in the shape of a country equally welcoming of all ethnic groups and religious creeds. Canada, Expo 67 argued, was a nation of nations, a state...

  14. Conclusion
    (pp. 200-208)

    In the 1960s Canadians and their social, cultural, and political institutions struggled through a period of dramatic and intense change. Reevaluating old patterns and norms of daily life, Canadians also found themselves immersed in a broader reconsideration of the very character of their country, their institutions, and themselves. That reconsideration, in turn, involved public religion. In the 1960s, in a process that had begun long before and continued long after, the religious component of Canadian public identities was being officially redefined.

    The 1967 Centennial celebrations of Canadian Confederation and Expo 67, the Universal and International Exposition in Montreal in that...

  15. Notes
    (pp. 209-262)
  16. Bibliography
    (pp. 263-300)
  17. Index
    (pp. 301-308)