The final award in the 2022 Canadian Atheist awards goes to the Person of the Year, the person who had the greatest positive impact in Canadian secularism, humanism, atheism, and freethought in 2021.
The Canadian Atheist Person of the Year doesn’t necessarily need to be Canadian, nor atheist, though, of course, both of those things will help one’s chances. The award is given based on a person’s actions—either a single, big, notable act, or a pattern of action throughout the year. The action doesn’t need to have been undertaken explicitly in the name of atheism, humanism, secularism, or freethought, though, again, that will certainly help one’s chances.
A word about nominees
This year, the Person of the Year award is being handled a bit differently from previous years, in two notable ways.
First, in previous years, a list of nominees was announced first. Then, a few weeks later, the actual winner. For various reasons, no nominees were announced this year. Instead, I will simply be announcing the winner.
Second, all previous winners have been entirely at my (Indi’s) own discretion. I decided on the nominees, and then finally on the winner, based on my own, private criteria. I was the first and last word on who earned a nomination, and who won.
This year is interesting. Every year I’ve done the awards, I have had people write in suggestions for nominations, and for the final winner. That’s not new. However, in previous years, there has never been more than one or two suggestions—both for nominees, and for the winner. This year… we had a lot of reader input. Had I given a list of nominations, no less than four of the five or six would have been suggested by readers.
And not only that: the winner—to be announced momentarily—had more unique reader suggestions than any previous winner or nominee.
That’s the main reason I decided to shake up the formula this year (aside from the practical issues forcing me to do something). The 2022 Person of the Year will be unique among all those who have won the award in the previous four years:
The 2022 Person of the Year will be the very first “readers’ choice” Person of the Year.
To be clear, most—if not all—of the previous winners were also the most popular choice of readers. It’s just never been on a scale like this. And this is the first time that the readers’ vote isn’t just a factor in the choice… it is the choice.
So, I wanted to say, before I name the winner: This is breaking new ground. I would love it if we could choose all future Persons of the Year via reader input, or even if we could have two categories: one for reader input, and one for my own (or Canadian Atheist editors, collectively) choice. We’ll have to see if this becomes the new standard.
And now, it is my great pleasure, and great honour, to name the very first readers’ choice Canadian Atheist Person of the Year.
… AND THE WINNER… IN THE CATEGORY OF PERSON OF THE YEAR… IS…
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WINNER: Martin Frith
Where to start with Martin Frith? Well, the easiest place is Humanist Canada—Canada’s national voice of humanism, in their own words—where Frith has been a member since before many of our readers were born. Numerous Canadian Atheist contributors have been members of HC, including several of our current roster, and if I were to start to list HC’s accomplishments, we’d need a bigger webpage to accommodate them.
Frith is the current president of Humanist Canada; before that, he served a term as vice-president. By all reports, Humanist Canada has seen remarkable growth under Frith. One of the messages suggesting Frith claimed he’d tripled the organization’s membership.
But that may not even be his biggest accomplishment at Humanist Canada. Frith’s main project seems to be humanist wedding officiants. I don’t think you can understate the importance of projects like this. One of the strongest footholds religion continues to maintain on contemporary society is over our personal milestones: birth, death, coming of age, marriage, and so on. Having inclusive humanist alternatives to the traditional religious ceremonies can be a breath of fresh air… especially for people who are in situations where a traditional religious ceremony would be problematic. It really strengthens the case that religion is no longer necessary, not even for its trappings.
Frith is not just talking the talk, he’s also walking the walk. He is a humanist officiant himself. In fact, I’ve been told he’s presided over more weddings than any other humanist officiant across Canada.
What I love most about profiling the leadership of Canadian secular, humanist, atheist, and freethought organizations is that the organization is usually only the tip a wonderful iceberg. So often, these people are not just awesome for their work within their respective SHAFT organizations… they have wonderfully rich and fascinating lives beyond, including activism in a number of other areas, any of which would be worth praise on its own.
In his professional life, Frith is a psychotherapist. He does counselling in a number of areas. In his own words:
depression and anxiety; grief, loss and bereavement; trauma; career and work challenges; back-to-work counselling; eldercare dilemmas, and a broad range of mental health concerns.
Of particular note is the 10 years he served as the Client Support Coordinator at Dying With Dignity Canada. Dying with Dignity Canada is one of those organizations I can’t say enough nice things about. Their calling is advocacy, education, and personal support for end-of-life rights. They are one of the main reasons we can now legally request medical assistance in dying, and they continue to fight to make sure that access to that right is unhindered.
Which means that it’s not unfair to say that Martin Frith has been one of Canada’s most important and most long-service voice for secular, humanist alternatives to the traditionally religious ceremonies we have used to mark the most important moments of our lives. When future, nonreligious Canadians look to celebrate the milestones of their lives with their loved ones, it is thanks to people like Martin Frith that they will be able to do so without the burden of religion.
Martin Frith is the first of a new kind of Person of the Year: the Canadian Atheist readers’ choice Person of the Year.
Mr. Frith has earned the right to use the following images or any other method he prefers to declare himself winner of the 2022 Canadian Atheist Person of the year:
Congratulations to Martin Frith. It is my great pleasure and honour to be able to give you this award, on behalf of our readers.
There’s never been a Canadian Atheist Person of the Year award quite like this year’s. Every year I’m surprised by the enthusiasm, but this year I was absolutely floored by the sheer quantity of it.
There were nominees, but I’m going to keep them to myself. That way, I can re-nominate them in the future. It seemed unfair to get their hopes up when Frith’s victory was more or less a fait accompli so early in the process.
Is this what the future of the Canadian Atheist Person of the Year will look like? Even I don’t know! We’ll have to see how things shake out next year.
For now, I would like to thank everyone who send in suggestions, and say that even if your choice didn’t make it, there wasn’t a single candidate I wasn’t absolutely enamoured with. As with every year, I almost wish I could give out a dozen of these awards, because there were just so many worthy people.
And yes, there will be another Person of the Year next year. There are just too many wonderful people out there for there not to be.