Canadian Values. What are they?

Canadian values. That two-word phrase is so well undefined it can fuel a debate between just about any pair of Canadians. Sometimes only one is required.

Our Prime Minister recently apologized for laying claim to an understanding of Canadian values that resulted in providing a response in French to a question asked in English at a town hall meeting in Quebec. His understanding has since shifted with the realization that asked in English would better have been answered in English, just as in Alberta asked in French would be better answered in French.


The phrase isn’t just employed by politicians.

Of late, Canadian values has been too frequently used as a phrase to hurl at adversaries as an allegation of bigotry and abject failure of character, or as words to hail claim to (y)our side’s genuine Canadian-ness. But what exactly are these values we Canadians hurl or hail?

Publicly touted as at or near the top of any list of Canadian values are tolerance and diversity.

Tolerance was once societally defined and understood. Rather than to assail contrary speech or beliefs, tolerance equipped Canadians to respectfully and peacefully disagree. Tolerance started with acceptance of one another as people. There was acknowledgment that civil dialogue, even debate, might not bring agreement. And that’s why tolerance was required.

In those (good old?) days, my parents’ Bajan accents were heard in conversation with the diverse collection of other Canadians’ accents on the street or over the backyard fence, not always in pleasant conversation but civil enough. I don’t recall hearing anyone being told to go back where they came from. Their kids, me among them, were even allowed to play together.

In twenty-first century Canada, tolerance is too often self-defined by the person/group claiming to be tolerant. The tolerance claim is almost as often made in conjunction with the assertion that those who disagree are intolerant. And frequently accompanied by an ad hominem attack stating opponents are evil, phobic or both.

Diversity is today also most often declared to be as defined by the person or group claiming it. The opinions or beliefs of others are rejected solely because they diverge from those of the diversity claiming claimant. Emphasis is, again, placed on the evil or phobic nature of any person or identifiable group of people whose opinion differs.

Human rights legislation developed to protect individuals and minority groups as a shield from abuse is today being asserted instead as sword. Select individuals and groups advance rights-oriented arguments decrying those who do not conform as being unworthy to belong in a democratic society or in need of re-education. Of course the danger in striking with a sword is that swordsmanship prescribes a strike be met with a block and counter-strike. The public square thus becomes a battlefield rather than its intended place for dialogue and the free exchange of ideas.

In the name of free speech, tolerance and diversity, increasing numbers of individuals and groups now threaten or engage in actual violence – against police officers, elected officials and other alleged adversaries – ostensibly in order to prevent peaceful presentation of differing ideas in the public square.

The concepts of tolerance and diversity that were once used to build societal bridges have been re-engineered by the new brand of activists to erect walls of societal division.

The Supreme Court of Canada has considered these assertions in the light of our constitution, declaring that in a free and democratic society… we all belong. The Court has dared suggest that tolerance is not about exclusion or forced inclusion but acceptance of difference. And diversity does not require compliance or conformity with another’s beliefs or demands. However, the Court’s words are at variance with the positions of many new philosopher-activists, who have chosen neither to welcome the Court’s words nor heed them.

More is required of us as Canadians if we are going to engage in meaningful conversation, conversation not just about what we have in common but accommodation of our differences. Isn’t that the kind of conversation vital to living life together in the shared space that is Canada?

Genuine tolerance leaves little room for allegations it is intolerant of others to peaceably disagree. Authentic diversity has little space for the assertion that those who are not like us don’t belong. There is not a sincere understanding of either that can legitimately suggest violence as the way to secure one, the other or both.

First century author Paul of Tarsus offers these still relevant words of advice, “For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another.” (Galatians 5:13-15)

How “Adam and Eve NOT Adam and Steve” agitated Canadian intolerance

This is part 2 in a series of blog posts which will consider tolerance and diversity in Canada

Canadians have lost contact with the meaning of the words tolerance and diversity. These two concepts have been wrestled with since the founding of our nation nearly 150 years ago. They have shaped who we are. They are central to the existence of the Canada we live in today. And now, these words are being re-purposed with different meaning in the media and elsewhere.

Don Hutchinson

In an era of clicking “like” and sharing memes, Canadians are confronted with the need for critical thinking on the meaning of tolerance and diversity, and the principles that underlie them, to a constitutionally multicultural nation. And, it seems, too many of us have either discarded or not developed our capacity for critical thinking.

Let’s consider the issue of same-sex marriage.

One sunny Friday morning, as I rounded the corner just ahead of the parking lot for the church where I was working, I saw them. In the boulevard along the front of our church building was sign after sign stating, “Adam and Eve NOT Adam and Steve.” There must have been at least 50 of them. My first thought was, “Who put those there?” My next thought was to park, then go to property manager’s office to ask him the very same question.

It was the dawn of Canada’s early 21st century debate on marriage and the high profile church building had been rented out for a Defend Marriage rally. Some of the DM team had arrived early to plant lawn signs. After a quick read of the contract, the signs came down. For two reasons. First, sometimes slogans, no matter how catchy, are offensive when you think them through. Second, our church was doing a lot of good in the community, the region and around the world. Our reputation should not be reduced to stock media photos of those signs lining the boulevard.

Why would we think the signs offensive? Two words. Imago Dei. This is the biblical principle that all people are made in the image of God. As I’ve written previously (in Advent … of Diversity)

The Judaeo-Christian belief in the inherent dignity and worth of all humanity, believing we are all made in the image of God, is the foundation for human rights. It is the basis for the expression of their guarantee in documents such as Magna Carta, the United States’ Bill of Rights, the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Christianity is a religion with permeable boundaries. Some people are born into Christianity. Others convert to Christianity as their religion of choice. Christians, however, are not called to a private faith but compelled by our sacred text, the Bible, to engage with the world outside the Church in a public witness of personal and corporate faith.

Public engagement outside of Church boundaries meant, among other things, establishing Canada’s education, parole, children’s aid and medical care systems. All for the public good, i.e. not just for like-minded Christians. Christians continue to be active in these areas, as well as more populist contemporary issues like anti-human trafficking advocacy, care for victims of crime, care for the impoverished, international development and environmental stewardship. All of this outside-the-Church community stuff is motivated by Jesus’ command that Christians love the Lord their God and their neighbours as themselves.

Love asks acceptance even when there is not agreement. In Canadian society, this concept is what has until recently been meant by tolerance.

Tolerance is a social experience that Canadians have had to work out together. The Church was not without failure in the quest to live out the concept of treating others as we would desire to be treated. And, demonstrations of intolerance were intended to be addressed by 20th century designed human rights protocols – codes, acts and tribunals – envisioned as a shield for those who might be subject to discrimination. Permitting those protocols which were meant as shield to be used as sword, to attack rather than defend, has moved the Canadian understanding of tolerance into a state of flux.

Along with the new human rights protocols, in the latter part of the 20th century Canadian laws were amended to correct the historic injustice that had seen widespread discrimination against Canadians who are gay, which included the criminalization of sodomy until 1969. Early in the 21st century the societal pendulum on this issue may be swinging beyond simple correction.

What began as a pursuit of protection and accommodation, then equality, for the 1.7% of the population who self-describe as gay, lesbian, bisexual, transsexual, etc. (LGBT) has progressed into expectation that non-heterosexual inclinations and behaviour be recognized, even enforced and taught as alternative orientations or identities to be considered normative alongside the long considered natural, and still almost universal, female/male relationship. The proposition is that same-sex marriages and same-sex parented families be acknowledged as equivalent to, not equal under the law although different from, monogamous one woman and one man marriages that have the intent of procreation resulting in families; the latter often referred to as “traditional marriage” since Canada’s definition of marriage was changed in 2005.

Statistics Canada also notes that 0.8% of all Canadian couples are same-sex, with 1/3 of that number married, i.e. 21,000 of the 9,400,000 married couples in Canada in 2011 were same-sex.

The assertion often made by same-sex marriage advocates is that same-sex marriage is analogous to bi-racial marriage. However, a better comparison is to religious marriage. Long term studies suggest that LGBT sexual passions and preferences may be the result of genetics (birth) for some and choice for others, similar to religion. Within the LGBT community there is a diversity of beliefs about marriage. There are those who support same-sex marriage and those who regard traditional marriage as the legitimate marital option. This is also true in the Church.

The driving effort to redefine tolerance as necessitating approval of same-sex marriage, and diversity as incomplete unless embracing same-sex marriage, has led to its own injustices.

In several provinces, marriage officiants who indicated they could not perform same-sex marriages for reasons of conscience or religious belief lost their jobs. Ontario implemented a simple and logical system that required two lists of marriage officiants be maintained; one to be provided to traditional couples and the other to same-sex couples. Still, in other provinces and smaller communities contract marriage officiants lost their jobs.

A debate rages about other wedding related services. It has been predominantly Christian small business owners who have been accused of behaving in a discriminatory manner in regard to these services. They have been labeled as anti-gay, homophobic. However, when one begins with the wrong assumption, one’s odds of arriving at the wrong conclusion are assured. The objection of Christian printers, photographers, bakers and florists (and a pizza place owner in Indiana) is not to people who are gay or serving people who are gay. The objection has consistently been stated as the request, sometimes demand, to expressively support/endorse same-sex marriage through their inspired creative work, in violation of their religious beliefs.

On which foot should the shoe of accommodation be fitted when there is no question of emergency and there are a multitude of available service providers?

A private Christian university in British Columbia has been reproached by several provincial law societies in its proposal for a school of law that satisfies all the academic requirements of any other Canadian law school. The censure is solely because the university holds to a religious perspective that asks its staff and students not to engage in sexual relations unless as part of a traditional marriage, i.e. sex outside of marriage is regarded as a sinful behaviour in accordance with the university community’s understanding of orthodox biblical Christian identity. Lawyers and academics across the country are divided on this issue. Is this difference in opinion based on political or legal correctness?

Again, let’s give the last words on this issue to the deciders of the definition of diversity in our Canadian democracy. In two cases on this point, the Supreme Court of Canada shared the following wisdom, which remains the law.

In 2004 in the Reference re Same-Sex Marriage concerning Canada’s then draft legislation to redefine marriage, the Court stated,

The protection of freedom of religion afforded by s. 2(a) of the Charter is broad and jealously guarded in our Charter jurisprudence. We note that should impermissible conflicts occur, the provision at issue will by definition fail the justification test under s. 1 of the Charter and will be of no force or effect under s. 52 of the Constitution Act, 1982. In this case the conflict will cease to exist.

It therefore seems clear that state compulsion on religious officials to perform same-sex marriages contrary to their religious beliefs would violate the guarantee of freedom of religion under s. 2(a) of the Charter. It also seems apparent that, absent exceptional circumstances which we cannot at present foresee, such a violation could not be justified under s. 1 of the Charter.

This pronouncement built on the Court’s 2001 decision in Trinity Western University v. B.C. College of Teachers, in which it stated,

Indeed, if TWU’s Community Standards could be sufficient in themselves to justify denying accreditation, it is difficult to see how the same logic would not result in the denial of accreditation to members of a particular church. The diversity of Canadian society is partly reflected in the multiple religious organizations that mark the societal landscape and this diversity of views should be respected.

… For better or for worse, tolerance of divergent beliefs is a hallmark of a democratic society.

Think about it.

Reprinted as “The Terminus of Tolerance” in Convivium, Vol. 4 No.20, June/July 2015, p. 21

How would they vote on Trinity Western’s Law School today? Candidates for the law society in Ontario.

Trinity Western University’s law school isn’t the only thing on the agenda for the Law Society of Upper Canada (LSUC). It is a vital point that demonstrates whether Ontario’s governors of legal practice are committed to diversity as defined by the Supreme Court of Canada or diversity as defined by political correctness and strong-armed conformism.

In 2014, the LSUC benchers voted against fundamental constitutional principles by a margin of 28 to 21 (with 1 abstention). TWU’s school of law graduates would not be permitted to practice law in Ontario, unless the benchers’ decision was overturned in the courts… or by a future decision of the benchers.

Don Hutchinson

Don at the Supreme Court of Canada

Well, the time has come to elect the next slate of benchers. And, below, you will find the link to a record of how benchers voted in 2014 (in red) and how new candidates intend to vote if the matter is returned for their consideration (in green). The sources are reputable and the supporting documentation for this list has been provided to me.

I won’t tell you how to vote. However, this list will inform how I vote.

First, a brief summary of the law and the facts.

In its decision on same-sex marriage in 2004, the Supreme Court of Canada stated Canada is a nation that constitutionally provides for a diversity of individual and institutional opinions on marriage. The justices then noted that Parliament, not the Court, had the constitutional authority to decide the civil definition of marriage; and, Parliament would have to accept the diversity of opinions, particularly those which are constitutionally protected under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms provision concerning the right to freedom of religion.

In 2005’s Civil Marriage Act, Parliament included respect for this diversity of opinions, with particular protection for religious individuals and institutions in the ”expression of their beliefs in respect of marriage as the union of a man and woman to the exclusion of all others.” The Civil Marriage Act changed the definition of civil (non-religious) marriage to “the lawful marriage of two persons.”

In an earlier decision, the Supreme Court of Canada recognized in 2001 that TWU’s community covenant – the covenant that upset 28 Ontario benchers – was appropriate for the private religious institution; and, the professional body that had denied accreditation to TWU graduates could only regulate the behaviour of TWU’s academically qualified graduates who chose to enter the profession they had trained for AFTER they entered the profession. Because graduates of TWU’s school of education met academic requirements, the British Columbia College of Teachers (BCCT) was required to admit them as members. As members of the BCCT, however, TWU grads would then be regulated under the same provisions applicable to other teachers in the province.

In late 2013, The Federation of Law Societies of Canada (the accrediting group approved by ALL of Canada’s law societies) and the B.C. Ministry of Advanced Education approved the submission of Trinity Western University as being in full compliance with nationally established educational standards for a law school. In the process, The Fed sought and received a legal opinion from one of Canada’s leading constitutional law lawyers. John B. Laskin concluded:

In my view, both of these asserted grounds for refusing approval would be highly questionable. As for the first, as also already mentioned the Supreme Court concluded that graduates of TWU would “treat homosexuals fairly and respectfully.” It was implicit in its decision that their education at TWU did not detract from their ability to comply with “principles of equality, nondiscrimination, and the duty not to discriminate.” Professor Craig provides no evidence to support the contention that the position would somehow be otherwise for law students.

As for the second, it proceeds from a view of academic freedom that is by no means universally shared. Following its logic would lead to the conclusion that no individual lawyer who adheres to a set of religious principles could engage in critical thinking about ethical issues. This conclusion cannot be tenable. The second argument, like the first one, also fails to give any recognition to the positive value of religious diversity that the Supreme Court embraced in BCCT.

The Law Society of Upper Canada is ready to elect its next slate of benchers (board of directors). LSUC members get to vote for 40 benchers; 20 from Toronto and 20 from the rest of Ontario.

Under the LSUC system, the benchers who receive the highest number of votes in each of 8 regions (1 from Toronto and 7 from outside Toronto) will become the regional benchers. The remaining 32 benchers will be the 19 who get the most votes in Toronto and 13 who get the most votes from outside Toronto.

It is my, I think quite reasonable, expectation that the governors of the legal profession will respect the law.

Here’s the list:

LSUC Bencher Election Candidates 2015

How Adam and Eve revealed Canadian bigotry and intolerance

This is part 1 in a series of blog posts which will consider tolerance and diversity in Canada

Canadians have lost contact with the meaning of the words tolerance and diversity. These two concepts have been wrestled with since the founding of our nation nearly 150 years ago. They have shaped who we are. They are central to the existence of the Canada we live in today. And now, these words are being re-purposed with different meaning in the media and elsewhere.

Don - "Love, Hope, Believe"

In an era of clicking “like” and sharing memes, Canadians are confronted with the need for critical thinking on the meaning of tolerance and diversity, and the principles that underlie them, to a constitutionally multicultural nation. And, it seems, too many of us have either discarded or not developed our capacity for critical thinking.

First up, let’s consider questions of human origin.

It was a relatively recent ninety years ago that one of the United States’ most famous courtroom trials unfolded. In violation of state law, substitute high school teacher John Scopes brought his teaching on the theory of human evolution into the classroom. Tennessee’s curriculum taught biblical creation.

In the clash between legal titans William Jennings Bryan and Clarence Darrow that took place in Dayton’s Rhea County Courthouse, Scopes was convicted of teaching evolution by a jury of his peers and fined $100 by the judge. That fight has been chronicled by many as the opening battle in the modern war between science and religion.

The conviction was thrown out on appeal; but only for technical reasons (the fine of $100 had been wrongly imposed by judge rather than jury and since Scopes was no longer in the employ of the state there would be no re-trial). The law prohibiting the teaching of evolution in state-funded schools was upheld as constitutional. It did not impose religious instruction on the school system; it merely permitted same.

It took another 43 years before the U.S. Supreme Court, in 1968, declared that state laws similar to the one in Tennessee were unconstitutional under the First Amendment to the U.S. constitution, which states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”

Although educational attitudes about evolution have changed, what was troublesome about the theory of evolution in 1925 remains troublesome for many in 2015.

Scientific theory is generally considered to be “a well-substantiated explanation” confirmed through testing, observation and experimentation. However, the scientific theory of human evolution is hypothesis that has not and cannot be definitively confirmed. The 1974 discovery of “Lucy” (Australopithecus) was world news when I was in secondary school. The gap she allegedly filled – and there is now dispute in the scientific community that Lucy fills any gap – turned out not to be the only gap in the theory. The gaps in observable fossils and genetic testing suggest that more than one missing link remain to be found. In fact, the total number of gaps in the theory of human evolution has yet to be determined. Each of the innumerable gap timeline variables is calculated at between hundreds of thousands and millions of years. Also unanswered is the question of the origin of the first cell, human or otherwise.

Many in the scientific community admit there is a substantial amount of “faith in science” required to account for cell origin, as well as to fill the countless and extensive evolutionary gaps.

In religious communities, correspondingly, there is ready admission that faith is required to accept the biblical account of human creation.

In Canada’s state-run public education system, it has become standard to teach evolution as fact; and variations on aboriginal folklore concerning the creation of Turtle Island, with the first people falling from the sky, as a tradition-based alternative. Educators have imported their own version of the American constitutional concepts concerning separation of church and state for application in the Canadian classroom; the biblical account of human creation is thus excluded because it is religiously based.

The educators’ position is largely derived from the bias that posits religion and science as being incompatible – even though Christians, including those who believe the biblical account of creation to be true, have long been leaders in the scientific community and continue to be. The aboriginal traditional narrative is taught in order to not cause offense.

Aboriginal people comprise 4% of Canada’s population. 70% of Canadians belong to one of the world religions that include the creation account as part of their sacred texts. 24% of Canadians identify as having no formal religious belief.

Current Canadian classroom practices concerning the question of human origins receive a passing grade under 21st century adaptations of tolerance and diversity. The secular “scientific” position is covered and so is the politically correct alternative. The failure to accommodate discussion of the historic and continuing religious position, however, reveals an unwillingness to be inclusive.

Increased debate within the scientific community concerning the theory of evolution is ignored. International and constitutional rights of parents to educate their children have largely been shelved in favour of state-directed education on this and other controversial issues.

In state-run education institutions, too many Canadian students are schooled to simply accept what they’re taught. Critical and analytical thinking is largely discouraged, and no longer formally part of the state-run education curriculum. Don’t question. Just conform and comply to complete one’s education.

Parents are also required to conform. Those who object have been forced to engage the legal system to fight for their children and their rights.

Mainstream media commentary in stories concerning Canadian politicians, provincial and federal, who have questioned the veracity of the theory of human evolution demonstrate that the reporters concerned have been schooled well. Acceptance of their classroom indoctrination has prevailed over critical thinking for these journalist graduates of Canada’s state-run school system.

In the 2000 federal election campaign, Liberal Party operative Warren Kinsella brought a Barney the Dinosaur doll to an interview on CTV’s Canada AM to mock Canadian Alliance leader (and later highly regarded Minister of Foreign Affairs) Stockwell Day’s religious beliefs. In 2014, the media went after Alberta Minister of Education Gordon Dirks. In recent weeks, Member of Parliament James Lunney has been trolled on twitter, and stepped aside from his party to sit as an independent. The week before, Ontario Member of Provincial Parliament Rick Nicholls was accused of being “not ready for prime time” because he stated in the legislature that he doesn’t believe in evolution. What of tolerance or respect for a diversity of religions and opinions?

The new doublespeak definitions of tolerance and diversity have supplanted consideration that men and women in public service need not agree on the origins of humankind in order to serve the needs of their constituents and engage in the development of public policy for the common good.

It’s time for a little more critical reflection and a lot less click activism.

Let the final words on this point be those written by the high priests of human rights in their interpretation of our seemingly anointed national sacred text, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. In 2004, Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin, for the majority, agreed with dissenting Justice Charles Gonthier’s words below in the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision in Chamberlain v. Surrey School District No. 36:

… nothing in the Charter, political or democratic theory, or a proper understanding of pluralism demands that atheistically based moral positions trump religiously based moral positions on matters of public policy. I note that the preamble to the Charter itself establishes that ‘… Canada is founded upon principles that recognize the supremacy of God and the rule of law.’ According to Saunders J., if one’s moral view manifests from a religiously grounded faith, it is not to be heard in the public square, but if it does not, then it is publicly acceptable. The problem with this approach is that everyone has ‘belief’ or ‘faith’ in something, be it atheistic, agnostic or religious. To construe ‘secular’ as the realm of the ‘unbelief’ is therefore erroneous. Given this, why, then, should the religiously informed conscience be placed at public disadvantage or disqualification? To do so would be to distort liberal principles in an illiberal fashion and would provide only a feeble notion of pluralism. The key is that people will disagree about important issues, and such disagreement, where it does not imperil community living, must be capable of being accommodated at the core of modern pluralism.

Think about it.

Advent … of diversity

Today is the first Sunday in Advent. Advent is the Western Christian Church’s celebration of the birth of Jesus of Nazareth; recognized in the Church as Saviour, Lord, and Son of God. As we hear the Christmas carols, we are reminded of the diversity of music that heralds the celebration of the birth of the Christ child.

Don - "Love, Hope, Believe"

This assortment of celebratory music is a reflection of another diversity within the Church, the diversity of its population. In fact, Eastern rite Christian churches even have a different practice for celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ.

Although largely perceived today as a Western religion, Christianity is a Middle Eastern religion with its foundation in the Judaism of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob – a faith community that was awaiting the Messiah, in Greek “Christos”; Who Christians believe has come, was crucified and died, rose from the dead, ascended to heaven and will return. It is His birth we celebrate.

The message Jesus and the early Church shared was of a religion open to a diversity of people and cultural expressions, through which the message of the Saviour – the Good News or Gospel as it is called – spread by inspiration of God’s Holy Spirit beyond the Jewish population of Israel to find acceptance among Greeks, Romans, Egyptians and Ethiopians. In short order the Church also expanded into India and the Orient.

One of the historically more recent developments resulting from the inclusiveness promoted by Jesus, and over the course of centuries by His disciples, is the concept of human rights. The Judaeo-Christian belief in the inherent dignity and worth of all humanity, believing we are all made in the image of God, is the foundation for human rights. It is the basis for the expression of their guarantee in documents such as Magna Carta, the United States’ Bill of Rights, the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

One of the inherent rights these documents recognize is the right of the Church (and religion more generally) to be free from interference by the state, including the right to freedom in both religious beliefs and the practices connected with those beliefs by individuals and religious groups; congregations, denominations, organizations and associations. Another of the things these documents have in common is the recognition that such freedom as they outline is the basis for living with freedom in a diverse and peaceful society – whether democratic or otherwise.

Diversity, however, has come to mean different things over time.

At one point in Canada’s history it meant coexistence of the French and English – at the time, two international powers who had a long history of war against one another – and coexistence of the primary religions of those nations, Roman Catholicism and the Anglican expression of Protestant Christianity. The reality of increased Canadian immigration meant accommodation for Scottish, Irish, German, Dutch and other Europeans – along with their variations on religion, primarily Christian – and Africans, Orientals, South Asians, Jews and Arabs. Late in the process of nationhood has come an increasing acceptance for Canada’s aboriginal peoples and their religious freedom in place of efforts to conquer and convert.

The last half century or so has seen an increase in formal declaration of human rights by Canada’s federal and provincial legislatures, focusing on who is not to be discriminated against. This is a legal methodology to promote tolerance, if not acceptance, of diversity. The list in most human rights codes and acts across the country include non-discrimination on the following characteristics: age, ancestry, citizenship, colour, disability, ethnic origin, family status, marital status, place of origin, race, religion, sex or sexual orientation. There is also provision for organizations that serve primarily an identifiable group to be selective in hiring and membership so that it is not considered discriminatory to hire individuals of like description, e.g. the Canadian Association of Black Lawyers, the Southern Ontario Gay and Lesbian Association of Doctors or The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada. This is a continuing recognition that Canadian diversity is found in both diversity of individuals and diversity of institutions. These concepts are affirmed by our legislatures and our courts.

A developing concern of 21st century Canada is calls for a new notion of diversity that departs from the traditional and accepted broad spectrum noted above. The traditional spectrum presents an expansive concept that promotes both acceptance and the related concept of equality, i.e. the recognition that in our differences we remain equal and deserving of acceptance; both individually and institutionally.

The recent decisions of several law societies to exclude from the practice of law equally qualified graduates of a properly accredited Christian post-secondary institution and the decision of the University of Western Ontario to collapse a shared multi-faith chapel into a single-faith prayer facility for only one religious community convey a different message to Christians from that of inclusiveness, acceptance, diversity and equality. The law societies in question have demanded conformity, rather than respecting diversity. UWO has promoted preference for, or deference to, one religious community over equality. Both situations communicate non-acceptance and intolerance toward those who are judged as being different from a favoured community.

As we in Canada begin Advent, on a timeline shared both by those who accept the beliefs of the Western Church and those who engage in a strictly commercial celebration of Christmas, may “the season of goodwill toward others” also be a time to reflect on and re-embrace the foundations of a broad spectrum of diversity in the populations of both Church and state. That breadth of diversity is essential to our shared life together in Canada’s free, democratic and peaceful society.