B.C. Premier Bill Vander Zalm is a Catholic.  His seat mate in the legislature, Nick Loenen, is a member of the Christian Reformed Church.  In October Loenen protested a proposal to drop a clause from the Social Credit Party’s constitution calling for fostering and encouraging the universally recognized principles of Christianity in human relationships.  “We live in a Culture that is certainly a Christian culture,” he said.  Adding that people immigrating into Canada know this, he reiterated that it is a Christian culture, “It’s not Muslim, it’s not Islam, it’s not Sikh.”

Jewish views

This statement was not at all to the liking of certain members of the Vancouver Jewish community.  Over the last decade or more Jewish activists have led a drive across Canada opposing the use of Christian symbols and customs.  They see their hope and future in a secular culture.  This they think, will protect them from religious “discrimination.”

The “multicultural” concept introduced into Canadian politics by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms in 1981 provided the Jewish community with the legal tool to demand an end to the Christian orientation of Canadian society.  This includes the abolition of Sunday rest, the abolition of the “Our Father” as a school prayer, the removal of the teaching of Christianity in public schools, even perhaps the removal of Christian holidays such as Good Friday and Christmas.  Last year, there were even some objections to the honoring of the Cross on Armistice Day.

In short, Jewish spokesmen are among the most aggressive secularists of the day.  They have the support of the media which also seek to rid society of Christian influence.  Consequently, these invariably portray incidents of this kind not as Jewish leaders attacking and disparaging Christianity, but as Christians discriminating against Jews.

Michael Levy

The controversy in British Columbia was started by Michael Levy, a Jewish member of the Social Credit Party who ran unsuccessfully in a 1988 Vancouver by-election.   Levy attacked the views of Loenen and declared, “I now feel excluded (from the party) and so should anybody else who is not a Christian.”

Levy was immediately supported by champions of secularism outside and inside the party.  The Vancouver daily, The Province, resorted right away to the standard argument that Loenen has never heard of separation of church and state.

John Cashore, the NDP MLA for Millardville/Coquitlam, and a United  Church minister, rebuked Loenen, saying that “we live in a country of people of many heritages and that should be the starting point in a society that recognizes other faiths rather than putting one faith ahead of others.”

Former Social Credit cabinet minister Grace McCarthy also joined the fray.  For years the media have portrayed her as a “strong rival” to Premier Vander Zalm, despite the fact that the premier won the leadership overwhelmingly.  As a now disgruntled back-bencher who has voluntarily exiled herself from the Social Credit mainstream, McCarthy chipped in, saying she was “very alarmed and angered” when she read Loenen’s comments.

Meanwhile Beverly Welsh, president of the party’s Coquitlam-Moody constituency association and a Catholic, deplored the cause which was proposed as an alternative to the statement of Christian principles, as so vague that she said, it “would fit Clifford Olson perfectly.”  (Olson is the B.C. mass murderer jailed some years ago).


By far and away the most aggressive statements have come from Vancouver Jewish community leaders.

Rabbi Wilfred Solomon of Beth Israel, Vancouver’s largest Jewish congregation told The Province that “the Socred commitment to the values of a particular religion are dangerous.”  He told the Canadian Jewish News (September 25) “that it is either a naive or malicious kind of thinking to say Christians have a monopoly on loving one’s neighbor, speaking the truth, not stealing and not murdering.”

Rabbi Martin Cohen of Beth Tikvah Synagogue told the same paper that he finds Loenen’s remarks disgusting.  “To imply that our liberties are at the behest of some kind of charitable Christian kindness that allows us to pursue our kooky little faiths, is grossly insulting.  Our religious freedoms are enshrined in the Charter of Rights and we practice our faith by the same legal rights that he practices his.  We don’t allow him, and he doesn’t allow us.”

A third spokesman for the Vancouver Jewish Community expressed a similar contempt for the idea that Canada’s heritage is Christian.  Aziz Khaki, president of the Committee for Racial Justice, called Loenen’s statements “clear bigotry…

It is hypocrisy for them to say that everyone is welcome here but that this is a Christian country.  Section 2 of the Charter states clearly that Canada is a pluralistic society.  Not only is it multicultural, it is a multi-faith country.  The God mentioned in the Charter is not a Christian one.” (our emphasis)

Despite this bullying from Jewish leaders, the governing Social Credit convention reaffirmed the party’s traditional resolution on October 27 by refusing to consider the alternative proposal, at least for now.  This followed an overwhelming vote of confidence in the Premier, despite the forecasts of newspapers across the country that he was about to be humiliated.  The Toronto Star (October 28) reported that Michael Levy “stormed out of the party’s annual convention to a loud chorus of boos and cheers.”  A few days later he resigned from the party.

On November 2, another social creditor, a constituency president, also resigned from the party over what she called “the disgusting exhibition of intolerance and bigotry.”  The Toronto Star headed it “Socred quits over bigotry.”  The Globe and Mail pontificated about the Socreds having “a lot to learn about tolerance” (October 31).  Thus, once again, Canadians were told that pluralism and multiculturalism mean believing in nothing else but a secular vision for the country.