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

Friday, 17 October 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

More Confusing Transmissions from Supreme Court Government Prayer Case


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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Things Start Moving On The Saguenay Government Prayer Case

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

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

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

Court asked to banish prayer, Christian symbols from council meetings

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Viking Discrimination Against Christians... Well, Maybe.


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

It all gets rather bizarre and confusing past this point.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Go read the e-mail exchange if you like.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, 10 October 2014

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

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

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

Sunday, 5 October 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Pattison Outdoor Rejects Secular Bus Signs In Winnipeg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

So here's the text that was rejected:

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

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

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

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

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

Pattison Outdoor considers 'this matter closed.'

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

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

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

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

Leonard Baak: OneSchoolSystem.org (613) 805 0940 leonard@baak.ca

Renton Patterson: Civil Rights in Public Education www.CRIPEweb.org (613) 735 5069 publiced@bell.net

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

Luke Fevin: APUPIL (Albertan Parents for Unbiased Public Inclusive Learning) (780) 700 4007 luke.fevin@gmail.com www.facebook.com/groups/APUPIL

Patrick Morrow: Winnipeg MN Humanist Atheists Agnostics of Manitoba (HAAM) 204 612 0601 mbhumanistsatheists@gmail.com mbhumanistsatheists.ca

Eric Adriaans: Toronto ON, Centre for Inquiry Canada (226) 374 0612 ned@cficanada.ca www.cficanada.ca

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

Also check out this article over at the Ottawa Citizen.

Sunday, 28 September 2014

The Very First Non-Conference!

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Sunday Assembly Comes to Toronto


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CSA Releases Video Promoting Effort To End City Council Prayers


Remember our favourite mayor, Jean Tremblay, and his prayer before city assembly case that's on its way up to the Supreme Court of Canada this fall? Remember how the Canadian Secular Alliance was granted leave to intervene and present to the court during this case?

When I wrote about this, I stressed how important this case is -- that's why the CSA wants to get involved with this case in Quebec. This case could very well become a precedent for the whole country.
You might also remember that he insists on holding Christian (read: Catholic) prayer at his city council meetings. First, he lost, then he won and now he's being brought to the Canadian Supreme Court by the Quebec Secular Movement. Because this prayer case will be heard by the Supreme Court, it could very well set precedent across the country for years to come. It could either be a landmark moment in Canada's history where it takes one step closer to being a truly secular nation (like Quebec... sorry, couldn't resist) -- or it could be a further entrenchment of age old religious privilege.
Well, the CSA has made a short documentary which includes interviews with some prominent Canadian secularists who have fought or are fighting in court to remove state sponsored prayer. Included in this list is Canadian Atheist's Veronica Abbass.

Like Sara Lin Wilde, over at Friendly AtheistI noticed it was a little odd that we have all Ontario secularists in this documentary. Like her I wonder if it has to do with a lack of reach or perhaps a language barrier -- as there is a fairly strong movement laïque here in Quebec. It would be nice to get an interview with the plaintiffs Christian Joncas or Alain Simoneau and I may try to get in touch with them but perhaps it's best they keep mum until the case? Is my French good enough?

Update 2014-10-01: I spoke to Veronica Abbass, one of the plaintiffs. She gave me some feedback about why there were only Ontario stories. It's simply because there was an actual ruling against the Lord's prayer being recited in municipal meetings. So this gave people an actual leg up to challenge councils who pray the Lord's Prayer. This is not the case in Quebec.

Anyway, all that said, it's nice to see this informative video come out! If you're Canadian then it's an obligatory watch.


Remember, you can donate to the cause at the CSA fundraiser page!

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Calgary (Catholic) Public Schools Sent Scary Anti-HPV-Vaccine Letter To Parents

Gardasil anti-HPV vaccine (aka. sexytime inducer) (source).
So, for five years, the publicly funded Calgary Catholic School Board refused to let their girls get vaccinated against HPV. Then, back in November 2012 they finally caved and allowed it. Now they want to extend it to boys as well. Well, the Catholic bishops are just not happy, not one bit.

Debate over HPV vaccine flares up in Alberta after Catholic leaders warn shots encourage pre-marital sex

Alberta is now  going to begin vaccinating boys as well as girls -- because boys can get cancer from HPV too and they can be carriers that infect girls. You think this would be a good thing. Oh no, think again.
The emotional battle over HPV vaccination in Alberta has flared up again, after Calgary’s Catholic school board directed parents to a letter from Church leaders that warns the shots could encourage pre-marital sex.
A little background. If there's one thing Catholic bishops are absolutely obsessed with, it's sexytime. In an article from October, 2013 -- nearly a year on after the board reversed its stand on the vaccine after much resistance -- Bishop Fred Henry  had this gem:
Bishop Fred Henry said society should try to curb sexually transmitted infections (STIs) like the cancer-causing human papillomavirus by encouraging abstinence and monogamy, not by using medicine to “palliate our vices.”
This stance seems so utterly revolting to me that I must take a step back and do a little analysis. Basically, I read it a little like this.

The good bishop is getting no sexytime at all -- at least as far as I know. So, he's not directly affected by any of this and I have no clue how anyone could consider him an authority either. I could only postulate he could be a little frustrated, but that's none of my business.

Anyway, some people could be getting sexytime. It's a shame many are underage, but this is a completely different problem -- the sexytime is happening in reality.

Now, they might be tempted to use condoms. Condoms are, of course, a Catholic no-no. They get in the way of the proper Godly punishment outcome of sexytime which is getting knocked up. God thwarting is bad! However, if the teens should not use condoms then there is the additional circumvention of God's proper punishment outcome of getting infected with HPV and eventually God-sanctioned cancer. Now how were the kids supposed to properly learn their lesson if they don't get cancer? I mean, is anyone thinking about God here? Hello!

How are these children supposed to properly suffer and atone for their transgressions against the Almighty?

Maybe I'm wrong, but this is the sort of message I read from the good bishops. This is a real disease and people are really getting sick from it. Why wouldn't the nice bishops want the children to get a medicine so they wouldn't get sick?

Okay, I'm getting ahead of myself. The bishops are saying they're just concerned that these kids could be having immoral out-of-wedlock sex. They believe that giving the children vaccine will make them even more horny and reckless than they already are. No, really! They actually believe this.

Here's a copy of the letter that was sent out this month.
The decision to permit your daughter or son to receive this inoculation rests solely with you as parents/ guardians. AHS provides you with medical information about the Gardasil HPV vaccine so informed decisions can be made from a health perspective. Some very important moral and spiritual considerations have been articulated about how this fits within our Catholic faith. On our website you will find a letter from the Catholic Bishops of Alberta at Alberta_Bishops_letter.pdf which can also help guide you in your decision-making process. 
The above-referred-to Bishops letter is from 2008 and essentially says that if your kid gets this vaccination they'll think it's all fine and dandy to go out and sex it up big time.
Secondly, although school-based immunization delivery systems generally result in high
numbers of students completing immunization, a school-based approach to vaccination sends a message that early sexual intercourse is allowed, as long as one uses "protection." 

This societal message also implies that young people are not capable of making
decisions for themselves or they are too young to make good decisions. We think more
highly of our youth and would prefer to equip them for proper decision-making.
Have these bishops ever been Catholic teens? Only if you can first get over the guilt instilled into you over years of indoctrination, you might find yourself in a situation where sexual intercourse is a possibility.

Have these bishops ever been teens? When you're fooling around stuff can happen. You know, when stuff is already underway it can sometimes be rather difficult to think with your "in-skull brain" about whether or not you've got a condom (not allowed) or have been properly vaccinated (not allowed) before the stuff continues and "in-pants brain" is leading the show. Protection failing or not being properly used or not used at all is how girls end up pregnant and at the abortion clinic! People make mistakes! Not just people, kid-people! That's what this whole goddamn 'sin' thing is all about, isn't it? Why is this so hard to understand? Or is this all about letting God mete out punishment unimpeded? Moar Catholic babeeze? It really makes me wonder.

As if getting an injection will determine whether or not a couple of teens hook up. Will this curb their hormonal urges? Please! Need common sense!

Well, here's what some (obviously materialist godless non-Catholic) scientists have to say:
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.
Furthermore, the very same Juliet Guichon, who's friend died of cervical cancer, had this other sensible thing to say.
The Calgary board should disseminate only science-based health information and is misleading parents by pointing them to the Church critique, complained Juliet Guichon, a University of Calgary bioethicist who has long advocated for the vaccine.

“This letter encourages fear, and undermines a public-health program that’s designed to help children avoid cancer,” she charged.
She also said this very true thing:
“What’s sad is that educated people don’t distinguish double-blind, randomized clinical trials and gossip. There’s a huge difference,” said Guichon, whose friend died of cervical cancer, leaving behind two young children. “If they want good information they can look at Health Canada, the Canadian Society of Obstetricians and Gynecology, the Canadian Cancer Society, or if they want to go abroad they can look at the CDC (Centres for Disease Control and Prevention), in the UK, there’s the National Health Service. There’s many, many good sites for information.”
Feeling better? Here's what an actual scientist had to say.
As well as raising the promiscuity issue, the letter suggests the public-health community is divided on the vaccine’s benefits, a statement one leading scientist said on Friday was “hogwash.”

“We’re going to have to go back to square one and start the fight all over again,” said Eduardo Franco, a McGill University cancer epidemiologist and one of the world’s top experts on links between the human papillomavirus and cancer. “Too bad.”
Ahhh, yes that's better, thank you.

And then...
A spokeswoman for the board, however, said the district only wanted to expose parents to different viewpoints.

“We’re trying to balance the spiritual perspective and the health perspective and the parents’ perspective,” said Tania Younker, the district’s director of communications. “The bishop does guide us in our spiritual decision making. So we are respectful of the opinion he has. And we’re also very respectful of the health information.”
Mrrmfmfffffkkfmfffmff...

Since 2012, the number uptakes of the vaccine has gone from 24.5% to 61% with girls (I've seen as high as 75% elsewhere). Apparently, cancer rates related to HPV are still on the rise and vaccination is the best way to fight it. So I say, okay, bishops, you guys keep saying this and we'll let parents keep ignoring you to be pro-life of their children. We'll see who ends up on the right side of history.

Monday, 22 September 2014

Sunday Assembly Comes to Ottawa

Sunday Assembly Ottawa organizer Shonagh McCrindle and co-organizer Peter McLean
Good news! Sunday Assembly is coming to Canada -- well, Ottawa and Toronto, but it's a start! I read all about this over at Hemant Mehta's blog but that was a broad post where these two new Canadian assemblies were merely mentioned within a list of 33 new groups across the globe.

So I reached out to both SA Ottawa and SA Toronto, a very short impromptu set of questions. I just got word back from Ottawa organizer, Shonagh McCrindle!

Who are you?  When did you decide to open a Sunday Assembly in your area? What is your religious background in a few words?
I am Shonagh McCrindle. I have no religious background to say. I am un-baptised from a Catholic-Protestant lineage. I went to Catholic private girls school in Hull.

I decided to get people fired up about Sunday Assembly because community engagement is at the core of my very being. I think people are best when they are helping or spending time with others. I wanted to share my passion for life without subscribing to a God that I cannot believe in. I also love the community that church brings together and I find those without a church community are missing out on so many opportunities to interact and meet new like-minded people. 
Are there any things the Sunday Assembly will do to make it more "Canadian"? Services? Language? Etc.?
I plan on MCing the first SA in both French and English, à la canadienne. I also think, whoever is speaking will obviously make it more Canadian, depending on where they are from (Canada being so multicultural I hope to draw on that diversity to make each session more interesting). Each person's story is unique and I hope to eventually capture these stories in the form of monthly Sunday Assemblies. 
Are there any plans to involve in the community? Like charity or volunteering?
Community is my middle name. I will be heading a civic engagement subcommittee. I hope to draw more people into the community through volunteerism or via occasional days of service.
Like poutine? Favourite author and why?
I love poutine! (vice I know... je suis, enfin, quand même un québécoise). My favourite author, might be Alexandra Fuller. She is raw and revealing of faults all while being hilarious and touching. Beautiful writer. Don't let's go to the dogs tonight is an excellent read!
Shonagh was nice enough to invite me down for the launch but unfortunately, I already have commitments that weekend. I'll be sure to drop down soon to cover a Sunday Assembly service though! I've been promised photos of the event, which I'll probably pass on in a future post.

Remember, this Sunday Assembly is launching in Ottawa on the 28th of September, 11am. You must reserve your spot over at Eventbrite -- how else will they know how much tea and cakes will be required?

Also, check out the event's Facebook page and the Assembly's page as well!

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Another Family Terminates Child's Leukemia Treatment Begins Traditional Medicine

Eleven year old Jada Johnson and her mother Wahsontiio (Deneen) Hill (source).
Back in May, I wrote about 10 year old Makayla Sault. After seeing the toll chemotherapy was taking on their girl, her pastor parents decided to grant Makayla her wish to terminate conventional medical treatment. They instead opted to put her on traditional native medicine only. Although doctors have warned that without chemo her prognosis is dire with near zero chance of survival, Children's Aid allowed her to go off her treatment. It's a sad state of affairs.

Well now this is happening again in the very same community -- (Native American kids seem to have elevated risk). Eleven year old Jada Johnson initially agreed to chemo to treat her acute lymphoblastic leukemia but after twelve days her and her family decided to terminate the treatment. The story is repeating itself.

Jada Johnson, 11, refuses chemotherapy, may be forced back into treatment

Her mother Wahsontiio (Deneen) Hill wrote that the treatment ravaged her body and spirit. And knowing the side effects of chemo, weighed heavily on my mind.

Doctors at McMaster Children's Hospital -- much like the did with Makayla -- diagnosed Jada in August and gave her six months to live if she did not undergo chemotherapy. They are now pressing charges along with the Children's Aid Society to force Jada back into medical treatment.
The family says they initially thought that decision was supported by authorities. However, in a message on Facebook, her mother Wahsontiio (Deneen) Hill said on Friday that McMaster Children's Hospital in Hamilton, Ont. and CAS are going to court to try to force her daughter into protective services and back into chemotherapy.
Another article in Two Row Times describes what seems to be a fairly common point of view in this region about the effectiveness of traditional medicine.
Within the Six Nations/New Credit communities the rate of cancer survivorship in after utilizing an holisitc indigenous method of treatment for is high. However because it is considered traditional knowledge, practitioners choose not to put their patients through analysis and judgement by an external scientific review – one that is founded on studies that scrutinize data to establish proof.

This is in contrast to the indigenous perspective which has known thousands of years of experiential proof and knowledge via oral history.
So considerate of them for the patients to forgo any objective scientific review in order to establish meaningful evidence of its efficacy (sarcasm). Where do I even begin with this? It's tragic. The above encapsulates the root of this entire problem.

The article even mentions the legal issues involved with forcing a First Nations child off the reserve -- even if it's for required life saving medical treatment.
If the court makes that decision, it would violate Articles 10 & 24 of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples; that indigenous people cannot be forcibly removed from their lands without free and prior consent, and the right to use traditional medicines and health care practices without discrimination.
I can understand this. First Nations people have had their culture nearly destroyed -- over the course of nearly a century, thousands of children were taken away from their families and stuffed into residential schools. There was widespread abuse of which we're just now learning the full extent. Still, should these girls not receive treatment that has been shown to be effective rather than unscientific, unproven traditional treatments? I don't believe parents have the right to deny life-saving treatment of their children.

Instead of proven medical treatment, Jada's family is looking into the Hippocrates Health Institute in Florida, which looks like Whole Foods meets a New Age shop meets a resort to me.  I'm only guessing that this will be the backdrop for traditional Native American medicine? Are they travelling down there? I wonder if there could be issues crossing the border given the current situation?

This is so sad. I can understand why they would like to stop chemo. I cannot even imagine how horrible it would be to watch my own son endure this -- especially with severe reactions. However, a girl's life is on the line here and right now chemo is the only scientifically proven method to deal with cancers like this. If traditional medicine practitioners would put their treatments through scientific review and they are proven effective than I would be all for them.

I don't even have a problem with traditional medicine being used alongside science-based medicine.

According to the article, the other girl, Makayla Sault is still doing well without chemo. I'm happy for her and her family. I honestly believe that this will also be the case for Jada Johnson -- that she also will be allowed to stop chemo and they will both appear well for awhile. I wish it could be another way, but this is reality and science is based in reality.

I'm not sure how to express this delicately, but science- and evidence-based medicine has set a grim limit on the lives of these girls using tested methodology. This is not spirituality it is cold hard reality. Pulling a child out of necessary treatment like this is a kind of death sentence and I really must see it as a form of child abuse.

Friday, 19 September 2014

Pastor From Anti-LGBT Church Becomes Alberta's Minister of Education

Christian Pastor and Alberta Minister of Education Gordon Dirks. (source)
So Gordon Dirks is changing jobs but he'll still be Minister Dirks. Up until a few days ago he was a pastor over at the Centre Street Church in Calgary but then he got appointed -- not elected -- to become the Minister of Education in Alberta.

The Centre Street Church published their Statement of Theological Principles and Ministry Practices from 2011 online. Here's what the church officially believes.

p. 18
We believe that God in His love for humanity intends marriage as a life-long covenant
between a man and a woman for their own well-being and the well-being of children, and for the benefit of the whole human race.

God instituted marriage as a sacred and honourable institution (Heb. 13:4), for the
blessing of companionship (Gen. 2:18), and as a continuation of the divine work of
creation in the history of the human race (Gen. 4:1). Marriage is a physical union
(1 Cor. 6:16). God intends marriage to be a monogamous, life-long union (Gen. 2:24;
Ex. 20:14) between a male and a female who are each living in the physical gender in which they were born (Gen. 1:27; Gen. 2:18, 20-25; Ps. 139:13-16; Mark 10:7-9). Marriage is constituted first in mutual covenant and is a solemn, binding agreement entered into before God and others (Mal. 2:14). The marriage covenant is intended only to be broken by the death of either the husband or the wife. God views the breaking of this earthly covenant very seriously (2 Sam. 12; Mal. 2:16). While divorce is always contrary to God’s intentions, divorce and remarriage are permitted where the marriage covenant has been violated by adultery (Matt. 5:31) or desertion (1 Cor. 7:15). Separation is permitted where necessary for the safety and wellbeing of the members of the family.

God calls His followers to “submit to one another out of reverence for Christ” (Eph. 5:21) and to “...live a life of love, just as Christ loves us.” (Eph. 5:2) It is in this context of mutual submission and love that God calls wives to submit to their husbands and
husbands to love their wives (Eph. 5:22-33).

You know, submit is not really the same as love. 

Anyway, people have been getting a little concerned about that. If we read into this then perhaps Dirks is against marriage equality. Who knows? There's more, though. LGBT activist Olav Rokne points out, the church also has an all too sad and predictable view sexuality.

p. 19
We believe that God created men and women in His own image and pronounced them good. “...male and female He created them...And God saw all that He had made and it was very good.” (Gen. 1:27-31) Human sexuality is therefore a beautiful part of God’s creation. All human activity, including the expression of sexuality, should honour God (Eph. 5:2; 1 Cor. 6:13b, 18-20). Followers of Jesus Christ are to live lives of purity, including sexuality purity. “It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality...For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life.” (1 Thess. 4:3-7)

We affirm that God is honoured by the mutually intimate physical expression of sexuality when this expression occurs between a man and a woman within a monogamous marriage. However, because of sin, all human nature, including human sexuality, is subject to abuse and misuse. God is dishonoured by: sexual obsession, intimate physical expression of sexuality outside of marriage and sexual activity between persons of the same sex, between an adult and child, between close relatives, or between a person and an animal (Phil. 4:8; Eph. 5:3-5; Rom. 1:25-27; Lev. 18:6, 20, 22-23; 1 Cor. 6:9-10).

God’s desire is to bring healing and wholeness to all aspects of our broken lives, including dishonourable human sexuality. Sexual sins, like all other sins, can be forgiven by God through Jesus Christ upon confession and repentance (1 Cor. 6:11; Eph. 5:8-10; Rom. 6:23; Rom. 6:11-14).
So much for transgender and transexual people. Gays and lesbians are lumped right in with pedophiles, incestuous relatives and those who indulge in bestiality. This church apparently sees LGBT people as being very perverse and broken like just like these other groups. Not exactly the sort of view I would like to see the Minister of Education to have.

No doubt this -- along with being in the opposition party -- lead the NDP education critic Deron Bilous to question why Gordon Dirks was appointed to the office in the first place.
NDP education critic Deron Bilous said it speaks volumes that Prentice appointed Dirks to the post when he could have chosen one of more than four million other Albertans.

“I think Mr. Prentice has made a very foolish mistake on his first day on the job, and we’re calling for Mr. Prentice to rescind his appointment of Gordon Dirks as education minister,” Bilous said. “If he was serious on action, on ensuring human rights are protected and that we continue to fight for equality in our schools and in our society, then why did he appoint Gordon Dirks as the minister of education?
Look, maybe Dirks doesn't believe all this stuff. Perhaps he just worked at the church for a gig, you know? I went digging for his own views and found a few utterances in this Leader Post article where they did the same.
Most sermons are full of anecdotes, discussions of biblical texts and typically end with a prayer of commitment. The sermons occasionally mention “sexual immorality,” but rarely go into specifics.

“Listen up, he said, I take sexual immorality seriously,” Dirks paraphrases Jesus in a Nov. 2012 sermon on the book of Revelation.

In an August 2013 sermon entitled “people of the way,” Dirks urges followers to imitate the early Christians who “began protecting the weak and vulnerable.” They built an “amazing culture of compassion” that erased cultural, racial and social boundaries and “practised sexual purity.”
Right, it's pretty unclear. Unlike school board trustee candidate Candace Maxymowich, who unabashedly let everyone know her Creationist, anti-choice, pro-abstinence-only sex education views, Dirks has played it pretty close to the vest.

Dirks is well aware that people are nervous about his church's strict and retrograde views. He's already met with LGBT activist Kris Wells.
Kris Wells, the director for the Institute for Sexual Minority Studies at the University of Alberta, got a call around supper time Monday night inviting him to a meeting in the premier’s office Tuesday morning.

Wells met for an hour with Education Minister Gordon Dirks, Premier Jim Prentice, newly appointed Health Minister Stephen Mandel and their staff to discuss a range of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) issues.
The Leader Post tried to contact Dirks for more information on his views. They hadn't gotten any response at the time of the article's writing. Perhaps in response to the concern, Mr Dirks tweeted the following.
In fact, unlike his church, Dirks says his record is clear on LGBT issues.
“My record in this province and in this country is quite clear,” Prentice said. “In that respect, I was one of the very first people in this country to support same-sex marriage. That happened over 10 years ago. And I intend to carry on my personal views about protecting and standing up for the rights of all Albertans, and as premier of Alberta that includes the LGBT community.”
Wells is willing to give him a chance but he expects action.

Columnist Licia Corbella, who has written before about how she wished atheists would stop ramming their minority religion down the throats of the majority, has pointed out in a recent opinion piece that the concern about Dirks' Christian point of view is sheer anti-Christian bigotry. I'll admit it, it's possible there could be some of this going on. However, on the other hand, it is not at all bigoted to be concerned about someone who's church -- at which he pastors! -- holds very bigoted views about LGBT people. There are many churches to choose from and Dirks chose this one.

Speaking of which, Corbella says that Dirks only held executive administrative roles with both the Canadian Bible College and Rocky Mountain College, private Christian universities. Yes, and he was a pastor at a church which held some pretty interesting views on LGBT issues!

She goes on to describe how happy we should all be with Christianity for having founded Public education. Yeah, anyway.

Something perhaps more useful she points out is Dirks' extensive experience within the school board.
Dirks, 67, is perhaps best known in Calgary for being a trustee with the Calgary Board of Education from 1999 to 2010, and being the CBE’s chair four times during those years. He is widely considered the best and most competent board chair in memory and came in at a time of great turbulence, which he helped smooth over with his diplomacy, competency and calmness.
This sounds like someone who may well be qualified for the job.

I would be curious to see what sorts of views Dirks has about evolution and sex education as well. Who knows?

Well, until someone knows, I guess I'm fine with letting Dirks demonstrate himself. I would wager that the vast majority of Canadian politicians are moderate to devout Christian. Many of them are likely fine secularists. Then of course, some of them are dangerously fundamentalist -- take a look at the Conservative party.

I'm highly suspicious but until he does something sucky, I will give him the benefit of the doubt.

So, Gordon Dirks, don't let what your church tells influence your politics. We'll be watching you.

And then there's this...