Welcome to our Humanist nexus
Bienvenue à notre connexion Humaniste
June 8, 2015
Letter to Andrew Bennett, Ambassador,
Office of Religious Freedoms
June 8, 2015
Dr. Andrew Bennett, Ambassador
Office of Religious Freedom
Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada
RE: Atheist blogger, Ananta Bijor Das and Saudi blogger, Raif Badawi
Dear Ambassador Bennett:
Thank you for speaking out on behalf of all Canadians in condemnation of the targeted killing of atheist blogger Ananta Bijor Das in Bangladesh. While such condemnations do not result in rapid changes in the situations in such countries as Bangladesh, they do have an effect, and Canada’s steadfast encouragement for these countries to enhance their respect for the rights of individuals is very important.
On the conviction and sentencing of Raif Badawi a number of months ago, you spoke out clearly in protest against both the conviction and the sentence meted out to this supporter of free speech and urged the Saudi government to change its practices.
Unfortunately, as you know, Saudi Arabia’s Supreme Court has upheld both the conviction and sentence of Raif Badawi. This decision is both disappointing and worrisome because it confirms that Saudi Arabia does not accept the very basic ideals of free speech and certainly does not respect any concept of individual rights to freedom of religion or freedom from religion.
Please speak out forcefully again in this matter to ensure that Canada’s voice is heard in condemnation of this assault on Raif Badawi’s basic human rights and in condemnation of the severe and inhumane sentence confirmed by this court. Only when such countries as Saudi Arabia realize that they are not respected for these actions in the family of nations will they consider changing them.
Doug Thomas, President
Secular Connexion Séculaire
June 4, 2015
SCS Encourages MPs to Take Action
re: Recommendations of Truth and Reconciliation Commission
Elmira, Ontario June 4, 2015
RE: SCS requests action by Members of Parliament to address recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission
On June 3, 2015, Secular Connexion Séculaire sent the following open letter to all Members of Parliament
Dear Member of Parliament:
On Tuesday, the long-awaited report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission was released. There can be no doubt that is the definitive document calling for changes in the relationship between Aboriginal Peoples and all other Canadians. As was pointed out by Justice Murray Sinclair, this is a call “not to ignore history, but to confront it.” The time to answer that call with action is now.
Seven years ago, Prime Minister Stephen Harper made what people accepted as a sincere apology to the Aboriginal Peoples on behalf of all Canadians. That apology has not put one drop of potable water, one textbook, one health centre or one house foundation into any aboriginal community. Words, even heartfelt, will not do these things.
Since that time, the Harper government has cut programs that would assist Aboriginal peoples to improve their conditions of life. This is shameful and prolongs a history we should rather be confronting.
In contrast, as these cuts were being made, pilot projects invested funds equivalent to provincial spending on education into Aboriginal communities. The results of these projects demonstrated clearly that such investments enabled dramatic improvements in learning by Aboriginal children. The expansion of such investments to encompass all Aboriginal communities would certainly improve the social and economic prospects of Aboriginal children–the citizens of tomorrow.
In the same vein, I am struck by the number of Aboriginal leaders who have strong post-secondary qualifications, no doubt obtained in spite of the lack of educational resources in their Aboriginal communities. If so many can succeed in surpassing those disadvantages, imagine what the entire Aboriginal community could achieve if those disadvantages were removed.
A first, simple action would be to sign the United Nations Declaration on Rights of Indigenous Rights that the Harper government voted against in 2007. While this same government claims that it accepts the document as an “aspirational document” it must, in the words of Justice Sinclair “aspire to it.”
However, the most important action will be to follow Humanist principles and look after our fellow human beings, by making and keeping concrete commitments to improve (in many cases, create) potable water supplies, education funding, housing, and medical services.
I am asking you to transcend your party affiliations and exercise true Humanist principles of respect for your fellow human beings by working sincerely to confront our history with action–investments in a new future history of which we can be proud.
Doug Thomas, President
Secular Connexion Séculaire
April 15, 2015
Supreme Court Rules Opening Prayers Unconstitutional
The Supreme Court of Canada (SCC) has ruled in the case of Mouvement laïque québécois (Mlq)and Alain Simoneau v. Saguenay (City) that opening public meetings with a prayer is unconstitutional because it breaches the separation of church and state that has become the accepted norm in Canadian society and because it denies the right of freedom from religion to “sincere atheists” to participate fully in the democratic process.
Alain Simoneau, an atheist citizen of Saguenay, PQ objected to the Saguenay City Council, led by its mayor, opening council meetings with a prayer. To whit, the councillors would cross themselves, repeat the prayer and cross themselves again at the opening of every council meeting. In addition the Saguenay City Hall and council chambers had religious icons in several places.
M. Simoneau objected in writing to the mayor and councillors to both the opening prayers and to the presence of the religious statues. The mayor and council refused his request stating that both the prayer and the statues were an integral part of Québec cultural heritage.
Joined and supported by the Mlq, M. Simoneau took his complaint to the Commission des droits de la personne et des droits de la jeunesse and that commission ruled in his favour. The City appealed to the Québec Superior Court of Appeal which ruled in Saguenay’s favour agreeing with the mayor that the practice and the icons were a part of Québec’s cultural heritage.
Mlq and M. Simoneau appealed to the SCC and this resulted in the ruling cited above. The SCC decided to limit its rconsideration to the prayers.
In its unanimous ruling the SCC clarified a number of important concepts around this case that can be applied to other cases both now and in the future. First and foremost, it ruled that the state, as represented by practices in public meetings, must “remain neutral in this regard [i.e. religious belief – non-belief] which means that it neither favour nor hinder any particular belief, and the same holds true for non-belief.”(Mouvement laïque québécois v. Saguenay (City), 2015)
The Court went further to state that “[t]he pursuit of the ideal of a free and democratic society requires the state to encourage everyone to participate freely in public life regardless of their beliefs. A neutral public space free from coercion, pressure and judgment on the part of public authorities in matters of spirituality is intended to protect every person’s freedom and dignity, and it helps preserve and promote the multicultural nature of Canadian society. The state’s duty to protect every person’s freedom of conscience and religion means that it may not use its powers in such a way as to promote the participation of certain believers or non-believers in public life to the detriment of others. If the state adheres to a form of religious expression under the guise of cultural or historical reality or heritage, it breaches its duty of neutrality.” (Mouvement laïque québécois v. Saguenay (City), 2015)
In short, not only does the state have the duty to remain neutral in its practices regarding religious belief or non-belief, but it has a duty to avoid promoting the participation of religious people in the democratic process to the detriment of non-believer–or vice versa.
The Court also pointed out in that same paragraph that claims to cultural or historical heritage do not relieve the state from the duty to be neutral.
Another paragraph in the ruling also deserves our attention, because it makes clear the standard that non-believers must reach for complaints of this nature to be considered seriously by human rights tribunals and courts.
“To conclude that an infringement has occurred, the Tribunal must be satisfied that the complainant’s belief is sincere, and must find that the complainant’s ability to act in accordance with his or her beliefs has been interfered with in a manner that is more than trivial or insubstantial.” (Mouvement laïque québécois v. Saguenay (City), 2015)
In other words, before we all “take to the streets,” let’s be sure that our complaints have substance and really do interfere with our rights in a way that is more than trivial or insubstantial.
That said, there is a case before the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal that, except for the religious icons, is the same as the case just decided. That Peterborough case involves one of our SCS subscribers and, by mutual agreement, has been awaiting this SCC decision. Hopefully it will be resolved with less inconvenience for the parties than the eight-year path Mlq & AS V. Saguenay case has caused.
SCS will also be looking into other situations, such as the Ontario Legislative Assembly, that still force opening prayers on non-believers.
All references can be found at: http://scc-csc.lexum.com/scc-csc/scc-csc/en/item/15288/index.do
Election Year 2015 = Atheist Awareness Year 2015
Let's Make Candidates Aware of Atheist Concerns
1. Get involved in a local riding association – pick a party – pick a job, let them know you’re atheist,
2. Let every candidate know that there are atheists in your riding, (anywhere from 5,000 – 24,000 per riding, based on there being approximately 100,000 people per riding with anywhere from 5 to 24% atheism rate in the population),
Action a) Write an email to all candidates based on the letter below (You can mail it too.),
Action b) Tweet all the candidates with a challenge to consider atheists,
3. Get involved – volunteer with the party of your choice when the election is called,
4. Go to an all candidates meeting, sit close to the microphone and get up as soon as the speeches are over to ask about one issue in the letter,
A letter for all candidates in your riding:
Dear [Insert Candidate’s Name]:
Thank you for stepping forward to take on the responsibilities of seeking public office.
I am one of the 24 Canadians out of 100 who are atheist.
As you may know, the UN and the International Humanist Ethics Union (IHEU) have identified Canada as a nation that systemically discriminates against Atheists (www.freethoughtreport.com). The report does that based on only part of the systemic discrimination in Canada.
The Atheist community is particularly concerned about favouritism toward religions in the Income Tax Act, the National Anthems Act, and the automatic inclusion of religious rites in many Canadian institutions and national events.
We are also very concerned about the Anti-blasphemy clause in the Criminal Code of Canada–Clause 296. This clause gives religions privileged status that potentially prevents reasonable criticismof their actions.
The same IHEU report identified 34 countries that actively persecute, and even execute, Atheists because of their non-belief.
We welcome the appointment of a non-believer to the External Advisory Committee of the Office of Religious Freedom and encourage continued progress in the recognition of atheists as a part of Canada's society.
Please outline your party’s policy regarding these issues and how you plan to work within your party’s caucus to address these concerns.
Best wishes in your campaign.
SCS Video Links
Doug Thomas on Medically Assisted Suicide - the Dignitas model MAS Video
Doug Thomas addresses topic "God: Fact or Fiction" with a simple explanation of empirical evidence and of God as a metaphor.
Have You Been Discriminated Against?
So would Openly Secular
18 December, 2013 - Two articles analyse the IHEU Freedom of Thought Report
1. "17 % o World's Nations Hate Atheists" – Doug Thomas' analysis of IHEU report – Huffington Post, December 13, 2013
2. "[Atheists face] Discrimination or Persecution in Most Countries"– National Secular Society (UK)
10 December, 2013 – IHEU Freethought Report
The International Humanist and Ethical Union has published its Freethought report for 2013. Find out where atheists are in greatest danger around the world (13 countries execute people for being atheist). Download the report and make a donation to IHEU at: Freethought Report
6 October, 2013
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