Dissertation Examination for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Religion and Culture

Wednesday, June 10, 2015 1:00 pm - 1:00 pm EDT (GMT -04:00)

Leah McKeen 

PhD in Religion and Culture

Canadian Christian Nationalism?: The Religiosity and Politics of the Christian Heritage Party of Canada

 In this dissertation I examine the worldview and concerns held by members of the Christian Heritage Party of Canada (CHP) as a means of understanding Canada’s Christian Right. I present a perspective of Canada’s Christian Right that challenges assumptions made about this religio-political ideology by showing how the political choices made by members of the CHP make sense within the members’ context. The CHP is a federal political party, first registered in 1986, that markets itself as “Canada’s only pro-life party.” Although the party was initially developed by a group of conservative Protestants and Roman Catholics, the majority of its members are Dutch-Canadians who attend Dutch Reformed (Calvinist) Churches. 

The main questions addressed in this dissertation are: 1) how do various social networks and identity characteristics correlate with individuals investing themselves in this religious-political movement, and 2) how do these individuals manage their identity and worldview in the face of on-going opposition and challenges both within and external to the CHP? In other words, what is it about the CHP that makes the party “common sense” to its members, when it seems less than common sense to the majority of Canadians? In order to answer these questions, I conducted semi-structured interviews with 79 party members across Canada and observed various party events between August 2010 and July 2012. 

Each chapter of this dissertation highlights a major theme that arose from the ethnographic data I collected. These themes include: 1) comparisons with the American Christian Right, 2) the implications and significance of the Dutch-Canadian majority in the party, 3) links between the party’s name and its Christian identity, 4) the CHP’s prolife identity (particularly regarding its pro-capital punishment stance and the positioning of Roman Catholics within the party), 5) the role of education in the lives of party members, and 6) the perceived enemies of the party, namely, secular humanism, the “homosexual agenda,” and radical Islam. Overall, these themes illustrate the construction and maintenance of the members’ particular social conservative Christian identity, and a tension within the party between upholding the members’ Christian principles and being a pragmatic, electable political party.


Geoffrey Nelson

Jeff Wilson
Paul Freston

David Haskell
Brian Tanguay

Jonathan Malloy (Carleton University)

Contact: Vanessa McMackin

Email: vmcmackin@wlu.ca