by Richard Long
(This article was originally written for the monthly newsletter of PrayGTA)
Canada has a rich but relatively short history. When we think about our national heritage there are several important strands. One could even say that there is a three-fold cord that God has woven together to make us strong.
The first strand stands for our First Peoples. They are made up of 3 major people groups: First Nations, Inuit and M�tis, comprised of hundreds of individual tribal groups. Almost all of these Aboriginal nations had a basic understanding of the true Creator God which made it fairly easy for them to receive the first Christian missionaries and the message of the Gospel. For example the name �Cree� is actually the nickname given to the �Chretienne� Indians because they so quickly accepted the faith that was preached to them. Aboriginals are naturally more holistic in their approach to God, community and land, so there is much we all could learn from them.
Secondly in Canada we have the French strand. Especially this year we are honouring and celebrating the 400th anniversary of the founding of the city of Quebec, the oldest municipality in North America. Within this founding nationality there are two major groupings. Many Canadians have not heard that the Acadian part of the Atlantic provinces was actually settled by French Protestants known as Huguenots. They had a vibrant faith, but were forcibly assimilated into Catholicism after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685, and then later expelled from the Maritimes by the conquering British. Quebec of course was founded by Roman Catholic French who came with their priests as they pioneered all across North America. Indeed it would be accurate to say that the Fathers of Christianity in North America were the missionary orders that came from France. The cross in Quebec’s National Assembly continues to speak of this rich heritage.
The British represent the third major strand of our heritage. They include, for simplicity’s sake, the English, Welsh, Scottish and Irish peoples who lived under the authority of the British Monarch, and others who fled the Colonies as loyalists to the British crown in the years surrounding the American Revolution. These people were primarily Protestants, a majority of whom were Anglicans, but they also included Presbyterians, Methodists, Baptists and other non-Conformists. Their heritage made them hard-working, risk-taking men and women who were not afraid to brave a new land. Frontier revivals came like waves to various communities throughout the nation to renew and propel these movements forward.
In the first two hundred years after the arrival of the Europeans, there was the expected struggle as First Peoples were disrupted by the ever increasing number of newcomers and also by the vying for loyalties between the French and English cultures. It was only when there was a common threat from below the border that the early settlers and natives united to fight together. The role of First Nations chiefs at this time was critical to defending the new emerging nation. Treaties were signed that were supposed to protect their equal role in the land and its future.
As intercessors today pray into the historic wounds of Canada, we are faced with the spilling of innocent blood, broken treaties, and the avarice and force that wrested away lands and possessions from the original peoples. Though there has been a measure of repentance and reconciliation, there is still much more to do to restore this strand to its proper strength in our union.
Praying people can also bless the good that we find inherent in our ancestors. They were, by and large, pious people who honoured God amidst the challenges of surviving and thriving in a new wilderness landscape. Churches sprung up in every community, from large towns to tiny crossroad villages. While our founding documents are not as overt as those of our American cousins, it is very clear that there was a understanding that Canada was a nation of Christians representing different denominations but with a similar core belief.
It is to this rich national heritage that more recent immigrants have joined themselves. While official multiculturalism has watered down the strong Christian heritage we once enjoyed, it is clearly God’s plan that all Canadians, new and old, continue to be discipled in the image of Jesus Christ and go on to share the message of the gospel with the nations of the earth. From the time of the arrival of the first immigrants we are living out a grand experiment to learn to live together across cultural lines so that the whole world might know that it is possible for the nations to walk together in love. Let us continue to pray and work for these purposes that God’s glory might be made manifest in our land.