How Well do You Know Your History?

Vande Meulin Group walking across lawn on The Hill
In Search of History…
I belong to a private facebook group where we are trying to reconnect to family members all over the world. As new members join, they share the bit of family history that they know. As other closer relatives respond to them, identifying their common bond through that branch of the family tree, there is a palpable joy and excitement to feel connected with one’s kin. There happens to be some on the European continent, some in central America, some in South America, but most in the Caribbean.
We hope you will feel similar excitement as you piece together snippets of history which might resonate with you because of your family connections.  As you become engaged with the information here, if you read anything which links your family’s history, or that of your village, your town, or your province to Canadian History, we would love to hear from you.

Continue reading “How Well do You Know Your History?”

Charles Chiniquy: Priest and Pastor in Canada (2)

Conversion to Protestantism

Chiniquy ignored the excommunication from the Roman Catholic Church in much the same way he ignored the suspension. Many of his parishioners reacted in much the same way. They remained loyal to him even though that loyalty meant that they too would be excommunicated from the Roman Catholic Church.[30]

Gradually Chiniquy’s church began to look different, giving the Roman Catholics all the more support for their excommunication of him. Lougheed writes that

among the gradual transformations were the disappearance of articular confession, statues, holy water, Latin masses, fast days and vestments. No longer did they believe in purgatory, indulgences, mediation of the saints including Mary, and papal infallibility. Bible studies became prominent in many worship gatherings. . . . Already in 1852 the precedents were present in St. Anne for group Bible study and critique.[31]

This all resulted in Chiniquy and 2,000 other converts joining the Presbyterian Church of the United States of America (PCUSA) in 1860 [32] In February of that same year, Chiniquy was made a Presbyterian minister. He was now the Reverend Chiniquy.

As an unsurprising result of his conversion, Catholics distrusted and even hated him. They

could not endure the blasphemy and sacrilege of the apostate priest . . . . All Catholics were required to treat any contact with him or his productions as loathsome because of the abomination of his acts and words. His very name invoked the dreadful memories of an unparalleled rebellion against God.[33]

At first, some Protestants were not very impressed with him either. At the very least they were skeptical regarding whether or not he was a true Protestant and lamented the fact that the “ex-priest’s theological views were not clear and that the whole affair was about the trivial question of property.”[34] However, a lot of these concerns seemed to have disappeared when he joined the PCUSA. He preached a sermon in September of 1860 in which he directly affirmed Protestant doctrine. He stated,

I was surrounded by a light . . . and through that light I saw the way of salvation. Then for the first time I understood the mystery of the Cross of Christ . . . I felt that Christ had answered my prayer, that the mountains of my iniquity were gone, and I gave myself entirely and exclusively to Christ.[35]


His whole-hearted acceptance of the doctrine of justification by faith alone was enough to convince many Protestants of the sincerity of his conversion. Many more would rally behind him when they began to witness the fruits of his conversion: his bold anti-Catholicism. This anti-Catholicism prompted many to compare him to that of the Biblical Saul who once persecuted Christians.[36] He was given the title, “The Luther of Canada”[37] and he certainly lived up to that title. He began powerful speaking tours which “consisted of unrestrained attacks on the Catholic Church, its dogmas, sacraments, moral doctrine, and devotional practices. He made outrageous remarks about the pope, bishops, and priests.”[38] He went across Canada, the US, England, Scotland, and even Australia on his speaking trips.[39] The passionate anti-Protestant speaker, was now a very successful and powerful anti-Catholic preacher.

He was also a very provocative preacher. Lougheed tells the story that once Chiniquy “consecrated a wafer, using the Catholic liturgy and the irreversible power that, according to the Catholic Church, all those once-ordained still retained. After this he pierced the wafer with a knife, crumpled it and ground it under foot.”[40] He became such a controversial figure that the police failed to protect him, so the Orange Order offered him protection services.[41] These threats on his life helped him to gain more Protestant support and he was “honoured with a Doctor of Divinity degree from Presbyterian College in Montreal” in 1893.[42] In the end, it was not violent Catholics that killed Chiniquy, but rather he became deathly ill with bronchitis and died on January 17, 1899.[43]


As has been shown, all his life Chiniquy was a very controversial figure on both sides of the Christian camp. He was either hated by Protestants or hated by Catholics and sometimes even distrusted by both. However, his Protestant influence upon French Canada cannot be overlooked. Although the number is probably a bit high, Chiniquy claimed some 7000 converts to Protestantism after only four years in Montreal.[44] His autobiography was translated into many languages and by 1898 had gone through seventy editions.[45] Some 10,000 mourners, Protestant and Catholic, came to his funeral.[46] Paul Laverdure aptly points out that his enormous role in the Catholic-Protestant debates, was illustrated by a comment that one newspaper obituary states: “The thought that he never was even once killed in a religious riot must have embittered his last hours.”[47] Indeed, it must be remarked that one cannot understand the Protestant-Catholic divide in French Canada today apart from some understanding of Chiniquy. Nor can one be a Protestant or Catholic member of the clergy in Canada without understanding something of the role of Chiniquy in the history of religious controversy.


Carey, Patrick. “The Confessional and Ex-Catholic Priests in Nineteenth-Century Protestant America.” in U.S. Catholic Historian. 1 – 25

Chiniquy, Charles. Fifty Years in the Church of Rome. Toronto: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1886.

Laverdure, Paul. “Charles Chiniquy: The Making of an Anti-Catholic Crusader.” in Historical Studies, 54 (1987): 39 – 59

Lougheed, Richard. The Controversial Conversion of Charles Chiniquy. Toronto: Clements Academy, 2008.

MacRaild, Donald. “Transnationalising ‘Anti-Popery’: Militant Protestant Preachers in the Nineteenth-Century Anglo-World.” in Journal of Religious History Vol. 39, No. 2 (June 2015): 224 – 243.

Noel, Jan. “Dry Patriotism: The Chiniquy Crusade” in Canadian Historical Review, LXXI, 2, (1990): 189 – 207

Noll, Mark. A History of Christianity in the United States and Canada. Michigan: William Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1992.

Roby, Yves. “Chiniquy, Charles.” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography Vol. 12, University of Toronto/Université Laval (2003).­_charles_12E.html (Accessed March 1, 2017).

Christian Father of Confederation – Samuel Leonard Tilley

 photo from:

Samuel Leonard Tilley (NB) 1818-1886

He exhibited the dominion mandate to subdue the earth by bringing order out of chaos; exercised good stewardship; managed people and resources; was fruitful and multiplied with children; had a positive trade impact through ethical business practices; exercised marital faithfulness;  exhibited the character qualities that Peter describes in 2 Peter 1: 5-9 – virtuous, knowledgeable, self-controlled, steadfast, Godly, and showing brotherly kindness and love.

Personal Life

  • Descended from United Empire Loyalists on both sides of his family. As a pharmacist, he went into business as a druggist.
  • Son of an entrepreneur, he was born in Gagetown, New Brunswick. His father Thomas Morgan Tilley was a storekeeper. His mother was Susan Ann Peters.
  • At age 13 (1831)  he went to live in Portland NB with relatives while apprenticing as a druggist in Saint John.
  • In May 1838, (20 y/o) became a certified pharmacist.  Went into partnership with a cousin, Thomas W. Peters, to open Peters and Tilley, “Cheap Drug Store!”
  • (25 years old) On May 16, 1843 he married Julia Ann Hanford in Saint John, New Brunswick; they had eight children. Hanford died in 1862, leaving Tilley a widower. (44 y/o)
  • In 1848 at (30 y/o), Peters retired and it became Tilley’s Drug Store, one of the more successful commercial operations in the city.
  • At (42 y/o) – 1860 politics had taken over Tilley’s life, however, and he sold the business.
  • (49 y/o) On October 22, 1867, then Minister of Customs in Canada’s first Federal cabinet, he married Alice Starr Chipman in St. Stephen, New Brunswick – the daughter of ship owner (The Cedars) Zachariah Chipman and his wife Mary Eliza. The couple had two sons Herbert Chipman Tilley, born September 6, 1868, and Leonard Percy DeWolfe Tilley

Social Issues

  • Entered politics as an activist in the temperance movement which grew out of his religious convictions.
  • At age 21 (1839) he was moved by a sermon of the Reverend William Harrison influenced a vibrant faith rooted in Scripture. That influenced his social activism which dominated his entire life.
  • He taught Sunday school, eventually became a churchwarden, and was a committee member of the Saint John Religious Tract Society.
  • By 1844 (age 26)  Tilley was on the committee of the Portland Total Abstinence Society, working for legislation that would enforce prohibition.March 8 1847, (29 y/o) a branch of the American temperance movement called ‘The Sons of Temperance’ was established with Tilley on the executive.
  • By 1854, (36 y/o) he held the highest position in the movement. It is said of him that even though he was passionate of the issue he was not a fanatic.  
  • Family and faith held primary importance in his life. His passion for the temperance movement was eventually replaced by his passion for politics.

Intellectual and other Social Pursuits

  • 1842 at (24 y/o) he became the treasurer of Saint John Young Men’s Debating Society.
  • He also joined the Saint John Mechanics’ Institute and was charged with with the responsibility for cleaning up their financial mess. This influenced other positions where financial management was important.

The Call for Responsible Government

  • In 1848 at (30 y/o) he became an advocate for responsible government due to a recession affecting the colonies, partially caused by Britain‘s economic policies.  .
  • He also became a founding committee member of the Railway League. Their premise hinged on the saying: “Whoever labours for the introduction of Railways . . . is working for humanity – for progress – and for the highest good of his race.” This influenced railway expansion to link Eastern and Western  Canada.
  • On 28 July 1849 (31 y/o) that league, in turn, became the nucleus of the New-Brunswick Colonial Association. Tilley became the treasurer and a member of the rules committee.
  • When he was 32 y/o (1850), he was nominated and ran successfully, in the provincial election, with the support of the New Brunswick Colonial Association.  On nomination day it was said of him that he was “a steady and zealous advocate of all the leading measures of reform.”
  • In the assembly he championed temperance by presenting several petitions in favour of making liquor dealers “responsible for any injury arising out of the traffic.” His skill with figures put him on a committee to study contingency expenses.
  • He attacked the inherited and acquired privileges of the wealthy upper class, but  was against giving the vote to men who did not own property.
  • He was a member of that new class of successful New Brunswickers who, while not democratic, rejected the loyalist tradition of obedience to established authority. His position was that “A Government that trampled upon the rights ceded to the Colonies, did not command the respect of a free people”.  This position was almost successful in the attempt to force the resignation of the Executive Council in the spring of 1851.
  • For Tilley, politics, religion, and temperance were so closely interwoven that he was committed to them all with the same intensity. He was instrumental in having a prohibition act passed in 1852 because of his untiring work for temperance.  

Influence in Education and Public Works

The New Brunswick Colonial Association,also advocated for the colony’s own control over its public expenses, the establishment of a public school system, government control of public works, and “honest government” in general.

Political History

  • He was first elected to the New Brunswick Assembly as a Liberal in 1850 (32 y/o).
  • He sat in opposition until 1854 (34 y/o) when, as part of the Reformers they won the election. Tilley became Provincial Secretary in the government of Charles Fisher.
  • He attended each of the Charlottetown, London, and Quebec City Conferences as a supporter of Canadian Confederation.
  • He served as premier of the colony of New Brunswick from 1861(43-47 y/o) until his government was defeated in the election of 1865.
  • As premier, he supported the New Brunswick’s entry into Confederation and the construction of an intercolonial railway.
  • A common tale states that Tilley was the originator of the word “Dominion” in Canada’s name. The Fathers of confederation had been discussing what to prefix Canada with, Kingdom of Canada being Macdonald’s preference.
  • It is said that ‘during morning devotions, in St Andrew’s in the backyard of his cousin, Tilley read Psalm 72:8, which states “He shall have dominion also from sea to sea, and from the river unto the ends of the earth”, and presented this inspiration to the others, being as their ambition was to stretch the new nation to the Pacific Ocean and from the St Lawrence River to the North Pole.’  While “Dominion” had been used before, Tilley pushed hard for it to be adopted in reference to Canada, despite Macdonald’s preference.
  • The term led to the naming of the July 1 national holiday; however, this reference to a unique Canadian historical development was discarded in 1982 when “Canada Day”, was made official by an act of Parliament.
  • Tilley entered federal politics with Confederation in 1867 and served in the federal Macdonald Cabinet as Minister of Customs. He became Minister of Finance in 1873 and served until the defeat of the government later that year.
  • He was appointed the fourth Lieutenant Governor of New Brunswick in 1873 (55 y/o) and served until 1878.
  • When Macdonald’s Tories returned to power in 1878 (60 y/0), Tilley again became minister of finance and served until his retirement from politics in 1885 when he was appointed the seventh Lieutenant Governor of New Brunswick.

See Tilley’s family’s legacy here:


Canada Portraits of: Faith – Michael D Clarke  pg 61


Charles Chiniquy: Priest and Pastor in Canada (1)

Charles Chiniquy is by far one of the most controversial figures in Canadian Christian history. A Roman Catholic priest turned Presbyterian minister, his biography is brimmed with controversy. In this and the following blog post, I hope to summarize and highlight some of the controversies and important events in his life.

Temperance Movement

Charles Chiniquy was born on July 30, 1809 in Kamouraska, Lower Canada. His father died at an early age and Chiniquy was put under the care of his uncle, Amable Dionne. Under the watchful eye of his uncle, Chiniquy studied at the Séminaire de Nicolet. He was regarded as a very gifted speaker and a pious man.[1] The factors would lead him to pursue ordination in the Roman Catholic Church,

Chiniquy was ordained in Quebec City in 1833 by Bishop Signay.[2] Now he was officially Father Chiniquy. After being bounced around several parishes he eventually was able to settle down in the St. Roch parish where he served from 1834 – 1838. It was his time here, specifically his labours in the Quebec Marine Hospital, that encouraged him to take up the cause of the Temperance Movement.  A Protestant physician by the name of Dr. James Douglas laboured at this hospital and he gave Chiniquy numerous pamphlets on the subject of temperance.[3] Chiniquy eventually became convinced that “many of the ills he saw at the hospital could be traced to drink.”[4]

It is here that something quite surprising occurred. Jan Noel writes,

Between 1848 and 1851 thousands of French-speaking Catholics in the Province of Canada came forward in their parish churches to take the temperance pledge. . . . For several decades evangelical Protestants had laboured long and hard to eradicate drunkenness; and now a Catholic priest was securing more converts in a single day than these earlier works had won with years of steady efforts.[5]

Part of the reason that this radical change started happening in French Canada was due to the eloquence of Chiniquy. As already mentioned, he was regarded as an exceptionally gifted speaker. Yet, as Jan Noel points out, this is not something that is just due to the charisma of Chiniquy.[6] Rather, during this time in French Canadian history, there is a dramatic return on the part of the parishioners back to traditionalism and submission to the authority of the clergy of the Roman Catholic Church. This, of course, is the result of the ultramontane movement lead by Bishop Bourget.[7] The growing image of the Church as an institute of both social reform and social authority[8] gave its charismatic leaders (in this case, Chiniquy) much authority and persuasion. Chiniquy also reinforced this ultramontane nationalist spirit by preaching that temperance was the only way that French Canadians could retain their national identity[9] in the face of a rise of Irish immigrants in Quebec and a growing number of French Canadians moving to the United States.[10] His success and popularity are evidenced by some 200,000 adherents to temperance.[11]

Continue reading “Charles Chiniquy: Priest and Pastor in Canada (1)”

The Quebec Act (2)

Well, it’s been a little more than a week since my last post dealing with the Quebec Act. So, if you need a refresher regarding the subject, you can check out the first blog post here.

Today I’ll tell you what the Protestant British decided to do with the largely Catholic Province of Quebec. After it was discovered that most settlers in the Thirteen Colonies had no desire to move up North (as the British parliament hoped would happen when they wrote the Proclamation of 1763) the British decided to draft a policy of toleration to the Catholics: The Quebec Act (1774). The Quebec Act was quite remarkable in the amount of freedom and rights it gave the Roman Catholic Church. Indeed, such rights would not be given the Roman Catholic Church in the mother country until the 19th Century. Noll writes:

This legislation gave up the pretense of anglicization [inherent in the Proclamation of 1763] and formally bestowed a number of rights and privileges on the Catholic Church. It was given clear title to its hereditary land, it was granted the right to tithe its members, and French civil law was recognized as the legal procedure of the colony (though at the same time English criminal law was instituted). Most remarkably, Catholic citizens received full civil rights – fifty-five years before their fellow religionists in Britain received a similar dispensation.[1]

The toleration that was granted to Catholics in the Quebec Act was viewed with great suspicion, anger, and hostility by the majority of the Thirteen Colonies. It was quickly declared one of the Intolerable Acts. Americans seethed with anger at this declaration. Joseph Reed (a lawyer and delegate to the Continental Congress) wrote to Dartmouth saying:

The idea of bringing down the Canadians and savages upon the English Colonies is so inconsistent not only with mercy but justice and humanity of the Mother Country, that I cannot allow myself to think that your lordship would promote the Quebec Bill, or give it your suffrage with such intentions. Should it unhappily be applied in this way, it will wound the feelings of every man in this country so sensibly that I doubt whether any future accommodations or length of time would obliterate it.[2]

Now it may surprise some to find out that one of the main men behind this legislation was an ardent Protestant and Evangelical (a close friend of George Whitefield). His name was Lord Dartmouth and he was Secretary of State to the Colonies in the years just prior to the American Revolution.

In writing up the Quebec Act, Lord Dartmouth had no intention of causing troubles in the American Colonies. It was not his intent for it to be deemed an “Intolerable Act.” It was his steadfast desire to secure the peace, happiness, and loyalty of the French people. In a sense, the Quebec Act was a question of money. It costs money to protect and defend a worldwide empire. England was already suffering from the costs of its previous war with France. Thus, it made much more sense (from a financial perspective) for England to secure the loyalty of the French people rather than having to station additional garrisons in Quebec to prevent riots and rebellion. This seems to be the primary reason that Dartmouth (as a firm Protestant) supported the Quebec Act. His duties as a politician demanded that he secure the loyalty of the French Catholic people, though it went against his religious convictions.

The Quebec Act is fundamental in coming to a proper understanding of Canadian religious culture. It is because of the Quebec Act that Canada is multicultural. The French Catholics were granted the freedom of religion and culture in the Quebec Act. French Catholics and English Protestants were called to live side by side in relative peace – or not, as will be seen in the next post on Charles Chiniquy.  


[1] Noll, A History of Christianity in the United States and Canada, 123-124.

[2] Quoted in Historical Manuscripts Commission: Report XI, Appendix, Part V. (London: Eyre and Spottiswoode, 1887), 363.

Coming Soon…

ChristianRoots Canada is a very young organization. As we grow and change , we will inform you when we introduce anything new. So here’s what’s new…

We are making baby steps into the foray of podcasting. Here’s the first one for you. Please share it with your friends and watch for the next REAL podcast.

Next step… Videos.

We have set up our YouTube channel and will be posting soon.


The Quebec Act (1)

Canadian culture has been marked by multiculturalism almost from its very beginning. When the British gained the territory of Quebec from the French at the Treaty of Paris in 1763, Canada immediately became a multicultural state. (The French were much more interested in regaining their tropical sugar island: Guadeloupe, instead of cold and troublesome Canada. That begs the question: what did the British ever see in Canada?). The big problem that faced the Protestant English was: what to do with this great mass of French Catholics in a colony that cost enormous amounts of imperial money to protect?

They had the option of deporting them and they had historical precedent for doing this too. They had done it with the Acadians from 1755 – 1758 when they refused to swear an oath of allegiance to the British monarch.

They also had the option of tolerating them. Toleration was not a new thing to New France/Quebec when it came to religion. In 1598, Henry IV of France published the Edict of Nantes which granted French Huguenots religious freedom. Pierre du Gua de Monts (a Huguenot) financed numerous “voyages of exploration to New France and early attempts at permanent settlement.”[1] The Huguenots settled in Quebec and Acadia. Noll narrates the story of one of these attempts at settlement:

With a body of workers he [i.e. De Monts] also sent out a Huguenot minister and two Roman Catholic priests. Although the clergymen argued with each other constantly, the colonists seemed to have taken a more modern, or at least a more charitable, attitude. When the minister and one of the priests died from scurvy at almost the same time, the colonists – at least so the story goes – buried them together in a single grave with the expressed hope that they would now at last rest peacefully together.[2]

However, the toleration of Huguenots in Quebec ended with Cardinal Richelieu’s rise to power. He stopped the allowances of the Edict of Nantes in New France in 1627. Roman Catholicism took prominence in Quebec and New France, with it being established as the only legal religion in that French colony.

Toleration, when it came to religion, was also not foreign to the British and colonial mindset. The colony of Maryland was a largely Roman Catholic colony under the control of the British parliament. Maryland, especially the “Act concerning Religion” issued by Cecil Calvert in 1649, encouraged toleration between Protestants and Catholics. Noll writes,

The act stipulated penalties for those who blasphemed the Trinity, cast aspersions on the Virgin Mary, or employed such terms as “heretic, schismatic, idolator, puritan, Independent, presbyterian, popish priest, Jesuit, Jesuit papist, Lutheran, Calvinist, Anabaptist … or any other name or term in a reproachful manner relating to matter of Religion.”[3]

The British also had the possibility of creating New France into a largely Protestant colony, by encouraging large waves of Protestant immigrants to populate it. This is what they attempted to do with the Proclamation of 1763. In that Proclamation, much to the chagrin of the Thirteen Colonies, the royal crown forbade any settlement west of the Appalachian Mountains. By doing this, the British government hoped that American settlers would be forced to move north into Quebec. Bumsted outlines the British policy well:

Although neither the Proclamation of 1763 nor any other British document ever laid out a fully articulated policy for what is now Canada, the outlines of that policy were perfectly clear. The British did not wish to populate their northernmost colonies with settlers from the mother country itself…. Great Britain … hoped that colonial Americans already acclimated to the New World would make up the majority of the settlers. As a result of their experiences in Nova Scotia, the British had learned two lessons. First, the state could not afford to subsidize a large movement of people to a new colony …. Second, the best way to deal with a population alien in language, religion, and customs was to outnumber it; forcible removal was neither humane nor effective [emphasis mine].[4]

So, what did the British do with Quebec? Well, the answer to that will have to wait till next week! In the mean time, happy studying!


[1] Mark Noll, A History of Christianity in the United States and Canada, 21

[2] Ibid, 22

[3] Ibid, 28

[4] Bumsted, The Peoples of Canada: A Pre-Confederation History, 200 – 201

Protestant Missions in British North America

In my last post, I dealt with the Jesuit missionary attempts among the Huron in New France. You can read about that here.

In this post, I’m going to spend just a bit of time talking about Protestant missionary attempts in British North America. There is something very necessary to understand when talking about early Canadian history and that is prior to 1776 (and the American Revolution) the Thirteen Colonies were considered just another part of the larger British North America. British North America after the Seven Years War (also known as the French and Indian War) included the Province of Quebec, the Province of Nova Scotia, Island of St. John, Colony of Newfoundland, and Rupert’s Land. So, when we talk about British/Canadian history before 1776 we also have to talk about what some would wrongly consider just American history.

Continue reading “Protestant Missions in British North America”

The Jesuit Missions to the Huron in the 17th Century


Jesuit missions to the Huron in New France has been controversial ever since those missions started in 1634.[1] There are numerous reasons for this. First, it should be noted that these were Jesuits bringing and preaching Catholicism. The Jesuits have long had a contentious history because of their special position in the church: they are answerable to the pope alone. This special position of power has made church officials and religious orders jealous and has caused them to spurn the power that the Jesuits are able to yield. The second area of controversy is found in the Jesuit’s methods in obtaining the conversion and baptism of some 5,800 Hurons[3]. The Jesuits offered a completely different perspective and way of doing missions than any other religious group (Protestant or Catholic) at the time. Others question the Jesuits’ motives in trying to convert the Hurons. Comte de Frontenac (the Governor of New France) asserted that the Jesuits were more interested in converting beavers than souls.[2] By that, he implied they were more interested in the monetary gains of the fur trade than in actually doing the work of the church.

All these controversies have led to questions about the sincerity of the Jesuit conversions. Were the Hurons genuinely converted to Roman Catholicism? Some argue that they were. They state that baptism was often always performed after a lengthy period of religious instruction.[4] Others dispute that by saying that true conversion was not possible because native beliefs and understanding were too different from Roman Catholicism.[5]

This blog post will examine these issues in closer depth. In the end, it will be clearly shown that the Jesuits were able to effect genuine conversions (in the Catholic, not Protestant, sense) among the Huron.

Continue reading “The Jesuit Missions to the Huron in the 17th Century”

Whatever Happened to Christian Canada?

I kind of hope that title catches you by surprise – I certainly had to take a second look at it. It unmistakably implies that Canada was at one time a Christian nation. Indeed, Canada was a Christian nation throughout much of its history. The evidence for this is everywhere. To list just a few obvious places: the national anthem, Canada’s motto from Psalm 72:8 (a mari usque ad mare), and the motto of many of our universities (a topic which we plan to discuss in the near future). So whatever happened to Christian Canada?

Mark Noll is a church historian with a special emphasis on North American Christianity. He has written an excellent book entitled A History of Christianity in the United States and Canada. He wrote an article back in June 2006 entitled “What Happened to Christian Canada?” In this blog post, I try to summarize some of his main arguments, but I highly suggest you give his entire article a read.

Noll, Mark A. “What Happened to Christian Canada?”

Church History 75, no. 2 (June 2006): 245-273.

Mark Noll has written an article in the periodical: Church History, asking the question: “What Happened to Christian Canada?” This is an intriguing question because it implies that Canada at one time was a Christian nation. Hardly anyone will deny that modern Canada is a largely secular nation. Indeed, many Canadians take the fact that they are a tolerant, individualistic, and multicultural nation quite proudly. In contrast, the United States is viewed as the great Christian state and religious dialogue is quite often a part of public debate and political policy. However, as Noll points out in his article, for a good portion of Canada’s history it was much more Christian than the United States. This is even true in recent Canadian history: in 1950 church attendance in Quebec may have been the highest in the world (249). Thus, this paper will analytically examine Noll’s article to try to come to a better understanding of whatever happened to Christian Canada.

Noll identifies the primary shift in Canadian Christian thinking as happening post-World War II (249 – 250). Noll argues that Canada, in its early years (late 1800s) always had an emphasis on the state and community values (e.g. peace, order, and good government), in contrast to the United States which emphasized the individualistic values (e.g. life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness). While peace, order, and good government remain part of Canadian culture, there was a shift away from seeking the communal good to seeking individual good when the Charter of Rights and Freedoms was adopted. This allowed for greater personal liberty, toleration, and personal growth (258) that ultimately resulted in a much more individualistic outlook on society.

Continue reading “Whatever Happened to Christian Canada?”


Were you aware that the first European settlers and explorers of North America were not the French, English, Spanish, Dutch, or Basque, but were actually the Norse? Already some 500 years before Christopher Columbus discovered South America, the Vikings had built a settlement at L’Anse aux Meadows in 1000 A.D. (present-day Newfoundland)

The Norse (Norwegians/Scandinavians) were primarily interested in fishing, whaling, sealing, and getting valuable commodities such as furs, ivory walrus tusks, and Narwhal horn. Internal controversy among the Norse and external attacks from natives seems to have been the major factors in them abandoning the settlement.

You can read more about the settlement here. 

And if you’re ever on the east coast be sure to visit L’Anse aux Meadows. It’s certainly a place I want to visit one of these years. 

Kind of disappointingly, because the Viking settlement was so short-lived, it plays little to no importance in Canadian history. However, it is super important when considering European history. An interesting question for the budding historian to pursue would be: Why were the Norse so interested in exploration (and able to explore without getting hopelessly lost), while the rest of Europe was content to stay at home? What social, political, and possibly even religious factors contributed to Norse exploration?