It has to do with secularism and what it should really mean for us Canadians vs what it seems to mean for Americans.
In the next few weeks I plan to go further into this, but it seems to be a central question that's being discussed in the media and in conferences like Bridging the Secular Divide which just took place a few weeks ago up here in Montreal.
I think the gist of it has to do with American Secularism, which really seems to derive its nature from French Secularism, and British Secularism, which seems to be what Canada minus Quebec subscribes to. I've spoken about my little theory here before in this blog.
American and French Secularism is an absolute separation of Church and State. Even some religious types still support this in France - if only it were the same in the United States. British and Rest-of-Canada Secularism seems to really be an idea of pluralism or religious multiculturalism where instead of an absolute divide between religion and government, all religions should be embraced at the same time.
However, there seems to now be movement in this country from the polite British secularism towards a more hardline Franco-American secularism. I think it's because of a strengthening secularist population, mainly the Nones and the New Atheists in America (and in Britain) who have started asserting themselves and pushing for a clearing of religious privilege within government and public society.
CSA sends letters expressing concern with Bill to Establish Pope John Paul II Day
It's my understanding the bill passed its third reading on June 12th and will be sent to the Senate for approval and then the Governor General signs it. Since I can never figure out what the Senate is actually for anymore and the Governor General basically signs more or less anything given to him (or so I've heard), I guess we're really up the creek here.
It passed with strong support from all parties likely because anyone who actually publicly opposed it would get tarred and feathered and branded as a hater.
This is of course, a pretty big violation of an American or French interpretation of secularism. It's made worse by them recognizing it as Pope John Paul II Day rather than simply using his parents-given name Karol Wojtyła. Here they are not recognizing the man they are giving a big nod to the institution of the papacy and the Roman Catholic Church.
NDP MPP Peggy Nash tries to weasel out of this trap in a responding letter to the CSA. She says they are simply recognizing the Pope's contribution to the Free World by helping to liberate Poland from the Soviet regime. Fine, why not make it "Karol Wojtyła Day"? Why drag in religion? I think it's because deep down some people believes it was not the work of a mere Karol Wojtyła, but rather religion working through him. But that's just my theory.
I seem to recall Gorbachev having a pretty prominent role as well in the final days of the Soviet Union... anyway.
For me, the zinger here is how she equates a healthy support of separation of church and state with honouring as many religious leaders as possible.
I want to assure you that I support the separation of church and state in Canada. ... ... I support recognizing another religious leader, His Holiness Dalai Lama, as a honourary Canadian citizen.To a French or American secularist, this would be a confusing and rather infuriating statement. I admit that at first glance I really couldn't see any sort of coherency to it. This is not absolute separation of church and state nor is it secularism the way it's to be understood by them (or me).
But to the sort of all in the pot, equal opportunity for all religions in the public sphere secularist, I would expect this to seem perfectly natural. Throw in as many religious as you can! Let's have religious absolutely everywhere! We just won't favour one over another - no, of course we would never do that.
This is a trend I've been seeing lately. The idea that the word secular should mean an all-inclusive friendly umbrella for all religions to have their voices heard in public discourse.
I don't have problems with religious people voicing their opinions in the public square - although I do not need to listen. They should not be muffled. But I do have a problem with governments endorsing religions and religious figures. I especially don't want any of my money going to commemorative coins, nicknacks or press releases, thank you very much.
At heart, I suppose I am a Franco-American Secularist.
Update 2013-07-07 Looks like a similar bill is being worked through the Ontario Legislature as well. Seems almost like an organized campaign.
(via Veronica Abbass at Canadian Atheist)