SASKATCHEWAN – Election mania is sweeping Canada. Canadians are preparing to go to the polls Oct. 19 to elect a new Prime Minister to lead the country. The campaign so far has been aggressive, with the leaders of the three national parties competing to achieve a majority government.
On April 4, 2016, a few short months after this federal election, citizens of the Province of Saskatchewan will return to the polling stations. This time it will be to elect a new provincial government.
Saskatchewan is known as a prairie province, famous for its flat, wide-open spaces in the south, rich in agriculture. The province also supports pristine forest in the north. Despite is huge size, 405, 071 square miles (651,900 square kilometers), the population of Saskatchewan is a mere 1.2 million people, half of which are divided between the two largest cities in the province – Saskatoon, and the capital, Regina.
Entering the race for a seat as a Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) is Robert Rudachyk, a long-standing member of Canada’s Heathen community. Rudachyk has decided to put his Heathen code of ethics into practice as he embarks to become the MLA for the constituency of Saskatoon-Riverdale, located directly in Saskatoon, the largest city in the province.
Canadian Pagans and Heathens are very fortunate that they do not experience the degree of prejudice and intolerance, which many of our counterparts in other regions of the world face. This environment makes it possible for Rudachyk to be nominated by The Liberal party, one of the three main parties in the country, and to run on its behalf for a seat in the provincial legislature.
The Wild Hunt: Do you think Canada is a safe place for an “out” Pagan to run for public office?
Robert Rudachyk: I believe it is. This is a very diverse country with many cultures and faiths represented. Yes, there is hatred from the ignorant and uneducated, but with time and dialogue this will be overcome as well. Our constitution protects our right to believe as we wish, and our politicians and courts are very active in protecting those rights. I find less hatred from the mainstream community than I do from the Pagan community. Many times I have been attacked by members of the Pagan community, because I am far more pragmatic in my views and am not interested in glomming onto the latest fashionable conspiracy theory that they read on the internet. Sadly there are many in the Pagan community who feel that it is a badge of honour to be an outsider and look to enhance that view rather than trying to work with mainstream society to build bridges between us. These folks view me as selling out to mainstream society, but that is not true, I am working to build bridges with mainstream society so that there is better understanding, and we are not all perceived as fluffy bunnies or raging racist Viking wannabes.
TWH: Can you describe how your politics are informed by your Paganism?
RR: My worldview is Heathen. I believe that we are our deeds, and if I want to change the world and make a difference I can’t be afraid to stand forth and do everything I can to make the changes I see as necessary. An example of this is my proposal to mandate Sask. Power to purchase green energy supplies from local independent producers at a fair market rate. This was put forward at our policy convention and passed. In doing this, it allows farmers to “farm” electricity using their land to set up wind and solar generating units. Less productive land can be used in this way while still being utilized for pasturage or crop production. This will lessen out reliance on coal-generated power and help us to protect the environment, which I hold sacred. I have always taken a lead role in all the Pagan/Heathen communities I have belonged to, In my neighbourhood affairs, and now I want to take it to the provincial level to affect the changes I would like to see.
Another way is that my politics are focused on inclusiveness. I have been a strong voice and activist in the anti racism movement in the Heathen community, and am a founder of Heathens United Against Racism. I have for many years now fought hard against that cancerous pustule of racism that has infected the Heathen community and will do so until my dying day and bring that same strength of conviction to politics.TWH: How do you describe your religious path?
RR: I am Heathen. I worship the Norse gods, and have done so for over a quarter century. Over that time I have been active in community building among Pagans in every community that I have lived in. I have organized coffee meetings, community ceremonies, and just great fun meet and greet parties. My hope is to build strong ties between different paths in the Pagan community as well as with the rest of society. These are my ideals that I aspire to in this lifetime. My view is that we are our deeds, and the name we have is only borrowed from our ancestors. It is not returned to them, but rather is passed on to our children. I wish to gain honour for my family name by doing everything I can to make this world a better place in any way I can. And if that means standing up and trying to make it better for all Pagans and Heathens in Canada, then so much the better.
TWH: You are running for the Liberals, the party led at a federal level by Justin Trudeau, son of the late Pierre Trudeau, who was once Prime Minister. What led you to join the Liberal party?
RR: I have always been a Liberal. In my youth I was a supporter of Pierre Trudeau, During my young adult phase I left the party, as the cuts in the 1990s by Prime Minister Jean Chretien and Finance Minister Paul Martin destroyed the career path I had chosen for myself at that time, and my life became a real struggle just to make ends meet. However as I got older I learned more about the economic situation that required those cuts, and came to realize that there was no choice for the government to do anything else but the path they chose and I returned to the party. The Liberal Party is a centrist party that does not bend to either the right’s or left’s ideologies, but rather uses both to choose the path that best serves the needs of most people. As well, they are the party that has the courage to do what is necessary to keep this country great regardless of whether it is popular or not.TWH: Have you ever experienced prejudice because of your Pagan beliefs?
RR: Not really, there have been times where I have had some people treat me badly out of ignorance, but I am a good communicator, and have the ability to educate people in such a way that they understand I am not as different from them as they feared, but rather I just have my own way of doing things. As for the rest who would try to attack me for my faith, I am not afraid, because I am more than willing to give as good as I get and do not back down from a fight. I am not afraid for my safety because as a Heathen, I know that the number of days of my life have already been set. I may not know the day of my death, but trying to run and hide from it is just a waste of time. I would rather focus on doing the best I can with this life and let my name be respected from my deeds.
TWH: How are you preparing for the election in 2016?
RR: At this time, I am working on the election campaign for the candidate in the federal election in the roles of deputy campaign manager, fundraising manager, and neighbourhood captain. I ran for the nomination in this riding federally and was the first openly Pagan person to be green lit to run for a nomination in a major political party in Canada. While I was defeated, I have focused on giving my whole effort to getting the candidate that beat me elected and will continue to do so. This is giving me valuable experience for my own campaign, and helping me to build a network of contacts with which I can create my campaign team from.
TWH: How is being a political figure affecting your life?
RR: It is a challenge to my home and work life. There are a lot of days and nights where I am forced to be out of the house for campaigning. This leaves my wife to have to shoulder all the responsibilities of taking care of the kids while I am campaigning. This can cause strains. As well, it is necessary to separate work life from political life to avoid strains with others in the workplace who may not share your political views. But in the end, if I am successful, the sacrifices will be worth it. As for my faith, I find it more and more difficult to focus on my faith as much as I would like. It seems that I am just getting too busy most of the time to commune with nature and feel its rejuvenating energy. It is getting harder and harder to find the time for gardening, fishing, and hunting, three things that help me to truly feel my faith as a living part of the natural world.
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With the Saskatchewan election only seven months away, Rudachyk will be busy campaigning hard to become the first openly Heathen MLA in the country. The Wild Hunt will keep you posted on his progress.