Did you know? Until 1823, members of Nova Scotia’s Legislative Assembly were required to take an oath against transubstantiation

Laurence Kavanagh was the first English speaking Roman Catholic to become a Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) in Nova Scotia. When Kavanagh was elected to represent Cape Breton, there was one barrier to his admission:

Anyone wishing to hold a seat in the assembly had to take an oath against transubstantiation, a basic tenet of Roman Catholicism. Catholics had laboured under other disqualifications, but over the years the assembly had abolished them until only the transubstantiation oath remained.

In 1822, when Kavanagh refused to take the oath, he was not allowed to take his seat. In 1823, despite opposition from members from predominantly Protestant ridings, Kavanagh’s supporters ensured that Kavanagh could become a sitting member without taking the oath against transubstantiation. After Kavanagh’s admission to the Legislative Assembly, all elected Roman Catholic representatives were allowed to claim their seat without taking the oath.