Acts of Faith: Spiritual link to Canada Day

Founding Native peoples and other indigenous Canadians had deep spiritual beliefs and convictions

by Les Warriner

I’m proud to be Canadian. I’m proud of my heritage and the journey of my forefathers to a new land.

I’m proud of Canada and the reputation that we have around the world, and although not unflawed, we can certainly be proud of: our Canadian forces returning from Afghanistan; our astronauts and space technology; our Olympic athletes, who we can cheer on next month in London; nations builders such as Sir John A. Macdonald, Mackenzie King; and others national heroes like Terry Fox and George P. Vanier.

Vanier was a young lawyer who joined the 22nd Regiment, known as the Van Doos, at its creation in early 1915, and served overseas with great courage, winning a Military Cross and the Distinguished Service Order, until he was shot through the chest and wounded in both legs, and his right leg had to be amputated.

Few Canadians outside the army and department of external affairs knew much of Vanier until John Diefenbaker named him governor general in 1959, when he was 71, the second Canadian and first French-Canadian to take that post.

Journalist Claude Ryan said of him: “He set his sights on the goal of giving to Canadian public life a sort of supplement for its soul, an infusion of high patriotism, even of pure and simple spirituality.”

We need more leaders like that today, and fewer ones who are intimidated by political pressure, political correctness and forces that want to save everything but human integrity and authentic spirituality.

But it’s not that Canada’s roots are as a godless nation.

Founding Native peoples and other indigenous Canadians had deep spiritual beliefs and convictions.

Early immigrants from France and England brought their Roman Catholic and Protestant faiths that became an integral part of the earliest settlements.

Brian Stiller points out, “You really can’t understand Canada until you understand the central role the Christian faith had in the founding and shaping of Canada …”

But, of course, that’s not to say that we always acted in a Christian way.

There are many stories of atrocities: our unjust treatment of aboriginals; the way we exploited Chinese immigrants in building our national railway; the imprisonment of Japanese Canadians during the Second World War.

A far cry from Christian principles, but our framework was still very much Christian.

And that Christian faith became intertwined in the foundations of our nation and government.

The Canadian Charter explicitly states that “Canada is founded upon the principles that recognize the supremacy of God and the rule of law.”

Sir Samuel Leonard Tilley, Premier of New Brunswick, one of the founding Fathers’ of Confederation, was a God-fearing man. He woke up on the day that they were to decide the name of this new confederation and read from Psalms 72. Verse 8 leaped off the page at him. “He shall have dominion also from sea to sea, and from the river unto the ends of the earth.”

So Tilley suggested that the new confederation be called the “Dominion of Canada,” and it was so named on July 1st, 1867.

The word dominion has been removed from our national identity for a while now. But the inspired association with Psalms 72:8 is our spiritual heritage.

Remember that this Canada Day.

Les Warriner is pastor at Living Way Foursquare Church.

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