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


Speaking out for nonreligious rights - Nov 14, 2017 Newsletter

It's a busy week for our efforts to promote human rights and challenge religious privilege.

This afternoon, I'm meeting with Parliamentary Secretary Ravi Kahlon as part of the Government of BC's consultations on its new Human Rights Commission.

I'm going to present him with a copy of our petition to add "nonreligion" as a protected class to the Human Rights Act. Right now that petition has 947 signatures but I want to have 1000.

Will you add your name if you haven't already?

Once you've signed, please email the petition to your friends, or share it on Facebook or Twitter.

Last week, meanwhile, we submitted a brief to the House of Commons Heritage Committee's study on systemic racism and religious discrimination. In that brief, we raised a litany of concerns around religious privilege and the importance of protecting the rights of the nonreligious in Canada.

All of this is made possible by your support. We're approaching the end of the year, so if you haven't recently, please donate to help us continue this work into 2018.

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Secular Remembrance - Nov 6, 2017 Newsletter

November 11 is a chance for us to reflect on the cost of global conflicts. As British Historian Dan Snow wrote in 2014:

There is no greater sacrifice than giving one’s life for one’s fellow citizens, and, correspondingly, there is no greater responsibility we have as voters than to send our armed forces into harm’s way on our behalf.

The importance of remembering those sacrifices is tainted when some organizers choose to put religion front and centre in official Remembrance Day ceremonies. Snow pushes back against that infringement of secularism in his op-ed, and we've done the same over the past two  years.

We'll continue to work to support secular and inclusive Remembrance ceremonies, as well as raising awareness of other civilian casualties and the importance of peace through our partnership with the Peace Poppies memorial.

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Ktunaxa ruling poses challenges for secularists

This morning, the Supreme Court of Canada dismissed a freedom of religion case launched by the Ktunaxa Nation that sought to block development of a year-round ski resort in the East Kootenays.

The Ktunaxa believe that Grizzly Bear Spirit inhabits Qat’muk, the Jumbo Mountain region where Glacier Resorts sought to build their resort. Construction of permanent structures on the mountain would drive the spirit away. In this way, the Ktunaxa, like many other indigenous spiritualities, see the land itself as sacred or as part of the divine. This is in contrast to Western religions that typically separate the spiritual and physical realms. As such, the Ktunaxa argued that allowing development on the sacred land would destroy the focus of their worship and render their religious views moot. You can’t pray or worship what is no longer there.

This case was one of the first tests of religious freedom claims by an Indigenous group in Canada. The Ktunaxa lost at trial and the BC Court of Appeal, with both courts dismissing the freedom of religion claims and stating that the government had fulfilled its constitutional requirements to consult with the Nation.

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Peace Ceremony - Newsletter

On Saturday, November 11, we will once again be co-hosting Let Peace Be Their Memorial at Seaforth Peace Park in Vancouver.

The event commemorates refugees and other civilian victims of war, who aren't normally included in traditional ceremonies.

The event starts at 2:30 PM and you can find more details on our website.

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Atheists have rights too - Oct 23, 2017 Newsletter

Last week we launched a petition asking the Government of BC to add "nonreligion" to the Human Rights Code.

We've already received nearly 500 signatures, which is a fantastic start!

To continue to build the case for this simple change, I published an editorial in The Tyee today where I set out the motivation for this effort. It's one of the most read articles on their site and I encourage you to read and share it.

Finally, if you've faced discrimination for being an atheist or not believing in god, I want to hear from you. Simply reply to this email with your story and if you'd be okay sharing it (even anonymously) publicly. Personal stories can be some of the most effective ways to raise awareness about the importance of changes like this.

This petition is the first step in our response to the province's effort to re-establish the Human Rights Commission. Keep up to date on our response by signing the petition.

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We can dislike the niqab, while still respecting religious freedom

As some would have us believe, Quebec’s Bill 62 doesn’t explicitly mention niqabs or burkas, and anyway, such face coverings are cultural and not religious. Therefore, we’re told, that the renewed debate about the niqab and freedom of religion is completely unnecessary.

If only that were so.

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#MeToo and Humanist Compassion - Oct 16, 2017 Newsletter

If you're on Facebook or Twitter, you've probably seen a number of people posting "Me Too" over the past 24 hours.

The campaign, started by actor Alyssa Milano, asks people who've been sexually harassed or assaulted to simply say "me too." Hundreds of thousands of people, mostly women but also some men and gender non-binary people, have since spoken up and many have shared their stories.

I've been lucky to not face the unwanted looks, comments or gropes that so many of my friends and acquaintances have. And I've thankfully never been in a situation where I was afraid that someone wouldn't take no for no.

But I have been reading and listening to these stories. And that makes me think about what I, as a Humanist, can do to promote human flourishing and to defend personal autonomy, which are both denied by this harassment.

As an organization, I am proud to say that our board unanimously adopted a Code of Conduct recently. This document simply sets out that our events should be open and welcoming and free from discrimination and harassment.

I wish we lived in a world where a "me too" campaign or codes of conduct weren't necessary. But instead we live in one where people attending a skeptic conference cheered for a harasser. It's one where I'm nervous about sending this email because I've heard the apologetics for harassment from our own supporters and followers.

But speaking up against injustice is too important. The Humanist movement is built upon progressive values. We must embody them and we must defend them.

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Who will be the doctors of death in a time of assisted dying?

By Craig Goldie, Queen's University, Ontario

Medical assistance in dying (MAID) became a reality in Canada when legislation was passed in July 2016. This is the hastening of death through a lethal dose of medication — either by self-ingestion (assisted suicide) or physician injection (euthanasia).

More than 2,000 Canadians have received MAID, administered by a number of physicians. Few of those doctors are palliative care specialists, who are purposely keeping their distance from MAID to avoid further stigmatization as the physicians of death. They do not want to be associated with treatment failure, or viewed as only providing care to those who have either given up or been deemed hopeless.

This has left MAID without leadership or co-ordination, leading to unequal access and confusion among the public and health-care providers.

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Why does Star Trek work when it warps science?

By Bryan Gaensler, University of Toronto

I’ve been alive for 44 years, and I’ve been watching Star Trek for 44 years.

I was a baby sitting on my father’s lap for re-runs of the original series. I watched Star Trek: The Motion Picture and Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan at the drive-in. And on I watched, through another 11 films and 624 television episodes, and finally, this month, to the brand new Star Trek: Discovery.

Yes, I’m a Trekkie.

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Over 500 for Humanist Marriage

Four weeks ago we launched our petition calling for the Government of BC to give Humanists equal standing with the many religious groups that are able to perform marriages in the province.

Since then, over 500 people joined our call!

On Thursday, we put those first 500 names in the mail to the Health Minister. We reiterated our simple call: Give Vital Statistics a definition of religion that includes Humanists.

Read our letter.

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