Toronto to Flaunt Religious Diversity in World's Fair Bid

May 17, 2006

Source: The Catholic Register

On May 17, 2006 The Catholic Register reported, "If Toronto lands the 2015 World's Fair it should grab the opportunity to put its impressive religious diversity on display, religious leaders and city officials have told The Catholic Register.

Toronto plans to make a bid to the Paris-based Bureau International des Expositions June 30. So far, this time around, Hog Town is competing with Izmir in western Turkey. Moscow and Turin are expected to also bid for the 2015 exposition. City officials claim Toronto is a favorite this time, despite the city's failure to land Expo 2000 and two doomed bids for the Summer Olympics of 1996 and 2008.

Toronto's World's Fair plans call for a sweeping redevelopment of the crumbling port lands just east of downtown on the lakeshore.

City councilor Joe Mihevc said an interfaith pavilion at the 2015 World's Fair would be essential for visitors to have a clear picture of the host city.

'You cannot understand the whole city, Toronto, without understanding the multi-faith nature of our community,' he said.

In the 2001 Census 63.4 percent of people in the greater Toronto area claimed to be Christian (1.6 million Catholics, 1.1 million Protestants, 77,000 Orthodox and 160,000 uncategorized Christians), leaving 1.7 million adherents of every religion from [the Baha'i Faith] to Zoroastrianism.

There were 254,110 Muslims in Statistics Canada's count five years ago, but that number is now considered seriously out of date. Toronto's Jewish community is smaller, with 164,510 adherents in 2001, but is also growing fast.

Sikhs, Buddhists, Hindus and just about every other world religion have a strong presence in the greater Toronto area.

Mihevc, the only politician on Toronto's city council with a doctorate in theology, thinks Toronto has something to share with the world about what it takes for religions to peacefully co-exist.

'Given the rise of different types of fundamentalisms, maybe what we need to inject into the World's Fair thinking is how faith communities - and Toronto's a fine example of this - how faith communities can actually live in harmony and actually contribute to each others' faith development,' he said."