It’s cliché at this point, but 2020 is surely a year most of us would like to forget. And not just because of the pandemic or the brutally polarized political rhetoric of the past year. But, as we think back on the past year at Cardus, there’s actually a lot worth remembering. Here’s a list of 10 highlights from 2020, which isn’t exhaustive, but is emblematic of some remarkable activity:
- Last winter, before the word “pandemic” had seared itself to our minds, Cardus was busy on several fronts. One key issue we tackled was medical assistance in dying (MAiD) in response to the introduction of Bill C-7 in the House of Commons. The bill seeks to expand MAiD while dismantling the few safeguards that did exist. We came out with a statement to the media to start things off, but we kept on the file through our own research, public opinion polling, and two articles in the prestigious Policy Options magazine, which you can see here and here.
- By March, COVID hit, changing our lives overnight. In response, we pivoted quickly. We knew that the charitable sector would be one of the economic victims of lockdowns. So, we issued a call to action to get federal support for the charitable sector—especially through a dollar-for-dollar charitable donation-matching program. We stated our case to policymakers, everyday Canadians, and allied with more than 120 charities through Canada Cares.
- We kept our finger on the pulse of religion’s place in Canada throughout the year. In April, we partnered with the Angus Reid Institute to learn how Canadians would celebrate Easter, Ramadan, and Passover in the time of COVID. We followed that up with December polling on Christmas celebrations amid restrictive public health orders. Not surprisingly, we found that Canadians’ sense of the spiritual was likely heightened by the pandemic.
- In the spring, as we sought a new way to reach Canadians and to speak into the unprecedented times we were living through, we launched a new podcast, The Long Way. We’re two seasons in already with 11 episodes all around 20 minutes each (and a third season coming in 2021). Then we launched Breaking Ground, a collaborative web commons created by Comment Magazine to inspire a dynamic ecosystem of thinkers and doers to respond to the needs of the day – through articles and The Whole Person Revolution podcast.
- Summer is usually a time to slow down. But summer 2020 was anything but usual. Cardus hosted its first webinar, highlighting our one-of-a-kind Canadian Marriage Map. This project compiles data on marriage in one convenient place, highlighting current trends at the national and provincial/territorial levels. And we launched a whole series of research papers on reforming gambling to work for, not against, low-income Canadians.
- In August, we found Cardus’ decade-long expertise in education research in the US and Canada making waves in Australia. The Cardus Education Survey Australian Project report released ground-breaking research which showed that schools have a vital role to play, alongside families and community, in building character, leadership, and ultimately contributing to the common good of society.
- Fall brought a new season of research findings with the release of The Hidden Economy: How Faith Helps Fuel Canada’s GDP. Our report brought to light the fact that religion contributes an estimated $67.5 billion to Canada’s GDP annually. A first for Canada—our report is based on a quantitative national estimate of the economic value of religion to Canadian society. September also saw the release of the report Childcare in Post-Pandemic Canada, which has become a very hot policy area nation-wide, and a live webinar with education expert Dr. Paul Bennett called The State of the System: A Reality Check on Canada's Schools in Light of COVID.
- Our Diakonia project launched in October. This Cardus Religious Freedom Institute project highlights ways in which the freedom to live out one’s beliefs results in concrete actions that serve the common good. Diakonia, which comes from the Greek word for “service,” includes eight different examples of how Canadians of faith serve their communities. October also saw our live webinar titled Mao vs God, which looked into the state control of churches under Chinese President Xi and how that affects Canadian Christians of Chinese background.
- November brought with it a second wave of the coronavirus pandemic. Vulnerable seniors in long-term care homes have been among the hardest hit by COVID-19, and Cardus developed a response to the Ontario NDP’s plan for reforming long-term care in the province. There is broad consensus that action is desperately needed in the long-term care system, but much needs careful thought. Meanwhile, we partnered with the Angus Reid Group on new polling that brought to light the many caveats that accompany Canadians’ general support for legal access to medical assistance in dying (MAiD).
- In the final weeks of 2020, we released a report with immediate relevance to the debate in Canada regarding the tug of war between the economy and the environment: Fuelling Canada's Middle Class - Job Polarization and the Natural Resource Sector. This report raises some key questions about how to put workers at the centre of policy-making that affects them directly. We also revisited the issue of faith’s contribution to Canada’s economy with a snazzy and very shareable new video on the Hidden Economy report. And we closed the year with the release of the Anglosphere Project, a collaborative project with the Religious Freedom Institute and Cardus to show that religious freedom isn’t a recent invention—and actually isn’t an “invention” anyway.
No, just like for so many other organizations, businesses, houses of worship, families, and schools, 2020 was anything but a typical year. We’re certainly hoping to see the end of the pandemic sooner rather than later. Even so, it’s good to look back and see that we didn’t let the year go to waste at Cardus. There is much for us to remember as we gratefully acknowledge the grace that lets us continue our work.
Daniel Proussalidis is the director of communications for Cardus. Monica Ratra is Cardus’ marketing officer.