Showing posts with label canada. Show all posts
Showing posts with label canada. Show all posts

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Religious Freedom Should Have Nothing To Do With BC Polygamy Laws

Still shot from 16x9 -- Inside Bountiful: Polygamy Investigation (source)
As far as I am concerned, people should be allowed to date, sleep with and marry one or more people so long is everyone is consenting uncoerced adults. I've been in a couple of polyamorous relationships over the years and believe people should be let be when it comes to how they wish to arrange themselves relationship-wise.

Unfortunately, religion sort of has a bad track record honouring those three important criteria (consent, non-coercion, legal age --- e.g. no statutory rape allowed). It seems that religion is often used to break one or more of those three rules. Underage girls are forced to marry pervy old men with the younger men ousted out of the community, for example. It's resulted in horrendously abusive situations where childrens' lives have been mangled.

I won't even pretend to be an expert when it comes to the polygamy case going on in Bountiful, British Columbia. I plan to inform myself better! What's peaked my interest right now about this situation is all this talk about how religious freedom may be able to bend the rules in favour of the polygamists. Because, God... or something.

Religious freedom seems to be a special incantation used to get extra rights and privileges others cannot obtain.
The criminal trial against two men from a polygamous sect in British Columbia is likely to re-examine whether the ban on multiple marriages violates the right to religious freedom, experts say, despite a court decision three years ago that declared the law constitutional.

Winston Blackmore and James Oler were each charged this week with practising polygamy in a religious commune in southeastern B.C. known as Bountiful.
This Blackmore fellow is accused of being married to 24 different women. I have a hard enough time being present for one woman so I cannot imagine. What really bugs me though is that his sincerely held Mormon beliefs may give him a free Get out of Jail Card. Their criminal court case, beginning in October, is likely to re-open discussions about whether multiple marriages in general should be illegal in British Columbia. There's already talk about his Charter rights and how his religious freedom may make him untouchable.

Anyway, it seems like he lost his cast in 2011, when the judge decided that the harms of polygamy posed to society outweighed claims to religious freedom. How about having one law for everyone? Then, if we wish to make multiple marriages legal -- which is a valid enough question -- we can do so without having to trip all over each others' dogmata.

Really though, you see how complicated these notions of religious freedom make things? We need to all of a sudden have two different laws: one for regular people and another special one full of exceptions and exemptions for those who claim their strongly held religious beliefs give them more rights than the rest of us. The state is also forced to evaluate how serious or how strongly held these religious beliefs are. How the hell is it supposed to do that in a fair and objective manner?

Let's drop the religious discussion and talk about whether polygamy or polyandry or polyamorous marriage laws are even required. Let's examine it outside of the religious context. Beverley Baines, a Queen's University law professor puts it well.
Baines said there are other laws that already criminalize the harms often associated with polygamy, such as sexual abuse or child trafficking, and she argued the law could actually hurt women and children in polygamous communities.
This is a valid and interesting point.

I don't mean to trivialize the very real harm some have endured within some of these cloistered religious cults that have polygamous marriage, but this special consideration for people's religions needs to stop and everyone needs to be treated equally under one secular law.

Thursday, 21 August 2014

University of Saskatchewan Endorses "Animal Telepathy" Workshop

Want to communicate with your long deceased pet, even from across the country? No problem, the publicly-funded University of Saskatchewan is endorsing a workshop just for that! The cost is $200, but there are (likely tax-subsidized) bursaries if you can't afford to come!

Poster: Learn how to communicate with animals (original link)
Mind-to-mind (telepathic) communication with animals is a skill that you can learn. It will increase the bond and understanding between you and your pets and other animals, help you deal with behaviour problems and address important issues. Do you want to know what animals want or need? Why not ask them directly? Find the joy and communion that comes from reconnecting the link with other species in this workshop
If you take a look at the bottom of this poster, you can see it's being endorsed by several university organizations:

University of Saskatchewan Office of Community Engagement and Outreach, University of Saskatchewan School of Environment and Sustainability and a nice grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.

The workshop is all part of 2014-2014 Sabbatical research by Dr M.J. Barrett who teaches at the School of Environment and Sustainability (SENS) at the university.
The Animal Communication presentation and workshop is the start of my research program examining how communication with animals may help contribute to a deeper appreciation and affinity for the environment, and greater environmental sustainability. It is part of my larger research program examining how Indigenous and other ways of knowing can be recognized, valued and establish their place as legitimate forms of knowledge in academic and modern Western contexts. Indigenous Peoples often have a way of knowing and communicating with nature, animals and the environment as a whole that is very different from main-stream and Western society. 
I know some of you might claim that you communicate with animals. I've had pets and I know what you mean, you can sort of guess what they're thinking sometimes by the expression on their faces or their physical comportment. However, that's not what's meant here. Barrett really means animal telepathy and she's pulling in a real animal communicator, Mary Getten, all the way from Bradenton, Florida to put on this workshop.

Check out a little information from the What Is Animal Communication section of her website to get an idea of what we're talking about here.
Telepathy is the universal language and the way that all animals speak to each other. We've all seen two animals communicate on a non-verbal level, resulting in play or a disagreement. They were speaking to each other telepathically.

Telepathic communication is an ability we are all born with. Unfortunately we are socialized out of this skill as we develop speech. You can regain your skills by taking a workshop with an animal communicator and practicing - all it takes is some guidance and commitment.

Time and space are not barriers in animal communication. It's just as easy for me to speak to a dog in New York as one in my living room. You can even contact animals that have passed on.
Animal telepathy is mind-to-mind communication. It is feeling across a distance. We are all made of energy and connected by a vast web of energetic pathways. When I talk to a person on the phone, we link up energetically. That person also has a link to their animal, so I get to the animal through the person. To speak to an animal telepathically, you just tune in to the right energy channel.
Woo factor nine, Mr. Sulu! Oh, and she's charging for this too. As I said, $200 a pop but you can pay less if you score a bursary -- which I suppose Saskatchewan taxpayers are paying? Isn't this wild?

Let's get back to Dr Barett. I went to her university homepage to see what sort of research she does. Here's a summary on her page that strikes me as vaguely Chopra-esque.
My research is highly interdisciplinary and weaves together expertise in environmental education, animism and multiple ways of knowing.  I focus on ‘epistemological stretching’ – the expansion of the ways of knowing that someone respects, understands, and/or engages with. As we expand our ways of knowing, we are able to at the very least appreciate, if not directly access, insight and wisdom that emerges from a shifted consciousness that includes intuitive, affective, spiritual and embodied ways of knowing.

While on sabbatical, I am collaborating with Indigenous Elders and professional animal communicators to explore ways to deepen the human-nature connection through mind-to-mind (telepathic) human-animal communication.

The goal: transformative sustainability learning that traverses worldviews and generates innovative solutions to complex problems.

My research and teaching is embedded in epistemologically and ontologically pluralistic perspectives, creating a shared ethical space where worldviews and ways of knowing of Aboriginal Peoples are recognized and valued. Without a deeper understanding of the many different forms of knowledge, and the many legitimate ways there are to know, effective engagement with IK will remain elusive.

My background includes environmental education, qualitative and decolonizing research methodologies, transformative learning, and energy healing. I am currently learning to teach mind-to-mind animal communication.
Other than perhaps fostering better understanding and recognition of Indigenous cultures -- a noble cause -- I cannot understand what the above paragraphs mean. The video on her page -- which I believe features students in her graduate program -- looks like a relaxation video I once watched while chilling out at the spa. I suppose I need to attend one of these classes, as I have no idea what any of this means. It looks like a lot of the stuff I was into when I considered myself a Wiccan.

Perhaps it would be more efficient for a school dedicated to sustaining the environment to focus on actual science-based research and not multiple ways of knowing?

This was brought to my attention by reader Jack Austin, who shares my opinion that there is nothing wrong with doing proper scientific research into whether telepathy exists, but it's a sham to offer to teach this to people for a fee with university endorsement. In his email Jack summed it up like this.
It's okay to do research on claims of telepathy to verify whether or not they are true, but it's not okay to tell the public that they can learn to communicate via telepathy with animals in a $200 workshop offered by the University of Saskatchewan when there is no scientific proof of this and when the instructor even claims to be able to talk to dead animals.
I would endorse studying this scientifically -- although how would we ever be able to confirm successful communication with or between non-human animals? It is also be acceptable to study First Nations ideas about telepathy, animism and animal communication in an Anthropology or Native Studies class at a university. I just don't see what this has to do with environmental sustainability!

The two day workshop is scheduled to happen August 22nd and 23rd and seems to be pretty much an all-day affair. It's likely too late to demand this be cancelled, but perhaps spreading the word will help raise questions about the university's attitudes about telepathy!

I have no idea what they will do at this class but I am curious. It would be a hoot if we had a couple of moles attend.

via email from Jack Austin

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Manitoba Public School Trustee Candidate Supports All Sorts Of Stuff!

Michael Coren interviews Candace Maxymowich on Arena. (source)
Something happened a couple of weeks ago in Manitoba and I totally missed it.

Winnipeg school trustee candidate takes anti-abortion, pro-abstinence stance

The intertubes in and around the Winnipeg region were nearly clogged by tweets and stories about Candace Maxymowich, the young woman who wants to become a public school trustee in the Louis Riel district because she actually did the right thing: told us all the wacky things she believes.
She gets one gigantic gold star from me for letting us all know what they are getting if they elect her. I wish more politicians would be less weaselly and more upfront and honest like her. For this alone, I applaud her.

In fact, I have no problem with Candace and I'm thrilled to see someone this young so passionate about politics and community involvement! I just cannot agree with pretty much all of her personal political views. Really, all her views I've heard so far epitomize the opposite of what I would consider a good candidate. That said, I wonder if the electorate in her district publicly or secretly agree with her. Does she know something we don't? Could dismally low voter turnout lead to her ultimate victory?

Anyway, some people have been giving Candace a hard time about this -- Michael Coren has eagerly pointed this out with fervent gusto on his dreadful television program -- but it seems like the majority of level-headed people out there have rightfully reacted in a number of ways: denial, fear, anger, frustration, criticism. Here's my personal favourite.
Please, do elaborate, please.

In addition to supporting an abstinence-only sexual education program, she is also anti-choice -- which sounds like the sort of horrendous poverty-inducing and life-destroying (mostly for women) cocktail that US Republicans are fond of down south.

Speaking of US Republicans.. no, wait a minute.
What a role model. Well, at least she's not asking to bring Creationism in to be taught alongside real science. Then she would be practically identical ideologically to the school board folks down in Texas.

Ah well.

The follow up questions to her creationism tweets were typed by those who simply could not fathom she could ever want this taught alongside real science in a real science class. Well, let this brief story put them to rest.
Controversial Louis Riel School Division trustee candidate Candace Maxymowich called Sunday for creationism to be taught in public school science class alongside evolution.
The above story also talks about how Candace opposes Bill 18. This bill is designed to allow students to start Gay Straight Alliance (GSA) clubs and more broadly to attempt to address bullying to gay students -- which has lead to suicides.

On her Facebook Page, she links to this LifeSiteNews story which criticizes the Canadian Teachers Association for honouring a Manitoba teacher  who refused to take down a a small card he hung up in his classroom. It was a little card he got that proclaimed his own support for LGTBQ. Some parents screamed it was inappropriate for grade five children to see.
According to the CTF, Wohlgemut participated in a training session at the Rainbow Resource Centre in Winnipeg and upon finishing the course was given an "ally" training certificate which he put up in his classroom.

The card features a rainbow and the words “As an Ally, I support lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, two-spirit, intersex, queer and questioning individuals, families and communities.”

“It’s a small card, just 4x6 inches… it’s kind of a declaration of what you believe and what you’re working towards,” Wohlgemut explained.

Several parents asked him to take the card down, but he refused. Parents took their concern to the school board, which ordered him to remove it.
Apparently, supporting people who are LGBT is too offensive for children. However, to many -- if not society as a whole -- this is now no more odd than supporting people who are in heterosexual or single parent situations, but the anti-LGBT groups went wild.

Now, wait a minute, isn't Candace herself now proclaiming that she should be entitled to her own beliefs and political opinions without people going nuts? Yeah, the two cases seems strangely related somehow, don't they?

Honestly, I feel like breaking out my US Republican fundamentalist Christian BINGO card. I think with the free middle square I would totally win.

Hold on, she's even got something to say about The War On Christmas.

BINGO! What do I win? Please tell me it's chocolate!

She does have some prominent supporters. Radio personality Charles Adler even weighed in on this.
How about because some traditional beliefs are more wrong and potentially dangerous than others? Many are just plain silly but some can have real negative effects on people and societies.

There are some who believe this is just a big media campaign, and it did indeed work. Nick Martin over at the Winnipeg Free Press wrote an illuminating opinion piece about the whole thing, Rare coverage for a school board candidate --- is it all planned?

Is it quite a media firestorm, indeed. Just the sort of thing to get the word out to a potential anti-evolution, anti-abortion, conservative (mostly Christian) voter base. Whether this was intentional is a question that remains a unanswered.

Martin's post adds a few other gems that were missed in my account above. It's a relief I already got my Bingo above because here are a couple of other squares I could have filled in.

'Republican' privatization and fiscal conservatism:
In that interview, Maxymowich said she wants the private sector to run school breakfast programs. While she did not know how much teachers are paid, Maxymowich said she would consider reducing the number of teachers on the payroll as a way of keeping down taxes. She called on trustees to donate their stipends back to the community, as she promised to do.
But never fear. Maxymowich assures us she would never let a little thing like her (most likely strongly held faith-based) personal beliefs intrude into her work as a school Trustee. 
Well, thank goodness for that then. And you know, her influence as a single school trustee is probably pretty limited. So, this probably isn't really such a big deal. Still, what a trustee cannot accomplish through sheer power of authority can be nevertheless nudged with simply being an influence. With any tools available one may perhaps guide things along in small ways everyday. If I were in this district, I would still pay very close attention.

Even though, as I understand it, the curriculum is set by the provincial government, Trustees do seem to be the ones on the ground to allocate financial resources to implement education goals. I wonder how much this sort of thing could influence the implementation of sex ed courses and science education.

Martin shares my concerns.
Maxymowich believes that abstinence is the only acceptable part of sex ed in schools. Sexual education, it needs to be pointed out, is only a portion of the family life curriculum, like all curricula a massive document. However, Maxymowich would not push abstinence-only if elected, even though she told her campaign fundraiser last month that you should never waiver from your personal values.
Martin goes on to echo what I've encountered a lot while researching for this post. People are looking for elaboration from Candace about her ideas. I'm on her Twitter and likely subscribe to her Facebook. I can't wait to hear more.

That said, in a recent post on her Facebook page she reported that she's received death threats. That is completely unacceptable no matter how frustrating her views. Not only is it intimidating for the receiver but it also undermines and degrades those who are against her opinions. There are also some unnecessarily vile misogynist attacks which she is reportedly getting. Can we all behave like decent human beings while criticizing and ridiculing her opinions, please?

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Canada's Christine Shellska Is New Atheist Alliance International President

 Christine Shellska (source)
Atheist Alliance International is a super organization that helped construct the Kasese Humanist Primary School at its original railroad location -- they even sent four volunteers to help! -- and has been a principal supporter ever since. Without their help, we would have never been able to get the funds raised to help buy the land for the new permanent site, bring electricity to the existing building or begin construction on new classrooms in Rukoki.

So, I've had the pleasure of working with Tanya Smith and Stuart Bechman. Now I look forward to working with Christine Shellska! She's the new Atheist Alliance International President.
Christine is currently a PhD candidate (ABD) at the University of Calgary, Department of Communication and Culture, Faculty of Arts. Her research involves studying the rhetorical means by which the intelligent design movement translates religious claims into a form that convinces many to believe it is scientific discourse. She is active in several secular organizations, and in 2011, she prepared a successful application to represent the university’s students, staff and faculty who identify as non-religious, bringing together local, national and international secular groups to endorse the establishment of a Secular Humanist Liaison position at the University of Calgary’s Faith and Spirituality Centre (formerly Multi-Faith Chaplaincy). She also runs a small business, offering a repertoire of specialized graphic design services, and extensive experience in marketing, advertising, corporate communications, and public relations. Christine sees atheism as a site of political engagement; she believes that many of the threats to environmental sustainability, global peace, and social justice stem from irrationalism and superstition, and that reason and compassion are the requisite tools to promote a reality-based understanding of our world, and to counter ignorance, fear and hatred.  Christine joined the AAI Board in May 2012 and served as the Secular World Board Liaison from 2012-2013.
Nice to have a Canadian AAI president! Congratulations, Christine!

Christine is also a co-host on the excellent Canadian podcast Legion of Reason, where I heard this announcement.

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Canadian Youtuber 'Armoured Skeptic' Is Rather Entertaining

The Armoured Skeptic. (source)
I'm likely really late to the show, but just a couple of days ago I discovered this Youtube vlogger, Armoured Skeptic, who apparently hails from Kingston, Ontario.

I can't vouch for all of this content and I even disagree with him on some points, but it's nice to see more Canadian skeptics making a bit of a splash out there in Internetland.

His style is perhaps not for everyone though. He sort of reminds me of a more intelligent Sterling Archer reacting to and tearing apart Youtube videos. Right, Archer reference there. So he might not be everyone's cup of tea, but I find it all rather entertaining and chuckle full.

Saturday, 16 August 2014

Globe & Mail Writer: "Who's Afraid of Catholic Schooling?"

In a frustrating and hard to read article, Margaret Wente over at The Globe and Mail wants to know why we're all so very afraid of publicly-funded Catholic schools in Ontario.

I, along with many of the commenters to the article would like to know why Margaret thinks we're afraid and how she could possibly miss the whole point of why we're against religious schools being public funding (read: religious privilege).
Frankly, I don’t understand why so many secular people go berserk over religious schools, even ones that are publicly funded. What harm do they do? In Ontario, the fight against Catholic schools has turned into a crusade. People seem to think they’re a threat to our common values. They seem to think our kids will be turned into superstitious, God-struck, gay-bashing little bigots. (In fact, the opposite is more likely to be the case. Millions of people who endure religious education end up inoculated against religion for life.)
I'm not sure if I'll ever quite understand people like Margaret.  She says she was were dragged into a Catholic school against her will while being ardent atheists and talks about how millions of people who endure religious education end up inoculated against religion for life. Surely, religious indoctrination is not the most efficient way of doing this. I mean, this is not the end goal of the schools at all.

Anyway, she seems to both admit that public funding of Catholic schools is somewhat undesirable but then talks about how fantastic they are how we should just let all this be.

There is a difference between religious education and education about religions. The first I am opposed to being funded publicly while the latter should definitely be publicly funded and will have the effect of inoculating against religion for life, as supporters of this like Daniel Dennett have pointed out in the past -- while holding up the Quebec secular public school system as a shining example.
Ontario’s Catholic school arrangement is plainly unfair to other denominations. To be consistent, the province should either defund the Catholics or extend funding to other faith-based schools. But neither of these things is going to happen. The Catholic school arrangement, like the Senate, is protected under the Constitution and so extremely hard to alter. The public is allergic to more faith-based funding. And that leaves one alternative, which is to strip Catholic schools of the things that make them Catholic. Thus the drive to exempt kids from religion class, to force the schools to hire non-Catholic teachers (so far unsuccessful) and to accept gay-straight alliance student groups (big success).
It's funny because other provinces, including Quebec, have managed this seemingly impossible feat. Why is it so incredibly impossible in Ontario?

Imagine also how much harder it's been to try to drag these Catholic indoctrination centers into the 21st century. Think of all the tooth-pulling and arm-twisting -- money and effort -- it's taken so far just to get these schools to allow GSA groups; prevent them from pushing anti-choice politics all over their students and from bussing them to anti-abortion rallies. Now we're trying to get them to actually respect the decisions of the courts when it comes to exempting students from certain religious classes. How much easier would it be to work with a secular board rather than having to constantly butt heads against the education wing of the Roman Catholic Church.

Why is the Ontario public funding schools that ultimately derive their moral teachings and dogmas from the Pope in the Vatican City? I mean, doesn't anyone else think this is a little odd?

Anyway, this isn't just unfair to other denominations, it's the propping up of a single religion and a form of state-endorsement. By funding these schools, the Ontario government is sending a message to other religions and to the non-religious that Catholicism holds a special place of supremacy in Ontario.
Yet we’d be a lot worse off without these schools. They keep the system competitive. And if they didn’t offer value, they would disappear. “Maybe they’re more selective, or maybe Catholic schools just try harder because they know parents can always switch their kids to the public system,” economics professor David Johnson, author of the C.D. Howe schools study, told the Toronto Star.
Just to be clear, nobody is suggesting we get rid of these schools. They can stay on as true private Catholic schools and as such, they can be just as selective as they wish.

To be honest, I'm really not certain what the value of competition is within a province's public school system. In this some sort of free market public school system that my socialist Quebec brain cannot comprehend?

Listen, there will still be competition with other province school systems! What is this implying about the single-system public schools in other provinces?
Interestingly, the parents who want their kids excused from religion class are not particularly anti-clerical. They just think that stuff is a waste of time – they want their kids doing more course work. The hope is that they will get better marks and get into better universities and beat out the kids who are stuck in religious class.
Is there anything at all wrong with this? However, I wonder if Margaret has read the story about autistic child Cameron, who's being forced to take 70 minutes of religious class a day over practical education that will help him get a better job.
But Ms. Borgstadt said she has been told by the school principal that Cameron isn’t entitled to an exemption. “I feel that my son has been cheated,” she said. “It’s 70 minutes every day for an entire semester. Nobody needs that much religion, particularly when you’re talking about a child who’s struggling in the school.”
Oh and that stuff could very well be a waste of time and even downright damaging. Especially if what's going on is anything like the religious classes being offered at Loyola Catholic High School here in Quebec. The Loyola principal is kvetching about having a single hour of non-biased religious education where the supremacy of the Catholic religion isn't incessantly drilled deep into the childrens' heads. He's going to the Supreme Court to protect the school's right to prevent his students from getting any unbiased education about religions at all.

Well, Wente sees no problem at all with what's going on in Ontario. In fact, the real problem is a lack of respect for religious freedom here in Canada.
In Canada, the idea of religious freedom now means freedom from religion – and damn the consequences.
We've seen it with the GSAs, we're seeing it with even Catholic parents attempting to exempt their kids from classes and Ontarians pay for the Catholic education of children whether they like it or not. These are indeed battles for freedom from religon that are being fought by regular people everyday.

Catholic schools are perfectly free to exist. They are no longer, however, entitled to sit at a position of privilege collecting money from the state. Religious freedom is not the same as unfair privilege.

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Quebec Order of Priests To Pay $20M Settlement With Abuse Victims

St. Alphonse Seminary in Ste Anne de Beaupré, QC (image: Google Street View)
Back in September 2013, I posted about a class action suit launched by some seventy people against the Catholic priests at the St. Alphonse Seminary in Ste Anne de Beaupré. The charge was that of gruesome and systematic sexual abuse that spanned the 60s, 70s and 80s.
... allegations children were moved and traveled from one place to another, allegations priests used the cars owned by the congregation to bring the children to cottages on weekends for the children to be further abused,” said Carlo Tarini, director of communications for the Association of victims of priests.
Apparently, the young boys were traded like hockey cards.

Well, back in July 10th, the claimants won their case against the seminary in the first case ever to go to trial in Quebec rather than being discretely settled out of court.
Seventy men who launched a class action lawsuit against clergy accused of sexual abuse have been awarded compensation.

It's the first time in Quebec that this type of case has gone to trial, instead of being settled out of court.

After three months of deliberation, Superior Court Judge Claude Bouchard ordered the Redemptorist Order of Catholic priests, the Seminaire St-Alphonse and Rev. Raymond-Marie Lavoie to pay $75,000 to each claimant.
By my calculation, 70 claimants at $75,000 each comes to $5.25 million. At that time the court had yet to determine the exemplary damages (punitive damages).

Well, today the court rule that the order needs to pay $20 million dollars to victims.
The Redemptorist Order of Catholic Priests will pay $20 million to victims of sexual abuse at its St-Alphonse Seminary near Quebec City during the 1970s and '80s.

Robert Kugler, the lawyer representing former students at the seminary, said the landmark out-of-court settlement is the largest ever paid in a class-action sexual abuse lawsuit in Quebec.
At least 30 other claimants have come forward since the victory and they are being helped to present claims.
Other victims have since come forward, bringing the number of total claimants to more than 100 — and counting.

“That number is likely to go up by a lot… We have tried to simplify the process to ensure that a maximum number of victims present claims,” Kugler told Radio-Canada
I'm happy that they won. It's a shame it's only $75,000 for enduring such a hell hole, but how can you even put a dollar value on something heinous like this?

It's Time For Ontario Parents To Stop Supporting Catholic Schools With Their Tax Dollars

I just saw this infuriating story on Hemant Mehta's blog about how Catholic schools are shoving 70 minutes of their own religious education down the throats of their students -- whether the parents like it or not. And they're doing it with public funds. And they don't care what the court said on the matter.

Catholic schools force students to study religion despite court order
Catholic schools in Ontario are requiring students to take religious courses despite a recent court decision that ruled they can’t be forced to attend.

In multiple correspondences reviewed by The Globe and Mail, Catholic school board officials from across the province have denied requests from Catholic high-school students that they be excused from religious studies on the basis that their parents are Catholic school ratepayers.
The way I understand it, this ratepayer business refers to a box on your property taxes that designates whether you support the Catholic public school system or the secular public school system.
Property owners are asked to designate themselves as supporters of either Catholic or public schools. While this affected school-board funding in the past, it no longer does – as of 1997, school boards have been funded solely by the province. 
So, it doesn't matter which box you check on your taxes, you're still funding these Catholic institutions. However, if you check the Catholic box, the Catholic school board is unilaterally claiming authority to indoctrinate your kid, whether you like it or not -- even if your child has an compelling reason not to be wasting their time getting Catholicized -- even if you happen to be Catholic and take care of all the Catholocizing at home and want the school to help your kid learn about science or math or something useful. Really, you have no freedom at all.
The issue of whether Catholic schools can require students to participate in religious programs – not just courses, but also liturgies and retreats – was the subject of a recent court case brought by a Brampton father against the Peel-Dufferin Catholic District School Board. A panel of three judges ruled in April that students had a right to be exempted from religious programs. Catholic school officials are interpreting that decision as applying only to those students whose parents declared themselves as public-school supporters.
It's so nice they've taken to interpreting the laws for us. I suppose courts and judges are no longer required in Ontario. It's like the good old days in Ontario.

Got an autistic kid who needs extra help in math so he can get a job and support himself? Too bad, you'll need to hire a tutor for that since the school needs to fill 70 minutes of their day with religious instruction at your expense and your child's time. You checked Catholic on the tax form -- too bad so sad.
But Ms. Borgstadt said she has been told by the school principal that Cameron isn’t entitled to an exemption. “I feel that my son has been cheated,” she said. “It’s 70 minutes every day for an entire semester. Nobody needs that much religion, particularly when you’re talking about a child who’s struggling in the school.”
The solution here is obvious and the article even goes into it. If parents, even Catholic parents, wish to be free to decide, they must start out by revoking their support for the Catholic school board on their property taxes immediately. This institution must be shown it cannot take such outrageous liberties as it's apparently grown grotesquely accustomed to in the past.

Of course, the State should stop funding these schools altogether. Maybe if people begin to revoke their support, the numbers will dwindle to the point that politicians stop being so cowardly and finally do the right thing.
“It had nothing to do with religion, nothing against the courses or what was being taught,” Mr. Barbo said. “It was simply about my son’s dedication and getting into his goal university.”
The Catholic Church is all about religion and apparently the school -- a sort of state-funded extension of the Church -- is completely uninterested in Mr. Barbo's son's educational goals.

Visit and CFI Canada for more information and share this with your Catholic parent friends.

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Help Canadian Secular Alliance With Landmark Case Against Prayer In Municipal Assemblies

Supreme Court of Canada audience chamber. (source)
Some of you may remember Saguenay Mayor Jean Tremblay, who's said some stuff about the press, atheists and racial minorities that's kept him in the news the past couple of years. Yep, I've been covering him for awhile.

You might also remember that he insists on holding Christian (read: Catholic) prayer at his city council meetings. First, he lost, then he won and now he's being brought to the Canadian Supreme Court by the Quebec Secular Movement. Because this prayer case will be heard by the Supreme Court, it could very well set precedent across the country for years to come. It could either be a landmark moment in Canada's history where it takes one step closer to being a truly secular nation (like Quebec... sorry, couldn't resist) -- or it could be a further entrenchment of age old religious privilege.

The case is so important that the Canadian Secular Alliance has been granted leave to intervene, which I can only imagine means they'll be consulted by the Court while hearing the pros and cons of prayer in municipal assemblies across the country.

Here's the deal, though, they need money to cover their legal costs. Because lawyers are not cheap -- believe me, I once had one frankly console me about my legal situation for 15 minutes and then added the time to his lawyer's fee. If you want to win these sorts of battles, you need to feed the lawyers. It's an inevitable and hard fact of our Universe.
Since its inception, the Canadian Secular Alliance has sought to protect the rights of all Canadians – ensuring that individuals have both freedom of religion and freedom from religion.

The CSA’s consistent and principled defense of secular ideals has now been implicitly recognized by the Supreme Court of Canada. In October, the SCC will consider the request of the Quebec Secular Movement (MLQ) to enforce the secularism of public institutions by prohibiting the recitation of prayers in municipal assemblies. The decision will affect all pending prayer cases currently before the courts in Ontario and the rest of Canada.

The CSA is one of only two secular organizations that have been granted leave to intervene in this landmark case against four religious institutions, which will be arguing for the continuation of public (predominantly Christian) prayers. To prepare the most effective presentation for the Supreme Court Justices, we need your help to defray essential expenses.

Please support the CSA as we seek to make Canadian legal history. Help us make Canada a more secular – and therefore more just – society.
Fellow Canadians, Earthlings, please visit the CSA Fundraiser Page and chip in a little to potentially stop prayer in government assemblies in Quebec, in Canada. Really, I know this is sort of dull for most, but it's important, okay?

PS: The Paypal link inside the letter itself wasn't working for me. However, the ones on the side do appear to work.

PPS: You can also support the Quebec Secular Movement (Mouvement laïque québécois), who are the ones actually bringing Mayor Tremblay to the Supreme Court. Go chip in some money at their Paypal account by reading about it at their site. What? Don't read French, try the Google Translation.

Sunday, 3 August 2014

Director of Universalist Muslims Asks Stephen Harper to Stand Up For Saudi Blogger

Saudi blogger Raif Badawi has been sentence to 1,000 lashes and 270,000 fine for writing things on the Internet.
I saw this letter to Stephen Harper tucked away over at the Huffington Post website and I'm not sure if people in the atheist community have really seen it.

Dear Stephen Harper, Eid Mubarak

What makes it rather remarkable, well to me at least, is the call to help jailed Saudi blogger Raif Badawi. This is coming from the director of the apparently pretty awesome Muslim group Universalist MuslimsShahla Khan Salter.
Most recently I asked you to speak up for Raif Badawi, a secularist and Saudi human rights defender, sentenced to 1000 lashes, 10 years in jail and a fine of approximately $260,000. A Saudi court convicted Mr. Badawi of insulting Islam because he published a website in which he asked Saudi Arabian authorities the reason it fails to allow women rights, Christians churches and continues to enforce medieval apostasy laws. Since Mr. Badawi's arrest in 2012, other Saudi human rights defenders have been imprisoned by the Saudi authorities as well, including his lawyer, head of the Saudi Human Rights Monitor, Waleed Abulkhair. Recently, Mr. Abulkhair was sentenced to 15 years in jail for the "crime" of "undermining the regime." It is reported by human rights organizations that Saudi Arabia is using its new policy, which mandates that all unbelievers are terrorists, to quash dissent.

You may have heard of Mr. Badawi from Canada's UN Human Rights Council delegation. It may have not made the headlines here, but recently Canada was one of a few countries, who demanded that the representative from The Centre for Inquiry, a US non-profit NGO, be allowed to raise Mr. Badawi's case there, after a motion to block was made by Saudi Arabia, who is surprisingly also a member. Mr. Badawi's case has also been raised in public statements by NDP MPs, such as Pierre Luc Dusseault and Wayne Marston.

But you have made no public statement at all respecting Mr. Badawi, notwithstanding that his wife, Ensaf Haider and their three children live here in Canada and badly need your help.
Why not? Is it because Canada needs Saudi oil? Is it because we need the jobs created by manufacturing light-armoured vehicles for Saudi Arabia?

Are you afraid to offend Saudi Arabia, Prime Minister Harper?
Damn straight! I'm pointing this support out because everyone -- particularly religious groups -- should be demanding that our Prime Minister act to protect human rights so that everybody can be free to choose which religion -- if any! -- they wish to identify as.

Neither the Prime Minister, nor his Minister of Foreign Affairs, nor his Ambassador of the Office of Religious Freedom have said a single peep about this situation. It's rather disgusting.

It turns out that the group have already asked Muslims and other believers to rally in support of Raif back in February. Really, this is pretty refreshing, totally awesome and sort of chokes me up a little.

Thank you Universalist Muslims for helping spread the word and doing something our government has been utterly useless at. Thank you for valuing human rights!

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

UFO Over Toronto!

I knew it! I knew that if alien life ever flew across the inconceivably vast expanses of cold empty space at mind blowing fast speeds they would ultimately make their presence known to us lowly humans just outside Toronto in North York! Doubters, I am now vindicated!

Was that a UFO above Toronto last weekend?

Well, yes, it was a UFO. Because, as I've mentioned before on this blog, a UFO stands for Unidentified Flying Object. It is indeed an object in the sky that has yet to be identified. Which means we do not know they are aliens! I really wish people would understand this.
Toronto police responded to calls last weekend after a video was posted that shows a series of lights in the night sky above Yonge Street and Sheppard Avenue.
Here's the video report from CBC on this.

The expert UFO researcher they got for this story, Victor Viggiani, is somehow able to look at this flickering dot and conclude that it cannot be man made! We have these credentials to base our assessment of his conclusion:
Victor Viggiani is a recently retired school Principal from Toronto, Ontario, Canada. He has a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Sociology and Psychology (York University Toronto Ontario Canada) and a Masters in Educational Administration and Curriculum Development (Brock University, St. Catherines, Ontario, Canada).
He assures us he'll send the video to another expert who has a computer able to enhance the image enough to tell us what it is. I've got a degree in Computer Science, and I'm not really certain how this will be done, but best of luck to him.

It turns out there is a perfectly plausible explanation and the reporter, to her credit, covered it well. Night kites, often LED remote controlled kites, are now commonly flown around the Toronto area. I will admit they are weird enough looking to be confused for some alien craft. One of the eyewitnesses even mentions a brilliant tail to the UFO, which very nicely matches the appearance of these kites.

Here's one now viral video (almost 1,000,000 hits) that started this whole thing off. I see a UFO, but I don't see any indications of aliens or secret government experimental aircraft. Just a bright dot in the sky. Can we please stop seeing spooks in places where there is no evidence for them?

Monday, 28 July 2014

Video: Hemant Mehta Talking At Imagine No Religion 4

Hemant Mehta at INR4 (source)
Hemant Mehta, whom I met over at Humanism at Work a couple of weeks ago, recently talked at the Imagine No Religion 4 convention about the importance of keeping blogging and reporting on the web accurate. He should know. He runs probably the most influential atheist blogs out there.

Here's the video Hemant talking about this important subject in Kamloops, BC. I'm watching it now and I think it should be required  viewing for anyone who creates or consumes blog content.

I had referenced an older version of this talk back in my post about how I ended up misreporting Edward Slingerland's project and had to apologize for not properly researching before blogging. We all mistakes but the secret is to acknowledge, take responsibility, apologize and learn from them.

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Toronto Book Launch: Carolyn Hyppolite's "Still Small Voices"

Last week, Canadian author Carolyn Hyppolite was nice enough to send me a copy of her new book Still Small Voices: The Testimony of a Born Again Atheist. I'm just on page 50 but I'm already fascinated by her story. It recounts the story of a black woman grappling with faith -- coming to grips with her own irrational and ultimately unsatisfying reliance on religion. It's very much about a struggle between what's comforting and what's real. You can read more on the book's website.
Still Small Voices is a frank, personal account of a young woman’s struggle to have a personal relationship with Jesus and the freedom she discovered when she gave up on God. This book is a mixture of personal testimony, analysis and arguments. In her reflection, she recounts stories of particular moments during her eight year experience as a Christian when she found herself hearing another “still small voice,” the voice of reason, which constantly whispered that something about the Biblical worldview does not add up. Throughout the book, she records her efforts to ignore and suppress that voice and how ultimately, she had to relent. 
A full review is on its way as soon as I finish the book but until then, if you're in the Toronto area, why not drop by the book launch, tomorrow? It's being hosted by the CFI.

Date: Friday 25 July 2014
Time: 7-9pm
Location: At the new CFI Canada Office
55 Eglinton Avenue East
Suite #307
By Yonge and Eglinton
Free admission.

Friday, 18 July 2014

The Language of Abortion & Miscarriages

Abortion access in Canada, from most to least. 
Beige: Fully-funded by provincial government. 
Yellow: Partial funding for private clinics. 
Grey: No funding for  for private clinics
Green: No clinic or hospital providing abortion services in the province or territory . 
So, I'm sitting here in the airport waiting to board a flight to Chicago for the upcoming Humanism at Work conference and I was thinking -- not of the conference but of something completely unrelated.

Yesterday I was discussing miscarriage with my doctor who was filling out a form required for us to adopt a kid -- a project that's been going on for years and not likely to produce anything for quite awhile.

I speak to my doctor primarily in French and I didn't actually know the word for miscarriage so I asked. He responded with avortement spontané (spontaneous abortion).

Another more euphemistic term in French is fausse couche. One site translates this from Middle French right back to spontaneous abortion.
Fausse couche, avortement spontané.
If I non-scientifically use Google to track usage frequency in the two languages between avortement vs fausse couche and spontaneous abortion vs miscarriage. Like French, spontaneous abortion is an acceptable (see picture caption), if not the clinical, description.

Take a look at these non-scientific Google results.

avortement spontané: About 1,720,000 results
fausse couche: About 1,720,000 results

spontaneous abortion: About 1,320,000 results
miscarriage: About 5,310,000 results

In French, there doesn't seem to be much of a bias of usage. Both terms are just as widely employed and one seems to be closely linked with the other.In English, we seem to have an odd bias towards using the euphemistic miscarriage term rather than the dirty abortion word.

I wonder if, in French, God is just as likely to cause a spontaneous abortion as a miscarriage? In English it seems like only women have abortions -- and if you're a Republican you might believe many are indeed 'spontaneous' -- while God simply lets miscarriages (not abortions!) occur. 

And who's doing the carrying anyway? Well, the woman, of course. So who's ultimately responsible for the miscarriage? Probably not God, right? Probably the woman mis-carried. Maybe she did something wrong with her woman body that caused this?

Language is an interesting this, isn't it?

Saturday, 12 July 2014

Edmonton School Board Calls Off Christian Abstinence Sex Ed Class After Outrage

1950s sex education film, Secrets of Life. (source)
Just one day after the news of Christian-based abstinence-pushing sex education speakers addressing Edmonton public school students broke into corporate media -- as well as the Friendly Atheist blog -- the Edmonton School Board has backed down.

It came after Emily Dawson and her mother Kathy filed a human rights complaint against her high school for bringing in a education workshop from the Edmonton Pregnancy Care Centre.

There is a page in this site for churches who want the centre to present to their congregation. This is where organizations like the Pregnancy Centre should speak -- if they must --- not in a public school.
Provide us the opportunity to speak to your congregation – there are probably many individuals sitting in the pews that need a safe place to go and talk about their current or past situation in regards to an unexpected pregnancy or abortion. Many times after a presentation we are presented with the comment, “I had no idea that you did all this and that you are a Christian organization.”
Although blatantly obvious to many, the rest of the site doesn't exactly scream Christian. I get the feeling it's all sort of covert and on the downlow to buy the organization cred. After some digging though, you get to the juicier stuff.  Here's the guiding principles they were presumably going into McNally High School with last year.

  • Directed by Christ, we trust Him to accomplish His work through us.
  • In this spiritual battle, we must be armed; covered in prayer, ready, faithful, and skillful.
  • We are a client-focused organization that respects and values our clients, demonstrating in practical ways, the love of Christ to individuals.
  • While we believe in the sanctity of human life, we hold that our clients are free to make their decisions.
  • All supporters, including staff, volunteers and donors are vital to our ministry.

Their ministry, indeed.
“While we have a faith background, the religious part does not come up in the public school or education,” said Jutta Wittmeier, director of the Calgary centre.

“That’s just not part of the program, it’s science- and research-based.”
Oh no! Those Guiding Principles above just don't apply at all when they go into the public schools and say really Christ-like things like this:
“She did a lot of slut-shaming to the women, and pointed out the guys as horn-dogs,” Emily says. “She really ridiculed single-parent families, she made it sound like they all give birth to juvenile delinquents.”
I suppose we're all born fallen with our evil sin nature... or something.  I mean, no -- nothing religious here, folks! Completely secular when in public schools.

Naturally, they left all their fundamentalist Christian objections to same-sex relationships at the door as well. Of course they did!:
One classmate, Emily claims, asked about same-sex relationships.

“All those questions were shut down right away. She just said, ‘We’re not here to discuss that.’ ”
Likewise, as mentioned above, it was all science- and research-based:
The Dawsons’ complaints allege the presenter taught students that 60 per cent of boys carry the HPV sexually transmitted infection under their fingernails, that gonorrhea can kill you in three days, that girls should dress modestly to avoid inflaming boys. The allegations have not been proven.
Well, I'm sure glad this is not happening for now. We'll have to see just what sort of group replaces this one over at the Edmonton School Board. They need watching because any board that would choose this group shouldn't be trusted to choose another. I wonder just how many other horrible sex ed classes exist here in Canada.

I can only hope this will act as motivation for other students and parents to step forward.

Monday, 7 July 2014

More Doctors Who Refuse to Prescribe The Pill

Awhile back we heard about a Calgary clinic with a doctor who was refusing to provide birth control pills to women. Well, a recent opinion piece in the Toronto Star recounts yet another case of this in at least one Ottawa clinic this past February.
At an Ottawa walk-in clinic last winter, Kate Desjardins requested a prescription for birth control and was denied. Instead, she was handed a letter explaining that the one doctor on duty that day wouldn’t provide contraception “because of reasons of my own medical judgment, as well as professional ethical concerns and religious values.” Desjardins left the busy waiting room shocked and humiliated. Surely this was illegal, she thought, or at least a breach of professional conduct.
The excellent piece goes on to mention that, like in Alberta, Ontario has rules in place that allow doctors' religious freedom to trump the rights of patients to receive legal medical services. The author asks the very same question I did in my post about this. What happens if you live in a very small rural community with one doctor?
The policy, which is currently under review in Ontario, ought to be overturned. In its attempt to protect a doctor’s freedom of religion, it unacceptably threatens a patient’s right to adequate care.

Desjardins, who is 25 and married, was able to find a doctor at another clinic to write her a prescription. But what if she had lived in a more remote area with fewer accessible doctors? What if the doctor at the next clinic also objected?
The piece goes on to report that two other doctors in the very same clinic refuse to prescribe birth control on moral/religious grounds! The common thread here seems to be a religious one.

As I wrote in my previous post on this, the author asks the question: "What if this is a young girl who lacks the confidence to stand up to a doctor and demand her prescription?"  I would add: What if she doesn't have access to another doctor? Does she need to drive to the next county? Does she have a car? Can she afford a bus? Can she take time to travel and not get fired? Can she safely ask her parents for help?"

Unbelievably, obstacles like this are standing in the way of already pregnant women trying to obtain legal abortions with the number of active clinics dwindling in parts of the company -- say, P.E.I for example! Now are we seeing the very same people who would wish abortion to be made completely illegal ultimately increasing the likelihood of abortions because of their religious freedom? 

It really makes me wonder if these people wish to outlaw abortion, birth control or, perhaps, non-procreational sex, altogether.
Of course, it’s reasonable to attempt to protect physicians from being asked to deliver care they find morally reprehensible. But when that entails patients being denied common, medically uncontroversial treatments by public health facilities, it’s an accommodation too far.
Absolutely. Perhaps these clinics should pay to have these medications couriered to women if these doctors are too squeamish to do it themselves.

Saturday, 5 July 2014

Harper's God Tweet

On Canada Day, Prime Minister Harper -- supreme overlord of the Harper Government(tm) -- tweeted in his official capacity to Canadians about his God.
This was met with an appropriate level of pushback from Canadians who don't want their politics mixed with religion. Just go read the comments on this tweet along with the excellent response over at Canadian Atheist.

In it, Diana MacPherson pointed to an undated National Post article dismissing the whole outrage as a tempest in a teapot because 65 percent of Canadians are just fine with Harper peppering his prose with God.
Most Canadians are accepting of Prime Minister Stephen Harper's religious sign-off -- "God bless Canada" -- at the end of speeches, a new poll has found. According to an Ipsos Reid survey conducted for CanWest News Service/Global National, 65% of Canadians indicated it was an acceptable term and that he should keep using it. One in four felt mixing the mini-prayer with political speeches was the wrong way to go. Ipsos president Darrell Bricker says the results show controversy over the term has been "a bit of a tempest in a teapot." 
Most Canadians? The first thing I thought when I saw this number was just how many Canadians do have a problem with the God talk. We're talking about 35 percent here that are not okay with this. That's not a small number when you're discussing politics. I'm amazed just how quickly this was dismissed as not a problem.

Actually the article mentions that Harper was brought into office in January that year, so this would make it 2006. Here's a more detailed article on the CanWest/Ipsos poll in 2006. I wish we had more recent numbers.
According to an Ipsos-Reid survey conducted for CanWest News Service/Global National, 65 per cent of Canadians indicated it was an acceptable term and that he should keep using it.
He should keep using a phrase that irks 35 percent of Canadians? A full quarter didn't want any sort of benediction with their politics -- I suppose this leave 10 percent just feeling not fine with it but not expressly against it?
One in four felt mixing the mini-prayer with political speeches was the wrong way to go.
The opposition to this is much stronger in Quebec. It's not one in four against, it's a full 35 percent against. After years of having all affairs essentially governed by the Catholic Church, Quebec had its Quiet Revolution and moved towards secularism and since then it is very very wary of any Church-State intermingling.
"It's 36 per cent, which is 10 points higher than average (who) think it's unacceptable," he explained. "It might lead one to think that maybe he should be a little careful about how he uses it in the province of Quebec or in French."
His sign off from his official Canada Day Statement:
« Que Dieu nous bénisse en ce 147e anniversaire, et qu’il garde notre grande nation forte et libre! Bonne Fête du Canada, tout le monde! »
God bless us on this 147th anniversary, and keep our great nation strong and free! Happy Canada Day, everyone!
Across the board, education also had something to do with it and the younger generations are less fine with it. The second statement confuses me though, but I'm unable to find the original poll results.
Age was a factor as well. People over age 55 were highly supportive (70 per cent), while the 18-34 demographic (61 per cent) fell below the national average.

Those with the lowest and highest levels of education were most likely to find use of the term unacceptable, while 73 per cent of high school students didn't mind.
I honestly think this is all calculated to appeal to a certain evangelical base of Conservatives in Canada -- who are definitely not in Quebec.

Cowboy Festival Drop 9 Year Old Singer Who Replaced "God" With "Please" In Anthem

Nine year old Selaena sang a secular version of the national anthem for the Canada Day celebration in Dutton, Ontario. She replaced the word "God" with "Please" and I think it actually sounds way better. At least we're not asking some non-existent idea for help. Here's a quote from Diana MacPherson over at Canadian Atheist where they're covering this story.
Adults took offence when a 9 year old girl replaced “God” in O Canada with “please”. After 9 year old Selaena sang a beautiful rendition of O Canada at a Canada Day celebration in Dutton Ontario, her father, Austen, posted a video of her performance on Facebook and his timeline quickly filled up with glowing praise for his daughter’s talent. 
Along with some folks who were upset that God was taken out of the anthem. Here's the changed part.
God Please keep our land glorious and free!
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.
The beauty of this change is that it's not entirely clear who should keep our land glorious and free. So it's much more inclusive. The religious folks can keep thinking it's a sort of prayer to their God, the Hindus can think it's some sort of invocation to one or all of their gods and atheists and Humanists can see it as a call to humans to work to guard their country, its people and natural resources. It's perfect.

Her father, Austen, said (emphasis mine):
She wanted to be inclusive, given that her and a lot of her friends don’t even know what ‘god’ is. My children are secular and neutral – free to make up their own minds when they are old enough to do so.
But the Cactus Cattle & Cowboys Festival over in Rodney, Ontario evidently do not get enough God in their regular churchgoing diet. They've decided to drop her from their lineup because they must be lame. Again, Austen as quoted off the Canadian Atheist post.
Apparently the committee has spoken and the people that run the Cactus, Cattle and Cowboys Festival in Rodney no longer want Selaena to sing the National Anthem on July 12th, because she replaced the word ‘god’ with ‘please’ – which was her choice. Thank you religion for being close-minded and bigoted towards those that don’t share your ignorance. Yes, I said that.
Well, it's their choice. I suppose the best way to deal with this is to boycott the festival. Or why not go let the good old boys over in Rodney know what you think of this at their Facebook page?

And check out her stirring rendition of O Canada.

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

The Mission Of Ontario's Publicly Funded Catholic Schools

I've been following the whole publicly funded Catholic school debate in Ontario from a distance. So, this interview with retiring Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic District School Board director of education, Patricia Amos, piqued my curiosity. She's had the job for over 40 years, so this should be the inside scoop.

When asked what the biggest challenge is facing Catholic education, she responded. Emphasis is mine.
Catholic Education has to be able to clearly articulate the mission and value of Catholic education to the broader community – that our schools are rooted in the faith traditions of our church and that our students are guided by gospel values and that they view the secular world through the lens of their faith. We have to demonstrate that Catholic education is not a duplication and that it is cost efficient.

Some perceive education to be merely an instrument for the acquisition of information that will improve the chances of worldly success and a more comfortable standard of living. Catholic schools emphasize the inalienable dignity of the human person and our mission to form our students to be good citizens of the world, loving God and neighbour, thus enriching society with the leaven of the gospel.

Our schools are not institutions but rather genuine communities of faith. Our goal is to promote “overcoming individualistic self-promotion, solidarity instead of competition, assisting the weak instead of marginalization and responsible participation rather than indifference.” As a catholic school system we must ensure that the spirit of Catholicism permeates the entire curriculum, not only in our religious education courses.
Isn't that great, Ontarians? Those public schools aren't merely instruments for the acquisition of information. Oh no! They're not institutions but rather genuine communities of faith! Just think of all the new young minds that can be Catholicized with your tax money.

Later in the interview, she was asked why the Catholic school board should remain publicly funded.
Catholic schools make a distinct contribution to the well-being of our province and our communities.

Education in faith is similar to education in general – in that it is a lifelong process.

Our students go forward as effective communicators who use and integrate the Catholic faith tradition, in the critical analysis of the arts, media, technology and information systems to enhance the quality of life for members of our society. They are reflective and creative thinkers who manage and constructively influence change in a discerning manner; as self-directed, responsible, lifelong learners who examine, evaluate and apply knowledge of interdependent systems (physical, political, ethical, socio-economic and ecological) for the development of a just and compassionate society.
No doubt they will view the secular world through the lens of faith. The very same secular world that's paying for their god-coloured glasses.