The Canadian healthcare system—with Tommy Douglas, politician and Baptist minister as its hero—has roots in social movements at once religious and political. Many of Canada’s earliest hospitals and medical schools were founded by Christian and Jewish organizations, and religious groups were strong supporters of what eventually became the Canada Health Act. But can we say that a religious ethic of care of one’s neighbour continues to inform a commitment to publicly-funded healthcare in Canada? Thinking comparatively, how would paying attention to religion shape an analysis of the role of “public support” for healthcare systems in the U.S. or Great Britain, where the role of religion in the foundation of healthcare systems as well as in contemporary public life seems rather different? Similarly, what effect does the increased religious diversity of Canada, the U.S. and Great Britain have on the practices of healthcare workers at all levels in a publicly-funded system?

This forum, and its accompanying community workshop, provided an opportunity for scholars, policy-makers, and practitioners to examine the legacies and contemporary significance of religion for the ways healthcare is both imagined and practised today. With a special focus on the pressures and possibilities that religious diversity effects on healthcare in urban centres, the forum considered whether religion, and most specifically Christianity, retains any influence within Canadian healthcare, and whether increasing religious diversity has affected the commitment to, and delivery of, such care.

For their kind support of these events, we would like to extend our thanks to the Lupina Centre for Spirituality, Healthcare and Ethics, the Religion and Diversity Project, and the Department for the Study of Religion.

Prayer flags on Hepo Ri

Featured Events

Public Forum

September 27, 2012, 3:00-5:00 pm, Multi-Faith Centre, University of Toronto. The forum was preceded at 2:15 p.m. by the launch of the Religious Diversity Youth Leadership Project, with opening remarks by Stephen Rupp (Vice-Dean, Faculty and Academic Life) and Jill Matus (Vice-Provost, Students).

The forum addressed two questions: 1) Has religion made a difference in the success or failure of the implementation of publicly-funded healthcare systems? 2) Do publicly-funded healthcare systems respond effectively to the challenges that religious diversity poses for biomedical healthcare?

Forum Speakers

Gary Rodin, University of Toronto/Princess Margaret Hospital
University of Toronto Professor of Psychiatry, Chair and Head of Psychosocial Oncology and Palliative Care at Princess Margaret Hospital

Andrea Lennox, Registered Midwife
Consultant, Ontario Midwifery Program, and formerly President of Ontario College of Midwives

Sheryl Reimer-Kirkham, RN, PhD, Trinity-Western University
Professor of Nursing and Director of Master’s in Nursing Program

Michael AbdurRashid Taylor, MTS
Mental health professional, consultant in diversity and religious accommodation

Rachel Olson, University of Sussex
Citizen of Tr’ondek Hwech’in First Nation, Yukon. Health issues researcher and PhD candidate


Community Research Workshop

September 28, 2012, 9:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m., Department for the Study of Religion, University of Toronto. An opportunity for scholars, policy-makers, and practitioners to examine the legacies and contemporary significance of religion for the ways healthcare is both imagined and practised today. With a special focus on the pressures and possibilities that religious diversity effects on healthcare in urban centres, the workshop considered whether religion, and most specifically Christianity, retains any influence within Canadian healthcare, and whether increasing religious diversity has affected the commitment to, and delivery of, such care.

Workshop topics:

Hospice Palliative Care and Religion: Old Friends, New Challenges, Paul Bramadat, University of Victoria [Presentation slides]

Driven by Diversity: projects of pluralism at a community hospital, Arlene MacDonald, University of Texas [Presentation slides]

Zen and the Art of Family Medicine, Cheryl Levitt, McMaster University [Presentation slides]

Workshop Participants

Paul Bramadat, University of Victoria
Associate Professor and Director, Centre for Studies in Religion and Society, with a focus on religion and palliative care

Simon Coleman, University of Toronto
Chancellor Jackman Chaired Professor, anthropologist of religion with a focus on healthcare systems

Pamela Klassen, University of Toronto
Director of Religion in the Public Sphere, and Professor of the Study of Religion, with a focus on the history of religion and medicine in Canada

Cheryl Levitt, McMaster University
Professor, Department of Family Medicine, and leader of the Quality in Family Practice Project

Arlene Macdonald, University of Texas
Medical Branch at Galveston, Institute for the Medical Humanities – The intersection of religion, medicine and media, religious diversity and healthcare

Sheryl Reimer-Kirkham, RN, PhD, Trinity-Western University
Professor of Nursing and Director of Master’s in Nursing Program