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

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Baptisms In Pointe-Claire Public Pool

Pointe-Claire Aquatic Centre, Pointe-Claire, Quebec. (source)
Are you tired of all those people crowding you at your local public pool? Are you nervous taking a shower when you've inevitably forgotten your flip-flops? Is the chlorine or salt water too aggressive? Do you resent having to wear those tight head condoms? Are you suspicious of strangely coloured underwater clouds lingering around young children?

Well, things were even more distressing this past weekend over at the Pointe-Claire Aquatic Centre. It seems like churches are bringing their members to the pool and baptizing them!
Pointe-Claire resident Ninon Choquette said she was at the Pointe-Claire Aquatic Centre on Saturday afternoon at about 2:30 p.m. for “open-swim” when a group of bathers, including several dressed entirely in white, entered the pool area.
Well, at least they were fully clothed.
“The pool is in no way a place of worship,” said Choquette. “We go there to relax, to play with our children and to get in shape, not to undergo religious exercises.
Apparently, this is a pretty common thing.
Bill Gate is the manager of the Pointe-Claire Aquatic Centre.

Over the years, Gate said, he has seen baptisms take place in the pool, “one or two people … it’s over in 30 seconds.”
Choquette also asks the question of what's the limit, here. Indeed, what's next, funerals? In response, she made the very reasonable suggestion that religious groups rent the pool outside of regular swim hours for their religious ceremonies.

Meanwhile, the complaint has made it all the way up to the mayor of the city who responded by stating that religious events in city facilities are forbidden without prior city council approval.

This is apparently what happens when churches do not have the resources to baptise within their own premises and the Canadian winter is setting in -- and they're not into BieberBaptisms.

One commenter to the article could see no reason why anyone should have any problem with churches performing religious rituals at the public pool:
Why has this offended anyone? It is a public place. How you enter the water or why should be of no concern to anyone else. No one is hurt by someone choosing baptism and if it makes someone uncomfortable, don't watch. Why should it not be allowed? How about a mother breast feeding her child in the pool area? That makes some people uncomfortable, should that not be allowed? What happened to living in a place of freedom? What is it about God that offends some people so greatly that they would take precious time out of their day to complain? There are so many more productive things to fill your time with.
I wonder if there are any Satanist groups nearby who would be interested in doing some of their rituals there? If Christians get to have their ritual there then everyone from the Satanists to the Pastafarians should jump right on in.

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Somerville: Physician Assisted Dying Ruins Our Sense Of "Secular Sacred"

So you may have seen posters like these circulating around the Internet arguing, from a Catholic point of view, why physician-assisted dying (with dignity!) -- otherwise known as having mercy on someone and letting them end their own intolerable suffering -- is downright selfish!

Apparently this came from the American Life League who are a band of conservative superheros hell bent on keeping you alive regardless of how grotesque and horrible that life may be, because: SUFFERING = JESUS and NOT SUFFERING = SELFISH! Sit back and ignore grandad's pleading to end his suffering, ignore his written wishes as well. He's being a selfish bastard.

Strangely enough, this approach didn't seem to work very well outside of uber-Catholic-type circles. I'm sure some must think it has to do with all that Jesus, God and Catholic business. Everyone is always picking on the Catholics. 

Cue the intro music for Montreal secular anti-euthanasia apologist Margaret Somerville! She claims to have some persuasive secular arguments for prolonging people's unbearable end of life pain and suffering.
If we are to maintain, and pass on to future generations, societies in which reasonable people would want to live, we must foster a sense of the “secular sacred” that everyone can accept whether or not they are religious and, if religious, no matter which tradition they follow. Euthanasia destroys any sense of there being a mystery at the heart of life and, therefore, that life is “secular sacred.” Mystery must be distinguished from myth, in the sense of a fairy tale, an illusion, or an untrue story. Experiencing mystery involves sensing there’s an immense unknown that we can intuit, to some extent, but not fully understand, and we must respect its integrity. Euthanasia — intentionally killing another person — unavoidably breaches the required respect. It treats us as expired products to be checked out of the supermarket of life, preferably, as one Australian politician put it, “as quickly, cheaply and efficiently as possible.”
Where can I even begin with this?

Okay, since when has the way you died defined whether or not people have a sense of the sacred? 

This leads me to the question: What sort of sense of secular sacred does Somerville actually have if she's claiming that people must suffer horribly in their final days or else it will be dashed? Is she a sort of suffering fetischist like Mother Teresa or the folks at the American Life League appear to be? The two messages do seem to resemble each other, don't they? What, precisely, is it that prolonged suffering contributes to a life well lived?

I'm sure she doesn't mean this, but it does rather sound like these darkest, most humiliating, most gruesome, fearful and painful days of one's life are to be wondered at as being some sort of mystery at the heart of life -- right up there with how the universe began and the vastness and sublime beauty of the cosmos.

I've seen a man dying and there is very little mystery involved there.

Meanwhile, there is much awe and inspiration and even feeling of secular sacred within the atheist and Humanist community! Actually, only the saddest of people would not have multitudes of things within this world which bring such feelings and death probably ranks fairly low on the list.

Something is cheap if it lacks quality and the only one who can assess whether or not a life is sufficiently good to be lived is the one who must walk that path -- not Somerville in her office or the Pope in Rome.
We must also respect the “human spirit,” which probably has a genetic base, because we all share it whether or not we’re religious. As I’ve written previously, it is “the intangible, immeasurable, ineffable reality all of us need to have access to find meaning in life and to make life worth living — a deeply intuitive sense of relatedness or connectedness to all life, especially other people, to the world, the universe and the cosmos in which we live; the metaphysical — but not necessarily supernatural — reality which we need to experience to live fully human lives.” Kay is right in perceiving he must reject a concept of the human spirit to validate the ethical acceptability of euthanasia.
Is this the best they can do? Those who would stand on guard to keep the suffering awake to feel the pain have intangibles and immeasuables and ineffables to suppress the will and right to self-autonomy of other human beings?

Perhaps their god will turn up wherever they happen to actually find something tangible, measurable, and effible with which to argue against the will of the weakest, most vulnerable of society.

When they come up with something substantial, they can offer it up and we can reconsider. For now, let's allow people to end their own suffering.

Sunday, 26 October 2014

CBC Program Examines Young Patients Choosing Traditional Medicine Over Chemo

Dr Brian Goldman (@NightShiftMD) presented a series of interviews and discussions on his CBC Radio program, White Coat, Black Art about Makayla Sault and another young girl both with leukemia who have dropped evidence-based chemotherapy for unproven traditional medicines.

Goldman ultimately comes out on the side of the two families, which is reflected in the title, Makayla's Choice. Many would argue that an eleven year old child of two Christian pastors who ultimately based their decision to drop out of chemo on a vision of Jesus the girl claimed to have, may not be well-equipped to make such calls.

I've already pretty much stated how I feel about this in previous posts and it becomes pretty depressing to go over it again and again. I'll just point out a few things.

The patients are referred to over and over again as clients, as if people can simply shop around for whatever sort of reality they feel most comfortable with and get equivalently valid and effective treatments.

There also seemed to be very little discussion comparing the actual effectiveness of science-based vs. tradition-based medicines. Dr. Nadine Caron did admit that she would do her profession and recommend chemo -- but surely this isn't just about doing your job.

She also said this, which pretty much underlies the entire program:
I think there's other ways where you can garner knowledge and wisdom. And the aboriginal ways of knowing are simply different...they are  not wrong, they are different.
No actually -- assuming we all share the same reality -- there are better ways of coming to knowledge than others. Personal belief, ideology or tradition are not reliable ways of knowing and this has been shown over and over again. The scientific method is designed to eliminate these biases -- surely both of these doctors must know this?

I find this increasing attitude that one treatment is as good as another very unsettling.

For a program with so many medical doctors, very little time is spent on actual cold hard medical facts. The Children's Hospital statement isn't even read in full and is merely linked to. They are the only ones to bring up evidence-based medicine!

The one point that Dr. Caron did bring up that might truly intersect with evidence-based medicine is that studies apparently do not properly consider the differences between different racial populations.  It could very well be that chemo has more complications and could be less effective with First Nations populations, but could it really be worse than no (proven) treatment at all? Let's study this.

If anything, this program shows all of the details and complications of society, history, law, politics, religion and tradition on this story. The cancer, of course, has no respect or concern for any of these things.

So have a listen to the program. Doctor's orders!... which apparently mean very little these days.

Saturday, 25 October 2014

Archbishop draws Heat for suggesting Church should respect and accept Gay Unions

By Dennis Bratland (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
So, Newfoundland Catholic archbishop Martin Currie said this:
Hopefully we can find some accommodation where (same-sex) unions are accepted and respected and they can have a part in the church life."
and this...
"To be homosexual is no barrier to holiness and compassion. We have a number of men who are very good and excellent priests who have same-sex orientation and are doing a great job. And there will probably be more in the future."
and this, too...
“My problem is pastoral. How do we deal with the children of gay couples who come requesting baptism? Can we deny them baptism? I have difficulty with that.”

“We have lost whole families over this,” he added. “There is a pastoral need to give them comfort, not necessarily to the [same-sex] couple itself, but their extended family who experience the Church’s position as rigid and hard.”
For a fraction of a second, I could see a glimmer of hope -- then the folks over at LifeSiteNews snuffed the very life out of it before it even had a chance.
Archbishop Currie was adamant about his own sexual orientation. “Anybody who knows me knows I am as straight as they come. I haven’t got a gay bone in my body.
Because anyone who would even raise a finger in support of LGBT couples is obviously suspect. Well, LifeSiteNews setting the record straight.
This week LifeSiteNews twice asked Archbishop Currie to explain how he would reconcile his statement with the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which itself states, “Basing itself on Holy Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity, tradition has always declared that ‘homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.’ … Under no circumstances can they be approved.”
They ended the article by conflating homosexuality with pedophilia.
The archbishop should know well the negative fruits of homosexuality in the Church. His archdiocese is currently being sued by the alleged victims of homosexual assaults by members of the Christian Brothers order at the infamous Mount Cashel orphanage. Ninety victims over several decades from the 1950s until the institution closed in 1990 have been paid more than $11 million from the sale of the order’s Canadian assets.
Well, they obviously missed the reality memo. Gay people are not pedophiles. I cannot believe this still needs to be explained.

I dont know what else this Currie fellow has said, but it seems to me like people like this are better than the church to which they belong. It amazes me that people put so much into propping up such a flawed institution that they have such difficulties with. I really think people are often good in spite of religion.

Friday, 24 October 2014

Montreal Catholic School fires Teacher for having done Porn Forty Years Ago

Sinner: The Secret Diary of a Nymphomaniac (1973) -- (source). Sinner is ironic, isn't it?
The beautiful woman pictured in the above 1973 photo, Jacqueline Laurent-Auger, is 73 today. She just got fired for something she did back when she was a starving actress -- forty years ago.

She had been working for the uber elite Catholic Brébeuf College in Montreal for fifteen years and then some students found some pornographic films she was in back before I was born and the school sacked her.

Montreal teacher, 73, loses job over film nudity more than 40 years ago

I'm sure this is because if there's one thing Catholic institutions are really sucky at it's forgiving what it sees as sexual misconduct... well... unless you've got a penis and happen to be a priest, bishop or cardinal and sexually abuse children, that is. They've got a bit of a history of sheltering the pedos, but Papa Francesco's got all that totally covered now, so no more of that, I'm sure!
“I did it as a young actress to make a little money,” she said in an interview on Monday. “The idea of throwing someone out the door for something they did almost 50 years ago is idiotic. It makes me angry.”
The school was widely derided for its decision. In the Journal de Montréal, blogger Tania Longpré said many actors have some nude scenes in their repertoire, and they can’t afford to refuse them on the chance that one day they might want to go into teaching; she said Brébeuf’s decision hid “hypocritical puritanism.
Her story has elicited widespread sympathy in Quebec since it first surfaced late last week. Meanwhile, the school – a Jesuit-founded institution that groomed leaders such as Pierre Trudeau and his son, Justin – has come under attack for a decision characterized as prudish and shortsighted. One blogger called it a case of “retroactive slut-shaming.”
It indeed does seem to be retroactive slut-shaming.

I consider myself to be a bit of a film buff -- mostly because one of my good friends is a film professor. Movies like The Devils (1971), Zabriskie Point (1970), or Ciao Manhattan (1972) were bold in their openness and were not afraid to show nudity and sexuality. These films were nothing like pornography or even cheesy erotica these days, they were real movies with real plots, real budgets, real actors. They were more like art films. This was not vulgar hardcore.
Ms. Laurent-Auger’s early films, including such titles as Le journal intime d’une nymphomane (The Secret Diary of a Nymphomaniac), date to the 1960s and ’70s when she was a struggling actress who had just graduated from theatre school in Montreal and moved to Paris.
The movie itself seems sort of compelling -- read a review -- other than the initial revolting and unfortunate premise that the heroine's nymphomania (if that even exists!) is awakened by a sexual assault. There is a hell of a lot going on there, over and above today's typical offering. It sounds a little like a B-movie offshoot of CandideAlthough I haven't seen the film, it's now on my list and judging by the reviews. I'm not expecting a masterpiece here, but there is likely something of a little 1970s time capsule there -- a product of its times.

It's easy to see how a young woman right out of theatre school would take it on as a serious role. At that time, European and even some American films were leaning in this direction and she might have seen a future there.
She said the films in which she performed were not pornographic, but part of an artistic trend of openness in the film world in the 1960s and ’70s. “I would never do pornography,” she said. “We called them light, erotic films, and they have nothing to do with the kinds of things you see today.”
There really is a difference between this and crude 8mm pornography of the time and it was almost half a century ago! Still, the school is firing her because she isn't a good role model for the students.
Ms. Laurent-Auger stars in some of the films, which feature “erotic scenes,” raising the question of whether the movies are “models to follow for high-school students becoming initiated into theatre and arts in general,” the college said.
I question whether the school itself is a good role model -- firing someone for not breaking any laws and not forgiving someone after fifty years! I mean, I know this is all about a private school saving face but come on, we're forty years on here. Perhaps this is a good Catholic role model -- to fire a 73 year old woman who did something half-a-lifetime ago, force her into retirement.
“The fact that these films were shot 40 years ago doesn’t change their bold and suggestive – even explicit – character,” said the college. The Internet had brought the “erotic portion of [Ms. Laurent-Auger’s] career into the present,” and the students’ discovery of their teacher’s films affected the atmosphere in class, the school said.
I'll admit, that is a little awkward. However, the students discovered these films on their own. They were very likely already consuming pornography online and they are very likely to continue and they are very likely to see the equivalent amount of sexuality on shows like Game of Thrones. This is not Ms. Laurent's problem nor should it be a problem for the school.

Should these students be banned from any viewing or interaction of any actor who has made nude or sex scenes in cinema or television?

This women is obviously a different person now than who she was so long ago. However, what the school did here isn't very surprising to me. There is apparently no redemption from this Catholic institution for a woman who is tainted with sexuality like this. Her dirty act has apparently turned into something 'filthy' that this organization doesn't want to be associated with.

Opening scene to Diary of a Nymphomaniac. Obviously not safe for work.

Thursday, 23 October 2014

Health Canada cracks down on 'Bleach Cure' for Autism

Portion of image from OxyChem's Sodium Chlorite Handbook (p.6) technical information guide for the compound.
One of the most horrendous and despicable things I've covered is Miracle Mineral Solution (MMS), which is a completely unproven and harmful quack therapy used to treat children with autism. It involves giving 28% sodium chlorite -- not technically bleach but a bleaching chemical -- in distilled water to your kid to drink for weeks, months, years.

And at 28%(!), giving this to your kid is child abuse, full stop.
When citric acid or other food acid is used to "activate" MMS as described in its instructions, the mixture produces an aqueous solution containing chlorine dioxide, a toxin and a potent oxidizing agent used in the treatment of water and in bleaching. The United States Environmental Protection Agency has set a maximum level of 0.8 mg/L for chlorine dioxide in drinking water. Naren Gunja, director of the New South Wales Poisons Information Centre, has stated that using the product is "a bit like drinking concentrated bleach" and that users have displayed symptoms consistent with corrosive injuries, such as vomiting, stomach pains, and diarrhea.
Canada has finally issued a warning about MMS and has begun seizing the product. About freaking time.
Health Canada says anyone who bought a product called Miracle Mineral Solution should stop using it immediately.

The agency says the unauthorized product, sold over the Internet as a treatment for serious diseases such as cancer, poses serious health risks if ingested.
Here's the official release on the agency's webpage.
Health Canada is warning Canadians of the serious risks to health associated with use of the unauthorized drug product Miracle Mineral Solution (MMS), which was sold as a treatment for serious diseases such as cancer through the website MMS contains sodium chlorite, which is a chemical used mainly as a textile bleaching agent and disinfectant and may pose serious risks to health if ingested. An alternate format of MMS, labelled as CDS, is also available for sale on the website and would pose a similar risk.
They specify two products: MMS (28% sodium chlorite and 50% citric acid) and CDS (chlorine dioxide 8000 ppm). The release goes on to specify that Health Canada has never approved the seller,, to sell this stuff.
No drug products containing sodium chlorite have been approved by Health Canada for consumption by humans. Sodium chlorite is authorized in Canada for use as a germicide by veterinarians and as a hard surface disinfectant. Sodium chlorite is commonly used for bleaching textiles, pulp and paper, as well as in the generation of disinfectant for water treatment.
Never buy medicine from a .BIZ domain for you kids!

So now people who insist on feeding this poison to their kids need to be charged with abuse.

Health Canada also advised anyone who did drink this stuff to see a doctor, because it's POISON. They also more or less shut the business down by seizing their stock and production equipment.
Following an inspection of the business premises, Health Canada seized bottles of MMS, packaging, labelling and raw materials used to produce MMS. Health Canada will continue to monitor this company.
I'm sure conspiracy theorists and anti-big-pharma will have a field day with this one. Let them have their fun -- at least this crap is off the market.

(Parts of this post have been expanded since original posting.)

Friday, 17 October 2014

Statements From Case Involving 11 Yr Old Who Is Treating Her Leukemia With Traditional Medicine

Brampton, Ontario Superior Court of Justice. (source)
Some breaking news on the eleven-year old First Nations girl with leukemia who dropped out of life-saving chemo after ten days with her parents' blessing. Doctors gave her a 90-95% chance of recovery with chemotherapy -- otherwise, the cancer would surely take her.

(A publication ban prevents me from writing this girl's name.)

McMaster Hospital has taken the family to court in the hopes of forcing them to resume the girl's treatment. The case is being heard with the family in absentia. The family have brought the girl to a treatment centre in Florida that specializes in traditional medicine (read: non-evidence-based alternative medicine).

Well, there are some interesting statements coming from the court case, which could very well set a legal precedent here in Canada -- even for children who are not First Nations.
“Some of these issues will apply to other contexts, for example, Jehovah`s Witness children and others. We've had quite a few cases in Canada where parents and doctors have disagreed about treatment of children in a range of situations.

“The unfortunate history is when doctors have predicted death, it turns out that they're often correct, and that is probably going to influence how the courts view this as well.”
Of course they are often correct! This is because the doctors are working within evidence-based medical science.  Why shouldn't this go without saying? That's what's disturbing.

The judge involved in the case asked what right he had to impose his worldview -- standard medicine -- on a First Nations family.
"Yes, we accept your culture, but when it gets serious, not so much," he said, attempting to characterize that approach.
The question is whether or not this respect for First Nations should extend to allowing them to not provide their children with effective healthcare resulting in harm and likely death. It is a fact that these traditional medicines have not been found to be effective treatments for leukemia.

So, on the one hand we have basic respect of the parents' rights and treaties that go back centuries and on the other we have the safety of a minor and what should be a clear trajectory into being consumed by a deadly illness.

I can understand wanting to honor the family and the need to honor existing laws and treaties -- if it's a treaty or a law then Canada is bound to follow it. However, I am still left questioning whether or not the judge properly sees the peril this child is in and recognizes that traditional medicine is not an effective and even viable alternative treatment.

McMaster's lawyer, Daphne Jarvis, tried to point this out.
"We know of no child who has survived without chemotherapy," said Daphne Jarvis. "We know there is another child with (acute lymphoblastic leukemia) who has abandoned chemotherapy for traditional medicine and she has relapsed."
(This is Makayla Sault.)
Jarvis pointed out that in the last month court has heard no evidence of any child with leukemia saved by traditional medicine.
"Are we supposed to wait and see what happens with these children?" she asked. "The need for treatment is now."

She said the CAS should have acted immediately on Aug. 29 when the hospital went to the agency with its concerns about the girl, who cannot be identified because of a publication ban.

"The evidence is every day counts," she said. And chances of success drop when chemotherapy is stopped and restarted.

Jarvis said past court decisions regarding the inability of kids to refuse life-saving treatment is so clear, "We should not have to be arguing this again."

"There is no case in Canada where the wishes of a young person have been followed to allow them to make a decision that leads to their death," she said.
Hence this rather dangerous sounding potential precedent here. There was no evidence given by the girl's lawyers that traditional medicine can cure leukemia. There is no evidence that any treatment other than chemo has helped any child. In fact, Daphne Jarvis even pointed out that another girl, in the same tribe, with the same condition, who gave up chemo has once again become sick with leukemia.
Speaking for Mac, Daphne Jarvis said she would have expected some evidence to the efficacy of traditional medicine at this hearing, but there was none. Doctors who treated this girl testified to a 95% cure rate with chemotherapy and they have no evidence of a child surviving leukemia without chemo. And that in a similar case, believed to be Makayla Sault who also stopped chemo, the patient has relapsed. Also that the CAS did not communicate with Doctor’s Vicky Breaky on the left and Stacy Marjerisson in the centre before deciding not to intervene. Afterwards, Mark Handlemen, the lawyer representing the CAS, was asked about the perceived lack of communication.
Have we come to the point now that traditional, non-evidence-based medicine is on equal footing to standard medicine with proven results? What could this spell for the future?

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

More Confusing Transmissions from Supreme Court Government Prayer Case

More unusual transmissions are coming in from the ongoing Supreme Court case to determine if prayer before government meetings should be permitted or not. I wrote about this a couple of days ago. If there's one maxim you can live your life by it's that any clear, plain to see, obvious thing -- take the blatant state-endorsed privilege (Christian) religion has in our country -- can be made totally incomprehensible if you chuck in a bunch of lawyers and judges.

Saguenay prayer case: religion doesn't infringe on human rights

This according to the government-subsidized Catholic Register who believe that atheists have the right to shut up and stand aside while our leaders beg mercy and guidance from their deities on their godless heathen behalf.
The lawyer representing Saguenay, Richard Bergeron, told the Supreme Court that just because something has a religious connotation it does not create an infringement on rights. Simoneau was not coerced or forced to do anything, Bergeron said. “We look at the evidence, we do not get the impression he was traumatized to a huge extent,” he said.
Other than stand there and understand that this government body pays homage to God, all powerful and eternal, from whom comes all power and wisdom. Atheist got wisdom? I think not. Better run that by God first.
The Canadian state is not atheist, Bergeron said, as he warned of an allergy against religious practice. In the Constitution’s preamble, it says the state is based on the supremacy of God and the rule of law. The personal aspects of expressing religious belief, including that of the mayor, must exist, said Bergeron.
The Canadian state is supposed to be secular, I think. There are humans of countless faiths and non-faiths who make up our society. The best way to represent the interests of all of these is to favour no single or group of mythologies over another -- a secular, non-religious state.

Yes, yes, the supremacy of God is in the preamble. Time to change the preamble.

The mayor is perfectly welcome to express his religious belief in his church, in books and the Internet, on the side of the road. I don't even care if he falls down on his knees in the middle of the meeting and begins speaking in tongues. Just no officially lead prayer please and no religious statuary in the chamber please. What we're asking for is quite simple.

Now here's the pièce de résistance:
Bergeron said council-meeting prayer is not religious in the sense of worship, but it is religious in the sense of requesting the grace of God. It is more in the sense of moral duty and tradition than a religious practice, he said. 
What does that even mean?

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Things Start Moving On The Saguenay Government Prayer Case

Soon, the Supreme Court of Canada -- including a newly appointed unvetted Quebec judge -- will hear and rule on some pretty important cases. One is on the right to die with dignity. Another is whether or not government meetings can begin with prayers.

There was a recent update on the latter case which involves barn-burning religious-book-sellin' Catholic evangelical Saguenay Major Jean Tremblay vs the Quebec Secular Movement (MLQ).

Let me summarize things this way. Tremblay would probably prefer a Catholic priest to burn some incense, shake some censors, sprinkle some holy water and consecrate some bread and wine for ritual sacrifice (the Church assures us this is not a metaphor!) at the start of each of his city council meetings. However, he's settled on just imposing a prayer he composed down people's throats before anyone can get any work done. Meanwhile, the MLQ would just like to cut to city business without having to endure the invocation of a Deity which a smaller and smaller fraction of people in this country believe in with each passing year. 

Court asked to banish prayer, Christian symbols from council meetings

This article had my gag reflex going at the first paragraph.
The Supreme Court of Canada is being asked to banish public prayer and Christian religious symbols from municipal council meetings in a case that prompted one judge to ask whether the notion of “live and let live” has a place in modern Canada.
Woe is me. Gone are the days when Christians can expect to genuflect or prostrate themselves before their own personal (e.g. Christian) God. What has happened to that golden era when atheists would just stand there and bow their heads and keep quiet while witnessing their own leaders pay homage to Christian Yahweh? I mean, really, live and let live, man.
Alain Simoneau and the Quebec Secular Movement on Tuesday challenged Saguenay city council’s right to say a short, non-sectarian prayer at the beginning of its meetings that includes the word “God,” and to display Christian symbols such as a crucifix or statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
What exactly does non-sectarian prayer mean? Oh, but it's such a short prayer, why all the fuss?
O God, all powerful and eternal, from whom comes all power and wisdom, we are assembled in your presence to ensure the well-being and prosperity of our city.

Grant us, we beseech thee, the light and energy necessary so that our deliberations contribute to promote the honour and glory of your name and the spiritual and material happiness of our city."
Sounds pretty Christian to me and you've got all the statues and crosses everywhere in the room to back that theory up.
Rather than an attempt by the state to curtail religious expression, the Saguenay prayer case is about when the state may be seen to associate itself with a religious observance and the symbols of a particular group, in this case, Roman Catholics.
We also get a clear sign of why it's important not to let historical and cultural religious symbols creep into preambles and national anthems.
Judges repeatedly asked whether the mention of “the supremacy of God” in the preamble to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms means something for the practice of religion in the public sphere.

“If God is referenced in the Charter, how can God be offensive in municipal council meetings?” Justice Marshall Rothstein asked.
With all this talk, some might have you thinking this God business in the prayer is merely a cultural relic that we preserve to keep our identity. It's nothing really more than a flourish that is there merely for historical purposes. Well, here's what Mayor Tremblay himself has to say about it.
“For me, prayer — the relationship with God — it’s the foundation of my life. I know that I’m going to Heaven after I die. So, it would be very painful for me to lose this case. But I have good faith we will win,” Tremblay said.
When religious groups argue that these prayers are merely non-sectarian and harmless vestiges of our historical past, just think of the above quote. This case is all about Mayor Tremblay and others like him being able to demonstrate to us his relationship with God and the state's relationship to his god.

This is about keeping their religion firmly rooted inside our government buildings. It's sort of a demonstration that this is a Christian nation. If it wasn't that important, they would gladly remove the prayer and remove the symbols to churches, private property or museums.

Anyway, on cue, the lawyer for Saguenay also uttered fearful prophecies of what will happen if the council stops saying this short prayer before its meeting -- total disintegration into a BLAND MULTICULTURAL DYSTOPIA! 
“The Canadian state recognizes the Divine as a moral value and an inclusive one,” he said, adding that a ban on public prayer would denude the Canadian identity in favour of a bland multiculturalism.

“If the result is to strip ourselves of everything we are, … it’s pure multiculturalism. There is no Canadian identity. It’s just a patchwork.
By Canadian identity he perhaps means white Christians? By patchwork he must mean a multi-coloured tapestry of different cultures. Is my secret decoder ring working? I've got news for him, this has already happened in Canada -- we are not in the 50s anymore. It will not slow down unless we lock the borders and there is nothing bland or drab about it. That said, based on other multicultural countries out there, I think that keeping religion as far away from government as possible is the way to go.

Besides, we're talking about what goes on inside the government building here! Depriving this sole place of prayer will not denude our entire country.
“The question is in Canada, whether we have to remove the word ‘God’ from everything. Even for the members of this court – there are oaths that end with an invocation of God.”
Ugh. Yes, and there are oaths that do not. The point?

Do we need Satanists to line up and offer their prayers to the horned one to nail this point home? Do we need more reverends in spaghetti strainers and High Priestesses of Cthulhu?

Check out my previous post to see how you can help the Canadian Secular Alliance with the case.

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Viking Discrimination Against Christians... Well, Maybe.

So, there was finally a real honest-to-God case of religious discrimination against a Christian here in Canada by a real company. A Trinity Western University graduate, Bethany Paquette, applied to an outdoorsy expedition company to be a wilderness guide and she was denied a job because she apparently didn't meet the minimum requirements -- oh, and because she went to Trinity Western and is Christian.

It all gets rather bizarre and confusing past this point.

See, it turns out that the company, Amaruk, is run by Vikings who are (understandably) unimpressed with Christians like Bethany because of what the Christians apparently did to Norse traditional religion and culture. It's of course ludicrous to bring this up with Bethany. I'm of Irish descent and the Vikings, with all their plundering, terrorizing and rapeing... well, the CEOs over at Amaruk better send me an apology letter.

So, Bethany gets this response from Olaf, who's a bigwig at this company:
Ms. Paquette.

I do not understand the purpose of your application considering you do not meet the minimum requirements that are clearly outlined on our web site.
Okay, a little rude, but still, not completely unprofessional.

Wait, what's this other crap?
Additionally, considering you were involved with Trinity Western University, I should mention that, unlike Trinity Western University, we embrace diversity, and the right of people to sleep with or marry whoever they want, and this is reflected within some of our staff and management. In addition, the Norse background of most of the guys at the management level means that we are not a Christian organization, and most of us actually see Christianity as having destroyed our culture, tradition, and way of life.
Okay, I'm sure most readers here know how I feel about the Trinity Western University Law School and their retrograde and draconian rules against LGBT people and unmarried couples. They get money from the government to teach religious nonsense and bigotry and even Law Societies across the country are rejecting the school's accreditation in protest.

However, this is truly unprofessional. Perhaps not illegal, but is this Facebook or Reddit? Come on, people.

Then, probably out of anger, Bethany wrote back this long e-mail including a long history lesson along with a demographics breakdown of the world's religions! Also not professional, but I guess Olaf threw any semblance of professionalism right out the window.

Go read the e-mail exchange if you like.

Then, bizarrely, other C-level representatives of the company just spring in as if they don't have anything better to do. Shouldn't they be busy scaling cliffs or jumping out of helicopters or something? Here's a super unprofessional nugget responding to Bethany's response.
In contrast, we believe that a man ending up with another man is probably the best thing that could happen to him. But we do not force these views onto other people, and we are completely fine if a guy decides to go the emasculation route by marrying a BC woman. Live and let live.

Anyway, I got the idea that this company may actually cater to a gay clientele (not that there is anything wrong with this). The site doesn't have a single woman on it. Instead I find shirtless men and really buff ones at that -- riding horses with cowboy hats... etc. Check out the Wilderness Fitness section of the site, to see what I mean. Rugged.

Well now it seems like things have gotten even more bizarre. Sun News reporter and Canada's Foremost Freedom Fighter, Ezra Levant, reported on Bethany's plight just yesterday.  Here's what he has to say today.
Except Amaruk isn’t real. They have a grandiose website, with beautiful images of the great outdoors. But they’re fake photos – ripped off from the Internet. The website boasts of being a massive, multi-national tourism company. But no actual trips or tours are listed. The location of the outdoor fantasy photos, or their “40,000-sheep ranch” are never identified.

The website is affiliated with other websites that have a homo-erotic feeling – idolizing the “Viking” lifestyle – bearded hipsters with great abs, out in the woods.

The CBC’s investigative reporter, Natalie Clancy, got her story half-right. Bethany was the subject of an anti-Christian tirade. But she didn’t lose a job over it – there was no job to be had. It was an elaborate hoax.
It turns out that this company may be nothing more than an odd front. There were no jobs to be had, as several other women have discovered who applied for the same or similar jobs. They got horrible responses as well.
As more women who received bizarre and inappropriate responses to their job applications to wilderness company Amaruk come forward, efforts to reach the company's CEO have left CBC News questioning whether the business and its jobs even exist.
The company claims to be the result of a partnership of other companies. However, it seems to be all a big hoax -- for tax purposes?
One of the companies, Norealis, is listed as owning a male erotic website called Many of the models found on that site can also be found in images on the other companies' websites.

The domain names of the websites for all the companies were registered in B.C. by a Christopher Fragassi, who lists a Whistler P.O. Box  as his address.

Only Christopher Fragassi is named on Amaruk's B.C. corporate registry entry, though Industry Canada's website lists 217 employees and 20 company directors. Calls to several listed numbers reached no one, just a hold signal that played the song of loons down the phone line. 
Here's the sort of response other women got.
Sophie Waterman applied for the same job, but soon believed it sounded too good to be true. She withdrew her application after a friend in the tourism industry warned her Amaruk might not be all that it seems.

"When I cancelled the interview, I received about 15 emails in quick succession," she says. "All pretending to be from different people involved with the company, and all very litigious, accusing me and my friend of slander. My feeling is that it's all one person."
Now it seems like this Amaruk email could be coming from a small group or even a single person who may have a problem with Christianity and women in general.

Ezrant concludes his post with a call to not forget the victims here -- Christians.
It’s too bad that the first time the CBC took a serious interest in anti-Christian bigotry, they were duped. I hope that doesn’t turn them off the subject. There are plenty of real anti-Christian bigots in Canada, who attack Trinity Western all the time. Right now, law societies across Canada are debating banning TWU’s graduates from practicing law. That’s just as vicious as the fake trolls at Amaruk. But they’re real, and unafraid to use their real names.
I say we do not forget the victims in this particular case, who were not all attacked because they were Christian. 

However, I'm all for investigating these troublemakers to see if their posing as a real company is somehow against the law. I'm just not certain if these shenanigans constitute anything that can be considered a real crime.

Meanwhile, we have law school that's partially publicly-funded demanding that its students and staff agree to a purity oath. I'm guessing that if you're a married gay professor you're going to be discriminated against there. It's sort of institutionalized descrimination. You know, like this hoax turned out not to be.
“In keeping with biblical and TWU ideals, community members voluntarily abstain from… sexual intimacy that violates the sacredness of marriage between a man and a woman,” it reads.

All students and faculty are required to swear an oath to the covenant, and its rules apply off-campus as well. The covenant also bans gossip, vulgar language, pornography and alcohol consumption.

Violations can result in penalties, including expulsion, though TWU said no student has ever been thrown out for being gay.

Friday, 10 October 2014

Video of Carolyn Hyppolite's 'Still Small Voices' Book Launch

Carolyn Hyppolite speaking at CFI Toronto (source)
Back in July, I posted promoting a talk at CFI by author Carolyn Hyppolite in celebration of the launch of her new book Still Small Voices: The Testimony of a Born-Again Atheist. She was nice enough to send me a copy of the book and I have so far produced one short review on the first half. Spoiler alert: It is a refreshing read about a compelling personal story.

Well, a video of the talk has now been released!  I haven't had a chance to watch the whole thing yet, but will definitely give it a watch this weekend!

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Young Cancer Patients' Lives In Serious Danger After Dropping Chemo For Faith-Based Traditional Medicines

McMaster University Medical Building.  from Wikimedia Commons
Only a few months ago, I wrote about 10 year old Makayla Sault who was diagnosed with leukemia. Her parents took her out of chemo because it was making her sick and substituted only traditional non-scientific medicine. Even Childrens' Aid decided not to intervene and she was returned to her parents and community to be monitored.

Very sadly, yet not surprisingly, her leukemia is back.
A Hamilton oncologist testifying at a hearing into an indigenous child who has quit chemotherapy in favour of traditional medicine says in a similar case earlier this year, another First Nation girl stopped her chemo and has now suffered a relapse.

Makayla Sault's leukemia has come back, according to testimony by McMaster Children's Hospital's Vicky Breakey. Although Breakey didn't name the patient, it's clear she was referring to Makayla. The 11-year-old girl from the Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation left chemotherapy treatment at the McMaster hospital in May to pursue traditional indigenous medicine.
Without proper treatment this was bound to occur and it is sad. At the time of the chemo, she was given a 75% chance of recovery. Now that this opportunity is lost, who knows? Her parents, both Christian pastors, decided to replace -- not even supplement -- evidence-based science with unproven traditional medicine. It's extra tragic because she no doubt believed that it would work -- because kids listen to and wish to please their parents, but her parents believe in it too.
Makayla's family declined to be interviewed, but in a statement released by her band, they say she is recovering from leukemia and the effects of chemotherapy.

The statement says, "She is under the care of her family and is receiving traditional medicines to assist with her recovery."
Now there's another girl with leukemia in the very same community. She's been given a 90-95% chance of recovery if she undergoes chemo. Her mother pulled her out of this treatment after ten days. I can't publish her name here due to a publication ban.

Once again, Children's Aid has refused to intervene. So the hospital is going to court to have treatment forced. It's a really dreadful situation on all sides.
Stacey Marjerrison, the patient’s main doctor and part of the McMaster team that launched the legal case, told court on Monday the girl has between an 80 and 85 per cent chance of survival on chemotherapy. Without it, the cancer could kill her.

Marjerrison said there is a degree of urgency in getting the child back into treatment soon, as the cancer can become more difficult to treat over time.
The primary sticking point here seems to be that there is no minimum age of consent in Ontario for medical treatment. It's solely related to the patient's capacity to understand the situation. To get around this the hospital should have consulted the Consent and Capacity Board. This is a group with the power to determine whether or not the girl has enough understanding and capacity to decline necessary medical treatment. They would presumably speak with her to make an assessment.

You think this very same hospital would have learned from Makayla's case.
Brant County Children's Aid director Andrew Koster says a request to separate an aboriginal girl with cancer from her family so she could resume chemotherapy in Hamilton should never have come before his agency

Testifying in a court challenge mounted by McMaster Children's Hospital after it learned the agency would not apprehend the child, he said the hospital should have taken the case to the province's Consent and Capacity Board, which assesses a patient's ability to make decisions about his or her treatment.

He also said the removal of the child would not have been simple or easy.
A lawyer representing Children's Aid, Mark Handelman, questioned the girl's primary physician about whether or not the child appeared to truly lack capacity -- and thus consent -- or if she merely interpreted the girl's silence this way.
Marjerrison described a quiet child, who would say she understood what was going on but almost never ask questions about treatment, deferring all hard choices to her parents.

Handelman asked twice during the testimony if Marjerrison was interpreting the patient’s silence as lack of capacity, something the doctor denied.
Meanwhile, her mother has released this statement dismissing all of the proceedings.
“As a member of the Six Nations Confederacy I will not have my decisions of health care for my child debated and judged in the Canadian judicial system.… The Canadian judicial system does not have the authority to determine our law or practices, which predates the existence of Canada, valid or otherwise.”
She's instead decided to bring her child to the Hippocrates Health Institute in the United States. As far as I can tell, she is still down there. So it's unknown what effect any of the court deliberations will actually have on the girl, being out of country.
“They [Children's Aid] investigated and reported they didn't have a protection issue with my decision as I had a comprehensive health-care plan. We would not make a choice that would compromise her health or life. There is enough case evidence behind Onkwehonwe medicine and the practices at [the Hippocrates Health Institute​] that we know we have made the right choice.”
“I decided to treat her cancer with our traditional medicines from our ancient indigenous knowledge coupled with the practices of nutrition as medicine, plant-based supplements along with other therapies,” her mother wrote.
These alternative therapies have not been shown to treat cancer. Children have suffered and died when parents drop standard medicine for alternative faith-based treatments.

A letter from the girl herself was also released. It tells the story from her perspective.
She wrote, “I don't want medicine they were giving me in the hospital. It made me really really sick. [It] hurt my belly for lots of days and my hair fell out. I know now that all those things happened to me because poison was being put in my body. Me and my mom cried a lot.”
It's the undeniable truth that she is suffering and the chemo is making her sick -- it is terrible poison. However, chemo appears to be the only scientifically backed evidence-based treatment that can help this girl. There is a apparently a 90-95% chance of recovery. Left untreated, things will move from bad to much worse. The cancer will kill her after much suffering. With odds of survival that high, why would any parent refuse unless they have a deep-seated mistrust of standard medicine.

Dr. Peter Fitzgerald, president of McMaster Children's Hospital said:
"This child has a life-threatening illness [and] without standard treatment will not survive, so our sole focus is trying to bring this child into treatment so we have an opportunity to provide her with a long healthy life."
I agree with this.  I hope that this Consent and Capacity Board can talk to this child and come to a well-informed decision. It's not a perfect solution to this complicated and horrible situation, but it's the best that can be done when a child's life is on the line.

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Pattison Outdoor Rejects Secular Bus Signs In Winnipeg

You wanna put up a sign? Ya gotta talk to Jimmy. (source)
Okay, here's the story so far. Some time ago, private citizen Dr Richard Thain signed a contract with sign company Pattison Outdoor for six ads to run on fifty buses in Winnipeg. On September 23rd -- apparently after a great deal of hemming and hawing -- Pattison turned his ads down. They're not being too clear about exactly why the ads are being rejected.

Pattison has a history of not liking ads by secular and atheist organizations.

According to this press release by Secular Ontario:
A private citizen in Ontario, Dr Richard Thain, a member of Secular Ontario and a supporter of Civil Rights in Public Education, placed an order with Pattison Outdoor Advertising for the creation of six different ads to run on fifty buses in Winnipeg in order to raise public awareness of a human rights issue in Ontario and Alberta. The timing of the ads was intended to coincide with the launch of the new Canadian Museum for Human Rights in Winnipeg.

The ads focus on the publicly-funded Catholic school system in Ontario. They express the opinion that Ontario should establish a single publicly-funded school system with French and English boards, open to all, and abolish public funding of a separate system which gives one religious faith group preferential treatment over all other citizens.
This effort to abolish publicly funded religious school boards in Ontario has got a lot of support from this blogger in the past.

I reached out to Richard via email last night so I could get an idea about the exact wording of these ads along with a clearer backstory.
I signed a contract with Pattison Outdoor Advertising (POA) to rent space on fifty Winnipeg buses for four weeks and a second contract for the "creative" which meant the POA design team would help me with the artwork, layout, font selection, graphics, and even creative writing & ad slogans, if desired, etc.  This is service they provide in the "Production Contract" (both the "creative" and then the manufacture of the 30" x 139"styrene posters which go on one side of the buses).

The texts for the ads were submitted to Pattison Outdoor with the instruction they were not to be altered or edited and that I was taking responsibility for the wording; they were just doing the artwork. 
Richard tells me that the Pattison account exec wanted him to send in a statement that he would be responsible for the wording of the ads and Richard complied with this request.
When the artwork was completed and the ads sent for production, the ads got bogged down in some sort of review process. The president of POA did not tell me what words or phrase(s) he thought violated Ad Council guidelines and asked me to rewrite them and resubmit. I refused. 
Pattison also expressed concerns about using the verb to Google (all-caps) at the bottom of each ad.
They asked if Richard had written permission from Google to use the word. Richard tried to explain to them that the word Google is now a common verb in English (above is verb conjugated in the imperative.) He explained that he wasn't referring to the company but rather the word google has been listed as a verb in the Oxford Dictionary since 2006. You can indeed find it listed at Merriam Webster's online dictionary.

Richard agreed to drop Google and replace it with the generic verb Search -- even though we all know everyone who searches will inevitably be googling anyway. This was still not good enough for Pattison.

I can only present the proposed text from the six ads. This is because the graphics were created by Pattison's creative team.  Richard did provide me with a short description of them and based on that, I made this very simple graphic, but I've never actually seen them myself.

There was also a stock photo of a child and a highlighted group of words: Equality, Inclusion, Dignity, Respect.

So here's the text that was rejected:

Ad 1.  
One third of Ontario's publicly funded teaching positions (Roman Catholic schools) are essentially closed to two thirds of the population, the non-Catholics.

Ad 2.
UN Human Rights Committee finds Canada guilty of religious discrimination in Ontario...twice! (1999, 2005)
Note that Ad 2 was going to be modified to read: SHAME ON  CANADA! In 1999 the UN Human Rights Committee found Canada guilty of religious discrimination.  Canada is still guilty. However, things didn't progress far enough for this to happen.

You can read more about this UN ruling over at the CBC. The United Nations ruled that Ontario ought to either extend public funding to all religious schools of all religions or stop funding Catholic schools. Obviously the latter makes more sense.

Ad 3.
The public funding of religious schools in Ontario and Alberta is an international human rights embarrassment, a financial disaster and a moral disgrace.
Ad 4.  
Ad 5.
Religiously segregated school systems have been eliminated in Manitoba (1890), Quebec (1997) and Newfoundland and Labrador (1998).
Ad 6.
"...with respect to the fundamental rights of the person, every type of discrimination, whether social or cultural, whether based on sex, race, color, social condition, language or religion, is to be overcome and eradicated as contrary to God's intent." -- Pope Paul VI Dec 7, 1965
So, back to the press release. Apparently, the wording was considered inappropriate by Pattison Outdoor, but they didn't go into detail about exactly what was objectionable about the phrases -- except for the reference to Google which Thain agreed to drop.
Mr Randy Otto, president of Pattison Outdoor officially informed Thain's lawyer, Dan Mayo on September 23, 2014 that they have decided not to accept the ads.

"We would point out to you that the terms and conditions of our agreement with Dr Thain, which he acknowledged and agreed to abide when he signed our media contract, gives Pattison Outdoor Advertising the sole right to refuse to run creative 'which in our opinion' violates Canadian Advertising Foundation guidelines."

Pattison Outdoor considers 'this matter closed.'

Otto did not identify which words or phrases Pattison Outdoor considers to be in violation of `The Canadian Ad Standards.' Thain's lawyer says the Canadian Code of Advertising Standards is a private-sector set of rules which must comply with the Canadian Constitution and Human Rights Act.
Richard Thain is sticking to his guns and is refusing to change is words -- especially since he's not being told which words need to change. However, it's a matter of principle and he maintains it's his right to free expression. Besides, there are no words here that are obviously obscene! They are referring to a UN ruling!

Thain points out in a quote on the press release:
"It is ironic that at the same time as the Canadian Museum for Human Rights is opening in Winnipeg, Pattison Outdoor is denying my right to free expression," Richard Thain pointed out. "This right is enshrined in The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms."
It is, indeed. Furthermore, the sole owner and head of Jim Pattison Group (which includes Pattison Outdoor), Jim Pattison, has a history of picking and choosing the sort of material that gets posted on his signs. It often needs to comply with his fundamentalist Christian and conservative point of view. He's fine with putting up anti-choice and climate change denial posters but has a problem with Greenpeace. Last December, he rejected some completely innocuous banners by CFI -- just... because... God.

This would be fine and all, if Pattison Outdoors didn't have a virtual monopoly on banners. At least this is how things were in Vancouver. I'm uncertain how things are in Winnipeg and would be interested to find out.

The press release ends with the following seven groups who support Thain in this endeavor. You can add me to that list.
The following people and groups share a concern regarding the discriminatory public funding of religious schools and agree that it is time to establish a single, secular publicly-funded school system with French and English boards

Leonard Baak: (613) 805 0940

Renton Patterson: Civil Rights in Public Education (613) 735 5069

Malcolm Buchanan: a past President of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation (OSSTF) and former General Secretary of the OSSTF (289) 439 0157

Luke Fevin: APUPIL (Albertan Parents for Unbiased Public Inclusive Learning) (780) 700 4007

Patrick Morrow: Winnipeg MN Humanist Atheists Agnostics of Manitoba (HAAM) 204 612 0601

Eric Adriaans: Toronto ON, Centre for Inquiry Canada (226) 374 0612

Eric Thomas: Humanist Canada, President (613) 242 5060
Note (2014-10-01 7:30am):This post was originally made this morning around 2am. Since then, Richard Thain has corected a few minor points which do not alter the original meaning. However, if you look at this post through an aggregator such as Feedly, you are likely to run into the original post.

Also check out this article over at the Ottawa Citizen.

Sunday, 28 September 2014

The Very First Non-Conference!

What's with all these cool events happening in Toronto these days? Just a couple of days ago, I wrote about the new Sunday Assembly happening in la Ville-Reine and now I find out that a conference will take place there featuring a whole bunch of really smart people -- many have been closely involved with posts I've made in the past. Is it possible Toronto could be becoming as hip as Montreal?

It seems unimaginable, and yet the facts are plain to see. The upcoming Non Conference is a 'conference for non-believers.'

Check out this instructive video! It reminds me a little about a situational comedy about 'nothing' which turned out to be about absolutely everything.

The conference is organized by Spencer Lucas, past Director of CFI Sudbury described the some of the motivation behind the conference to me.
This conference is a venue to foster an ongoing conversation about secular and atheist issues that affect us all locally.
I designed this conference from the talk up. In other words I sought out the topics that are affecting us today such as funding Catholic schools and physicians opting out of providing care for their patients and then found the people best suited to talk about it. 
The headliner will be Nate Phelps, who escaped from the horror that is the Westboro Baptist Church. I blogged about a powerful talk he gave when he visited Montreal a couple of years ago. He'll be talking about The Harm of Religion at this conference, a topic he's well suited for.

Katie Gibbs will also speak at the conference.  I blogged about her last year when she organized 17 protests across the country against this conservative government's unprecedented muzzling of scientists. Her talk will be Science and Democracy, which will show the link between unfettered science and a functioning democracy.

Andrea Houston is the journalist who broke the original story about the Ontario Catholic School Board not allowing the formation of student Gay Straight Alliances (GSA). I first read about her while blogging about student Leanne Iskander who was awarded Young Humanist of the Year at the Humanist Canada Conference held in Montreal a couple of years ago.

I'll admit that I haven't heard of nor blogged about Jack Pasht, Doug Cowan or Arthur Schafer but given the calibre of the other speakers, I'll be looking them up now!

There will also be a panel discussion about The State of Islamophobia.
Is the accusation of Islamophobia, used by many liberals, moderates and Muslim apologists, harmful, in that it may provide cover for fundamentalists and terrorists, and insulate Islam from open criticism?
This will include Faisal Al Mutar, Ali A. Rizvi, and Alishba Zarmeen.  I've written about Islamophobia in the past (one, two) and would be interested to see another perspective on this.

Well, you can see that I wouldn't mind going down to this conference! It sounds very interesting and it's only on a single Saturday, so it's not a huge time commitment like other larger conferences.

Again, it takes place November 1st in Toronto.
The Non-Conference is the only Canadian conference east of the Fraser River that is specifically geared for non-believers, non-theists, the “nones”, atheists, agnostics, humanists, freethinkers, materialists, rationalists, secularists, pantheists, skeptics, empiricists, naturalists, friendly theists...well, you get the idea.

The day will start at 11:00 am sharp in the heart of the University of Toronto’s downtown campus. Though not affiliated to the university, this conference will be discussing stimulating subjects. The ideas presented will be torn from today's headlines. Many of our speakers have written the articles we (in the atheist community) have been sharing through social media.
Check out more details at The Non-Conference! Also check out the Facebook Page!

You can also read a guest post by organizer Spencer Lucas over at Canadian Atheist describing the conference.

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Sunday Assembly Comes to Toronto

A couple of days ago, I posted a short very informal interview with Shonagh McCrindle, one of the organizers of the new Sunday Assembly Ottawa group. This was after the big announcement that Sunday Assembly would add 33 new groups across the planet this Sunday the 28th!

At the time, I mentioned that I also reached out to Sunday Assembly Toronto. Well, organizer Keshra Hamalainen was nice enough to get back to me today!

Who are you? When did you decide to open a Sunday Assembly in your area? What is your religious background in a few words?
My name is Keshra Hamalainen and along with my husband Jani Hamalainen we are the organizers for Sunday Assembly Toronto. We decided to open a Sunday Assembly in Toronto around February of this year. After reading an article in Mashable about Sunday Assembly we thought it was necessary to have one in Toronto! Basically, SA Toronto started with 5 founding organizers that got the ball rolling. We met together at a local pub after getting in touch with the main Sunday Assembly in London who then put us in contact with one another. We usually have around 15 to 20 people who come to the meetings consistently over the summer. We both come from religious backgrounds, and I came from a very religious family and “coming out” as atheist was definitely difficult for both of us.

Are there any things the Sunday Assembly will do to make it more "Canadian"? Services? Language? Etc.?
Future goals is to grow the members attendance to over 100! Sunday Assembly is about getting together as human beings to celebrate life and uplift one another. I’m not sure making it more “Canadian” is a goal, as the Sunday Assembly welcomes all people from all walks of life and backgrounds. Right now, services are only available in English.

Are there any plans to involve in the community? Like charity or volunteering?
Part of the Sunday Assembly charter is to Help Often. That means we plan on continuing our presence within the Toronto community. We have participated in the City of Toronto clean-up day, we have done a school supply donation drive, and for our global launch we are doing a food drive to help those in need (especially with Thanksgiving around the corner). We will definitely continue to do these good deeds because that’s what being a helping and caring human being is all about.

Like poutine? Favourite author and why?
Love poutine, who doesn’t lol?! Although, Jani and I commit to a healthy organic lifestyle so poutine eating isn’t at the top of our list.

Anything else you would like to say?
Come on out to a Sunday Assembly meeting near you! Make new friends, meet new people and inspire others to do good!
Thanks so much, Keshra! Looking forward to visiting an event next time I'm in Toronto!

Check out the Sunday Assembly Toronto homepage! You should also check out the Sunday Assembly Toronto Facebook Page.