From the Vancouver Sun:

Wednesday, March 25: Secularism aids dialogue

Only one in three British Columbians say they practise a faith

Wednesday, March 25: Secularism aids dialogue

Some of the most “secular” countries in the world continue to have religious symbols on their flags, according to the Pew Research Center.

Re: We need a new conversation on religion and secularism in Canada, March 18

I was pleased to see Geoffrey Cameron and Karen Hamilton note the benefits of secularism in promoting tolerance, respect, science, and free thought. Unfortunately, they seem interested in perpetuating imagined dangers of a “harsh” and “strict” secularism. The dangers they choose are not the results of overzealous secularism but more symptomatic of religious sectarianism.

Pluralistic and multicultural dialogue is an absolute necessity for Canada to continue to grow and welcome immigrants from all cultures. These dialogues can only take place against a backdrop of shared secular values that transcend narrow belief systems.

Despite their claim, the role of religion continues to diminish in Canadian’s lives. Just before the release of the voluntary 2011 National Household Survey, (which asked for your religion, even if no longer practising), the B.C. Humanist Association poll asked British Columbians directly if they practise a religion. Only one in three said yes and only 15 per cent attend church on a weekly basis.

Despite claims of collaboration with secular organizations, none appear on the program for the Our Whole Society conference. The conversation about religion and secularism requires secular communities at the table.

DR. SUE HUGHSON

 

President B.C. Humanist Association

 

Here is the complete text of the original letter from Sue Hughson to the Vancouver Sun before it was trimmed to the obligatory 200 word limit:

We were pleased to see Geoffrey Cameron and Karen Hamilton note the benefits of secularism in promoting tolerance, respect, science and freethought (“We need a new conversation on religion and secularism in Canada”, March 18, 2015). Unfortunately, they seem more interested in perpetuating imagined dangers of a “harsh” and “strict” secularism than engaging with organizations like ours that are actively trying to promote progressive secular values.Despite their claim, religion is in fact playing a smaller role in Canadian’s lives. Just prior to the release of the voluntary 2011 National Household Survey (which asked what is your religion, even if you’re no longer practicing), we asked British Columbians directly if they practice a religion. Only 1 in 3 said yes and only 15% attend church on a weekly basis. Cameron and Hamilton present no evidence that young people are “exploring spiritual matters in new ways” or that secularism in Canada isn’t working.Instead, the dangers they choose to warn us of are not the results of overzealous secularism but more symptomatic of religious sectarianism. Canada’s Residential Schools, which actively attempted to stamp out indigenous people’s cultures, were operated by the Catholic and Anglican Churches. And the continued biggest threats to world peace are ideologies that claim to have sole authority over the truth.Pluralistic and multicultural dialogue is an absolute necessity for Canada to continue to grow and welcome immigrants from all cultures. But these dialogues can only take place against a backdrop of shared secular values that transcend narrow belief systems. These values come from the secular and humanist thinkers of the enlightenment who critically examined established doctrines and instead placed importance on the one life we know we have.
Finally, despite claims of collaborating with secular organizations, none appear on the program list for the Our Whole Society conference. I only received an invite to buy a ticket to attend three days prior to the event. Apparently it’s much easier to talk about having a different conversation about secularism when secularists aren’t invited to the table. 

 

Dr Susan Hughson

President, BC Humanist Association. 

Here is the original article to which the letter to the editor above refers:   

 

The last link in this article is particularly important for everyone who favors and open society with equal rights for all regardless or ethnicity, religion, or gender. 

 

The head of Canada’s Office of Religious Freedom, Andrew Bennett, will speak in Vancouver during a major conference on religion, spirituality and secularism from March 22 to 24.

The event at Robson Square is titled Our Whole Society Conference 2015: Bridging the Religious-Secular Divide.

I attended the first highly engaging conference in this series at McGill University in Montreal in 2013.

The wide-ranging interfaith Vancouver conference will look at the purpose of secularism and its limits around the world and in Canada. In an era when many people see religion as a source of conflict and as a threat to free speech, many speakers will explore the role of religion and spirituality in cultural reconciliation.

Andrew Bennett, ambassador of religious freedom, will speak at 4:30 p.m. on Monday the 23rd.

Other speakers include Karen Hamilton, of the Canadian Council of Churches,; John G. Stackhouse, Regent College; Vancouver Rabbi Yosef Wosk; Marie Wilson, Truth and Reconciliation Commission; B.C.-educated East Asian cultural geographer Justin Tse, Harry Maier of Vancouver School of Theology, Rev. Dr. James Christie, University of Winnipeg; Imam Dr. Zijad Delic, author of Canadian Islam: Belonging and Loyalty; Paul Bramadat of Victoria’s Centre for Studies in Religion and Society and Farid Rohani, The Laurier Institution.

Here is the full line-up of speakers.

RELATED: Bridging the secular divide requires a thick skin

Is B.C. brave enough to follow Quebec’s world religions curriculum?

Secularization is the best thing that ever happened to religion

I’ll also be on two panels on Tuesday morning. The first deals with the question, “Freedom of Religion, or Freedom from Religion?” Others on the panel include Alia Hogben, Executive Director, Canadian Council of Muslim Women.

The second panel I’m taking part in is about religion and the Canadian media. It’s moderated by Jack Jedwab, executive vice-president, Association for Canadian Studies. Another panelist is columnist Suresh Kurl.

RELATED: Official website of Our Whole Society conference

Our Whole Society: full list of sponsors and supporters

Standing on guard for liberal democracy in Canada

 

HemantArminMeetup

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http://www.canadianatheist.com/iheu-comment-on-mumtaz-qadri-trial/  

Mumtaz Qadri’s appeal of his murder conviction for assassinating the governor of the Punjab has been rejected over the massive objections of Islamist fundamentalists in Pakistan.  Islamists claim that the murder was justified because the governor was trying to eliminate anti-blasphemy laws.

Context:   In 2011, Mumtaz Qadri assassinated his own employer, the Governor of Punjab, Salman Taseer. Taseer had criticised ‘blasphemy’ laws, and supported those victimized by ‘blasphemy’ accusations, most famously championing the case of a Christian woman, Asia Bibi, who was sentenced to death for supposedly insulting Islam during an argument with neighbours. Mumtaz Qadri, who was meant to be acting as Taseer’s bodyguard, shot him dead on the streets of Islamabad.

All members of BCHA, please plan to attend to help determine the direction of your organization for the next year.    Here is a link to the  Constitution – 2013

of the BC Humanist Association.

It was an honour and privilege for me to be present with representatives from BCCLA and supporters to hear the Supreme Court ruling early on Friday morning. We initially received a short message stating that the appeal had been won. An overwhelmed silence ensued, not applause or joy. We needed to hear more. Josh Paterson called in shortly afterward to verify the ruling, and to let us know it was unanimous! 9-0!
At this point the cheers rang out and a few quiet tears were shed. Joe Arvay, lead counsel, joined us with his wife Connie and humbly thanked everyone for their work, and the Supreme Court justices for their wisdom. Both Joe and Howard Shapray commented on the comprehensive nature of the factums presented and the diligence of Sheila Tucker, Alison Latimer and Grace Pastine, (not to mention his own work).  A former President of BCCLA gently admonished Joe for his own humility and thanked him for his work in the Carter vs Canada case.
This is undoubtedly a historic day for Canada, and it started here in BC. We would not be here without the courage of Lynn Smith who ruled for this case in 2012, and the hard work of the BCCLA team who persisted in the appeal. The perseverance and single mindedness of Dying With Dignity needs to be commended, particularly CEO Wanda Morris.
Uppermost in everyone’s mind are the brave individuals who fought for this ruling. Sue Rodriguez, Kay Carter, Susan Griffiths,  and Gloria Taylor, among others.
I have been working on behalf of Dying With Dignity for two years and can attest to the many hours of work that typical Canadian citizens like myself have invested in this important issue. Today was a day demonstrating democracy at its best. The judges in their ruling found an intersection of reason and compassion representative of the will of the majority of Canadians.
The 85 page ruling is available on the SCC website.
Yours in gratitude,
Sue Hughson,
President BC Humanist Association

This story from cbc.ca gives the details of today’s Canadian Supreme Court victory for Dying with Dignity.  This historic ruling represents a victory for compassion over blind adherence to outmoded “suffering is good for the soul” ideology.  While it has been clear to an overwhelming majority of the Canadian population for a long time now, this decision makes it clear in law that it is NOT a criminal act to help a friend or loved one end pointless suffering in the manner of the patient’s clearly expressed choice.   The spurious slippery slope arguments put up against this concept have now failed in law as they have failed in the public debate.  This is a Good Day for human progress.

This past week, Dying With Dignity (DWD) announced that the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) has annulled its charitable status. The CRA had been auditing DWD’s political activities and ruled it was wrong to grant the organization charitable status when it was first registered. This news follows a string of recent audits of charities, which started in 2012 when the Harper Government sought to crackdown on charities they worried were getting too political. Under Canadian law, a registered charity cannot devote more than 10% of its resources (money and time) to political campaigning and cannot support or oppose a particular politician or political party.

DWD had registered as an educational charity in 1982 and most of its work involves educating people about patient rights and advance care planning and the case for physician assisted dying. They also offer one-on-one support to individuals who are dying and want to do so on their own terms. DWD also advocates for changes to Canadian law to allow for compassionate options at the end of life. They are active in supporting a Supreme Court challenge to Canada’s ban on assisted suicide.

What’s most concerning about the CRA decision, for me, is not that DWD was found to be too political (it wasn’t) but that it was ruled to not qualify as an educational charity. Because DWD doesn’t have the resources for a lengthy and expensive appeal, this decision could have wide-ranging implications for other charities that come under the newly emboldened CRA-audit squad.

In particular, this could threaten the charitable status of humanist and secular organizations across the country.

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