The City Walks Outline – “Old Religions in New Cities, New Religions in Old Cities”

Walking Tours & The Religious Landscape of Victoria

Last week, I invited readers to attend the first in a series of discussion based, scholarly walking tours on the Religious Landscape of Victoria.* In partnership with The City Talks, The City Walks seek to promote public dialogue on important urban themes. This month’s topic is “Old Religions in New Cities, New Religions in Old Cities: Lessons for and from Canada.” It takes up themes and issues raised by Paul Bramadat in his City Talk at the Legacy Gallery on September 26, 2013. For information on where and when to meet for this tour, please see the previous post. This post lists the sites we’ll visit and the questions we’ll discuss at each site.

Victoria Immigrant & Refugee Centre

  • Are you aware of the services that VIRCs provides? What role should immigrant settlement societies play?
  • What other agencies help settle immigrants and refugees in Canada? Are you aware of other local organizations doing this kind of work?
  • What role should secular agencies play in educating immigrants and citizens about religious diversity? What role should religious institutions, involved in immigrant settlement or not, play in educating immigrants and citizens in religious diversity? How should the general population be educated about religious diversity?

Masjid Al Iman – BC Muslim Association Victoria Branch
“Muslim, Sikh, and Hindu communities are growing the most rapidly [of any immigrant group in Canada]; this expansion has been obvious to observers in Canadian urban settings because the rituals, places of worship, and clothing styles associated with these communities are more conspicuous.”1

  • Before this walk, were you aware of the location of the Muslim Association’s Masjid Al Iman building?
  • Would you describe Muslim, Sikh and Hindu communities as highly visible in Victoria? Are you aware of the location of Muslim, Sikh and Hindu temples in Greater Victoria?
  • How does the visibility of Christian churches compare with the visibility of minority places of worship in Victoria?
  • In what ways could the visibility of minority places of worship be increased in Victoria?

First Met United Church
The Inter-Cultural Association of Greater Victoria
St John the Divine Anglican Church

“To use the vocabulary of Talal Asad, the official personality of Canada is now religiously neutral. Nevertheless, it must be said that to the extent that any religion is privileged in Canada, it is mainstream Christianity. For example, important features of Canadian public life, such as the Constitution, the head of state, Parliament, the national anthem, currency, and the national motto retain references to Christianity… Christian communities continue to control an extensive variety of public institutions: schools, colleges, universities, hospitals, social service agencies, credit unions, newspapers, cooperatives, and more.”2

  • What are the implications of the great visibility of Christian churches in Victoria? Are they more noticeable and more physically present in the community than other religious buildings in Victoria?
  • Do the kinds of Christian institutions and official references to Christianity that Bramadat and Seljak refer to make a difference in your everyday life?
  • What are the benefits and drawbacks to the Inter-Cultural Association renting space in First Met United Church? For instance, do you think religious minorities or secular immigrants would feel comfortable entering an obviously Christian building if they had had negative interactions with churches in the past? How does this location compare with the VIRC’s location?
  • Do you know what other social services First Met and St. John the Divine offer and/or host? Would you feel comfortable making use of these facilities?

Temple Emanuel
When the Temple was dedicated and the cornerstones laid in 1863, people from many other religious and civic communities participated in the celebration. Similar events occurred upon its restoration in 1982 and during its sesquicentennial celebrations in 2013.

  • What groups are commemorated as participants in the laying of the cornerstone of this building? What groups of people are not listed on the commemorative plaques?
  • What does this suggest about the strength and longevity of multiculturalism and inter-religious harmony in Victoria?

Chinese Public School
“In 1966, the [Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association] moved the Palace of the Saints [temple shrine] to the assembly room of the Chinese Public School.”3

  • Are you aware that there are various temples in Chinatown? Are they architecturally distinctive and visible to outsiders? Would you feel comfortable going to these temples to learn more about Chinese culture?

Chinatown Care Centre – Former Chinese Hospital
“In the old days, the Chinese people preferred using Chinese herbs to taking Western medicine and consulting Chinese herbalists to seeing Western doctors. In a Western hospital, Chinese patients might be prohibited from taking any Oriental medicine other than that prescribed by a qualified doctor… [This was an issue in] the tragic death of Lum Doy… in September 1958. He was picked up by the police a few yards from the Chinese Hospital and died a few hours later… An investigation into his death revealed that he had refused to enter a Western hospital but that the Chinese Hospital had no bed for him; his death seemed, therefore, something that could have been avoided had the Chinese Hospital had more resources available.”4

  • How should conflicts between different medical paradigms be managed in a multicultural society?
  • Do you participate in any of the cultural events that occur in Chinatown?
  • How has the physical landscape of Victoria’s Chinatown changed since you’ve lived here? How have cultural representations of Victoria’s Chinatown changed since you’ve lived here?

*These walks are part of a research project investigating the pedagogical utility of discussion based walking tours. Participants will be invited to provide information for this research project, and will have the opportunity to participate in later focus groups. Participation in this research project is voluntary.

1Micheline Milot, “Modus Co-vivendi: Religious Diversity in Canada,” in International Migration and the Governance of Religious Diversity, ed. Paul Bramadat & Matthias Koenig (Kingston: School of Policy Studies, Queen’s University, 2009), 109.

2Paul Bramadat & David Seljak (eds.), Christianity and Ethnicity in Canada, (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2008), 13.

3Asian Canadian Working Group, “The Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association,” in Victoria’s Chinatown: A Gateway to the Past and Present of Chinese Canadians (Victoria: University of Victoria, 2012), (accessed October 1, 2013).

4David Chuenyan Lai, “From Self-segregation to Integration: The Vicissitudes of Victoria’s Chinese Hospital,” BC Studies 80 (Winter 1988-89), 52 & 63.

This entry was posted in Downtown, Events, Religion, Spirituality, Uncategorized, University of Victoria, UVic, Victoria, Walking Tours. Bookmark the permalink.

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