Weekly Update: to

by | September 25, 2021

Here’s your Canadian Atheist Weekly Update for to .

This week’s items

[] When the policies get it wrong

This is a very interesting article by a law school student about hate crime law in Canada.

There are two problems with hate crime law in Canada, and they are in fascinating tension with each other. The first problem is that hate crime law in Canada is woefully inadequate, and wildly under-enforced. The article cites a horrifying statistic pointed out by Evan Balgord, that the average Canadian is more likely to be the victim of what they perceive to be a hate crime than they are to be hurt in an automobile accident, but police are generally disinclined to view incidents as hate crimes… even when it’s painfully obvious to everyone else. Yet… the Criminal Code doesn’t even have a section on hate crimes; it has sections on advocating or inciting hate, and it allows judges to increase the sentence of an offender if hate is involved, but it doesn’t actually include the concept of a “hate crime”.

So, we should add hate crime to the Criminal Code, right?

Not so fast, says Mohamud.

Is more incarceration really going to help reduce the amount of hate in Canada? Indeed, the second problem with hate crime law in Canada is that law enforcement and incarceration in general are often heavily skewed in bias against the primary victims of hate crimes: minorities. You’d be using a tool that was, in some respects, actually created to victimize these people… in order to protect them. Seems a bit odd, doesn’t it? And, of course, part of the reason hate crime reporting rates are so low is because the primary victims—minorities—are justifiably distrustful of law enforcement.

So what’s the solution?

Well, Mohamud suggests we need much more data—something I’ve heard other hate researchers in Canada say many times. Beyond that, they suggest that, rather than simply doing what we’ve always done and writing more laws, we need to listen more to the victims.

[] Tax Court broke pledge to steer cases away from judge investigated for bias, legal observers say

A brief follow-up to last week’s item about the Tax Court of Canada’s bizarre decision to “steer” cases involving Muslims away from a Judge under investigation for anti-Palestine (note: not anti-Muslim) bias.

First: it didn’t actually work. As was mentioned previously, it is absurd to think it is possible for the Tax Court to identify who is or isn’t a Muslim; people’s religion is (usually) not included in court documents. If the idea was to identify Muslims based on who has “Muslim-sounding names”, then:

  1. that’s racist; and
  2. they didn’t even do it properly.

Second, an interesting additional tidbit is that the Judge in question—the one under investigation… even he thought the idea of “steering” cases with Muslims away from him was stupid. I mean, he was right. It’s wacky that the Judge being investigated for bias had a better grasp on just how bigoted and wrong the whole thing was.

Oh, what a tangled web is woven when the principles secularism are violated.

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

There is (or perhaps, used to be) a fad among a certain type of atheist, who claim to prefer more extremist religious types over “moderates” because the extremists are… I dunno, doing religion more “honestly”? “Correctly”? Or something? The most common form of the idea came as a criticism of religious moderates as being “the real problem”, but several prominent atheists have outright said they have more respect for religious extremists.

But, of course, the idea that someone deserves respect merely for sticking to their guns is… well, I’ll let the comic make the point.

[] “Religious exemption” becomes sticking point in conversion therapy ban

While the Liberals have used a proposed federal conversion therapy ban as a political tool, several jurisdictions across Canada have decided not to wait for them, and gone ahead and implemented conversion therapy bans on their own. This article is about the progress of a proposed conversion therapy ban in Kingston, Ontario, and is interesting for a number of reasons.

Kingston is the home of the Third Day Worship Centre, which is… crazy town, even by the already low standards of churches. This is a church that preaches about Bill Gates putting microchips in COVID vaccines, which will be the “mark of the Beast” from Revelation eschatology. And mixed in with the crazy is a whole lot of horrifying evil; this a church that not only forced conversion therapy on LGBTQ2S+ people, it terrorized its members with actual threats, much like a dangerous cult. But this was not just a fringe cult; the Mayor of Kingston, Bryan Paterson, is a former member, who was deeply involved. (He quit the church after videos of the hateful, batshit insane sermons appeared online, and caused a stir.) The Third Day Worship Centre is arguably the primary reason Kingston is looking to institute a conversion therapy ban; the bylaw is being championed by a victim of the church’s conversion therapy program.

The proposed bylaw has been deferred to January, which is not great… but again, there’s an interesting story here. The reason for the deferral is—as the headline implies—a religious exemption for the bylaw. But here’s the interesting part: The issue isn’t that religious leaders are trying to force a religious exemption into the conversion therapy ban. The issue is that councillors—with the full-throated support of religious delegates—are trying to get a religious exemption taken out of the bylaw! And the deferral is because the city is seriously considering doing that!

I’m impressed, Kingston. If you actually go ahead with removing the religious exemption, and ultimately pass the bylaw, that will be something truly awesome.

[] ‘Politics follows culture’: a Christian appraisal of Election 2021

It’s a good idea to break out of your bubble and see what the other side is saying. This piece is a set of short commentaries by the staff at The B.C. Catholic, opining on the recent election. It’s an interesting look into the devout Catholic mindset.

As you might expect, there is little diversity in opinion, but different contributors focus on different things. One is fixated on medical assistance in dying, and bemoaning the fact that some of their pet politicians didn’t get elected. Another whines about Catholic values (he means abortion) not being taken seriously. Others just want Catholics (that is, people who agree with them about abortion) to be more politically active. One is particularly fixated on the state of conservatism and the right in Canada.

What strikes me particularly is this: I have seen a number of Catholic political writers recently complaining about the fact that everyone reduces Catholicism, politically, into abortion, abortion, abortion, calling that reductionist, and saying that Catholicism means oh, so much more! I am almost tempted to agree with them, and acknowledge that Catholic political interests are more than just right-wing, anti-abortion bullshit. But then I look at what Catholics actually write about in their political analyses and… yeah, it’s all right-wing, anti-abortion bullshit. Sometimes, reductionist dismissal is the right thing.

[] Indigenous organizations conflicted about Catholic bishops’ apology

It was inevitable that they would cave… or have they?

The Catholic Church is the only one of the four major churches responsible for running the schools in Canada’s indigenous residential school system that has thus far failed to apologize for their part in it. Indigenous leaders have been asking for the Pope to apologize for at least the past two Popes, and the pressure has only increased since the discovery of over a thousand dead children in unmarked graves at various form Catholic-run schools. The papal still hasn’t happened, but now, at least, the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops has issued a formal apology.

As apologies go, it’s… not bad. There’s one little niggle with it that some of the indigenous leaders in the article point out: the wording is very careful to place the blame on… “some”… members of the Catholic community. Not the organization, no… just on some random individual Catholics.

The shirking of institutional responsibility is not the only thing that makes the apology ring hollow. As we’ve been reporting for some time now, the Catholic Church is also the only one of the four major churches that has failed to pay its share of compensation to the victims, even after they haggled the amount down. Even if it were an unreservedly good apology, an apology made while still continuing to dodge its financial obligations means little.

[] ‘Worship-type events’ account for 10% of this month’s N.B. COVID-19 cases

New Brunswick is having a bit of a COVID crisis. Not nearly as bad as Alberta, of course, where things have gotten so bad they’ve had to call on other provinces to handle their overflowing hospital cases (as hilariously satirized in this Beaverton piece). But New Brunswick stupidly ended all public health restrictions back in July (which they now regret), with predictable results.

The situation there presents as a weird microcosm of the way public health authorities have handled religion throughout the pandemic. The government very frankly admits that religious gatherings have been responsible for at least 10% of the cases in the past month, and even showed visual representations of the transmission clusters. At the same time, like so many other provincial governments across the country, they are piss-assing around when it comes to putting restrictions on religious gatherings. Their requirements for religious gatherings are both absurdly overly complicated, and at the same time, they don’t go nearly far enough. As in most provinces, religious gatherings are exempt from most of the restrictions that secular gatherings are subject to, with no explanation why.

And to be clear, this craven waffling on placing public health restrictions on religious gatherings is not the fault of the religious groups. This is pure political cowardice; it’s politicians assuming and imagining widespread religiously-inspired backlash, and preemptively fearing for their seats. In reality, by contrast, most religious organizations are frustrated by the piss-assing around, and want proper public health restrictions applied to them, just as they are to secular gatherings. Hell, the United Church is begging the government to require proof-of-vaccination for religious gatherings.

[] The election confirmed that Quebec does indeed have a problem with racism

I have explained repeatedly how Québec’s Bill 21 is discriminatory. Despite that, I still face atheists who insist the law isn’t discriminatory because it “applies to everyone”; because the text the law doesn’t explicitly single out any particular group. It’s a pants-crappingly stupid argument to claim that, because the law doesn’t declare its biases openly, that it has none. Yet that is the hill that some Bill 21 supporters want to die on.

Well, here is Canadian Lawyer magazine laying out as simply and bluntly as possible. Yes, it’s discriminatory. Lawyers—people who have expertise in the law—say it’s discriminatory; the author of this article even seems to find the argument that it isn’t to be bafflingly stupid. The Judge who reviewed the law said it’s obviously, undeniably, and blatantly discriminatory. Even people who wrote the fucking law knew it was discriminatory, which is why they used the notwithstanding clause… which would be utterly pointless, and needlessly weaken the law (because now it has a five-year lifespan), if it weren’t discriminatory.

So can we please put the utterly idiotic claim that the law is not discriminatory to rest? We can debate whether this discrimination is necessary, or even justified, in a secular state. But we can stop wasting oxygen on the argument that it isn’t discrimination.

[] Two female suspects charged with vandalizing East Vancouver Church on Canada Day

I already detailed my position on vandalizing churches last week, so I won’t repeat it here.

I will note that there is a detail buried in the article, not alluded to in the headline. In addition to the two people mentioned—whose crime was mere graffiti—a third person is being charged with arson. Two counts of arson, in fact, though it sounds she set fire to the same church twice.

My sympathies lie with the two women—though I would have preferred they had turned themselves in—but most definitely not with the arsonist.

[] Snotty Nose Rez Kids Find Self-Belief on “No Jesus Piece”

Snotty Nose Rez Kids is Yung Trybez and Young D, from the Haisla First Nation. I don’t think they’ve won any major awards, but the list of awards they’ve been nominated for is fucking impressive: not just Junos, but also the Polaris… twice. They’re probably most famous for the single “Skoden” from their 2017 eponymous debut album. (“Skoden” is a contraction of “let’s go then” (basically “’s-go-den”), popular in indigenous circles.)

The relationship between indigenous peoples and Christianity is… complicated. On the one hand, it is undeniable that Christianity has been historically antagonistic to indigenous people, and—especially when combined with colonialization—wildly destructive, if not outright genocidal. On the other, many indigenous people did embrace Christianity, and although it’s a fair question whether they did so out of a sort of Stockholm syndrome bond, the bottom line is that there is a large indigenous pro-Christian voice.

Snotty Nose Rez Kids, however, are not part of the latter group. The first two lines of the chorus of “No Jesus Piece” are: “I bet it all on me, you fucking right I will. I ain’t rock no Jesus piece, I like my copper shield.” The “copper shield” reference is explained in the Exclaim! piece, and “Jesus piece” probably refers to a crucifix necklace.

What’s the song about as a whole? Eh, mostly just how awesome Snotty Nose Rez Kids are—how they’ve been who they are since the beginning, and how fame and success, while awesome, hasn’t fundamentally changed them. But there’s also a message about how they believe in themselves, and how they find strength in themselves—in who they are and where they come from—rather than in faith. Which I think is cool, of course.

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