What strength and weaknesses has Christianity in the provinces?

Canada is a land of churches. They are spread through cities big and small. They cluster in her towns and adorn her countryside. Anglican and Roman Catholic churches are located chiefly in cities and larger towns; the evangelical and free churches are far more widely dispersed.

Although it is the centennial of Canada’s confederation (July 1, 1867) that is being celebrated this year, something also should be said in this survey of Canadian churches of the two centuries that preceded this birthday.

John Cabot and son Sebastian, sailing from England just five years after Columbus’s discovery of America, probably made at least two landings: Newfoundland and Cape Breton Island. Jacques Cartier, explorer and bearer of the Christian Cross, entered the St. Lawrence as early as 1534. Champlain, heavily supported from his home base in France by that prince of the Roman Catholic Church Cardinal Richelieu, founded Quebec in 1608. Later he moved into the Great Lakes areas. His work was early paralleled in Quebec by the Ursuline Order and in what is now Ontario by intrepid Jesuits, many of whom, like Brébeuf, were martyrs for the Christian faith.

Today’s Quebec, home of most of the approximately 5.5 million French Canadians, is Canada’s Roman Catholic bastion. Here also is the challenge of bilingualism and biculturalism—indeed, the challenge to the very unity of Canada. The Roman Catholic Church favors unity, but her Jean Baptiste Society, partly religious and partly secular, throws monkey wrenches into both ecclesiastical and political machinery.

Canada’s first religious service probably was conducted by a Lutheran church pastor, Rasmus Jansen, a member of a ship’s crew in search ...

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