January 18, 2016 Weekly Newsletter Roundup

The BC Humanist Association was in the news last week, challenging the tax exemptions religious groups are entitled to by many municipalities. Spencer Anderson's great front page story for the Nanaimo Daily News showed that city alone awarded over $170K in property tax exemptions to church properties such as parking lots. Let's hope this is the start of a dialogue about whether it's time to stop subsidizing megachurches.

Also last week, the Supreme Court of Canada decided to partially grant the federal government's request for a further delay before assisted dying becomes decriminalized. While this means four more months of suffering for Canadians who have made that decision, the justices did rule that they could apply to a judge to hasten their death in the meantime. We will continue to make the case for compassion and choice and will be writing to the MPs and Senators who are studying this issue.

Yesterday, January 17, 2016, John Ince spoke to 36 of us on happiness and how to maximize it. We're hoping to have the recording online later this week. Be sure to subscribe to our podcast on iTunes so you can listen to the speakers at our meetings.

Upcoming Vancouver Sunday Meetings

On Sunday, January 24, 2016, Nader Abdullah of the Syrian Canadian Council speaks on the Syrian Refugee Crisis. Read more about our own effort to sponsor a refugee family.

On Sunday, January 31, 2016, Cherise Louie of Canadian Blood Services on the Value of Donating Blood. Read more about how, starting in February, we will be hosting regular blood donation sessions in Vancouver.

On Sunday, February 7, 2016, Dr Samir Gandesha, Director of the Humanities Institute at SFU will be speaking on the controversial topic of the volatile connection between religion and politics.

On Sunday, February 14, 2016, Dr Ahmed Hussein a professor of nuclear physics and a researcher at TRIUMF and Los Alamos National Laboratory will be speaking on the next generation of nuclear power plants based on thorium fluid fuel.

Our Vancouver Sunday meetings take place at the Oakridge Seniors' Centre. The centre is at the west side of Oakridge Mall at 41st and Cambie. The mall has a large parking lot and is accessible by the Canada Line. Doors open at 10:00 am for BYO coffee, tea and socializing. Please help us welcome all attendees by introducing yourself and asking about themselves (if you are comfortable doing that). We want all attendees (and especially first-timers) to feel welcome and part of our Humanist community. At 10:30 am we start our presentation.

BCHA Book Club

The February book club selection is Believing Bullshit by Stephen Law. The February meeting will be on Tuesday, February 2, 2016 at Goldis and Kirsten's home. At the beginning of the meeting, we will decide on the April 5, 2016 book club selection.

The March book club selection is With or Without God by Gretta Vosper. The March meeting will be on Tuesday, March 1, 2016 at Goldis and Kirsten's home. At the beginning of the meeting, we will decide on the May 3, 2016 book club selection.

See all upcoming events.

Check the BCHA Vancouver Meetup page for more details on the meetings mentioned above and for what we have lined up. Also, please RSVP so others have an idea of how many people usually attend these meetings. Please be aware that while we do our best to ensure that the scheduled programs go ahead, there are no guarantees and last minute changes may be necessary due to circumstances beyond our control.

Sign up for our weekly newsletter to be the first to know about our upcoming events as well as our current campaigns.

To keep our email newsletter digestible, we save extra news tidbits for this roundup. The opinions which appear in this roundup are not necessarily shared by all or even most of the members or board of the BC Humanist Association. Let me know if you have any suggestions to include in future roundups. Email: [email protected]

And for the latest news items, be sure to like the BC Humanists on Facebook and follow @BCHumanist on Twitter.

The Good


Ceasefire.ca is calling on the Canadian Government for an open and transparent review of Canada's defense strategy.  Justin Trudeau has promised that will happen.


Dying With Dignity Canada reports that the Supreme Court has come up with a compromise in response to Justin Trudeau's government's request for a 6 months delay in the implementation of the ruling striking down the prohibition on physician-assisted dying. The implementation of the law is delayed 4 months and those who are unbearably suffering in the meantime can apply to a judge for an assisted death. 


CFI Canada has a resource page of ideas for celebrating Darwin Day.  Darwin Day is an international celebration of human achievement and scientific inquiry. Charles Darwin was born on February 12, 1809.

Here is a moving, heartwarming and award winning short video about an 8 year old Irish girl who decides she is an atheist and refuses Communion. The dialogue is in Gaelic with English subtitles. The video is from The Irish Film board


From ScienceDaily.com comes an interesting article as to why widely and frequently expressed genes tend not to be on the human X chromosome and the implications for possible future gene therapies.


Planned Parenthood is suing the Center for Medical Progress. CMP is the front group for anti-abortion extremists that was posing as a medical research organization for sole purpose of producing the "gotcha" videos that falsely purported to show Planned Parenthood selling "baby parts" for medical experimentation. The resulting manufactured outrage put the healthcare of millions of US women at risk.


Poop pills might be the solution to weight loss. By replacing one's intestinal biome with that of a naturally thin person, one might be able to cure chronic obesity, according to this article from ScienceAlert.com.


In this article from Scientific American, science fiction writer Kim Stanley Robinson explores the preconditions humans will have to meet before attempts to colonize the Milky Way will be even remotely feasible.


From Israel comes a heartwarming reminder that we are all members of the human race with similar longings and desires. The Israeli government has reversed its position on the best selling Romeo and Juliette story Borderlife, which features an Israeli woman and a Palestinian man. Public outrage motivated the ministry of education to reverse its stance which said the book should not be taught in public schools. The image is of Dorit Rabinyan, the author.

The Bad

Rick Mercer shames all of Canada's political parties. Each of them was unwilling to condemn an arms deal that sees Canada sending tanks to Saudi Arabia, the country currently leading the world in chopping off people's heads.


A prominent US Department of Agriculture scientist is alleging that he was suspended after complaining that the agency was blocking his research into the harmful effects of pesticides on pollinators, such as bees and butterflies.


From the BC Civil Liberties Association comes a blog post about another important case before the Supreme Court of Canada.  This case demands that Canadian Charter Rights take precedence over energy regulators' efforts to cater to the demands of gas companies who would like to legally silence protests against their operations. Jessica Ernst has experienced stonewalling from the Alberta energy regulator after she complained of flammable tap water that she argues is due to fracking for natural gas in her area. 


TransCanada Pipelines is suing the US government for $15 billion to compensate for the cancellation of the Keystone XL pipeline project. Please consider signing this petition protesting this move.


From Humanist Perspectives magazine, comes this insightful article about Canada's sleeping but not yet dead blasphemy laws and why we should be concerned about their continued existence.


On a related note, from the pen of Kenan Malik, here is another excellent analysis of the issues for the left raised by the drive to label ex-Muslim activist, Maryam Namazie as an "Islamophobe" and bigot on par with Donald Trump. Surely it is more consonant with liberal-left values to support the victims of Islam against the Saudi Arabian financed propaganda campaign which labels all criticism of Islam as bigoted?


From Karen Garst, the Faithless Feminist, comes this article which exposes the hypocrisy of the anti-choice crowd when they pretend that their Christian faith justifies their "right" to assume control over the choices women might want to make regarding when or if to have a child. It turns out the God of the bible really wasn't all that interested in protecting the lives of women or of any fetuses they might be carrying. 

The Ugly 


Another week, another petition to the Government of Saudi Arabia to free a prisoner of conscience facing the death penalty for apostasy from Islam. From Amnesty International UK we have a petition to free the Saudi-born Palestinian poet Ashraf Fayadh.  This is just the latest Saudi government violation of human rights since it was appointed chair of the UN Human Rights Council.


From Amnesty International, yet another example of Saudi Arabia's "respect for human rights":  The sister of Raif Badawi, Samar Badawi, a prominent human rights defender has been arrested in Saudi Arabia.  Her brother was arrested a while ago for setting up a website which was allegedly encouraging atheism and has been sentenced to 10 years in prison and 1000 lashes 50 of which he received last year. 


Nine German nationals were killed in Istanbul, Turkey last Tuesday by a suicide bomber attack carried out by a Syrian national.


Al-Qaeda terrorists have killed at least 28 people in the Splendid Hotel in Burkina Faso including 6 Canadians and an American missionary. The group also took at least 63 hostages who were later freed by French forces assisting Burkina Faso soldiers.

 The Promotions


On January 27, 2016, Centre for Inquiry Vancouver and The Company of Disciples are sponsoring a theist and and atheist conversation on the subject of spanking. Is corporal punishment a useful and acceptable form of discipline? Admission is $6.


Anyone interested in taking part in Philosophy Dinners must sign up and pay the small fee ($5) in advance via Meetup since there a limited number of physical seats (and their format involves no more than 6 people to a table in order to keep the groups small). Glen is also coordinator of psychology dinners, and Calopia, your one-stop shopping site for worthwhile causes.

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