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May 23, 2017 Newsletter

It feels like every few months we face another tragedy, another senseless loss of life and another cycle of emotions.

This time it's the loss of 22 lives, many teens and children, at a concert in Manchester, UK. The attack - and the Humanist response - is reminiscent of Paris in November 2015Brussels in 2016Quebec in 2017 or any number of other acts of terrorism.

Those sentiments remain true. We must remain steadfast in our support for an open, tolerant and peaceful society in the face of extremist violence and intimidation.

This is how we demonstrate the universality of Humanist values against a backdrop of those few who reject them.

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Act now for clinical trial transparency

As Humanists, we want to create compassionate world using the best available evidence.

Unfortunately, the policies that govern our pharmaceutical medicines rely on neither our compassion nor the best evidence.

The AllTrials Campaign, which I worked with Sense About Science on from 2013-2015, calls for every clinical trial to be registered and the results of all trials to be reported. Otherwise, we can't know whether the medicines we take work and we betray the trust of patients who participate in those trials.

This video and AllTrials.net have more information on the importance of this campaign.

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Christian sex advice websites offer a peek into evangelical politics

By Kelsy BurkeUniversity of Nebraska-Lincoln

On May 4, President Donald Trump signed an executive order that allows churches and religious leaders to explicitly endorse or oppose a political candidate without penalty to their nonprofit, tax-exempt status. Responses from white conservative evangelicals showed that this wasn’t what they were looking for. What they wanted, it seems, was legal protection for religious institutions and business owners to deny services to same-sex couples and transgender persons.

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May 15, 2017 Newsletter

Last week, some of the largest communities on Facebook for ex-Muslims and the non-religious were blocked.

The move came after coordinated campaigns to report the pages as offensive triggered Facebook's algorithms to unpublish the pages. This included Atheist Republic, which was started by Vancouver ex-Muslim Armin Navabi and has over 1.6 million likes, including many in Islamic countries.

While Facebook eventually reactivated the pages and apologized, this incident put the page administrators under extreme stress and risked silencing entire communities.

I hope you'll join me in signing the Ex-Muslims of North America petition asking Facebook to take steps to prevent this from happening again.

Sign the petition

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Blasphemy isn't just a problem in the Muslim world

Ireland’s state police recently concluded their investigation of comedian Stephen Fry, who stood accused of criminal blasphemyThe Conversation

In an interview that aired on Irish public television, Fry had described God as “capricious, mean-minded, stupid,” and “an utter maniac.” And Ireland’s Defamation Act of 2009 clearly prohibits the “publication or utterance of blasphemous matter.” Yet on May 8 the police closed the case, explaining they’d been “unable to find a substantial number of outraged people.”

The mild resolution to this incident stands in stark contrast to recent news out of Pakistan – which has seen a spike in blasphemy-related violence – and Indonesia, where the outgoing governor of Jakarta was just sentenced to two years in prison for speaking irreverently against Islam.

The Irish case is also a timely reminder, though, that anti-blasphemy laws are hardly unique to the Muslim world. According to the Pew Research Center, nearly one-fifth of European countries and a third of countries in the Americas, notably Canada, have laws against blasphemy.

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May 8, 2017 Newsletter

Yesterday we held our 2017 Annual General Meeting and I hope you'll join me in welcoming your new Directors:

  • Donna Barker
  • J B Bell
  • Helio Da Costa
  • Nigel Fish
  • Gail Miller

These five join Colin Crabbe, Anna D'Archangelo and Dan Hanna who are into the second year of their two-year term.

Please also say a thank-you to Joann Robertson and Gord Leslie, who stepped down this year, for their support and to everyone who's served the BCHA in the past.

We also adopted our new Constitution and Bylaws yesterday and I'll be following up with everyone holding a household membership about our plans to transition to individual memberships soon.

It's always exciting when new faces join the board and I'm sure you can look forward to a number of new ideas and initiatives over the coming months.

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CRA recommends unmuzzling charities

The BC Humanist Association joins leading Canadian charities in applauding a report released today that calls for a regulatory and legislative overhaul "to enable charities to fully participate in public policy dialogue and development."

The coalition of charities, formed in response to the political activities audits under the previous government, had called for a new law to protect the ability of charities to speak out on public policy issues.

The report was written by a panel of five experts charged by the Minister of National Revenue with giving recommendations for a new legislative framework to strengthen the charitable sector. The report recommends that the rules governing the freedom of Canadians to speak be enhanced by removing prohibitions on participation in public policy development by charities they support. It recommends that the antiquated laws which govern the 86,000 Canadian charities be replaced so as to prevent further infringements on freedom of speech.

The charities are requesting the Federal Government immediately table a bill to implement the recommendations of the Expert Panel Report.

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Disgraced Senator used office for religious purposes, reports HuffPost

Ex-staffers have told HuffPost Canada that Senator Don Meredith forced them to pray with him and draft sermons while on the Parliamentary clock.

Meredith is a Pentecostal pastor at the GTA Faith Alliance church in Richmond Hill, Ontario and is facing expulsion from the Senate following a separate investigation into a sexual relationship with a teenage girl.

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May 1, 2017 Newsletter

On Sunday, Vancouver Aquarium CEO Dr John Nightingale spoke to our Vancouver group about the Aquarium's educational and scientific work with the whales and dolphins in their care (as well as those in nearby waterways).

You can listen to Dr Nightingale's presentation on our podcast. In it, he discusses the Vancouver Parks Board's recent decision to move toward a bylaw banning the keeping of cetaceans in Stanley Park. That draft of that bylaw is expected on May 15.

Despite the terminology, Humanists are concerned not only with the health and well-being of human beings but of all life and the environment as well. So the debate over the welfare of cetaceans in captivity is one on which reasonable Humanists have disagreed.

By hosting Dr Nightingale, I hope we were able to spark a dialogue on these issues. For those who feel motivated to write in support of the Aquarium, you can do so at VanAqua.org. For those looking to read the other side, you can read the Vancouver Humane Society's December 2016 report on the Aquarium here.

This talk, like most of our events, was not an endorsement but an effort to promote reasoned dialogue about current ethical issues.

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April 24, 2017 Newsletter

On Saturday, around 2000 people in Vancouver joined over 100,000 people worldwide in the first ever March for Science.

This solidarity follows ideological and politically-motivated attacks on evidence based policy, which have been documented from different levels of government around the world. Evidence for Democracy has even identified the threats facing publicly-funded science here in BC.

Those who spoke after the march, including our Executive Director, highlighted the importance of science, curiosity and evidence, while also challenging science and science-enthusiasts to do more to promote diversity and inclusivity within the scientific community.

If you missed those talks, you can find them on YouTube here.

Keep standing up for science!

Ian Bushfield speaks at March for Science Vancouver

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