Latest Updates

Don't stop with Delta hospice

Following the announcement that the province will cut $1.5 million in funding to the Delta Hospice Society for refusing to provide medical assistance in dying (MAID), the BC Humanist Association is urging the province to apply the same standards to all publicly-funded healthcare facilities in the province.

As reported by Rob Shaw in the Vancouver Sun, the Delta Hospice Society's board was taken over by groups opposed to MAID following a membership drive. The Society, which operates Irene Thomas Hospice, violated a provincial policy that requires healthcare facilities that receive at least half of their funding from the province to provide MAID. Religious facilities, such as Providence Healthcare, are exempt from the policy and merely have to provide a referral to another facility.

In an opinion piece in the Vancouver Sun over the weekend, Health Minister Adrian Dix defended the move as putting "patients first" but reiterated that publicly-funded faith-based facilities can operate according to a different set of rules.

The BC Humanist Association (BCHA), who work toward a secular society and support assisted dying "for all who choose it", is renewing its call for the province to end the exemption for faith-based facilities.

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Government tables bill to expand MAID

Humanists in British Columbia are reacting with skepticism to some of the provisions contained within a new bill purported to expand access to medical assistance in dying (MAID).

Canada's Justice Minister David Lametti tabled Bill C-7 today, which amends the Criminal Code restrictions on who can access MAID. The bill permits those whose deaths aren't reasonably foreseeable to access MAID and allows those whose deaths are reasonably foreseeable to make an advance request for MAID. It also restricts those with mental illnesses from being eligible.

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Fort St John overhauls permissive tax exemptions

In November, the northern British Columbia community of Fort St John approved a new Financial Policy Framework that will require organizations "provide broad community benefits" to be eligible for property tax exemptions.

Under the Community Charter, municipalities are required to exempt certain property like houses of worship from property taxes but can provide additional permissive exemptions to certain other properties. The City provides nearly $800,000 worth of exemptions to various organizations, with religious groups receiving over $255,000 of those exemptions.

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BCHA ED Ian Bushfield named Canadian Atheist Person of the Year

The editor of Canadian Atheist has named the BC Humanist Association's Executive Director Ian Bushfield as the 2020 Canadian Atheist "Person of the Year." The award goes to the person "who had the greatest positive impact in Canadian secularism, humanism, atheism and freethought in 2019."

Canadian Atheist describes itself as an independent blog by Canadian atheists, secularists, humanists and freethinkers. The awards are run by editor Mark Gibbs who solicited input and submissions for nominees from readers. Bushfield was one of the blog's first contributors and still occasionally writes for the publication.

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Tell the Government to expand access to MAID

Following a Quebec Supreme Court ruling that the existing restrictions on medical assistance in dying in Canada are unconstitutional, the federal government is looking to expand the eligibility requirements.

In line with our position on medical assistance in dying, the BC Humanist Association has created the following guide to help you respond to the government's questionnaire that will inform the coming changes.

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Enshrine evidence-based medicine in healthcare professions

The BC Humanist Association is calling on the government to end the recognition of chiropractors, naturopaths, acupuncturists and Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioners as part of planned reforms to the regulation of health professionals.

An all-party committee is considering changes to the Health Professions Act. The review follows a previous inquiry that called for a major overhaul of the Colleges and regulatory bodies that oversee medical practitioners in the province.

The committee's current proposal considers merging the province's 20 regulatory colleges to just five. This would mean the abolition of the Colleges of Chiropractic, Naturopathy, and Traditional Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture; however, those practitioners would most likely be governed by a new College of Health and Care Professionals instead.

The BCHA's reply to the consultation calls for evidence-based medicine to be a core mandate of each of the five new colleges, which would preclude the inclusion of such unscientific alternative treatments.

Download the reply [PDF]

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Teaching about religion and culture still legal

Over three years ago, I wrote about an allegation that a student in Port Alberni was forced to participate in an Indigenous smudging ceremony in a BC public school.

So as Humanists and secularists, we stand with the parent in speaking out against the forced participation of students in such a ceremony.

Today, Justice Thompson of the Supreme Court of British Columbia dismissed that case, finding that the school district did not infringe the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, including the state’s duty of religious neutrality. The entire ruling is worth reading as this was possibly the first case to examine the place of Indigenous spiritual practice in a secular school classroom in the era of reconciliation.

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Secular treatment options available for nurses following AA complaint settlement

Vancouver Coastal Health has agreed to change its policy to permit healthcare professionals to opt for a secular addictions treatment option. The move comes as part of a settlement agreement with Byron Wood, who had filed a human rights complaint after being forced to attend religious based Alcoholics Anonymous by the health region.

The BC Humanist Association had been following Byron's case and has been campaigning to ensure people have access to secular and evidence based addictions treatments.

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Winning the fight against religious privilege

After discussing what we're up against last week, we saw a major change on Thursday when the Legislature agreed to amend its practice of starting each day's session with "prayers" to "prayers and reflections."

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Prayers replaced by 'prayers and reflections' in BC Legislature

Starting in 2020, the British Columbia Legislature will begin each day with "prayers and reflections" instead of "prayers."

The change comes after Members of the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia unanimously supported a motion from Government House Leader Mike Farnworth to make the change in the Standing Orders.

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