Thursday, May 5, 2016

Saskatchewan’s Religious Diversity

There is a movement afoot in Saskatchewan to eliminate daily prayers in the Legislature, no doubt pushed by White liberals who never seem to have enough useful things to do.  (In the USA, it is the Religious Right that doesn’t have enough to do and I would not trade, believe me. The Religious Right is far more dangerous).

Discontinuing prayers is probably a good idea as whenever government and religion mix it leads to bad things.  There is a time and place for prayer. About 30 years ago I asked Tom Burgess how many Hail Mary passes he had thrown in his career and he said “All of them”.

A Facebook friend, who is in strong agreement with excluding religion from politics, shared an article from the local paper on their page and I commented my agreement and included this sentence.  Saskatchewan has diversified considerably since the days when everyone was Catholic or Protestant.

I was immediately challenged that Saskatchewan was NEVER only Catholic or Protestant (OK, I should have included Orthodox) and it was only biased historians that made it so. Not sure I would class Statistics Canada as a biased historian but. . .

If you grew up in Regina in the last 40 years, it is understandable that you think the corner stores have always been owned by a Shia from Iran or that nice Sunni couple from North Africa, that there have always been doctors named Patel and Vietnamese always owned and operated Robin’s Doughnuts. I am glad my kids grew up in this environment as they are far better equipped to deal with the modern world than I am, having grown up in the 50’s in West-Central Saskatchewan.

In the early days of settlement in the province, immigrants were European and were Catholic or Protestant (and Orthodox). History is not always politically correct.  Also there is a tendency to confuse ethnic origin with religion.  First Nations and Metis, who were the largest non-white group in Saskatchewan were predominantly Catholic or Anglican, not necessarily by choice and yes there were a very tiny number of religious minorities when Saskatchewan became a province in 1905 and since.

Source: Statistics Canada
The population of Saskatchewan was pretty small at the turn of the century, just over 91,000 people in 1901.  Ten years later it was 492,500 and by 1931, it was 922,000. We managed to top the million mark just twice in our history.  Our biggest export has been our sons and daughters.

Research into Saskatchewan’s religious diversity on The Encyclopedia of Saskatchewan website revealed an almost complete lack of religious diversity until after 1971.

It was logical at the time of incorporation as a province that Christian observances be included in the ceremonies. Christians made up 95% to 97% of the population between 1901 and 1931 and was still 95% by 1971.  The most recent data on the stated religions practiced in Saskatchewan is from the 2001 census, by which time Christians of all stripes had declined to 79% of the population.  The dramatic increase in religious diversity began between 1971 and 1981 census.

Source: adapted from The Encyclopedia of Saskatchewan (from Statistics Canada)
If today’s figures were available, one suspects Christians, as a percentage of total population, may have declined even more.  Canada is an inclusive society and personally, I would rather include prayers from all religions on a rotating basis (including silence for the non-religious) but likely eliminating prayer is a better way to go.


  1. I'm embarrassed to admit that I had to race off to my almanac to remind myself where Saskatchewan actually is. And yes, I chose to go to a PRINT version, not an online map. Why? Well I always get a better feel for the geography of a country when I see it on a big 2-page page spread. There's something tactile about running my fingers over a map. Thanks for reminding me of that fact. I'm in the middle of a big book cull (a cull of all my goods, in fact) in preparation for down-sizing off this acre+ into something more suitable for an old wrinkly. But this has reminded me to keep the big atlas - even if much of the content may be out of date.

    1. Downsizing books was the most painful thing I ever did when I moved to Ukraine. There is something about a real book. A print atlas can go out of date so quickly but it is still a good investment for you to keep. Where are you thinking of moving to?

  2. separation of state and church...yes.

  3. I don't care which religion, if any, people choose to practice, but religion should never influence civil and criminal law. The thought of official prayer in legislature creeps me out because it amounts to a tacit agreement that religion is part of law. After that it's a slippery slope to ruling one religious interpretation 'right' and punishing the others.

    If the members of legislature want to ritualistically express some statement of sincerity and/or good intentions, they should do it with non-religious wording.

  4. Agree. It may have made sense when the Christian to non-christian ratio was 19:1 to have a non-denominational Christian prayer in the Legislature but today the ratio is more like 3:1 or even 2:1.


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