A new culturally conservative Canadian quarterly, The Canadian Observer, has been launched by an Ottawa-based think tank.

Magazine aims to renew Judeo-Christian underpinning of Canadian culture

By 
  • June 29, 2011

OTTAWA - An Ottawa-based think tank has launched Canadian Observer, a culturally conservative Canadian quarterly its editor hopes will engage Catholic readers.

“The culture has turned against Christians generally,” said Richard Bastien, a Catholic and retired economist who is a senior research fellow at the Canadian Centre for Policy Studies. Bastien also represents the Catholic Civil Rights League in the National Capital Region. 

The centre’s president, Joseph Ben-Ami, is the magazine’s publisher.

“We are constantly being challenged by various aspects of the culture and we must respond to that challenge by showing abandoning certain beliefs and practices will lead to chaos,” said Bastien.

“What we are defending through this magazine is not just particular policies or ideas, it’s a certain understanding of civilization — Judeo-Christian civilization.”

Bastien said he hoped the magazine would provide an antidote to the “utopian ideology that crops up everywhere, including in some Christian circles.”

“The state is being vested with some of the functions that were legitimately assumed by the Church or by religious organizations in the past,” he said. “People now turn to the state to be told what is right and what is wrong. That’s dangerous.”

Bastien used the role of the family as an example. 

“We are being told increasingly by the dominant culture that a society is made up of individuals and we should be concerned almost solely about individuals. The fact is the basic unit of society is the family and there’s a need for recognition of that in our laws and in our general practices.”

The magazine features articles by authors from a range of faith perspectives: Catholic, Protestant, Jewish and Muslim. In that respect, it resembles the American magazine First Things, founded by the late Fr. Richard John Neuhaus.

“I jokingly say that it’s a Canadian First Things-lite,” said Bastien. “But First Things is written mainly by scholars. This magazine will include contributions from scholars but it is not a magazine for scholars. It’s for the educated lay person.”

In the inaugural Spring 2011 edition, Ben-Ami writes about how the magazine Cité Libre, founded in Quebec by Pierre Trudeau and like-minded political thinkers in 1950, provided a platform “for the development and dissemination of left-wing ideas that were not in vogue at the time” but that eventually spawned the Quiet Revolution. Ben-Ami said the goal for Canadian Observer is to “provide a similar platform for the development of conservative ideas in the areas of culture, politics and public affairs.”

Bastien said the magazine will give prominence to cultural issues because culture is “the driving force behind politics.”

“Canadian Observer is pro-faith, pro-family and pro-life,” he said. “It assumes that there are objective moral standards and takes a critical view of modern liberalism, understood as the political expression of moral relativism.” 

The magazine will be open to a range of political views, he said, and will focus on the renewal of Canadian values. The first issue features writing by Bastien, National Post columnist Barbara Kay, Institute of Marriage and Family Canada research and communications manager Andrea Mrozek, University of Ottawa English literature professor Dominic Manganiello and University of Western Ontario political scientist and Sun Media columnist Salim Mansur.

A free PDF copy of the magazine can be downloaded at www.canadianobservermag.ca.

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