From Sea to Sea: A Mari usque ad Mare

Simply Mobilizing Canada Blog /Monday, June 27, 2022


*This article was originally published on the Simply Mobilizing Canada blog, a ministry of Outreach Canada, and has been republished with permission.

I love the fact that Canada’s motto is inspired from Scripture.

“A Mari usque ad Mare”, Canada’s official motto, translates as “From Sea to Sea.” In 1867, as the process for the crafting of the British North America Act was under way, leading to the establishment of the dominion of Canada, Samuel Leonard Tilley suggested this quote from Psalm 72:8 as the motto for Canada. At that point there were only four colonies (future provinces) at the table: Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick. Prince Edward Island soon joined the process and when British Columbia joined Confederation, in 1871, the vision of a country spanning the continent from sea to sea became a reality.

I am less enchanted by the failure of our forebearers to fully appreciate the import of this Scripture and to see the Lord God’s dominion from sea to sea meant to see his reign established.

As products of colonialism, even the spiritual outlook of the Fathers of Confederation and their generation, their Christianity, was coloured by the paternalistic view of the supremacy of European perspective. As we discovered, in the Kairos course, cultural baggage can (and does) obscure the true message of the Gospel to those on the receiving end, and ‘people blindness’ causes denigration of those who are not ‘like us’, for those who are the protagonists.

  • This reality was seen to be played out in the treatment of the Chinese labourers brought in to help build the railroad – the major element of the ‘sea-to-sea’ dream.
  • Also, this was seen in the relations with the Métis, whose efforts to have their rights addressed were put down militarily (interesting note: two of Canada’s provinces owe their origin to ‘the Riel rebellions’).
  • However, the history of Canada’s residential school policy stands out most graphically as the tragedy that has resulted from a colonial cultured Christianity: Government policy combined with Church actions intentionally seeking to deculturize peoples.

"Cultural baggage can (and does) obscure the true message of the Gospel to those on the receiving end, and ‘people blindness’ causes denigration of those who are not ‘like us’, for those who are the protagonists."

I am, however, hopeful. 

As Christians who are mobilized to bring God’s reign to the ‘ends of the earth’, Canada’s motto (expanded in 2006 to read, “From sea to sea to sea”), still stand as a challenge to us. Although, on a geopolitical level, Canada is a country that stretches from sea to sea to sea, we are a long way from seeing God’s reign (dominion) truly being a reality. If we are to be God’s true ambassadors of reconciliation, there needs to be a conscious effort on our part to put aside our own cultural baggage and to engage those who surround us to shine the true light of the Gospel into the jewel that is their culture.

In this land that has welcomed and continues to welcome people from a multitude of races and cultures, the potential for God’s multifaceted Kingdom glory to shine is alluring.

If we are faithful, we may yet see his ‘dominion from sea to sea to sea’.

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Michael H. Gagnon has been serving in pastoral ministries in Quebec for over 40 years and has been involved in Simply Mobilizing since 2013. He serves as Quebec/French language coordinator on the National Coordination Team. He is married to Darlene (nee Brooke) and they presently are pastoring a French congregation in Matane, Quebec. They have 6 children and 19 grandchildren. Desiring to see the whole church mobilized to make disciples of Jesus everywhere, Michael is enthusiastically committed to the SM movement.


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