Canada’s Christian Heritage

Brief History of Canada

Canada’s first inhabitants were the native peoples, who crossed from Siberia to Alaska and migrated eastward across the continent. The first Europeans to arrive were Vikings from Scandinavia, who came to the eastern shores of the country approximately one thousand years ago. The explorer John Cabot claimed Newfoundland for the king of England in 1497. In 1534, Jacques Cartier claimed another part of the land for the king of France. The colony was called New France and was filled with missionaries, fur traders and farmers. In 1759, British troops defeated French troops in the battle for control of New France. British North America became the Dominion of Canada on July 1st, 1867, with four provinces joining to form the new union. Over the years, the country grew to include ten provinces and three territories. Canada remains part of the British Commonwealth of nations, and as such is a fulfillment of prophecy (see GENESIS 35:11). The British and French contingents of Canada are both descended from the tribes of Israel (see Christian History of Britain and Christian History of France).

Canada's coat od armsImage courtesy of the Department of Canadian Heritage The founders of this country built Canada on the Word of God, as can be seen in many examples. The name “Dominion of Canada”, the motto of Canada, “He shall have dominion from sea to sea” and the phrase on Canada’s coat of arms “A mari usque ad mare” (Latin for: From sea to sea”) are taken from PSALM 72:8.

When, in 1866, the fathers of Confederation were assembled to discuss the terms for uniting the Canadian provinces, Leonard Tilley - premier of New Brunswick - suggested the word “Dominion” from PSALM 72 for the new country. A letter signed by John A. MacDonald - Canada’s first prime minister - explained to Queen Victoria that the name was “a tribute to the principles they earnestly desired to uphold.” The last province to join Canada was Newfoundland whose motto is “Seek ye first the kingdom of God” (MATTHEW 6:33).

Revivals and Christian Leaders of the Past

The church with the most impact in the late 1700’s and 1800’s was the Methodist church. As John Wesley had sparked a revival by his preaching and teaching in Britain, the effects reached out to the far corners of this British Colony. William Black is named here as one out of many itinerant Methodist preachers who, in fair weather and in foul - travelled through the sparsely populated Canada and transformed society. Here is an excerpt from his journal from September 4, 1791("The Journal of Mr. William Black, in his Visit to Newfoundland." The Arminian Magazine 15, 1792):

SUNDAY 4. I preached at CARBONEAR. The people sat with deep attention under the word. Many were much blessed, and silently melted down before the Lord. … An awful sense of the divine presence seemed to pervade every heart. Many were the weeping eyes, the falling tears, affectionate cries, and earnest prayers at the table and afterwards. Such backsliders were reclaimed, and restored to the favour of God again, and mightily filled with joy, as were the believers in general. There was a universal shaking among the people. The cries of the penitents, together with the songs of those who were converted, drowned my voice, so that it could not be heard. I attempted to sing, but still could not be heard. To see the very countenances of the people, was peculiarly moving. While distress and awe were painted on the cheeks, and flared through the eyes of those under conviction, inward joy and rapture sparkled in the eyes, and shone on the countenances of those who were lately brought out of darkness into the marvellous light of grace.”

In 1882 the Salvation Army began their work in London, Ontario, and many were converted from all walks of life. The work began with two young men, Jack Addie and Joe Ludgate, preaching and singing on street corners and market squares. In the early days, the neighbours complained of the marching through the streets with drums, inducing the City Council to forbid the use of drums. Knowing that two-thirds of all converts got saved through open-air meetings, Jack Addie prayed to God for guidance. Then he opened his Bible and read, “And they shall fight against thee; but they shall not prevail against thee; for I am with thee, saith the Lord, to deliver thee” (JEREMIAH 1:19). That night, Addie himself beat the drum in the march. When he was ordered in to court, he pleaded his own case and pointed out that he was not a lawbreaker, but that God had sent The Army to convert drunkards, thieves and lawbreakers. At that point, one converted drunkard jumped up and shouted, “Yes, here’s one right here” and this was followed by many others testifying that the power of God had changed their lives through the ministry of the Salvation Army. Jack Addie was sentenced, but it was never enforced!1 By 1887, five years from the start, the Salvation Army had reached the opposite side of the country – Victoria, BC. At the end of ten years, the Dominon Headquarters reported that “there are 264 Corps in the command of 452 officers.”2

The early part of the 1900’s saw the beginning of the Pentecostal outpouring in Canada. In 1906 Robert McAlister - a preacher in the Holiness Movement Church - heard about events taking place at a small mission on Azusa Street in Los Angeles. He traveled to Los Angeles and attended the meetings taking place there. He received the Baptism of the Holy Spirit with speaking in tongues and received the power from on high to spend the rest of his life as a witness to what God had done. On arriving back in Canada, he joyfully spread the news, traveling extensively and preaching at evangelistic meetings and Pentecostal conventions. Many miracles and signs followed his ministry, as promised in MARK 16:15-18. Likeminded people were used by God to spread the Pentecost movement all over Canada.Picture of Charles S. PriceCharles S. Price

Another person who had a big impact in Canada was Charles S. Price, an American minister who received the Baptism of the Holy Spirit at a tent meeting in California. In the 1920s, he traveled through major cities from British Columbia to Quebec preaching the Gospel and many Canadians were converted and saw God’s healing power.

The Old Ways

Most of our Canadian colleges and universities were founded by Christians or had Christian principles. King’s College in Nova Scotia, now known as Dalhousie University, was founded by the Anglicans, and McMaster University by the Baptists, just to name a few.

Our education system has a Christian basis. Egerton Ryerson was a Methodist circuit rider whose main aim was to “preach Jesus to the lost sons of men.” In 1844 he was appointed the superintendent of education for Canada West (Ontario). He stated that “youth should be furnished with right principles, as well as with right knowledge … the first requisite is the religious and moral knowledge of right and wrong; the next is an acquaintance with the history of mankind.” Ryerson is called the father of Canadian public education and made education accessible for everyone. The students used textbooks in which Christian values and loyalty to the constitution were included. The Ontario school system, a “Christian public school system”, became the model for most of Canada.

There were many moments in government history where God was given the honour. For example on January 31st, 1957, Parliament proclaimed that Thanksgiving Day will be celebrated on the second Monday in October and it will be “A Day of General Thanksgiving to Almighty God for the bountiful harvest with which Canada has been blessed.” The Canadian Bill of Rights, introduced in 1960, begins with, “The Parliament of Canada, affirming that the Canadian Nation is founded upon principles that acknowledge the supremacy of God.”

Canada’s parliament buildings in Ottawa contain scriptures carved into the stones: EPHESIANS 6:13 is written around the altar in the memorial chamber: “Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand” PSALM 139:8-10 is found on the wall in the same room beside a list of wars in which Canadians have fought and on the outside of the Peace Tower, PSALM 72:8, PROVERBS 29:18a and PSALM 72:1 are all engraved.

Many people in high offices were outspoken Christians: John Robson, premier of British Columbia (1889-1892) was led by his conviction that the stability of society rested on converted individuals, whose consciences served as moral rudders, steering them in a responsible direction in their personal and social lives. Toronto was once called “Toronto the Good”. William Howland, Toronto’s mayor (1885-1886) had a twelve-foot banner on his office wall guiding him in his office: “Except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain.” Ernest Manning, premier of Alberta from 1943-1968, had a radio program called the National Bible Hour - with up to 600,000 listeners from across Canada each week - where he urged Canadians to live in the light of Jesus’ imminent return.

A Time of Transformation

Whereas many of our nation’s leaders, including our founding fathers, stood for Christian principles, the governments today are trying to change the laws of Canada to reflect the more “diverse population” that lives in this country. These changes have resulted in a moral decline in the country. Increases in violent youth crime, suicides among young people and the number of single parent families are only a few matters of concern.

For example, The Lord’s Prayer is no longer recited in public schools. An amendment to the Criminal Code of Canada was made, introducing the words "sexual orientation" as a basis for protection from hate crimes. This means certain passages in the Bible could be considered “hate literature”. A man in Saskatchewan put a paid ad in a newspaper that had scriptures on the left and an equal sign with a picture of two men holding hands with a line through it. Suggesting that these scriptures meant “no to homosexuality”, he was ordered to pay $1,500 or serve time in jail. A Christian couple in Prince Edward Island who ran a bed & breakfast refused to allow two homosexual men to stay at their home because of their beliefs. They were forced to close down their business and pay $1,000 in damages to the men. Same-sex marriage has been legalised in Canada, and marijuana and prostitution could soon follow. Our Founding Fathers would surely be outraged to hear and see all that is going on in our once-Christian nation.

The old Canadian flagThe Red Ensign, the old Canadian flag The change that took place in Canada is well symbolised by the change of the official Canadian flag in 1965 under prime minister Lester Pearson. It was a conscious step to replace the Christian British heritage by a modern man-made United Nations philosophy of diversity and multi-culturalism - a trend that continued especially under Pierre Trudeau (1968-1984) and until today. Of course, in a multi-cultural society, Christianity is only one out of many religions. Modern Canada therefore has no other values but “diversity”.


Hope for Our Future If We Turn to God

Our Canadian national anthem includes the words “God keep our land glorious and free.”
That was the reason why so many Canadians, under the Red Ensign, fought alongside Great Britain in the two World Wars. Many gave up their lives thus ensuring that we would live in a free land ruled not by tyrants but only by God’s laws. Canada’s only hope lies in returning to the values of old.

“Thus saith the LORD, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls” JEREMIAH 6:16.

Further reading:

  • S. M. Burgess, G. B. McGee, P. H. Alexander (Editors), Dictionary of Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements
  • Canada’s Christian Heritage’ 


  • 1. Arnold Brown, What God Hath Wrought? The History of the Salvation Army in Canada
  • 2. R. G. Moyles, The Blood and Fire in Canada, p. 11