Weekly Update: 26-Mar-2022 to 1-Apr-2022

by | April 2, 2022

Here’s your Canadian Atheist Weekly Update for to .

This week’s items

[] Seven Manitoba municipalities defy law, continue prayers at council meetings

This caught me completely by surprise. A very pleasant surprise, which I really needed this month.

The British Columbia Humanist Association is arguably the best secularist, humanist, atheist, or freethought organization in Canada. I base that on its astounding string of accomplishments, over many years; a record that no other organization, provincial or national, has come even close to matching.

Last year, the BCHA’s research director—Teale Phelps Bondaroff—won the Canadian Atheist Person of the Year award primarily for a series of reports on legislative prayer across Canada… including every provincial, federal, and territorial legislature. In addition to that, Bondaroff looked into every single municipality in BC, checking to see which ones continued to open with a prayer, in defiance of the 2015 Saguenay decision.

The BCHA didn’t find any BC municipalities still opening council meetings with a prayer. (Though he did discover that some were still opening their inaugural session with a prayer, and some have since ended the practice thanks to the BCHA’s inquiries.) That’s good! There’s still some work to be done, but good on BC’s municipalities for respecting the law, and Canadian secularism.

So now the BCHA is expanding its investigation into other provinces. First up: Manitoba. And… Manitoba didn’t do quite as well as BC did.

The best part, though, is the promise that the BCHA not only intends to follow up on the recalcitrant Manitoba city councils… they intend to do the same for other provinces. Now that’s something to look forward to!

[] Anglican Church of Canada blunders stoke calls for general secretary to resign

I know I say this every time I update this story, but I continue to be blown away at the difference between the Catholic Church and the Anglican Church, at every level. The membership of the Anglican Church have been incredible, refusing to be ignored, and demanding proper, ethical behaviour from their leadership. And the leadership has been responding! Not always perfectly, but not really all that badly; you could say it took some time and prodding to get them to do the right thing… but they are (slowly) coming closer to doing the right thing.

Just to quickly recap the story: Survivors of sexual assault by Anglican priests got together and, with the aid of a journalist at the Anglican Journal, were going to publish their stories. However… someone leaked the story to higher-ups in the Anglican Church, including some of those accused of allowing the sexual assaults to happen. The story was leaked in an unfinished state, with raw information present that de-anonymized the victims.

There was a flurry of very justified outrage following this breach of confidentiality and journalistic ethics… but at first, the Anglican leadership seemed to be trying to shrug off the scandal. But the journalist, victims, and their supporters, were simply not having this. They banded together and started #ACCToo, which published a scathing open letter, bringing the scandal to widespread public notice.

It worked. The Anglican Church leadership were shamed into acting, and started an internal review. It was not all smooth sailing of course; the Church leadership, at every turn, has been desperately trying to avoid accountability. But they are being held accountable.

And, now, the name of the asshole who leaked the article has become public. It’s the freakin’ General Secretary of the Anglican Church of Canada.

The ACCToo people are continuing to push. They want the General Secretary to resign. And they want the full report of the investigation to be released.

They’re probably going to get all that, too, because they are not taking shit from their Church leaders.

[] Oosterhoff’s bill on protecting religious freedom in Ontario passes at Queen’s Park

I debated including this story, but I suppose it is newsworthy, and it is relevant to Canadian Atheist’s readers’ interests.

There are a couple of reasons I almost passed on this story. First, there’s pretty much no reporting on it. Like… no one cares. There are few Christian “news” outlets mentioning it—and of course, Oosterhoff tootin’ his own horn. Other than that… pretty much nothing.

Another reason: I don’t really see the point of it. I don’t see that it has any appreciable impact at all. All it does is add “religious expression” to the list of protected grounds in the Ontario Human Rights Code. The OHRC currently reads like this:

Every person has a right to equal treatment with respect to services, goods and facilities, without discrimination because of race, ancestry, place of origin, colour, ethnic origin, citizenship, creed, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, age, marital status, family status or disability.

Bill 89 changes it to this:

Every person has a right to equal treatment with respect to services, goods and facilities, without discrimination because of race, ancestry, place of origin, colour, ethnic origin, citizenship, creed, religious expression, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, age, marital status, family status or disability.

Which… 🤷🏼.

I mean, “creed” was already covered (and, for the record, “creed” includes atheism, as per the Erazo decision), so… I don’t get how that didn’t already include religious expression. Anyway, religious expression is already protected, much more powerfully, by §2 of the Charter.

It was a big deal when gender identity and expression were added in 2012, because nothing covered those things before. This? Seems specious.

But, also harmless, I suppose.

I dunno, maybe Ontario’s legislators felt sorry for Oosterhoff. I mean, he’s a bit of a tool: a homophobe, against women’s rights, he’s never really accomplished anything other than getting elected, and followed that up with a string of gaffes. Maybe they decided to give him this little victory, just to throw him a bone.

[] Pope makes historic Indigenous apology for Canada abuses

I wouldn’t blame you for looking at the date of this story, and assuming it’s a hoax. But it’s really true. The Pope finally apologized.

Sort of.

It took years of pressure, and a number of horrific embarrassments—the revelation of the shenanigans with promised compensation, the discovery of hundreds of unmarked graves—before the Pope finally did the right thing. Sort of.

So, what next?

Well, it sounds like the plan is to have the Pope come to Canada, and deliver a more complete apology. And of course, they’re still going to pressure the Church to pay the damn money they promised.

But for the moment, it looks like Canada’s indigenous peoples seem relieved at finally getting something sort of like a complete apology from the Pope.

[] Religious sect leaders get 12 years in prison for kidnapping, sexually exploiting teens

Last year I told the absolutely bonkers story of a child bride in the Lev Tahor cult, her mother and the competing cult she had joined, kidnappings, international intrigue… really, just bonkers stuff. I can’t recap it—there’s no way I could do it justice—so I’ll just link to the Update that includes the item.

Welp, there’s a very brief follow-up: the child-trafficking ringleaders have been sentenced to 12 years in prison, each. One of them is Nachman Helbrans, the cult leader; the other is his “top lieutenant”.

It’s a satisfying development… but it’s still a fucked-up story, all the way through.

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