It’s time for the third annual (at least so far!) Canadian Atheist awards!
Okay, if you’re not familiar with the CA awards… they’re not really a thing. I mean, they are… but, not really. These awards are not “formal” in any sense. There are no prizes – monetary or otherwise. The award statuette in the picture? It’s fiction; just a 3D render I slapped together in Blender.
All the categories, nominations, and final judging is just done by me, Indi, the managing editor of Canadian Atheist, based entirely on my own subjective, personal whims. I mean, I do take suggestions, requests, and bribes (I’m cheap to bribe!). But ultimately, this is just my way to show my love for the Canadian atheist community, and give recognition to some people that very much deserve it.
So the awards are not “formal”, nor should they be taken too seriously. They’re just for fun, and a neat way for us to celebrate the best of our community.
Before I announce the 2020 nominees, I want to take a moment to remember the 2019 Canadian Atheist award winners:
- In the category of art, entertainment, or culture story of the year… “Mythical Riddles”, by James Fry.
- In the category of story of the year… the repeal of the blasphemy law.
- In the category of person of the year… Dr. Jen Gunter.
This year, even though many of the nominees from 2018 and 2019 are very worthy of it, I have chosen not to re-nominate anyone. I prefer not to have the same small group of people nominated year after year, and instead spread the love around to people who haven’t been recognized before. Past nominees may be eligible in a future award cycle, but not this year.
This year I have dropped the art, entertainment, or culture story of the year category, due to a lack of entries. Instead, I have added a new category: podcast or show of the year. This will honour the best podcast, YouTube channel, or other regular show (not just on the Internet, but that’s how it actually shook out, because there’s not a lot of atheist content on traditional media) with Canadian atheist content.
And now… the 2020 Canadian Atheist awards….
In what has now become tradition (three times makes a tradition, right?), I’m taking a cue from real awards, and just announcing the nominations today, then letting the buzz stew for a week. The winners will be announced starting , on category per day, with a final summary post with all the results combined on .
Here are the nominees by category for the 2020 Canadian Atheist awards….
Podcast or show of the year
This award goes to the (more-or-less) regularly-scheduled video or audio show dedicated to issues of interest to Canadian atheists that stood out the most in 2019.
And the nominees, listed in alphabetical order, are…
- The Brainstorm Podcast
- Left at the Valley
- Life, the Universe & Everything Else Podcast
- The Reality Check
- Viced Rhino
Story of the year
This award is for the news or cultural story that captured the most interest or had the most impact among Canadian atheists in 2019. Because the award goes to an abstract story, there won’t be any specific recipients. Where practical, I’ve included a link related to the particular story to help remind of the context. Generally, though, these stories have very large contexts, all of which is included as part of the “story” itself.
And the nominees, listed alphabetically by title, are…
Alberta Catholic schools employment agreements
At the very end of 2018, news broke about multiple public Catholic school districts in Alberta that required their teachers to sign oppressive “employment agreements” that dictated their behaviour, and not just while at work. Most of these contracts were discriminatory, and particularly anti-LGBTQ. In a surprising turn of events, the then-NDP government actually decided to do something about this. All this happened in a larger context of re-evaluating public separate school systems in the prairies, in the wake of a court ruling that funding non-Catholic students at Catholic schools violates the Charter.
Following the revelations about the “dysfunctional” college of dental surgeons, and a series of high-profile embarrassments for the colleges of pseudoscientific “health care” practices like chiropractic (with revelations of widespread anti-vaxx crap) and naturopathy/homeopathy (with the infamous case of the naturopath who gave a child homeopathic rabies virus because she thought he was a werewolf), BC commissioned Harry Cayton to write a report with recommendations for fixing the province’s health care system. The report was a bombshell, and may lead to the end of official government recognition of pseudoscience.
2019 saw an astonishing number of Canadian Nazis exposed – in the armed forces and other security services, in political parties (both at the federal level and in provincial parties)… at one point almost 250 Nazis were exposed on a list of Canadian Nazi party supporters. But few cases were as dramatic as that of Patrik Mathews, a Manitoba reservist and combat engineer. After he was exposed, Mathews vanished; a RCMP raid on his property turned up lots of guns, but no Mathews. It was assumed he’d crossed the border to join up with The Base – a violent, racist, far-right organization – which was terrifying because Mathews was trained in explosives as a combat engineer, something authorities were afraid he’d teach his fellow extremists. He has just recently been apprehended by American authorities, blowing the lid of a wild tale of plans for mass-shootings, murders, and treachery.
Following through on their campaign promise, Québec’s Coalition Avenir Québec passed the province’s third attempt at a religious accessories ban. This time, to make sure it stuck, the CAQ used the Charter’s notwithstanding clause. The fallout since has been incredible, with no less than four court challengs in flight, an exodus of minority religion teachers from the province, and international condemnation all the way up to the United Nations.
Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun’s escape
In the first weeks of 2019, Canadians – indeed, people all over the world – were gripped by the dramatic story of Rahaf Mohammed, a Saudi teenager who had fled her abusive family in hopes of seeking asylum in Australia, only to be detained by Thai authorities at the request of her family. She was an atheist, but apostasy is a capital offence in Saudi Arabia, and she had very real fears her family would either kill her or forcibly detain and “re-educate” her. She was tricked by a Saudi official in Bangkok to giving up her passport, and found herself in custody of Thai officials (who appear to have been in collusion with her family and/or the Saudi government). At one point she had barricaded herself in a room and was live-streaming her pleas for help. Her story had a happy end: the United Nations stepped in and granted her refugee status, and she was eventually given asylum in Canada. A related story had Asia Bibi, a Pakistani Christian sentenced to death for blasphemy, also granted asylum in Canada.
Servatius v. Alberni School District No. 70
In 2016, a school in Port Alberni BC invited indigenous representatives to demonstrate a smudging ceremony for the students. They badly miscommunicated what was going to happen, and gave parents the impression the kids were going to be forced to perform the ceremony themselves. While the school quickly course-corrected, one Christian mother filed a court challenge on that basis, and on the fact that she didn’t want her child present at a non-Christian religious ceremony at all. The case raised a lot of questions about what was appropriate with regard to teaching or demonstrating religious ceremonies in a secular classroom. The final ruling from this year clarified the answers very much in our favour, and may have long-reaching impact.
Person of the year
This award goes to the person who had greatest positive impact in Canadian secularism, humanism, atheism and freethought in 2019. The recipient won’t necessarily be Canadian, or atheist, but being Canadian and atheist will certainly help their chances.
And the nominees, listed alphabetically, are…
- Olivier Bernard, for the Le Pharmachien/The Pharmafist blog, and his award-winning efforts against vitamin C injections for cancer patients.
- Ian Bushfield, for his efforts leading to a number of major secular victories this year as head of the British Columbia Humanist Association.
- David Eggen, for standing up for LGBTQ students and his attempts to reform major problems in both the secular and Catholic public school systems in Alberta.
- Amira Elghawaby, for her work with the Canadian Anti-Hate Network and her own journalism fighting hate and intolerance.
- Bethany Lindsay, for her continuing journalism uncovering the absurdities and worse of pseudoscientific medical practitioners in BC and beyond.
- Byron Wood, for fighting for secular recovery options for BC nurses.
Stay tuned for the winners!
As mentioned above, the winners will be announced starting , one category each day.
While you wait in rapt suspense, feel free to speculate, prophesy, and gamble on the winners… or just share your guesses in the comments.
And of course, congratulations to all the nominees!
I’m for Ian Bushfield. The stories I paid most attention to are the nazi reservist and the Port Alberni school ones but I suppose the Quebec bill 21 is the bigger story. I dont follow podcasts but am going to check some of that out now.