Help make nonreligion a protected class in BC

A very cool bit of news got drowned in the kerfuffle over Québec’s Bill 62 last week. The BC Humanist Association has created a petition to include “nonreligious” in the province’s list of protected classes.

Like other provinces and the federal government, BC has a Human Rights Code, and like other provinces’ and the feds’ human rights codes, BC’s Human Rights Code contains a list of “protected classes” – basically, “things” that you cannot legally discriminate by. The precise list varies from clause to clause to cover different scenarios, but basically, BC’s Human Rights Code protects against discrimination based on race, colour, ancestry, place of origin, religion, marital status, family status, physical or mental disability, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, or age of that person or that group or class of persons.

[Flag of British Columbia]

, BC passed Bill 27, the Human Rights Code Amendment Act, 2016, which added gender identity or expression to the Human Rights Code. That was part of a flurry of similar bills across Canada in the last couple of years to get the “T” in LGBT covered under human rights code protections (such as the “infamous” C-16 at the federal level). The BCHA petition proposes nothing more controversial than to add “nonreligion” in the same manner.

Why is this necessary? Well, a few weeks back, the BCHA petitioned the government to get humanists recognized as marriage officiants. The problem was that the province’s marriage act recognizes religious groups for the purpose of registering marriage officiants, but not nonreligious groups. Thus, when the BCHA applied to get humanists recognized, they were denied. Unfortunately, the government response to the petition was to brush it off, saying it was too much trouble to reopen the province’s ancient marriage act for so small a thing, and that it needed a full overhaul at some unspecified later date. When the rights of an entire group of people can be ignored as just too much bother, there’s a problem that needs addressing.

Ontario’s Human Rights Code does not even mention “religion”. Instead, it talks about “creed”, and in the 2014 Erazo v Dufferin–Peel Catholic District School Board ruling, the courts affirmed that “creed” includes nonreligious beliefs. The federal Human Rights Act only mentions “religion”, but the courts have repeatedly confirmed that nonreligion is protected as well. One would have hoped that the situation would be the same in BC, but the Health Minister’s response to the marriage officiant request shows otherwise.

And so, the BCHA has created a petition to add “nonreligious” to the protected classes in the Human Rights Code.

The petition is open until . The goal is 500 signatures, and the current tally is over 300. We can do it!

So go sign the petition!

[Correction 2017-10-24 16:30 UTC]: The petition is not a Parliamentary petition; it is a BCHA petition that will be presented to Parliament.

4 thoughts on “Help make nonreligion a protected class in BC

  1. Does it count as a signature if you don’t live in BC?

    • I honestly don’t know. Personally, I’m going to sign it anyway. I signed the last one (about marriage), and got a reply from the Minister, so…?

  2. It’s not technically a parliamentary petition – we’re hosting it on the BCHA page – but we will present the list of names and regions to our government as part of our response to an ongoing consultation about re-establishing the Human Rights Commission here. So we’re mostly looking for signatures from BC residents but it’s definitely open to anyone. We’ll also be keeping everyone who signs up to date with our campaigns as well.

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