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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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The pointlessness of Canada's polygamy law

These sentences are a disgrace.

Far from having any deterrent effect, they are more likely to embolden others and not just those within the fundamentalist Mormon tradition.

If there is a chilling effect at all, it will be on those who left this abusive and dysfunctional community and bravely testified against friends and family.

Vancouver Sun columnist Daphne Bramham has covered the polygamist Fundamentalist Mormon sect in Bountiful BC for decades. Her comments are in reaction to news yesterday that Winston Blackmore and James Oler were sentenced to house arrest after being convicted of polygamy. Blackmore received six months for marrying 24 wives while Oler received three months for his five wives.

The record shows both men had wives under the age of 18.

After their house arrest, both men will be on probation for a year.

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A win for equality - Supreme Court rejects TWU law school

The BC Humanist Association is celebrating a pair of 7-2 decisions from the Supreme Court of Canada affirming the Ontario and BC law societies' decisions to reject Trinity Western University's proposed law school.

The five-judge majority, writing in a united voice, argues that the law societies have a legitimate interest in ensuring principles of diversity and non-discrimination are fundamental to the integrity of the legal profession. Permitting a law school with a discriminatory admissions policy would be contrary to this end and therefore a decision to approve was unreasonable. "A more diverse bar is a more competent bar."

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Tell Canada to keep its promise and fix our broken charity laws

The Government of Canada is set to make a decision in the next 10 days whether they will fix our broken charity laws. We need to raise our voice so that it’s clear that the government must act now.

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