The Bahá’í faith originated in Iran in the mid-19th century. Following several decades of intense persecution, its progressive teachings began to attract interest in the West. The unity of humankind, global governance, the importance of science and education, and the equality of men and women have attracted Saskatchewanians from diverse backgrounds. Though still a small community, the Bahá’í faith has been a presence in Saskatchewan for ninety years. William Sutherland Maxwell, a prominent Canadian Bahá’í, designed the Legislature Buildings in Regina and the Shrine of the Báb at the Bahá’í World Centre in Haifa, Israel. Today, some 2,459 Saskatchewan Bahá’ís reside in 236 different municipalities and First Nations reserves. The first Canadian Bahá’í, William Henry Jackson (also known as Honoré Jaxon), lived in Prince Albert during the late 19th century and worked to integrate the arriving settlers, local First Nations peoples, and Métis. For a time, he served as Louis Riel’s secretary. He encountered the Bahá’í faith in the early 1890s in Chicago, where it had been introduced to North America at the World Parliament of Religions, an adjunct of the Chicago World’s Fair.
Edward W. Harris (1871–1922), homesteader at Gull Lake, became a Bahá’í in 1913 and Saskatchewan’s first resident Bahá’í. Bahá’ís from the United States and eastern Canada traveled to Saskatchewan in the 1930s and 1940s, giving talks at hotels and meeting with community organizations. In May 1944, a broadcast on CKRM informed the Regina public about the Bahá’í faith; Saskatoon elected its first Local Spiritual Assembly in 1953. Saskatchewanians began to show interest in the Bahá’í faith: Harry Takashiba joined with six other Regina residents in 1945; two other Regina Bahá’ís from that year, Mabel and Leslie Silversides, were the first non-Aboriginal Bahá’ís in Canada to move to a reserve. Saskatchewan First Nations have shown considerable interest in the Bahá’í faith’s teachings: currently, over 1,100 Aboriginal Bahá’ís reside in Saskatchewan. Saskatchewan Bahá’ís were prominent in the emergence of the Canadian Bahá’í Community and of the Bahá’í International Community. The two universities in Regina and Saskatoon have had active Bahá’í groups since the late 1960s. During that time, hundreds of young Saskatonians attended Bahá’í meetings; they expanded the community’s membership rolls there and in Regina. By the early 1970s, Saskatoon and Regina had communities of several hundred. Many of these young Bahá’ís traveled all over Canada; some worked in other countries, several contributing to development projects, especially in agriculture. Socio-economic development is an important focus of Bahá’í attention, and agriculture is considered the basis of any sound economy.
Gerald Filson, Valerie Warder