Cardus traces its beginnings to the Work Research Foundation (WRF) — a think tank seeking insights from the Christian thought tradition on economic, labour, and industrial relations issues. Harry Antonides, a labour activist and immigrant, helped start the WRF in 1974 and directed its work until 1996.
Harry Antonides also started Comment, a public theology journal, under the auspices of the WRF in 1983. Comment continues to be a core publication of Cardus.
In 2000, Ray Pennings and Michael Van Pelt took on responsibility for the WRF based in Hamilton, Ontario.
As newcomers to the public policy development scene, they weren’t able to rely on long-established or chummy networks with power-brokers. They took risks, worked hard, and it started to pay off.
In 2008, playing off the credibility of several successful years, the WRF was rebranded as Cardus – a riff off of the Latin word for the ancient Roman main street. Cardus produced thoughtful Christian ideas in traditional and less traditional spheres. At the same time, the team was building a quality board which gave credibility to the organization and support to move forward.
Within a year, Cardus had moved its Hamilton headquarters to a heritage building at 185 Young Street in the city’s Corktown district.
The team gained confidence, did good work, grew its base of supporters, and secured a couple of key contracts which put them at the leading edge of Canadian think tanks. In 2010 Cardus enfolded the Centre for Cultural Renewal, further expanding its work.
To keep growing, the team made big shifts both in structure and brand to help gain new capacity as a team and organization.
2011 marked the first big research project: the Cardus Education Survey, the world’s largest survey of the outcomes of Christian and non-government education.
Cardus’s Next Big Expansion
In 2016 Cardus opened a new office in Ottawa at 45 Rideau Street, just three doors down from Parliament Hill. In the same year, it also enfolded the Institution of Marriage and Family Canada and began a multi-year partnership with the Angus Reid Institute to study the place of faith in Canadian public life.
As Cardus’s team, events, and activities grew, it began to require more space. The Ottawa office doubled in size in the fall of 2021, taking over a second floor at 45 Rideau.
In the meantime, Cardus began working on renewing its brand and visual identity. By the fall of 2022, the organization had clarified its mission as a non-partisan think tank dedicated to helping society’s institutions work together for the common good. Cardus adopted its new tagline, “Imagination toward a thriving society,” and unveiled an updated logo with a contemporary style and bold colours.
Cardus capped the year off by signing a lease with the City of Hamilton and received the keys for Chedoke Estate, a historic home and property at 1 Balfour Drive. Cardus will be restoring and maintaining the property over the life of the 17-year lease while conducting its work and welcoming many visitors to the home during that time.
Studying excellence in education, graduate outcomes, and the development and accessibility of diverse schooling options to meet student and family needs.
Studying Canadians’ freedom of religion and conscience, the place and role of religion in society, and the ways in which religious congregations contribute to the common good.
Studying the family, child care, and marriage, as well as the ways they can help strengthen civil society.