Opinions expressed on the BC Humanist Association's blog do not necessarily reflect those of the BCHA or the Board of Directors.
Yesterday was Darwin Day, the anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin and a chance to reflect on the theory of evolution.
While we didn't participate in formal celebrations in BC this year, one event that caught my eye was a Darwin Day lecture in Pittsburgh. At this lecture, Princeton emeritus professors Peter and Rosemary Grant discussed their research into how Darwin's finches are continuing to develop and evolve. Their research found that some new species evolved in as few as three generations!
As I told Gurpreet Singh on SpiceFM over the weekend, the theory of evolution is alive and a vibrant area of study.
Let me know if there's something we should do next year to stand up for evolution and to celebrate Darwin Day 2019.Read more
A sea change in the religious landscape of Canada is underway. Led by millennials, Canada is increasingly moving towards a secular culture. “Spiritual but not religious” has become our new normal.
A 2015 Angus Reid poll found 39 per cent of Canadians identify as “spiritual but not religious.” Another 27 per cent identify as “neither religious nor spiritual;” 24 per cent as “religious and spiritual;” and 10 per cent as “religious but not spiritual.”
What sparked this dramatic change in beliefs and self-identification? And what does it mean for the future of Canadian society?Read more
All schools and Provincial schools must be conducted on strictly secular and non-sectarian principles. The highest morality must be inculcated, but no religious dogma or creed is to be taught in a school or Provincial school.
This section of British Columbia's School Act was written in 1876 and is, as far as I know, unique in Canada for explicitly establishing the school system as secular.
Nevertheless, it was in Abbotsford, BC where the biggest controversy over teaching creationism in Canadian science classes occurred. Today, we're re-publishing Melissa Story's four part series on Creationism in Canada that tells that story.Read more
Ibrahima Barry, Mamadou Tanou Barry, Khaled Belkacemi, Aboubaker Thabti, Abdelkrim Hassane and Azzedine Soufiane.
One year ago today a man walked into a Quebec Mosque and shot and killed these six people and injured another nineteen.
After the shooting, I wrote in our newsletter: "Now more than ever the world needs an impassioned defence of compassion, human rights and secularism. The world needs Humanism."
As we reflect on one of the worst shootings in Canadian history, I'm thinking about what's changed, what's still the same and what's gotten worse.Read more
As a Humanist, Hamza bin Walayat fled Pakistan for the UK fearing that he could face execution or vigilante attacks for his "apostasy."
The UK Home Office recently denied Walayat's asylum application, however, as they claim he couldn't identify Plato and Aristotle as Greek Humanist philosophers and that he contradicted himself by saying Humanism both is and isn't a religion.
The case is frankly baffling. While Greek philosophers laid the groundwork for Humanism in Europe, it's hardly the only path to freethought. Similarly, whether Humanism should be considered a "religion" or not is a philosophical and semantic question; it's not a sensible basis to reject a refugee application. There's more information about the case at the International Humanist & Ethical Union and Humanists UK.
What this story highlights is the ever present threat faced by atheists and Humanists in theocratic states around the world. It also shows the importance of programs to support refugees fleeing those situations.
In 2016 we started a process to sponsor a Syrian refugee family to come to Canada. That application is still working its way through the bureaucracy. We're hopeful that we can welcome those people to Vancouver later this year.
But we're just one small organization with neither the resources nor the capacity to meet the demand. Luckily, we're not alone and this recent feature in The Atlantic discusses some of the other important work being done.Read more
I just got back from my week in Ottawa last night. There I was supporting our lawyers in our intervention at the Supreme Court of Canada.
Throughout the two days of hearings, I provided a running commentary from our Twitter account and did Facebook live recaps with our legal team.
You can find all of that content, along with the webcast of Wes McMillan, our lead counsel, arguing before the court on our website.
We can never know in advance what way a court will go. That said, I was encouraged by the fact many judges, particularly Justice Rosalie Abella, were engaged with the issues we planned to raise, namely whether a law school can even claim to have religious rights. No lower court has yet considered these questions in their decisions.
There's no timeline for when the Court will make its decision, though it will almost certainly be before June 15, 2018 which is the last day retiring Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin is able to contribute to a decision.
What this shows is that our efforts are being paid attention to. We were only able to do this, however, with generous pro-bono support and donations from dozens of you. Please read our 2018 case for support and consider making a donation to our year end campaign if you haven't yet.
To everyone who's supported our work thus far: Thank you.Read more
On Thursday and Friday last week, the Supreme Court of Canada heard arguments in the cases surrounding evangelical Trinity Western University's proposed law school. We were there as an intervenor and live-tweeted the hearings.
If you missed those tweets, we've collected the highlights below. Unfortunately, the service we used to collect our Tweets (Storify) was removed in 2018. You can still watch the webcasts of the hearings below.
I don't have much time for the newsletter today as I'm finishing off a number of tasks before I head off to Ottawa tomorrow morning. There I'll be meeting up with our lawyers from Hakemi & Ridgedale to prep for our arguments before the Supreme Court of Canada on Thursday and Friday.
Our first appearance at the country's highest court is in the cases over evangelical Trinity Western University's proposed law school. We're specifically arguing that TWU can't claim religious freedom as organizations don't have recognized beliefs in Canadian law.
You can read the full arguments that we submitted in our factum.
If you are interested in watching the hearings at home, they'll be live broadcast on CPAC. Unfortunately, we don't know what time we'll be presenting, so your best bet will be to follow our Twitter account, where I'll be live-tweeting the hearings. You can also follow #TWUlaw for everyone's running commentary on the hearings (you should be able to view those links without a Twitter account).
Finally, after each day's hearings, I'm going to debrief with our lawyers on Facebook live. Look for those videos on our Facebook page around 5pm EST on Thursday and Friday. I'll share links to those next week (I'll make sure you can see them without a Facebook account then).
If you want to help, please add to the conversation on social media and consider making a donation to our year-end campaign.
We need your help in 2018 to keep the BC Humanist Association afloat.
This last year we've seen tremendous growth in our movement. We started 2017 with 1000 email supporters, now we have 2000. In the same period, we increased our membership by almost 50%. We’ve worked with people and groups from Kimberley to Prince George to Courtenay.Read more
The bill to repeal Canada's blasphemy law has passed the House of Commons justice committee and is on track to become law by the end of this year or early next. While all parties agreed to repeal section 296 (the explicit blasphemy law) of the Criminal Code, MPs decided to amend rather than repeal section 176.
This latter section prohibits disrupting a religious service. Many conservative religious groups lobbied hard to keep it and that effort proved successful as MPs on the committee cited those letters as the reason for their change of heart.
This just shows how much more work we still have to do.
But we're getting there. Last week, I was able to present our petition with over 1000 signatures to add nonreligion to the BC Human Rights Code to the government in person. That meeting went well and you can read our full submission online.
In the meantime, help us continue to build our movement by sharing our updates with any friends or colleagues who might be interested.
Each email we send goes out to more and more supporters. When we launched our new website two years ago, our newsletter went out to 500 people. Today we can reach nearly 2000.Read more