Hundreds of people packed a Mississauga auditorium Sunday night for a Christmas celebration hosted by the Canada Christian College and featuring a eagerly anticipated appearance by Ontario Premier Doug Ford.
The evening included a series of musical performances, prayers, and speeches from a diverse range of Christian congregations and was hosted by college president Charles McVety. One of Canada’s most recognizable evangelical Christian leaders, McVety is known for his hardline social conservatism and far-right affiliations, including with Rebel Media, which held an event last February at McVety’s college (emceed by white nationalist Faith Goldy).
Christian leaders from Sri Lanka to Ghana all showed up to offer prayers onstage but the night’s biggest highlight was the appearance and speech by Ford, who attended the event with his wife Karla and their daughters.
“In all my years I’ve not known a premier come to support a Christian event like this one,” McVety said. “This is a true man of the people.”
He especially praised Ford for “standing up to the unelected judges” when they threatened to overturn Ford’s move to shrink Toronto city council this summer. He also emphasized the Tory premier’s scrapping of the Liberal Party’s sex education curriculum, which McVety referred to as “radical teachings.” McVety declined to be interviewed when approached by VICE News.
For his part, Ford sounded off a list of his party’s accomplishments to a highly receptive crowd, giving the auditorium an atmosphere of a political rally, in contrast to a largely apolitical evening filled with singing and worship more akin to a Christian rock concert.
“We’re finally bringing change to the province,” said Ford, who was welcomed onto the stage by several members of the PC Party, including Mississauga-Malton MPP Deepak Anand and Niagara West MPP Sam Oosterhoff.
“In all my years I’ve not known a premier come to support a Christian event like this one.”
“We’re reforming the education system and carrying out the largest public consultation with parents ever!” Ford said, in reference to the overhaul of the province’s sex ed curriculum that scraped changes brought in by the Liberals. “We’re listening to the parents out there for the first time ever.” A loud “Thank you!” from the crowd followed right after.
Ford then spoke about how trashing cap-and-trade was one of the best policies in Ontario history and how under his governance, Ontario’s law enforcement finally have the tools to rid the streets of “guns and gangs.”
McVety echoed these sentiments at the end of the night, when his wife also singled out Karla Smith as “the first lady of Canada.”
Ford heavily courted Toronto’s evangelical community ahead of this past summer’s provincial election, touring several churches in the city with McVety in February. As was the case Sunday night, McVety assured audience members that Ford would back their causes.
McVety’s causes have often centred on issues regarding sex and sexual conduct. In addition to lobbying against the Kathleen Wynne era sex-ed curriculum, he also started an online petition against the Liberals’ attempt to repeal laws around anal sex for gay men, which McVety claimed would make it “legal for adult men to engage in anal sex with children as young as 16 years old.”
He has also referred to Toronto’s Pride Parade as a popular “sex tourism” destination on his old national TV program Word.ca. The remark (along with several other statement McVety made about homosexuals) was cited by authorities in late 2010 when they ruled that McVety violated Canada’s broadcasting standards. The show was taken off the air.
The following May, McVety hosted controversial anti-Islam activist and then Dutch parliamentarian Geert Wilders at the Canada Christian College campus. McVety justified the decision by stating that Islam mandates a “hostile takeover” of the world and that political correctness stops Canadians from realizing and criticizing that reality.
Others who attended the event emphasized the importance of McVety’s leadership in bringing his brand of evangelical Christianity into the public square.
“Canada is a Christian country,” said David Loganathan, a pastor at the Miracle Family Temple church in Scarborough. Originally from a Hindu family in Sri Lanka, he became a born again Christian in 1985 and was one of a few pastors to lead prayer onstage Sunday night.
“As premier, [Ford]he has visited Muslims and Hindus, but Canada is Christian and so are its forefathers, so it’s more important for him to come here to support us,” he said. “The foundation of Canada is Christian and we have to work to maintain that.”
“Canada is a Christian country.”
“It’s always good when someone influential and powerful comes out to support our community,” said Alexander Jacob, a 23-year-old Master of Divinity student at McVety’s college who arrived from India earlier this year. “Whatever Charles teaches us, his aim is to make us into leaders, because he cares so much about people. He doesn’t want to see people ruin their lives with violence or drugs and his heart is always with Canada.”
Cover image of Ontario Premier Doug Ford speaking to the media at the First Ministers conference Friday, December 7, 2018 in Montreal. Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press