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It's time for public funds to go to public education

As students return to schools across the province today, so will the nearly half a billion dollars that continue to flow to private schools in BC.

The Province of British Columbia currently provides private schools (also called independent schools) with public funding equivalent to up to 50% of the funding per-student that a neighbouring public school receives. The total handout to private schools in British Columbia for the 2018-19 school year is budgeted to be over $425 million.

The BC Humanist Association supports the principle of public funds for public education and has called for the phase out of public funding to all independent schools. Through the summer we have been looking into independent schools and over the coming weeks, we will be releasing our findings from looking into these schools.

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Permissive tax exemptions in Vancouver

As British Columbia's largest city, it makes sense for the City of Vancouver to be the first municipality we profile in our Fair Property Tax Exemptions series. However, Vancouver is actually a fascinating case for the way the city council has set its priorities.

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What BC cities give religious property tax exemptions? A look at our data

As we've outlined, city and town councils across the province have the freedom to exempt certain lands from property taxes. In an effort to understand what cities have done, earlier this year we wrote to every city, town, village and incorporated district in BC and asked them. While most communities provide these exemptions to religious properties, we found a sizable proportion require organizations to demonstrate a public benefit prior to receiving the exemption and a small number of communities that choose not to provide any permissive tax exemptions.

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Starting a conversation about permissive exemptions for churches

With an understanding of what a permissive exemption is, it's worth discussing some of the issues that are raised by municipalities granting these exemptions to religious organizations.

Provincial and municipal governments grant exemptions from property taxes as a way to recognize and promote the public benefit of certain institutions. As far back as the Magna Carta, the advancement of religion has been seen as a good in and of itself. This has led to religious properties being granted the statutory exemptions discussed above.

However, as British Columbia becomes increasingly secular, it’s worth questioning this basic assumption. As of 2016, only 27% of British Columbians said they practice a religion or faith and only 11% attend religious services weekly. Despite the emptier pews, churches across BC are still granted automatic exemptions from property taxes.

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Do churches pay property taxes in BC?

Police, fire, parks, libraries and fixing potholes are all funded by the property taxes that cities and towns across British Columbia collect. But not all properties are treated equally.

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TWU, charities, secular recovery and more - Aug 20, 2018 Newsletter

This has been a busy week.

On Tuesday, we learned that Trinity Western University is making its controversial Community Covenant voluntary for students this fall. This follows the Supreme Court of Canada ruling that law societies in BC and Ontario were justified in refusing to recognizing a proposed law school at TWU due to the discriminatory nature of this Covenant. The school plans to maintain the restrictions for staff and faculty and they are also required to sign a Statement of Faith that offends any notion of academic freedom at the school.

On Wednesday, the federal government seemed to talk out both sides of their mouth as they announced plans to repeal restrictions on the so-called political activities of charities, while at the same time announcing that they intended to defend the rules in court. The repeal of these rules is long overdue and will hopefully be accompanied by a legal definition of charity that ends the automatic assumption that religious groups are inherently beneficial to the public.

And today we submitted our response to the provincial government's draft mental health and addictions strategy. There is still time to add your own voice, so please do so before tomorrow at 4pm.

In addition to that, at last Monday's board meeting (minutes are available online for current members) the Board approved a thorough issues summary that brings together the many positions the BCHA has taken and made it easier for you to become a member through a monthly donation.

All of this work is made possible through the support of individual donors. If you haven't, please consider becoming a member or making a donation today.

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Ensuring choice in addictions recovery

The BC Humanist Association today submitted its recommendations for a draft mental health and addictions strategy in British Columbia.

The provincial government has been collecting feedback for a strategy following the creation of the Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions last year.

In its response, the BCHA calls for secular and evidence-based choices in addictions treatment and for greater regulation of treatment facilities to protect patients' freedom of and freedom from religion. Attached to the submission were the names of over 500 people who supported the BCHA's calls.

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Government takes both sides on charities' free speech

The federal government has announced that it will repeal sections of the Income Tax Act that restrict the political activities of charities this fall, while simultaneously defending the restrictions in court.

In 2015, the Liberals campaigned on a promise to modernize rules governing Canada's charitable sector. This followed allegations that previous governments had used the rules to harass environmental and human rights charities it disagreed with. A consultation led by the new government recommended the rules be removed last year.

At the same time, an Ontario court struck down the rules as an unjustifiable infringement on the freedom of expression of charitable organizations. The federal government also said yesterday it will be appealing this ruling due to "significant errors of law."

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TWU abandons mandatory covenant

In furtherance of our desire to maintain TWU as a thriving community of Christian believers that is inclusive of all students wishing to learn from a Christian viewpoint and underlying philosophy, the Community Covenant will no longer be mandatory as of the 2018-19 Academic year with respect to admission of students to, or continuation of students at, the University.

This motion was passed by the board of governors last week and was reported by the Vancouver Sun today.

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Final push to repeal Canada's blasphemy law

The Senate is considering a bill that will finally repeal Canada's blasphemy law but we still need one last push to make sure that bill becomes law.

We've just launched a new push to send a message to Senators on the committee that's studying the bill with a simple message: It's time to repeal Canada's blasphemy laws.

Send your message now

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