The Province covers AA human rights complaint

Update (Oct 7, 2016): See below for our letter in today's edition of The Province.

The front page story of The Province today covered Byron Wood's human rights complaint over being forced to attend Alcoholics Anonymous over secular alternatives.

Wood told The Province:

If I questioned the 12-step philosophy or tried to discuss scientific explanations and treatments for addiction, I was labelled as ‘in denial’. I was told to admit that I am powerless, and to submit to a higher power. It was unhelpful and humiliating.

There was a mentality among staff that addiction is a moral failing in need of salvation. We were encouraged to pray.

The reporting builds on the news the BC Humanist Association broke in July that Wood's complaint would be heard by the BC Human Rights Tribunal.

Earlier in July, BC Humanist Association Executive Director Ian Bushfield appeared with Wood before the BC Legislature's Select Standing Committee on Health to recommend the government require treatment options for people suffering from addiction be secular and evidence-based.

Bushfield said:

AA has never been shown to work and, given the ingrained religious element of the program, mandating people to attend is unconstitutional.

With this fight, Byron's not trying to shirk responsibility for treating his addiction; in fact, he's fighting for better treatment options for everyone suffering from addiction.

The Province's reporter Glen Schaefer also spoke to West Vancouver addictions specialist Michael Pond about the concerns over AA.

Pond told The Province:

The point with AA is that it was designed to be a voluntary thing, it was supposed to be one drunk helping another. But what’s happened now is that judges order it.

There’s a whole sense of coercion. It’s definitely Christian theology . . . we’re selfish, self-centred and we need to admit our flaws, and confess them to somebody. It’s implicitly a religious take.

In September, CBC News released an investigation showing the majority of rehab clinics in BC use the 12-step model of AA.

Take Action

Help us advocate for secular and evidence based addictions treatment.

  • Share these stories on Twitter and Facebook.
  • Leave supportive comments for Byron on The Province's website.
  • Send a letter to the editor in support.

Atheist ex-nurse forced into Alcoholics Anonymous substance abuse program - The Province

West Van therapist weighs in on fired nurse's behalf - The Province

Read the BCHA's submission to the legislature's health committee.


Our letter in The Province

On October 7, 2016, The Province published our letter following up on Byron's story.

Coercion into AA must stop

Re: Atheist nurse fights AA edict, Oct. 5

Byron Wood’s human rights complaint over being forced to attend Alcoholics Anonymous exposes the dangerous stranglehold that this religious-based program has over how we treat addictions in BC.

When Mr Wood first reached out to the BC Humanist Association to support his cause, we were surprised this sort of coercion still happened in Canada in 2016. Since we’ve started looking into the situation, we’ve heard more and more how endemic this problem is.

These cases have been continually challenged in US courts, and judges have consistently ruled that AA is a religious program and that coercing patients into it violates their religious freedoms. Mr Wood’s case may be the first to set that same precedent here in Canada.

But beyond the constitutional arguments, the simple fact is that AA has never been scientifically shown to work. To help people suffering from substance use issues, we must focus our efforts on treatments based on the best available evidence.

These are the arguments we made with Mr Wood before the legislature’s health committee in July, and we hope that when MLAs publish their report it will reflect this common sense approach.

Ian Bushfield, executive director, BC Humanist Association


CBC interviews Dr Michael Pond

CBC covered the story on The 180 with Jim Brown on October 7, 2016.

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