National Spiritual Assemblies
The administration of the Bahá'í Faith on national and local levels is presently carried out by national and local "Spiritual Assemblies." There are 180 National Spiritual Assemblies around the world. Canada's National Spiritual Assembly was the ninth one to come into existence. Although Bahá'ís had been in Canada since 1898, the Bahá'í communities of Canada and the United States were for many years administered as one "national" community by the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of the United States and Canada. In 1948, Bahá'í delegates from across Canada elected their first independent National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of Canada at a national convention in Montreal. The Assembly was incorporated by an Act of the Canadian Parliament in 1949, the first such recognition given to a Bahá'í community by a national government anywhere in the world.
The relationship between the Universal House of Justice and the national and local governing bodies that support it has an extremely important feature. Having arrived at a period in which humanity was awakening to new powers of reason and perception, Bahá'u'lláh paid particular attention to the development of decision-making skills at the grass-roots of human society. Thus, the Bahá'í administrative order devolves authority to national and local levels to engender new patterns of interaction and participation, especially among individuals and groups that have been historically excluded from decision-making. Consequently, responsibility for the implementation of Bahá'u'lláh's spiritual and social principles essentially resides with National and Local Spiritual Assemblies. These bodies are charged with ensuring that Bahá'u'lláh's prescription of moral renewal and harmonious community life is realized. In addition, national and local Bahá'í administrative institutions are enjoined by Bahá'u'lláh to ensure that Bahá'í communities promote the interests and abide by the laws of localities, regions, and nations. He emphatically declares that He has only "singled out the hearts of men as His Own domain."1 Loyalty and obedience to the governments under which Bahá'ís reside obtain whether or not Bahá'ís constitute numerical majorities. In any given nation, the National Spiritual Assembly has the specific responsibility to effect conformity to this vital principle. In this regard, the Universal House of Justice serves as the ultimate guarantor of the Bahá'í community's adherence to the laws and ordinances of Bahá'u'lláh.
* Adapted from Bahá'í Topics, an information resource produced by the Bahá'í International Community.