The 2021 Story of the year award goes the the story that generated the most interest or had the most impact in 2020.
If you’d like to review the list of nominees before finding out the results, check out the nominations announcement.
The story of the year is the story related to atheism, humanism, secularism, or freethought in Canada that generated the most interest among Canadian atheists. It could be the story that was the most talked about, or that captured the most media attention, or that had the biggest impact on Canadian politics, society, or culture. The focus is on primarily Canadian stories, and, of course, stories that readers of Canadian Atheist cared most about.
Because the story of the year is awarded to a news or cultural story broadly speaking—and not a specific story or stories written by one or more journalists—there is no actual recipient of the award.
And so, with no further ado, let us get to the awarding of the 2021 Canadian Atheist Story of the year.
Runner-up: Atheist organizations and bad leadership
There’s no denying that 21st atheism has its roots in the New Atheist movement, which peaked roughly from 2005 to 2015. The contemporary community has fractured into, roughly, two parts, following a series of disputes in the 2010s—starting, again roughly, with “Elevatorgate” in 2011. One faction holds to the premise that atheism does not and should not exist in a vacuum, and it should intersect with other progressive concerns: feminism, gay rights, trans rights, rejection of colonialism and the institutions it created, such as racism, and so on. The other could most charitably be described—as they would describe themselves—as viewing atheism as completely separate and distinct from other progressive concerns: for example, saying that atheist advocacy should not be “watered down” by including feminist or anti-racist concerns. Less charitably, because of their denial of and quite often outright antipathy toward progressive concerns about feminism, racism, colonialism, and so on, they could be described as regressive.
The split is by no means balanced. The vast majority of atheists—and especially young atheists, and atheists who identify as some kind of minority—fall into the generally progressive camp. However, the other group, while significantly smaller, nevertheless happens to include virtually all of the most notable atheist “celebrities”, and most large atheist organizations. A small but extremely loyal and vocal following keeps those celebrities and organizations afloat, but the heyday of (at least perceived) movement unity and huge conventions is in the past.
2020 turned out to be a really bad year for those large atheist organizations, with a number of high-profile gaffes on top of smaller but frustratingly consistent examples of poor judgment. I’m going to focus on one particular organization, but I want to make it clear that this is not just a story about that one org. A number of large organizations made a number of very stupid moves in 2020.
Perhaps the most perfect example of the dichotomy between the two facets of the atheist movement is the story of the (US) Center for Inquiry and Kavin Senapathy. Senapathy co-hosted CFI’s Point of Inquiry podcast, wrote articles for Skeptical Inquirer, and was generally very active in the skeptic movement. But she made the “mistake” of asking CFI to take racism and white supremacy more seriously—both internally and as part of its public efforts—and for that, she was booted from the org. That would be bad enough, but in a move that is almost absurdly petty, CFI then proceeded to scrub all evidence of Senpathy from their site: all her articles (most of which had nothing to do with racism, white supremacy, or criticism of CFI) were removed. CFI later relented, with a wildly-self-serving “explanation” that really only highlighted that Senapathy’s criticisms were pretty on-the-nose.
That was the US Center for Inquiry, but the Canadian Centre for Inquiry didn’t really make a good showing of itself this year either. It continues to platform people who have made horribly ignorant and intolerant statements about various religions (particularly Islam, of course), and also spent the early part of the year bizarrely parroting the pro-capitalist squawkings of a Cato Institute (aka the Charles Koch Foundation) mouthpiece (which is also backed by the John Templeton Foundation).
Atheist Republic decided to indulge in some good ol’ time islamophobia, using the fact that Muslims were forgoing the hajj due to the pandemic to compare them to germs in a… “joke”?
Oh, Humanist Canada wanted to be part of the shitshow, too. They started the year by informing their members that, despite the fact that a clear plurality (almost a majority!) opposes Québec’s religious accessory ban, they lack the spine to take a principled stand against it. Ah, but then, despite the Board pretending to have no position on Bill 21, they hosted a series where they gave the last word to a clueless demagogue who has no real expertise on any relevant topic—legal or sociological.
But the real spark of the dumpster fire in 2020 has to be Atheist Alliance International, which was so bad in 2020, that some of the board members jumped ship to create a competing organization. Let’s start with why that happened: it’s because, in late 2019, AAI hired David Silverman as their executive director. You remember Silverman, right? Former head of American Atheists… who was fired… for… allegations of violent sexual harassment… and financial shenanigans?
Okay… not a great hiring decision. But after they ditched him, surely they did better with their next hire, right?
Nope. Sherlock turned out to be the worst kind of idiot edgelord. He started out by tweeting that religion is a “retarded relic”… which, I mean, not a great choice of words. Sherlock insisted he meant “retarded” in the sense of “delayed in development”; you can choose to believe him or not as you please… but for what happened next there is no realistic justification. Kaitlyn Gleason asked of him, and I quote in its entirety:
Perhaps you could consider retiring the word “retarded”. Sherlock’s response? He called her a “cunt”.
Eventually—after yet another round of using the “r-word” (this time following a bit of islamophobia), and retaliating at people suggesting he find another word with the “c-word”—Sherlock and AAI finally parted ways. AAI claimed he just resigned due to “stress”, so add institutional dishonesty to AAI’s charter.
But we’re not even done with AAI! Because guess who they just invited onto their advisory council: accused sexual harasser and public defender of child rapists Lawrence Krauss. The best part? In his justification for taking Krauss on, Sherlock actually included a mini-rant about
the cancel culture that has infected the atheist and secular movement.
The ongoing catastrophe that is the regressive side of the atheist community—which includes most big-name “celebrity” atheists (like Krauss and Silverman) and most major organizations (like AAI)—is a train wreck, but it’s a train wreck that has been unfolding for a very long time, in very slow motion. 2020 may have been a banner year, but not by much, and there’s every reason to presume things will get much, much worse before they start to get better.
Runner-up: Canadian Museum for Human Rights scandal
Of all the stories nominated this year, this one is easily the most spectacular in its absurdity.
It started so small. The Winnipeg-based Canadian Museum for Human Rights is the most recent of Canada’s nine national museums, founded in 2014, and the only one located in western Canada. (Other than the Museum of History in Gatineau, and the Museum of Immigration in Halifax, all other national museums are in Ottawa.) , a march in support of Black Lives Matter ended at the CMHR, and the museum tweeted in support of the movement. That was the trigger for everything that followed.
BIPOC workers at the museum took to social media to call out the Museum for its hypocrisy. Apparently, the workplace environment was absolutely rife with racism and anti-indigenous attitudes from the management—everything from daily microaggressions to full-on racist hiring and promotion policies. The Museum’s management immediately fell over themselves in a rush to apologize and blow some smoke about doing better in the future.
But then, more employees started talking, and it came out that the museum’s management had ordered employees to censor certain displays for certain guests. In particular, displays about LGBTQ2S+ history were censored for religious schools, and employees were directed not to mention things like pregnancy or abortion.
That triggered firestorm of outrage. It’s one thing for the Museum to have a hostile work environment… but this was undermining the entire purpose of the Museum. It’s like a museum of natural history hiding dinosaur skeletons to avoid upsetting creationists! It’s hypocrisy on a scale that’s almost farcical.
And it got even worse from there! There had always been controversy about the location of the Museum—it was located in Manitoba partly at the behest of former Liberal MPP Izzy Asper, and partly with the blessing of then-Prime Minister Stephen Harper as one of his many nods to his prairie base, and built right on top of one of the most important indigenous archaeological sites. Even during construction, the CMHR was accused of ignoring indigenous concerns and barrelling ahead without properly completing the archaeological excavations. Well it turns out that’s probably exactly what happened; the CMHR may have irrevocably destroyed important indigenous heritage. Which is more than just a little ironic, considering.
Multiple investigations and reports ended up revealing that the CMHR was, in the end, a Conservative political project, and the upper levels of the Museum was stacked with Conservative party hacks who wanted a cushy job. All the way along, human rights history was being sanitized—by orders that may have come right from Stephen Harper (who notoriously maintained tight control over everything during his tenure—and only “positive” stories or framing was highlighted.
As incredible as this story was, though, it ultimately had very little impact on Canadians. There is still hope that, following a thorough purging of the politically-appointed upper management and their sycophantic underlings, that Museum can be saved, and properly serve the purpose it was originally intended to serve. Whether that happens or not is still to be seen.
Runner-up: Cities allow mosques to play adhan during Ramadan
The defining story of 2020 was undoubtedly the COVID-19 pandemic, and the ways that society was flipped on its head to accommodate safety measures to control the spread of the disease. Some of the effects were weird, like the bizarre surge in interest in toilet paper and sourdough starters. Some of the effects were hilarious, like watching the anti-hijab bigots in Québec suddenly discover that, oh, hey, people wearing face coverings doesn’t cause total social collapse. And, unfortunately, some of the effects were horrible, like the ways that the pandemic and public health measures accelerated the rise of the far-right, and the toll it has taken on society’s most vulnerable. This story is about one of those horrible effects.
Now, the whole story of Canadian governments’ response to COVID-19 is a tragic farce. Nobody really took the pandemic seriously, and simple measures that could have more-or-less ended the entire problem in a matter of a few weeks, or a couple months at most, weren’t done out of misguided fears of economic impacts. So instead, here we are, entering the second year of pandemic lockdowns, well into the second wave, with tens of thousands dead (in Canada, millions worldwide), and a slew of new variants to deal with. In the early days of the pandemic, March 2020, governments were desperately trying to do nothing and talk down the seriousness of the pandemic… only to quickly reverse course and declare an emergency and shut down all non-essential services only a week or so later. By April, we had all been in lockdown for a couple weeks already, when the lockdown—which was originally only supposed to last two weeks (remember the optimism of those days?)—was extended for another month.
At this point, Muslims realized that it was very likely that the lockdowns were going to stretch out long enough that they would interrupt the observances during Ramadan (which was from to in 2020). Rather than just up and violate lockdown (as many Christian churches chose to do), they decided to appeal to municipalities to allow them to broadcast the adhan. The thinking was that if Muslims were forced to isolate at home, and miss all the community festivities that follow Ramadan, then at least they could hear the call to prayer to make them feel just a little less alone. It was just a simple, thoughtful gesture that municipalities could do as recognition and acknowledgement of the sacrifice that Muslims were making by honouring the lockdown during the holiest month of the year. And several municipalities across Canada agreed, and allowed mosques to broadcast the adhan… albeit with several restrictions limiting the volume, the time of day, and the duration.
If that was the whole story, there’d be nothing to any of it. But of course, showing any sign of humanity or compassion to Muslims is anathema to certain people. So… out came the bigots.
Now, the bigots had already been harassing Muslims long before the lockdown. But the pandemic offered new avenues for them. Some bigots began staking out mosques, in the hopes of catching Muslims violating lockdown to celebrate Ramadan. When none did, the bigots responded by… eating a pork sandwich. Oookay.
But allowing the adhan became a lightning rod for islamophobes across the spectrum. It wasn’t long before the fallout began, with idiots self-owning and ruining their own careers by posting hateful screeds. Most municipalities, to their credit, simply ignored the bigots. Some Mississauga councillors took the bait, though ultimately they shrugged off the bigots’ objections and let the calls to prayer continue.
The aftermath of the whole affair was, as expected, amusing. Naturally none of the crazy shit the bigots were predicting happened. Turns out a harmless, thoughtful gesture to Muslims during a pandemic doesn’t lead to the total collapse of “Western democracy”. Who’d’a thunk it, right? Municipalities that allowed the adhan did get plenty of complaints about imaginary violations of “secularism”, but the funny part is that most of them got absolutely none of the predicted complaints about the noise. The few that did… well, take Mississauga, for example, which did get some noise complaints about the call to prayer. However, when they checked the addresses of the complaints… none of them were anywhere near mosques.
That wasn’t the end of the fallout, though. A few months later, a Hindu advocacy group, pissed off because Mississauga city council had shown kindness to Muslims, decided to “teach them a lesson” by requesting a similar exemption. The request really made no sense; the adhan is an integral part of the way Ramadan is observed… broadcasting random hymns loudly isn’t actually integral to any of the Hindu festivals mentioned. In the end, though, Mississauga essentially shrugged and said, “fuck it”, and allowed the new exemption, too.
As with all the stories that involve Muslims and islamophobes, the story was loud, it was dramatic, it was obnoxious… but it was ultimately just a big nothing-burger.
Runner-up: COVID-19 and worship
The previous story was about the fairly small case of a thoughtful gesture to Muslims honouring COVID-19 lockdown by-laws—and the predictable freak-out by bigots because of it. This story was what could have been, had Canadian Muslims been as intransigent and belligerent as many Canadian Christians. This is not a story of religious believers complying with public health guidelines but asking for a harmless, symbolic courtesy in acknowledgement… this is the much more predictable story of religious believers simply shrugging off reasonable limits because their personal faith is more important than the health and safety of everyone else around them.
I mean, no-one who knows how religion in Canada works—and, yes, specifically Christianity—could be surprised by this story. Most of us could have written it in advance. In the face of a deadly pandemic that was killing thousands of Canadians, public health authorities restricted large gatherings… a perfectly reasonable response given the situation. But of course, “large gatherings” includes large religious gatherings, so… begin the persecution parade.
Yes, pretty much immediately after public health authorities ordered the shutdown of all non-essential services, came the pleas to consider in-person religious services “essential”. And just as predictably, premiers waffled over whether or not they agreed. What made this especially infuriating was that there is ample evidence that religious services are one of the worst spreaders of infection (behind only dine-in restaurants).
Perhaps the most shocking example is the case of a Canadian pastor who went to preach in Myanmar. This asshole specifically flouted both Canada’s travel restrictions, and Myanmar’s large-gathering restrictions, because he believed Jesus wouldn’t let him or his congregation get COVID-19. Guess what happened. When authorities went to arrest the motherfucker for violating the by-law, at first they couldn’t find him… because he was in the hospital with COVID-19. That one dirtbag not only killed several people by causing them to be infected with the disease, he also managed to infect several big-name celebrities and politicians, and was apparently responsible for 20% of all the COVID-19 cases in the entire country.
But even within Canada we had some jaw-dropping examples, like the super-spreader prayer event in Alberta linked to at least 29 cases. What made that case particularly wild is that the organizers were insisting that God wanted them to hold the event despite the pandemic, so he wouldn’t give the participants COVID-19… clearly they weren’t that great at picking up on God’s message, right? That’s not the wild part, though. The wild part is that those morons really weren’t that great picking up on God’s message… because the day before the event, a goddamn tornado ripped through the area. How’s that for a message from God that you probably shouldn’t be holding the event, huh?
Numerous churches across Canada defied lockdown restrictions, and racked up thousands and thousands of dollars in fines, and of course, dozens of them resulted in outbreaks. And in many cases, protests against public health measures that weren’t explicitly marketed as religious-based… really were.
But the biggest aspect of this story may be what happens next. Naturally, many of the churches that got dinged with fines for violating lockdown are fighting in court. Thing is, and this may surprise many of our readers… they may actually have a good case. It’s not that the government doesn’t have the right to institute measures to protect public safety in a pandemic, or that a properly-executed lockdown wouldn’t be constitutionally-sound. The problem is that provinces have been so half-assed about pandemic measures, that churches may have a decent case that the rules they broke were bullshit.
If they win that fight—and, to be clear, I don’t think they will… but they might—it’s hard to say what the impact would be on secularism in general, and the powers that provinces are allowed with respect to regulating religious practice. It could be very bad. Or it could be no big deal, because the by-laws were that terrible; they’d be the only casualties of the ruling, not secularism in general.
Needless to say, this is something we’re watching very closely, but at the moment, there just isn’t enough to the story to warrant making it the story of the year. There was, instead, a much more impactful story.
… AND THE WINNER… IN THE CATEGORY OF STORY OF THE YEAR… IS…
< < < drum roll > > >
Winner: Conversion therapy ban
Bill C-6 is a government bill titled An Act to amend the Criminal Code (conversion therapy). It amends the Criminal Code to make it an offence to make anyone undergo conversion therapy without consent, to traffic minors out of the country for the purpose of undergoing conversion therapy, to promote or advertise conversion therapy, or to materially benefit from providing conversion therapy. The most recently amended preamble reads (in part):
Whereas conversion therapy causes harm to the persons, and in particular the children, who are subjected to it;
Whereas conversion therapy causes harm to society because, among other things, it is based on and propagates myths and stereotypes about sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression, including the myth that a person’s sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression ought to be changed;
And whereas, in light of those harms, it is important to discourage and denounce the provision of conversion therapy in order to protect the human dignity and equality of all Canadians;
Yes, it is a full-on ban; the criminalization of conversion therapy in Canada. And, right now, as of , has passed the committee stage with minor amendments (mostly adding “gender expression” and clarifying the definition of “conversion therapy” so that it clearly won’t include therapy that’s not focused on conversion to a particular orientation or identity).
It’s been a long time coming. And yet… it all happened so very quickly.
Travel back in time with me to March 2019. At that point, the only province with a conversion therapy ban was Manitoba. Ontario and Nova Scotia both had partial bans—bans that only applied to minors, basically. One or two cities, like Vancouver, had bans—implemented with what limited authority they could muster. There was a movement pressuring the federal government to institute a Canada-wide ban… but that all came crashing down when the government replied that no, they weren’t going to do it; they were going to leave it to provinces.
It was a massive let-down… but activists weren’t willing to give up.
And, amazingly, it worked. Oh, Ottawa wasn’t quite ready to fully commit to a full ban. They were still hoping to foist the responsibility onto the provinces. But they were starting to notice a pattern. More provinces were stepping up to ban the practice—at the time, at least BC had legislation in flight—and in the few recalcitrant provinces (notably Alberta), cities were taking the matter into their own hands. It was becoming less and less politically risky to push for a full ban, and more simply a matter of codifying what everyone was already doing anyway.
So, that’s the end of the story, right? From there it was smooth sailing to C-6, right?
As you can probably imagine, religious groups absolutely freaked.
I’m not going to link to any of their screeds—you can google them if you care to, but it’s really not worthwhile. You can guess the content. There was plenty of hand-wringing concern about how Christians would be “punished” for teaching “God’s view” of sexuality and gender, with some even going so far as to claim a conversion therapy ban would
outlaw prayer. And the usual suspects, like the Conservative Party, largely joined the cacophony, with faux concerns about freedom of religion and so on, plenty of dog-whistling, and fear-mongering that parents merely talking to their children about their gender could get people thrown in gulags (which totally exist in Canada, of course).
But the religious freak-out, even with the help of Conservative MPs didn’t really make a dent in the momentum. Every major medical and psychological association was already saying that conversion therapy was pure bullshit, if not outright abusive, and more and more cities, provinces, and territories were charging ahead with their own bans.
So the feds immediately went ahead and drafted legislation to ban conversion therapy, right? Ha, ha, if you believe that, you don’t know the Liberals very well.
No, they dragged their feet for months, hoping beyond hope that the provincial and territorial bans would alleviate them of their responsibly to take action. And for a time it looked like that might actually be what happened. It was probably Alberta’s bizarre insistence that there was no need to ban it because it doesn’t happen in Alberta—no, really—that forced the feds’ hand.
So finally in March 2020, the feds tabled a bill to ban conversion therapy. It’s a win! Story, over, right?
For months the bill just… sat there, going nowhere. And then, , Justin Trudeau abruptly prorogued Parliament. Trudeau’s motives for requesting prorogation are certainly open to debate, but the effect was to kill every bill that was currently in flight. Including the conversion therapy ban.
We were right back to square one. It was devastating.
This time, though, activists were just about fed up with the bullshit. They immediately foisted heaps of pressure on the Liberals to reintroduce progressive legislation—including the conversion therapy ban—immediately upon the resumption of Parliament. And this time, the Libs got the message. About a week or so after resuming Parliament, a new bill, C-6, was tabled.
And that’s about where we stand now. This story isn’t yet over; the bill has yet to pass the Lower House, and still has to face the Senate. But at this point it’s not unreasonable to hope for an eventual victory within the coming months.
What a ride it’s been. This is a story that is easily a decade or so in the making. People have been pushing for a conversion therapy ban for years, and while there was always significant scientific and social support… nothing really happened for a long time. Real movement started around 2018, but it was 2020 that was the year for conversion therapy bans in Canada. Québec, Yukon, and both Edmonton and Calgary in Alberta all banned the practice in 2020. And of course the federal government began the process to implement its Canada-wide ban. It was years of struggle, and then it was like a dam burst. I guess it was an idea whose time had come.
For all the drama leading up to the ban—even though it’s yet to actually pass—and for the very important impact it will have in protecting LGBTQ2S+ Canadians, that would be enough to easily warrant making this the story of the year. But there’s actually a much bigger story here.
Try to imagine, if you will, how this kind of ban might fare in the US, with its corrupt courts and “religious freedom” laws. It’s very likely that, if a ban passed at all, it would be hobbled with exemptions for religious groups. But, despite the best efforts of some Conservatives, that’s not happening in Canada. And that’s important.
I still hear people repeating the myth that Canada isn’t a secular country. That myth is based on a misunderstanding of common law. Canada is a secular country, and more importantly, it’s a country that has repeatedly demonstrated that it does not hold religious privilege above the rights and freedoms of Canadians. Sure, Canada isn’t perfect, but—especially recently—we are doing damn well when it comes to being a secular country in practice. And we’re getting better all the time. The conversion therapy ban is a perfect example of that.
For being the cathartic climax to a multi-year campaign, for being a major victory for human rights, for demonstrating that Canada does not put faith over the well-being of people, and for sending a message once and for all to the bigots that being LGBTQ2S+ is not a sickness, this was an easy choice for me to make. The conversion therapy ban is the 2021 Canadian Atheist story of the year.
Stories that didn’t meet the nomination requirements for one reason or another, or which were crowded out because there were simply too many high quality nominees, but which captured our attention nonetheless, are given honourable mentions.
The Theodore case
The Theodore case is the long-running battle over the funding of Catholic schools in Saskatchewan, that has implications for separate school funding across Canada. It started when the Saskatchewan government shut down a public school in Theodore. The parents, miffed because their kids now had to bus to a more distant school, declared that they wanted a Catholic school instead. The Catholic school district was happy to play along, and so Theodore got a Catholic school. But the public district was furious, because they knew full well those kids weren’t Catholic, and now they were losing out on the funding that would have come along with them. So they went to court.
In 2017, they won a landmark ruling when Judge Donald Layh ruled that while the government was constitutionally obligated to pay for Catholic students to attend separate, Catholic schools… it was not obligated to do so for non-Catholic students, and in fact, doing so violated the Charter. The decision would have meant that Catholic schools could no longer receive public funding for non-Catholic students… which would effectively mean that either parents would have to pay their tuition, or the kids would have to go to the secular public schools, denying the Catholic schools of the per-pupil funding that came with them. Given the declining rates of Catholicism, that would strike a massive blow to the separate system… while at the same time providing a huge gain for the secular system.
Well, things went sour in 2020, as the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal has overturned Layh’s ruling. Their reasoning was, frankly, terrible, accusing the public system of being all about the money, and making some truly head-spinning arguments about equality.
Naturally, this will be going to the Supreme Court. Or at least we hope so. And we certainly hope the Supreme Court will be less twisting in their logic than the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal. But all that is in the future, so this story really couldn’t work as a nominee for the 2021 story of the year.
The Museum of the Bible
Wow, you thought the Canadian Museum of Human Rights story was wild? Strap in.
The Museum of the Bible was founded by evangelical Christians, and has always been a bit shady. It was nailed for stealing artifacts a few years back, and more recently 5 of the 16 “Dead Sea Scroll fragments” it had on display were suspected to be forgeries—one appears to have been copied verbatim out of a 1930 Hebrew Bible… including the footnote marker.
Last year, we found out all of the “Dead Sea Scroll fragments” the Museum had on display were forgeries. But wait! There’s more! Because, you see, it turns out that the forgeries may have either been made by or at least sold by… Daesh. Uh, huh, which means that in acquiring them, the Museum may not only have bought itself a load of garbage… they may actually have supported terrorism.
And that’s not even the end of the story! Because later last year we learned of some even crazier shenanigans. A different set of papyrus fragments on display were allegedly also stolen… but this time, they may have been stolen from Oxford University… by one of the professors there! I mean, at least this set was probably legitimate, but holy shit, I could not make this drama up.
Unfortunately, there was pretty much no Canadian connection, so, it couldn’t really cut it as a story of the year nominee.
Mount Cashel ruling
This is a story of Catholic paedophilia, so, prepare yourself for that. It involved an orphanage where several kids were abused over a number of years, with the full knowledge of everyone in charge, and the Catholic Church itself. The twist was that this orphanage was technically not part of the Church; it was neither owned nor operated by the Church, but rather by a group Catholic fanboys called the Christian Brothers, albeit with the full-throated support of the Church. So when it came time to pay the piper for the abuse, the Catholic Church claimed it had no responsibility at all—it was all on the Christian Brothers. And the Christian Brothers simply disbanded before paying anything more than a pittance.
Not content with that, the abuse survivors went after the Catholic Church anyway, arguing that while they weren’t officially in charge, they were de facto in charge, due to providing resources, guidance, and even sending a priest to oversee things. The Newfoundland and Labrador Supreme Court didn’t agree, and refused to find the Catholic Church responsible.
But this year, the Court of Appeal overturned the Supreme Court ruling, saying the Catholic Church was for damn sure responsible. It was a wonderful victory… but it’s more than that. You see, there are hundreds of orphanages, schools, halfway houses, etc., that were not technically part of the Catholic Church, but were certainly Church-adjacent. If this precedent stands—and it’s not yet sure that it will—it could mean the Catholic Church can be sued for the abuse that happened at all of those places.
This was almost worthy of being a story of the year nominee, but the fact that we’re so far from a conclusion would have made its chances of winning impossible. For that reason, it deserves an honourable mention, and it’s definitely a story to keep an eye on.
We thought 2019 was bad… wow, we were not prepared for 2020.
2020, the year of the pandemic. What a year. 2019 was rough, but on the whole, once you took a step back from living in the midst of the struggle and looked at the big picture, we made definite progress overall. In 2020? Not quite so. Oh, we didn’t really backslide. We just… didn’t really make much progress. Which is understandable, given, you know: 2020, the year of the pandemic.
So, it was a rough year, and we didn’t make much progress… but we did make some progress! And the story of the year—the conversion ban—highlights that fact. I’d say we’re doing pretty well if we can get through a year like 2020 without losing any ground, even if we don’t make huge gains. So, I’m gonna call it a win! Not a big win. But a win.
If there’s one thing to take away from 2020, it’s that we made it through, and if we could make it through that, we can make it through anything. And we can make it through anything. And we will.
Goodbye, 2020. We won’t miss you, but we’ll never forget you.