Blog

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


Permissive tax exemptions in Summerland

We've looked at how a few different communities treat religious property tax exemptions in BC and in most of those cases the policies have been long-established. In Summerland earlier this month, its council decided to change its policy.

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Permissive tax exemptions in Greater Victoria

When a journalist from Saanich News reached out for a story on permissive tax exemptions in the District of Saanich, I decided to go through and look up the detailed policies for most of the municipalities around Victoria. Even within a very small region, we're able to see a wide variety of approaches taken by different councils.

Every municipality below grants at least some permissive exemptions for religious properties but how they decide which to provide, and how they report them, varies greatly.

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Fox in the henhouse: Oversight of BC independent schools

The Office of the Inspector of Independent Schools, a department of the Ministry of Education, is responsible for the oversight of independent schools.

Janet Steffenhagen’s thorough reporting in the Vancouver Sun in 2007 found that every inspector of those schools going back to the 1980s was connected to an Evangelical Christian School. This trend has continued through today and it raises the question of why the one office designated to oversee BC's private schools has been run entirely by people coming out of a faith group that accounts for approximately 13% of British Columbia and, as we'll show next week, a fraction of the independent school community.

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Permissive tax exemptions in Kamloops

After releasing the responses we received to our survey of BC municipalities' various approaches to permissive tax exemptions for religious organizations, I spoke to Radio NL in Kamloops about their city's approach.

Kamloops, like most cities in BC, does give permissive tax exemptions to religious properties and doesn't apply a clear public benefits test. However, the local details provide a glimpse into how complex these questions can be across the province.

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Permissive tax exemptions in Vancouver

As British Columbia's largest city, it makes sense for the City of Vancouver to be the first municipality we profile in our Fair Property Tax Exemptions series. However, Vancouver is actually a fascinating case for the way the city council has set its priorities.

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Starting a conversation about permissive exemptions for churches

With an understanding of what a permissive exemption is, it's worth discussing some of the issues that are raised by municipalities granting these exemptions to religious organizations.

Provincial and municipal governments grant exemptions from property taxes as a way to recognize and promote the public benefit of certain institutions. As far back as the Magna Carta, the advancement of religion has been seen as a good in and of itself. This has led to religious properties being granted the statutory exemptions discussed above.

However, as British Columbia becomes increasingly secular, it’s worth questioning this basic assumption. As of 2016, only 27% of British Columbians said they practice a religion or faith and only 11% attend religious services weekly. Despite the emptier pews, churches across BC are still granted automatic exemptions from property taxes.

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Do churches pay property taxes in BC?

Police, fire, parks, libraries and fixing potholes are all funded by the property taxes that cities and towns across British Columbia collect. But not all properties are treated equally.

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TWU, charities, secular recovery and more - Aug 20, 2018 Newsletter

This has been a busy week.

On Tuesday, we learned that Trinity Western University is making its controversial Community Covenant voluntary for students this fall. This follows the Supreme Court of Canada ruling that law societies in BC and Ontario were justified in refusing to recognizing a proposed law school at TWU due to the discriminatory nature of this Covenant. The school plans to maintain the restrictions for staff and faculty and they are also required to sign a Statement of Faith that offends any notion of academic freedom at the school.

On Wednesday, the federal government seemed to talk out both sides of their mouth as they announced plans to repeal restrictions on the so-called political activities of charities, while at the same time announcing that they intended to defend the rules in court. The repeal of these rules is long overdue and will hopefully be accompanied by a legal definition of charity that ends the automatic assumption that religious groups are inherently beneficial to the public.

And today we submitted our response to the provincial government's draft mental health and addictions strategy. There is still time to add your own voice, so please do so before tomorrow at 4pm.

In addition to that, at last Monday's board meeting (minutes are available online for current members) the Board approved a thorough issues summary that brings together the many positions the BCHA has taken and made it easier for you to become a member through a monthly donation.

All of this work is made possible through the support of individual donors. If you haven't, please consider becoming a member or making a donation today.

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Final push to repeal Canada's blasphemy law

The Senate is considering a bill that will finally repeal Canada's blasphemy law but we still need one last push to make sure that bill becomes law.

We've just launched a new push to send a message to Senators on the committee that's studying the bill with a simple message: It's time to repeal Canada's blasphemy laws.

Send your message now

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Humanists in Pride 2018

I want to give a huge thank-you to everyone who came out and joined our group in Vancouver Pride this year.

We had 15 people marching with us and another four volunteers helped tell people about our work at our table at the Sunset Beach Festival. This meant we were able to be seen by the hundreds of thousands of people who came to watch the Parade and thousands who walked through the festival throughout the day.

We've posted a video and pictures on Instagram and Facebook below. If you took your own photos, be sure to tag us @bchumanist on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook.

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