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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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BC Humanists launch study of legislature prayers

Through a crowdsourced effort, the BC Humanist Association is planning to transcribe every one of the 644 prayers said in the British Columbia Legislature since 2003.

Every day the Legislative Assembly's sittings begins with a prayer led by one Member of the Legislative Assembly.

There exists no study of the religiosity of those prayers or how diverse the worldviews represented are.

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Are LGBTQ2+ families welcome at BC independent schools?

In the past couple days it has come out that anyone in a same-sex relationship is formally barred from working at a Catholic school in Calgary. Further, in a number of human rights complaints, teachers have alleged anti-LGBTQ2+ discrimination by Catholic school boards in Alberta.

While Alberta's Catholic schools are entirely funded by the province, there is no reason to expect many of BC's faith schools (which typically receive half of their funding from the province) are any different.

To investigate this, I went looking through schools' websites to see if they had policies that might reasonably be interpreted as excluding LGBTQ2+ staff or students, or students whose parents are in a same sex relationship. It's also worth mentioning that since December 31, 2016, the BC Government has required all independent schools to include specific references to sexual orientation and gender identity in their anti-bullying policies. However, this requirement does not preclude schools from excluding LGBTQ2+ staff, students or parents.

Once again, it doesn't take long to find some pretty clear language. While none of these schools have been confirmed to have excluded any LGBTQ2+ staff or students, the policies do raise questions about how welcome LGBTQ2+ families are there.

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Academic studies pave way for expanding MAiD eligibility

A trio of studies released by the Council of Canadian Academies (CCA) have provided the scientific and ethical grounding for policymakers to restore access to medical assistance in dying (MAiD), according to the BC Humanist Association.

The studies, commissioned by the federal government following the passage of Bill C-14, examine aspects of expanding access to MAiD to groups currently excluded by the law: mature minors, those with a mental illness and individuals with degenerative conditions who want an advanced request.

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Victoria councillor starts debate on religious holiday decorations

The BC Humanist Association is supportive of any municipality reviewing whether public funds are being spent in a secular and inclusive manner.

During a line-by-line debate over the City of Victoria's annual budget, Council approved a motion by Councillor Ben Isitt to have staff review the $64,000 the city spends on seasonal decorations.

The motion has drawn significant coverage, following a front-page story in the Victoria Times Colonist. It's since been picked up by most local news outlets and several national and international publications.

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Canada repeals blasphemy law

Humanists are cheering the passage of a bill repealing Canada's prohibition on "blasphemous libel" in the Senate today. Canada's 19th century blasphemy law will be no more once the bill receives Royal Assent.

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BC Humanist Association endorses $10aDay Child Care Plan

At its most recent board meeting, the BC Humanist Association unanimously agreed to join hundreds of organizations in endorsing the $10aDay Child Care Plan.

The plan is an initiative of the Coalition of Child Care Advocates of BC. By making quality child care affordable and accessible, the plan sets a realistic path to meet the needs of BC children, women, families and employers. The Government of BC introduced its Child Care BC plan in February 2018 and is based largely on the $10aDay Plan.

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The rise of the Christian Right in Canada

By André Gagné, Concordia University and Andréa Febres-Gagné, McGill University

Over the past few years, Christian right groups have made inroads into the political landscape of certain countries. Two recent examples have been the American and Brazilian elections.

Among Christian right organizations, 81 per cent of white evangelicals are credited with helping propel Donald Trump to the White House in 2016.

During the recent midterm elections, 75 per cent of white “born again” evangelicals supported Republican candidates. Their influence was also felt in Brazil with Jair Bolsonaro’s victory. Recent polls estimate that 70 per cent of Brazilian evangelicals voted for the new president.

Some groups in America have been pushing for Christian nationalist-inspired laws through a little-known endeavour originally launched in 2015 called “Project Blitz.”

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