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Tools for thinking: Isaiah Berlin's two concepts of freedom

By Maria Kasmirli

‘Freedom’ is a powerful word. We all respond positively to it, and under its banner revolutions have been started, wars have been fought, and political campaigns are continually being waged. But what exactly do we mean by ‘freedom’? The fact that politicians of all parties claim to believe in freedom suggests that people don’t always have the same thing in mind when they talk about it. Might there be different kinds of freedom and, if so, could the different kinds conflict with each other? Could the promotion of one kind of freedom limit another kind? Could people even be coerced in the name of freedom?

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52 volunteers transcribed 871 prayers in 6 weeks

We're done!

In December, we started recruiting volunteers to help transcribe every daily prayer said in the BC Legislature since 2003.

Together, we transcribed 871 prayers delivered in the BC Legislature from 2003 to the present. The team comprised 52 volunteers from across the province (and beyond) and we accomplished this amazing feat in a month and a half.

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Give nurses evidence based treatment options

BC is at the forefront of addiction research and treatment provision. So when nurses develop substance use problems, why are are they not afforded the same right to quality and ethical health care as other citizens?

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On our Vancouver Sunday meetings

Questions arise from time to time about the structure and procedures behind the Sunday meetings that the BC Humanist Association hosts in Vancouver. Rather than continue to respond to these inquiries as they land in my inbox, I thought it might be prudent to share some of our thinking here.

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Homophobia in the hallways: LGBTQ people at risk in Catholic schools

By Tonya D. Callaghan, University of Calgary

Recently, a Calgary woman filed two human rights complaints with the Alberta Human Rights Commission. The employee, Barb Hamilton, says she was pushed out the Calgary Catholic School District (CCSD) because of her sexuality and was refused employment on the grounds of marital status, religious belief and sexual orientation.

Hamilton says she knew of 10 LGBTQ students in the school where she was principal who had hurt themselves, including by cutting themselves or attempting suicide because of homophobia at home or school. She says she went to the district for help but nothing changed.

Many Canadians may believe that LGBTQ people are protected from discrimination. But my research into religiously inspired homophobia and transphobia in Canadian Catholic schools since 2004 shows there are other LGBTQ-identified teachers who suffer similar fates.

I personally experienced this risk when I taught high school English for CCSD.

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Proposed religious "campus of care" undermines MAiD access

Faith-based organizations that refuse to provide medical assistance in dying should not be awarded new public contracts said the BC Humanist Association in response to news that a Catholic group will be leading a redevelopment plan for a Comox hospital.

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Scientists need time to make discoveries

By Donna Strickland, University of Waterloo

Since the announcement that I won the Nobel Prize in physics for chirped pulse amplification, or CPA, there has been a lot of attention on its practical applications.

It is understandable that people want to know how it affects them. But as a scientist, I would hope society would be equally interested in fundamental science. After all, you can’t have the applications without the curiosity-driven research behind it. Learning more about science — science for science’s sake — is worth supporting.

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The authoritarian, neo-traditionalist attack on 'gender studies'

By Jennifer Evans, Carleton University

Recently, a bag thought to contain a bomb was left outside the National Secretariat for Gender Research in Gothenburg, Sweden. The dynamite-shaped device inside turned out to be a fake, but the intent to threaten and scare was clear.

Eva Wiberg, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Gothenburg, expressed her grave concerns, saying some scholars are more exposed to hatred and violence than others.

Lately, we have witnessed global story after story of government rollbacks on abortion provision, LGBTQ rights and now the closure of entire programs devoted to women’s and gender studies. It is part of the populist playbook in places like Poland and Hungary.

Brazil’s President Jair Bolsinaro put it bluntly in his inaugural address on Jan. 2. He will fight the “ideology of gender” teaching in schools, “respect our Judeo-Christian tradition” and “prepare children for the job market, not political militancy.”

The war on gender studies is a pillar in the authoritarian critique of liberalism. But for many scholars, it is a sign of the times for liberal democracies as well.

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Government unmuzzles charities

As of last Thursday, charities have been freed of restrictive and arbitrary limits on so-called political activities.

The BC Humanist Association joined numerous environmental and human rights charities to advocate for the changes. The restrictions and related audits had contributed to an advocacy chill and infringed on charities' free speech.

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Bowen Island human rights complaint affirms atheism is a protected class

Amid the numerous stories we worked on last week, the BC Human Rights Tribunal released a 90-page decision following a complaint against a Bowen Island Montessori School (BIMS).

When I wrote about the complaint when it was filed over two years ago, I said:

The Montessori’s efforts to single out one family discriminated against them for their beliefs and sends a signal to prospective families on Bowen Island that the school requires ideological conformity from its community.

In her decision, Tribunal Member Barbara Korenkiewciz agreed. She awarded $5000 each to parents Gary Mangel and Mai Yasué and $2000 for their child.

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