Cracks in the Canadian Wall

Dr Richard G L Thain - Humanist Association of Canada (HAC)
Tuesday 25 November 2008
popularity : 1%

(for the complete text and photos of the conference on-line see www.http://canada.humanists.net)

Good morning Ladies and Gentlemen,

I bring warm regards from our president, Dr Robert Buckman, our founding President, Dr Henry Morgentaler and the humanists of Canada. I must tell you, however, that I was not the first choice to represent Canada. I think Babu, Prof. Frayssé, Catherine and Philippe tried to invite Céline Dion to entertain you but she is too busy in Las Vegas…I will do my best to replace her.

PART ONE : HAC

It is interesting that the Vancouver Sun reported (2001/09/06) that the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Westminster, in Britain , Cormac O’Connor, said « Christianity as a background to people’s lives…has almost been vanquished. » And one year previously, George Carey, Archbishop of Canterbury and a leader of the Protestant Christian Church, publically declared that Britain is « a country where tacit atheism prevails » with « thoughts of eternity rendered irrelevant. » This description also applies to much of the Canadian population. Data from recent Census show a trend towards an increasing non-affiliation with religion. (ref Glenn M Hardie Humanism and Apostasy HiC Summer 2002 #141 p 14)

In the Census, Canadians are asked « What is your religion? » with one of the available answers to check being « No religion ». The No Religion category is now the fastest growing category and the second largest after Roman Catholic. The No Religion group has the highest level of schooling with the most post-secondary education.

% ` No Religion ` in Canada

1991 Census 12.4 (a 90% increase since the 1981 Census)

2001 Census 18.0

There are (only) 2,000 humanist members in Canada. The HAC has 16 affiliated humanist associations located in six provinces. Ten years ago there were four. In recent years we have made some advances in our structure and organization. We have a one room « National office » in Ottawa, a quarterly newsletter, an internet-based list-serve/discussion group (one caveat: it can be misused), biennial conferences and social events. Many local associations have their own, similar structure. A Toronto humanist recently donated a house to the HAT in downtown Toronto. The HAC occasionally makes submissions to the government on various social issues of concern to us and many of our members write insightful « letters to the editor ». We are continually making progress.

The HAC provides some services to its members and tries to reach out to non-members as well. The HAC has a Ceremonies Committee which we are excited about. The HAC was successful in convincing the federal government that there was a need for non-religious « officiants » as Canadian society is becoming less religious. The government authorized the HAC to train and certify « officiants » who are allowed to issue marriage licences. Some provinces such as British Columbia and Ontario, now have officiants who perform weddings, funerals, and other rites of passage. In Ontario, for example , our 15 officiants— who can provide more personal weddings than the civil weddings at City Hall— performed 200 weddings in 2000 and 620 in 2001. We recently trained and certified five more officiants at a two day training session in June 2002, bringing the total to 20. We plan to expand these services throughout the country and we expect an increase in HAC membership to follow as people discover and experience the humanist movement at these ceremonies. The following graph captures the essence of our organization: we are not large but we are moving in the right direction!

We also perform gay-unions. At the moment — since sexual orientation is not protected under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms — we cannot issue a marriage licence for a gay-union, however in Ontario, Kevin Bourassa and Joe Varnell, have a case before the court at this time. In other breaking news, I just learned that in Quebec, Nancy Drolet, a member of the Canadian women’s ice hockey team just married her longstanding partner, Nathalie. Again it seems Quebec is leading the way! The present situation is therefore in a state of flux, but hopefully soon, gay and lesbian people will be considered equal to straight people in the eyes of all government departments.

Canadian Humanist Publications (CHP), is a sister organization, yet completely separate as a corporate entity, which publishes an excellent quarterly magazine, the Humanist in Canada. The HiC motto is « challenging established beliefs » and it has a circulation of 1,700. CHP has published several books such as Earl Doherty’s The Jesus Puzzle : Did Christianity begin with a mythical Christ? and Pat Duffy Hutcheon’s The Road To Reason:Landmarks in the Evolution of Humanist Thought. CHP also holds annual essay contests.

An important spinoff organization from the HAC and HAO is Global Population Concerns-Ottawa. Madeline Weld PhD is the president. (www.http://magma.ca/ gpco/) The Mouvement Laïque Québecois (MLQ) is an important secular organization in Québec. Its president is Henri Laberge. See www.mlq.qc.ca There are some excellent skeptics societies in Canada ( on the internet « search » : Sceptiques du Québec, Ontario Skeptics, Manitoba Skeptics, BC Skeptics). Our current president, Dr Robert Buckman, is an oncologist, professor of medicine at the University of Toronto, best selling author and TV broadcaster. He wrote and presented a television series on complimentary medicine (Magic or Medicine?) for which he won a Gemini Award, and together with the English actor/comedian John Cleese (ie. Monte Python) has written and presented a series of medical information videos for patients. Some of his books : What You Really Need To Know About Cancer; Can We Be Good Without God?,Behaviour, Belonging and the Need to Believe; and his autobiography, Not Dead Yet. Dr Buckman is a dynamic and creative leader who has helped the HAC tremendously.

PART TWO : Cracks in the Canadian Wall

I will now review a few points about Canada which I am often questioned about by my « international freethinking colleagues ». (a) Canada does not have a blasphemy law. (b) Canada has two versions of its national anthem “O Canada”: a French version and an English version. They are not direct translations, however, they both have a (Christian) religious reference in them. For example, in the French version we find…“car ton bras sait porter l’épée, Il sait porter la croix!” Translation: “your arm knows how to carry the sword, it knows how to carry the cross!” (c) The House of Commons uses a “non-denominational prayer” which replaced a more Christian prayer. (d) Laurie Wayman has reported that BC humanists had to threaten to close down polling stations with legal injunctions during an election, for violating a federal statute prohibiting the placing of a Bible on the polling boxes. The Bibles were removed. (e) The HAT is planning to file a lawsuit against the government for being denied status as a registered charity for tax purposes. (f) Canadian coins do not proclaim “in God we trust”, however there is an image of Elizabeth II and the phrase “D.G.Regina” (Dei Gratia Regina = Queen, by the grace of God). She is the Queen of Canada, Defender of the Faith and titular head of the Church of England; which by the way, we should not forget, was founded by a serial wife killer. (g) Canadian author of 10 world-acclaimed novels, Mordecai Richler (1931-2001) said he rejected Judaism and became an atheist as a young man because he « could not obey all those little sabbath laws. » Prolific author, TV producer and journalist, Pierre Berton, has been both reviled and praised for writing The Comfortable Pew , noted for its polemic against the Anglican church. He said « I am an atheist, a rationalist and a humanist. » (h) Secularists applauded the Canadian government for holding a dignified and meaningful public memorial ceremony on Parliament Hill to commemorate the lives which were lost during the September 11 terrorist attacks. There were no prayers during the event. Religious people complained and asked, “Where were the prayers and references to `God` during the memorial?” There were no reports of them asking “Where was God on Sept 11?” (i) Ontario humanist Bob Allen, asked the Renfrew County Council to stop reciting The Lord’s Prayer at the opening of council meetings. When they ignored his request, Bob went to a meeting with his portable radio and played John Lennon’s Imagine during the prayer session. They kicked him out of the building. He has decided to sue the County; the case will be going to court in the near future.

History

The idea of having a separation between church and state is one of the most important concepts embraced at the peak of the Enlightenment. Many Canadians probably think that we have « a wall of separation » in Canada(1) * because we hear this expression so often from our American neighbours(2). Many other Canadians think that even though we do not have an official wall separating church and state, we should have, because the concept is so noble, the idea so essential, in a pluralistic, democratic society(3).It has been pointed out that this acceptance of an unwritten separation between church and state is peculiarly Canadian (4). How and why does the average Canadian accept having a « virtual wall » while the Canadian government has not constitutionally recognized the principle by writing it down? As historian Mark Noll explains it, «Where Americans laud the ideals of their revolutionary heritage, Canadians celebrate the virtues of loyalism…Canada has always lacked the sort of compelling myths that fuel American ideology. » Canadians, says Noll, « chose not the way of revolution and independece but loyalism and peaceful change.»(5) In this section I will describe how a wall of separation between religions and the state, which does exist in the hearts and minds of many Canadians, is presently being constructed. There are some cracks in it and there is much more work to be done. If we open a book of Canadian history, we learn that the concept of a wall of separation was not a feature in Canada’s earliest days. In fact, the trouble began when French explorer, Jacques Cartier sailed to Nova Gallia, landed on the Gaspé Peninsula and on July 24, 1534 erected a thirty foot cross! In order for the King, Francois I to authorize the expedition he had to receive approval from the pope. Although the voyage had mercantile and political aims, it also had a religious purpose; the explorers were to convert everyone they met to Christianity. (6-7) Donnacona, chief of the Autochtones was suspicious of this large symbol and questioned Cartier about it. The French explorer lied to Donnacona, telling him it was just an unimportant navigation guide, since he feared the consequences of Donnacona’s dissatisfaction with him. Little did Donnacona know that in the future some of his North American indigenous brothers, who resisted conversion to Christianity, would be forced to kneel before priests while having hot, burning coals shoved into their mouths. The Age of Reason had not yet arrived. “Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from a religious conviction.” Blaise Pascal (9)

* Canada probably derives from a Huron-Iroquois word, Kanata, meaning village or small community. The British Parliament passed the Quebec Act in 1774 to pacify the French Catholic community by extending them certain rights. The Declaration of Independence mentions the Quebec Act as one of the reasons for the break with Britain.(10) Quebec scholar Prof J Ruelland provides a fascinating look at this period: At this time, in the late 18th century, there were some freethinkers living in Montreal who had immigrated from France “among them Fleury Mesplet (1734-1794), the first printer in Montreal who established in 1778 the first newspaper in the city, the Gazette du commerce et littéraire; his friend Valentin Jautard (1736-1787), the first French journalist in Canada; Pierre du Calvet (1735-1786), the author of Appel à la Justice de l’État [“Appeal to the State for Justice”] (published in 1784 in London, England), the first Canadian manifesto of civil rights and liberties; and Pierre de Sales Laterrière (1747-1815), one of the first certified surgeons in the colony, particularly devoted to the health of women. They were visited in Montreal by their friend Benjamin Franklin. Their influence was large, because they wielded the best (non violent) weapon there is: the power of writing. Unfortunately, the bishops and priests preferred to maintain their secular power, rather than risk letting society shift too far in the direction of freethought. They used other weapons: guns, jails and so on. They closed Mesplet’s Gazette in 1779 and jailed, for three years, without any formal prosecution, the printer, the journalist, and some hundred other people who showed too much interest in liberty. When they left jail, their spirits were broken; free thought in Quebec was dead.” (12-16).

The Constitution

The British North America Act (BNA Act, 1867) which was Canada’s constitution until repatriation (Constitution Act, 1982), does not mention God at all.(17) A major crack in the wall occurred when conservative Christians (19) succeeded at the last minute, in getting the "supremacy of God" clause into the preamble of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms which was being added to the constitution. Prime Minister Trudeau said he "didn’t think God cared whether He was in the constitution or not" however, the Preamble which was adopted reads: Whereas Canada is founded upon principles that recognize the supremacy of God and the rule of law…

The Petition

In 1998 some British Columbia Humanists initiated a petition to have “god” removed from the Canadian Constitution’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms. On June 8, 1999 MP Svend Robinson of Vancouver B.C., (Canada’s first openly gay MP) presented the HAC sponsored petition to the House of Commons.

To the House of Commons

We, the undersigned citizens (or residents) of Canada, draw the attention of the House to the following: THAT the section of the Preamble to Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms (Constitution Act, 1982) that reads: Whereas Canada is founded upon principles that recognize the supremacy of God... is a discriminatory reference and offensive to millions of Canadians who are non-Christian or non-religious. THAT each incident that discriminates against non-Christian or non-religious Canadians due to government-endorsed religious reference or exercise, harms the public in general, in that such preferential endorsement by the government belies the whole intent and purpose of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. THAT this basis for discrimination against all non-Christian and non-religious Canadians would be greatly alleviated if the following legislative measures were taken. THEREFORE, your petitioners call upon Parliament to enact legislation to change the Preamble to Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms from: "Whereas Canada is founded upon principles that recognize the supremacy of God and the rule of law" to read: Whereas Canada is founded upon principles that recognize the supremacy of intellectual freedom and the rule of law, AND that Section 2(a) of the Fundamental Freedoms be changed from: "freedom of conscience and religion" to read: freedom of conscience, and both freedom of and freedom from religion.” There was an immediate national uproar at the humanist’s petition. The issue was front page news for a week and MP Robinson was reprimanded by his NDP Party Leader. The Victoria Time Colonist voice mail was suspended after receiving 2,600 “passionate telephone calls”. “Don’t remove God from the constitution for the sake of our children and our future!” was a typical response. This was the greatest number of calls they had ever received for any poll. Mr. Tin Yap, an Ottawa Buddhist, expressed his opinion in the Ottawa Citizen that there should be no reference to the “supremacy of God” in the Charter. He asked rhetorically “what if the Buddhist Canadians were to advocate the ‘supremacy of Buddha’ or Muslim Canadians ‘the supremacy of Allah’ where would it all end?”(my emphasis)(25) “It does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods or no God. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.” Thomas Jefferson, 1782 (26) Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms — five court cases Let’s examine how these interesting cases affected the Canadian wall.

a) Lord’s Day Act

In 1985 a store in Alberta, Big M Drug Mart was charged with a criminal offence for opening join a Sunday thereby violating the Lord’s Day Act. [ R. v Big M Drug Mart (1985)S.C.R.295,18 D.L.R. (4th) 321.] (R= Regina, the Queen or “crown” who represents the government) The case went to the Supreme Court of Canada which ruled in favour of the pharmacy. The Supreme Court said that the Charter of Rights and Freedoms may override all other laws in Canada. Stores had been opening on Sundays in violation of the Lord’s Day Act but as Menendez pointed out: “In an increasingly multicultural and secular society, laws attempting to restrict personal choice for allegedly religious reasons are virtually unenforceable.”(30) Now that the restrictive laws such as Sunday liquor laws and the Lord’s Day Act have been secularized, Canadians may now, on Sundays, enjoy a glass of wine at a bistro, go shopping and go swimming or bowling with their families and friends.

b) Lord’s Prayer in Sudbury Public Schools

Zylberberg v Sudbury Board of Education [1988] 65 O.R. (2d) 641(C.A.). This was a challenge to an Ontario regulation that required mandatory prayers.(31) The Sudbury Board did argue the preamble of the constitution concerning “the supremacy of God”. Jewish, Muslim, etc. parents do not want their children singled out at school by having them leave the classroom during the Christian prayer. The Ontario Court of Appeals ruled 2-1 in favour of the parents. A victory for individual freedom.

c) School funding

“To compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves and abhors, is sinful and tyrannical.” Thomas Jefferson, ‘A Bill for Establishing Religious Freedom’ 1779 The provisions in Canada’s constitution for elementary and secondary schools are not the same for all ten provinces. (27) (28) Six provinces originally provided special privileges for Roman Catholics—publicly-funded separate schools. Over the course of time, three provinces abolished this privilege while the other three, but particularly Ontario, rejected pressure from various sources to do the same. In Ontario, the huge financial costs to the public to maintain two systems, as well as the social divisiveness that a discriminatory system causes, led to a challenge before the Supreme Court of Canada. The Charter challenge was with respect to Ontario’s Bill 30, full funding for Roman Catholic schools. Supreme Court Justice, Willard Estey admitted Ontario’s special funding of Roman Catholic schools (Bill 30) is discriminatory when he said “It is axiomatic that if the Charter has any application to Bill 30, this Bill would be found discriminatory and in violation of the Charter of Rights.” The court ruled however that the equality provisions of the Charter did not apply to Ontario in this case(!) thus allowing Ontario to continue discriminating against children on the basis of their religion! ( Not Carved in Stone Renton H Patterson General Store Publishing House 1 Main St K0J 1G0 Burnstown Ont. 1992) The province is continuing to use public monies to maintain a significant privilege to one class of persons, presumably for political reasons. This situation, along with survey results which show 80% of Ontarians prefer one public school system, [survey sponsored by Civil Rights in Public Education and the HAC] led to a complaint being filed with the Human Rights Committee of the United Nations in Geneva. The Committee ruled, not surprisingly, that Canada is in violation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which it had signed but was not honouring. This means that either Canada is not abiding by the rule of law or the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms is not worth the paper it is printed on. This places Canada in the same category as Zambia, Zaire and Libya, countries which have also contravened this Covenant.

d) Supreme Court recognizes “freedom of conscience” (Dr. Henry Morgentaler)

In 1967, the Canadian government created a Committee to examine changes in the abortion law. At that time, abortion was permitted only if the mother’s life was in danger. It was a crime punishable by life imprisonment. Dr Henry Morgentaler represented the Humanist Fellowship of Montreal and made recommendations to the government in October 1967. It was the first time a public organization recommended abortion on request. (as an aside, Dr Morgentaler was born in Poland, survived Auschwitz and Dachau before emigrating to Montreal and becoming a physician in 1953) Soon after declaring his position, women started coming to his office requesting abortions. Initially, conscious of the possible consequences, he refused. Faced with this moral dilemma, after much reflection, he decided to act according to his principles. As Victor Hugo said, “To love, is to act” He was certain that if he had the opportunity to explain his reasons to a jury, he would be acquitted. He opened the first private abortion clinic in Canada in 1968. In 1973, at his first trial, he was acquitted by a jury of French Canadian Catholics. The Superior Court of Quebec, composed of 5 conservative Catholic judges annulled the jury verdict and declared him guilty. He was sentenced to 18 months in prison. Dr Morgentaler is the only Canadian to be sent to prison after having been acquitted. While he was in jail, he was charged a second time and was again acquitted. After a 10 month long legal process, he was released from prison. The Quebec government declared the abortion law unenforceable and asked the federal government to change it. This law was finally declared unconstitutional ( a 5-2 vote) in 1998, 25 years after Dr Morgentaler first challenged the law [R. versus Morgentaler (1998) 1.S.C.R.30]. The judges said that « State interference with bodily integrity and serious state-imposed psychological stress…constitutes a breach of secutity of the person » and « The right to liberty contained in s.7 guarantees to every individual a degree of personal autonomy over important decisions in his or her life ». Justice Bertha Wilson’s recognition of conscience is one of the few times the « conscience » component of s.2(a) of the Charter has been referred to in Supreme Court decisions. She states « Freedom of conscience and religion should be broadly construed to extend to conscienciously held beliefs, whether grounded in religion or in a secular morality… » There is now, no abortion law in Canada. Although Dr Morgentaler’s Toronto clinic was firebombed on July 29,1983 he continues to try to improve access to safe abortion services across the country. He has said that “the emancipation of women cannot be achieved without reproductive freedom” and that “women across the world have to be given the rights and dignity they deserve as full members of the human community.” Thanks to this courageous freethinker’s integrity, perseverance and compassion, Canadians now have a higher wall of separation between church and state. Trevor Banks on anti-abortionists: « They are compassionate men. But their compassion is almost exclusively directed to the yet unborn. All smugly curled up in their philosophical fetal position, from the comfortable womb of their naïveté, they fight the good fight for embryonic rights, never venturing to stick their heads out into the world of stark reality. » (From the obituary article : The thoughts of Trevor Banks by Greg Younger-Lewis, Ottawa Citizen)

e) Supreme Court does not recognize “freedom of conscience” (Sue Rodriguez)

A tragic defeat for liberty occurred however in the 4-3 Supreme Court decision in the Sue Rodriguez case [Rodriguez v R (1993) S.C.J. No.94.]. Sue was dying of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS-Lou Gehrig’s disease) and was looking for legal ways to end her life with some dignity. ALS is a degenerative disease, causing loss of muscular control and eventual death by asphyxiation. (32) She asked that assisted suicide be permitted when the time came, through a constitutional exemption. A major factor in the case was the religious doctrine, seemingly accepted without question by many Canadians, that a person may not take a life under any circumstances. Thou shall not kill! Many religious groups were strong interveners in this case and served to formulate the debate which resulted in much pain and suffering. “As an atheist I am profoundly insulted by the fallacious assumption that morality and values are the prerogatives of the religious. I have to agree, though, with University of Manitoba religion Professor John Stackhouse’s claim that “ not all things can be explained by reason.” This is undoubtedly true. But what Prof. Stackhouse fails to point out is that nothing can be explained by religion.” (22) The value of individual conscience, s.2(a) was tested against the societal value of life, s.7 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Individual dignity was abandoned in favor of societal control.(33 p14) On March 13, 1993 Sue received the Humanist of the Year Award from the HAC for...“her courageous fight to gain legal recognition for the inalienable right of the individual to determine the time and nature of their own death…”and was praised and thanked for bringing a new honesty to the dying process.”(35-36) Sue eventually died with the assistance of an anonymous physician.

Islam and Canadian freethinker Dr Marvin F Zayed PhD

(Philosophy) « First, do not be silent. » Socrates

Marvin F Zayed was born (February 25, 1946) in Israel to a Jewish mother and a liberal Muslim father. He earned his Ph.D. from a Jesuit university in Lebanon which was affiliated with the University of Lyons in France. He wrote his doctoral thesis in Arabic with French, English and Latin references and he is possibly the only person ever to be granted a Ph.D. (Phil) for an atheistic thesis written in Arabic. He published extensively, taught at a university in Algeria, and worked as the head of departments in Research Centers in Lebanon, Cypress, and Canada. He founded freethinking, intellectual groups and associations wherever he went. He is an accomplished scholar with a impressive curriculum vitae. For example, he was Professor of Modern and Contemporary Philosophy at the University of Algiers (1975-1980), and was Editor-in-Chief of the Arabic Encyclopaedia of Philosophy (1981-1984). He incurred the wrath of Muslim fundamentalists who not only rioted against him but made two assassination attempts. He still has a bullet in his leg to prove it. Dr. Zayed immigrated to Canada with his family, became a Canadian citizen and continued his career, at the University of Ottawa. In 1997 he was invited as visiting scholar to the Council for Secular Humanism in Buffalo, NY and became the founder and first Chairperson of the International Society for Islamic Secularization (ISIS). He was one of the three Canadian signatories, along with Dr. Henry Morgentaler and Dr. Robert Buckman, of Humanist Manifesto 2000. Dr Zayed translated the Humanist Manifesto 2000 into Arabic, authored Manifesto 2001, a humanistic document which defends the rights of atheists, secularists and free thinkers both female and male in Islamic societies. The fourth issue of his freethought journal Mafkar (Courageous Minds) deals with contemporary and historical issues, including critiques Islam, has just been completed. Unfortunately, he lost his employment, his marriage broke down, and he lost the support of the rest of his family due to the stresses which resulted from his social activism. He has continued to upset the Muslim fundamentalists by proclaiming the “Principle of the Separation of Mosque and State” and « they are enemies of humanity, however their crimes against their societies and their horrible ‘fatwas’ will not stop the progress of humanity and free inquiry ». Dr. Zayed describes Islam as currently being in the same stage of development as Christianity was during the Dark Ages. He has encouraged and cultivated many groups of freethinkers in those societies using the Internet and written publications from his base in Canada. He implores them « You are the future and they are the past ». He has received more than one « warning » in the last year and a half. The most frightening occurred in Toronto, the sixth attempt to silence him, on August 23, 2001, less than 24 hours after signing the “Shaikh petition” and sending an open letter of support to Dr. Mohammad Younis Shaikh who is facing the death penalty in Pakistan on a charge of blasphemy. Dr. Zayed found this computer printed message, written in capital letters, taped to door of the apartment where he was hiding: IN THE NAME OF ALLAH, THE COMPASSIONATE AND MOST MERCIFUL THIS IS OUR WARNING TO YOU WE KNOW WHO YOU ARE, WE KNOW WHAT YOU DO THERE IS NO HIDING PLACE FOR THE DEVIL WORSHIPPERS WE CAN REACH YOU WHEREVER YOU ARE REPENT, AND MAY ALLAH HAVE MERCY ON YOUR WRETCHED SOUL It is clear to people familiar with the Koran, that this is a death threat. The Canadian government and law enforcement agencies are unable to protect Dr. Zayed, other than by offering to enroll him, in a “new identity program” in which he is required to stop publishing his opinions. He has declined this offer. He is presently receiving assistance from, as he says, his «family of the heart». Efforts by freethinkers like Dr M F Zayed, to build walls of separation between religions and the state, are not without peril.

Evolution / Creationism see www.darwinday.org

« God’s law is clear. Standards of education are not set by government, but by God, the Bible, the home and the school. If we ask for the minister of education’s approval we are recognizing his authority. » Stockwell Day Canadian polititian Creationists have been successful in obstructing the teaching of evolution in Canadian schools. It is taught only in a single, advanced biology course, designed for students who will study biology or chemistry at university. Biology professor Jim Fenwick at the University of Ottawa said « I know the level of understanding from years of teaching first year. It’s basically zero. They don’t know what evolution is.» « Throughout historical time and almost universally in the human race, children have been taught to accept without question whatever their parents happened to believe about everything. This ancient system penalises and strongly discourages a child’s attempts to use his or her reasoning power and his or her ability to think in terms of cause and effect….The result is that…the child’ s ability to make appropiate changes in his or her attitude or behaviour has been crippled » Brock Chisholm MD (Canadian psychiatrist) from an article in the Victoria Humanist Dec 1964 (HiC #101) British Columbia, Canada. Dr Chisholm was the first Director General of the World Health Organization

World Youth Day 2002 Toronto, Canada July 23-28 2002

The pro-choice group “Catholics for a Free Choice” (CFFC) organized a parallel conference which involved the participation of clergy abuse survivors. I will refer you to Dr Wendell Watters book, Deadly Doctrine, Health Illness and Christian God-Talk and his articles in Humanist in Canada magazine for more on this topic. Dr Watters is a psychiatrist and professor emeritus at McMaster Univ in Ontario. One of the CFFC activists distributed condoms to the young pilgrims. The Catholic officials used their influence to have the Toronto police arrest the activist.

Michael Schulman of HAT, which “advocates a separation of church and state…and considers it inappropriate in our multicultural society for government to actively encourage (or discourage) any particular religious faith”, asked the government to justify the granting of 335,000 Euros to WYD ($500,000Can), a “highly questionable outlay of public funds”. We are waiting for a reply.

The WYD organizers took out large ads in major newspapers explaining that « Canada welcomed the world to WYD » and then asked for donations to help cover the 20,000,000Euros ($30,000,000Can) shortfall they incurred. Well, not all Canadians welcomed J-P II to Toronto. Many Canadians share the sentiments expressed so forcefully by Canadian poet and playwright Henry Beissel, when he wrote, in an open letter (( ref The Glengarry News, Alexandria , Jan 16, 1993)) to one of the pope’s bishops, Eugene Larocque, the bishop of Cornwall-Alexandria, Ontario, on the subject of contraception. « But you are not content to share your antediluvian moral code with us; you also insist on engaging in another spate of hate-mongering by vilifying homosexuals with all those women who refuse to be turned into baby-machines by the sort of tyranny you represent. For centuries the Roman institution for which you speak has been the major obstacle in the path of enlightenment. In the name of some antiquated mumbo-jumbo you labour to frustrate the desire of men and women to become free individuals, free to live their own lives responsibly and with dignity. » Bishop LaRocque, by the way, chaired a national « pro-life » Roman Catholic church committee for many years and is a supporter of one of Canada’s most vocal anti-choice Members of Parliament, Don Boudria (Glengarry-Prescott-Russell—the Bishop’s riding). « Five years in jail is not long enough » shouted Boudria in the House of Commons during a debate on abortion. Boudria has said that « it is up to the state, not the pregnant woman, to decide whether or not to carry the pregnancy to term ».

Toronto’s Archbishop, Cardinal Ambrosic said during a TV interview that « the Church is opposed to experimentation on tisues of human fetuses...it is a challenge for human dignity. When a human being becomes a guinea pig, what becomes of human dignity? Then, of course, we object to all sorts of experimentation. Well, for example, what the Nazis did, etc. » You can see that clerical obscurantism is a global problem.

Global Population Concerns-Ottawa

"Human rights, education and all the other highly desirable goals promulgated at population meetings are necessary conditions for stable, sustainable societies, but they are not sufficient. Foreign Affairs Minister Lloyd Axworthy recently remarked that the United Nations can’t cope with the crisis situations it is facing. If it would seriously address the population issue, it might give itself a fighting chance." Madeline Weld Ph.D. June 2002 see www.http://magma.ca/ gpco/

In September 1994 the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) was held in Cairo. Canada, like many other nations, pledged to support the objectives of the conference. In April 1995, just 7 months after Cairo, Foreign Affairs Minister André Ouellet abruptly cut Canada’s funding to the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) one hundred per cent! (from $8.3 million to zero!) Werner Fornos, who was IPPF President at the time, was shocked at the cut since there had been no indication that Canada was at all dissatisfied with IPPF’s activities and had no indication that Canada would decrease its funding at all.

Madeline Weld Ph.D., president of Global Population Concerns-Ottawa, through her investigation of this development, discerned from officials at the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) and Planned Parenthood Federation Canada (PPFC) that the Canadian Government was reacting to threats made by the Roman Catholic Bishops of Quebec. The federal government sacrificed its Cairo commitments to win the support of the Quebec Roman Catholic Bishops in the upcoming referendum on Quebec separation. Quebec Roman Catholic Bishops threatened the Canadian government that they would exhort the Quebecois to vote OUI, in favor of seceding from Canada unless the government stopped funding the IPPF immediately. The federal government needed all the help they could get because they knew it was going to be a close vote. The mortar in the Canadian wall was crumbling. These two quotations from M Weld, related to the overpopulation problem, are from the GPCO website http://magma.ca/ gpco/ (i) In a review of a book by Stephen Mumford Ph.D “... the Vatican even now receives kid glove treatment from the media; its efforts at the suppression of information and the spread of disinformation are rarely exposed. Dr. Mumford has taken off the gloves and exposed the Vatican’s ruthless agenda...” (ii) "The relationship between population and security issues might be particularly timely in view of recent events. Many Islamic countries have high rates of population growth (including Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan and Pakistan) and in many countries militant Islamism goes hand in hand with rising poverty and unemployment. The number of Palestinian refugees has almost quintupled since the formation of Israel, and resource scarcity is one of the fuels of Palestinian rage."

Conclusion

It is apparent that there are still some cracks in the Canadian wall. I can assure you however, that the members of the Humanist Association of Canada will not sit idly by, because we are dedicated to fixing those cracks and reinforcing our wall so that it will be more difficult for people to shove their religion down other peoples’ throats. I am happy to report that at the Gaspé Museum, site of Cartier’s infamous cross, the government has erected a large, outdoor, modernistic stone monument on which are inscribed the words of The United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This is a beautiful, impressive display, symbolizing the fact that old ideas are being replaced with the new. Canadian humanists would like to congratulate the organizers and participants of this important conference because we share with you, an admiration of Jefferson’s « wall of separation » metaphor. Canada’s humanists send their message of hope that the luminosity of the ideals we are celebrating at this conference, here, in Paris, the « City of Lights » may one day, disperse the clouds of obscurantism and irrationality, and one day illuminate all of our world.

Vive the universal legacy of Thomas Jefferson and vive La Libre Pensée!

Courriel / email: hac@ca.inter.net

www.http://canada.humanists.net


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