SASKATCHEWAN – On April 27, Robert Rudachyk had an opportunity few in Canada have enjoyed; to attend a meetup with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Even more remarkable about the invitation is that, in a time when many politicians run from associating with those in minority religions, attendees were unconcerned about Rudachyk’s Heathen religion. In an interview with The Wild Hunt, he said that it is a non-issue.The meet-and-greet was held at the Sheraton Cavalier Saskatoon Hotel to thank the Saskatchewan-based Liberal Party volunteers, who had worked on the federal election in October. The event was limited to 450 guests, all members of Trudeau’s Liberal Party. The Liberal Party is considered a centrist party in Canada, while the Saskatchewan Party is the provincial level right wing party and the New Democratic Party is to the left.
Rudachyk, a long-time member of Canada’s Heathen community, volunteered as Deputy Campaign Manager for Lisa Abbott’s 2015 federal run. He is also currently the vice president for the Saskatoon-West Riding Association for the Liberal Party. He said that he’s always actively looking at how he can help “serve, guide and build the Liberal Party” in preparation for the next provincial or federal election.
Along with that work, Rudachyk ran himself as the Liberal Party candidate in the April 4 elections. He was running to represent Saskatoon-Riverdale as a Member of Legislative Assembly (MLA). A seat in the MLA of Saskatchewan is similar to holding office as a Representative in the House at the state level in the U.S. Rudachyk’s election would have made him the first openly Heathen candidate elected in Canada and the highest elected Pagan in North America. Although he was unsuccessful in his bid, the good news for Canadian Pagans and Heathens is that religion appears to not have played any role in the outcome of the race.
He said that the Liberal Party is very inclusive, and it has active and dedicated members of many different religions and backgrounds. Rudachyk said, “It’s nothing. It’s just your faith.”
Religion also appears to not have played any role in the invitation to the appreciation event. The meetup began with a chance for all volunteers to network with each other. He said that everyone knows that he’s Heathen. He has no reason to hide it.
Then, after some time, Prime Minister Trudeau visited the reception hall. After giving a short speech, Trudeau walked around, greeting as many people as he could. Rudachyk said that he was fortunate. He not only had a photo opportunity with Trudeau but also was able to spend a few minutes chatting with the Prime Minister. While some politicians may have snubbed a Heathen or Pagan candidate, Trudeau figuratively and literally embraced Rudachyk.
Rudachyk said that being invited was a huge honor and a positive step forward. He added, “[This] shows what is possible when Heathens […] work to be part of the larger community.” In our interview, Rudachyk added, “This is why we need to work within the systems. The more we isolate ourselves; the more people will not want to trust us. They will only see the bad press about our religions. We need to be part of our communities, and work with them as a whole.” He said that, in doing so, “we bring our world view to the table. We protect ourselves and the future of our faiths.”
And that is just what Rudachyk is aiming to do in his own work. He said, “I’m not in this for me, for glory, or for the money.” He said that he doesn’t care whether everyone agrees with him on all issues or on his approach. He said that he just wants to make things better for his community, his province, his country and his co-religionsists. He added that he aims to do his part now so that his kids can one day say “I’m Heathen” and not have to worry about backlash.
The volunteer event provided the necessary inspiration and incentive for Rudachyk to keep going. He will continue his volunteer work, and he also is researching a possible run for city council. However, there are a number of considerations before he commits. He said, “As the first openly Heathen/Pagan person to become a candidate for a major political party in Canada, I only hope that someday I will finally become successful in this goal and bring our worldview into the political arena so that we can one day have our voices heard.”