Glenn provided the following summar of our Sunday, October 28 meeting.


Lorrie Williams Presentation – October 28, 2012

After the usual hour of socializing, philosophising, and chit-chatting, those present were treated to a talk by Lorrie Williams, the Acting Mayor of New Westminster, BC, and named “Humanist of the Year” for 2011 by the Humanist Association of Canada. She touched on three main topics: humanism in politics, local history in the making, and the Harambee Project in Africa.

Talking about politics in general and elections in particular, Ms. Williams asserted that name recognition is everything. It is essential to get your name known, by conventional means, such as “letters to the editor,” and also by unconventional means, which in her case involved (among other examples) giving CPR to a dog! She also gave us some insights into the activities of the NW City Council, which consists of 6 members, of whom 2 are humanists, 3 are neutral, and 1 is a believer. One current project is to agitate for the removal of the words “In God We Trust” from the official city Coat of Arms. A renaming competition may be proposed in the near future.

Another major concern of the City Council is the provision of public housing and support services for groups of citizens in three primary categories: the homeless, many of whom have mental problems, women released from incarceration who need to reconnect with minor children, and veterans, many of whom are disabled with physical and psychological problems. In brief, Ms. Williams explained that it is cheaper and better to accommodate such groups in contrast to the costs of policing, protection, crime, and hospitalization which non-support generates.  

Regarding local history, there is an iconic photograph taken in New Westminster at the outbreak of WW2, which shows a small boy reaching out to his father who is marching off to war with the BC Regiment of the period. The title of the picture is “Wait for Me, Daddy.” The boy, Whitey Bernard, is now in his 70s and lives on Vancouver Island. It is proposed by the NW City Council to erect a bronze statue to commemorate this instant of time in that specific location. The statue will feature the family as they appear in the photo, and will be viewable from the exact position occupied by the photographer. Many civic, government, and military agencies will participate in this event, scheduled for October, 2014.

Ms. Williams continued with a brief discussion about the ongoing Harambee Educational Project in Africa, in the establishment of which she played a major part. The Project provides funding for up to 800 young girls to attend high schools which would be otherwise beyond their financial reach. By educating these young women, their chances of escaping poverty and pregnancy are greatly increased, to everybody’s benefit. The girls are selected by local advisors to the Project, and the money comes from donations at the rate of $500 per girl per year. BCHA is a sponsor to one of the students. Donations of any size are also welcome.

The presentation concluded with a short Q&A session. Among several topics raised, one was the question of church/state separation and the tax-exempt status of religious institutions in Canada. A second issue was the current problem of bibles being distributed in schools in Chilliwack, BC in contravention of the Schools Act. A third concerned the source of funding for the public housing projects in New Westminster; the partial answer was fees placed on development.

Submitted by Glenn Hardie



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