Weekly Update: 23-Oct-2021 to 29-Oct-2021

by | October 30, 2021

Here’s your Canadian Atheist Weekly Update for to .

This week’s items

[] Canada Summer Jobs change barring anti-abortion groups was ‘reasonable’: Federal Court

This ruling kinda caught me by surprise.

If you don’t remember, the Canada Summer Jobs attestation controversy was a huge story back in 2018. It started because, after the Liberals took power in 2015, they basically did nothing, and let Canada Summer Jobs continue running just as it had under the Harper government. The problem with that was that the Harper government had given summer jobs grants to some really grody organizations—anti-LGBTQ2S+, anti-abortion, and so on—because of course they did, they were a Conservative government. The Liberals inherited those shitty policies, and were called out for it because it really put the lie to Justin Trudeau’s pretense of being a feminist, tolerant government.

So, Trudeau took action. He changed the requirements to get funding for summer jobs positions from Canada Summer Jobs, making it so that applicants had to sign an attestation that neither the organization’s core principles, nor the positions they were applying for grants for, involved opposing basic human rights.

And religious organizations lost their shit.

The thing is, not even a single one of them would have been denied funding. To be denied, either:

  1. your organization’s core principles have to be explicitly opposed to fundamental human rights; or
  2. the summer job you want to hire students for would have to be about fighting against fundamental human rights.

But of course, it is extremely rare for organizations to be explicitly opposed to fundamental human rights. Most organizations that do oppose human rights endeavour to put on a pretense of being for rights in some sense or another; pro-life organizations that oppose a woman’s right to choose, for example, at least say they’re really about caring about “the rights of the fetus”. And those organizations that do explicitly do oppose fundamental rights aren’t really the types of organizations that apply for government grants to hire students for summer jobs.

So even churches that oppose gay rights could probably get grants for summer camp counsellor jobs, because:

  1. even though the church may be anti-LGBTQ2S+, that’s only a peripheral belief, and their core principles would still only be about spreading their faith; and
  2. saying that running a summer camp for kids is fighting against human rights seems a bit of a stretch.

So the whole attestation controversy was complete bullshit, but it was still spun out to be a massive thing in order to rile up fundraising efforts for right-wing churches and organizations.

It all ended with a whimper when the government backed down, and scrapped the attestation requirement, but of course the screaming and the fundraising by the bigots continued for as long as they could milk it, and the court cases rumbled on (because even though the attestation was scrapped, it might come back, so the principle still needed to be tested for constitutional soundness).

That was all back in 2018… now, finally, in 2021, we got a Federal Court ruling, and… the attestation was constitutional.

This actually surprises me. I would have thought that it wouldn’t pass muster because it was a fairly unnecessary roadblock to applying for federal funding that didn’t really seem relevant to the program in question. (As I said, it really didn’t change anything; any group that couldn’t truthfully sign the attestation had zero chance of getting summer jobs grants anyway.) But as Justice Kane ruled:

The Applicants [Toronto Right to Life] submit that while the Attestation may have sought to protect the rights of others, it did not protect their rights. However, this is the nature of a balancing exercise. The Doré analysis recognizes that rights are not absolute and the rights of some may inevitably yield to some extent to the rights of others.

As I said, the decision surprised me, but it really does seem in line with the general trend of Canadian court rulings. While much deference is given to religious freedom, there are limits, and it does seem to be the case that an individual’s religious rights are not allowed to supersede the fundamental rights of others.

[] Sikh temple in Calgary overwhelmed with support after racist graffiti appears

This charming story has received international attention, so I thought it would be odd if I didn’t mention it.

One thing that’s been widely misreported is that Sikhs are forbidden from removing their turbans in public. I am not a Sikh, but I have many Sikh friends, and as they’ve explained it to me, it’s not that there is a rule not to remove the dastar in public, it’s more that it is just considered inappropriate. It is generally inappropriate for someone to remove their pants in public, too… but there’s not really a rule against it, and if circumstances require it, then of course it’s okay to remove your pants—or turban. In this case, the circumstances clearly required it.

(The other issue with removing the turban in public is that it’s not like a hat; you can’t simply lift it off, then plonk it back on. It has to be tied, and that’s a bit of a process.)

So it’s not as astounding a gesture as some reports have made it sound, and it did not involve choosing between their faith and their humanity (and I’m not sure all of them were even wearing turbans)… but it was still an awesome thing to do, and the five deserve all the credit they get for it.

[] Sikh temple in Calgary overwhelmed with support after racist graffiti appears

Are we over disputing that we have a serious problem with hate in Canada? Are there still people out there saying that there we don’t really have a problem with intolerance, it’s just one or two “bad apples”?

It’s buried in the article, but this Sikh temple has been vandalized twice. The first time, the temple itself was vandalized with swastikas and other crap. Because of that, they had to buy fences, gates, and security cameras, so this time, the perpetrators were only able to vandalize the road in front of the temple. They made it quite clear the temple was their target though: they not only used Sikh-specific slurs, they literally put arrows pointing to the temple entrance.

[] Convicted Quebec City pastor Paul Mukendi flees to Congo

Canadian Atheist hasn’t been following this story as closely as it should. We did mention Mukendi when revelations that he’d abused a 14 year-old surfaced, but we didn’t really pay much attention to the accusations of financial shenanigans. After all, if we reported on every church that turned out to be a massive financial scam, we wouldn’t have space to report on anything else.

But even among the many, many piece-of-shit pastors in Canada, Mukendi seems to be a particularly rancid piece-of-shit. Most of his evil centred on money, which, granted, is pretty unremarkable for Christian pastors. He made his parishioners tithe 10% of their salary, and he demanded extra donations for special purposes, and of course the parishioners never saw any of the benefits. Mukendi used the same tactics as all money-grubbing clerics—guilting and threatening people into giving him cash—though he seems to have been more aggressive than most.

Where Mukendi seemed to go farther than most was when he tried to use cult-like tactics to isolate people from their families. Even then, that’s not too far out of the norm for Christian religious religious leaders. Nor, sadly, is the sexual abuse of a child.

But Mukendi is such a sewer pit of a human being that even after fleeing while owing hundreds of thousands in debts and fines, and running from the jail time he was due for abusing a 14 year-old, he has been taunting the police via social media from Congo. He’s such a piece of garbage, that even his lawyer has abandoned him, and wants her name taken off all his court papers.

[] If Pope Francis is coming to Canada, here’s what Indigenous leaders say he must do

This was the big news this past week: at long last, Pope Francis has said he will come to Canada to apologize for the Catholic Church’s involvement in the indigenous genocide carried out in residential schools.

No, wait, sorry. The Pope merely said he’s willing to come to Canada. And he didn’t say anything about an apology.

Nevertheless, as is typical for Canadian media, they’re going apeshit over the tiniest crumbs that the Pope throws them. There’s apparently a plan for an indigenous envoy to go to Vatican City, to counsel the Pope on what he needs to say and do if and when he comes to Canada… and if he actually gives a shit about indigenous people.

I don’t really object to the Pope coming to Canada, assuming he’s doing to so actually apologize. (We will have to wait and see if he actually does, or if he instead offers a waffle-y not-pology, or nothing at all.) Indigenous survivors of residential schools, and indigenous people in general, are asking for an apology, and they damn well deserve one. They deserve more than a mere apology; they deserve concrete action taken to show genuine remorse, and they deserve compensation for the harm done to them.

I just hope that the Pope doesn’t disappoint indigenous people yet again.

[] Winnipeg’s Springs Church offers members ‘religious exemptions’ for COVID-19 vaccination

This is obviously just a publicity stunt, and I’m probably playing into it by even mentioning it. Both the city and the province have said flat out that the “exemptions” are bullshit, and won’t be accepted. Private employers are also not obligated to accept them, and it’s likely most won’t. Even the Church itself admits the “exemptions” probably aren’t worth the paper they’re printed on.

Still, I think it’s important to talk about the idea of “religious exemptions” to public health, because there are still a lot of people who think they’re a thing. While we may give some publicity to bozos like Springs Church when we shine a light on their antics, I think that’s offset by the fact that we’re revealing them to be dishonest grifters. Sure, we may make them more attractive to far-right or anti-vax morons, and we may even drive more donations their way… but when you consider how foolish and ineffective they are, I don’t really see a problem with making them a sinkhole for dumbass donation money.

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