Oops! That’s not Kevin Smith; it’s a dinosaur lurking outside the Canadian Museum of Nature.
The real Kevin Smith, President and Chair of CFI Canada Board of Directors, welcomed volunteers, guests, and speakers to the Eschaton 2012 Night at the Museum Gala and thanked everyone for making the Eschaton 2012 weekend a huge success:
On behalf of everyone at the Centre for Inquiry, I want to welcome you to our Gala evening and thank you for attending our conference. This weekend, we are proud to present some of the leading lights of the freethought movement and I want to thank them for their participation.
The biggest thanks of course goes to the volunteers here in Ottawa who had a dream of holding a gathering of freethinking people to share ideas, to discuss and to debate: debate is what we freethinking types do quite well. So after much planning and organizing, we are here this weekend to see that their hard work has become a reality. Seanna, our Branch leader in Ottawa, thank you for your patience and dedication. And thank you to your fantastic team.
When I joined CFI 5 years ago, we were a small organization. With limited resources and volunteers, we branched out across the country. I want to thank Justin Trottier for his determination at leading this charge.
As with any young organization, we’ve had growing pains along the way, but we have survived. And we are entering a period where we are not only surviving but we are going to thrive. This conference is an example of the new face of CFI.
Just this year we have accomplished many things. We may not be as big as the Catholic Church just yet – but we fought them head to head on allowing gay straight alliances in our Ontario publicly funded Catholic schools – and we won.
We were recognized by one of Canada’s most successful class action law firms to provide scientific advice on a $25 million lawsuit against homeopathic giant Boiron and Shoppers Drug Mart for marketing homeopathic remedies as an alternative to science based medicines.
And we fight against the abuse of human rights not just in Canada – but around the world. Right now, as I speak – CFI is in a global coalition with like-minded groups that are fighting the anti-homosexual bill in Uganda that could lead to the execution of gays and lesbians, bisexuals and transgendered people in that country. This bill was motivated by American Christian Evangelicals, who are delighted that this bill may become law by Christmas – as a present they say.
This Monday, you can see us turn into the activists that many of us are by joining us at the Ugandan High Commission, here in Ottawa, in a peaceful demonstration. You will see CFI in action.
I call this our transition year. We are growing up as a family. We continue to attract more volunteers in all our Branches. They are incredible people like the ones here in Ottawa. Actually, it is not just individual volunteers who are joining us, but a whole new Branch in Kamloops is the latest addition to our family.
The Board has brought in new initiatives such as our governance committee that will put into place consistent management policies.
Finally, after talking about this for years – the Board has given the go ahead and we have hired a professional digital media company to create a leading edge website – you will have a sneak preview in a couple of weeks. The new CFI website is being designed by an award winning graphics team. One of the most interesting parts will be the professionally produced short, entertaining video we are having created that will sit right on the home page. You may be familiar with the recent Heart and Stroke public service campaign video called The Undeading. This video has close to 1million hits on YouTube. Now I am not suggesting that ours will get that many hits but the creators of this video are some of the people who are involved in our production.
We have become the National go-to group for media requests relating to anything to do with skepticism, secularism, atheism, anything that involves our mandate. Almost weekly, we are on the radio or TV, or in newspapers, and in my case, I am fortunate to write for the Ottawa Citizen every Saturday as their friendly, but biting, resident atheist.
So that’s some of the good news – now for even better news! If you are not part of our team – a team that fights and wins for societal change – I urge you to join us as members. Personally, there is no better thrill than to work on an initiative – the movers and shakers that you meet – the small wins you gain -and eventually the success you will achieve. Along this journey you will meet like-minded people, and like I have done, you will meet some who become really good friends.
Lastly, but most importantly, we need financial support to carry on our work. Religious groups far outweigh us in donations. It is remarkable what we accomplish on our budget. But we have big plans, and we need your support. I always say we are cheaper to support than a church. Now I cannot promise you an eternity with angels and harps for this support but who the hell would want that anyway. I can promise you something better for your generous offerings – does that sound too churchy? We will be your voice of reason: we will fight for your values every day, and we will make even more positive changes in society.
Thank you for your time. I hope you will enjoy the rest of this evening with our community of freethinking individuals.