Weekly Update: to

Here’s your Canadian Atheist Weekly Update for to .

  • [] Turban-wearing Sikh butts heads with WorkSafeBC over hard hat policy at job sites

    Normally I’m on the side of Sikhs (and other religious groups) who want to wear their religious accessories; it’s asinine and authoritarian to want to control the way people dress, whether that’s forcing them to wear something or forcing them to remove it. But of course I draw the line when there are health and safety concerns. I don’t see anyone having a lot of sympathy for Gill’s position, but I have seen some people – the usual suspects – howling outrage at the BC Human Rights Tribunal granting him a hearing. Granting Gill a hearing doesn’t mean that they’ve found his arguments reasonable; it just means that they can’t be trivially dismissed. In other words, Gill made some claims, and WorkSafeBC made some claims, and they contradict each other, and figuring out which side is right isn’t immediately obvious – it requires investigating the claims. For example, maybe Gill said there’s scientific data showing turbans are just as safe as hard hats while WorkSafeBC says the opposite – the only way to figure out the truth is via a hearing with evidence. And that’s a good thing! Let’s get that evidence on the table and on the record. If it really is true that turbans are as safe as hard hats… well, fine, then we’ll know that, and we can allow everyone to choose whether to wear turbans or hard hats, and all will be well. But if (as is far, far more likely) it turns out that turbans are not as safe as hard hats… well, then, fine, that fact will now be a matter of public record and will be a judicial precedent… which will suck for Gill, but at least the facts will now be clear for the next time someone wants to raise this issue. So yeah, bring on the hearing.

  • [] Kevin Johnston is Masquerading as an Ex-Muslim Woman In America

    Wow. There’s… so much going on here… I don’t even know where to start. Let’s start with the fact that ex-Muslim voices have become a mainstay of the far-right, islamophobic, hate-o-sphere. There are a lot of former Muslims who make a pretty handsome living peddling hateful rhetoric to the bigot mob. Many of them are former extremists who have really just traded one form of fundamentalism for another. But the far-right loves them, because they serve as tokens that provide justification for their own hate: “You can’t me islamophobic for saying all Muslims are evil and should die, because lookie here, here’s an ex-Muslim saying the same thing!” Of course, as popular – and as valuable as useful idiots – as ex-Muslims willing to be used as tokens are to hatemongers… there’s really not that many of them. Seriously, there’s like six… maybe seven. Only like two are women. What’s a bigot to do in the face of such a scarce resource? Well, if you’re as enterprising as good ol’ Kevin “the-‘J’-is-for-Jackass” Johnston, you just invent one! (“Wait,” you’re probably thinking, “isn’t Johnston supposed to be in jail for threatening the prosecutor in his hate crimes case?” Why, yes, yes he is. Except because he is a “low-risk”, nonviolent offender, he was released because of the COVID-19 crisis. “Okay,” you might then say, “but, still, even despite that, isn’t he still under court-ordered probation not to say hateful bullshit about Muslims?” He sure is! But he violated that literally within hours of it being handed down, so, yeah, this is pretty much business as usual for him.) As usual, Anti-Racist Canada and Yellow Vests Canada Exposed have done superb investigative journalism in putting all this together, but, yeah, turns out Kevin “Jailbird” Johnston fabricated “ex-Muslim Mary”, and set up profiles for her on Twitter, Facebook, and… Gab (among others). Sporting a profile pic that’s a cartoon of a brown woman with, for some reason, stitches on her face, Johnston’s posts have him purporting to be a woman who is a former Muslim turned Christian conservative who is living in fear of her uncles who swore to ‘deal with [her]’. “Ex-Muslim Mary” just loves Donald Trump, hates feminism and the left, and apparently thinks COVID-19 is a hoax (which seems ironic, because Johnston would still be in prison were it not for the pandemic). And “ex-Muslim Mary” has other opinions too… but if you want to read them, you have to be a $4.99/month level patron. Yup. That’s right. Kevin “Jobbernowl” Johnston is actually trawling for money under the guise of “ex-Muslim Mary”… which, for all its audacity and vulgarity, actually makes good financial sense, because being a far-right troll is actually a pretty lucrative career. It certainly has been for Johnston (well, up until the point he started facing hate crime charges and paying huge fines, anyway).

  • [] “Theodicy” by Zach Weinersmith (Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal)

    You know, even if God might actually have gotten away with this defence before, 2020 – the year of the murder hornet – has pretty much killed it.

  • [] “Request that the Toronto Catholic District School Board (TCDSB) Recognize June 2020 as Pride Month” (Video: 2:59)

    In the most unshocking news you’ll probably hear all month, the Toronto Catholic District School Board has voted to not even give Paolo De Buono the chance to make a case for the Board recognizing Pride Month. De Buono was prepared to make a presentation to the Board in which he would argue for them to officially recognize June as Pride Month… but the Board voted to not even allow his presentation. It’s not entirely over yet, because it’s apparently possible for the Director to simply go over the Board’s head, and officially recognize Pride Month… so that’s what De Buono is currently trying to do. It may be a small and perhaps entirely ceremonial gesture, but it would mean a lot to all the LGBTQ+ kids in the Toronto Catholic school district. Right now the best way to help them out would probably be to sign the petition, to strengthen De Buono’s case to the TCDSB Director.

  • [] Why religious freedom stokes coronavirus protests in the U.S., but not Canada

    This is a pretty slim article: there is virtually no data or research cited, and most of the facts mentioned are things that every Canadian already knows. However… it really does raise an interesting point of comparison between Canada and the US – one that can really get one thinking. Canada’s health care system is normally thought of as completely secular, but it is true that Tommy Douglas was a Baptist minister, and that he grounded the case for universal health care in Christian principles. Religious opposition to universal health care in Canada does happen… but it’s really very rare. (It’s not rare for access to religiously-opposed services like abortion and assisted dying to be difficult to access… but there are very rarely overt challenges. Even when conservative politicians approach these topics, the more mainstream ones prefer to do so via sly winks and dog whistles.) What’s really going on here, I wonder, to cause such a stark difference between the two countries? Klassen teases a really intriguing question; I’d be really curious to hear where she goes with it.

  • [] Peel District School Board terminates school council chair for Islamophobic tweet

    The pandemic has upended everyone’s lives, but for Muslims, it really couldn’t have happened at a worse time. This year Ramadan started on 24 April, and will run until 24 May. It’s the holiest time of the year in the Islamic calendar – by comparison, imagine if this pandemic were happening during the Christmas holiday season. Recognizing this shitty situation, a number of cities across Canada and the world have temporarily allowed noise bylaw exemptions, so that mosques can do the adhan – the call to prayer. Brampton is one of those cities (Mississauga is another; they’ll come up in an item below), but when Mayor Patrick Brown made the announcement on Twitter, a douchebag named Ravi Hooda replied with an absolutely idiotic tweet calling up some of the most offensive stereotypes of Muslims. Immediately decent people on Twitter responded with outrage, and RE/MAX – Hooda’s employer(-ish), as he himself noted in his Twitter profile – ended up stepping in and disowning Hooda. That seemed to be the end of it… until a day or so later, when someone realized that Hooda was also chair of the Macville Public School Council in Caledon. Yikes. Well, the Macville principal immediately gave him the boot, and good riddance. Now Hooda is trying to salvage the mess with the usual shitty not-pologies you’d expect from this kind of creep: “Oh, when I responded to a message about the Islamic call to prayer with comments about camels and goats and laws requiring all women to cover themselves from head to toe in tents, I wasn’t speaking about Muslims. No! No, you just misinterpreted my comments! I wasn’t talking about Muslims, I was just speaking… generally… about… non-specific people stereotypically associated with camels and forcing women to cover themselves head-to-toe. Also, I’m going to sue.” I think it’s also important to note the context that all this is happening in – and by that I’m not referring to the pandemic or Ramadan. No, you see, on the same day that people were realizing that Hooda was chair of the Macville board, the Peel Board – of which Macville is a part – was in the middle of responding to an absolutely scathing review by the Ontario government, that found the district was rife with systemic discrimination, particularly toward people of colour and… wait for it… Muslims. Their official response was actually published 4 days after Hooda’s tweet, and a day before Macville actually gave him the boot. So, yeah, not great timing on Hooda’s part. If you’re going to fire off a rant about how much showing compassion to Muslims pisses you off… maybe don’t do it at the same time your district is deciding to take action on its so-bad-the-government-has-to-step-in systemic discrimination problems.

  • [] Great, Cell Tower Fires Have Finally Made Their Way to Canada

    Judging from the headline’s tone, it sounds like Mack Lamoureux’s response to hearing that the 5G conspiracy theory has crossed the pond is about the same as my own. Honestly, the murder hornets are more welcome here than this shit.

  • [] Mississauga to allow temporary calls to prayer to continue amid backlash

    Like Brampton (mentioned in a previous item), Mississauga decided to allow an exemption to its noise bylaws so mosques can do the adhan – the call to prayer – during the month of Ramadan. But really understanding this item requires going into the weeds a bit, so a little more backstory is in order. Because of the pandemic, Mississauga city council meetings have been drastically scaled back – most of the committees aren’t even meeting at all, and the council itself is understandably flooded with work. In the middle of a council meeting, more or less out of the blue, someone made a motion to temporarily give a noise bylaw exemption for the adhan. Now, normally this kind of motion wouldn’t be welcome without some advance notice, and it would probably have to go through a bunch of committees for proper consideration before being sent back to the main council for a final vote. But of course, the committees aren’t actually sitting – due to the pandemic – and this was a fairly time-sensitive thing: if you delay the decision for a couple weeks, you’ve more-or-less missed Ramadan, which is the whole point. So Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie decided to skip all that bureaucratic process and shoot from the hip, and she called for a vote right away. The vote was unanimous, and the exemption granted. Here’s where things get messy. Bigots across Canada have been freaking out about these exemptions everywhere they’ve come up (as mentioned earlier, see the previous item about a loudmouth idiot objecting to the one in Brampton), because they just can’t stand showing any sign of humanity or compassion to Muslims. In most places, the municipal councils have simply ignored them, as they should. But in Mississauga…. Well, that’s not quite what happened. What really happened is a couple of councillors decided to get really anally pedantic about the whole “proper process” thing, and they’ve raised objections about how the whole thing was handled, and want it done over… properly this time, according to the letter of the procedure. To be clear, I don’t think these councillors are actually on the bigots’ side; in fact, I’m pretty certain they’re not. The sense I get from all involved is that if they do rescind the exemption, and run the whole process through the entire bureaucratic procedure, subcommittees and all… it’s gonna just come back to council and get the same unanimous vote anyway. In other words, nobody really things the decision was wrong… it’s just some people are peeved it wasn’t done “properly” (even though there’s really nothing technically “improper” about how it was actually done – the Mayor has every right to call a snap vote like she did). But even though the objections probably have nothing to do with bigotry (although there is a possibility that the councillors calling for a review were spooked by the vicious response, or maybe they’re unscrupulously playing politics), and a review won’t do the bigots any good anyway… that doesn’t really matter: the problem is that the bigots immediately jumped all over this as a sign that the exemption is somehow illegitimate, and will be undone in their favour. The lesson here, though I seriously doubt the council will learn it, is that there are good times to insist on procedural propriety, and there are bad times… and when you’re dealing with a compassionate decision made in the heat of a crisis that has become a lightning rod for bigotry and hate… maybe that’s a bad time to nitpick about procedure.

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