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

Monday, 21 March 2016

Office of Religious Freedom Nearly Shut Down

ORF head man Andrew Bennett is leaving to go work at Cardus (where many others have gone before him)
I bet you thought this blog was dead, right? I sort of did too, but then this happened!
The Liberals all but flipped off the lights on Canada's Office of Religious Freedoms, voting Monday against a Tory motion to keep open the controversial post and saying that its stand alone status is over.
Not only the Liberals. The vote to not extend the office's mandate was very popular among the not-Conservatives. The godless(!!!!) NDP, Bloc and the Green Party were all about that. The motion to save the office lost 226 to 90.

The Edmonton MP who brought forward the motion to save the office blamed an allergy to religion. Garnett Genuis treated us to this buzzword salad, explaining why such a government body was necessary to protect religion - en particulier.
"Without specific centres of excellence, individual areas that need attention could risk getting lost in one murky interdependent and indivisible soup," he said.

He did not offer any explanation of how the rights of atheist Tweeters getting 2,000 lashes in Saudi Arabia were not lost in the murky soup. No real clear direction why just religion needed to be singled out as the vector deserving of such attention.

Listen, I believe that humans deserve to have their rights protected, not religions. This means people should be able to hold any point of view whatsoever about metaphysical questions. One's religion (or lack thereof) should not be the target of persecution.  I'm so happy to see the Liberals apparently think the same thing:
"Our goal is to build on and strengthen the good work of the office by including the protection of religious freedom as a fundamental component of a comprehensive vision of the promotion of human rights," Dion's parliamentary secretary, Pamela Goldsmith-Jones, told the Commons.
You mean like the Rights and Democracy agency that the Conservatives took out behind the shed and drowned in a rusty bucket full of rainwater whilst the Office of Religious Freedom was mere a glint in the eye of then Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird? Yes, let's bring back an agency designed to protect human rights regardless of religion, please.

Meanwhile, Andrew Bennett has gone off to Cardus.  I've written about that creepy lot before -- they've been involved in the creation of the Office of Religious Freedom since the very beginning.

Monday, 30 November 2015

Watch LogosPilgrim's Talk at CFI Ottawa

Back in June, LogosPilgrim was kind enough to write a guest post for us about her long brave voyage from religion to Humanism.
When the box, the “refuge” I’d lived began to waver like a mirage, one of the first things I did was start wearing men’s clothes, and it felt wonderful. More and more, I reintegrated, in a manner of speaking, the material nature of what I am. I saw that being material isn’t inferior to being a “spirit.” I learned, finally, about evolution, which made so more sense than any of the woo and fairy tales I’d been taught, and I realized that my brain is a fantastic illusionist. It’s vital to be knowledgeable about the nature of things, otherwise we’ll be fooled not only by every peddler of hogwash out there, but by our own brain, because of the way it works.
Then in September, she was kind enough to be on my fledgling podcast! It was a fun interview which covered her trip down to the 2015 Non Conference, her current book, There’s a Hula Girl on my Dashboard: How I Left Faith Behind and Embraced Life and a new book she's working on too!

Well, LogosPilgrim (aka Quiet Professor) recently did a talk for CFI Ottawa and AtheismTV has released the video.

In addition to all this, a second new book is also in the works!
Oh, and apart from Atheist Tiki Hour: Your Guide to a Secular Blast, I'll be working on another book, The Rollicking Adventures of an Unrepentant Tomboy. I'm including a picture of the cover, because I thought you'd get a kick out of it.
You'll find a cropped version of the image up top. If you want to see the whole thing, you'll have to check back when she's done writing the book!

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Head of Bogus Florida Cancer & MS Treatment Centre Back In Canada

"Doctor" Brian Clement accused reporter Connie Walker of being part of the system. (source)
Remember Brian Clement, head of the Hippocrates Health spa in Florida? He's the guy who claimed that First Nations girls Makayla Sault (who eventually succumbed to leukemia after forgoing chemo for woo) and leukemia patient J.J. (whose name is protected under law and is finally back on chemo after the spa didn't work.)

You can read some of my coverage of this tragic story here.

Well, it turns out that Clement is back in Canada.

He was at some Montreal holistic health fair here in Montreal in September making all kinds of claims about being able to cure things.

A woman with MS has come forward to the CBC with her story too - a cautionary tale:
In 2008, Marcia Mundell was diagnosed with a form of MS known as relapsing remitting multiple sclerosis. In 2011, she heard Clement speak at a lecture in Florida.

"I asked him if his plan could help me cure my MS, and he said, 'Absolutely.' "

"He just said if I went to the institution and stayed on the raw food diet and followed their plan, that his program could cure my MS."

Mundell spent over $10,000 at the Hippocrates Health Institute and stayed on the raw, vegan diet Clement recommended for a year, but in 2013, her neurologist said her MS had gotten worse.

Mundell said that while she believes healthy nutrition is beneficial, she would not recommend Hippocrates.

"I think he's giving false hope to people."
Perhaps the best way to take the wind from his sails here in Canada is to spread the word. The CBC is doing a good job at this. Connie Walker has been following this story from the beginning. So far, it looks like Clement has lost at least one talking gig because of the CBC's investigative journalism.
He was scheduled to speak to children and parents today at an elementary school in Qualicum Beach, B.C. However, after CBC News called to confirm the lecture, school officials said it was cancelled. 
The news report has some of his future talking gigs in British Columbia. I wonder if perhaps BC Humanists or some other groups could picket this guy?

Monday, 9 November 2015

Canadian Scientists Can Speak to the Media Again!

I've been stricken with the plague over the weekend so still catching up with news. However, Hemant Mehta over at his blog brings us the good news that Canadian scientists will be able to actually speak about their research to the media! The fact that they were not able to do this during the reign of emperor Harper shows us all just how insane things got.

Hemant links to the Toronto Star which brings us the news. Our new Prime Minister is leading the policy change.
The change in policy is being communicated across departments and ministries in the government. On Thursday, scientists at the Department of Fisheries and Oceans were told they were now free to talk to the media, said David Prince, director at the Canadian Hydrographic Service.
Of course, these fields of science relate directly to Climate Change - something the Conservatives seemed to have preferred to ignore.
Prince said the strict communications policies put into place while former prime minister Stephen Harper was in power “frustrated” his colleagues. The issue was a sticking point for federal scientist Tony Turner, whose comedy protest song Harperman jabbed that Harper was the one who “muzzles the poor scientist.”
I've written about this before. For years, Canadian scientists have been protesting against the Harper government. I've asked why the government was so against science or misunderstood science. Books have even been written about how the Canadian neo con fundamentalist religion is ultimately driving them against science.
For years, scientists who worked for the federal government were silenced by strict rules that made them seek departmental approval before speaking to the press. On Friday, Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development Navdeep Bains said that scientists are free to speak to the media about their work.
Well, scientists are now free to speak. We'll see if anyone will listen.

(Image source)

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

PM Trudeau Needs to Stand Up For Human Rights

Justin Trudeau has been really busy lately getting elected prime minister and filling his cabinet (with politicians) and getting sworn in and stuff. So I'll let it slide for now that he hasn't mentioned anything recently about Raif Badawi or those dead and almost dead Bangladeshi secular bloggers.

Now, though, he really should start championing human rights and perhaps he should listen to the lawyers over at Lawyers Without Borders.
On the eve of the government's swearing-in, the advocacy group's executive director, Pascal Paradis, held a joint news conference in Montreal with the imprisoned Saudi blogger's wife, Ensaf Haidar.

"Raif Badawi's case is important," Paradis said. "It should rank among the priorities of the new foreign affairs minister, starting Thursday."

"Mr. Trudeau himself has been on Twitter, saying that Canada will stand alongside Raif Badawi."
Remember, you need not like lawyers, but you should always listen to them and try to figure out what they're saying.

Meanwhile, I've discovered that not everyone likes letters in the mail. You see, letters in the mail always thrill me but the Saudis are not interested in 'annoying' unsolicited human rights activists delivering thirty thousand letters in support of Raif Badawi's release.
Supporters of Raif Badawi found themselves up against the closed doors of Saudi Arabia’s embassy Monday as they tried unsuccessfully to deliver 31,000 letters demanding the imprisoned blogger’s release. 
The letters came from 20 different countries - guaranteed to have a wide array of interesting stamps! - but the Saudi embassy just wasn't into it. Perhaps they lack enough letter openers to deal with the volume? Although, Amnesty International is able to sum up the contents of these letters nicely for them in an executive summary if only they would listen.
Vaugrante called it “extremely disappointing, even alarming” that the embassy would not accept the letters, and wondered if it meant communication channels were becoming more rigid. 
My guess is that Saudi officials just don't give a fuck about human rights or freedom of expression. In fact, I really am wondering if they understand the concept at all.

If you would like information on how to reach our new PM, check out a previous post.

(Image source)

Monday, 2 November 2015

Wife of Hacked Bangladeshi Blogger is Canadian & Needs Your Help

Tareq Rahim and Monika Mistry
On May 30th, Bangladeshi secular blogger Tareq Rahim married Canadian citizen Monika Mistry. Because of the long history of brutal attacks on secular bloggers and their associates in this secular democracy, Monika feared for Tareq's life. On Saturday, her worst fears were confirmed. Tareq was slashed and left to bleed to death in a locked office by a pack of raving religious extremists.

CFI Canada has released a statement about Tareq and Monika - neither actual atheists, but rather secularists - imploring us to contact our government, to help Tareq somehow survive a country where even the police seem to drag their feet to protect anyone on the terrorists' hit list.
Monika Mistry is a Canadian citizen who was in contact with CFIC on the day of her spouse’s brutal victimization by people who can only be considered faith-based terrorists.  During a heart-wrenching conversation full of desperate concern and worry, Monika Mistry told us about the couple’s May 30th, 2015 marriage in Bangladesh.  Mistry and Rahim are a mixed-faith marriage – one of the couple being Muslim and the other Hindu. Although here in Canada such mixes are honoured and respected for their ability to spread diversity and tolerance, it is a situation that is often looked down-upon by the community and families in Bangladesh.

With their marriage so recent, Mistry was reluctant to see Rahim remain in unstable and dangerous Bangladesh, but their plan was to make-do until they could complete Immigration Canada’s paperwork that would enable the couple to reunite in Canada. Unfortunately the terrorists found Rahim first.

Mistry has told CFIC, “I am so frightened for Tareq. I am most afraid that when he is released from hospital that there are people waiting in the street to attack him again.”  In the hospital, Tareq Rahim has a modicum of security. On the streets and even in his home, protection is not available.  We know from the murder of Avijit Roy and the brutal assault on Rafida Bonya Ahmed that police and thousands of people will stand by as machete-wielding fanatics kill a target.  We also know from the murder of Niloy Neel that attackers will enter a person’s home to carry out their threats.
The most recent reports I can find, from sources I'm rather uncertain of, say that Rahim is still in critical condition and may lose an arm.

Through all of this, I am stunned at the relative media silence I've come across here in Canada - either in French or English. Meanwhile, we're seeing a protest in London by the Bangladesh Community Blog Alliance.

Publishers in Bangladesh are burning books in protest urging an apparently lethargic government and police force to take real action to prosecute and protect.
Rallies were also held in other cities and towns to demand more protection for publishers, bloggers and writers, some of whom have fled the country or gone into hiding.

“The people who have so far fallen victim to the attacks are thinking people, those who believe in freedom of expression, and those who believe in secular values. A series of killings have taken place but now the focus is on publishers ... I feel absolutely traumatised,” said Mohiuddin Ahmed, a publisher in Dhaka.
What can we do as Canadians? We can write our government and prime minister-designate Justin Trudeau. Remember that it's always better to use your own words, but a letter is always better than no letter, so CFI Canada has provided the following sample letter:
To the Right Honourable Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada

It has come to my attention that one of the victims of the October 31, 2015 attacks by faith-based terrorists in Dhaka, Bangladesh is the spouse of a Canadian citizen.  Mr. Tareq Rahim, an intellectual and blogger, was attacked for exercising what Canadians enjoy every day – the right to freedom of expression in an open, tolerant and secular society.

Tareq Rahim is married to Canadian citizen and resident, Monika Mistry; they have a mixed-faith marriage and had plans to enjoy their tolerant and diversity-inspired marriage here in Canada once they were able to complete Immigration Canada’s paperwork.  Unfortunately terrorists found Rahim first with an attempt to take his life.  I urge the Canadian government to assist Tareq Rahim and Monika Mistry to expedite this process and bring Tareq to Canada and his family to recover from this brutal attack.

I further ask you to answer the question put to CFI Canada by one of our Bangladeshi friends, “Is it really so hard for a country to provide protection for 40-50 people” targeted by known faith-based terrorists?  Is it really so hard to extend protection to intellectuals, secularists, humanists, atheists who have been strategically targeted to separate a country’s population from its secular foundations?

Prime Minister, let the first days of your new government include an act of compassion and concern for Canadians such as Monika Mistry whose greatest ambition is to enjoy Canada’s diversity, freedom and welcoming community.  Help us to reunite Tareq Rahim with his wife while he recovers from this brutal assault of faith-based terrorism.

Yours Truly,
You'll want to address it:
Justin Trudeau
House of Commons
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0A6
His constituency information is also on that page. It's also likely you could leave him a message or fax it.
Telephone: 613-995-8872
Fax: 613-995-9926
Remember that Justin is plugged in to the Internet, unlike older politicians. So you can also probably send him the letter at or tweet him at

You can also send a letter to your MP. Just check here.

The blog where many of the victims of these brutal attacks posted, Mukto-Mona, has even reprinted the CFI statement. Their eyes are on Canada and as Canadians, we should take the lead and fight for freedom of expression in Bangladesh. We need to make a counter example - that our country believes in the principles of human rights and is willing to stand up against murderous religiously motivated terrorists.

(Image source)

Sunday, 1 November 2015

CFI Ottawa to Protest Resumption of Raif Badawi's Flogging

Raif Badawi
You've probably heard by now that the Saudis intent on resuming flogging Raif Badawi - a man thrown into prison and beaten simply for blogging about human rights and critiquing the Saudi monarchy.

If you're near Ottawa tomorrow, you can help CFI Ottawa protest this sickening turn of events in front of the Saudi embassy.
Monday, November 2, 2015 - 11:00 AM to 12:00 PM

Saudi Arabia Embassy
201 Sussex, Ottawa, ON (map)
Badawi also won the Sakharov human rights prize - the most prestigious human rights award the of the European Union.
The Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought is awarded each year by the Parliament. It was set up in 1988 to honour individuals and organisations defending human rights and fundamental freedoms. Last year the prize was awarded to Denis Mukwege.

Nominations for the Sakharov Prize can be made by political groups or by at least 40 MEPs. Based on the nominations, the foreign affairs and development committees vote on a shortlist of three finalists. After that the Conference of Presidents, made up of the EP President and the leaders of the political groups, select the winner.
During the announcement, European Parliament President Martin Schulz did what Justin Trudeau ought to do soon: denounce the brutal torture and jailing of Badawi.
“The conference of Presidents decided that the Sakharov Prize will go to Saudi blogger Raif Badawi,” said Schulz announcing the 2015 laureate in plenary. “This man, who is an extremely good man and an exemplary good man, has had imposed on him one of the most gruesome penalties that exist in this country which can only be described as brutal torture." The EP President added: “I call on King of Saudi Arabia to stop the execution of this sentence, to release Mr Badawi, to allow him to back to his wife and to allow him to travel here for the December session to receive this prize."
Consider going to the protest and, at the very least, tweeting to Justin Trudeau.

Saturday, 31 October 2015

Edmonton Atheists Protest At Medium's Communication With Dead Tour

Colette Baron-Reid has her own television show on Vision TV whereupon she claims to be able to receive Messages from Spirit - she can hear dead people. She lives in New Hampshire now, but was born on Toronto so I guess she's like a Canadian John Edward.

According to the About section of her website, she's CEO of a company which utilizes her very patented energy psychology process:
She is the CEO and founder of The IN-Vizion® Project and The IN-Vizion Lab, offering advisory services for select influencers and education for coaches in her trademarked energy psychology process, IN-Vizion®.
Colette visited Edmonton recently and had a show at a local theatre - at the University of Alberta(!) - where she charged between $69 and $129 for tickets. Which I guess is a steal compared to her one-on-one consultation charges. We're talking about $250 for 15 minutes, $400 for 30 minutes and $800 for 60 minutes, in US dollars - at least you save if you buy the one hour session!

The Society of Edmonton Atheists (SEA) were there to peacefully protest it in the name of skepticism.
The Society of Edmonton Atheists has picketed a show by a psychic medium, saying that communing with the dead is simply impossible and customers ought to be more skeptical.

Karen Kerr of the atheists groups says psychics are just really good at doing what she calls a “cold reading.”

Kerr says they ask probing questions that get the answers they need from the audience.
Like John Edwards, Baron-Reid likely uses a technique called cold reading to throw several scenarios at audience members and allow then to guide the conversation along.
After determining that the subject is cooperative, the reader will make a number of probing statements or questions, typically using variations of the methods noted below. The subject will then reveal further information with their replies (whether verbal or non-verbal) and the cold reader can continue from there, pursuing promising lines of inquiry and quickly abandoning or avoiding unproductive ones. In general, while revelations seem to come from the reader, most of the facts and statements come from the subject, which are then refined and restated by the reader so as to reinforce the idea that the reader got something correct.
Watch the video above to see if any of this is there. Also, remember that we're seeing an edited final product with only hits while misses have likely been dropped to the cutting floor.

Baron-Reid denies that she uses cold reading. Maybe she believes this and just does it naturally?

Anyway, good for the SEA. They are scheduled to protest another medium, James Van Praagh, next week.
James Van Praagh labels himself an ”evidential psychic medium” who has had many television appearances and has authored several books. For five seasons, Van Praagh was the co-executive producer of CBS’s #1 drama “Ghost Whisper” starring Jennifer Love Hewitt.
Meanwhile, Baron-Reid would have had her Vancouver show this evening. She's scheduled in Victoria tomorrow.

I wonder what the policy is for renting the University of Alberta theatre?

(Image source)

Monday, 19 October 2015

Can We Just Try For a Fair Secular Solution?

Today's election day. Once again, much like the Quebec election, I find myself stuck in the middle of two positions. Both sides likely do not understand me. Both sides likely find me annoying.

It has to do with women swearing an oath of citizenship wearing niqabs. That should be the limits of the debate here in Canada, but of course people have taken things and they've run with it. The issue itself has been distorted all to hell.

Here's the deal. I'm actually fine with women (or men) wearing niqabs, Pastafarian spaghetti strainers, Wiccan ritual outfits, giraffe suits, Storm Trooper costumes or even garbage bags to citizenship ceremonies. I have no ill will towards women wearing niqabs, burkas, hijabs or chadors. I think this point of view is shared by many Canadians.

People who get offended by the above point of view because Jedi and Pastafarianism are not a real religions while they've got a legit one can eat it. That's part of this tolerance I keep hearing about. It works both ways.

In return for allowing all people to wear face concealing head coverings, Muslim women and ultra orthodox Jewish women (coverings for these do exist) will be able to wear their garbs in citizenship ceremonies. As Canadians, we can all get together and figure out what's required to facilitate this new right for all Canadians regardless of religion or lack thereof. Maybe it will involve a special room to the side where a government employee will validate the person's identity. Perhaps it will involve a special notary public. Perhaps retina scanning technology will be used. There are many many options.

This would not be religious accommodation, this would be head garb accommodation.

I'll also stop people right here who say that this will cause too much extra spending and would propose that the government stop funding religious magazines to pay the few extra salaries required. Honestly, we have the money to settle this debate in a permanent and truly secular fashion.

This is my dream: Secular government sees that a significant proportion of their citizenship wants to wear stuff on their heads to citizenship ceremonies. Government says that if one group wants this right then all groups get it. It's like when little Billy brought his chocolate bar into class - all the kids get some. It's only fair, children.

There is also a dark side to this debate though. On the one hand, you have people who are truly xenophobic and bigoted who are against Muslims. On the other, you have ex-Muslims and other progressives who point out, rightly, that in many countries - including Muslim communities within Canada - girls and women are forced to wear these coverings and that is oppressive. On a third hand, you have progressives who seem completely blind to this oppression.

I say, let's take the wind out of the issue by allowing everyone to wear what they like and then concentrate on different ways to combat religiously motivated oppression. Mandatory multi-religion courses and broad social studies in schools is one way, for instance. This includes realistic sex education - which address perfectly healthy realities like homosexuality and trans folk - like what all the hullabaloo is about in Ontario.

Listen, I'd love to see Harper go. I'll take the NDP as first and the Liberals as second. Issues like the TPP, assisted dying, abortion rights, healthcare, not making 15B dollar arms deals with Saudi Arabia, unmuzzling scientists, decriminalisation of cannabis, and secularism are important to me and I hope we see a little more of this.

Sadly, I'm not holding my breath for a fair and reasonable solution to this problem from any of these parties.

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

Quebec Pastafarian's Discrimination Case Thrown Out For "Wasting Court's Time"

So here in Quebec, a judge - one Stéphane Sansfaçon (Stephane NoWay) - has thrown out a Montreal Pastafarian's discrimination case and accused her of wasting the court's resources.
“Too many people implicated in real litigation with consequences that could affect their lives or those of their children or enterprise are waiting their turn in court for us to be silent about the monopolization of these resources to determine if the plaintiff can be photographed wearing a colander or pirate hat,” he said.

“We forget too often that the courts are a public service with limited resources that must not be abused.”
The timing of this really couldn't be better, considering the recent controversy about Muslim women being allowed to wear their Niqabs while swearing oaths, citizenship, etc.

In fact, I mentioned this I wrote recently in a Facebook comment about how I would have no problem whatsoever with anyone wearing any headgear to drivers license offices or swearing in ceremonies - so long as no religion was privileged over other faiths or atheists:
I'm perfectly fine with allowing people to wear any head covering they feel fit at swearing in ceremonies and at government offices when ID is required. In fact, I would love to see a discussion divorced entirely from religion where we simply discuss how much this would cost and who's paying - or how it could be implemented with no extra cost. Once this is implemented, women can choose to wear niqabs or Storm Trooper masks at their swearing in ceremonies. Then perhaps this guy any others like him would get justice as well.

In other words, a properly secular country would work towards a security protocol for supporting generic head and face coverings. Then they would figure out how to implement it so that any extra required labour or staff or ceremonies etc would be paid for - preferably by those who wish the service. Of course, this will never happen because governments like to use these issues as wedge issues for their own gain.
Well, Mr. Sansfaçon is not interested in this. He doesn't see Pastafarianism as a real religion. I assume this is because there are not as many Pastafarians as Muslims, or maybe because there aren't as many buildings for worship or wars fought in His Noodly Appendage's Name. I would argue that both religions make about the same amount of sense.
Judge Sansfaçon said the fact she had a valid driver’s licence while wearing the accoutrements of her “religion” meant there was no real question to decide.
Sarcastic air quotes are not mine.

The Pastafarian in question is Isabelle Narayana, who was not able to wear the colander of her own religion but was allowed to come back dressed up like a Muslim Pirate.
Narayana, who claimed to belong to the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster whose members are known as Pastafarians, went to court after the Société de l’assurance automobile du Québec (SAAQ) said she couldn’t wear a colander or pirate hat in the photo. She’d shown up to renew her permit at an SAAQ office in March 2014, in full pirate attire, but was denied. Only medical or religious exceptions are allowed to the no-head-covering rule.

Narayana argued that since the exception applies to Muslim women, it should apply to her as well, given her religious affiliation. Court was told she subsequently showed up at an SAAQ office for the photo wearing a head scarf, which she told the court was the costume of a female pirate who happened to be Muslim. The head scarf met SAAQ rules and the photo was taken, but she said she still wanted the court to rule on whether her rights were violated by the original denial.

Yes, this is funny, but there is satire here and with it comes a disturbing truth. The judge seems to have missed the point here. This demonstrates precisely what I do not wish to have happen. When you specify that religious people get free exemption from certain laws or obligations, the State then needs to somehow pick and choose what's a religion and what's not a religion.

(Image source)

Monday, 5 October 2015

Please! Bye Bye Harper! Good Bye!

I know this video appeared awhile back on Canadian Atheist, and I was going to post it here, but then the polls started saying that the Harperbots would be on track to forming the next government. I lost all hope in humanity and didn't post it.

I won't go into things, but just read up about his muzzling of scientists (especially climate), TPP, evil spying bills, evil 15 billion dollar deals with human rights crushing Saudi Arabia... etc. etc. etc.

Well now it turns out that the polls are saying the Liberals are in the lead and the poor NDP are down to only 24%. This is the fear vote kicking in. The Liberals are, of course, better than the Conservatives, but they are sort of like weak tea. That being said, I'm so overjoyed to see the possibility of Harper out, that I'll take pretty much anyone with a pulse (I'm not certain if Harper has a pulse).

So here's an nice folk song, Bye Bye Mr Harper Good Bye, which is a nice way to say: "Don't let the door hit your ass on the way out."

Here's hoping this song rings true.

(Image source)

Sunday, 4 October 2015

Conservative Government Effectively Screening Syrian Refugees Based On Religion

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Image source)

Friday, 2 October 2015

Discussion: "Not Just Another Niqab and Burka Article"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Thursday, 1 October 2015

ORF & Blasphemy Laws - Bad But Probably Not Contradicting

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Tuesday, 29 September 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Sunday, 27 September 2015

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

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

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

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

Nope, I can't say it is.

Friday, 18 September 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Sunday, 13 September 2015

Raif Badawi Foundation For Freedom Created Here In Montreal

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

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

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

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

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Thursday, 10 September 2015

Richmond Hill Teacher Gets Fired For 'Racist' Tweets

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

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

“Hijabs make me sad.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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