Weekly Update: to

by | September 15, 2018

Here’s your Canadian Atheist Weekly Update for to .

[Photo taken in 1983 of Roy McMurtry, Roy Romanow, and Jean Chrétien posing with an electric kettle in a recreation of the famous “Kitchen Accord” meeting.]

This photo is a picture of Roy McMurtry (former attorney general of Ontario), Roy Romanow (former attorney general of Saskatchewan), and Jean Chrétien (former Minister of Justice) posing for a recreation of the famous “Kitchen Accord” in 1983, where the notwithstanding clause was part of a hard-fought compromise that let the Charter actually happen. The kitchen itself no longer exists, but we’re still stuck with Section 33.

  • [] When and why do people become atheists? New study uncovers important predictors

    This is not a well-written article, unfortunately – a lot of the constructs are vague enough to invite multiple interpretations – so I may be wrong with what I’m taking away from it. But it sounds like it’s describing an interestingly subtle fact about the “creation” of atheists. If parents are religious, and they practise the religion openly and visibly (from the perspective of their children), and they don’t force the religion on the kids, and the culture the kids grow up in isn’t particularly diverse, then the kids are less likely to be atheist (or at least, they take a lot longer to become atheists). So if you want more atheists, you need parents to either be more apathetic about practising their religion, or more demanding about how the kids practise it – or both – and you need kids more exposed to more religions and inter-religious conflict.

  • [] Edmonton Catholics calling for inquiry into potential clergy abuse

    The Pennsylvania grand jury report on sexual abuse by priests in just six of the state’s Catholic dioceses – not even all the dioceses in just one religion – was released about a month ago, and it horrified people all over the world (and even had a Canadian connection). A couple of states in the US have been floating the idea of running their own inquiries… kudos to them for having the courage to look under that particular rock, because what they find there is not going to be pleasant. Now there’s been rumblings about replicating the strategy in Canada. I can’t say I’m enthused about the idea, but only because I am not looking forward to the horrors it is absolutely, definitely going to uncover, and I know that it’s almost certainly not going to result in any actual justice because the only abusers who are going to be named will either be dead or off the hook due to the statute of limitations (although, I don’t think Canada has a statute of limitations for sex crimes).

  • [] 12-step troublemaker: One nurse’s fight for choice in addiction treatment

    It’s ironic almost to the point of comedy that nurses – health care providers – are forced into a program that doesn’t measure up to modern health care standards. This is about as ridiculous as if a nurse’s health insurance program only covered homeopathy, and they were fired if they didn’t use it.

  • [] How university campuses became ground zero for Canada’s abortion debate

    If there’s a theme to this week’s Update, it might be “choice” – as in, the word “choice” in scare quotes. Here we have anti-abortion activists arguing that their “pregnancy care centres” – more scare quotes there – offer women more “choice” in how to deal with their pregnancy … by explicitly not recommend[ing] or refer[ing] for abortion, and going out of their way to scare women out of choosing abortion.

  • [] Churches’ tax exemptions being phased out

    If you’ve been paying attention to the last few Updates, the BCHA has been doing a series about permissive tax exemptions given to churches in BCd – that is, not tax exemptions on the churches themselves (because that’s the domain of the province, not municipalities), but rather exemptions on other properties the church owns. I can’t help but wonder if this move by the Penticton council was spurred on by the BCHA investigations.

  • [] Purpose, Meaning, and Morality Without God

    This is a very nice piece that is worth bookmarking and sharing to people who peddle the bullshit claim that atheism equals nihilism.

  • [] Canada’s arms deal with Saudi Arabia is shrinking

    I really wish I could say this was happening as a result of a principled stance by Canada. Unfortunately, the reality is that it is Saudi Arabia shrinking the deal because… apparently they’re hemorrhaging money. This really puts egg on the face of the government, though; they were willing to turn their backs on human rights concerns for the money and jobs this deal promised.

  • [] Who reaps the most rewards? The landscape of independent school funding in BC

    Honestly, I had only intended to highlight the first of the BCHA’s series on permissive tax exemptions in BC and let people follow the series on their own… but it is so fucking good, and every instalment is so chock full of data and revelations, that I haven’t been able to resist highlighting several of the articles, including this one. This data is telling, but one thing I noticed that wasn’t pointed out was that secular private schools seem to be getting only $3,293.02 per student… over a thousand dollars less per student than any of the religious options (except Sikhism; secular private schools get “only” $978.25 less per student than Sikh schools).

  • [] “When public Isn’t public: Education in Alberta”(Audio: 55:20)

    This is a fascinating and very in-depth discussion that covers a lot of topics relating to education, and the idea that offering more “choice” in education – particularly in the form of specialized, private schools – is objectively better. If you have an hour to spare, I strongly recommend giving it a listen.

  • [] Conversion therapy for transgender students ignored by Alta. government, says Lutheran school official

    This is an absolutely amazing piece that leaves you wondering if someone at the CBC jumped the gun a little on the cannabis legalization date next month. The title is a complete mindfuck because it gives the impression that the piece is taking the side of the bigot who wants the Alberta government to approve conversion therapy for LGBTQ kids. And further down, one of the section titles is “Gonads lovingly created by God”. What makes it even more hilarious is that the very next day (as mentioned in another of this week’s items), news broke that a bill banning conversion therapy in Alberta could be introduced this fall.

  • [] N.S. moves to ban conversion therapy but exemption for minors raises concerns

    This was teased last week, and now here it is! Personally, I don’t share the concerns about the exemption for “mature minors”. A “mature minor” is an adult. Period. For all intents and purposes in the context of decision making, that’s what “mature minor” means. If the minor isn’t adult enough to make a decision about their own life or body, then they are not a mature minor. And if an adult wants to do something stupid to themselves – to their own life or body – that doesn’t impact anyone else’s health or safety, then let them. (Full disclosure: I was a “mature minor”, legally, who had to “divorce” from my parents to become “emancipated” for complicated reasons that I won’t go into here (no, not because of any family problems; my family was and is awesome).)

  • [] Permissive tax exemptions in Greater Victoria

    The BCHA series on permissive tax exemptions in BC has been a fascinating and interesting read the whole way through, but here is where the rubber really hits the road; here is where they start talking real numbers. The biggest offender giving tax exemptions for religious properties with no public benefit seems to be Saanich, at over 34 of a million dollars. (But, as the Victoria News notes, that’s cents on the dollar compared to the total budget.)

  • [] LGBTQ advocates applaud effort to ban conversion therapy in Alberta

    Awesome news! Last week we teased that they were planning to introduce a bill in Nova Scotia (and, as another item this week mentions, they did!), and this week it’s Alberta. Off the top of my head, so don’t quote me on this, the only provinces that actually ban conversion therapy are Ontario and Manitoba, so if you live in any of the other provinces, send a letter to your MPP about maybe introducing a private member’s bill on the issue. Let’s take advantage of this momentum!

  • [] Controversial Polish priest to participate in Calgary mass

    I don’t know this priest, but I have to take issue with the comment in the piece that it’s perfectly okay to invite someone who has been openly homophobic and antisemitic because they’re now show[ing] signs of reform. If someone has made a fucking career out of being homophobic and antisemitic, then before I considered them reformed enough to invite as a public speaker, I’d want a whole hell of a lot more than a few “signs”.

  • [] Jean Chretien, Roy Romanow And Roy McMurtry Condemn Doug Ford’s Use Of Notwithstanding Clause

    If you’ve been paying any attention to the news, you’ve probably heard about Doug Ford triggering a constitutional crisis by his use of Section 33 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms – the “notwithstanding clause”. While the background of this crisis is a bit out of our jurisdiction, being primarily about politics, political power, and jurisdiction in provincial and municipal government, the Charter itself and the notwithstanding clause in particular are very much of concern to Canadian Atheist. Cutting through all the political theory and bullshit about the power balance between the electorate and their representatives and the “unelected” judiciary, the notwithstanding clause is ultimately nothing more than a way for governments to ignore our fundamental rights and freedoms. That’s not a matter of opinion; the only parts of our Constitution the notwithstanding clause applies to are the sections on fundamental freedoms, legal rights, and equality rights for citizens; you can’t use it to override, say, section 29, which enshrines publicly-funded separate and denominational schools. Its very existence has been described by several experts as a massive mistake, and now we have the framers themselves saying that it’s not being used as they intended. How did they intended it to be used? Aside from some vague hand-waving about “emergencies” or “exceptional situations”, the only answer we’ve gotten is… crickets.

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3 thoughts on “Weekly Update: to

  1. Ian Bushfield

    Thanks for the shoutouts!

    On the schools – the major reason the secular independent schools get less money per student overall is that 1/3 of the schools – representing 2/3 of the enrolment in secular independent schools – receive the smaller stipend of 35%. These would be the “elite” private schools who also charge tens of thousands of dollars of tuition. Whereas nearly all religious schools receive 50% funding.

    On Penticton, I hadn’t seen that article – good catch! It sounds like it’s a discussion that’s been going on for a few years in that community but it’s something that we should definitely highlight and a path for other municipalities to follow. And maybe Council did finally start down the path to phasing those exemptions out following our campaign.

    1. Indi Post author

      Ah, so there are different funding tiers in BC. I wonder if that’s true in Ontario, too. I’ll have to check sometime.

      Your survey of BC municipalities’ permissive tax exemptions has inspired me to look into doing the same for Ontario. I don’t know if it will be possible for a single person with (currently) no clue about the property tax structures in the province to pull off in a sane amount of time (while simultaneously working on those other CA projects), particularly because things are much more complicated in Ontario, with multiple levels of “municipality” and whatnot (for example, my city Burlington is its own “single-tier” municipality, but also part of the “upper-tier” municipality of Halton and I think being “single-tier” means that Burlingon’s taxes are handled by Burlington even though most services (policing, waste, etc.) are handled by Halton). But it’s something I’ll look into.

      Regarding Penticton, I’m surprised more municipalities haven’t picked up the idea. Granted there are some places where the religious base is just too entrenched, but I’d wager most municipalities could get a politically cost-free cash infusion just by ending exemptions without benefits tests.

    2. Jim Atherton

      Submission to Special Senate Committee on the Charitable Sector
      Prepared by Ian Bushfield, Executive Director

      I just finished reading this submission and I certainly agree with everything it suggests. For anyone who has ever read up on Canadian Tax law in regards to religious organizations it is obvious that the real problem with the law has always been- “advancement of religion” as a charitable purpose.

      If and when religious organizations are treated the same as all other charities under tax law our tax system finally will be fair (instead of free, like it now is for religions).


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