Weekly Update: to

Here’s your Canadian Atheist Weekly Update for to .

  • [] Pandemic tests limits of religious freedom as churches set to fight B.C.’s COVID-19 rules in court

    This is actually a pretty decently comprehensive overview of the evolving legal fight between churches defying pandemic lockdown orders, and public health authorities. I mean, it’s a CBC article, so naturally some very important details are left out: nowhere is it mentioned, for example, that the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms is John Carpay’s outfit. Carpay is a homophobic asshole who has, of course, recently been peddling COVID-19 denialism. But at least the article is astute enough to sniff out that these Charter challenges are driven less by serious concerns about civil liberties, and more about US evangelical-inspired denialism. All that being said, though, these cases are not going to be a slam dunk either way. On the one hand, there is clearly and obviously room within the Charter for public health authorities to reasonably curtail rights in an emergency situation… like a pandemic. But on the other, it is true that the pandemic responses of various governments hasn’t really been all that well-thought-out or logical. It’s not as bad in BC as in some other provinces, but there has been a concerted effort by some premiers to keep businesses open even when that creates completely unnecessary public health risks. (The definition of “essential worker” has been so watered down that I know of people who bottle high-end hair products who have been deemed “essential”.) And it is true that some of the restrictions imposed are borderline absurd (like curfews; is COVID-19 less contagious in daylight?). The court cases may ultimately hinge less on the question of whether religious services are “essential”, and more on the question of whether public health restrictions are sensible in general.

  • [] Childhood vaccines are safe and effective, Ontario court rules in appeal case

    This story is good news for a couple of reasons. First, there’s the reversal of a monumentally stupid ruling from a few years back that denied a couple of kids vaccination because the arbitrator was dazzled by a couple of quacks and legal shenanigans. Part of the magic of this story is what happened after that ruling. The father had previously been fighting the case on his own—he couldn’t even afford a lawyer, while the mother got tons of free help from anti-vaxxer quacks. After the ruling, he suddenly found himself backed up by a crowdfunding campaign, some big name health experts (like, real doctors, not like the scammers the mother was working with), and a special intervention by Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health. And that’s the other neat news coming out of this case: Dr. Eileen de Villa got the court to accept—as a matter of settled and indisputable fact—that vaccines work, and they’re safe. This is the second time that’s happened in Ontario, so, it’s pretty safe to say going forward that anti-vaxxers are going to have a hard time selling their bullshit in Ontario courts in the future.

  • [] Poll demonstrates support for strong social media regulations to prevent online hate and racism

    I’m not the only person surprised by the sheer weight of Canadians’ support for cracking down hard on online hate. I feel the pain; I’m one of the people who report on this shit, and there’s no doubt that there is a serious problem here. That being said, I’m not all that keen on giving more power to the government or police to deal with online hate. I think it would be more than enough if they just actually used the power they already have. I’m also very not keen on lumping the government and social media companies together in questions like the one that asks about whether Canadians are more concerned about the impact of hate speech, or the government and social media companies being able to limit expression. There is a huge difference between the government being allowed to limit free expression, and a private corporation like Twitter restricting what can be said on their platform. So I think it’s a clumsy and poorly thought-out survey… but nevertheless, it does give an indication of the frustration most Canadians are feeling with what’s going on.

  • [] Alberta Conservatives Are Teaming Up With Oil Industry Groups to Promote a Far-Right Pandemic Conspiracy

    Wow, I don’t even know where to begin with this shit. The article doesn’t really connect the dots, but the “Great Reset” theory is connected—albeit peripherally, and not by all adherents—to the “Great Replacement” theory that you may be most familiar with as the underlying lunacy that precipitated the Christchurch mosque shootings. The “Great Reset” is the idea that Bill Gates/George Soros/“the Jews”/lizard men/whatever invented the pandemic as a way to crack down on “good, conservative, white, European Christians” and impose some kind of left-wing dictatorship on them, and eventually wipe them out of existence. The “Great Replacement” is just a slight reformulation/specialization of the same conspiracy theory, this time with less focus on islamophobia and racism (and more on antisemitism), and with COVID-19 as the specific mechanism of the “white genocide”. And guess where this bullshit is finding a home in Canada… no, just kidding, there’s no point in making this a guessing game when the answer’s so obvious: it’s Alberta. In Canada, only Alberta conservatives can be this fucking crazy. This isn’t yet the next QAnon, but with the demise of the Trump presidency, it seems likely there will be a “next QAnon”, and this sure hits all the right notes. Especially concerning is the number of big names connected to it: not just Rex Murphy and Anthony Furey, but even Jason Kenney is stoking the embers of this conspiracy.

  • [] ‘I don’t think we have to go that extreme’: Ford not in favour of shutting down Church of God

    Okay, Doug Ford being spineless and fellating his COVID-denying religious base… not really news. But there’s a lot more going on behind the scenes here, and it’s the third and fourth paragraphs that hint at the very disturbing backstory. Aylmer is ground zero for religious COVID-19 denialism in Ontario. An article earlier in this Update focuses on the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedom—John Carpay’s outfit—and its defence of BC churches defying public health orders… well, the Ontario facet of the JCCF’s case mainly centres on the Church of God in Aylmer. This is a small town that, despite boasting the highest rate of COVID in its public health unit—higher even than the cities of St. Thomas and Woodstock—has become the flashpoint for the religious resistance to lockdown orders. And this is the context in which Doug Ford is waffling over doing anything to actually enforce public health measures. Ford is not alone of course; other premiers are more craven still—lookin’ at you, Jason Kenney. But the court challenges by these religious groups will really start kicking off in early February… so watch out for that.

  • [] COVID-19 restrictions are a reminder that Charter rights have limits

    This is a neat informational article about the nature of rights in Canada: how the Charter grants them, and the limitations that go along with that. It is very brief, and glosses over some incredibly important stuff, like the notwithstanding clause, but as a quick intro to rights in Canada, it’s not bad.

  • [] Remembering the Québec City mosque attack: Islamophobia and Canada’s national amnesia

    was the fourth anniversary of the Québec mosque attack, but I wouldn’t blame you for completely missing the date. Until this year (see an item below), there has been no official recognition of the event by any level of Canadian government… which is mind-blowing on its own, but is only the tip of the iceberg. Québec Premier François Legault has previously used the occasion to deny the existence of islamophobia (which he later walked back… sorta), and—amazingly—tried to use the murder of Muslims to justify legal restrictions on Muslim religious accessories. This year, other than some vague platitudes, Legault seems to have wisely kept his fucking mouth shut. Well, he’s still refusing to use the term “islamophobia”, preferring the term “racism” instead… which is a little rich, considering he doesn’t believe racism is a problem, either.

  • [] Canadians Involved in New Age Spirituality and Natural Health Are Being Sucked into the Dark World of QAnon

    This is a fascinating exposé of the intersectionality of batshittery. QAnon is normally characterized as a far-right phenomenon, and new age wackiness is normally associated with loonie lefties. Both of those are wild oversimplifications, and the pandemic-denialist protests have come from both the mostly-right libertarian and mostly-left anti-vaxx/anti-corporation movements—they don’t need to agree on why they disagree with public health measures, it’s enough, for the protests at least, that they do. Still though, the fact that “alternative medicine” nonsense—something we normally think of as harmless (aside from its pernicious undermining of actual medicine)—is acting as a “gateway drug” into QAnon of all things is pretty surprising. QAnon is extreme nuttery—believing that there are Satan-worshipping pedophile vampires is a huge leap away from believing that you can cure cancer by eating only fruit or positive thoughts.

  • [] Liberal government declares Jan. 29 national day of remembrance for victims of mosque shooting

    Not gonna lie, I was not expecting this. Not only was I not expecting official recognition of the date, I certianly wasn’t expecting such a plain-spoken condemnation of islamophobia as the underlying cause of the attack, or a continuing problem for Canadian Muslims. At first I wondered if it was normal for an event of this magnitude to not receive official recognition until four years after the fact, but someone pointed out to me (so I don’t know if this is true, and, frankly it sounds suspicious) that it also took four years after the École Polytechnique massacre for December 6 to be officially named as a day of remembrance. Well, whatever, I’m glad that the federal government took this step. We can’t fight a disease without acknowledging it, so this kind of recognition is an important step in the battle against islamophobia.

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2 thoughts on “Weekly Update: to

  1. Funny how the anti-vaxxer “experts” are ready to go but the health authorities, research laboratories and pharmaceutical companies aren’t keeping watch. You’d think someone would be keeping an eye out for these cases coming up and volunteer their testimony. Could that have to do with the names publication ban? “fool for a client” but not much else you can do if your broke.

    • In the father’s defence, he had no idea what he was up against. From his perspective, it looked like a simple arbitration case with him on one side and the mother on the other, and that was all there was to it. He had no idea that she was going out and getting professional quacks to razzle-dazzle the arbitrator with pseudo-scientific bullshit. And then when the mother submitted her documents, she did it very late, giving him just a week or two to realize what was going on. By then, there just wasn’t enough time for him to muster a decent response.

      I have some sympathy for the arbitrator, too. One the one hand, he probably should have postponed the case after the mother filed her documents so late, in order to give the father fair time to respond… but on the other, postponing cases is not trivial, and can just end up dragging things out. Given what he had in front of him, it probably did look like the mother really did have a reasonable case. Had things unfolded properly, the father would have had time to discover that the “experts” the mother brought along were all quacks and frauds, and offered that as evidence. But without that evidence, it probably looked quite reasonable to accept the mother’s “expert” evidence.

      So because things were so rushed, it was a bit of bungled justice… but that’s what we have appeals for.

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