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

Friday, 18 July 2014

The Language of Abortion & Miscarriages

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

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

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

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

Take a look at these non-scientific Google results.

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

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

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

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

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

Language is an interesting this, isn't it?

Saturday, 12 July 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, 7 July 2014

More Doctors Who Refuse to Prescribe The Pill

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, 5 July 2014

Harper's God Tweet

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And check out her stirring rendition of O Canada.

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

The Mission Of Ontario's Publicly Funded Catholic Schools

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, 27 June 2014

Calgary Doctor Refuses Women Reproductive Freedom Because: Religion

"Please be informed that the physician on duty today WILL NOT prescribe the Birth Control Pill."

If you're a woman who needs the pill and walk into the Westglen Medical Clinic in Calgary, you better hope you arrive while Chantelle Barry is on duty. Because, she won't prescribe those little 'baby killin' caplets -- it's against her religion! Jesus would want you to have that child, even if it kills you!

Calgary doctor’s refusal to prescribe birth control triggers outrage

Watch the video. Apparently, this sort of behaviour is just fine.
According to representatives with the Alberta College of Physicians and Surgeons, all physicians are legally entitled to refuse to provide medical service based on religious or moral grounds, but must provide patients with contact details for a doctor willing to provide the service.
I wonder what happens when the last doctor decides not to sell birth control? An unlikely scenario -- unless you live in a small town. Dr. Barry once practiced in a rural community. I hope there was another doctor for her to refer women to. What if both doctors are against it? Do they take turns imposing their strongly held religious beliefs on women young and old alternating days?  Or does the poor girl or woman need to find a way to get into the next town?

Anyway, if you watch the video, you'll also see a short interview with a woman who has a medical condition which requires her to take birth control. She's not too happy with Dr Barry. This is not an uncommon situation.

Naturally though, God loves every tiny little egg so women must release every single one, every month! God's watching, but he can do nothing without Dr. Barry's help! Oh, and Barry's a doctor, she understands that taking the pill is indeed ovocide babycide.

Anyway, if this doctor is perfectly within her right to refuse to deliver this service, then the best response for everyone is to drop her as their family doctor and make a point of letting the clinic know why. I think this is one case that the free market can handle.

Of course, making noise about this to the College of Physicians is also a good idea. Imagine being a teenage girl and having to see this doctor about going on birth control?

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Canada Keeps Mum On Saudi Human Rights Record With Cheque In Hand

The Light Armoured Vehicle (LAV III) is built by General Dynamics Land Systems Canada (source)
Yesterday, the Canadian representative at the UN Human Rights Council Meeting echoed the statement of the US representative; that the CFI should be allowed to speak of human rights violations in Saudi Arabia regardless of how embarrassed or in denial the Saudi representatives were.

Although I will admit that I was pleasantly surprised, I really shouldn't have been. It is the duty of each of the members of that group to defend the free and open expression of ideas; namely, free speech. To not do this would be the height of hypocrisy. They would be no better than Saudi Arabia, which either refuses to admit their human rights violations or perhaps has no clue what human rights even mean. Honestly, I'm beginning to wonder.

I was also surprised today to find this refreshing tweet from Office of Religious Freedom Ambassador Andrew Bennett.

He did good with that tweet.

However, it's really not enough. The Canadian representative -- what's his name? -- was acting in his professional capacity and representing his country officially. That was Canada's position.

I've been pretty rough on Bennett over the years because although he seems to promise that his agency will defend the freedoms of atheists alongside those of the religious, I have yet to find any direct evidence of this. My last post on this pretty much sums up my feelings that we're completely on our own - the Office of Religious Freedom seems to only be interested in protecting the rights of the religious, our Minister of Foreign Affairs doesn't seem to believe atheists require protecting and there is no special human rights agency for non-religious people.

So is this tweet progress? Well, perhaps a little, but it's still just a tweet. Is it the position of Canada or just Bennett's personal opinion? It certainly carries none of the weight of an official press release. The Office of Religious Freedom make quite a few releases; several a month. You'll find zero releases defending atheists.

So why the silence about Raif Badawi? What with his wife and children here in Canada already? Why doesn't Canada denounce Saudi Arabia officially? I'll don my tinfoil hat here for a moment.

Look, I'm not saying it's the entire reason, but there is this armored vehicle contract with Saudi Arabia that was won recently. It's only the largest in Canada's history. It's gigantic.

Largest Advanced Manufacturing Export Win in Canada’s History
February 14, 2014 - London, Ontario - Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada

The Honourable Ed Fast, Minister of International Trade, and Danny Deep, Vice President, General Dynamics Land Systems-Canada, announced today a historic multi-billion dollar contract win for vehicles and associated equipment, training and support services.

The announcement was made in London, Ontario, where the light armoured vehicles will be designed and manufactured and which will become the epicentre of a cross-Canada supply chain directly benefiting more than 500 local Canadian firms.

This 14-year contract will create and sustain more than 3,000 jobs each year in Canada, with southern Ontario accounting for approximately 40 percent of the supply base.

Facilitated by the Canadian Commercial Corporation (CCC), the Government of Canada’s international government-to-government contracting organization, the contract is with Saudi Arabia, a priority market under the government’s new Global Markets Action Plan.
Aww... A multi-billion dollar "Valentines Day gift" from human-rights-crushing Saudi Arabia to the Harper Government(tm) and General Dynamics Land Systems-Canada. I wonder if the police in the kingdom will use the armoured vehicles to crush their own population in future protests?

I'm sorry, I forgot to specify which kingdom I was referring to. I mean the one in the Middle East, not in Ottawa. Easy mistake, I know.

So perhaps by next Valentines Day, the Saudi religious police can use these vehicles to dramatically crash into florist shops and wrench flowers and chocolates away from terrified people who wish to make gifts to their loved ones -- or perhaps just use the guns to blow them to pieces? The LAV III -- brochure here -- comes with a M242 Bushmaster 25mm cannon, a secondary C6 7.62mm co-axial machine gun along with supplementary Mag58 turret top MG in swing mount and 76mm smoke grenade dischargers. That last item seems like it would be great for riot dispersal and the brochure promises great Supportability and affordability.

Speaking of affordability, just how many are we talking about? A CBC story covering this back in February lets us know the deal is a paltry $10,000,000,000 USD. I suppose a cheque like that would make anyone think twice before upsetting the client with little concerns about the human rights of their population. Oh, and if you're American, don't think you can get off easily -- the contract is actually a US-Saudi deal that involves Canadian manufacturing plants in Ontario.
Neither the Canadian government nor GDLS has been so far willing to say how many of the sophisticated weapons systems will be built for the government of Saudi Arabia, but a $10-billion US deal could buy many hundreds of vehicles.
Isn't that great? But I'm certain that a country with a human rights record with Saudi Arabia would never dream to turn armoured vehicles on their own population.
"Saudi Arabia stepped up arrests, trials, and convictions of peaceful dissidents, and forcibly dispersed peaceful demonstrations by citizens in 2013," the report said.

"Authorities continued to violate the rights of nine million Saudi women and girls and nine million foreign workers ... As in past years, authorities subjected thousands of people to unfair trials and arbitrary detention."

Saudi Arabia permits beheading and stoning as forms of criminal punishment for murder and rape, alongside social crimes such as adultery. Homosexual acts are also punishable by death, flogging and imprisonment, as is drug use. Saudi Arabia is also regularly condemned for its treatment of women, who will earn the right to vote in 2015, but who will still be disallowed from driving cars — or armoured vehicles, for that matter. 
Is there a direct connection with Raif Badawi? Probably not, but there could be a general sort of blanket policy that ruffling Saudi feathers is bad for business. Or perhaps it's all a big coincidence. But isn't money amazing?

I'm waiting for Andrew Bennett or John Baird to prove me wrong.

Monday, 23 June 2014

Sherbrooke MP Urges Foreign Affairs to Speak On Behalf Of Jailed Atheist

In my first post today about Ensaf Haider, wife of jailed Saudi atheist blogger Raif Badawi, I made a point of encouraging people to put pressure on Quebec news outlets because of its very secular environment.
Also, make noise. Write into media outlets -- especially in Quebec. I say this because within secular Quebec higher level officials may take up the mantle for Badawi. They might also see it as an opportunity to beat the Federal government over the head as well -- often a popular sport here in Quebec.
Well, it turns out that this very sort of thing is already happening. House of Commons MP Pierre-Luc Dusseault (NDP/Sherbrooke) has publicly come out in support of Amnesty International's efforts to free Badawi and his office has even contacted Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird's office to express these views.
«Au stade où on en est dans ce dossier, on vient plus en aide du côté diplomatique puisque c'est là que ça se joue. Notre porte-parole aux affaires consulaires a déjà informé le ministre responsable [NDLR : le ministre des Affaires étrangères John Baird] de notre position, que cet homme-là a été inculpé pour des raisons qui ne sont pas acceptables à nos yeux. On demande au gouvernement d'Arabie saoudite de le libérer. Ensuite, on va aussi lui venir en aide pour les démarches avec son dossier d'immigration pour qu'il puisse venir au Canada», explique M. Dussault.

«Clairement, ses droits fondamentaux ont été bafoués. Il est en prison pour des raisons politiques, ça mérite une certaine pression au niveau international, pas juste des groupes de défense des droits, mais aussi des pays.»
Roughly translated to:
"At the stage where we are in this case, the most is to be gained diplomatically -- this is where it plays out. Our critic of Consular Affairs has informed the Minister responsible [note: the Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird] of our position, that this man is being charged for reasons that are not acceptable in our eyes. We ask the Saudi Arabian government to free him. Then, we will also help help through all (required) steps to file for immigration so that he might come to Canada." explained Dusseault.

"Clearly, his fundamental rights have been violated. He is in prison for political reasons, it deserves some international pressure, not just human rights groups, but also countries. "
You can send your immediate support to Pierre-Luc Dusseault over at his Twitter account. Although it's in French, he's a member of the House of Commons, so he ought to understand English just fine.

More On Ensaf Haider's Efforts In Quebec to Free Raif Badawi

Raif Badawi's three children Tirad, Miryiam and Najwa sit with their mother Ensaf Haidar. (source)
More on Raif Badawi's wife Ensaf Haider and her effort to bring attention to the persecution and human rights violations in Saudi Arabia against her husband -- for simply blogging stuff. Here's an article that appeared in the Sherbrooke Tribune last Thursday.

«Je veux simplement qu'il sorte de prison»

"I just want him out of prison"

I'll admit, I haven't had a chance to read it yet and likely won't until lunch. Here's a link to the Google Translate English version.

You can keep up to date on Ensaf's story over at this Facebook page which includes pictures. Share to the world.

Raif Badawi's Wife & Children In Canada: Amnesty International Canada Ask Government to Act

Saudi blogger Raif Badawi has been sentence to 1,000 lashes and 70,000 fine for writing things on the Internet.
It turns out that there is an important Canadian connection to jailed Saudi blogger Raif Badawi. His wife, Ensaf Haidar, and their three children fled Saudi Arabia six months ago and live only a short drive away from me in Sherbrooke, Quebec! Now she and Amnesty International Canada are asking for the Canadian Government's help.

Quebec woman's jailed Saudi husband faces whipping
Badawi’s wife, Ensaf Haidar, and their three children fled Saudi Arabia for Lebanon because of threats to their safety prior to Badawi’s arrest.

She and her children came to Canada six months ago and now live in Sherbrooke, Quebec.

Alex Neve, secretary general of Amnesty International Canada, said Haidar’s arrival in Quebec has attracted Canadian interest in her husband, whom Neve calls a prisoner of conscience.

“It gives us now a much stronger connection to the case and certainly has really motivated Amnesty activists, particularly in Quebec,” Neve told CBC News.

So far, however, that interest is not moving the Canadian government to take stronger action in defence of Badawi, Neve said.
Again, where is the Office of Religion Freedom on this one? Or, as I stated before, are we on our own? Remember Pussy Riot singer Nadezhda Tolokonnikova? She even had permanent residence in Canada which got her absolutely nothing from Canada in way of protection. What an enormous disappointment our government is. If you need to dig your way out of any similar situations in the future in hostile foreign lands, the best you can probably hope for is the Canadian government sending you your own shovel.

I'm not holding my breath, but we should try to at least get Badawi's plight somewhere on this list of official condemnations and concerns over at the Office of Religious Freedom. We did get a promise of sorts that they are just as concerned about violations against atheists. Perhaps we could get a backroom whisper?

If you tweet then contact Ambassador Andrew Bennett @FreedomReligion, Foreign Minister John Baird @HonJohnBaird and the Office of Religious Freedom's Facebook Page. Use the hashtag #FreeBadawi and #FreeRaif.

Also, make noise. Write into media outlets -- especially in Quebec. I say this because within secular Quebec higher level officials may take up the mantle for Badawi. They might also see it as an opportunity to beat the Federal government over the head as well -- often a popular sport here in Quebec.

More news on this as it develops!

(Above post appeared early this morning on social media. It appears to be his kids)

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

The Humanism at Work Raffle Basket Grows!

A special thanks goes to CFI Canada who donated a signed book! It's for the raffle basket Mario Mouton from KidsHeartKids and I will be raffling off at the upcoming Humanism at Work conference in Chicago next month! Veronica Abbass, who's on the CFI Board of Directors and writes over at Canadian Atheist, was nice enough to pop it in the post for me and it just arrived today!

This one is The Science of Shakespeare: A New Look at the Playwright's Universe by Dan Falk. Come to the conference July 18th-20th and I'll personally give it to you along with signed books by the likes of Richard Dawkins and Steve Wells.

Now I really need to remember to bring it with me! I promise you Dan's signature is there in the book but cracking the spine enough to take a photo just didn't feel right to me.

Thanks CFI Canada!

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Vancouver School Board Does the Right Thing For Transgender Students

Good news out of Vancouver! The Vancouver School Board voted yesterday evening to update its gender identity policy to protect students' expression of their own gender identities.
The policy update will allow students to be addressed by the name that corresponds with their own gender identity. It will also allow transgender students to use the washroom of their choice.
These simple things can have a huge impact on the lives of transgender students who, with no such support, are at a disproportionate risk of suicide, self harming and dropping out.

Vancouver School Board chair Patti Bacchus said before the vote,
"We need to do this. There's research that suggests when LGBT kids are supported at school, it actually lowers high-risk behaviours for all students."
You would think this would be a no brainer, but local parent groups fought it tooth and nail. Douglas Todd identifies Vancouver's large ethnic Chinese community as being a primary opponent to these progressive changes.
Still, this is only the latest public assault on programs for LGBT students led predominantly by members of Metro Vancouver’s ethnic Chinese population, which numbers more than 400,000 (three-quarters of whom are immigrants).

With some support from non-Chinese, they have frequently tried to stop school boards and Christian denominations from more fully embracing gays, lesbians and transgendered (sic) people.
It seems like some of it is cultural - in China, only 20% of respondents to a recent Pew Poll approve of "homosexuality" which may loosely map onto LGBT issues. However, Todd's article points out the very strong Christian component of this particular anti-LGBT movement in Vancouver. He does a good job of profiling the effects of strong (mostly evangelical) Christian motivators in both the Chinese and Korean communities in the city.

Todd quotes his own piece about human geographer Justin Tse which draws out the real irony here. We have minority Chinese and Korean groups in Canada, themselves struggling for acceptance, which are actively attempting to limit the rights of another much maligned minority, transgender people. It seems that many simply believe Canadians are wrong with their human rights laws.
Among other, things, Tse described how many ethnic Chinese do not see a contradiction between their own struggle to be fully accepted as an ethno-cultural group in Canada and their opposition to accepting gays and lesbians. The SCMP recently ran a headline describing how Chinese-Canadians felt Canada’s human rights laws on homosexuality were “ridiculous.”
This is further illustrated in the South China Morning Post: Canada’s ‘ridiculous’ human rights galvanise evangelical Chinese
Tse wrote that his Cantonese-speaking evangelical research participants believed human rights were being taken to "ridiculous" extremes in Canada.
Tse's thesis described how a proposed federal bill to amend the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms to ensure protection for bisexual and transgender people was hotly opposed by Cantonese-speaking evangelicals in Vancouver. The bill was passed by the lower house but died in the Senate in 2011.

"Within Cantonese evangelical circles, [the bill] highlighted for many that 'Western' Canadian society's constitutional fixation on 'human rights' was descending into nihilism, bolstering in turn the ideological merits of a universally 'Chinese' traditional family system that remained part of a rational sexual majority," Tse wrote.
Well, I'm happy that mothers like Chinese Canadian Fiona Chen, whose 11 year old son, born a girl has decided to identify as a boy, can finally see him get some acceptance at his school.
This world is full of bias and discrimination, and I want to clear the way for my son. He's courageous enough to come out to tell everybody who he really is, so as his mother, I'm here to help him, and to build a better world. And to have people better understand people like him.
I truly believe the trustees will vote for it, because it's the right thing to do.

If this policy pass, you will give them [students] more sense of being accepted by the whole society, that will really help them build their confidence, because feeling rejected is terrible thing, right?
People, we're talking about simple things like being able to use the bathroom assigned by society to a gender identity that corresponds to your own gender identity. We're talking about having the right to specify whatever name you wish to self-identify with and have others honour your decision. Why is this so controversial?

Saturday, 14 June 2014

Holy Spirit Filled Prayer-In-City-Council-Meeting Mayor Calls Journalists & Atheists "Nincompoops"

Remember Mayor of Saguenay, Jean Tremblay? He's the one who insists on having prayers before city council meetings and is fighting it all the way to the Supreme Court.

He has a habit of saying rather controversial things. Perhaps this will jog your memory. It's about THEM. I'm pretty sure you're onto the right track whichever idea pops into your head. Just a hint though. He means NOT "US".
“They are quietly, and with nice language, eating away (at our traditions),”  ... “They quietly start by removing the prayer in city hall, then they’ll remove our religious objects, then they’ll take away the crosses in cities and after that they’ll go into the schools ..."
Well, this year he got his book published. It's all about how believing in God changes everything, Croire ça change tout: Pourquoi la foi transforme-t-elle la vie? (Believing, it changes everything: Why does Faith change your life?). He recently did an interview with The B.C. Catholic, which my tax money pays for anyway, so I gave it a read.
Mayor Jean Tremblay, whose case is expected to be heard before the Supreme Court of Canada later this year, decided to write "Croire, ca change tout: Pourquoi la foi transforme-t-elle la vie?" (Believing changes everything: Why does faith transform life?) out of his frustration at media interviews that were always too short, with no opportunity to go deeper.

The requests for media interviews began after an atheist complained to the province's human rights commission that Tremblay's prayer to an "all-powerful God" and the presence of a crucifix and a statue of the Sacred Heart infringed on his rights.
Well, I suppose all this prayer stuff infringed on the rights of any non-Catholics out there. You know, having to see Roman Catholic iconography on display in city hall along with a public demonstration of just what sort of privileged position Catholics still have in this province. Maybe they thought they had stumbled into a church and Tremblay was the priest in charge and were wondering if city hall was perhaps the next building over? I mean, other than being a blatant state endorsement of the Catholic religion and all...
"Quebec was once a very Catholic province," said Tremblay in an interview when he was in Ottawa recently giving a talk about his new book. "It needs to be re-evangelized."
Right. If only we could go back to those days before the Quiet Revolution. I've heard anecdotes about how the local priest would pop by every so often and count the kids and give mom hell if she wasn't about ready to pop another out soon. Oh glorious days!

Well, Tremblay also lives with God and is deeply in love with him. He's also absolutely certain that people who do not believe in (his) God could not possibly be happy. What he fails to recognize is that I don't need God to be happy when I have him to watch.
"It's really important for me to speak about God, to tell people all it is," he said. "It is fabulous to live with God. They miss something really important. I am sure it's not possible to be happy if you're not with God. Even if you don't love God, God is there, and it's difficult for you."

The best thing God has given him is faith, he said. "I live with Him. I am with Him. It's not just an idea. It's a love story. I speak about Him all the time."
In fact, like some kind of nightmarish Orwellian fascist future world, God is in everywhere, always there - when he eats, travels and presumably everything else.
"I know that when He said you have to pray all the time, when I was young I did not understand that. I said it's impossible to pray all the time, but today I know because in my mind all the time He's there," he said. "All the time: when I eat, when I travel. He's always in the back of my mind: always, always."

Always, always.  Ech! Sounds horrifying, doesn't it?

So anyway, filled with the Holy Spirit, or God, or both, or something, he hit the road for a barnstorm Jesus-preachin' city to city book tour! Can you say your mayor does this? C'mon, you've got to admit that he's pretty interesting.

Well, during one of his more emotional sermons talks in the basement of the Cathédrale de Salaberry-de-Valleyfield, the mayor called atheists and journalists who covered his court battles for prayers in City Council a bunch of imbeciles. I'll warn you that I was unable to find reference to this rather large affair here in Quebec anywhere in the English media. So translations are mine.
« Lorsque je fais face à n'importe qui, je me sens fort, car le Saint-Esprit m'accompagne. Je demande au Saint-Esprit de m'éclairer et il m'éclaire. Je rencontre tous ces journalistes et ces athées partout. À toutes les fois que je les rencontre, avant d'arriver, je me dis qu'ils ne connaissent rien. Et en partant, je me dis que c'est pire que ce que je pensais. Des cruches. Ils ne savent rien », dit-il lors de son allocution.

« Tu essaies de discuter avec ça. Avec les animateurs de la radio et de la télévision, y en font un combat. Mais qu'est-ce qu'ils ont à présenter? Nous on a le Christ. Qu'est-ce que tu peux dire du Christ? Comment peux-tu argumenter contre ça? La Sainte-Vierge, comment tu peux renier tout ça? », s'interroge le maire de Saguenay, avant de poursuivre son propos.
"When I face anyone, I feel strong, because the Holy Spirit is with me. I'll ask the Holy Spirit to enlighten me and He enlightens me. I meet all these journalists and atheists all over. Every time I meet them, before arriving, I tell myself that they know nothing.  And when leaving, I tell myself that it's worst than I had thought. Nincompoops (des cruches: "jugs"). They understand nothing," he said during his talk.

"You try talking with that. With radio and television hosts, they do battle. But what did they present? We have Christ. What can you say about Christ? How can your argue against that? The Holy Virgin, how can you deny all that?" asked the Mayor of Sagenay before continuing the talk.
Well here in secular Quebec, that started up a bit of firestorm, indeed. It's always a really good idea as a politician to get the press and media ticked off at you, isn't it? Oh, and they are quite annoyed.

True to form as a politician, Tremblay denies ever having said anything about this.
«Je n’ai jamais dit ça de ma sainte vie. Il faudrait être stupide pour dire que les journalistes sont des cruches»
I swear I never said that. You'd have to be stupid to say journalists are nincompoops. 
But then he was shown this video of him saying exactly that. Ha! Ha! Busted. So then he clarified and nuanced his "real" position.
«Ce que j'ai mentionné, c'est que dans le domaine religieux, ce n'est pas toujours facile. Les journalistes ne sont pas tous du même bord. Mais je n'ai jamais dit qu'ils étaient tous des cruches. Je vais possiblement demander une rétractation de la part du journaliste en question, surtout qu'il n'est jamais venu me voir après ma conférence pour me poser des questions», a conclu le maire de Saguenay.
"What I said was that, in the domain of religion, it's not always easy. Journalists are not all at the same level. But I never said they were all nincompoops. I will perhaps ask for a retraction from the journalist in question, especially since he never came to see me after the conference to ask follow-up questions" concluded the Mayor of Saguenay.
Those Godless journalists, just don't get religion. I suppose I might be able to agree somewhat with Tremblay that some of them are nincompoops, but for different reasons, of course. Perhaps they should read Tremblay's new book. Maybe the Supreme Court will read it too and see the light? The Pope likes his copy.

A bit later, once it was apparent that outright denial wouldn't work, Tremblay decided that he was totally cool after all with his statement and had no regrets whatsoever about what he said (about journalists).
«Je ne m'en souvenais vraiment pas. J'étais certain de ne pas l'avoir dit. Je veux faire une nuance. Les journalistes ne sont pas des cruches en général, mais en matière de religion, je trouve qu'ils sont moins bien préparés, qu'ils ne fouillent pas et ne vont pas en profondeur comme ils le font en politique.»

«Je ne regrette pas mes propos. Il n'y a même pas eu de réactions dans la salle. Dans le fond, je pense ce que j'ai dit pour ce qui est du domaine de la religion. Les journalistes ne sont pas renseignés, ne veulent pas l'être et ne vérifient pas», réplique le maire.
I really don't remember. I was certain of not saying it. I would like to make a clarification. Journalists are not nincompoops in general, but in religious matters, I find they are less well prepared, that they do not dig and do not go as deep as they do with politics.
"I do not regret my words. There was not even reactions in the room. At bottom, I think that I said is in the domain of religion(?). Journalists are not informed, do not wish to be and do not verify," answered the mayor.
Perhaps he was too wrapped up in the Spirit to notice what was coming out of his mouth. Or was it the Spirit talking through him?

Notice how he called journalists and atheists nincompoops? Notice the clear lack of nuance and clarification when it comes to them? Right. I did too.

I think Tremblay has found his calling here on Earth. He should go become a priest and get out of politics.

Thursday, 12 June 2014

Pattison Outdoor's Latest Grody Billboard Choice Gives Greenpeace 'Hey, Wait A Minute!' Moment

I'm sure you've all been keeping track. Last year, the big God-fearin' always-puttin-up-controversial-anti-abortion-billboards company, Pattison, rejected CFI's signs in Vancouver.

Then, more recently, they put up an absolutely ridiculous climate change denial advert. This evil deed was for - winner of the most Orwellian named organization - Friends* of Science. Why not do a little light reading about how much this group is allegedly in bed with energy companies (and here too)?

Now the latest oily leak to come, bubbling and gushing out of a pipe somewhere soiling upon the pristine widesky prairie, hearkens back to 2012. Back then, Pattison decided - for no discernable reason - to reject an anti-oil, pro-solar energy Greenpeace ad in Edmonton.  You know, when you think about it, it's sort of the same thing as the Friends ad but in reverse! Friends of Science is sort of like the Yang to Greenpeace's Ying, or something.

Well Greenpeace sees the similarity here and they don't like it. Understandably miffed, they are complaining and pointing out a bit of a double standard, a pattern that's as plain as day to see. Well, us atheists got the message awhile back.

Greenpeace sees Pattison accepting Friends of Science billboards as:
... from the anti-science, oil industry funded, front group ‘Friends of Science.’ In addition to the ad being inflammatory, factually incorrect, the billboard is likely the last message, the most carbon polluting Province in the country,needs to see, yet there it is up on Pattison’s billboard in Calgary.
It's true. For one thing, they claim Earth is to scale with our sun in the picture, but the distance is all off.  I don't think we'd have to worry much about global warming or what sorts of billboards get put up if we really were that close to the sun and completely burnt to a crisp and all, eh?  ---- Oh and then there's the tiny point that this billboard patently flies in the face of the overwhelming scientific consensus that humans are the primary driving factor for climate change. Succinctly put: it's a crock of shit.

Beyond being fucking annoying, what a huge counterproductive mistake that was - for humans to be doing, in general, I mean. Think of the carbon footprint involved in putting up these things!

Now, Greenpeace are left 'to wonder if there isn’t an agenda that (Pattison Outdoor) are trying to promote.'

Gee, you think so? Company owner, Jim Pattison appears to be nothing more than a science denying, big oil supporting, anti-atheist/humanist evangelical Christian. No surprises there.

HuffPo digs a little further. They provide a 'totally convincing denial' from Pattison Outdoor that there was any sort of discrimination at all.
Pattison Outdoor president Randy Otto told the Calgary Herald that the decision not to run the billboard was "a business decision relating to Greenpeace," although he did not specify the issue.
Oh well, silly me. That clears everything up.

The same HuffPo article even has this infuriating quote from Len Maier on Tuesday.
"First of all, our message is backed up by peer-reviewed science. Secondly, we’re getting an excellent response from around the world.”

Did you just lose a bit of your lunch or supper? Well, some of mine just tried desperately to come back up but I was able to keep it down by thinking nice thoughts about the latest episode of Cosmos I watched. Yes, must keep thinking nice thoughts. Must not become enraged and break something.

When it comes to the peer reviewing, I could only imagine this must be 2% of so-called climate change skeptic scientists reviewing the remaining %1 while the rest of the scientific community -- 97%-- stand by helplessly wretching uncontrollably and nearly facepalming themselves to a pulpy death.

If you feel like pounding your forehead until it bleeds, you can read and watch the Friends' 'excellent response.' Go ahead, have plenty of napkins nearby and lock your windows and knife drawers first. Maybe consider a quick pop over to a notary public to make sure your living will is in order.

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

It's Okay Ted Cruz, The Feeling Is Mutual...

Good news, fellow Canadians!

That's right, climate-change denying, anti marriage equality, anti-choice, anti-healthcare reform, state-church entangling "Under God" Pledge lovin', gun control mocking (in the wake of near-daily school shootings), for profit charter school promoting (and public school slamming) Tea Party candidate has done Canada a favour and checked out completely. What a relief!

To quote a Globe and Mail editorial from January, before the process was completed:
No offense taken, sir. Your fellow Canadians are unflinchingly polite. We sincerely apologize for inconveniencing you with our citizenship. And we don’t hold grudges – why, not even against someone willing to shut down Washington in an attempt to kill Barack Obama’s plan to make U.S. health care more affordable and fair (i.e. Canadian).

Listen, if you want to forfeit your right to a Canadian passport, and distance yourself from this land of socialized medicine, gay marriage and gun control, we understand. But, future former citizen, what’s the hold up? As one immigration lawyer said: “Unless there’s a security issue that hasn’t been disclosed, unless there’s a mental health issue that hasn’t been disclosed, there’s no reason for anything other than a lickety-split process to occur.”
Now he can run for the American 2016 Presidential Election and he's just wacky enough to win the Republican nomination. Which means another nail biter like that last one with Romney. The stakes are high... for the planet.

Oh and his daddy helpfully suggested putting atheists and secular humanists "into camps".

Correction 2014-06-11 : It turns out the 'camps' but was a bit of satire. Newslo is satire. I've been duped! See my comment below and press the "Show Facts" button on the site for the truth. Cruz Senior did have a lot to say about atheists though. Check out the Young Turks here.

Now, if we can only get Justin Bieber to...

(via Wonkette)

Saturday, 7 June 2014

John Baird Responds to UFO Religion's Request for Alien Embassy in Canada

John Baird and the proposed Raëlian embassy.

A few days ago, the Raëlians, who are a UFO religion that believes we were all engineered by aliens rather than a god (a minor point), asked the Canadian government to help them build an interstellar embassy for the alien race, the Elohim, so that we may become a galactic hub.

I thought this was quite silly, but I was interested if there would be a response from John Baird, Minister of Foreign Affairs. We'll he responded with a tweet, which my wife alerted me to only an hour ago.
Depak Obhrai is the Conservative MP from Calgary East riding. He responded in the affirmative, so here's hoping the Elohim are as friendly as the Raëlians claim they are or else he'll likely end up the first human served up as lunch to our new intergalactic overlords.
A CBC story releases a more detailed government response.
In response to a request from CBC News, ministerial press secretary @adamihodge explained that, "although tempting due to the promises of long term jobs and economic growth, sadly, current Canadian law is that only representatives of another state or an international organization can have diplomatic status in Canada - there is no mention of extraterrestrial entities."
It goes to to mention that the Canadian diplomatic licence plates wouldn't be big enough for the spacecraft and that if the Elohim would only make themselves known to the government, they would be happy to meet for coffee and discuss new galactic economic action plans. Har Har Har.

This is, of course, hilarious at this level alone. However, it becomes rather sickeningly ironic from the point of view of a skeptic atheist like me - someone who sees all religions as being rather equally kooky.

I don't mean to go too far onto a limb here, but as far as I can tell, the odds that we were manufactured by aliens are actually better than some nebulous, undefinable god thing! Presumably, aliens would be flesh and bone (or something natural) and would need not defy the laws of physics or magically bring about humans from nowhere at all - via will power, chi, life essence, "I AM WHAT I AM" or whatever God is supposed to have done.

So it strikes me as both hilarious and sort of sad that someone who believes in a magic sky god from the bronze age even feels the right to mock a religion that is probably more scientifically-based than his.

Speaking of religions. If Baird thinks this is hilarious, what about the Embassy to of Canada to the Holy See? Their claim to fame are crackers and wine that become the body and blood of a man who apparently lived and died 2,000 years ago. I honestly don't know which is the more ridiculous.

They are both equally ridiculous - but the Raëlians seem to be much less hung up about sex.

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Saskatoon Atheist's Human Rights Case to Proceed

"IUSTITIA", Supreme Court of Canada (source)

Saskatoon atheist Ashu Solo made quite a stir a couple of years ago when he challenged the city to remove its "Merry Christmas" signs from its public transit buses. The Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission (SHRC) later decided there wasn't enough evidence to move forward with this complaint. However, they would consider a separate complain of Solo's that in 2012, city councillor Randy Donauer publicly uttered a Christian prayer at a city-funded municipal function - a volunteer appreciation benefit.

Well, unlike the bus sign complaint, it looks like this has gotten enough traction to be considered by the SHRC.

Public prayer complaint moves ahead

Also unlike the bus sign complaint, this one seems rather more solid a transgression to me. While it can be stated that a mere declaration of a day to be Christmas may be nothing more than mere statement of fact, pushing a Christian prayer at a government function is a pretty clear state-endorsement of religion.
The complaint relates to an April 2012 volunteer appreciation banquet hosted by the city, at which Coun. Randy Donauer said a Christian prayer. Solo, an atheist, wants the city to eliminate religious prayer of any kind from all municipal events.

On Monday, Solo said he thinks a successful resolution of the case in his favour will effectively ban prayer at public events throughout the province - including the prayers that begin each session of the Saskatchewan legislature. "I think it's a victory not just for myself but for everyone who seeks secularism in Saskatchewan," Solo said in a phone interview.
I am not sure if there is any sort of official state-church separation in Saskatchewan. Perhaps the Human Rights Commission is the only viable mechanism to bring about a proper level of secularism in the province. If so, it's much like how Rene Chouinard was able to win his case before the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal blocking distribution of religious material in Niagara public schools. Maybe this provincial approach is the way forward for advancing secularism and proper state-church separation across the country?

Solo is not just making trouble for the fun of it. He is willing to drop the whole case if the city establishes a clear policy on secular prayer - which I guess means either letting all sorts of prayers or invocations or denying all equally. However, the city has declined this offer due to concerns about how wide-reaching it would be.

Solo's idea is to push on until there is a clear ruling preventing public function prayer by city officials while in their government capacities.
"If I were to just drop the case, they could just resume having prayers," he said.
 Very true, indeed.

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Raëlians to Lobby Canadian Government to Build Interplanetary Embassy for Aliens

Model of a proposed embassy the Raëlians wish to build in Cambodia. (source)

So the Raëlian Church of Canada - who do not believe in a god but do believe space aliens created us as science experiments - made a press release yesterday.

For years, they've been trying to build an interplanetary embassy to establish diplomatic relations with the Elohim, the alien race who created us in laboratory. They've been trying to convince Israel to let them build the structure in Jerusalem but they've been refused seven times. So now they've decided to give other countries a try!

Press conference - An Embassy to welcome an extraterrestrial civilization: the Raelians will file a formal application to the Canadian Government!

They plan to do this tomorrow (Wednesday June 4th).
"The file we will give to Prime Minister Harper, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Minister of National Defence and the Minister of Finance includes two main sections. The first is a request for a Lot Of Land, ​​4 square kilometers in Canada and the second is a request to grant extraterritoriality, as for all Embassies in the world", declared Daniel Turcotte, RAEL's assistant for the Embassy project. "In return, Canada will benefit from an economic impact of tens of billions of dollars in the long term. In addition, the host country of this Embassy will improve and enjoy an immense prestige being the interplanetary hub. The residents of this country will be the first to benefit from the Elohim's very advanced technology in the fields, among others, of  bio-robotics, nanotechnology, medicine, transport and communications, as well as an access to some sources of energy currently impossible to imagine by our scientists", added Turcotte.
A story in HuffPo covering this reports that the Raëlians do have one stipulation: no land in the Arctic. The Elohim do not dig very cold weather and members of the religion have been known to go in the nude during public events often. I'm certain they're aware of the cold winters here in Montreal since there is a strong Raëlian presence here.

I'm interested to see what John Baird will do with this information. Canada has lots of land, indeed, and four square kilometers would not go missed. Just think of the boon of being the world's first interplanetary hub! Now there's a return on investment!
On Wednesday, June 4, 2014, 3:00 pm, the Raelian Movement will hold a press conference at Ottawa Marriott Hotel, 100 Kent St. Ottawa, Queen Salon (executive level), during which the Embassy file will be handed to the attending journalists. By the same occasion a model of the Embassy will be unveiled. Nicole Bertrand and Daniel Turcotte will also be available to answer their questions.
Naturally, I don't believe this for one minute, but I do find it fascinating. I am also intrigued at how the government officials will react. Are there any readers who could attend, take pictures, report back to base?

Oh, the release also mentions that Canada has had a many UFO sightings - an upswing in the last couple of years, actually. This obviously means the Elohim have been buzzing around but just do not have a suitable place to land!

Sunday, 1 June 2014

Canadian Reserve Army Chaplain Said Something Pretty Stupid

Cape Breton Army Reserve Chaplain Fr. Donald MacGillivray said something pretty dumb in a recent opinion piece over at the Cape Breton Post.
War is about life and death and because it is so, it raises questions about meaning. All people search for meaning, as it is part of what it is to be human.

The questions that are asked by almost everyone are: What does it mean to be alive? Is there a God? Does this God care for me and what I am called to live out in life?

That old expression: “There are no atheists in foxholes,” I think really rings true because these big life questions are pondered perhaps a bit more by those involved in war.
First off, I've always been unsure exactly what God really has to do with the important meaning most people assign to their lives. The implication here, I guess may be to that atheists have little or no meaning in their lives because they do not do the God thing. It's a pretty ridiculous claim and it made me wonder whether MacGillivray actually knows any living breathing atheists at all - outside of papal epistles that is.

The population of Cape Breton is a fairly small (and getting smaller every year). It's also very culturally homogeneous.
Statistics Canada in 2001 reported a "religion" total of 145,525 for Cape Breton, including 5,245 with "no religious affiliation."
Roman Catholic : 96,260 (includes Eastern Catholic, Polish National Catholic Church, Old Catholic)
Protestant: 42,390
Christian, not included elsewhere: 580
Orthodox: 395
Jewish: 250
Muslim: 145
So we're talking about 3.5% non-religious (Nones) and 0.27% non-Christian!

Hemant Mehta rightly took MacGillivray to task for his remarkably silly statement - it is an offensive one to all atheists in our armed services. He pointed out that
It’s not just ignorance on MacGillivray’s part; it’s slander.
As for the opinion piece. This single mention of atheists seems quite out of place in the article - it can be easily removed as if an editor slipped it in to to score higher with the Google - and it is cliche by nature, it looks like a sort of literary flourish that backfired badly. Perhaps the good padre slipped it in for a little zing thinking no atheists would be looking or not really thinking of real living atheists at all. Perhaps one who sees so little of the atheist community may simply think of them as existing somewhere else - in big cities, over the Atlantic Ocean, and in books.

Then again, Cape Breton Freethought has a Facebook page with over 200 likes, which is not bad at all. So perhaps I am cutting MacGillivray too much slack here. At any rate, ignorance is not an excuse for making such offensive and obviously ignorant comments. For, errors like these demand swift and sincere apologies.

Therefore, would suggest he apologize for what I believe is a gaff. There's still time to save a little face. Or, dig in deeper and entrench - in which case I shall revoke my unusually charitable view and dig in claws and all.