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

Sunday, 4 October 2015

Conservative Government Effectively Screening Syrian Refugees Based On Religion

The Syrian refugee crisis is a tragedy of nearly unparallelled proportions. So, the Conservative government originally made a goal to bring in 1,300 people. Unfortunately, they missed their goal because they insisted on privatizing the whole process by requesting that private sponsors help foot the bill - this is code word for churches.  

See, the only private groups that can step in in any reasonable number to bring in refugees just happen to be religious groups. Anyway, it didn't work.
When the government first committed to accepting 1,300 Syrian refugees, only 200 were supposed to have been government-assisted. However, Canada ended up more than doubling that number and sponsoring 434 refugees when not enough private sponsors came forward quickly enough.

These 434 were referred by the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and therefore were not selected based on religion or ethnicity.
Now the government could have easily sponsored these refugees itself, but the privatization of this process had two effects which must have been appealing to the Conservatives. Firstly, it appeals to the whole idea of economic privatization (they love that) and secondly - although CFI Canada is trying - the only groups who are currently in a position to be private sponsors just so happen to be churchers ... mainly Christian ones.
"Maybe the government looked at this and concluded it was churches who are best organized to do private sponsorship. Thus, since the government is putting emphasis on ... private sponsorship rather than UNHCR refugees sponsored by the government, maybe they told themselves, 'They're mostly Christians,"' suggested Janet Dench, executive director of the Canadian Council for Refugees (CCR).

Last December, the CCR and other organizations denounced Ottawa's intention to privilege certain refugees on the basis of religion.

"This type of practice runs counter to fundamental principles of refugee protection," said CCR president Loly Rico. "The refugees must be selected for resettlement on the basis of need." 
Of course, the Harper government doesn't care one bit what groups like this think. They are playing up to their evangelical and Christian base. Because the UNHCR does not consider the religion of the refugees when determining their need, the government is turning to churches to bring over as many (just so happen to be Christian) refugees as possible.

They just raised their new goal to 10,000 refugees this year.
The Conservative government is counting on private sponsorship to ensure that the 10,000 Syrian refugees it has promised to accept between now and next September will be first and foremost Christians, Druze, Kurds and other minorities it wishes to prioritize.
According to the article, only 1,100 refugees have made it over so far this year. The pace needs to pick up if the government really cares about making their goal and helping people based on their needs rather than on their creeds.
"If an established group decides to sponsor a Muslim, nothing in the law allows the government to not take up the file or to refuse it because the person is the wrong religion," said Dench.
Naturally, atheists in Syria are at terrible risk - within their country and in many of the countries in the Gulf region. They also are not the right religion.

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Friday, 2 October 2015

Discussion: "Not Just Another Niqab and Burka Article"

Niqabs, hijabs, chadors, and burkas seem to be in the news again as the election heats up. To be honest, I've tended to avoid this issue. I wish we would just start taxing churches, temples and mosques indiscriminately like any other building.

This said, I'm okay with face revealing chadors and hijabs when government ID is required, but niqabs and burkas would require that either the State hire special female face checkers or else some form of reasonable accommodation by the women themselves to the State by revealing their faces.

And naturally, any judgement here would need to also apply to Pastafarians! They wear headgear more revealing than all four of the above and is worn for religious reasons and yet it is not allowed! Why?

I will soon have Eiynah Nicemangos onto the podcast who has some strong feelings regarding this issue.

Another person with opinions on this is fellow Canadian Atheist blogger Veronica Abbass. She has published an interesting article over at the Atheist Freethinkers blog.

Abbass sent me some background on the blog. Atheist Freethinkers/Libres penseurs athées (AFT/LPA) is a fully bilingual (French & English) organization based in Montreal, Quebec committed to “reason, knowledge and the material, intellectual and moral advancement of humanity.” AFT/LPA’s raisons d'être are to “promote secularism and reject any religious involvement in civil institutions.”

From Abbass’ latest article, “Not Just Another Niqab and Burka Article,”:
Raheel Raza’s Toronto Sun article “Ban niqab, burka in all public places” and reprinted in Huffington Post Canada as “As a Muslim, I Think Canada Should Ban the Niqab and Burka in Public” is extremely annoying.
Go give it a read to find out why Abbass finds Raheel Raza’s article “annoying.” Then let the discussion begin.

Read and sign the Atheist Manifesto and join AFT/LPA.

Be counted: Sign Atheist Census Canada and the Atheist Alliance International Atheist Census.

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Thursday, 1 October 2015

ORF & Blasphemy Laws - Bad But Probably Not Contradicting

I cannot believe that the Conservatives are in a dead heat with the Liberals less than a month out from the election. I thought Canadians had more sense, but I guess we don't and we'll get what we deserve. You can already see the NDP's lead evaporate and it will likely continue to shrink until lefties like me either fear vote Liberal (bad) or become once again disenfranchised and drop out completely (worse).

Meanwhile, there is an interesting opinion piece in the Calgary Herald by Derek James From all about what huge hypocrite the country of Canada is with still having an anti-blasphemy law - Section 296 of the Code - (Quebec is trying to put a new bad one in as well), while at the same time instituting an Office of Religious Freedom, which he believes is supposed to criticize anti-blasphemy laws in other countries.
The continued existence of this criminal blasphemy law places Canada in an awkward and hypocritical position when it criticizes other countries of religious intolerance, and more so now that Canada has an Office of Religious Freedom intended to promote religious tolerance.
More specifically, he mentions Stephen Harper's defence of freedom of expression after the Muhammed cartoons ten years back sparked mass riots and even murder.
The cartoons were republished by newspapers around the world and more than 200 people died as protests and riots erupted in response. Prime Minister Stephen Harper responded, saying he regretted that Canadian newspapers had also published the cartoons, but that Canadians had a right to freedom of expression.

Two years ago, the Canadian government opened the Office of Religious Freedom, mandating the new office to protect and advocate for religious minorities, oppose religious hatred and intolerance, and promote the Canadian values of pluralism and tolerance around the world.
He goes on to mention that Canada's blasphemy laws were originally meant to protect Christianity from any criticism, but this has been extended to protect any religion under a recent ruling of Section 296 of the Criminal code.

This is all fine and well, but I think From just needs to follow the money. You'll find some pretty deep silence from the Office of Religious Freedom regarding one of the world's most egregious human rights offenders, Saudi Arabia. You'll find a few peeps here and there - seemingly when it silence could result in a PR issue (Raif Badawi), but for the most part, it's all crickets.

The answer? Follow the money to a 15 billion dollar arms contract with Saudi Arabia.

Note that the persecution in Saudi Arabia is likely directed equality towards all religions, but it's highly likely that the majority of victims are religious and they are dying at the hands of one of the world's most pernicious theocracy whose power is rooted in a strict adherence to Wahhabi Islam.

What about atheists abroad who are being killed and jailed for the very reasons of blaspheming? Well, one need only take a look at the original intention of Canada's blasphemy laws - protect religion and the oft stated goal of the Office of Religious Freedom - protect religion to see the answer. No action need be taken when the victim is not religion/religious, as there is no religion there to protect.

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Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Bishop Will Not Allow Mature-Minor Consent For HPV Vaccines In BC Schools

Oh rats! Those 'medical doctors' and 'scientists' at Northern Health in British Columbia are pushing their evil, hedonistic, slut-causing, heterosexual orgy-inducing HPV vaccines again! You can read about how this sort of Catholic church train of thought goes on a previous post I did about this issue in Alberta.

Well, luckily, we've got someone on the case who knows all about sex, healthcare and just what's going on in the minds of teenage girls these days - a celibate Catholic bishop called Stephen Jensen.
"You need to discern the merits of having your child vaccinated or not,'' Jensen told parents in the letter posted online.

"While the vaccination program is not inherently wrong, parents need to make an informed decision and communicate it in a way that can serve to strengthen their child in the virtue of chastity and reinforce her appreciation of abstinence as the only truly healthy choice.''
Of course, you've got this US study:
Some opponents of in-school vaccinations, including Catholic bishops, have voiced concerns the shots might encourage early sexual intercourse.

However, a U.S. study that reviewed medical records of nearly 1,400 girls showed HPV shots does not increase sexual activity, said Juliet Guichon, spokeswoman and founder with HPV Canada, a group of doctors, health scientists and concerned citizens.
Whatever, right?  Why listen to science?

The Catholic church also tells its adherents to not sin either, but that doesn't always seem to work out. In fact, they have a whole scheme on how to deal with that. Apparently, sexy-time is also something that just seems to happen even when kids promise others and themselves to remain chaste. What happens then? Well, I guess the good bishop thinks that any dirty little sinners ought to get the HPV they deserve! You all deserve it!

Unless you lock your daughter up in the house or put on a chastity belt or something? Well according to Jonathon Dyck - one of those medical science people - sexy-time doesn't even need to involve penis-in-vagina sex for infection to occur. So, better just lock your daughter in the basement.
Dyck said the infection is highly contagious and can be spread even without sexual intercourse through skin-to-skin contact.
Daughter? Wait a minute, Jenson is talking about she all the time, but what about the boys? They have penises and are thus strongly implicated in this whole thing.
The diocese makes no mention in the letter of boys receiving the vaccine.
An oversight? Does this mean boys can get the vaccine and girls cannot? What's the deal with the Church being obsessed with controlling the bodies of girls and not the boys? Well that's something new.

All this boils down to an objection Jenson has with the BC Centre for Disease Control's mature-minor consent, which allows children to override the wishes of their parents regarding the vaccine.
Bishop Stephen Jensen of the Diocese of Prince George also said in a September letter to parents of Grade 6 and Grade 9 girls attending Catholic schools that a legal option known as mature-minor consent won't be an option for students in the human papillomavirus vaccination program.

Mature-minor consent is defined on the BC Centre for Disease Control's website as the authority given to children under the age of 19 to allow, refuse or revoke their consent to be immunized. The centre said that authority takes precedence over parental authority.
Okay, first point: If it's a legal option then how can this school simply opt out?

Secondly, this is an immunization which is 99% effective at preventing HPV. Personally, I think that kids should be required to have it regardless, but they should definitely be allowed to have it if they're interested in their own lives not being affected by a possible future infection just to satisfy their parents' religious sensibilities. This is the same sort of issue as blood transfusions for minors with parents who have religious objections - must think of the good of the child.

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Sunday, 27 September 2015

Religious & 'Conscientious' Objections to Vaccination Up 50% In Ontario

Remember that group, Children of God for Life? Their goofy website warns good Christian parents not to vaccinate their children because the vaccines contain 60 year old dead BABIEEES! Well, according to a report over at the Catholic Register (funded with your tax dollars), Children of God's website could be one thing influencing more and more Ontario parents to not get their kids vaccinated.
A petition launched on LifeSite- six months ago protesting vaccines based on aborted fetal cell lines has attracted just over 4,000 page views. Anti-abortion blogs such as Children of God for Life and anti-vaccination sites such as Vaccine Risk Awareness have been campaigning against the vaccines based on the link to abortion.

Public Health Ontario researchers could only collect the number of religious and conscientious objections and not the precise reasons for objection.
Do you think it really matters what the precise reasons for the objections are if they're all based on unproven mythological foundations? Probably not, right? The article goes on to mention that Catholics ought to listen to the Vatican and get their kids vaccinated - even if the measles vaccine is apparently derived from an aborted fetus in the 60s.
The vaccine was originally created in 1964 in the United States using a human cell line prepared with lung tissue from an aborted fetus. A second cell line was derived from a 14-week-old fetus in in the United Kingdom in 1970.
Anyway, it turns out that the rate of unvaccinated kids is up 50% because people can just get a notarized letter saying their religion allows them to put a strain on herd immunity. I'm sure that immunized kids who get sick (vaccines are not 100%) will completely understand.
The study by epidemiologists at Public Health Ontario found that between the 2003-04 and 2012-13 school years, the percentage of seven- and 17-year-old children with religious and conscientious objection exemptions from getting the standard vaccinations for measles, mumps and rubella had risen from 1.05 to 1.54 per cent of students.

With just over two million kids in the combined public and Catholic education systems in Ontario, 1.5 per cent of students would translate into more than 30,000 unvaccinated children. The 50-per-cent increase equals to about 10,000 more unvaccinated kids.
I wonder if children with compromised immunity who cannot get the vaccine will be totally cool catching measles from unvaccinated kids? I mean, if they believe Jesus doesn't want them to get vaccinated then it's just as good an excuse, right?

Nope, I can't say it is.

Friday, 18 September 2015

CFI Canada Expresses Strong Concerns About Proposed 'Anti-Hate' Bill 59

CFI Canada has an excellent post on their blog where they break down what they find disturbing about the proposed Quebec Bill 59, which I've expressed concerned about as well as Jerry Coyne, who is rightly calling it an anti-blasphemy law.

Essentially, the Bill attempts to introduce more severe punishments for hate speech along with a permanent registry of haters that could be accessed by the public. This might not seem too bad at first glance, but the problem is that the legislation seems to be leaving the determination of what does constitute hate speech to the province's human rights commission - rather than the existing criminal code. As I've written before, the head of the commission is a political activist with an agenda to quell any criticism of religion - more specifically Islam.

Even at least three prominent Muslim groups are concerned about the legislation and how the registry could potentially destroy the lives of people - both Muslim and non-Muslim.

After breaking down the reasons for their concern, the CFI concludes:
Bill 59 is a problematic proposal which implements measures that may easily be abused or misused by groups interested to stifle criticism of religion or religious figures. It is important to investigate not only the interplay between sections of the act itself, but also their effect-on and interaction-with the other legislation.  For example, this proposed legislation is subject to precedents and definitions established in prior rulings by The Supreme Court of Canada and other relevant federal legislation.  These legal precedents would be sources on such matters as the definition and scope of hate speech.

Another example of the problematic complexity of this proposed bill is in the interplay of the separate section.  If a person or organization is accused through Sections 2 and/or 3 and has their name added to the list described in Section 17, how might that relate to Section 24′s notation that the organization or person may be “considered to exhibit behaviour that could reasonable pose a threat for the physical or emotional safety of the students.”?
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Monday, 14 September 2015

Beaverton: Wynne's New Sex Curriculum Contains Too Much Orgy & Satanism Homework

So the current premier Kathleen Wynne of Ontario, who happens to be lesbian (just like millions of other people), decided that the province's sex education curriculum needed an overhaul. If memory serves, it hadn't had any changes since 1998 - over 15 years ago. Do you remember what people were saying about gay people and transgender folks back then? I do. An overhaul was necessary.

Anyway, some parents are going nuts over the new curriculum. You can read all about this over at Canadian Atheist, they've been doing a great job of covering it. Unsurprisingly, it seems to be mostly conservative religious sorts who have problems with an updated program which acknowledges same-sex marriages and texting.

I have little more to add to these other than to point out this clever little post over at The Beaverton - a satirical Canadian news blog: Ontario middle schooler can't believe he has so much orgy and Satanism homework.
The homework, as mandated by Premier Kathleen Wynne, promises to teach children about gender identity, the dangers of sexting, and avoiding abusive relationships. However, its main focus is on how to properly worship the Prince of Darkness and the best ways to host and participate in an orgy.

“How the heck am I supposed to know how many points a pentagram has?” complained Donaldson, looking over his demonic summoning assignment. “Wait… ‘penta’? Five! Just like how there are five hands in a penta-fisting!”
With the way you hear websites like LifeSiteNews scream about the program, you'd think the Beaverton article is true. It isn't though. The program as described by LifeSiteNews sounds just fine and I would have no problem sending my own kid through it.

Go check out the short article. It's worth it for a chuckle.

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Sunday, 13 September 2015

Raif Badawi Foundation For Freedom Created Here In Montreal

Ensaf Haidar at the foundation's launch in Berlin on Friday.
Ensaf Haidar wife of jailed Saudi blogger Raif Badawi launched the Raif Badawi Foundation for Freedom (Fondation Raif Badawi pour la liberté) in Berlin. Friday's event was simulcast to a second opening ceremony in Montreal.
The announcement was made successively in Germany and in Montreal. The President, Mrs. Ensaf Haidar, Mr. Badawi’s spouse, was in Berlin to meet with dignitaries in order to gain their support regarding her husband’s liberation, atop of taking part in the press conference. “I am truly grateful for the support that has emerged across the world for the Foundation. This justifies in my opinion, its very existence and its necessity,” declared Mrs Haidar. “Its goal happens to embody Raif’s values, who would be very happy to see that his struggle is a concern for so many people around the world,” added Mrs. Haidar. It is to be noted that Mr. Badawi will be honorary president of the Foundation.
The foundation's stated mission:
The Foundation serves as a free platform enabling international dialogue as well as a resource centre providing academic research on legal and social topics concerning the Arab World.
You can purchase Raif Badawi's book on the site as well as make donations via Paypal. The foundation has also stated that it will never accept a donation of more than 30% of its total budget so it can remain unbought.

You can follow the latest from the foundation on their Facebook page.

This is awesome and it can do nothing but step up the pressure for cases like Badawi's. I also believe it will help other secular bloggers - the way our Office of Religious Freedom and Department of Foreign Affairs has not.

If you would like to read more, check out Veronica Abbass' and Hemant Mehta's posts on this.

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Thursday, 10 September 2015

Richmond Hill Teacher Gets Fired For 'Racist' Tweets

Michael Marshall
I honestly haven't been following the story of the secondary school teacher, Michael Marshall. He taught at in Richmond Green Secondary School in Richmond Hill and was fired after a 10 week investigation into an alternate Twitter account he kept outside of his work hours which apparently contained racist remarks.

The account @firstatheist - which apparently dealt with atheism and the problems with religion - has been deactivated. Still, The Star gives us some examples of some racist remarks.
“I get sad when girls I teach decide to wear the hijab. I feel like a failure,”

“Hijabs make me sad.”

“Just have a trailer full of guns roll down the street and arm the ghetto. Oh wait that’s black ppl.”

“Kinda have this perverse urge to wear a hijab for a day and twerk in the street.”

“There is an absolute s***-ton of Muslims at Ikea tonight. Any special occasion?”

“I’m sorry but sharia law is incompatible with my democratic secular nation. You can have it, but keep it over there in backward land.”

“Decided that I am way too racist to be a teacher #theycantbreathe”
I can see where the trailer full of guns tweet is disgusting. Unless there is a very good explanation for it, that appears racist to me, plain and simple. Likewise, the #theycantbreathe tweet seems objectionable - if only I could understand his point.

The Muslims at Ikea tweet also seems to be belittling of a group of people rather than a religion itself. It does seem like a ridiculous question.

It's the lumping in of the other tweets that concerns me a little. These are apparently also racist.

How is him feeling sad when girls wear hijabs racist? How is his dislike of hijabs racist? It could very well be anti-Islamic. I too have problems with Islam.

He also mentions wanting to twerk in the street wearing a hijab. Again, I do not see why this is anything but perhaps a little goofy. Would suggesting dressing up as a Catholic nun and twerking in the street get a similar response? 

Finally, he's right about sharia law being fundamentally incompatible with a democratic secular nation. I'll also happily chime in that countries with Sharia law are backward lands. How is this controversial?

It turns out that Marshall's star slam poetry society member is a Muslim who wears a hijab and I see nothing but praise for her along with the other students on his official twitter account, @marshallisboss.

Of course, I do not have the full story and that single tweet about the trailer of guns is pretty vile. The others I pointed out are bad too and these likely go against some code of conduct - as he is representing a school. However, those other tweets - can someone fill me in? I promise you, I'm not playing dumb - I am apparently this dumb.

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Tuesday, 8 September 2015

Richard Dawkins Weighs In Against Quebec "Anti-Hate" Bill-59

Back in August, I expressed my grave concerns with a proposed piece of anti-hate legislation here in Quebec, Bill 59. The main problem was its utter failure to define what hate speech was. Instead it left it up to committee - which on its own is the ultimate evil.
But the legislation also faced a lot of criticism, notably for failing to define what “hate speech” is, and leaving it up to the human rights commission to decide how much proof it needs to sanction someone.
That's pretty scary, because these folks aren't Supreme Court judges. In fact, the head of this commission wants to stamp out anti-Islamic speech.
The bill takes its inspiration from recommendations made public by the QHRC in November 2014. Jacques Frémont, the commission’s president, explained that he planned to use the requested powers to sue those critical of certain ideas, “people who would write against … the Islamic religion … on a website or on a Facebook page.”
Yes, this is really an anti-blasphemy law. And furthermore...
Frémont is an unabashed legal activist, who sees the QHRC’s mandate as “provoking a social change” and “making the law.” (“You will make the law with difficult cases, risky cases,” he said at a March conference at the Université de Montréal.) In support of such stringent censorship he cites resolutions adopted by UN bodies. But the only UN body pressing for this measure is the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, an Islamist consortium that equates criticism of Islam with hate speech. The OIC’s member nations have nothing to teach any democratic society in the way of “inclusion,” “openness” and “living together,” all justifications for Bill 59 made by Premier Couillard.
We're talking about countries like Saudi Arabia, here.

So today Richard Dawkins expressed his concern as well... as only Richard can.
Okay, so like many of Dawkins' previous tweets, I do not give him points for tact. I'd also like to point out that although this Frémont seems to be taking his cue from the OIC, several Muslim groups in Quebec have expressed the very same concerns I have about the bill's lax definition of hate speech. So the only people who seem to like this are the extremists.

Still, it's nice to see Dawkins shining an international light on this situation. Hopefully this new level of scrutiny will kill this pernicious bill, which as Kyle Shideler in the somewhat dubious looking right wing Town Hall website (to which Dawkins links) reminds us:
In 2013, the Canadian parliament moved to end scrutiny of Internet speech by its Human Right Commissions when it abolished the infamous Section 13, of Canada’s Human Rights Act. The elimination of that odious and censorious clause followed a successful campaign given voice by Mark Steyn and Ezra Levant after the two were targeted for writings and publications which reportedly “offending” Muslims.

But like a zombie rising from the grave, the idea of censoring “blasphemous” speech, continues to come back, no matter how dead it may have appeared.
Indeed, this is not an anti-hate bill, it is an anti-blasphemy bill with teeth. Fines of up to 10,000$ can be levied and you can have your name put onto a permanent public registry as a hater.

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Monday, 7 September 2015

Judge in VIA Rail Terrorism Trial: Psychiatrists 'Too Secular' to Diagnose Religious Man

Chiheb Esseghaier (source)
There's been a disturbing turn of events with the ongoing Chiheb Esseghaier case. Remember, he's one of two convicted terrorists who plotted to blow up a New York bound passenger train and assassinate public figures.

He's repeatedly refused any representation in court in his defence because he will not settle to be judged by secular law - just Quranic law. Now news has come out that he's convinced he'll die and be brought off to Heaven on December 25th, 2014... and that he believes this date hasn't happened yet.
“You are lying,” he told Klassen. “Which delusion, which schizophrenia and which mental illness? We are before December 2014, because I am alive. If you say it’s a delusion then the Qur’an is a delusion.”

Esseghaier has said in court before that he believes he will die and his soul will be taken up to heaven on Dec. 25, 2014. Because that has not yet happened, he said he doesn’t believe it is currently September 2015.
In fact, two psychiatrists believe he is schizophrenic. He's also spit at his defence lawyer to the point of being kicked out of the courtroom.

So he should be treated for this, right? I mean this is the humane thing to do. The disturbing thing here is that the judge wasn't satisfied with the first psych assessment and ordered the second only to disagree with the spirit of that one too.

The judge Michael Code seems convinced that the psychiatrists don't get it because they're too secular, or something, to recognize the influence of religion on people -- or something. Esseghaier's representation, Russell Silverstein, was rather shocked when the judge refused to get his client proper treatment for his psychosis.
Silverstein asked Code to have Esseghaier hospitalized, where he would likely be forcibly treated with anti-psychotic medication, before sentencing. The goal, in Silverstein’s view, was to puzzle out the core unanswered question in the case.

Esseghaier’s descent into mental illness appeared to coincide with his increased religiosity and eventual radicalism. If the mental illness caused the radicalism, then it could be argued he was not responsible, or at the very least less responsible, for what he did.

But when Silverstein rose to make that argument, Code interrupted him at every turn. He disputed the idea Esseghaier was necessarily mentally ill, or at least as mentally ill as the two doctors made him out to be. He expressed concern with the fact two “secular” psychiatrists had come to such conclusions about an obviously religious man. And he repeatedly scoffed at Silverstein’s interpretation of the evidence.

The lawyer appeared by turns frustrated and baffled by Code. He wasn’t asking the judge to let Esseghaier off. He said he didn’t know what role the man’s illness played in his crimes, but treating him was one way to potentially find out.
Listen, it's a grey line between extreme religiosity and psychosis - the two go hand in hand and are often rather indistinguishable. One could argue that religion might be some form of delusion. However, symptoms of psychosis should be treated - whether they be laced with some mythology or not. The judge's own bias seems to muddy an already screwed up case even more.

Religion can drive people to do insane things. It can definitely be used as a framework to legitimize all sorts of actions - and in the mind of someone already suffering from mental illness, it can be extremely dangerous. However, it is not up to a judge to overrule the diagnoses of trained mental professionals.

The judgement has been delayed until the 22nd of September. I hope this man gets treated for whatever psychosis he has developed - religious or not.

Thursday, 3 September 2015

Dear Canadians: I Really Think We Need to Vote Them Out

Canadian designed and built LAV III by General Dynamics (source)
Hey guys! I've been having what's called a social life lately, which has been stealing precious time from what can be termed as family and household obligations, which has been offsetting all of my precious blogging time. It's disgusting, and revolting and just not at all fair - I know - and I promise it will all come to a screeching end soon - as it always does.

Until my successful social life implodes, however, I will occasionally come up for air. In this instance, I implore you, my readership, to do just one thing this October. If you're Canadian, please vote against Stephen Harper this election. Practically this means voting Liberal or NDP. This is important because this Harper Government is basically evil - the evidence is out.

The examples are legion, but here's one I'll talk about now.
Ottawa is contractually obliged to keep secret the details of a controversial $15-billion arms sale to Saudi Arabia – a transaction that Stephen Harper personally assured the country’s monarch will be guaranteed by the Canadian government, documents say.

Foreign Affairs e-mails obtained by The Globe and Mail under access-to-information law indicate the Saudis have made excess publicity about the sale of armoured fighting vehicles a deal-breaker.
I've written about this foul and putrid deal here and here. Other governments are doing similar things, but we're Canadian and we're supposed to be peaceful. My father didn't get killed while hitchhiking through Egypt and Israel during the Six Day War in 1967 partly because he had a big Canadian flag sewn to his backpack. At gunpoint, they saw it and happily commented on the beautiful lakes in Ontario just before not killing him. Yes, Canada meant something.
A cloak of secrecy surrounds this agreement, first announced in 2014, with Ottawa refusing to divulge any substantial information on the vehicles Canada is selling to the Saudi regime – or how it justifies the sale to a nation known for human-rights abuses.
This is the same government that launched our Office of Religious Freedom. The hypocrisy here is so thick that I am gagging and hope to not vomit all over my keyboard. This new office is part of the Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs. The ORF's head, Andrew Bennett publicly denounced the treatment of secular blogger Raif Badawi by the barbaric Kingdom of Saud before his first flogging.

Of course, they know how unpopular and, well, immoral, this deal is. Both sides are keeping as quiet as possible.
In another government e-mail exchange in January of 2015, Brigette Walenius, deputy director with Foreign Affairs' Middle East-Maghreb Commercial Unit, cited General Dynamics officials who spoke of a “confidentiality clause in their contract with the Saudis” and how Riyadh “could terminate [the] contract if too much info is released.”
Must keep all this hush hush or else how will we be able to feed on the revolting blood money flowing in. If we don't take the money, someone else will, right? Best to keep all this human rights business out.

It turns out that the Conservative government is jumping with glee and smacking their salivating lips just thinking about all those wonderful LAVs (light armoured vehicles) they will sell a nation that chops people's heads off for practicing witchcraft. 
The Canadian ambassador ends this e-mail with a jubilant expression “Gotta LOV the LAV!” but not before sketching out some bare-bones details.

He wrote that General Dynamics “have been chasing” the contract since 2009 and it’s a boon for the plant in London, Ont., because the company’s work on LAVs for Canada’s mission in Afghanistan was wrapping up as the Canadian combat mission ended in 2011. These new orders will “replace the decline from Canada’s Afghanistan withdrawal,” Mr. MacDonald said in his e-mail.

The ambassador wrote that the LAVs “are going to be ‘fully loaded,’” that they would be the “most advanced ever made” and that delivery would start 38 months after the contract was signed and last another 108 months, or nine years.

A separate January 21, 2015, e-mail from an official in Foreign Affairs’s export-control division said documentation received from General Dynamics to date suggests the vehicles could possibly include turreted LAVs “equipped with automatic firearms.”
The Saudi government, who are not a democracy but rather a theocratic monarchy, who have special forces of religious police roaming the streets, who will throw you into jail for questioning anything to do with the government, who do not allow women to drive, who execute people for trivial reasons and who use force to disperse their own citizens and have used essentially the same vehicles to brutalize civil uprisings in Bahrain - the Harper government wants to do business with them!
As an example of how light armoured vehicles (LAVs) might enable human-rights abuses, rights activists allege it was Canadian-made fighting vehicles that Saudi Arabia sent into Bahrain in 2011 to help quell a democratic uprising. Asked if it believes the Saudis used made-in-Canada LAVs when they went into Bahrain, the Canadian government doesn’t deny this happened. It only says it doesn’t believe the vehicles were used to beat back protests.
Maybe they see a little of themselves in the Saudi regime? I'm certain similarities could be found.

Please vote this man out.

If you're an American Democrat, please vote for Bernie Sanders. See how political I am?

Monday, 31 August 2015

Carolyn Hyppolite's Speech From Non-Conference 2015

Last week, My Secret Atheist Podcast featured a discussion with author, speaker and atheist activist, Carolyn Hyppolite. We spoke about the topics covered in hew recent talk at the second annual Non Conference which took place in Kitchener recently.

During the podcast we referred to her talk at the Non Conference of which she had provided me with a hard copy in advance. After our interview, I asked if I could publish her speech on my blog and she was nice enough to oblige!

Setting the Captives Free: Why Critiquing Religion in a Compassionate Act

In my mid-twenties, I had a religious conversion and I would spend the next eight years intensively, desperately trying to attain some notion of sanctity. I wanted to be a saint. In the pursuit of sanctity, I gave up much of the goods of life: I committed to pre-marital celibacy, when I was working full-time, I gave hundreds of dollars a month to the Church or to religious-based charities, I spent hours a day in prayer or in mass, more hours a week in Sunday service or volunteering in religious-based organizations, such as an anti-abortion group, which used guilt and deception to compel women to not have abortion. Most tragically, I spent years learning dead languages and studying a non-subject so that I can better understand something that simply isn’t so.

On the Sunday morning that I realized I would never return to Church, I woke up feeling robbed, robbed of time, effort, money. Most distressingly for me was acknowledging how my mind had received and assented to notions that are obviously mad. I felt like a fool.

And it would soon occur to me that while I had been a vocal and passionate fool for Christ, I had very rarely met an equally passionate and vocal non-believer who challenged me on the demonstrably false and irrational notions which formed my worldview. Despite all the complaints about radical, fundamentalist atheists, during my eight years as a Christian, there was only atheist who actually ridiculed me.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I was a Christian and as a Christian, I had a healthy dose of martyr complex. I felt victimized all the time. There was the one time, I tried to use the public parks to arrange proselytizing events for my church and when I discovered that I could not, I felt victimized. There was another time when I was yelled at for trying to trick a woman into not having an abortion and I felt oppressed. Oh, there were those times that Christian Biblical scholars tried to teach me about the many textual and historical errors in the Bible and then I was sure that I was under demonic attack.

However, despite my oversized capacity for self-pity, enhanced by belonging a community eager to discover evidence that the devil is mad at you and sending his godless minions after you, the fact is that my unhealthy worldview remained unchallenged. No one ever asked me “How do you know that?” “What evidence can you offer to support that claim?” Or “How would your consciousness persist beyond the death of your body?”

Most non-believers who encountered my religiosity, probably because I was trying to convert them, simply smiled or said, “Well, if it brings you peace, that’s great.” These responses were politely condescending; they failed to take seriously that I was a person who was capable of wresting with difficult truths. I spent years living in a deceptive system that when put into practice—and practice I did—is actually quite psychologically abusive without facing real challenges.

Perhaps, I am speaking to the choir. You are here presumably because you understand that religion is quite harmful. However, often when we think about the harm that religion does, we focus on the external victims of religion. We focus on the homosexuals who are discriminated against, the atheist blogger who is murdered, the school children who are deprived of a fact-based science education.

However, I would like to posit today that the first victim is the believer, and that it is an act of respect and compassion to challenge that person with a dose of the truth and reason.

In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus is reported to have said of himself:
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free (Luke 4:18)
And I would like to posit to you today that Christianity has not brought good news to the poor but instead made them vulnerable to exploitative institutions that extract the little that they have, it has not set prisoners free but as created societies where repression and prisons abound, it has not given sight to the blind but has caused some believers to linger in illness and condemned millions to intellectual blindness, it has not set the oppressed free but rather led to the needless psychological oppression caused by cultures of guilt and shame in which people are compelled to hate their own flesh.

First, let’s start with Money and Christianity. It should be obvious to all of us that the many billions of dollars invested globally to the building and maintaining religious structures is a problematic use of our finite resources. However, what is most pernicious about this misallocation of material resource is that it disproportionally burdens the poor.

The correlation between poverty and religious adherence is astoundingly high. According to a 2010 Gallop pole, in nations where the per capita income was $2,000 a year or less, 95% of those questioned said that religion is an important part of their daily life. That number drops significantly to 47% where per capita income is at or above $25,000. Thus, we find that where desperation is the greatest—in places such as Bangladesh, Niger, Malawi, Indonesia—99% of the citizens say that they are religious. Conversely, in countries where most people enjoy a high standard of living—such as Sweden, Denmark, and Japan—less than a quarter say they are religious.

The relationship between religion and poverty is too complex to discuss here and I am not suggesting that religion causes poverty per se. However, we have good reason to think that religion exploits the poor (it exploits their hope and desperation). A recent study by the Leadership Network in the United States found that regions of the countries with the lowest income had the best paid preachers.(1)

In the United States, where GDP is high but income inequality is also high, the parasitic relationship between the Church and the poor is quite obvious as one drives through urban ghettos and post-industrial towns. In many of the most economically challenged areas with high-concentrations African-Americans, the only economic institutions still standing in a neighborhood might be a liquor store and a church. In such settings, prosperity preachers abound and they preach an exploitative message, “God will bless you financially after you give to the Church.” That there are hundreds of millions of poor people all over the world being exploited this way is a very good reason to challenge the Church’s claim to be serving the poor.

In addition to exploiting poverty, religion should be challenged because it is negatively correlated with pro-social behavior. Far from setting the prisoners free, religion is positively correlated with incarceration.

As non-believers, we have all had the experience of people challenging our morality. Poll after poll show that many people believe that atheists are immoral devil worships. To whatever extent incarceration is a measure of one’s morality, it is atheists who have the higher moral ground. I am sorry I don’t have Canadian numbers on this but again in the United States, atheists are terribly under-represented in prisons, making up less than 1% of that population. Again, this is not to say that being religious causes one to commit crime, but it might be that by encouraging a society where people are more educated, we both increase their economic productivity and decrease the likelihood that they would engage in antisocial behavior. You might also be aware that non-belief is positively correlated with education and that is positively correlated with pro-social behavior.

We can also conclude that Jesus does not set the captives free by noting the fact that the more religious a society is, the more likely it is to criminalize human behavior. The most religious societies are more likely to penalize the use of recreational drugs, homosexual activity, and in some cases religious dissent. Our highly religious neighbors to the South boasts the highest incarceration rate in the world with 4.4% of the world’s population but 22% of the world’s prison population —Over two million men and women, mostly black, mostly religious, and mostly imprisoned for nonviolent drug possession.

This is not a coincidence. Religion seems to make people more conservative, more likely to want to be “tough on crime.” Far from increasing one sense of compassion, religion increases one’s punitive instincts. A few months back, I was talking to my religious sister about the fact that religious people are more likely to support the death penalty, and she rightly pointed out that religious people do believe in punishment.

This preference for punishment over compassion is not only extended to others but first and foremost towards the self. Religious people are caught in a web of guilt and shame. Having been raised in restrictive environments, their repressed natural urges often lead to a cycle of acting out and shame.

For example, Christians are as likely to engage in pre-marital sex as non-Christians but then find themselves constantly living in a cycle of guilt, repentance and backsliding. The cult of shame around sexuality means that often couples do not acquire contraception because buying a condom or getting on the pill would mean that one is “planning” to sin. And since it is better to fall into sin than to plan it, women trapped within these religious cults often experience unplanned pregnancies, sometimes choosing abortion and thus exacerbating the cycle guilt and Human sexuality is perhaps the area where churches do the most damage. When I first became a Christian, I freely admitted to my father of confession (that is the priest who regular hears my confession) that I found celibacy very hard and that I often sinned by falling into inappropriate sexual outlets, in other words masturbation. The priest assured me that this was normal but that in time through prayer, fasting, and regular confession that I would overcome.

So, I did as I was instructed. I prayed. I fasted. I went to confession once or twice a month. Yet, I still found myself falling into sexual temptation and running to the confessional. Seven years later, I explained my problem to a different priest and he assured me that in time through prayer, fasting and regular confession, I would overcome.
As I listened to him, I remembered my previous confession. “But I had prayed. I had fasted. I shared my most personal and embarrassing failings to a man in a dress regularly. And yet, I did not overcome. Where was God’s grace? At the time, I was already having doubts in other areas and this was just one more indicator that there was something very flawed in my world view.

Often when we talk about the problems that religion poses, we focus on the most egregious abuses, especially religious violence. However, the most tragic aspect of the God delusion is all the little ways that it can rob of you of your very limited moment in consciousness, all the ways that it steals your time and effort by trapping in moral and intellectual dead-ends. This is the real and often unchallenged cost of religion. All that time wasted smashing one’s face against the brute facts of reality over and over again. All those hours of a short life!

All that time prostrating, reciting prayers, waving incense in hopes that an invisible, silent being might change the laws of nature or probably in your favor. And this. The way religion robs us of time deserves to be challenged.

When you encounter a Christian, keep in mind that it is very likely that you are talking to someone who has often been disappointed by a being who does not exist. This is most especially the case for the most committed believer. The more confidently someone speaks about his or her faith, the more likely it is that he or she has had numerous occasions to be disappointed and wounded by it. But having invested so much of herself into it, it’s hard to admit that the struggle is futile, that the constant stream of unanswered prayers is a sign of a silent heaven. The believer is more inclined to doubt the strength of her own faith or the righteousness of his own life instead of acknowledging that he has simply been wrong about God. And this. The way religion robs the believer of emotional health by compelling otherwise rational humans to talk to an empty room deserves to be challenged.

At the heart of the Christian faith is both a false and psychological damaging idea. It is the idea that we, you and I are so broken, that God had to take on human form to be tortured. No matter how ethical the believer is, he is compelled to believe that if he were the only person on Earth, Jesus would have loved him enough to die for him, but the implication of that is that he would have needed to be died for. And this. The way religion saddles so many well-intentioned people with guilt and shame, forcing them into lives of hypocrisy needs to be challenged.

For thousands of years, religion has slowed us down in our pursuit of knowledge, has fed our basest temptations by compelling us to use violence against sinners or virgins, has saddled us with guilt by vilifying the healthiest aspects of our humanity, and has created opportunities for charlatans to make false promises, especially to the most ill-educated and ill-fortunate. This deserves to be challenged.

There are billions of people trapped in prisons of ignorance, delusion, and needless guilt.

Many of them are great people. They are bright. They are kind. They generous. They are thoughtful. But they are wrong. They are wrong in ways that harm themselves and others. Let us actually set the captives free by calling them on their bullshit.


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Saturday, 29 August 2015

Please Stop Littering My Environment With Your Religious Tracts

I've really been a bad blogger lately. I'm sorry, this whole life thing is really doing a number on my post frequency. Don't worry though, I'll likely drive the new friends I met away with all my whacky obnoxious ways. Oh yes I will! Just watch me!

To make up for all this neglect of you, my dozens(?) of readers, I did a good deed this morning! My son - whom I've been bonding with regularly lately - and I were walking through the woods at the back of our local library.

(For the young readers: Libraries are sort of like ITunes or Spotify but you need to physically show up somewhere and half the time the item you're looking for has been physically misplaced so you've wasted your time. Think of this as a kind of 404 Not Found but IRL.)

Anyway, I found some litter on the ground that some inconsiderate person just left around ruining an otherwise idyllic spot.

This would be the French version of the Jack Chick Bible tract, A Love Story. I suppose it might have been useful as mildly amusing literature if there weren't a library standing right next to it with thousands of books in it. I mean, the library also has washrooms with toilet paper too. So what's the point of this litter anyway?

I took the offending piece of litter inside and dealt with it.

That's better. The woods are spick and span behind my library and I shall continue to do my civic duty to ensure it remains this way. I go every week to the library these days, so I shall patrol the area.

Meanwhile, I ran into this at the subway station near my house.

Right on top of one of the neglected pay phones on the side of the subway station. Everyone had a phone in this station, so this went nearly completely unnoticed. I wonder who their target audience might be?

Well, this litter went into the recycling box as well. Just doing my part to keep our city clean.

Sunday, 23 August 2015

Quebec Muslim Groups Also Concerned About Bill 59

Well this is interesting. Remember that new anti-hate-speech Bill 59 that I wrote about a few days ago? My main concern was that a proper definition of hate speech was nowhere to be found in the bill and was left completely up to the Quebec Human Rights commission.

It turns out that several Muslim groups in Quebec also have problems with the bill for the very same reason I do. They are concerned about this definition being left arbitrarily up to some commission.
For Samer Majzoub, president of the Canadian Muslim Forum, the law has its merits. He said the bill can turn out to be positive for Quebec’s society, but it’s not completely clear.

“We are looking for some clarifications of definitions. What exactly is hate speech? We would really like for this to be clarified,” he said.
What's notable about this is that the bill is intended to protect Muslim groups - yet at least three prominent groups have serious problems with it. Listening to them is like hearing myself with my own problems with the bill as a secularist. I guess bad policy can unite us all.
But Salam Elmenyawi of the Muslim Council of Montreal feels the bill isn't necessary.

“There's no need for a new regulation, especially if we're not using the old one. We already have the right tools in the criminal code,” he said.

And while the anti-hate speech bill is partly an effort to fight Islamophobia, Elmenyawi fears it could end up unfairly targeting the Muslim community.

“A lot is left for the discretion of a civil servant in an administrative process that can destroy somebody's life,” he said.
Precisely. On the one hand, it can destroy the life of some anti-democracy fundamentalist Muslim cleric in Montreal who's got problems with atheists voting or gay people. On the other, it can stigmatize an atheist blogger like me. We should all be allowed to speak our minds so others have a reasonable idea what's going on between our ears and can open the gates of criticism and ridicule if necessary.

If you ask me, I think this bill is nothing more than an attempt to gain political points. Still, it's taking something which already works pretty well - even according to the minority it's primarily supposed to protect - and muddying it up with potentially dangerous consequences for free speech in Quebec.

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Saturday, 22 August 2015

Ontario Woodworking Company Closes Company After Staff Join Union, Because: BIBLE!

Leon's the expressive one on the left.
Hey, did you know Jesus was a carpenter? Yes, he was! Jesus was many things, but the one thing he never did was join an evil trade union! That would have been against the Bible.

In very very rural Ontario, there is this tiny place called Devlin. Living there is an apparently soft spoken man, Leon Gingrich, who ran a small woodworking company, Gingrich Woodcraft, which made custom drawers and things for people.

One day, his 25 employees decided to form a union - decidedly unbiblical behaviour! Poor Leon had no recourse other than shut the entire factory. It wasn't because he was threatened as a capitalist by his labour force organizing itself. Oh no! Not at all! It's just because it goes against his deeply held religious beliefs, and who can argue with that?
Gingrich Woodcraft said in a statement that, as Christian business owners, their personal beliefs do not allow them freedom to work with a labour union.

The company stated, "We are required by scripture to 'live peaceably with all men,' and not to use force to gain what we want or for what is required to succeed."

Earlier this month, 25 workers at the plant voted 69 per cent in favour of joining Unifor, the largest private-sector union in the country.

Less than a week later, workers were told the plant would be shut down.
You see? His hands are really tied. He's not using force, he's just firing 25 people because they formed a union, that's all. Right, I don't really get it, but RELIGION! There, that's a good reason.

Understandably, the union is a bit upset about this. Especially since Leon was apparently very cooperative with them right up to the vote - which is... well... sort of a bit psychotic, but that's just my personal opinion on this.
"All I can tell you is this: This is against the law," said Unifor national representative Stephen Boon. "You cannot threaten or intimidate workers and take action directly aimed at unionization, and that's what this employer has done."
In addition:
Boon pointed out Gingrich participated in the union voting process at every step along the way. He accused the owner of intimidating workers under the guise of religious beliefs because Gingrich didn't get the union vote result that he wanted.
So it looks like legal action may be taken. They've lodged a complain with the Ontario Labour Relations Board. Kenora-Rainy River MPP Sarah Campbell is offering support for the families of the 25 employees - the community will take a substantial financial hit for this.

Stephen Boon, national representative for the union points out that the company's actions are not what many would consider meek or mild.
"You've thrown 25 employees out of work and left their families in a precarious situation in terms of earnings and making mortgage payments. You've contravened the constitution, the Labour Relations Act, you've left suppliers in a precarious situation because orders are in transit, orders are half-complete. If this isn't aggresiveness, I don't know what is.

"To take the position that you want a peaceful relationship between men, the employer's actions are far from that."
Yeah but... isn't this just his religious freedom?

Okay, so while you try to figure out Leon's reasoning, why not watch this nifty interview with him? I think you'll thank me for it. Leon's gaze is mesmerizing.

*Some additional information was added shortly after first publishing.

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Thursday, 20 August 2015

Powerful VICE Quebec Interview With Ensaf Haidar

Ensaf Haidar. Fridays are the day of public flogging in Saudi Arabia.
VICE Quebec has released an amazing, informative and powerful interview with Ensaf Haidar jailed Saudi secular blogger Raif Badawi, who is fighting to get her husband out of prison from her new home in Sherbrooke, Quebec.

Give this a watch, it will answer any questions you have concerning the situation.

It also goes into the foul hypocrisy of Canada and other nations in one breath condemning Saudi's obvious blatant violations of human rights while in another happily taking billions of riyals for arms deals. She handles the question regarding this with great grace.

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Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Quebec's Proposed Anti-Hate Speech Bill Is Cause For Concern

I run an atheist, perhaps even anti-theist blog, which would certainly be shut down in a country like Saudi Arabia or Turkey. In Saudi Arabia, they equate atheists with terrorists, while in Egypt atheism is considered a kind of extremism against Islam by authorities.

The Quebec government has tabled Bill 59An Act to enact the Act to prevent and combat hate speech and speech inciting violence and to amend various legislative provisions to better protect individuals. This sounds okay, but it's worrisome, because what can constitute hate speech is rather vague.
The Act provides for the prohibition of hate speech and speech inciting violence that are engaged in or disseminated publicly and that target a group of people sharing a common characteristic identified as prohibited grounds for discrimination under section 10 of the Charter of human rights and freedoms. Acting in such a manner as to cause such types of speech to be engaged in or disseminated is also prohibited. The Act introduces a procedure for reporting such speech to the Commission des droits de la personne et des droits de la jeunesse which includes measures for protecting people who report it, and grants the Commission new powers, including powers of investigation. The Commission is allowed to apply for a court order requiring such speech to cease. New responsibilities are therefore assigned to the Human Rights Tribunal, including the responsibility for determining whether a person has engaged in or disseminated such speech or acted in such a manner as to cause such acts to be committed and, if applicable, to determine the amount of the monetary penalties applicable. If the Tribunal concludes that a person has contravened those prohibitions, the person’s name is entered, for the time determined by the Tribunal, on a list kept by the Commission and available on the Internet. In addition, the Charter of human rights and freedoms is amended to introduce the prohibition against engaging in or disseminating such speech targeting an individual, thus rendering the reporting procedure under the Charter applicable.
In a previous post, I defined hate speech like this:
Now he's getting more flak because he went on television and said some stuff... energetically... well, sort of like someone targeting a specific a-religious minority. You know, it sort of sounded a little bit like a direct call to suppression of and/or violence towards a minority. I guess you might actually call it hate speech, if you're into that sort of thing.
Notice I tend to lean more on the side of inciting violence. I find it worrisome that the bill mentions both separately. I also find it worrisome that similar sorts of prohibition seem to be used in countries like Bangladesh to silence atheist bloggers - because their words apparently incite hate and violence.

There is already a law against hate speech here in Canada. Bill 59 adds extra teeth to this law. I would be able to make a clear decision about whether or not I'm for this law if someone could properly define hate speech for me. I've been looking around the stories concerning Bill 59 and I haven't really seen anything that lays out what hate speech is. It seems to be left to the discretion of the Quebec human rights commission.
But Bill 59 — “to prevent and combat hate speech and speech inciting violence” — would introduce a procedure for reporting hate speech to the Quebec human rights commission and would grant the commission new powers, including the power to investigate.
Essentially, the commission can act on a private complaint and themselves determine whether or not something constitutes hate speech.
But the legislation also faced a lot of criticism, notably for failing to define what “hate speech” is, and leaving it up to the human rights commission to decide how much proof it needs to sanction someone.

Nietzsche, Shakespeare and Voltaire could all be found to have incited violence and hatred, said Grey. Should they have been censored?

He and Latour argued that the Bill was dangerous and invasive. It allowed for anonymous complainants and a public list of those found guilty — forever available online.
In fact, the National Post makes an even more disturbing point:
Bill 59, on which consultations are to start next week, is far more worrisome. Bill 59 assigns new powers to the Quebec Human Rights Commission (QHRC) to combat hate speech, as well as a variety of other provisions meant to protect against extremism, by censoring speech that promotes “fear of the other.” Ominously, the bill would allow the QHRC to pursue websites that in its estimation describe and denounce Islamism.

The bill takes its inspiration from recommendations made public by the QHRC in November 2014. Jacques Frémont, the commission’s president, explained that he planned to use the requested powers to sue those critical of certain ideas, “people who would write against … the Islamic religion … on a website or on a Facebook page.”
This is very much not a good thing and it's very much like the situation in some countries I do not wish to live in.
Frémont is an unabashed legal activist, who sees the QHRC’s mandate as “provoking a social change” and “making the law.” (“You will make the law with difficult cases, risky cases,” he said at a March conference at the Université de Montréal.) In support of such stringent censorship he cites resolutions adopted by UN bodies. But the only UN body pressing for this measure is the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, an Islamist consortium that equates criticism of Islam with hate speech. The OIC’s member nations have nothing to teach any democratic society in the way of “inclusion,” “openness” and “living together,” all justifications for Bill 59 made by Premier Couillard.
I don't know how much of this concern is immediately legitimate, because I've actually agreed with Jacques Fremont when he came down hard on child welfare concerning the Lev Tahor case not long ago. Still, this illustrates an important point. Do we want to leave such an important definition to a commission? This is plenty of power to silence freedom of speech, in the interest of social harmony (like in Singapore) given to a small group.

Lots of minority groups realize that if such a commission is to have such power to determine what's hate and what's not, they had better get on the group or at least help define the parameters.
Some groups are upset that they were not invited to speak at the National Assembly during the hearings. Samer Majzoub, the president of the Canadian Muslim Forum, said he was alarmed because the current list fails to illustrate the diversity of Quebec.

“It is missing all of the groups,” Majzoub said. “They are Quebecers at the end of the day, but we don’t hear from them at all.”

Fo Niemi, the executive director of the Centre for Research-Action on Race Relations, says his organization has launched a special request to be heard. He is concerned that the hearings fail to include minorities who are often the targets of hate speech.
I hope groups like CFI Canada and Atheist Freethinkers also manage to get into this discussion, since I worry that their own websites might someday be shut down by an over-zealous commission.

I'm very worried indeed.

In the end, I want to make it clear that I do not condone violence or discrimination against any minority group - whether they be religious or atheist or any other protected class. It's a good idea on paper, but how can we properly implement such a thing without interfering with people's right to expression? In a civil society, everyone needs the right to criticize the ideas and beliefs of everyone else - this is how a democracy works.

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Sunday, 16 August 2015

Drink Lots of Coffee: I Must Pay Attention to Boring Canadian Politics

Over the decades there have been politicians who were compelling, thrilling, charismatic, inspiring, motivating, electrifying.  With their passion to make the world a better place, they could draw people in and with their words alone they sometimes mobilized mighty social movements for change.

Then you have modern day Canadian (career) politicians. They are none of these things. Unless you're talking about the recent spate of evolution deniers, I get about as excited about the current Canadian political environment as I might for watered down cabbage soup and stinky-sock flavoured tea for Sunday lunch over at the Legion Hall.

Stephen Harper, for instance is about as interesting as wood rot - which is why he's so goddamn dangerous. He paralyzes me with his lackluster personality just before eating out my brain, raping the environment, muzzling the scientists and destroying the world.

Still, it would be interesting to know where my local politicians really stand on anything at all secular issues. Veronica Abbass over at Canadian Atheist has collected some great questions for the people running in your riding. Even if they don't answer any of them, I recommend you send them their way anyway - just to let them know they're being watched by constituents who care.

I'll send these off to my politicians via e-mail and/or snail mail to see what happens. I'll update you guys if I get any response.

Meanwhile, here are some of these which resonate with me.
Do you support repealing Section 296 of the Criminal Code which makes “blasphemy” a crime?

Do you support repealing paragraph 319(3)(b) of the Hate Propaganda provisions of the Criminal Code because it exempts religious discourse from prosecution, thus granting a dangerous privilege to religions, permitting them to make hateful statements with impunity?

Do you support closing Canada’s Office of Religious Freedom?

Do you think that theology faculties should be banned in all public universities and that no taxpayer funding should be provided to support any sectarian religious instruction?

Do you accept the theory of evolution by natural selection as fact using the scientific definition of theory?
I would add questions like this:
Do you believe that churches and other religious organizations should pay their fair share of property taxes?

Do you believe that pastors and clergy should pay normal taxes on their lodging like other Canadians?
Go check out the complete list and, please, for the sake of my child, overcome your paralyzing boredom and cynicism and get involved. If you try, I will try too.

(Image source)

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