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Toward a modernized charity framework for Canada

The BC Humanist Association today called on the Special Senate Committee on the Charitable Sector to support new legislation defining what a charity is and for that legislation to create equality between religious and nonreligious worldviews in Canadian charity law.

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Who reaps the most rewards? The landscape of independent school funding in BC

Christian and Catholic groups are receiving a disproportionate amount of BC's Independent School funding, according to an analysis released by the BC Humanist Association today.

Ian Bushfield, Executive Director, BC Humanist Association:

Last week we showed how BC's Office of Independent Schools has been overseen by evangelical Christians for three decades. So it's not surprising to see hundreds of millions of dollars go to Christian and Catholic schools in greater proportion than one would expect from the religious demographics of the province.

23% of British Columbians identified as Christian or Catholic in a 2016 poll by the BCHA (or 45% in the 2011 Census). However, 62% of the $358 million dollars given to independent schools went to Christian and Catholic schools in the 2017-18 school year.

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"I asked for evidence-based treatments and it was refused to me."

There is a risk that we are going to be forcing people, or trying to force people, to engage in a service or a support that is legitimately not right for them.

Karen Urbanoski, a scientist at the Canadian Institute for Substance Use Research in Victoria, told this to journalist Bethany Lindsay in a CBC feature piece on Byron Wood's human rights complaint over being required to attend Alcoholic's Anonymous by his former employer.

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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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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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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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BC Government launches consultation on addictions strategy

The BC Humanist Association is encouraging people to share their stories about the importance of secular and evidence based treatments as part of a new consultation for a draft provincial mental health and addictions strategy.

Last year, the Government of BC created the Ministry of Mental Health and Addiction. The Ministry has set out to create a draft strategy to help tackle the challenges faced by people with mental health and addictions issues. It has launched an online consultation to solicit feedback from British Columbians.

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Court strikes down gag on charities

The BC Humanist Association is welcoming a decision by the Ontario Superior Court of Justice striking down rules that restrict the political activities of charities as a victory for freedom of expression.

The decision, released Tuesday, means charities no longer need to navigate the artificial and often arbitrary divide between whether activities are deemed charitable or political when pursuing their mission. It frees charity staff up to focus on their effecting positive change in society.

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