Bahá'ís of Ottawa come from a variety of backgrounds, brought together
by a common belief in the oneness of humanity and the unity of
religion. We work alongside others to become a force of positive
change, applying insights from the Bahá'í teachings to bring about a
more just, peaceful and unified community.
Many are attracted by the Bahá'í teachings about individual
spirituality, social transformation, and the construction of a global
civilization. They want to fulfill their own potential and play their
part in building a better world.
At the heart of Bahá'í community life is a pattern of activities whose
purpose is to unify and transform our neighbourhoods. We also offer a
warm invitation to anyone wanting to attend Bahá'í devotional meetings,
study circles, empowerment programs for junior youth and classes for
children. There is no requirement to be a member of the Bahá'í
community to fully participate in these activities.
The history of the Bahá'í Faith in Ottawa reaches back to 1926, when
Queen Marie of Romania was the first Bahá'í to visit the city.
In 1940, Winnifred Harvey became the first Bahá'í resident in Ottawa.
She was one of 12 children raised in rural Manitoba and earned her way
through teacher’s college and university in the 1930s by scholarships.
Other early Ottawa Bahá'ís included Lucille Giscome, a journalist and
one of the early African Canadian Bahá'ís, Charles Nealy Murray, a
civil servant from the US, and Katherine Ferguson, the first Ottawa
Bahá'í of Aboriginal descent.
In 1948, there were enough Bahá'ís to form the first Local Spiritual
Assembly of the Bahá'ís of Ottawa. Winnifred Harvey remained at the
heart of early community life.
Helen Andrews, a longtime member of the
Ottawa community, remembers “a marvelous spirit existed at [her home]”
and Winnifred Harvey was at the heart of it. “People would gather at
her place and never leave,” said another friend.
During the 1950s and 1960s, Bahá'ís from Ottawa began to support the
development of Bahá'í communities in Montreal, Belleville, and
By the 1970s, the Bahá'í community experienced rapid expansion,
particularly among university students. Bahá’í Campus Clubs started at
Carleton University and the University of Ottawa around 1970.
In the early 1980s, the number of Bahá’ís of Persian background was
significantly increased with the arrival of many refugees and family
members of immigrants fleeing persecution in Iran.
The first Ottawa Bahá’í Centre was established at 25 Charles St. in
As the Bahá'í community continued to expand in the 1990s, there was
increasing community involvement in interfaith and race unity
activities. The Bahá’í Information Centre and book store opened at 224
Bank St. in 1996.
In 2001, the municipal amalgamation lead to the election of a single
Local Spiritual Assembly for the Bahá'ís of the new Ottawa region. On
April 25, 2007, the current Bahá'í Centre on McArthur Avenue was
Ottawa is also home to the Office of Government Relations of the Bahá'í
Community of Canada and the North American Association for Bahá'í
Studies. Both are based at the Centre for Bahá'í Studies at 34
Copernicus St., near the University of Ottawa.
The Ottawa Bahá'í community continues to gain a higher profile through
its broader work for gender equality, human rights, peace, the
environment, and interfaith relations.
Many people now encounter the Ottawa Bahá'í Community through the
services we offer in neighbourhoods and other grassroots activities
across the city.