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Chief Justice reverses decision, BCHA to intervene at Supreme Court of Canada

UPDATE (July 31, 2017):  Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin has just released an order reversing Justice Wagner's initial decision and approved all group's applications to intervene at the Supreme Court of Canada in the Trinity Western University cases. She also extended the hearing to two days to accommodate the numerous groups.

This means that the BC Humanist Association will be in Ottawa in November to argue for limits to what religious rights an organization can claim.

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Fundamentalist Mormons found guilty of polygamy

Winston Blackmore and James Oler were found guilty yesterday of polygamy. The two are members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in Bountiful BC and have over thirty wives between them.

Blackmore has welcomed the verdict, arguing it opens the opportunity for him to challenge the constitutionality of the law. 

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Canadian Government tables bill to repeal blasphemy law

Minister of Justice Jody Wilson-Raybould today introduced a bill to repeal Canada's blasphemy law. The bill would also remove other outdated and unconstitutional provisions of the Criminal Code, strengthen protections for victims of sexual assault and require new government bills to include a Charter Statement explaining its impact on Canadian's rights.

Section 296 of the Criminal Code states that anyone who publishes a "blasphemous libel" could face up to two years imprisonment. In 2016, nearly 7500 Canadians signed an e-petition calling on the government to repeal the law. In her response, the Minister promised to address the provision as part of the Liberal's election commitment to reform the justice system.

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CRA recommends unmuzzling charities

The BC Humanist Association joins leading Canadian charities in applauding a report released today that calls for a regulatory and legislative overhaul "to enable charities to fully participate in public policy dialogue and development."

The coalition of charities, formed in response to the political activities audits under the previous government, had called for a new law to protect the ability of charities to speak out on public policy issues.

The report was written by a panel of five experts charged by the Minister of National Revenue with giving recommendations for a new legislative framework to strengthen the charitable sector. The report recommends that the rules governing the freedom of Canadians to speak be enhanced by removing prohibitions on participation in public policy development by charities they support. It recommends that the antiquated laws which govern the 86,000 Canadian charities be replaced so as to prevent further infringements on freedom of speech.

The charities are requesting the Federal Government immediately table a bill to implement the recommendations of the Expert Panel Report.

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Disgraced Senator used office for religious purposes, reports HuffPost

Ex-staffers have told HuffPost Canada that Senator Don Meredith forced them to pray with him and draft sermons while on the Parliamentary clock.

Meredith is a Pentecostal pastor at the GTA Faith Alliance church in Richmond Hill, Ontario and is facing expulsion from the Senate following a separate investigation into a sexual relationship with a teenage girl.

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Delta Police Interfaith Symposium is "endorsement by exclusion"

Update (May 1, 2017): The Chief's response and our take can be found below.

The BC Humanist Association has accused the Delta Police Department of religious "endorsement by exclusion" over a recent Interfaith Symposium on drug addiction.

The event, held on March 30 at Baitur Rahman Mosque in Delta, was the second annual Interfaith Symposium held by the Department. This year's focus was on addictions and the role religion plays in addictions recovery.

Delta Police Chief Neil Dubbord reportedly said at the symposium:

Whenever I have spoken to anyone who is making the journey, faith is a major part in what they believe in. Consider these statistics from people who accepted a religious faith into their lives: two times more likely not to smoke, three times more likely not to binge drink, four times more likely not to use illicit drugs and six times more likely not to smoke weed or pot. Without faith nothing is possible and nothing is impossible, so it is clear that faith plays a most important role in drugs and drug addiction.

The BC Humanist Association challenges the constitutionality of excluding non-religious voices from the event and the evidence for Chief Dubbord's comments.

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Humanist marriage report published

While Buddhists, Wiccans, Unitarians and even Scientologists can perform marriages in British Columbia, Humanists and other atheists are being discriminated against by the province's arbitrary implementation of the Marriage Act, according to a new report by the BC Humanist Association.

The Case for Humanist Marriage in BC sets out the current laws governing the solemnization of marriages in BC and across Canada and contrasts it with seven other jurisdictions around the world where Humanists are permitted to perform marriages. In Scotland, for example, Humanist marriages are now more popular than Church of Scotland weddings.

The report calls for a judicial challenge or legislative change to the province's Marriage Act.

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BC Health Committee recommends funding evidence-based addictions recovery

BC's Select Standing Committee on Health released a report last week calling for the province to fund evidence-based addiction recovery programs and expand harm reduction services.

The recommendations were part of the report, Looking Forward: Improving Rural Health Care, Primary Care, and Addictions Recovery Programs, which follows consultations that the BC Humanist Association took part in last June.

Specifically, the BC Humanist Association called on the province to end its tacit endorsement of religious based addictions recovery programs, like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA).

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Supreme Court of Canada to hear evangelical law school case

Canada's highest court announced last week that it will hear appeals on the proposed law school at Evangelical Christian Trinity Western University.

Law societies in BC, Ontario and Nova Scotia had denied accreditation to the school on the basis that the Community Covenant it forces students to sign excludes same-sex couples. Appeal courts in Nova Scotia and BC sided with TWU, while the Ontario court sided with their law society. The Supreme Court of Canada will hear the appeals to the BC and Ontario decisions together later this year.

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Danish blasphemy case demonstrates risk of Canada's law

A man is facing blasphemy charges after allegedly burning a copy of the Quran for an online video posted to an anti-Islam group in December 2015.

The prosecution marks the first time in 45 years that Denmark has invoked the law. The last accusations were brought against a radio station that was ultimately acquitted in 1971. The last conviction was in 1946.

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