This Week in Religion 2017-12-24

by | December 24, 2017


By Scott Douglas Jacobsen

“In prison, one of the only freedoms inmates have is to practise their religion — but in some cases, even that’s getting harder to do.

There’s been an increase in the number of prisoners filing complaints to the Canadian Human Rights Commission about religious accommodation.

Inmates are concerned about the delivery of spiritual services, the accommodation of spiritual practices and the observance of holy days, said Ivan Zinger, Canada’s correctional investigator, the country’s prison watchdog.

Religious leaders also say there aren’t enough chaplains in prisons to meet the spiritual needs of inmates.”


“OTTAWA — Amid controversy over the cancellation of a film screening at an Ottawa Catholic university, the federal Liberals are attacking the Conservatives for being selective about the ideas they’re choosing to defend in campus battles over free speech.

Science Minister Kirsty Duncan demanded Monday that the Tories react to news that Saint Paul University last week cancelled a film festival event featuring a documentary about abortion. The Conservatives, who have publicly defended free speech in other cases, hadn’t immediately commented on the cancellation. But a spokesman said Monday the party believes in the free exchange of ideas in academic settings, including on issues such as abortion.

Liberals have already confronted Conservatives on abortion this fall and Conservatives have tried to provoke Liberals on campus free speech. Politicians appear poised to continue floating attack lines on both issues as the clock ticks closer to a federal election campaign and a 2019 vote.”


“Bishop Strachan would sit bolt upright in his grave if he could see what is happening to the old Deer Park United Church. John Strachan was the first bishop of Toronto, a stern figure often pictured in flowing clerical robes. In his time, the pious city that came to be known as Toronto the Good was putting up churches left and right.

Today, it is turning many of them into condos. Across the city, developers are buying up old churches and making them over as high-end residences. The combination of two trends – rising property prices and falling church attendance – has produced a whole new real estate category: the church conversion.

Deer Park United is becoming part of the Blue Diamond Condominiums at Imperial Plaza, “an address of distinction nestled in the exclusive Forest Hill neighbourhood.” Builders have already torn down most of the 1913 church at St. Clair Avenue West and Avenue Road. Demolition machines clawed at its heavy stone walls, leaving piles of rubble that made Deer Park look like a bombed out church in Normandy after D-Day. All that’s left is the church tower and the empty front end of the building, open to the elements at the back like a hospital gown.”


“Eli Wu brought his wife and teenaged son to Vancouver this past summer, emigrating from China in search of a better education for his child. He wasn’t searching for God, but after arriving in Canada he found himself drawn in an unexpected direction.

In China, he said he didn’t pay too much attention to Christianity, although some of his family members attended church. Organized religion was prohibited in China during the Cultural Revolution, but there was a revival of Christianity at the beginning of 1980s, when the government lifted restrictions on religion. Still, the Chinese government maintains some control over worship.

“In China, [things like] getting baptized and accepting legitimate Christianity are controlled by the government,” Mr. Wu said. “When the gospel is discussed in China, because of some political factors, it cannot be [considered] too real.””


“The Trudeau government recently announced that it will no longer permit religious charities to access the Canada Summer Jobs (CSJ) program unless they conform to government ideology on social policy.

The CSJ program provides students with opportunities to work at non-profits. However, the government’s view is that if a charity does not accept abortion, or agree with government views on sexuality, then it need not apply.

This government decision is part of what I call the legal revolution against the place of religion in society. It is a rejection of the legal rights, enshrined in the Charter, that religious communities and individuals hold to express their religious commitments in public service. These rights are relied upon to run private Christian schools, summer camps, soup kitchens and other welfare agencies.”


“Metro Vancouver citizenship court judge is applauded every time he tells newcomers about Santa Claus and the inter-faith meaning of Christmas in Canada.

Gerald Pash, who presided over six ceremonies for 360 new citizens this week in Surrey, responds to the season by offering new citizens warm, inspiring comments about the value of Christmas for all.

“I have used the same words for the past three years for the ceremonies in advance of Christmas.  The new Canadians applaud every time,” said Pash, who was a public affairs officer for the department of national defence and has been an aide de camp to B.C.’s lieutenant governor.””


“OTTAWA — The government is sticking to its message that filtering Canada Summers Jobs program funding to groups that promise to respect human rights will catalyze the middle class, but a chorus of Conservative MPs say the change tramples religious freedoms.

Funding applications for the 2018 federal program opened Tuesday. It’s an annual initiative designed to help local small businesses, non-profit and faith-based organizations by providing wage subsidies to create summer jobs for secondary and post-secondary students.”


“OTTAWA—A federal jobs program targeted at youth met the government’s goal for placements for this past summer after falling short in the first year of the Liberals’ mandate.

The government says almost 69,000 spaces and counting were created in 2017, double the number in 2015 and a target the Liberals had vowed to reach in every year of their mandate.

The Liberals have put an extra $113 million annually into the summer jobs program to double the number of placements each year to 70,000 from 35,000 for students working at not-for-profit organizations, public sector employers and small businesses with 50 or fewer employees.”


A 1996 memoir manuscript written by Barry Sherman reveals the late pharmacy mogul gave ample thought to the meaning of life, and concluded there was none.

“I have always been conscious of my personal mortality,” he wrote two decades ago.

The 75-year-old founder of generic drug manufacturer Apotex, and his wife Honey Sherman, 70, were found dead in their North York home last week. Their funeral is Thursday.

A partial draft of the memoir, called “Legacy of Thoughts,” was submitted as part of Sherman’s motion for summary judgment in a lawsuit brought by his orphaned cousins. He described the manuscript as his observations on philosophy, Canadian politics and the pharmaceutical industry.”


Scott Douglas Jacobsen founded In-Sight Publishing and In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal.

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