Canada - (North America)

Information about Canada

9958319 square kilometres
RCath 45%, United Church 12%, Angl 8%, Presb 1,5%, Greek Orth 0,8%, other 32%
Christian (%)
Protestant (%)
Reformed (%)

The world’s second-largest country in land area, Canada had in 1995 a relatively small population of about 27 million. Most of its territory is subarctic and supports only a small population. Canada was first settled by French explorers and traders, but eventually came under English rule. The demands of the minority French constituency are a major feature of Canadian cultural life, and in recent years Quebec separatists have strained attempts to forge a new national unity. If Quebec were to separate, further fragmentation of the country is possible. Its well-organized aboriginal peoples are also a prominent feature in the large wilderness spaces of Canada. And on its western coast and interior urban areas, Asian immigration has increased rapidly in recent years.
Reformed presence came first with the French Huguenots, but they did not survive as an effective presence after the Catholic counter-reformation of 1685. Catholic pressure kept them from settling along the St. Lawrence River, where the population was concentrated.
In the 18th century immigrants from Scotland and Ireland, as well as Presb loyal to the English, came from the USA, firmly establishing a Reformed presence. The first presby was established in 1795 among Scottish immigrants. These earlyimmigrants were from two groups of secession churches who left the Church of Scotland over the issue of who chose the minister — a patron or the people of the congregation. In 1817, they formed the Synod of Nova Scotia.
Church of Scotland immigrants formed two other synods in 1833. The Free Church, however, broke from the Church of Scotland in 1843, again over the patronage law, and this division was carried over into Canada. So by the 1850s there were three main strands of Presbyterianism: the secessionists who held a voluntary separation from the state, the Free Church followers who accepted state support but refused interference, and the Old Church branch who accepted some control and support from the state. In addition, there were several smaller groups, so that seven distinct bodies could be identified.
When state support of churches declined drastically in 1854, the differences in the main strands diminished. In 1860 the secession and free church streams in Nova Scotia joined to form one synod, and several similar unions followed in other areas. When Canada became a single nation in 1867, the Presb were also uniting across the nation. And in 1875, four churches, two from the secession/free church church line and two in covenant with the Church of Scotland, joined to form the Presbyterian Church of Canada. In the late 19th century, the need for mission in the west stimulated cooperation and solidified the union the Presb had accomplished.
The same need to minister to the vast western provinces that kept the Presb together also drove them to cooperate with other groups in seeing that churches and mission stations appeared all over the western frontier. This led to another major union in 1925, when 70% of the Presbyterian Church joined three other bodies to form the United Church of Canada, Canada’s largest church (cf. no. 17).
The Reformed Church in America made efforts in the 19th century to establish congr in Canada, but there was not a large immigrant base for this Dutch and German style of the Ref faith, and they remain among the smaller Ref churches.
In the 20th century, the relatively open border with the United States created or strengthened a number of crossborder churches. Several of the smaller denominations are part of international churches with members in Canada and the United States. Dutch immigration after World War II added significantly to one of these, the Christian Reformed Church, now the third largest of the churches surveyed here.




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