MISSIONARIES

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Canadian missionaries helped the colonial powers penetrate parts of Africa, Latin America and Asia.

By the end of the colonial period as many as 2,500 Canadians were proselytizing across Africa. Canadian Christian activists helped the colonial powers penetrate African society. In “Christian Missionary Activities in Africa in the Age of Imperialism and the Berlin Conference of 1884-1885”, Horst Grunder explains: “Christian missionary work and colonial conquest were closely related.” More bluntly, 19th century British imperialist adventurer Henry Johnson said “each mission station is an exercise in colonization.” Missionaries generally aligned themselves with the colonial state. They tended to promote “obedience” to European rulers, encouraging Africans to see colonialism as a “blessing”.

Gripped by a desire to rid “darkest Africa” of “heathenism”, in 1893 a couple of Torontonians founded what later became the largest interdenominational Protestant mission on the continent. Head of the Toronto-based Sudan Interior Mission for four decades, Victor Bingham described "facing millions of people in the darkness of their heathenism" and "seeing the people in all their savagery and sin."

Lecturing widely, Toronto missionaries also published many tracts full of racist outbursts. The most prolific of these authors, Douglas C. Percy argued in a 1948 book: "The people of Africa have associations with demonic powers....Behind the face of Africa looms a dark, evil intelligence, the shadow of Satan, the great enemy of God and man."

Québec missionaries have been in Haiti since 1903. 28% of that country’s Catholic clergy were Francophone Canadians by the time François Duvalier rose to power in 1956.

Missionaries have received some official support. The initial disbursement of Canadian aid to Haiti went to missionary work and in 1964 Prime Minister Lester Pearson justified sending a Canadian naval vessel to Haiti by noting, “if Canadian nuns or priests should be wounded or killed, it would be difficult to explain why the Canadian government had not…taken some form of action.”