CANADA — On Nov. 8, the results of the U.S. presidential election affected more than just the American population. Millions of people around the world sat on the edge of their seats as the polls came in, electing Donald Trump as the leader of one of the most powerful and influential countries in the world.
North of the border, the anticipation of the incoming regime is now bringing concern and rising tension. Daily news reports include details of how the Trump administration could affect everything from the price of food to the security of the Canadian economy.
For many Canadian Pagans, the topic of discussion and great concern is the reported increase in hate crimes against minority religions, people of colour, and LGBTQ communities. According to the mainstream media, President-elect Trump’s campaign rhetoric may have given the needed confidence to extremist groups, which has resulted in the increase in incidents of violence against various minorities across Canada.
This trend is reportedly catching on. Between November 13 – 19, the city of Ottawa was the scene of six hate-filled incidents. A Jewish community centre, two synagogues and a rabbi’s home were defaced with anti-Semitic graffiti, a mosque was defaced with anti-Muslim messages and swastikas, and a United Church with a large African-Canadian congregation and black pastor were tagged with racist slurs.On December 7, in Winnipeg, the Manitoba Islamic Association reported that a member of the community found what appeared to be a large portion of raw pork, left on the windshield of his car. A few weeks earlier the same organization received a strip of bacon in the mail.
As a response to these and many other recorded incidents of similar crimes, an initiative spearheaded by Jade Pichette, an active member of the Heathen community is southern Ontario, has been launched. In consultation with other community members, she took on the daunting task of drafting the document now known as the Canadian Pagan Declaration on Intolerance.
Speaking to The Wild Hunt Pichette explained: “Prejudice has always existed in Canada. It has always been a serious issue. However, as a society, we have mostly been going uphill, in terms of progression of rights, tolerance and even in some cases, acceptance. When I saw, in the wake of the US election, an increase in the rise of hate crimes, especially against marginalized faith communities it concerned me greatly.”
Pichette has been involved in this type of work before, having written a similar document on behalf of her own kindred, denouncing racism, homophobia, and transphobia. This was noted by Xan Folmer of Huginn’s Heathen Hof, who reached out to Pichette for assistance in connecting with Canadian Heathen groups for support of Declaration 127. In addition to this activism, Pichette works professionally at the Canadian Lesbian and Gay Archives, and serves as an advocate for the LGBTQ community.
The Canadian Pagan Declaration on Intolerance is intended to bring the voices of as many different Pagan and Heathen groups across the country together to stand against intolerance and to support other marginalized groups. It states, in part:
In this political climate, we wish to specifically state that we stand in solidarity and in support of marginalized religious and spiritual communities which include, but are not limited to, Muslims, Jews, and those practicing Indigenous spirituality. We also look to not just tolerate, but to welcome LGBTQ, Black, Indigenous, and people of colour in our own communities, and the communities in which we live. This statement acknowledges that there is still a lot of work to do but today, we wish to reiterate that we stand united with the most affected by these hateful actions.
“The reality is that as Pagans and Heathens, we are very diverse within our groups. We are not one group, kind of like the LGBTQ communities, we are communities, that sometimes work together, and sometimes not,” explained Pichette. “In the wake of this type of thing, I know how important it is for marginalized faith communities, spiritual communities and religious communities to work together. And so, I wanted to do that from a Canadian perspective.”Pichette went on to stress that the Declaration was a team effort, and she has received input and support in its creation from more than a dozen contributors, from across the country, representing many different Pagan paths. “Quite a number of Pagan and Heathen leaders were supportive, and it went from there.”
In order to best represent the Canadian Pagan movement, a translation of the Declaration will also be available in French, reflecting the bilingual status of the country. Morrigane Feu and Marie-Claude Dufour live in Montreal, and both have volunteered to provide translating services.
“It’s important that the declaration is also in French, because French, like English, is an official language in Canada. Each province has francophone communities, and in the province of Quebec, it is the language of the majority. Making the declaration available in both French and English is to be inclusive of all provinces, to show that the whole of Canada is united in this declaration,” Dufour explained.
Pichette hopes that the Canadian Pagan Declaration on Intolerance will also serve as a networking tool for like-minded groups and individuals to connect to each other. “One of the things that has happened out of Declaration 127 is that if a more marginalized Heathen is looking into engaging with the community, they look to that list, they look to the groups that have explicitly said that they are inclusive, that they condemn discrimination and I really hope that is the same for our community as well. I hope that (the Canadian Pagan Declaration on Intolerance) becomes a source, internally within Canada, for people to find spaces that are safer for them.”
As one of the participants behind the creation of the declaration, Marie-Claude Dufour also sees the value of having a statement for the Pagan movement in Canada to stand behind. “Racism and intolerance are becoming scary, not only in the US, also here in Canada. In our country, our provinces, our towns,” Dufor said.
“As leaders in our community, we believe it’s important to stand up and declare that we are strongly against any form of intolerance towards minorities. Especially in Quebec, where religions in general are regarded with suspicion, and religious people often seen as intolerant and bigoted. It’s important to publicly show that we are not only tolerant, but welcoming of any minority in our community.”Pichette and the team of contributors are working to have the finalized version of the declaration ready for its launch on Saturday, Dec. 10, which also happens to be Human Rights Day, an international celebration of the anniversary of the adoption by the United Nations of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
The Canadian Pagan Declaration on Intolerance will be hosted on a dedicated website. Group, as well as individuals, will be encouraged to sign to show their support.