January 25, 2016 Weekly Newsletter Roundup

On Sunday, January 24, 2016, Nader Abdullah of the Syrian Canadian Council spoke to 37 of us on the history behind the Syrian Refugee Crisis and the challenges facing Syrian refugees in Canada. A lively discussion followed.  Read more about our own effort to sponsor a refugee family.

Our Executive Director Ian Bushfield was on the Left at the Valley podcast yesterday speaking about some of our work. You can hear about how we plan to challenge the distribution of Gideon Bibles in Abbotsford public schools. You can listen to the podcast here.

The Fraser Valley Atheists, Skeptics and Humanists meets every Sunday at Legal Grounds Coffee in Abbotsford. Check them out on Meetup.

Action required: Write to Parliamentary committee on physician-assisted dying

Members of Parliament and Senators are currently consulting on what Canada's new law on physician-assisted dying should be.

Today we submitted our brief calling on the committee to stand up for the right to die with dignity. We told the committee that publicly-funded religious hospitals should not be able to refuse to provide physician-assisted dying. We have also asked the committee if we can present evidence in Ottawa before its hearings wrap up on February 26.

You can send your own brief to the committee to tell them, in your own words, how you think Canada can lead the world in providing end of life options. Simply email [email protected]. There are more details on our website and you can feel free to use anything from our response.

BC Humanists Podcast

Thanks to Tasha's help we're getting our podcast going. Our latest episode with John Ince speaking about happiness is online and we'll have Nader Abdullah's talk on the Syrian refugee crisis up soon too.

You can find all of our latest episodes on our website and I'm very excited to announce that you can subscribe on iTunes.

Upcoming Vancouver Sunday Meetings

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.

On Sunday, February 21, 2016, David Hutchinson will be speaking on Cannabis Science.


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.

Other events of interest

The 6th annual Imagine No Religion conference is happening in Richmond, BC from May 20-22, 2016. The video covers some of the highlights. Click the link for details and to order tickets.


On January 27, 2016 from 7-9 PM, 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. Reserve your tickets online via the link.


Earlier in the day, also on January 27th, 12-1pm, Dr Renisa Mawani will be speaking on the history of the infamous Komagata Maru in a talk titled The Fugitive Sojourns of Gurdit Singh, 1914-1922. The event, sponsored by the UBC Social Justice Institute, will take place in the Jack Bell building on the UBC campus. Check the link for details.

News of note

The Good


From NPR, some good news from California on the childhood vaccination rate. Stories like this and one from last week of a woman changing her mind about vaccinating her kids after 4 of her 7 children came down with whooping cough are hopeful signs that maybe the insanity of vaccine avoidance is beginning to wane. 


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. In 2013 we got mayor Gregor Robertson to proclaim International Darwin Day in Vancouver.


From Edmonton, Alberta, we have this CBC report of encouraging news on the religious schools issue as a former minister of education questions the wisdom of maintaining multiple school systems to cater to religious minorities. This issue arose in the context of Catholic Bishop Henry of Calgary lobbying for the continued "right" of Catholic schools to discriminate against and permit bullying of LGBTQ students under the guise of "religious freedom".


From the Ottawa Citizen, an encouraging article on the federal government's rethinking of the purpose and future of the Office of Religious Freedom


There is evidence from the orientations of the orbits of other trans-Neptunian objects for a large 9th planet in the outer solar system. The planet would be smaller than Neptune. The astronomers who have examined the orbital analysis are hopeful that this planet will be observed soon.


From Futurism.com comes an article suggesting that the there might be a feasible design for a space elevator by 2030. This would revolutionize space exploration as the cost of taking a tonne of payload to orbit would plummet.

In this entertaining video linked from the Friendly Atheist blog, an atheist explains why he enjoyed his visit to a Sunday Assembly session, but is not going back.

This video shows the dance of baby sting rays. It's sort of like aquatic kittens. 


Finally, from Andy Borowitz of The New Yorker, a black-humour satirical article about Donald Trump's recent boast that if he shot someone at random on Fifth Avenue in New York, his support would remain strong. 

The Bad


There is evidence that a huge pulse of meltwater has emerged from under the Western Greenland Ice Shield. This suggests that catastrophic sea level rise due to global warming may be upon us much sooner than previously predicted.


Blizzard conditions in the Washington, DC area remind those of us who grew up on the Canadian prairies that there are places were the presence of snowdrifts a mere 2 feet deep are considered apocalyptic. Countdown to some science-illiterate claiming that this blizzard proves Global Warming is a hoax in 3... 2... 1...  


The BC Civil Liberties Association is demanding that the National Energy Board open its doors to the public during its hearings on the Kinder Morgan pipeline.  The NEB has locked out the public to "avoid distractions" in violation of the Canadian Constitution which mandates public hearing be open to (you guessed it) the public.


From the National Observer, this article points out that eco-tourism in the area threatened with destruction by the Kinder Morgan pipeline project is worth more than the diluted bitumen which would be exported through the pipeline.


From The Friendly Atheist blog, comes a story on the latest antics of Sarah Palin and her apparent inability to take responsibility for anything she or her family does.


From Jerry Coyne's blog comes this story about censorship of "fancy dress costumes" at Edinburgh University.


One of the results of Bernie Sander's campaign in the US is that more Americans are starting to see through the old two-party, conservative vs slightly less conservative shell game. This article examining Hillary Clinton's record of past political positions is just the latest person to take note.


It's almost as if someone is afraid that there are not enough quack "wellness promotion" scams out there. The image is of a young woman who died by being frozen solid in a "cryotherapy" tank where liquid nitrogen is used to subject the victim to -150C for a few seconds. This person tried to have a session alone. Her body was discovered the next morning.


In an effort to up the idiocy ante with Tea Party Christians, Saudi Arabia's highest religious official, grand mufti Sheikh Abdullah al-Sheikh, has declared chess to be forbidden in Islam.


Finally, let's not forget to keep pressure on for the release of Reverend Lim, the Canadian humanitarian pastor imprisoned in North Korea.

The Ugly


The poisoned water crisis in Flint, Michigan has been known to local authorities for over a year. This insightful article from Grist explains how politicians at every level dropped the ball (and tried to hide it) and why the Republican governor of Michigan should be arrested.


A massive methane leak from a poorly regulated storage facility in California will continue to spew the equivalent of 7 million cars on the road every day it is not stopped. The company responsible for this mess says they will not be able to stop the leak until at least march. This is a disaster on a similar scale to the BP deepwater spill. This article from the Guardian has all the gory details.


Have you heard the one about how the social safety net is ruining the US economy and costing jobs? How about how Bernie Sanders' proposals would bankrupt the USA? Here is an article which lists the top 10 US corporate welfare programs, which, if only any two were cancelled, would handily fund Bernie Sander's "too expensive" programs. Bernie's programs have a demonstrated track record of improving the lives of all citizens where they have been implemented in Scandinavian countries.


From NPR comes another story backing up the theory that Putin authorized the polonium poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko, a former spy and critic of Putin in the UK. 


More on the ongoing efforts by Islamists and Christian fascists to foment an all-out war between Muslims and the rest of the European population. Islamic clerics are blaming the victims for the New Years Ever rape and sexual groping spree by gangs of Muslim men, while Christian fascists are calling for the expulsion of all Muslims from Europe. Meanwhile, some seem content to refuse to acknowledge that there is a problem or that it has anything to do with Islamic dogma. The protest sign says "Stop the Islamization of Europe!" above a link claiming to be "Germany's largest political blog."

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