Blog

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


Can we die?

By Jocelyn Downie, Dalhousie University and Jennifer Chandler, University of Ottawa

More than 2,000 people have died with the help of a doctor since Canada’s new medical assistance in dying law, Bill C-14, received royal assent on June 17, 2016.

This legislation has, however, come under sustained criticism for its ambiguity. When it was first introduced, concerns were immediately expressed about the eligibility criterion that “natural death has become reasonably foreseeable.”

This phrase “reasonably foreseeable” was deemed by many to be unfamiliar and unclear for physicians and their regulators. It has led to confusion and a variety of interpretations among providers and assessors of medical assistance in dying (MAiD).

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Human is rational - Apr 16, 2018 Newsletter

Last week I shared the first of our fundamentals of Humanism and how it is expressed in our work. Here's the second fundamental.

2. Humanism is rational. It seeks to use science creatively, not destructively. Humanists believe that the solutions to the world’s problems lie in human thought and action rather than divine intervention. Humanism advocates the application of the methods of science and free inquiry to the problems of human welfare. But Humanists also believe that the application of science and technology must be tempered by human values. Science gives us the means but human values must propose the ends.

Importantly, Humanism recognizes that reason isn't an end in itself but rather a means to improve human welfare. This reflects back on the first principle that humanism is ethical.

This past weekend was the second March for Science. I spoke at last year's event as part of this commitment to science and human values. We have also spoken out against creationism and pseudoscience, supported efforts for clinical trial transparency and the importance of science in public policy.

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A university president apologizes for academia’s role in residential schools

Banner: Barney Williams Jr, a residential school survivor, hugs Santa Ono, president of the University of British Columbia, during the opening of the Indian Residential School History and Dialogue Centre at Vancouver, on April 9. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ben Nelms

By Santa Ono, University of British Columbia

Earlier this month, I stood before hundreds of people gathered at the University of British Columbia and publicly apologized for the role my university played in perpetuating the Canada’s Indian residential school system, which caused harm to Indigenous people for more than a century.

Many survivors of residential schools were in the audience. As president of UBC, I was privileged to extend this apology to them along with an explanation to my university colleagues as to why the apology was necessary. My remarks were followed by those of two former residential school students and other Indigenous community respondents.

The Indian residential schools operated for more than a century as a partnership between the Canadian government and major Christian churches, with the last school closing only in 1996. For much of that time, Indigenous children were forcibly removed to schools that sought to break their ties to their families, communities and culture.

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Humanism is ethical - Apr 9, 2018 Newsletter

Humanism is the outcome of a long tradition of free thought that has inspired many of the world’s great thinkers and creative artists and gave rise to science itself.

As part of our mission to promote and educate about Humanism, each week over the next seven weeks, I want to share one of our fundamentals of Humanism and how those values are expressed in our work.

1. Humanism is ethical. It affirms the worth, dignity and autonomy of the individual and the right of every human being to the greatest possible freedom compatible with the rights of others. Humanists have a duty of care to all of humanity including future generations. Humanists believe that morality is an intrinsic part of human nature based on understanding and a concern for others, needing no external sanction.

At its core, Humanism is a naturalistic moral framework. Our values for the worth, dignity and autonomy of each individual motivate us to support people's reproductive rights and their right to die with dignity. There's also an element of compassion for all humanity that motivates our commitment to human rights.

This is what has driven our campaigns in support of Dying With Dignity and for a renewed Human Rights Commission in BC. That duty of care is also expressed in our charitable efforts, such as our blood drives, shoreline cleanups and work with food banks.

What do Humanist ethics mean in your life?

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New ways to be part of the BCHA! - April 3, 2018 Newsletter

We list the third principle of Humanism as:

Humanism supports democracy and human rights. Humanism aims at the fullest possible development of every human being. It holds that democracy and human development are matters of right. The principles of democracy and human rights can be applied to many human relationships and are not restricted to methods of government.

As part of that aim, we've constantly tried to find ways to increase democratic engagement within our organization.

Since the BCHA was founded in 1984, we've democratically elected our Board of Directors from our membership and sought feedback and involvement from our members and supporters.

Today, I'm excited to invite unveil a new project we've been working on to make it even easier for members to contribute.

Our new members-only site - members.bchumanist.ca - will allow people who have current membership to:

  • Create events for other Humanists
  • Submit new policy ideas
  • Share ideas about organizing local groups

To access the site, first make sure your membership is current, and then you will need to create an account with our system. To do this, simply visit the members' site and enter your email address under "Create an account."

In time, we'll roll out more functionality to this site to allow members across BC to further engage with one another.

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Iranian women risk arrest: Daughters of the revolution

By Homa Hoodfar, Concordia University

In the lead-up to March 8, I am sometimes asked whether we really still need an International Women’s Day (IWD). Though my greatest hope is to see a day when gender inequity and gender injustice are social artefacts of the past, that day feels nowhere near.

I celebrated March 8, 2016 in Tehran by walking in the streets, riding the Metro to attend a discussion group and reading some Happy Women’s Day greetings on social media. In my heart and mind, I celebrated these Iranian women in the women-only train compartments in their colourful outfits and loose scarves, resisting the regime’s attempt to control their bodies and eliminate their choices.

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A budget for science & equality? - Mar 5, 2018 Newsletter

Last week, the federal government announced nearly a billion dollars in new investments in science in its annual budget.

This follows actions by groups like Evidence for Democracy who have been pushing for a renewed investment in science and research since the last election. Some of you will recall the #SciencePledge we took part in back in 2015.

Evidence for Democracy has more about what this budget means for science.

For Humanists, the budget also talks a lot about promoting equality with new initiatives to close gender gaps in pay, ensure clean drinking water in every community and support the many indigenous children in foster care. Time will tell whether these are any more effective than past efforts.

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On Lawrence Krauss and sexual misconduct in atheism

Having gone to university in physics and been active an atheist groups for the past decade, I’ve been to something like five separate conferences where Lawrence Krauss was a keynote speaker. He’s well known in physics circles for his important theoretical work on dark energy and more broadly for being able to popularize science and scientific skepticism. I’ve found his books (I own several, including a couple signed copies) and talks to be entertaining and accessible.

At each of those conferences I attended though, it was an open secret that there was a whisper campaign that followed him. So the multiple, independent and documented sexual misconduct allegations that came out against him recently were honestly not that surprising to me. I believe these women.

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A child's right to Secular Schools - Feb 26, 2018 Newsletter

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We pointed out last week that the Government of BC continues to give hundreds of millions of dollars to religious independent schools in BC. This includes schools that teach creation in science class and exclude LGBTQ2+ students and families.

This isn't about a parent's choice but the rights of children to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, and their right to a good quality education.

With the support we've build over the past few months, we're going to hold the BC government accountable for the money it continues to give to these faith schools. You can help us by inviting people to join our Secular Schools campaign.

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February 19, 2018 Newsletter

On Saturday, thirteen happy Humanists helped sort donations at the Vancouver Food Bank for three hours.

On Friday, our Humanist Chaplain from Kwantlen University Polytechnic Dr Marty Shoemaker and his ex-wife spoke to fourth graders at Stratford Hall.

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