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Decolonizing Legislative Prayers

Building off the comprehensive House of Prayers report, the BC Humanist Association is releasing Decolonizing Legislative Prayers.

This new supplementary report investigates the use of Indigenous content - words, phrases and concepts - in the prayers said by BC MLAs during the daily prayers in the Legislature between 2003 and 2019.

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Humanists join call to decriminalize simple drug possession immediately

The BC Humanist Association is joining over 50 human rights, health and drug policy organizations in calling on key ministers in the federal government to immediately decriminalize the possession of illicit drugs in response to the twin crises of opioid overdoses and the COVID-19 pandemic.

The letter was started by the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network, Pivot Legal Society and the Canadian Drug Policy Coalition was sent to the federal Ministers of Health, Justice and Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness. It points out that they have the authority to issue an "exemption" to "any class of persons" from the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, in the public interest. This can be used to exempt everyone in Canada from the section of the law that makes simple possession of drugs a crime.

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Reduction in funding for online private schools a step in the right direction

The BC Humanist Association is applauding a step by the Ministry of Education to reduce public support for online private schooling.

The Government of BC funds in-person private schools up to 50% of the per-student amount of neighbouring public schools; however, online distributed learning (DL) programs run by private schools were funded at up to 63% of the rate of public DL programs. In person elite private schools receive 35% funding and the equivalent DL programs received 44.1%.

Under the changes announced earlier this month, privately operated DL programs will now only receive 50% or 35% of what a public DL program receives. Further, new private DL programs will only be funded at the 35% level for their first year.

The change reverts the private DL funding model to what it was prior to the 2012/13 school year.

Unlike homeschooling, students participating in DL are connected with certified teachers online. The majority of private DL programs are religious.

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Humanists welcome bill to ban conversion therapy

Humanists are welcoming the introduction of a bill to ban conversion therapy in Canada.

Conversion therapy is a discredited and harmful practice to try to change one's sexual orientation or gender identity. It is largely based on pseudoscientific views of sexuality and gender.

The bill, if passed, will make it a crime to subject minors to conversion therapy, to take a minor abroad for conversion therapy, to force someone into conversion therapy without consent, to profit off conversion therapy or to advertise conversion therapy.

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Sample Prayers make Clerk "the arbiter of religious dogma"

The BC Humanist Association is calling on the Clerk of the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia to scrap a planned update to the so-called "sample prayers."

Each day of sitting in the Legislature begins with prayers said by a different MLA. Following pressure from the BCHA, the practice that was updated to include secular "reflections" at the end of 2019.

The Office of the Clerk has provided MLAs with a set of five sample prayers that they could select from. MLAs are also free to write their own prayer (or reflection). In House of Prayers, the BCHA found that half of all prayers said in the Legislature were sample prayers.

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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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