49 Degrees: Canadian Pagan Perspectives

Canadian Paganism has a style all its own. Have a look at events, issues, celebrations, people, trends and events north of the border from the eyes of a Canadian Wiccan and Witch.

  • Home
    Home This is where you can find all the blog posts throughout the site.
  • Tags
    Tags Displays a list of tags that have been used in the blog.
  • Bloggers
    Bloggers Search for your favorite blogger from this site.
  • Login
    Login Login form

Changing Consciousness: Pagan Activism in Canada

b2ap3_thumbnail_2015-03-14-12.46.50.jpgI don't think there's any doubt, for any witch who's been to one, that a public protest is a magickal act. A group of people get together and use symbolism to focus the collective will towards a specific goal.  If the magick is successful, consciousness changes, with results that are reflected in the outer world.

So last weekend I, along with about two or three hundred other people, gathered in downtown Vernon, BC to protest the new proposed Canadian anti-terror bill, C-51.  We rallied, sang, cheered, and marched through the city streets, holding up our major highway for several minutes.

It was one of 70 such protests that took place all across the country.

In Winnipeg, Manitoba, my friend Dodie Graham McKay, filmmaker and writer for The Wild Hunt, was also chanting and marching among about a thousand others.

Said Dodie:

People from every walk of life were present at the rally - old, young, rich, poor, every ethnic background you could imagine as Winnipeg is such a melting pot. My coven and our partners went as a group. We were delighted to bump into so many other Pagan folk, and it was also exciting to see large numbers from the arts community out as well.


In the meantime, in Vancouver, another friend Sparrow Tavin Anderson of The Wigglian Way podcast was right in the thick of it:

I attended the protest in Vancouver, BC. There were thousands of protectors of all stripes. The protest began at the Vancouver Art Gallery (or VAG, as we like to call it). Many people spoke about Bill C-51 and the harm that it would cause. I attended 'alone' but was far from lonely. After the speeches at the steps to the Art Gallery, my friends Hereditary Chief Dan Wallace, Musqueam women Audrey Siegl, Shirley Samples, and Shannon Hecker started a march through the streets of downtown Vancouver. This was an amazing experience. We were able to march for a number of hours and close down streets and "critical infrastructure".  After I had to leave, the Marchers were able to close down the Cambie Street Bridge.


For those who haven't heard (and don't worry, you're not alone,) Bill C-51 is the Canadian Conservative Party government's proposed equivalent of the Patriot Act.  It would allow the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) and the RCMP to suspend certain civil liberties in order to prosecute terrorism.  However, Amnesty International and other groups are concerned that it could be used to target inconvenient activists as well as groups that have been defined as terrorists. Two of our four major political parties - the Conservatives, who introduced it, and the Liberal Party - have pledged to support the bill.  The other two, including our Official Opposition the NDP (New Democratic Party) and the Green Party are adamantly opposed.

b2ap3_thumbnail_1616390_10153115647816093_529466642_n.jpgI asked these two strong women who inspire me why they had chosen to participate in the protests.  Sparrow had a rather firmly-worded reply:

I am not sure there was a decision to make in this instance. Bill C-51 is counter to what being Canadian is all about. We have the freedom and the responsibility to keep government in check. It is our government and our country is supposed to be a democratic one. Bill C-51 is in direct opposition of our Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The bill would in effect make it illegal to protest in this country. It is a direct attack on First Nations people and Activists. This bill has nothing to do with "terrorism" as those in authority would have us believe, but everything to do with raping this land of its resources.


Dodie was a little less acerbic:

The bill is too fuzzy. It has wide reaching implications for average Canadian citizens who may not agree with our current government's agenda. If you are a law-abiding citizen who participates in activist movements, you may be watched, and can be arrested and held without charge for up to seven days or detained because the police feel that you may say or do something dangerous. The boundaries are not clear in this bill and basic civil liberties are at stake. Actions such as attending an Idle No More round dance or even writing a critical blog post, such as this one, could land you on the watch list.

She added:

For many of us who work in film, we are concerned that our freedom to make honest and critical films could also be choked by this bill. It is a real concern!

It's certainly no secret that the current Canadian government has been causing sweeping damage to Canada's international reputation, especially in regards to environmental policies and in dealings with Canada's First Nations (Aboriginal peoples).

Said Dodie:

The issue that is probably dearest to my heart is the preservation of our Boreal forest. In Canada we have a treasure - pristine, wild and free Boreal forest. As I type this, our government is looking for excuses to harvest as much of it as possible. There is a movement to preserve only 50% of it intact. This is just not enough. In Manitoba and Northern Ontario there is a group of five First Nations who have joined together to make a bid to UNESCO to designate their land, collectively known as Pimachiowin Aki (The Land That Gives Life), as a World Heritage site. UNESCO has delayed the decision as this bid is unique and more study is needed. 

Sparrow has recently been featured in Pagan media for her environmental activism.  Her aspirations are similar but her focus is more broad:

In a nutshell, I am worried about two issues specifically. First and foremost, I am worried about the future of the environment. Our Mother will go on, long past us but we are making it so that we cannot live on the planet. There is only one. Water is the only resource that all living things require and we are poisoning it at an alarming rate. This must be stopped or we have no future. The second concern I have, is so closely related that it is almost the same thing. Racism has got to be eliminated. We are all human beings and the way we treat each other is deplorable.

Dodie agreed:

My hope is that average Canadians wake up and realize it is time to preserve our environment. We are so extremely lucky that many of our natural landscapes are still healthy enough to be preserved instead of recreated. We do not have the right to destroy it. Living in Winnipeg, a city named recently by Maclean's Magazine as the most racist in the country, I also hope that some peace and reconciliation can come between Aboriginal people and non-Aboriginal people.

Together their resounding message is a call to action for all Canadians, and Canadian Pagans in particular.  When I asked them what they would like to see, Sparrow answered:

To be frank, I would like to see Canadians get involved. There is a lot of online petition signing and that is wonderful. I am so happy to see people recycle, reuse, and reduce, and it's time to do more. It's time to go one step further. Take what you are doing for the environment and the next step. I hear, "I wish I could do what you are doing" a LOT. Why wish? Just do it. There is no template. There is diversity in tactics. If your tactic is being a Streamkeeper, great. Picking up trash? Great. Making wiser purchases or investments? Great. Eating locally? Great. I would just like to see people take the next step.

Now, I do expect more from Canadian Pagans. I expect the mundane and the magical. I've been to a lot of ritual where the idea was planted, but nothing is growing. I've also been to ceremony where you make a pledge to Spirit or the Gods, and YOU DO WHAT YOU PLEDGE. It's not that hard. Really. Get out to a “call to action”.  Activism is fun.



Dodie was in complete agreement, and like Cassandra she delivered a dire prophecy:

I would love to see less complacency! I would love to see record breaking high turnouts at the polls in the next federal election! We need to vote Harper out, before the Canada we know is rendered unrecognizable.

Then when she was asked what was next for her, she proved that her sense of humour was still intact when she simply replied, "A nap."

But Sparrow was optimistic:

What's next for me? I am going to keep doing what I do. When Spirit/The Gods called me to protect this Mountain, they meant for me to protect all of our Mother as best as I can. Every day I try to do something related to the “movement” or revolution if you will. Every day do something. That way, when you finally lay your head on the pillow, you have a reason to say, I am on my Hero's Journey and I am doing everything I can.

I'm inclined to believe that Sparrow is right in that many of us simply don't get involved because we don't think that we can make a difference.  But I know that after the protests, what originally seemed like a landslide of support for the bill has plummeted by 32%.  If that's not magick, I don't know what is.


Check out Winding Widdershins: new Pagan blog about Canadian politics for people who hate politics.


Last modified on
Sable Aradia (Diane Morrison) has been a traditional witch most of her life, and she is a licensed Wiccan minister and a Third Degree initiate in the Star Sapphire and Pagans for Peace traditions. Author of "The Witch's Eight Paths of Power" (Red Wheel/Weiser 2014) and contributor to "Pagan Consent Culture" and "The Pagan Leadership Anthology," she also writes "Between the Shadows" at Patheos' Pagan channel and contributes to Gods & Radicals. Sable is just breaking out as a speculative fiction writer under her legal name, and a new serial, the Wyrd West Chronicles, will be released on the Spring Equinox this year. Like most writers, she does a lot of other things to help pay the bills, including music, Etsy crafts, and working part time at a bookstore. She lives in Vernon, BC, Canada with her two life partners and her furbabies in a cabin on the edge of the woods.


  • Rick
    Rick Tuesday, 24 March 2015

    14 years after the US Patriot Act the Canadian government decides they need a similar bill? That doesn't pass the smell test at all....

  • Please login first in order for you to submit comments

Additional information