Not only is 2017 the 150th anniversary of Confedera- tion, it is also the occasion of the 500th anniversary
of the Reformation.
Without the Reformation and
the Protestant form of Christianity
that came from it, Canada would be
a very different country.
First, the faith of the Reformation
has burned in the hearts of Canadians from the very beginning of
European presence in North America. Among the first French explorers and settlers in the 16th century
were Huguenots, French Protestants
of Calvinist (“Reformed”) convictions who at that time enjoyed limited religious toleration in France.
Pierre du Gua de Monts ( ca. 1558–
1628), for example, a Huguenot
merchant, adventurer and explorer,
helped found the first permanent
French settlements in Canada. In
1603 King Henry IV of France recognized his service by appointing
him lieutenant-governor of Acadia
and New France.
Later French kings banned Protestantism from the Canadian colonies, but even so, some settlers
continued to secretly practise that
faith. Historians estimate more than
1,450 settlers during the period of
New France were Protestants.
With the British conquest of New
France in 1760, Canada was once
again opened to Protestantism.
Anglicans, Presbyterians, Congrega-tionalists, Baptists and Methodists
were among the earliest English-speaking Protestant settlers, and in
some regions they were joined by
German-speaking Lutherans and
In the 19th and 20th centuries,
the range of Protestant groups ex-
panded with the emergence of
newer offshoots of Methodism
(like the Holiness and Pentecostal
churches) and newer immigrant
groups (like the Dutch Reformed).
In recent years evangelical groups
from Asia, Africa and Latin America
have added to the Protestant mix.
While these various Protestant
churches disagree about various
things – their freedom to do so is
also a consequence of the Reformation! – they share the core convictions that beat in the hearts of the
Reformers 500 years ago.
Like Luther and Calvin they stand
firm on sola scriptura, the belief the
Bible is the only God-breathed, infallible authority for all faith and
life, and sola fide, the belief we
receive God’s gift of salvation by
faith alone, and not on the basis of
our works or merit.
Throughout Canadian history
Protestants have been a witness to
these great biblical truths, and
Evangelicals continue to stand for
Second, the Protestant belief in
the importance of knowing and
understanding the Bible also led to
an emphasis on education at all
levels. Although Catholics have
also played an important role in
education in Canada, the range and
number of educational institutions
would be far less without the hard
work of generations of Protestants.
From the efforts of early Sunday
schools to the founding of the first
day schools, Protestants helped lay
the foundation for elementary and
secondary education in several
parts of the country.
They also founded the oldest
English-speaking universities in
Canada, such as the University of
New Brunswick (1785, Anglican),
the University of Toronto (1827,
Anglican) and Queen’s University
In the 20th century, with the
secularization of public education,
Protestant Evangelicals took the lead
in founding a second wave of Chris-
tian elementary and high schools,
Bible colleges and universities.
Finally, Protestantism deserves
much of the credit for Canada’s
commitment to limited, account-
able government, and freedom of
conscience and religion. Although
many Catholics and others are to-
day our staunch allies in defending
these principles, for a long time
Protestant minority groups stood
nearly alone in advocating limits on
the powers of the king, religious
freedom for people who did not
belong to the dominant church, and
an institutional distinction between
church and state that would pre-
serve the freedom of the Church
from government interference.
Protestantism, especially in its
Reformed and Baptist varieties, thus
played a central role in the develop-
ment of the British, and now Can-
adian, tradition of a free people
under a limited government. Today,
these hard-won principles are again
under attack, and evangelical Prot-
estants are again at the forefront of
the effort to defend them.
This year, as we celebrate 150
years of the Dominion of Canada,
let us remember much of what we
have to celebrate has to do with that
other great milestone, the 500th
anniversary of the Reformation. /FT
in the hearts
very beginning of
HUGUENO TS IN
CANADA DURING THE
ERA OF NE W FRANCE
CANADIAN ENC YCLOPEDIA
The Reformation in Canada
It has more to do with our history than we might think
Kevin Flatt is associate professor of history
and director of research at Redeemer
University College in Ancaster, Ont. Read more of
these columns at www.Faith Today.ca/HistoryLesson.
MERCHAN T PIERRE
DU GUA DE MON TS