Click here to sign up for an email reminder to watch a live online webcast of a public lecture on String Theory by Dr. Amanda Peet from Canada’s world-famous Perimiter Institute of Theoretical Physics on 6 May 2015 at 4pm PDT




“We actually aren’t distributing the Gideon Bible,” she said. “It is not being distributed to Grade 5 students or in our schools.”Novak said she wouldn’t authorize permission slips to get either the Gideon book or the Dawkins book at public district schools.

So the Chilliwack School District 33 Superintendant, Evelyn Novak, decided to discontinue distribution of Gideon Bibles rather than distribute Dawkins’ The Magic of Reality as required by basic fairness if the Gideons are allowed to distribute their books.     has the whole story.

This is a great legal victory in the battle to push back against those who would drag Canada back to the dark ages of religious domination of politics, and hopefully will serve as a precedent in to get similar situations in other jurisdictions around the country to stop inserting their religious biases into government functions from schools to government meetings of all kinds and at all levels.


Unanimous decision ends nine-year battle that pitted atheist Alain Simoneau against Saguenay, Quebec mayor Jean Tremblay

tremblay.jpg.size.xxlarge.letterboxJacques Boissinot / THE CANADIAN PRESS Jean Tremblay, mayor of Saguenay, has lost his battle to keep prayers at council meetings.

Jacques Boissinot / THE CANADIAN PRESS

Jean Tremblay, mayor of Saguenay, has lost his battle to keep prayers at council meetings.

OTTAWA — The Supreme Court of Canada has ruled the municipal council in the Quebec town of Saguenay cannot open its meetings with a prayer.

In a unanimous decision today, the country’s top court said reciting a Catholic prayer at council meetings infringes on freedom of conscience and religion.

The ruling puts an end to a nine-year legal battle that began with a complaint filed by atheist Alain Simoneau and a secular-rights organization against Saguenay Mayor Jean Tremblay.

In 2011, Quebec’s human rights tribunal ordered an end to the prayers, demanded that a crucifix in the city council chamber be removed and awarded damages to Simoneau.

But the outspoken mayor fought back, raising money from supporters through the city’s website. Tremblay said it was a battle for Quebec’s Roman Catholic heritage.

The Quebec Court of Appeal overturned the tribunal in 2013.   …..

Tremblay is expected to address reporters on Thursday.

Here is the link  to David Berner’s episode on Shaw TV with BCHA’s fearless leader, Dr. Sue Hughson.

The next rally in Vancouver protesting the police state bill, C-51, is taking place at 1pm Saturday 18 April, in front of the Vancouver Art Gallery near Hornby and Georgia.

Contact: Melissa Paquette at or 587 777-0527
“STOP BILL C-51 – United We Stand, A Canada-Wide Rally”
April 18th 2015
Join with thousands of Canadians (and residents of Canada) across the nation in solidarity against Bill C-51 at a family friendly, peaceful demonstration against the governments’ proposed “Anti-Terrorism” legislation.  This proposed legislation threatens the rights and freedoms of all citizens in Canada. This will likely be the last opportunity for the public to demonstrate before the legislation undergoes a third and final vote in the House of Commons when parliament resumes on April 20th, 2015.
Bill C-51 threatens to: 1. Violate Charter rights, says 100 legal experts and professors in an open letter to the public; 2. Be rushed through Parliament with little debate or meaningful amendments; 3. Risk CSIS, an intelligence agency, becoming a secret police; 4. Act as a catch-all for those who dissent and criticize the government and its agencies; and 5. Define environmental, 1st Nations, and other activist groups as “terrorists”.

On Saturday, April 18th, 2015 across Canada Canadians will gather to protest this bill.  While concerns about the bill are diverse, dissenters agree that it is reckless and dangerous legislation, which even if amended, could be abused to infringe on our democratic right to free speech and expression.

This national day of events is being hosted across Canada, including Vancouver, Victoria, Vernon, Calgary, Edmonton, Brantford, Elliot Lake, Guelph, Kamloops, Halifax, Lethbridge, London, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Sarnia, Sudbury, Thunder bay and more are interested and getting organized.  This coalition is being coordinated and organized by members of Reddit (/r/Canada), Protest Canada, and local, non-partisan activists from across the country.

For more information:


Gerard Bloem and his wife Trudy were members of BCHA for about 20 years, from 1990 to 2010. Gerard was born in December 1914, a few months after the outbreak of WW1; he died in March 2015, three months over the age of 100.

As a teenager, he attended a commercial school in Holland to prepare to enter the family business which was processing and exporting anchovies. However, he did not care for that work, and enrolled in the University of Amsterdam. He completed programs in Maths, Physics, and Chemistry, earning a doctorate degree in the process and finding suitable work in a clinical laboratory established by his sister.

Gerard met his wife Trudy in Switzerland in 1948 and they were married in 1951. In 1955, they moved to Vancouver, where Gerard took positions at St. Paul’s and Lion’s Gate hospitals. He also worked in some local clinics and operated a small lab in his own home, to pursue commercial interests. Trudy died a few years ago.

Gerard was active in many clubs and associations. In addition to BCHA, he was a member of the Alpine Club of BC, the North Shore Hikers, several computer clubs, and with a special enthusiasm for camping, photography and astronomy. He had natural abilities as a teacher and after he retired from full-time work, he became involved in teaching computer skills to school children.

Gerard had a profound regard for his fellow humans and will be greatly missed by his family, his long-time companion Alison Graham, and his many friends and colleagues in the clubs and associations to which he contributed so much, both actively and financially.

A memorial service was held at Aberthau Mansion in West Point Grey last Thursday, April 2, conducted by our current BCHA president, Dr. Sue Hughson.

The above obituary was written by Glenn Hardie, a long-time friend of Gerard and Trudy.

Yet another instance of Christian doctors claiming to be persecuted because they are being denied their self-arrogated “right” to impose their superstitions on their patients.   If you can’t put your duties as a doctor above your imagined “duties” to your religion, you need to stop pretending to be a doctor.  The last thing a desperate patient needs is to run into a decoy doctor who is really a religious zealot refusing to provide or refer for a needed, legal, medical service.

“The Christian Medical and Dental Society of Canada is throwing a tantrum over a new requirement that Ontario physicians must refer patients appropriately when they refuse to provide a health-care service they personally disagree with. On March 20, the group launched a lawsuit against the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario.

The College’s new policy on “Professional Obligations and Human Rights” is really a no-brainer, as well as long overdue. The part that is peeving the Christian doctors stipulates that if doctors are “unwilling to provide certain elements of care for reasons of conscience or religion” they must make an “effective referral” — which means a timely referral made in good faith to a “non-objecting, available, and accessible physician, other health-care professional, or agency.” Further, physicians must provide “urgent care” to prevent imminent harm, even when doing so conflicts with their conscience or religious beliefs. Those violating the new policy may face discipline. The Christian doctors are dead set against all of this.”

In case this link stops working, here is the text of the rest of the article:

If you’re new to this issue, you might feel bewildered and alarmed at the prospect of doctors actually suing for their “right” to basically abandon patients and even put their health and lives at risk. Did these doctors miss the memo about modern medical ethics in which the patient comes first? Did they not swear an oath to that effect? Are they aware that 92 per cent of the public are in favour of requiring doctors to refer patients to another doctor who can provide the refused treatment?

Apparently, none of that matters. When you read some of the blustery fulminations on the topic from objecting doctors, it’s all about ME, and MY RIGHTS, and HOW DARE YOU take away my privilege and power over subservient patients. Ok, that’s my own interpretation, so to be fair, I’ll let one of the doctors speak for herself:

“My conscience and religious beliefs do not allow me to engage in procedures to which I have a moral, ethical or religious objection. I, and all physicians in Ontario, have the right to practice medicine according to my conscience and free from state compulsion.”

Michelle Korvemaker, emergency room physician

Actually, you do NOT have that right, Dr. Korvemaker, for several reasons. Canada’s public medicare system means that Canadians are entitled to funded medical care on an equitable and comprehensive basis. Doctors are paid with taxpayers’ money, making them much closer to public servants than private entrepreneurs. Doctors owe a fiduciary duty of care to patients, which must supersede their own personal beliefs. People who serve the public in their jobs cannot cite their personal beliefs to justify refusing services to a particular group of people — that is discrimination and a violation of human rights.

Finally, Dr. Korvemaker and her fellow doctors are forgetting that physicians’ autonomy and right to self-regulation is a privilege given to them by Canadians on the basis of trust. If we cannot trust certain physicians to fulfill their professional obligations by providing the most appropriate care that is available and legal, then those doctors do not deserve an unencumbered right to self-regulation. If doctors are allowed to continue refusing services, they should at least be subject to close monitoring by the College, and be disciplined if they flout the policy.

What are the services that Christian doctors don’t want to provide? The vast lion’s share of refusals relate to contraception and abortion, both of which are common and medically required. Further, these services are largely delivered to women, with abortion care provided only to women and some trans people. This makes these refusals discrimination, contrary to the claims of the Christian doctors.

Of course, anyone is entitled to believe that abortion and contraception are “immoral,” but such a stance has no place in science-based medicine. Doctors’ religious objections to providing this care are based on a denial of the overwhelming evidence that abortion and contraception save women’s lives and health, allow them to participate fully in society, and give them a shot at equality. The provision of contraception and safe, legal abortion is therefore a vital public interest that negates any grounds for religiously based objections.

But never mind such trifling matters. The Christian doctors have placed their “BIG CONCERN” front and centre: doctor-assisted suicide. In the wake of the Supreme Court’s February ruling that Canadians with severe and irremediable suffering have the right to end their life with a doctor’s help, the Christian doctors fear they will be forced to participate in the “culture of death” by killing people.

Sorry, but I smell something fishy here. So did blogger Fern Hill, who observed: “[They] know exactly how ridiculous their stand on birth control and abortion is and are trying to divert the reasonable new requirements into a SHRIEEEEK-FEST over euthanasia.” Likewise, Hill quoted Julie Lalonde of the pro-choice group Radical Handmaids, who said: “I think the assisted suicide issue is a red herring that is meant to dredge up support for their cause because they know that their views on birth control and abortion are in the minority. But since assisted suicide is a relatively new public discussion in Canada, they’re trying to piggy-back on top of it to get people on their side.”

It’s far too early to know how doctor-assisted suicide will be handled in Canada. Considerable consultation and proper regulation will be required, and it’s extremely improbable that doctors would be compelled to participate. Also, the College’s new policy has nothing to do with euthanasia, so the Christian doctors are being disingenuous. The whole debate was sparked by three Ottawa doctors in January 2014, because they refused to prescribe birth control to their patients.

Right-wing lawyer John Carpay supports the Christian doctors, and claims that they have a Charter right to freedom of conscience, while patients have no Charter right to health care. Further, he says that while the Ontario College has a duty to uphold the Charter, individual doctors have no such obligation. This misstates the issue. Physicians work in a publicly funded and regulated profession, so they are accountable to the public through the College, as well as to the provincial and federal courts. Of course, doctors have the same Charter rights as anyone, but no right is absolute. When they conflict, they must be balanced, and it’s the court’s job to determine the right balance.

It sounds shocking and even offensive to say that Canadians have no right to health care. This argument certainly won’t win the Christian doctors any fans. While there may not be a specific right to health care in the Charter, health-care delivery is governed by the federal Canada Health Act, which requires provinces to provide equitable access to funded health care to all Canadians. Regardless, it’s not just about a patient’s right to health care — that’s another smokescreen by the Christian doctors. Although you’ll be hard-pressed to find any admission by them that patients have any rights at all, of course they do — including Charter rights to life, conscience, liberty, equal protection, privacy, and dignity. Some or all of these may be compromised or denied when a doctor refuses treatment. This surely outweighs a doctor’s right to freedom of conscience, even if we discount their professional duty to patients.

Actually, refusing care to patients is not even true freedom of conscience. It’s an imposition of the doctor’s personal beliefs onto the patient and an abuse of authority. This makes it “dishonourable disobedience.” In the health-care field, true freedom of conscience can only be exercised when the objecting worker either quits their job or doesn’t take the job in the first place. Anyone entering family practice or gynecology should be fully aware they will be expected to provide reproductive health care, so there is no excuse for going into those fields if you object to some of that care.

The Christian doctors claim there’s no need to refer patients for abortion, because such referrals are not required. This is very misleading if not outright false. Many hospitals in Ontario that perform abortions DO require a referral. While patients can make their own appointments at abortion clinics, most people are likely unaware of that fact. Besides, if a doctor can’t provide a particular service for whatever reason, what patient doesn’t expect some immediate useful advice on where to go instead? The Christian doctors are trying to sow confusion by conflating this basic expected guidance to patients with a formal referral to a specialist. (The College’s policy requires the former, not the latter.)

Finally, our medical system is not a capitalist supermarket where patients can easily pick and choose which doctors to go to. Many people don’t even have a family doctor because it’s so hard to find one. Doctors act as gatekeepers. They have a monopoly over medical care and patients are completely dependent on them. Refusals to refer can therefore represent a significant barrier to services.


I really hope that the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario withstands this bully lawsuit by the Christian doctors, and that the courts uphold the new policy. The College’s future challenge will lie in enforcement, because I predict that most anti-choice doctors will flout the policy and continue refusing to refer or provide care with which they disagree. They won’t refer because they feel that makes them “complicit.”

In my February submission to the College on behalf of the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada, I recommended that they implement new safeguards to ensure that objectors are identified, monitored and disciplined appropriately as required. For example, they should be required to justify each refusal, as well as accept liability and discipline for each refusal, including the risk of being transferred, demoted or terminated. Objectors should be prohibited from working alone, especially in small communities where they are the only physician. Employers should be allowed to prioritize hiring of non-objecting physicians, and pay objecting physicians less. Over time, such measures should reduce or eliminate the presence of doctors who refuse to deliver health care for which they would normally be responsible.

Joyce Arthur is the founder and Executive Director of Canada’s national pro-choice group, the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada (ARCC), which protects the legal right to abortion on request and works to improve access to quality abortion services.



Don’t miss a very interesting session with a pair of very interesting, newer than “new” atheists.



Click here to buy your tickets at Eventbrite.

From the Vancouver Sun:

Wednesday, March 25: Secularism aids dialogue

Only one in three British Columbians say they practise a faith

Wednesday, March 25: Secularism aids dialogue

Some of the most “secular” countries in the world continue to have religious symbols on their flags, according to the Pew Research Center.

Re: We need a new conversation on religion and secularism in Canada, March 18

I was pleased to see Geoffrey Cameron and Karen Hamilton note the benefits of secularism in promoting tolerance, respect, science, and free thought. Unfortunately, they seem interested in perpetuating imagined dangers of a “harsh” and “strict” secularism. The dangers they choose are not the results of overzealous secularism but more symptomatic of religious sectarianism.

Pluralistic and multicultural dialogue is an absolute necessity for Canada to continue to grow and welcome immigrants from all cultures. These dialogues can only take place against a backdrop of shared secular values that transcend narrow belief systems.

Despite their claim, the role of religion continues to diminish in Canadian’s lives. Just before the release of the voluntary 2011 National Household Survey, (which asked for your religion, even if no longer practising), the B.C. Humanist Association poll asked British Columbians directly if they practise a religion. Only one in three said yes and only 15 per cent attend church on a weekly basis.

Despite claims of collaboration with secular organizations, none appear on the program for the Our Whole Society conference. The conversation about religion and secularism requires secular communities at the table.



President B.C. Humanist Association


Here is the complete text of the original letter from Sue Hughson to the Vancouver Sun before it was trimmed to the obligatory 200 word limit:

We were pleased to see Geoffrey Cameron and Karen Hamilton note the benefits of secularism in promoting tolerance, respect, science and freethought (“We need a new conversation on religion and secularism in Canada”, March 18, 2015). Unfortunately, they seem more interested in perpetuating imagined dangers of a “harsh” and “strict” secularism than engaging with organizations like ours that are actively trying to promote progressive secular values.Despite their claim, religion is in fact playing a smaller role in Canadian’s lives. Just prior to the release of the voluntary 2011 National Household Survey (which asked what is your religion, even if you’re no longer practicing), we asked British Columbians directly if they practice a religion. Only 1 in 3 said yes and only 15% attend church on a weekly basis. Cameron and Hamilton present no evidence that young people are “exploring spiritual matters in new ways” or that secularism in Canada isn’t working.Instead, the dangers they choose to warn us of are not the results of overzealous secularism but more symptomatic of religious sectarianism. Canada’s Residential Schools, which actively attempted to stamp out indigenous people’s cultures, were operated by the Catholic and Anglican Churches. And the continued biggest threats to world peace are ideologies that claim to have sole authority over the truth.Pluralistic and multicultural dialogue is an absolute necessity for Canada to continue to grow and welcome immigrants from all cultures. But these dialogues can only take place against a backdrop of shared secular values that transcend narrow belief systems. These values come from the secular and humanist thinkers of the enlightenment who critically examined established doctrines and instead placed importance on the one life we know we have.
Finally, despite claims of collaborating with secular organizations, none appear on the program list for the Our Whole Society conference. I only received an invite to buy a ticket to attend three days prior to the event. Apparently it’s much easier to talk about having a different conversation about secularism when secularists aren’t invited to the table. 


Dr Susan Hughson

President, BC Humanist Association. 

Here is the original article to which the letter to the editor above refers:   


The last link in this article is particularly important for everyone who favors and open society with equal rights for all regardless or ethnicity, religion, or gender. 


The head of Canada’s Office of Religious Freedom, Andrew Bennett, will speak in Vancouver during a major conference on religion, spirituality and secularism from March 22 to 24.

The event at Robson Square is titled Our Whole Society Conference 2015: Bridging the Religious-Secular Divide.

I attended the first highly engaging conference in this series at McGill University in Montreal in 2013.

The wide-ranging interfaith Vancouver conference will look at the purpose of secularism and its limits around the world and in Canada. In an era when many people see religion as a source of conflict and as a threat to free speech, many speakers will explore the role of religion and spirituality in cultural reconciliation.

Andrew Bennett, ambassador of religious freedom, will speak at 4:30 p.m. on Monday the 23rd.

Other speakers include Karen Hamilton, of the Canadian Council of Churches,; John G. Stackhouse, Regent College; Vancouver Rabbi Yosef Wosk; Marie Wilson, Truth and Reconciliation Commission; B.C.-educated East Asian cultural geographer Justin Tse, Harry Maier of Vancouver School of Theology, Rev. Dr. James Christie, University of Winnipeg; Imam Dr. Zijad Delic, author of Canadian Islam: Belonging and Loyalty; Paul Bramadat of Victoria’s Centre for Studies in Religion and Society and Farid Rohani, The Laurier Institution.

Here is the full line-up of speakers.

RELATED: Bridging the secular divide requires a thick skin

Is B.C. brave enough to follow Quebec’s world religions curriculum?

Secularization is the best thing that ever happened to religion

I’ll also be on two panels on Tuesday morning. The first deals with the question, “Freedom of Religion, or Freedom from Religion?” Others on the panel include Alia Hogben, Executive Director, Canadian Council of Muslim Women.

The second panel I’m taking part in is about religion and the Canadian media. It’s moderated by Jack Jedwab, executive vice-president, Association for Canadian Studies. Another panelist is columnist Suresh Kurl.

RELATED: Official website of Our Whole Society conference

Our Whole Society: full list of sponsors and supporters

Standing on guard for liberal democracy in Canada



Click here  to go to to purchase tickets for this event.

Please get your tickets soon.  Time is running out.

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