It’s time for what I arbitrarily presume you’ve been waiting for all year: the fourth annual Canadian Atheist awards!
The red carpet is rolled out so put on your tuxes and gowns and prepare to face the flashbulbs of the paparazzi. I happen to be wearing a stunning red, off-the-shoulder lamé number with a daring cut; my calves are simply to die for.
Okay, so the Canadian Atheist awards aren’t really a serious thing. (Though I do seriously look awesome in this gown.) There is no ceremony, there is no academy, there isn’t even an award statuette; the one you see pictured is just a 3D render. It’s all in fun; just a way to show some love and recognition to the people who made the last year better for Canadian atheists in one way or another.
Today is when I announce the nominees for the 2021 awards. But before I get to this year’s nominees, let’s take a moment to remember last year’s winners.
The 2020 Canadian Atheist award winners
In the category of Podcast or show of the year, awarded to the (more-or-less) regularly scheduled audio or visual production that stood out the most to Canadians in 2019… the winner was: Left at the Valley.
I have decided not to consider past nominees from the 2018 to 2020 awards this year, though they may be eligible in future awards. (Look at me here, assuming there will be future awards! Always think positive!)
Given the year 2020 was, I have decided not to include categories for Art, entertainment, or culture story of the year, or for Podcast or show of the year in this year’s awards. Those categories will probably be in future awards cycles, just not this year.
So, without further ado, it’s time to announce the nominees for the 2021 Canadian Atheist awards.
The nominations for the 2021 Canadian Atheist awards
Today I am announcing the nominees. The winners will be announced starting , one category per day, with a final summary post to wrap up the awards on .
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 2020. 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…
There have been, in essence, two atheist communities for over a decade now: one that insists on standing up for social justice issues in addition to atheist concerns… and one that… well, doesn’t. The latter had a particular bad year in 2020. Accused and unrepentant harassers who should have found themselves vetoed from leadership positions in organizations that purport to care about women nevertheless found high-profile appointments, and in one particularly glaring case, the leader of an international atheist organization spent mouth puking up slurs on Twitter to anyone who dared disagree with him. This story is an aggregate of multiple stories, involving some of the biggest atheist organizations.
This was one of those scandals that started very small, but as more information came out, the scale of things just went supernova. It began with accusations that the Canadian Museum of Human Rights wasn’t as progressive when it came to its treatment of employees of colour as they pretended to be in their pro-BLM public statements. Then it came out that the Museum actually censored LGBTQ2S+ exhibits at the request of religious groups. Then it came out that these stories were just the tip of a very large, very ugly iceberg, involving management so catastrophically bad, it may have literally destroyed history, rather than preserving it.
As the pandemic’s first wave was peaking, Muslim Canadians were suffering particularly because it happened to coincide with Ramadan, the holiest month in the Islamic calendar. Unlike many Christians, Muslims were generally actually complying with lockdown orders, so they were missing out on social connections and religious celebrations right when it hurt them most. For that reason, a number of municipalities decided to ease noise by-laws just for a couple of weeks, to allow mosques to play the adhan (call to prayer)… once a day… for a few minutes… just a minor, symbolic concession to show a little compassion to Muslims who were enduring lockdown for the sake of us all. Which, naturally, triggered a shitstorm of outrage.
At the end of 2019, Justin Trudeau’s mandate letter to Attorney General David Lametti included a request to ban conversion therapy in Canada. It was huge news, and a bit of a surprise. So… end of story, right? Oh, goodness, no, not even close. The quest to ban conversion therapy turned into a massive, Canada-wide drama pageant at all levels of government, a rollercoaster ride with victory seeming assured at some points, only to be snatched away, only to then return. The ban still hasn’t been passed, but multiple municipalities and provinces have taken matters into their own hands. And of course, the religious homophobe community has been fighting back at every stage.
COVID-19 is obviously the defining story of 2020, with earth-shaking impacts on multiple stories. (For example, suddenly making masks palatable to bigots who were terrified of religious face coverings.) But the biggest impact that Canadian atheists noticed came from the surprising resistance to sensible public health measures by many (predominantly Christian) religious groups. From staging anti-mask protests to propagating conspiracy theories and denialism, religious groups became one of the primary sources of opposition to public health authorities. Numerous churches racked up huge fines for violating lockdown rules. And, unfortunately, many of the largest superspreader events started with religious gatherings.
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…
- Teale Phelps Bondaroff, for the extensive research work done in areas of legislative prayer and permissive tax exemptions for religious institutions.
- Timothy Caulfield, for his efforts debunking the “infodemic” of dangerous, pseudo-medical misinformation about COVID-19.
- Paolo De Buono, for standing up for LGBTQ2S+ students in the Catholic school system.
- Sarah Edmondson, for exposing the dangerous NXIVM cult, and sharing her experience on how one gets sucked into such a cult, for the sake of saving others from similar trauma.
- Junia Joplin, for speaking her truth, and becoming a role model for trans people in the Baptist community, and beyond.
- Justin Morissette, for risking life and limb (literally) to stand up to religious hate speech that most of us turn a blind eye to.
Stay tuned for the winners!
Congratulations to all nominees!
As mentioned, winners will be announced starting , one category per day. So place your bets, or make your predictions!