Losing our religion.
Among these annual commemorative events is a Canada Day thanksgiving prayer service at the Free Church of Scotland in Covent Garden which, this year, has been cancelled. The reason? Poor attendance. Lest readers be tempted to view this as a sign of expat indifference to the day itself, consider this: last July 1, more than 4,000 Canadians turned out to drink beer with their compatriots at the Maple Leaf Pub (located two blocks from the church) forcing police to close down the street and patrol the noisy crowds on horseback.
According to the 2001 census, Canadians are losing their religion. In a recent report by Statistics Canada based on the census, 4.8 million Canadians, 16 percent of the population, declared themselves as having no religion at all, a staggering 44 percent increase over the past decade.
Ken Ryan of Orangeville, Ontario - one of the growing number of Canadians with no religion - is typical. Raised as an Anglican, he lost his faith at university. "I don't see any reason to believe in religion," he told Canadian Press. "I think faith is a great comfort to people ... but either you do or you don't. And I don't."
His views are shared by Michael FitzPatrick, an Ottawa father of two children, who was raised Catholic. His partner was also raised Catholic and their children attend a Catholic school because he wanted them to have a taste of spirituality. But he doesn't consider himself Catholic.
Says FitzPatrick. "I don't know there is any one religion that is right and I certainly don't know enough to say that any of them is wrong. You can have faith without religion."
Still, the majority of Canadians remain Catholic or Protestant, with Roman Catholic the largest religious group with 12.8 million or 43 percent of the population. Just under half of Canada's Catholics live in Quebec, accounting for 83 percent of the province's population. Catholics are also the majority in New Brunswick, with 54 percent. British Columbia, with 17 percent, had the lowest proportion of Catholics.
Some 8.7 million Canadians identified themselves as Protestants, Canada's second largest religious group at 29 percent-down from 35 percent in 1991, while the number of Jews in Canada increased 3.7 percent, representing 1.1 percent of the population. In the past decade, the number of Muslims in Canada doubled, now representing two percent of the population, and accounting for 15 percent of immigrants to Canada.
But despite these figures, StatsCan notes that attendance at religious services has fallen dramatically over the past 15 years, leading to the inescapable conclusion that the gap between nominal claims of faith and its actual practice is widening. So what does this mean? Does this mean that Canada-its back now turned on its Christian roots and all public references to the Almighty prohibited- has no religion?
Since the late 1960s, Canada's national religion has been affluent secularism which, in turn, masks deepening decay within. Canadians now spend a half billion dollars a year on anti-depressants, the nation's abortion levels compete with live births, and its teenagers have the second highest suicide rate in the world.
On the economic side, Canadian companies are being shut out of contracts to rebuild Iraq because of Ottawa's opposition to the war to topple Saddam Hussein, SARS, BSE (aka Mad Cow Disease) and West Nile virus are all recurring, the national airline is teetering on the brink, and tourism is in freefall.
Yet mere weeks before Canada's 136th birthday, the prime minister, nominally a Catholic, was boasting about the nation's outstanding economic performance and proclaiming that he, unlike the conservative "right-wing" U.S. president George W Bush, is a "pro-choice" liberal, the implication being that he is the better man. In face of such breathtaking hubris, even an atheist might see this as a spectacular temptation of fate by an increasingly faithless nation.
"Poor Canada," Our Lady of Fatima is reputed to have said to the three children during an apparition in 1917. Within two years of the apparitions, two of the children were dead, but the third, Lucia dos Santos, who became a Carmelite nun, has at various times disclosed messages revealed to her in 1917.
"Poor Canada!" Lucia says Our Lady said. And the parish priest of Fatima repeated it to the bishop, who mentioned it to the archbishop, who confided the phrase to the papal nuncio, who reported it to the Pope, who much later said a few words about it to Cardinal Leger, then a pastor in Montreal. When parishioners heard about it, they fell to their knees in prayer for our country. If true, what do you think Our Lady meant? +
Paula Adamick is the publisher of the monthly paper Canada Post out of London, England. Her column appears every other issue.