INDEPTH: EVANGELISM Canada’s Evangelical movement: political awakening

Canada’s Evangelical movement: political awakening
CBC News Online | June 14, 2005

From The National, June 13, 2005
Reporter: Keith Boag
Producer: Leiane Cooke

Thousands of people attend an anti-same-sex marriage march on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, April 9, 2005. (CP Photo/Jonathan Hayward)
Thousands of people attend an anti-same-sex marriage march on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, April 9, 2005. (CP Photo/Jonathan Hayward)

It wasn’t that long ago that Canada’s Supreme Court said it’s up to Ottawa to decide who gets married in this country.

Canada might not make as big a deal of it as some in other countries do, but this country is founded on principles that recognize both the rule of law and the supremacy of God.

If that last part is news, check your Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The reference to the supremacy of God is right off the top.

An Ipsos-Reid poll in May 2005 found more than 60 per cent of Canadians say they believe in God and that religion is an important part of their lives.

Naturally, some of those people have strong feelings about the traditional definition of marriage and are upset with plans to change it. And nowhere more so than in Southwestern Ontario, the heart of what some call the Bible Belt.

Tristan Emmanuel
Tristan Emmanuel

Now Tristan Emmanuel has an audience and a goal. The Ontario minister is deeply opposed to same-sex marriage, and he’s organizing those who share his convictions. He is reminding those he talks to that they decide who goes to Ottawa.

Cambridge, Ont., is very churchy in its public square and somewhat wistful in its recollections of simpler times.

It’s difficult to overstate the impact on the Christian communities in a place like Cambridge of an issue like same-sex marriage legislation. To some, it’s as though their federal government were now operating in a different solar system, one so far away they couldn’t reach it in a million years, even travelling at the speed of light.

So they wonder, whatever happened to the influence they believed they once had on the direction of this country, and how do they get that influence back?

Church Sign

In churches such as this, the Orthodox Christian Reform Church of Cambridge, there is a kind of political awakening happening encouraged by the Reverend Tristan Emmanuel.

Among his firm beliefs is that the time has come for Christians to speak with a louder voice in the world of politics.

Emmanuel says: “I stand here and [a] newspaper headlines says, ‘Gay bill fast tracked,’ and it goes on to say the federal government told Liberal MPs yesterday it will push same-sex marriage legislation through Parliament before a summer recess prompting critics to charge the Liberals that they are ignoring public complaints about the controversial bill. That is an understatement!”

Emmanuel says Christians have been too timid in their approach to politics. He believes that homosexuality is a choice people make and a bad one, and he wants the same-sex marriage issue to shake up his fellow Christians and bring him into what he calls the public square.


“I believe it so much that I think we need to vote for members of Parliament who will defend that institution and will not allow for the re-altering, the redefinition, the reconfiguration of it, and to me, that is essential to who I am as a Christian and as a Canadian. It’s a Canadian virtue, it’s a Canadian institution.” Emmanuel says.

“I don’t know why that’s scary. Why is that scary? It wasn’t 10 years ago, in fact, it wasn’t five years ago, when the federal government including the federal Liberals agreed that we will not change the definition.”

Reverend Tristan Emmanuel is not a household name nor an important player in the evangelical community, not yet. But it was Emmanuel who put together an anti-same-sex rally in Ottawa this spring. The turnout was surprisingly strong, somewhere between 15,000 and 20,000 people. That raised the question whether the marriage issue has the power to draw people into active politics who would not previously have considered it.

Stephen Harper at an anti-same-sex rally
Stephen Harper at an anti-same-sex rally

Conservative Leader Stephen Harper told the rally, “We can win this fight!”

Then suddenly a national newspaper headline alerted readers that Christian activists have been getting behind candidates at Tory nominating meetings near Halifax and elsewhere. In the middle of the story, there was Tristan Emmanuel’s name.

And what was he doing in Halifax?

“Motivating, motivating the evangelical community out there and the Roman Catholic community, too. I want to be clear here that while I’m evangelical, I’ve been involved with Roman Catholics, and I love so many of them. They’re in there as well,” Emmanuel says.

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