So a week or so back, Statistics Canada released the data from the 2011 National Household Survey (which is what we have to work with since the long-form census was scrapped). I took a look at the overall data regarding religion in a previous post, and now I’ll dig a little deeper into it. This time, I’ll take a look at the sex distribution. Continue reading
Yesterday, Doug Thomas, president of Secular Connexion Séculaire, sent SCS members a copy of the text of an email he sent to John Baird:
Dear Minister Baird:
Given the report from the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU) noting the increase in discrimination against non-believers around the world cited by Doug Saunders in the Globe and Mail today* are you prepared to publicly include discrimination against and persecution of atheists and other non-believers in the mandate for the Office of Religious Freedom?
More and more atheists are being targetted for violent persecution in the very countries where you seem to deem it necessary to defend religious freedom.
Included in the email is a link to Doug Saunders article “As the non-religious grow in number, they become targets of hate and discrimination.” However, Saunders’ description of atheists is problematic:
They [atheists] may be the fastest-growing faith group in the world.
Of course, atheists are not a “faith group,” and Saunders is correct when he says,
And yet people who place their faith in the human rather than the spiritual may be growing faster in number than any other belief community.
but it would be better if Saunders had not used the words faith and belief that carry a distinctly religious connotation.
Saunders mentions Freedom of Thought 2012: A Global Report on Discrimination Against Humanists, Atheists and the Nonreligious, which is available on the International Humanist and Ethical Union website and notes,
Canada earns censure in the report for its practice of providing public funding to religious schools, even where such schools discriminate against the non-religious. . . . Ontario is singled out for providing 100 per cent state funding for Roman Catholic separate schools, which, the report notes, “discriminate against non-Catholics in hiring staff” and “can also exclude non-Catholic children.”
It is important that the IHEU mentions Ontario and Canada, because the ruling federal party in Canada, committed to promoting freedom of religion abroad, is not committed to promoting freedom from religion for its non-religious citizens.
In the video below, 600tongues examines Canada’s Office of Religious Freedom and how the office will protect the rights and freedoms of non-believers:
h/t for video: Godless Poutine
For many people, today is a holiday that allows them to extend their celebration of Canada’s 145th birthday. For those who missed it, the loonie $1 coin celebrated its 25th birthday on June 30th, and the Globe and Mail published Drew Hayden Taylor’s apologies: “White people, here’s your one-time Canada Day special: Native people apologize back!”
Canada Day has always been a mixed bag for Canada’s native people. . . . For some, though, it’s a reminder that it was four years ago when Prime Minister Stephen Harper apologized to the first nations, Inuit and Métis inhabitants of this country for the imposition and effects of the infamous residential-school system. . . . some in the native community feel that perhaps we are being a little lax in not issuing an apology of our own. So in the spirit of cooperation, I would like to offer up these apologies to the people of Canada on behalf of the NAFNIP (native/aboriginal/first nations/indigenous people):
We hereby apologize for being so inconsiderate as to occupy land that, one day, your people would want. Even though we did not have a postal system or an Internet, this was an inexcusable oversight. We hope you are enjoying it. . . .
Finally, and perhaps most of all, we apologize for helping Canada/Great Britain win the War of 1812 against the Americans. There are many in the native community who feel Barack Obama would be a far more interesting leader than Mr. Harper.
But in our defence, who could have guessed?
There is more. Go ahead; read the whole article: Drew Hayden Taylor has provided Canadian food for thought.
By Godless Poutine @ My Secret Atheist Blog
Canada, a country covered with snows and ices eight months of the year, inhabited by barbarians, bears and beavers. – Voltaire (1753)
Celebrated eighteenth-century French Freethinker Voltaire had many choice words about the Canada of his age. I’ll grant that he’s right about the winters – especially in Quebec, where my patriotism wanes every February along with all the other snowbirds – a very Quebecois phenomenon.
Voltaire’s bitterness was rooted in his contempt for the Anglo-Franco war over this new world. People were dying over this faraway land that contained little of value, at least according to him:
Voltaire’s famous quotations about New France were for the most part written between 1753 and 1763, shortly before, and then during, the Seven Years’ War. . . . He thought that the war was a mistake for France and he used several opportunities to ask the French ministers to simply quit the war. . . . Voltaire’s position that France should let go of its North American colonies was in accord with his position about the war in general. For him, handing over New France would appease Britain. His position about the European war likely increased his tendency to paint New France as being of little value.
At this centenary of the War of 1812, let’s not forget the words of one of Christopher Hitchens’ great heroes, Thomas Jefferson, who seems to have had little regard for Canada:
The acquisition of Canada this year, as far as the neighborhood of Quebec, will be a mere matter of marching, and will give us the experience for the attack on Halifax, the next and final expulsion of England from the American continent.
The famous nineteenth-century agnostic Robert Green Ingersoll was only slightly more gracious in his assessment of the Canada of his time. During an interview in New York State, May 5, 1893:
Question. Are you in favor of the annexation of Canada?
Answer. Yes, if Canada is. We do not want that country unless that country wants us. I do not believe it to the interests of Canada to remain a province. Canada should either be an independent nation, or a part of a nation. Now Canada is only a province—with no career—with nothing to stimulate either patriotism or great effort. Yes, I hope that Canada will be annexed.
Ingersoll apparently saw Canada as a ship without a rudder, in the constant tow of the British Empire. However, in January 5, 1892, in New York, Ingersoll, was at least a bit partial to the idea of Manifest Destiny:
I think that this country is going to grow. I think it will take in Mr. Wiman’s country. I do not mean that we are going to take any country. I mean that they are going to come to us. I do not believe in conquest. Canada will come just as soon as it is to her interest to come, and I think she will come or be a great country to herself. I do not believe in those people, intelligent as they are, sending three thousand miles for information they have at home. I do not believe in their being governed by anybody except themselves. So if they come we shall be glad to have them, if they don’t want to come I don’t want them.
These words hurt me a bit – but perhaps they are true. Canada was still young 120 years ago. Since then, it has changed a great deal – for the better.
Even in his day, Ingersoll gave hints of seeing Canada as a beacon of more progressive thought. He saw that Canada had disposed of the heinous practice of slavery decades before his country did and without the horrendous bloodshed it took the states of his union to accomplish during of the Civil War. In this passage, he laments the terrible Fugitive Slave Laws highlighting Canada as free soil:
If a woman ninety-nine one-hundredths white had fled from slavery—had traveled through forests, crossed rivers, and through countless sufferings had got within one step of Canada—of free soil—with the light of the North Star shining in her eyes, and her babe pressed to her withered breast, both parties agreed to clutch her and hand her back to the dominion of the hound and lash.
Let’s now fast-forward to today. I think that both Ingersoll and Voltaire would be, on the whole, impressed with the progress Canada has made.
Today there is much fanfare, at least amongst progressives, in the States about “Obamacare.” Congratulations, you are one step closer to taking care of your own people. In Canada, way back in 1946, the first province to adopt a Medicare type system was Saskatchewan. Contrary to many panicked cries south of the border, this has not caused the economic downfall of our nation (at least not yet). It’s interesting to note that Tommy Douglas was a fundamentalist Baptist with views diametrically opposed to those of many of the now current Republican Party in the United States. How things change!
Pierre Elliot Trudeau, who responded to being called “an asshole” by Richard Nixon by saying “I’ve been called worse things by better people” (seen here looking dreadfully uncomfortable with Nixon), was a member of the Humanist Fellowship of Montreal. This organization of Secular Humanists also included prominent members such as Bertrand Russell and atheist pro-choice feminist Henry Morgentaler. Like him or hate him, (and it seems there is no in-between on this one), Trudeau was Canada’s most famous and recognizable prime minister and he was responsible for finally giving us our Constitution and Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Nobody can deny that getting all of Canada to agree on anything is a great feat even with the “notwithstanding clause,” which Trudeau himself lamented being forced to include.
Today Canada is one of the most secular countries in the world. Only 36% of Canadians consider themselves religious with Quebec shining as the most secular place on the entire continent, coming in with just 22% self-identifying as religious. Within Quebec, the process of secularization has accelerated since the people threw off the shackles of the Roman Catholic Church and with church attendance at an all-time low. Ontarians are becoming less and less placid about their support of religious schooling. Canadians have become suspicious of religion – the organized kind at least.
Look, I know there are still problems. But even when the theocratic Conservative Party has inroads, there seems to be a healthy media in Canada ready to pounce and expose it to everyone. Take for example the public ridicule afforded to the Conservative minister of science and technology who disagreed with evolution. Then there is the ill-fated Wild Rose Party in Alberta, which seems to have lost the election based at least partially on the anti-gay comments of some of its candidates.
Then there’s the 2005 legalization of gay marriage – what seems to be a great hurdle in the religiously-steeped United States, simply occurred in more-secular Canada. This was followed by the stand-off between civil rights groups and religious institutions over Bill 13, which would afford protections to bullied gay students in schools and force Ontario Catholic schools to cease teaching homophobic hate against gay students and allow them to use the word gay in the name of their now legal school clubs. In short, the Ontario government told the Catholic Church to stuff it.
Just recently, the British Columbia Supreme Court struck down the ban against assisted suicide, another step forward for Canada! You may disagree, but I believe that it is my right to decide when I shall leave this earth and I believe that the vast majority of opposition to this is religiously motivated.
At least a couple of today’s atheist heroes (if I may use that term) have recognized Canada’s forward-thinking – in particular within Quebec, which is the most secularized part of Canada. Daniel Dennett in particular has commented on this with Richard Dawkins.
Let’s face it: Canadians seldom pat themselves on the back. It’s just not in our culture. But I think on this day, our national day, we should all take a close look at our country and realize that, when it comes to being a liberal, secular society that takes care of its people, Canada isn’t doing badly at all. In fact, I think that we have quite a bit to be proud of. If Ingersoll were alive today, perhaps he would revise his opinion. Awesome job Canadians! This is truly a great nation, and I am proud to be Canadian!
Last August I introduced Secular Connexion Seculair, another Canadian Humanist organization. Well, after recent troubles in CFI Canada, it may be time to revisit what I then dismissed as another group in an already crowded field.
Well a couple weeks ago I received an update from SCS President Doug Thomas, who brings news about their accomplishments to date.
Some time has passed since you reviewed an article about Secular Connexion Séculaire in the K-W Record on canadianatheist.com. Since August 8 we have been active doing the things we set out to do.
Later in August, I spoke to the Liberal Party of Canada caucus regarding our concerns about discrimination in the charitable status regulations in the Income Tax Act and the National Anthem among other things. While this kind of meeting rarely results in immediate action, even if the politicians in question are in power, the people I talked to were surprisingly unaware of our situation and making them aware is a significant step. I note that the recent Liberal policy statement on their website includes a concern that the party needs to recognize the rights of non-believers. No credit claimed, but more voices can sway politicians.
We also emailed every Member of Parliament and every Senator to make them aware of the same issues.
In response to John Baird’s formation of the Office of Religious freedom, we have written him for clarification of his intentions regarding non-believer. This letter (attached) went out just before the winter break in Ottawa, so whether we get a response or not is unknown. The only guarantee is that if we don’t say anything, nothing will happen.
By the way, after investigating charitable status, and receiving a very detailed and reasoned response from one of their people (6 pages – well researched) we have decided not to seek charitable status. Among the limitations this would impose on us are: Lobbying for changes in specific legislation would put the status in jeopardy (e.g. the aforementioned income tax act), and our ability to join and vote in international organizations would be hindered (HC is an associate member of IHEU and has no vote – we want one). We feel that our effectiveness as advocates for atheist rights would be reduced if we were looking over our shoulder to protect our charitable status.
Our activities are now highlighted in the newest iteration of our website on the cycling slides and our new welcoming statement clarifies some issues as well.
I guess we have dragged some old school thinking into the notion that our forum is not really a public media, but a 24/7 plenary session for members:hence the membership fee. Frankly, there are plenty of social media sites out there, including canadianatheist.com that do a fine job of providing open forums. We are looking for the same kind of direction from our membership as one would get from a meeting in a physical locale. Oh yes, we need money too.
As for our comment about not attempting to be a "governing body" for Canadian Humanism, this is a carry over from experiences as a member and director of the Humanist Association of Canada (now HC). A number of people in that organization had a vision that it would act as a central body with local branches. I have no idea whether that is still the case since I left that organization almost a year ago.
In any case, we intend to complement, not duplicate, the activities of other Canadian Humanist groups.
Our contact with local organizations has been spotty, because we adopted the notion that if we actually did something before asking for ongoing support, we would be more credible. That is slowly proving to be true, in the trickling way that atheists support anything in this country.We intend to be much more proactive in our contact with local organizations in the near future.
SCS is definitely not perfect. Our stated goals are somewhat general out of necessity. But, I have no regrets about what we have managed since we started in May of 2011 and I look forward to making further process in 2011.
Thanks for your input and have a great 2012.
Secular Connexion Séculaire
Sounds interesting. I wish them well.
Feel free to give their website a second glance.
After the disastrous results in the past few federal elections, the Liberal Party of Canada is finally doing some soul searching in an attempt to figure out why they exist and what their vision for Canada will be.
A key part of this process will be the policy renewal conference to be held next weekend in Ottawa. There they will debate resolutions on whether to adopt a leadership primary system like the US presidential elections.
Of more interest to readers here though will be a resolution submitted by the Liberal’s youth wing calling for an abolition of the monarchy [pdf]:
The CBC has obtained some information through access to information laws about the mysterious Office of Religious Freedom that the Harper Conservatives promised during the last election and established quietly.
The released preparatory interview questions show that the government expected concerns that the office would be used for partisan purposes – i.e. to win over with religious and ethnic minorities – and that it may encroach on the (unofficial) separation of church and state in Canada.
There must be something with activist freethinkers where we just love scandal and controversy. Everything from crackers and gelato to elevators and coup d’etats wins over praise and scorn from across the blogosphere. Perhaps its just the nature of blogs or just people, but there’s nothing entirely rational about our need to gossip over every issue. We also love sticking –gate on everything, which is an entirely different rant.
This isn’t to say that every issue is pedantic and unworthy of discussion. Some controversy brings out deeper issues, whether it’s anti-atheist bigotry (and how we deal with it) or our own in-group diversity issues.
I’ve been trying to keep myself from stirring more controversy with CFI Canada over the past year or more, but now it’s just too much and I need to internet rage, so please indulge me (or don’t, there’s many other wonderful sites on the web).