The Religious Right in Canada
The dominant, but by no means the only religious right movements in Canada are those connected to Christian churches – including elements of the Roman Catholic Church, evangelical Protestant denominations (such as some Baptists, Pentecostals and independents such as neo-charismatics).
As well the right wings of the mainline Protestant churches (such as the newly established Anglican Network in Canada) fall under the definition of religious right.
Overall, the church as a social and political institution has declined significantly in Canada since the 1960s. However, religious groups retain some strength – and evangelical groups, in particular, are slowly growing.
The last wave of new religious right institutions in Canada grew largely out of the debates of the 1980s, including abortion. This generation includes such surviving and influential bodies as the revitalized Evangelical Fellowship of Canada which has moderate representation, the Evangelical Alliance and REAL Women of Canada. The rise of the Reform movement, and the polarizing gay marriage debates of the late 1990s and early 21st century brought another slew of ostensibly secular think tanks and advocacy groups, such as Equipping Christians for the Public Square, the Manning Centre, the Institute for Canadian Values, and the Institute for Marriage and Family Canada.
Since the late 1980s, the religious right has typically gained most of its political visibility through the Reform Party and its successors (the Canadian Alliance and elements of the current Conservative Party).
Preston Manning, Stockwell Day, and Stephen Harper are, personally, evangelical Christians; so are many of their parties’ Members of Parliament and political staffers.
There is also an unusual degree of movement between the party and the religious lobby: for example, Harper’s former director of operations Dave Quist, is now director of the Institute for Marriage and Family which is a division of Focus on the Family Canada. We even have a National House of Prayer now, founded by Rob Parker of Watchman for the Nations.
In general, authentically Canadian religious movements are rare: most draw their inspiration if not their funding and personnel, from the United States. The current growth in the Christian right is not an exception.
The political influence of the religious right movement in Canada is quite difficult to gauge. What are its connections to political and economic power? What would be its influence under a different government, not peopled by sympathetic evangelical politicians? Has it – or could it – had lasting effects on our society and our democracy? This website exists to attempt to answer these questions by connecting the dots and constructing a picture of the Canadian religious right.
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