September 22nd Newsletter Roundup

Through our weekly newsletter, we like to let you know about our upcoming events as well as a number of issues and campaigns that we think might be of interest to you. Let me know if you have any suggestions to include in future roundups. Email: [email protected]

And for the latest news items, be sure to like the BC Humanists on Facebook and follow @BCHumanist on Twitter.

DISCLAIMER: The opinions which appear in the newsletter and in this roundup of all the news which didn't fit within the newsletter are not necessarily shared by all or even most of the members and board of the BC Humanist Association.


Dr. Joanne B. Freeman

This past Sunday, 32 of us watched a video from the Yale University Open Courses YouTube series featuring Professor Joanne B. Freeman discussing the creation and implications of Thomas Paine's famous pamphlet Common Sense. We had a wide ranging discussion of democracy in general and the future of Canadian democracy in particular. Professor Freeman's obvious enthusiasm for her subject and good humour shone through her lecture. The Yale Open Courses series is well worth a look for insights into the history and evolution of US society among many other interesting topics. We began the program with a short trailer for the Hollywood move Spotlight, which will be coming out in November. It's based on the true story of a group of courageous investigative journalists in Boston who exposed the Catholic Church's decades long cover-up of pedophile priests.

Also, this past Sunday, the South Fraser Humanists meetup group met at Waves City Point in Surrey. The group has ambitious goals to create a family-friendly community for the non-religious in Surrey, Langley, and the Tri-Cities. Their next meeting will be in two weeks, make sure to join the Meetup group to keep up to date.

Humanist Action

Please make sure to donate to our initiative to support Syrian refugees. Based on its exemplary track record in providing the most value per donation, we have chosen to raise money for Médecins Sans Frontières' (Doctors Without Borders') work in Syria.

We will also be marching in the 2015 Vancouver Light the Night Walk in support of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society of CanadaClick here to join the team or to sponsor one of our members. For more details, get in touch with our captain Sonia Milbradt at [email protected]

Upcoming Events

On Sunday, September 27, at the Oakridge Seniors Centre, Baz Edmeades, will elaborate on his talk of 21 June 2015 on Is Human Intelligence Still Evolving? Bob Close will join Baz "on stage" to discuss the implications for humanist principles of studies on this topic. A longer than normal discussion period will be allocated.

On Sunday, October 4, 2015, at the Oakridge Seniors Centre, Conrad Hadland will be speaking on Democracy in Canada using as a guide the BC Civil Liberties Association's publication The Citizenship Handbook: A Guide to Democratic Rights and Responsibilities.

On Sunday, October 11, 2015, at the Oakridge Seniors Centre, Franke James, winner of the inaugural Pan Canada / Ken Filkow prize, will be showing us her quirky and inspiring presentation titled My Dangerous Art,  the story of how her dream come true of having a European tour of her art was crushed by political pressure from the Canadian federal government on the tour's sponsoring NGO.

On Sunday, October 18, 2015, at the Oakridge Seniors Centre, Gurmail Gill of the Tarksheel (Rational) Cultural Society will be speaking to us about that Humanism and rationalism in the Indian community.

BCHA Book Club

The October book club selection is Harperism by Professor Donald Gutstein. The October book club meeting will be on Tuesday, 6 October, 2015 at 7 PM at Goldis and Kirsten's home.

The November book club selection is Thinking Fast, Thinking Slow, by Dan Kahneman.  The meeting will be on Tuesday, 3 November, 2015 at 7pm at Goldis and Kirsten's home.  At the beginning of that meeting, we will decide on the selection for the January 5, 2016 meeting.

The December book club selection is Waking Up by Sam Harris.   The meeting will be on Tuesday, 1 December, 2015 at 7pm at Goldis and Kirsten's home.  At the beginning of that meeting, we will decide on the selection for the February 2, 2016 meeting.


At our next Sunday meetings we will have some pendants, T-shirts, and humanist pins for sale. The pendants and the t-shirts are $20.00, and the pins $5.00. They will be available from about 10:00 am to 10:20.

Doors open for our Vancouver meetings at the Oakridge Seniors Centre at 10:00 am for BYO coffee, tea, and socializing. Please help us welcome all attendees by introducing yourself and asking about themselves (if you are comfortable doing that). We want all attendees (and especially first-timers) to feel welcome and part of our Humanist community. At 10:30 am we start our presentation. The meetings take place at the Oakridge Seniors' Centre at the West side of the Oakridge Mall at 41st and Cambie. There is a Canada Line station which exits right into the mall.

Check the BCHA Vancouver Meetup page for more details on the meetings mentioned above and for what we have lined up into October and beyond. Also, please RSVP there, so that Meetup members have an idea of how many people usually attend these meetings. Please be aware that while we do our best to ensure that the scheduled programs go ahead as scheduled here, there are no guarantees and last minute changes may be necessary due to circumstances beyond our control.

Other updates


We published our response to the physician-assisted dying panels set up by the federal and provincial governments to get public input into a new law which will give Canadians the right to choose how to end their lives. Please read our response and add your voice.

In addition, Ian Bushfield, Executive Director of the BC Humanists, will be speaking at the Dying With Dignity pre-election rally on Saturday, October 3rd. We will be gathering outside the Vancouver Art Gallery on the south side of Georgia between Howe and Hornby at 11:00am for a rally until 12:30pm. This election, ask your candidate where they stand on physician assisted dying. Ask them how their commitment will translate into meaningful legislation that reflects the breadth and depth of the Carter v. Canada decision. Speakers include Katherine Hammond, daughter of Margot Bentley, and Ian Bushfield, Executive Director of the BC Humanist Association.

More News

gayatriGopinath_border2.png Dr. Gayatri Gopinath will be speaking at the Liu Institute for Global Issues, Multipurpose Room, 6476 NW Marine Drive, UBC on September 23rd, 12-1pm on Unruly Visions: The Aesthetic Practices of Queer Diapora of Gay South Asians in other countries. This is part of a larger series of interesting talks presented in the Social Justice Institute Noted Scholars Lecture Series.


In case you missed the screening of the excellent CBC documentary Silence of the Labs, when it was last shown at a BCHA Sunday meeting, Evidence for Democracy is showing it again on September 24, at 3pm at Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, Bennett Library, Rm 3008 and also in Maple Ridge at the City Hall at 7pm (24 Sept 2015 as well) as part of Science Literacy Week.  


Don't forget the gala BC Civil Liberties Association's My Dangerous Art event September 24, 2015, at Performance Works, 1218 Cartwright Street, Vancouver, BC (Granville Island) (Map & Directions). Unfortunately, if you've not already RSVPed for this event, it has filled up.


Plan to attend the free book launch event on September 29 at 7:00 pm - 10:00 pm, featuring Tony Ortega, author of The Unbreakable Miss Lovely. The book tells the story of the Church of Scientology's relentless campaign of spying and harassment against Paulette Cooper. Here is a summary of the events described in the book: In 1971, a New York magazine freelancer named Paulette Cooper published The Scandal of Scientology, one of the first books to give the public a view into this secretive organization. She nearly paid for it with her life. What even Paulette didn’t know at the time was the extent that Scientology and its founder, L. Ron Hubbard, would go to destroy someone it perceived as an enemy. By 1973, Paulette had been framed in an elaborate plot involving fake bomb-threat letters, and she faced 15 years in federal prison if convicted. Newly unearthed documents show that by that time, Scientology had kept her under tight surveillance for several years and proposed many ways to destroy her reputation and life. She was finally exonerated after the FBI raided Scientology in 1977 and found many of those documents, which referred to her by the code name “Miss Lovely.” Eleven top Scientology officials went to prison after that raid, but more than 30 years later, Scientology is still around — and so is Paulette.

In his new, and first, book, The Unbreakable Miss Lovely, journalist Tony Ortega tells Paulette’s story in full for the first time, with eyewitness accounts and new documents which describe the full extent of her ordeal — and her continued fight against a group now seriously in decline. Ortega will discuss highlights from the book, as well as the latest developments in the controversies facing Scientology today.

Ortega is the executive editor of TheLipTV. From 2007 to 2012, he was editor in chief of The Village Voice, and he’s been investigating and writing about Scientology since 1995, when he was a reporter for the Phoenix New Times. He also wrote for or edited weekly newspapers in Los Angeles, Kansas City, and Fort Lauderdale. Originally from Los Angeles, he lives in New York and maintains a breaking news website about Scientology news, “The Underground Bunker” ( He is also featured in “Going Clear,” Alex Gibney’s award winning documentary about Scientology, which first aired on HBO in March.


Going Clear, the HBO documentary on the darker side of Scientology won a bunch of Emmys. This is a significant statement from the Hollywood elite and hopefully will lead to Scientology losing the thin veneer of respectability afforded it by its status as a religion.


SFU in downtown Vancouver (Harbour Center) is hosting a very interesting conference on Death Ideologies and Culture, The Legacy of Earnest Becker. The Conference runs from 2pm Friday 2 October 2015 to Sunday 4 October 2015 at 5:30pm.  Check the link for details.


A couple of interesting events from CFI on Campus: Campaign for Free Expression and Banned Books Week (Sept 27-Oct 3). An amazing list of books have been banned at some time and place or other. In almost all cases, such banning has backfired and served to increase interest in the banned book... and that is A Good Thing.


Fish numbers in the world's ocean are down by half since 1970 according to an extremely detailed study reported in Scientific American magazine.


Not everyone is happy with public money going to facilitate the Pope's visit to New York State.  The Freedom From Religion Foundation is protesting. 


The usual suspects are outraged at the temerity of this incredibly brave atheist woman in Saudi Arabia who posted this photo in front of Kaaba at the Great Mosque, the most sacred mosque in Islam, in Mecca.  It would not be overstating the situation to say that she risked her life to take this photo.

Fundamentalist extremism is the official and only accepted position in Saudi Arabia which is a fundamentalist Islamic dictatorship. The country was created in the 1930s by jihad and has been run by the same “royal family” since then. The first leader was Abdulaziz al-Saud and he gained power by cozying up to a conservative group of Islamist fundamentalists called the Wahhabis. The relationship and subsequent conflicts with the Wahhabis, along with Saudi Arabia’s oil wealth continues to shape and define this small (about the size of Texas), but globally influential country.

This picture is a reminder of something that is important to remember: while the Wahhabists are indeed a powerful force in Saudi Arabia, they do not represent everyone. There are many people in this country seeking an open-minded, rational life of freedom.

Check out Atheist Republic for news and editorials from an ex-Muslim Atheist viewpoint.


The Freedom From Religion Foundation's Andrew Seidel has an incisive blog post tending to damp down a bit on the burgeoning enthusiasm for Pope Frances by pointing out how the Catholic Church under this Pope's watch is still a huge drag on the progress of humanity and is still responsible for thousands of needless, painful deaths around the world every year.


This brilliant New York Times op-ed by Gail Collins sets the record straight about the real effects of cutbacks in women's health services. These cuts are being pushed by state governments all over the US in response to the series of recent scurrilous "gotcha" videos which purport to show Planned Parenthood selling dead babies for parts.ProLife.jpg


Homo Neladi

The discovery of a huge trove of skeletal remains of a new member of the human genus homo in an almost inaccessible cave in South Africa has already been the subject of an excellent National Geographic documentary.  The discovery represents yet another "missing link" in the evolution from humanity's common ancestor with Chimpanzees to modern humans.  Creationists are even now debating whether these remains are of descendants of Adam and Eve or mere apes.

This brilliant video gives us a clearer perspective of the solar system than the usual not to scale depictions of our neighbourhood in space.  Consider that on the scale of our galaxy, the entire solar system would be represented by less than one pixel on a modern computer monitor's image of the entire galaxy, and that our galaxy is itself a tiny dot in the vastness of the observable universe. 

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