Blog

Opinions expressed on the BC Humanist Association's blog do not necessarily reflect those of the BCHA or the Board of Directors.


Tools for thinking: Isaiah Berlin's two concepts of freedom

By Maria Kasmirli

‘Freedom’ is a powerful word. We all respond positively to it, and under its banner revolutions have been started, wars have been fought, and political campaigns are continually being waged. But what exactly do we mean by ‘freedom’? The fact that politicians of all parties claim to believe in freedom suggests that people don’t always have the same thing in mind when they talk about it. Might there be different kinds of freedom and, if so, could the different kinds conflict with each other? Could the promotion of one kind of freedom limit another kind? Could people even be coerced in the name of freedom?

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52 volunteers transcribed 871 prayers in 6 weeks

We're done!

In December, we started recruiting volunteers to help transcribe every daily prayer said in the BC Legislature since 2003.

Together, we transcribed 871 prayers delivered in the BC Legislature from 2003 to the present. The team comprised 52 volunteers from across the province (and beyond) and we accomplished this amazing feat in a month and a half.

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Give nurses evidence based treatment options

BC is at the forefront of addiction research and treatment provision. So when nurses develop substance use problems, why are are they not afforded the same right to quality and ethical health care as other citizens?

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On our Vancouver Sunday meetings

Questions arise from time to time about the structure and procedures behind the Sunday meetings that the BC Humanist Association hosts in Vancouver. Rather than continue to respond to these inquiries as they land in my inbox, I thought it might be prudent to share some of our thinking here.

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Homophobia in the hallways: LGBTQ people at risk in Catholic schools

By Tonya D. Callaghan, University of Calgary

Recently, a Calgary woman filed two human rights complaints with the Alberta Human Rights Commission. The employee, Barb Hamilton, says she was pushed out the Calgary Catholic School District (CCSD) because of her sexuality and was refused employment on the grounds of marital status, religious belief and sexual orientation.

Hamilton says she knew of 10 LGBTQ students in the school where she was principal who had hurt themselves, including by cutting themselves or attempting suicide because of homophobia at home or school. She says she went to the district for help but nothing changed.

Many Canadians may believe that LGBTQ people are protected from discrimination. But my research into religiously inspired homophobia and transphobia in Canadian Catholic schools since 2004 shows there are other LGBTQ-identified teachers who suffer similar fates.

I personally experienced this risk when I taught high school English for CCSD.

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Scientists need time to make discoveries

By Donna Strickland, University of Waterloo

Since the announcement that I won the Nobel Prize in physics for chirped pulse amplification, or CPA, there has been a lot of attention on its practical applications.

It is understandable that people want to know how it affects them. But as a scientist, I would hope society would be equally interested in fundamental science. After all, you can’t have the applications without the curiosity-driven research behind it. Learning more about science — science for science’s sake — is worth supporting.

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The authoritarian, neo-traditionalist attack on 'gender studies'

By Jennifer Evans, Carleton University

Recently, a bag thought to contain a bomb was left outside the National Secretariat for Gender Research in Gothenburg, Sweden. The dynamite-shaped device inside turned out to be a fake, but the intent to threaten and scare was clear.

Eva Wiberg, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Gothenburg, expressed her grave concerns, saying some scholars are more exposed to hatred and violence than others.

Lately, we have witnessed global story after story of government rollbacks on abortion provision, LGBTQ rights and now the closure of entire programs devoted to women’s and gender studies. It is part of the populist playbook in places like Poland and Hungary.

Brazil’s President Jair Bolsinaro put it bluntly in his inaugural address on Jan. 2. He will fight the “ideology of gender” teaching in schools, “respect our Judeo-Christian tradition” and “prepare children for the job market, not political militancy.”

The war on gender studies is a pillar in the authoritarian critique of liberalism. But for many scholars, it is a sign of the times for liberal democracies as well.

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Bowen Island human rights complaint affirms atheism is a protected class

Amid the numerous stories we worked on last week, the BC Human Rights Tribunal released a 90-page decision following a complaint against a Bowen Island Montessori School (BIMS).

When I wrote about the complaint when it was filed over two years ago, I said:

The Montessori’s efforts to single out one family discriminated against them for their beliefs and sends a signal to prospective families on Bowen Island that the school requires ideological conformity from its community.

In her decision, Tribunal Member Barbara Korenkiewciz agreed. She awarded $5000 each to parents Gary Mangel and Mai Yasué and $2000 for their child.

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Are LGBTQ2+ families welcome at BC independent schools?

In the past couple days it has come out that anyone in a same-sex relationship is formally barred from working at a Catholic school in Calgary. Further, in a number of human rights complaints, teachers have alleged anti-LGBTQ2+ discrimination by Catholic school boards in Alberta.

While Alberta's Catholic schools are entirely funded by the province, there is no reason to expect many of BC's faith schools (which typically receive half of their funding from the province) are any different.

To investigate this, I went looking through schools' websites to see if they had policies that might reasonably be interpreted as excluding LGBTQ2+ staff or students, or students whose parents are in a same sex relationship. It's also worth mentioning that since December 31, 2016, the BC Government has required all independent schools to include specific references to sexual orientation and gender identity in their anti-bullying policies. However, this requirement does not preclude schools from excluding LGBTQ2+ staff, students or parents.

Once again, it doesn't take long to find some pretty clear language. While none of these schools have been confirmed to have excluded any LGBTQ2+ staff or students, the policies do raise questions about how welcome LGBTQ2+ families are there.

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The rise of the Christian Right in Canada

By André Gagné, Concordia University and Andréa Febres-Gagné, McGill University

Over the past few years, Christian right groups have made inroads into the political landscape of certain countries. Two recent examples have been the American and Brazilian elections.

Among Christian right organizations, 81 per cent of white evangelicals are credited with helping propel Donald Trump to the White House in 2016.

During the recent midterm elections, 75 per cent of white “born again” evangelicals supported Republican candidates. Their influence was also felt in Brazil with Jair Bolsonaro’s victory. Recent polls estimate that 70 per cent of Brazilian evangelicals voted for the new president.

Some groups in America have been pushing for Christian nationalist-inspired laws through a little-known endeavour originally launched in 2015 called “Project Blitz.”

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