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Religious Freedom, Indigenous Education, and Irregular Border Crossings: What's Up This Fall

You’re more than a consumer. You’re more than a taxpayer. You’re a citizen.

That line appears in bold on the About page of our website. Why? There are loud voices in this culture that tell us that our primary concerns and identity should be about money—the taxes we pay, the goods we consume. But for Christ followers who respond to the Gospel call to justice, peace, and reconciliation there is more to life than cheque book concerns. We are more than “homo economicus”—we are Christian citizens, concerned for the good of all who bear the image of God. As citizens and people of faith in a democracy we have the blessing and responsibility to pursue justice with marginalized people. So, as part of our efforts to serve you, dear citizen, here are some things we at the Christian Reformed Centre for Public Dialogue, along with our grassroots CRC and RCA committee members from across the country, are thinking about and watching as Parliament opens for the season.


Few issues in the news this spring and summer were as controversial as the irregular migrant crossings of the Canada- U.S. border. Firm numbers are difficult to pinpoint but reports suggest as many as 7,000 people crossed irregularly into Quebec since July because of deportation scares and policy changes in the U.S. Civil society groups have been pointing out the stresses this influx of newcomers places on an already stretched refugee processing system.  Opposition MPs have also been pointing out these stresses on the system, but making use of alarmism to embarrass the government on the issue. The problem with this alarmism is that it sets a public tone of suspicion towards refugees. (This has been documented in polls.) So, in this session, we’ll be asking opposition Members of Parliament (MPs) to tone down the heated rhetoric, and we’ll ask all MPs to address the real and pressing issues in the system.

We’re working with communities to share about their experiences of the blessings of sponsorship even as they discuss ways to improve the sponsorship system.

We think it’s important to counter the narrative of suspicion towards refugees by pointing out the blessings that newcomers are to Canada. So, in our work on the sponsorship system, we’re working with communities to share about their experience of the blessings of sponsorship even as they discuss ways to improve the sponsorship system. Watch for learning opportunities and action alerts.

Indigenous Justice and Reconciliation:

The much lauded Nation to Nation promises of the Trudeau government are a great symbol and tone for the next steps on the reconciliation journey. At 2 years into the mandate, there have been many symbolic actions, some progress on tangible issues, and some very real disappointments. We’re reminded that reconciliation is a long road requiring persistence, and Indigenous partners continually remind us that our efforts to bear witness are an essential part of that journey. And so we’ll continue to bear witness.

The cabinet shuffle this summer included a splitting of the Indigenous Affairs Department into two: one dealing with Indigenous-Crown Relations and the other Indigenous Services. This move came as a surprise to many and brought up questions about whether these symbolic moves will amount to real substantive change. We’ll be watching this transition closely.

As part of our efforts to follow up on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s findings, we’ve been encouraging CRC and RCA church members advocate for reconciliation in education—which includes equitable funding for Indigenous kids and schooling that incorporates Indigenous culture and  community (elders, parents, etc.) participation (much like Christian education does). We’ve learned in conversations with our partners that negotiations towards funding equity in Indigenous Education and fulfillment of TRC Call to Action #8 are making good progress.  While there is much more to do for full funding equity and reconciliation in education, we celebrate these good steps, and will continue to track progress on all of the Calls to Action concerning education (7-10). Watch for updates and opportunities to take action!

Religious Freedom in Canada:

The government is working to update and refine the criminal code through Bill C-51. This includes a measure to remove section 176 of the criminal code that provides specific protection for religious communities and religious practice. Some commentators and opposition leaders have suggested that this measure is an attack on religious freedom.  However, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms protects our right to religious freedom, and laws prohibiting public disturbance/nuisance are also pertinent means to protect the exercise of religion. The benefit of Section 176 (as it is currently) is that it specifically protects the public good of the practice of religion.

Some commentators and opposition leaders have suggested that this measure is an attack on religious freedom.

We’re talking with the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada to find a helpful approach to this issue. Our hope is to avoid the alarmism and hyperbole of partisan politics, and make an argument suggesting that some updates to language are appropriate (such as inclusive protection for all faiths), but that specific protections for the public good of the practice of religion cannot be lost. We’ll keep you in the loop!

Pornography and Human Trafficking:

The Canadian government is discussing a Health Committee report about the effects of violent online porn. But according to some excellent Christian organizations like Defend Dignity, the Reformed Church in America's Hope to Freedom, and Hope for the Sold, the recommendations don't go far enough to limit children's access to online porn. You can urge your MP to work to strengthen the recommendations, for the sake of children and the marginalized people who are trafficked into the porn business. We've also been running a series on this blog about the harmful effects of porn: The Problems with Porn

What are you watching this fall? What are you concerned or excited about? We’d love to hear from you and support you in your citizenship. 

[Image: Flickr user Brian Bukowski/Joint Assembly Communications]

The Reformed family is a diverse family with a diverse range of opinions. Not all perspectives expressed on the blog represent the official positions of the Christian Reformed Church. Learn more about this blog, Reformed doctrines, and our diversity policy on our About page.

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