2019 Canadian Atheist Awards – Results

Last year the inaugural Canadian Atheist awards was a spectacular success. Could this result be replicated? Yes. Yes, it could. And then some.

The Canadian Atheist awards are not formal awards. There is no formal nomination process or committee that selects nominees and winners. The prize statue is just a 3D render; it doesn’t really exist. There are no cash rewards or even prestige (does Canadian Atheist look that prestigious?). It’s all just me, Indi, going over the stuff CA has covered over the year, and picking out the people/events I think deserve extra recognition. All nominees and winners are my personal choices.

[Render of Canadian Atheist 2019 award statuette]
Ceci n’est pas une statuette.

But as I commented on Twitter, while the awards may be worthless, the nominees are priceless. The people recognized by the awards really are incredible people, who have done incredible things in the last year. My only regret with these awards is that it’s far less than they deserve. But it’s my hope that these awards can introduce them and their wonderful contributions to a wider audience.

This year the Canadian Atheist awards had the same three categories as last year:

The only category that was the least bit controversial was, interestingly, the same one that generated controversy last year: Person of the year. Last year’s winner, Eiynah, has her dedicated haters… as any intelligent woman on the Internet with an opinion does. This year, though, the winner was Dr. Jen Gunter, an OB/GYN… so this year, we actually had some religious nutters coming out in protest. (Hello to all the religious readers of Canadian Atheist, both of ya!) We got to witness the Christian love of Gunter’s critics, with messages like: Have fun in hell baby killer.

There was also some behind-the-scenes drama that threatened to delay the winner announcements! Winter struck, and struck hard – after months with nary a flake, we got dumped on. The polar vortex struck with a vengeance (literally even as I typed that last word, my phone beeped with another extreme cold warning!). Why did this threaten the CA awards? Well, poor me is one of the volunteers who clears the snow from the driveways of people who can’t manage it themselves. So the time I’d set aside to do the write-ups for the awards ended up being taken up by shovelling… lots… and lots… of shovelling… repeatedly, over days, as we got dumped on over and over. I can’t even find the words to express how sore I am right now. Each of the write-ups (and the creation of the images) ended up being done late into the night… while sore… in order to make the 8 AM deadline. But I did it! Every single one was on time! I’ma take an award for that myself (kidding; if I did award myself something it would have to be ego of the year)! This weekend, after Weekly Update is done, don’t look for me; I’ll be in a self-induced medical coma to recover (what a coincidence that the person of the year is a doctor whose specialties include pain management!).

Ah, but don’t worry about me. I really enjoyed doing these awards, and I really enjoyed the happiness it generated among our readers, not to mention the nominees and winners! It was definitely worth it. At least, I’ll probably think so after I’ve slept this weekend.

So let’s get to the summary of the 2019 Canadian Atheist awards.

Art, entertainment, or culture story of the year

[Banner saying “Mythical Riddles” by James Fry is the 2019 Canadian Atheist art, entertainment, or culture story of the year]
[Screenshot from “Mythical Riddles” video, showing musicians James Fry (acoustic guitar, vocals), Anton Fierce (trumpet), Eli Bender (cello), and Dan Beer (drums) performing with stained glass windows as a backdrop at Christchurch Cathedral in Victoria, British Columbia.]
James Fry with backup musicians, performing “Mythical Riddles” at Christchurch Cathedral in Victoria, British Columbia.

The 2019 Art, entertainment, or culture story of the year was awarded to the work of art, entertainment, or culture – film, literature, music, theatre, etc. – that had the most positive impact among Canadian atheists in 2018. The winning work did not necessarily need to be “Canadian content”, but it helped.

The winner and nominees were:

As with last year, we had a wonderful diversity of tone and medium. But what was cool about this year’s nomination slate is that they were all Canadian!

Story of the year

[Banner saying the repeal of the blasphemy law is the 2019 Canadian Atheist story of the year]
[Map showing colour-coded state of blasphemy laws around the world at the start of 2019]
The state of blasphemy laws around the world at the start of 2019

The 2019 Story of the year was awarded to the news or cultural story that captured the most interest or had the most impact among Canadian atheists in 2018.

Because this award was for a story in itself, and not any telling of that story – so not a particular piece written by particular journalists – there is no actual recipient of the award.

The winner and nominees were:

Honourable mentions were:

  • Canada Summer Jobs attestation controversy
  • Catholic sex abuse insurance lawsuit & payouts list:
  • Jehovah’s Witness disfellowship ruling
  • Catholic hospitals force terminally ill people to get medical assessments out on sidewalks
  • Naturopath “treats” child with rabid dog saliva
  • Québec’s Bill 62

Some other interesting stories worth mention:

  • Francis Xavier’s mummified hand tours Canada
  • The “hijab hoax”
  • M-103 report
  • Canadians “dancing pornographically” in Cambodia
  • Naked, apocalyptic JW abductions
  • Sweet Jesus

Person of the year

[Banner saying Dr. Jen Gunter is the 2019 Canadian Atheist person of the year]
[Photo of Jen Gunter]
Jen Gunter

The 2019 Person of the year was awarded to the person who had greatest positive impact in Canadian secularism, humanism, atheism and freethought in 2018. The winner did not necessarily need to be Canadian, but it helped.

The winner and nominees were:

  • * WINNER: Jen Gunter
  • Paul Ens
  • Bernie Farber
  • Malcolm Rowe
  • Paula Simons
  • Gretta Vosper

As mentioned above, the person of the year award was again the only controversial award. But as with last year, I stand firmly by my choice.

And, again, there was enormous support for the winner. Overwhelming support. I estimate that for every hate message, there were on the order of a thousand voices of support. I mean, damn. That’s a pretty clear sign that Gunter deserves the win, and the readership agrees.

And to the future…

When I started these awards last year, I knew they were going to be lot of work, but figured they’d be fun enough to be worth it. I was wrong; I underestimated just how much fun they’d be. And I astronomically underestimated how much positive feedback, excitement, and happiness they’d generate from the readers. Of all the recurring features we have on CA, the awards may be the most popular… and this is only the second time we’ve done them!

But here’s the thing: none of that is due to my efforts. The reason the awards have been so spectacularly successful is due entirely to the people who were nominated. Virtually all of the feedback and messaging I’ve seen surrounding the awards is excitement about or congratulations for the nominees and winners. It’s not that people care about Canadian Atheist or the awards (nor should they!); it’s that the nominees are so well-loved that seeing them recognized and honoured makes so many people happy.

Writing as an atheist activist, I see so much hate and vitriol, both directed at the atheist community, and coming from within it – sometimes both at the same time. The hate and rage is primarily directed at religion, but it’s also very often aimed at women and feminists, minorities and minority rights activists, and these days quite a bit at trans people and trans rights activists. Sometimes I fear being overwhelmed by it. Having to always be on-guard against it and deflect it when it comes… I didn’t realize how jaded I’d become. I didn’t realize how numb I’ve become.

These awards and the tsunami of positive response they’ve gotten caught me off guard. I’ve always said the Canadian atheist community was about more than hating and mocking religion and religious influence, but after all these years of struggling against the negativity, I think part of me stopped believing it. The minority of haters is so much more vocal, so much more aggressive and insistent than the majority. Part of the reason I wanted to do the awards in the first place was as an act of defiance; I wanted to elevate the people who represent the best of Canadian atheism. I wanted to shine the spotlight on the gems in our movement, in hopes that their reflected sparkle would catch the eyes of the majority, and at least momentarily dazzle them with the beauty in our community.

But as I wrote above, I astronomically underestimated the Canadian atheist community. You have all humbled me. I knew you were awesome, but until I started looking for the best of the community, and seeing just how much happiness and love could come from everyone in it when the most positive facets of it are celebrated, I don’t think I truly grasped just how absolutely you transcend awesomeness into something I don’t think any of the languages I know even has a word for.

These awards were invented with the naïve motive of bringing positivity to the Canadian atheist community. Instead the Canadian atheist community overwhelmed and humbled me with the positivity they already had.

So there will definitely be an award next year. Not only because I want that feeling of being flooded by the love and cheer of the community again, but because I know there will be another stellar crop of candidates who will be deserving of our recognition and respect. When this community as its best, it’s truly a beautiful thing. And we’ll be there next year, once again, to celebrate it.

Congratulations to all our nominees and winners. Heartfelt thanks and appreciation to all our readers, and those who supported the awards and nominees.

Here’s to next year!

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