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Canada's Religion History

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Today, Canada is a country known for its mosaic of cultures, as well as its promise to provide protection to all cultural groups regardless of origin and equal opportunity for all. Unfortunately, these multicultural ideals did not always exist within Canadian society. As Canada grew as an independent nation the roots of anti-Semitism began to grow with it. Although Jewish settlement in Canada had once been respected and praised, the changing atmosphere of the late nineteenth century and the early twentieth century brought forth an era of anti-Semitism and turbulence for Canadian Jewry. In this period of advancement, the country's open immigration policy welcomed Eastern European Jews and in turn changed the face of Canadian Jewry forever. The increase in Canada's Jewish population, combined with the highly anti-Semitic influence of Europe, stirred previously idle feelings of anti-Semitism among the non-Jewish communities of Canada. Consequently, anti-Semitism spread throughout Canada and its Jews were used as scapegoats for the insecurities and tensions brought forth by the changing times of the turn of the century.
In mid-nineteenth century Canada, the Jewish population consisted of approximately one thousand people most of whom were the direct descendants of either French or English colonists. It was an era of tranquility for Canadian Jews as the standard of living was high and the Jews of early Canada were treated well. These early Jewish settlers were considered 'almost equal' to their Anglo-Saxon or Catholic counterparts with few restrictions being placed on them and since they were of such a small proportion of Canada's population they were able to almost completely assimilate in 1850s Canadian society. As a matter of fact, these Jews were barely even noticed. Jews such as Jesse Joseph, president of the Montreal gas company and Sigismund Mohr, head of the Quebec electric company, were among the Jews respected by their Canadian contemporaries. In 1870 a Montreal newspaper declared, 'if only more of our citizens could be like the Jews, we would be a far more industrious and progressive nation.' In general, life was prosperous and secure for the Jews of mid-nineteenth century Canada.
As programs and anti-Semitism became more widespread in Eastern Europe Jewish immigration into Canada increased. These new Jewish immigrants were very different from their earlier counterparts:
By 1914 it was not the Anglicized, comfortable, integrated
community it had been thirty years before.
Rather, the majority of Canada's Jewry
were now Yiddish speaking, Orthodox, penurious immigrants.
By 1914 Montreal's Jewish population had swelled to forty thousand. Consequently, they were seen as a threat to 'traditional French-Canadian rural values' and as such were unwelcome.
There were many factors that influenced Canadian response to Jewish immigration and help explain why it coincided with an increase in anti-Semitism. In French- Canada anti-Semitism was rampant as people feared the loss of their French identity. The anti-Semitic thoughts and stereotypes had always been a part of French Canadian society, however, it was not until the end of the nineteenth century that they became public and widespread:
These notions were not new in themselves'
What was new was the presence in Quebec
of a significant Jewish population. Earlier,
anti-Jewish tales had been little more than
the stuff of religion and folklore, unrelated
to real people; they had been told less often,
and in generally more moderate language.
Now these strident beliefs pertained to neighbors
and fellow citizens'
Another important factor that contributed to the increase of anti-Semitism in Quebec was the strong influence of the press. In 1897 La Croix, one of Quebec's circulating journals, warned the public of the 'Hebrew Peril' predicting:
If the syndicate was not exposed and halted,
that within fifty years the Jews would devour
Canada, and that the country would cease to
Edouard Drumont, author of Le France Juive and founder of the anti-Semitic group Ligue Nationale Anti-semitique, was gaining popularity in France and also had a large following in Quebec. It was in this time period that the controversy over Dreyfus affair occurred, resulting in a significant ...

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Keywords: canada religion history, what religion was canada founded on, how religious is canada, history of religious freedom in canada

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