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The clanging sound of unbridled rejoicing rang across Ottawa the moment the Dominion of Canada came into being at midnight on July 1, 1867. And one of the very bells that joined in that chorus 150 years ago today, pealing its welcome to Confederation, still tolls in the heart of the 21st century capital.

But the old church bell resonates with new meaning now. It rings out a weekly call to prayers that are led by both men and women of the cloth. It invites same-sex spouses into a where place they were once forbidden. It has welcomed a Muslim family rescued from Syrian peril by the church’s own Samaritans. It has resounded with sorrow — and shame — for grievous wrongs done to the original peoples of the land.

And just last night, on the eve of today’s historic sesquicentennial celebrations to usher in Canada’s next 150 years, the bell summoned not only Protestants and Catholics but also Muslims, Jews and those of all other faiths to a special “Prayer for Canada” — beginning with invocations from an spiritual leader.

You don’t have to venture far beyond the shadow of the Peace Tower to discover a place in downtown Ottawa where the “New Canada” is being forged today, a century and a half after the nation formally came into existence on that long-ago first Dominion Day.

And the place may come as a surprise, emblematic as it is of the Old Canada, too.

Christ Church Cathedral at the west end of Sparks Street — longstanding bastion of Anglican power and privilege in Canada’s capital — encapsulates much of this country’s very complicated story: its richly layered history of darkness and light; its unfolding future of challenge and change.

It’s the place […]

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