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Chilliwack MLA protests passage of Human Rights Commission

On Thursday, Members of the Legislative Assembly of BC voted unanimously at third reading restore the province's Human Rights Commission. One MLA, however, abstained to protest a government he claims is trying to protect the rights of the nonreligious at the expense of "the right of Christians to follow the biblical ethic that their Lord and their conscience requires."

The bill, introduced earlier this month, was welcomed by the BC Humanist Association and other human rights organizations in the province. It's passage means BC will soon have an independent Human Rights Commissioner whose duty will be to educate and promote human rights in the province.

The existing Human Rights Tribunal provides a space where individuals can bring forward specific claims of discrimination. The Commissioner's work will supplement the Tribunal by proactively researching human rights issues in the province and providing guidance to individuals and organizations seeking to adopt best practices.

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Settlement suggests atheists welcome in United Church ministry

The United Church of Canada reached a settlement agreement with Rev Gretta Vosper recently, meaning she will be able to continue in her role as a minister.

Vosper came to prominence after openly declaring herself an atheist within the Christian and Protestant denomination. Vosper ministers a congregation in Toronto. Officials in the church had sought to defrock her in an internal hearing.

The settlement means that hearing will not go ahead.

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Mandatory AA policy deemed "unreasonable"

A labour arbitrator has ruled that Interior Health's policies around hospital workers with substance use issues are discriminatory. The policy is immediately suspended.

According to the ruling, the health region's policy meant any employee who disclosed a substance use issue could be immediately suspended and required the employee to commit to abstinence, monitoring for two years, attendance at Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or Narcotics Anonymous (NA) meetings and regular meetings with administration. The Hospital Employees' Union (HEU) filed a complaint under the Labour Relations Code alleging that these requirements were discriminatory and failed to account for individual circumstances of each employee.

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Humanists raise concern about Christian housing funding

Humanists and secularists are raising concerns about two projects announced as part of a slew of new affordable housing initiatives by the Government of BC.

The BC Humanist Association is concerned that the projects, run by the Pentecostal Christian Life Assembly in Langley and Salvation Army in Vancouver, may exclude LGBTQ+ individuals and use the facilities to proselytize to vulnerable populations. The projects account for 143 of the 4900 new homes and will receive $14.3 million from the province.

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Why conversion therapy and ex-gay ministries should be outlawed

By Gerald Walton, Lakehead University

“Pray the gay away” is shorthand for Christian programs that, disguised as love, purport that God heals homosexuality. Through the lens of sexual sin, homosexuality is construed as something in need of healing, a disease in need of a cure, an error in need of remedy.

Secular versions are known as conversion therapy, as described in detail by Peter Gajdics in his memoir, The Inheritance of Shame. The book details his experiences with “ex-gay” counselling during the late 1980s and early 1990s.

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Say no to Operation Christmas Child

Every November, Operation Christmas Child asks parents and families to fill shoeboxes with toys and gifts to deliver to children in the developing world. While seemingly well-intentioned, these gifts are not freely given and are instead a tool to proselytize to a captive audience.

The BC Humanist Association calls on all BC public schools to refuse to participate in this program and has asked the Minister of Education to direct schools to not take part.

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Humanists welcome legislation to restore BC Human Rights Commission

The BC Humanist Association is welcoming legislation introduced today to restore the province's Human Rights Commission.

Ian Bushfield, Executive Director, BC Humanist Association:

Core to Humanism is the promotion of human rights and the creation of a more just and compassionate society. Human Rights Commissions in every other province play a crucial role in that effort as they provide clear guidance to employers, landlords, service providers and citizens about their duties to respect one another's rights.

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Redefining evil

By Cathryn van Kessel, University of Alberta

After Robert Bowers murdered 11 people at a synagogue in Pittsburgh, people are looking for explanations. Who would do such a thing? And why? The answers are almost as terrifying as the violence itself. “The most terrifying thing is just how normal he seems,” a neighbour of Bowers told the Associated Press.

Indeed, often “ordinary people” commit these evil deeds. To grasp how extraordinary evils are often committed by apparently ordinary people, we need to take care regarding how we define evil, and most importantly, whom we consider to be the agents of evil.

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Humanists condemn antisemitism - Oct 29, 2018 Newsletter

Earlier today, I wrote to the Peretz Centre for Secular Jewish Culture (Vancouver's community for Secular Humanistic Judaism) to extend my deepest sympathies and condolences following this weekend's attack on the Jewish community in Pittsburgh and by extension Jewish peoples around the world. These are undoubtedly trying times and the resurgence of openly violent antisemitism is deeply concerning.

Donna Becker, Executive Director of the Peretz Centre wrote back to me with a message for BCHA members:

The kind of action we saw in Pittsburgh and in other places in the US and even in eastern Canada is unbelievably terrible. The Pittsburgh murders raise antisemitic attacks to a new level—orders of magnitude beyond desecrating a graveyard or vandalizing a synagogue.

We at the Peretz Centre have sent condolence letters to various mosques, churches and synagogues in the recent past, and It is so good to know that the BC Humanists stand behind the Jewish community, as we stand behind other victims of ignorance and bigotry.

This was not an isolated incident. Earlier last week, it was widely reported that another far right extremist sent pipe bombs to numerous Democratic officials and a white supremacist murdered two innocent people at a drugstore. The resurgence of violent antisemitism and white supremacy occurs amidst a clear campaign by far right groups to use racial resentment to divide and radicalize people.

Humanists and atheists are not immune from contributing to this toxic climate. I've seen atheists bring up the antisemitic conspiracy theory of cultural marxism. Even more blatantly, I've seen atheists claim "the religion of Judaism is worse than Nazism" in an ugly effort to try to make some cheap point about how much they dislike religion. It doesn't take long to hear similar comments about Muslims or Islam in many atheist spaces these days either. Regardless of efforts to caveat that the point of that such statements are about challenging ideas and not people, given the broader discourse we have a duty to think far more critically about the arguments we are making, or letting go unchallenged. Because it is neither reasonable nor productive to make comparisons between a religion that's practiced by around 15 million people and an ideology that is dedicated to the eradication of all of those people.

Humanist values should compel each and every one of us to condemn all forms of bigotry and motivate us to fight discrimination and intolerance in our communities. We need to take responsibility not just for our own comments but for our own silence in the face of others' hatred.

Finally, we must stay committed to our common humanity. Humanism calls on us to utilize free inquiry for the furtherance of peace and in the service of compassion. So let us aim to be thoughtful and compassionate as we continue to work for a better world.

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Ways and Means Motion signals government's next moves on charities' free speech

On Thursday, Canada's Finance Minister Bill Morneau took the first formal legislative step to remove limits on the political activities of charities.

Morneau introduced a Ways and Means Motion in the House of Commons on Thursday. The motion passed today with a vote of 166 to 114. Ways and Means Motions are tabled and approved prior to the introduction of taxation legislation. This motion removes restrictions on political activities of charities among other changes.

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