When assessing the latest controversy over prayer in schools that is taking place in the Peel District School Board, it is important to remember that the issue of religious accommodations has a long, acrimonious history in Canada.
Each incident is presented as a life-and-death struggle over the fabric of Canadian identity. On one hand there is typically a minority group that requests an accommodation it believes is required to freely practice its faith. But these demands are almost always met by a chorus of opposition that demands our institutions stay secular.
But make no mistake, in Canada, secular means maintaining the traditions of the Christian [correction: Protestant] majority.
When seeking to understand the current anti-Muslim paranoia, it is instructional to look at how public ire used to be directed at Sikhs. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Sikhs were the minority group du jour in the public spotlight. For example, in 1988, John Morris, a federal candidate from the seemingly progressive NDP, went on television and stated that his Sikh opponent, Liberal Harbajhan Pandori, was unfit to become a member of Parliament because “his culture is really aside from much of the culture of Canada.” (more...)