ICYMI – Ray Pennings: Don’t overlook the contribution faith has made to Canada’s first 150 years | National Post

More polling data from Angus Reid/Faith in Canada 150:

Beer, beavers, and ketchup chips may be convenient replies to the perennial question “What is Canadian?” but answering with substance takes more than a word. When it comes to Canadian perceptions of the role of faith and faith institutions, new polling conducted by the Angus Reid Institute, in partnership with Faith in Canada 150, exposes unarticulated Canadian values that contradict the one-word answers most might expect on the subject.

Ask Canadians about their own religious perspectives, and 21 per cent fit into the “religiously committed” category with 19 per cent on the “non-believer” end of the spectrum. The majority is somewhere in the mushy middle. When it comes to the most obvious expressions of religion in a local community — physical buildings such as churches, temples, mosques, or synagogues — the response seems to be shrugged shoulders. Sure, 36 per cent see these buildings enhancing the aesthetic of the community (compared to 9 per cent suggesting they detract) but the majority suggests their impact is neutral.

A different story emerges, however, when Canadians are asked about more specific expressions of faith in their neighbourhood. For example, when it comes to the delivery of healthcare, whether through hospitals, homes for the elderly, health clinics or programs for individuals with special needs, between one-third and one-half of Canadians see a positive connection with religious faith compared to less than 10 per cent who see a negative one. Similarly, when it comes to caring for the marginalized and homeless, providing relief in disaster situations, or assisting in the settlement of refugees and immigrants, the proportion of those who express appreciation of faith’s role is anywhere between 31 and 50 per cent higher than those who are skeptical of it. Even non-believers generally affirm these contributions, although they are the most likely to admit ignorance of them in their communities.

As with any poll, there is nuance. It would be misleading to ignore that on most questions approximately one-quarter of the population sees the role of faith communities in Canada as “a mix of good and bad.” Certainly, the interactions of faith communities with Indigenous peoples are widely perceived to be a black mark on the Canadian faith story. At the same time, the most religious respondents are also the most likely (84 per cent) to believe in the importance of reconciliation.

Consistent with the findings of April’s poll conducted by Angus Reid Institute, Canadians seem to respond more negatively when asked about religious institutions or religion in general. However, when it comes to the specifics, their attitudes and behaviours tell a different story. They recognize that faith communities have been an important part of delivering the Canadian social safety net historically, and continue to play that role today. There is a minority negative perspective, dominated by younger males who profess no faith and express hostility to religion. But for more than two-thirds of Canadians who are quite certain that God or a higher power exists, it is clear that faith communities are doing either “very good” or “more good than bad” in their neighbourhoods.

Source: Ray Pennings: Don’t overlook the contribution faith has made to Canada’s first 150 years | National Post

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About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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