{mosimage}Editor's note: John Bentley Mays, an award-winning journalist, art and architecture critic and author, presented the 7th annual Henry Somerville Lecture on Christianity and Communications on Oct. 18 at the Newman Centre in Toronto and Oct. 19 at St. Jerome's University in Waterloo. His title was “The Creative City: the Future of Christian Urbanism.” Below is the entire text of his speech.

At the present time, the cities of the global West are enjoying a remarkable moment in the sun. In Toronto, the city I know best, architects, urban planners and social theorists who learned their lessons about liveable cities well from Jane Jacobs have come of age and occupy positions in city bureaucracies, the design professions and the universities.

{mosimage}The Speech from the Throne, read with pomp and ceremony by the Governor General of Canada, is supposed to represent a vision of hope and ambition for the entire nation. In fact, this is just what Stephen Harper’s Conservative government promised in its Oct. 16 address to Parliament. Unfortunately, this vision appears myopic and stunted, a thing focused less on building a grand nation than winning the next election.

{mosimage} The meaning of Vatican II is nowhere more evident than in the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace, this year marking its 40th anniversary.

{mosimage}What is 1967 best remembered for in Canada? If you are of a certain age, you might recall Expo ’67 and Canada’s Centennial celebrations. Growing up in Toronto, the key event of my schoolboy’s life that year revolved around that last time the Leafs managed to win the Stanley Cup. I recall Mom constantly praying the rosary so that those “St. Mike’s Boys” (Red Kelly, Frank Mahovlich, Davie Keon, etc.) would win.

{mosimage}Sometimes an observation leads to that rude “duh” of quick retort. But sometimes on a second or third thinking you realize that knee-jerk cynicism is simply insufficient, simplistic.

While U.S. government officials insist that security in Iraq has improved since the so-called “surge” in troop strength began earlier this year, the situation of Iraqi non-combatants remains dire. Hundreds of thousands have been killed or injured in sectarian violence and millions have been forced from their homes. Kidnapping and other acts of criminal banditry occur every day. A recent report by the United Nations states that civilians continue to be targeted by armed groups through abductions, suicide bombings and extra-judicial executions.
One in five baby boomers and seniors provides care to an older adult, according to Statistics Canada. (In my experience, this figure is quite conservative.) The majority are in the 45 to 54 age group, giving practical help to a parent.

{mosimage}The debate about the public funding of faith-based schools in the Ontario election campaign could be described as “stork dancing.”  There was no engagement and no contact.  No honest exchange, just a bashing of hard beaks.  And the blame was evenly spread.

{mosimage}Editor’s note: This article offers a perspective on faith-based education from outside Ontario. It is written by Lee Giles, an editor for the Red Deer Advocate, a daily newspaper in Red Deer, Alta. It is reprinted with permission.

If someone asked you to name the Canadian province most likely to embrace religious diversity, you just might choose Ontario. After all, is there anywhere in the country where you could find a greater number of faiths represented than in Toronto? Not likely.

Ontario’s hot-button issue of faith-based schools is not solely one of public vs. private education, or of religious rights vs. the secularity of the state, but rather of the right of parents to educate their own children.

And so the Ontario election is over. The Grits are returned with a majority. The Tories are licking their wounds. The NDP and Green Party observe largely from the margins.  And, of course, the issue of faith-based schools — John Tory’s killer decision — remains for another day of reckoning.