Free to Believe, Responsible to Act - Online Conference on Religion in Canadian Society

 May 4, 2021, 1:00 - 4:30pm EDT

The Canadian Interfaith Conversation, in partnership with the Manitoba Multifaith Council, is sponsoring an online version of Our Whole Society (OWS), the fifth iteration of a conference that aims to foster a new dialogue about the changing role of religion and faith in Canadian society. ICS President Ronald A. Kuipers has been serving as a member of the OWS Steering Committee as a representative of ICS and the CPRSE.

The Charter Vision of the Canadian Interfaith Conversation commits to work for the greater realization of the fundamental freedom of conscience and religion for the sake of the common good and engaged citizenship. This series of OWS conferences builds on this Vision and draws on insights from diverse religious and secular traditions of thought in order to find common ground that helps us to build a society that is more unified amidst its diversity.

The theme for this year's conference is: Free to Believe, Responsible to Act.

This year's conference will be an online event and will be bilingual, with simultaneous translation in English and French. Registration is free, but a small contribution to offset the costs is welcome.

For more information, visit
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Conference Highlights

PANEL 1: Addressing Challenges to Freedom of Religion or Belief (1:00 - 2:30pm EDT)

Canada’s legacy of protecting religious freedom is mixed. Early on the First Nations of Canada experienced the denial and suppression of their right to freedom of religion or belief. Traditional spiritual and religious ceremonies were banned and suppressed, while the Indian residential school system was designed to replace their own identity with another one. Despite long-standing legal protections for religious freedom reaching back to the Quebec Act of 1774 through to the 1982 Charter, this right continues to be debated in public and contested in court. Furthermore, new challenges are emerging from social media and other on-line platforms, which propagates hatred and prejudice that can generate real-world violence and persecution.

What role does protection for freedom of religion or belief play in fostering social understanding in a diverse Canadian society, in fostering reconciliation? To what extent does this freedom extend to protections for organizations, institutions, or even the natural environment? What new and old challenges are facing traditional, religious, spiritual and other communities as they seek to exercise these rights? How should we respond to the growth of religion- based prejudice in Canadian society, especially as it affects Indigenous and minority populations?

Professor Lori Beaman (Professor, University of Ottawa)
Bishop Bruce Myers (Bishop of Quebec, Anglican Church of Canada)
Rabbi Reuben Poupko (Co-Chair, Canadian Rabbinic Caucus)

PANEL 2: Building Social Solidarity (3:00 - 4:30pm EDT)

It seems that almost every social cleavage in Canada is deepening under the pressures of a divisive political discourse. These cleavages can be traced according to region, language, identity, class, or the religious-secular divide. Furthermore, the need to build social solidarity acquires greater urgency in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

What does it take to work across these divides and heal the body politic? What is the potential and actual contribution of religion and spirituality to this process? Where do we see new approaches to addressing inequality, fostering reconciliation, responding to the climate crisis, and building community at the grassroots of society?

Jamileh Naso (President, Canadian Yazidi Association)
Shannon Perez (Director, Indigenous Family Centre)
Akaash Maharaj (CEO, Mosaic Institute)