Science Over Naturopathy in Sentencing of David and Collet Stephan


In April of this year David and Collet Stephan were convicted of failing to provide the necessities of life to their son Ezekiel, who died of meningitis in March. The parents trusted naturopathic remedies instead of taking their son to a medical doctor, even though he was gravely ill. During the sentencing hearing, Justice Rodney Jerke was unambiguous about his contempt for the anti-science attitudes held by the couple and their associates.
Before sentencing David Stephan to 4 months in jail, Jerke said that “Any reasonable and prudent person would have taken action,” instead of waiting until it was far too late to take a small child to the emergency room. Jerke added that “David simply got more nutritional supplements and, instead of calling of 911, called his father.” David’s father is involved in the natural supplement business. Justice Jerke left no doubt that relying on naturopathic medicine instead of providing proper health care for Ezekial, was a criminal act and called it “morally blameworthy conduct.” Before sentencing Collet Stephan to 3 months house arrest he called her “willfully blind” to the fact that her son was not being provided the attention he needed.
The parents must also do 240 hours of community service and have been ordered to take their other three children to a medical doctor at least once a year and a public health nurse every three months. Justice Jerke also ordered Collet to post a full and unedited copy of the judgement on every website or social media account she is affiliated with, making the sentencing judgement crystal clear to everyone.
David, however, does not seem to understand how his actions were unlawful and the justice noted that he “demonstrated a lack of remorse”. The Stephans and their supporters believe that the government has no right to dictate how parents care for their children and that their conviction represents a “dangerous precedent”. During sentencing a protester disrupted the proceedings by shouting “The stewardship of children is the parents’ responsibility.” Outside the courtroom a small group of people held signs and gave interviews promoting science and (real) medicine. One doctor pointed out that having children is a privilege, and that all children have the right to proper health care and that it is the parent’s legal obligation to provide it. A child’s health is indeed the parents’ responsibility.
Tim Caulfield, research director of the University of Alberta’s Health Law and Science Policy Group, used the term “quackademics” to describe the growing number of people who reject medicine and science and embrace pseudoscience such as naturopathy instead. This misplaced belief wastes money and can, indeed cause irreparable harm. This judgement is an important one in that it underscores the rights of children to proper health care no matter what quackery the parents believed, and to deny it is a criminal act.


Parliamentary E-Petition Opposing Canada’s Blasphemy Law

CFI Canada is proud to join Humanist Canada, BC Humanist Association, Canadian Journalists for Free Expression and a growing list of other organizations in launching Petition e-382 in opposition to Criminal Code Section 296 – Canada’s blasphemous libel law.

E-petitions are a new feature of Canada’s federal political landscape – one which promises to increase the level of access to Parliament by Canadian citizens.

We need your help! The sponsoring Member of Parliament,Ali Ehsassi (Willowdale), requires 500 signatures within 120 days to demand a response by the federal government. What does the E-petition say?

Petition to the Government of Canada


  • It has been eight decades since the last conviction under section 296, and thirty-five years since the last charge of blasphemous libel was laid.

  • Blasphemous libel serves no purpose in Canadian law or modern-day society, and would likely be found to contravene section 2 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which protects freedom of expression.

  • In Canada and elsewhere, blasphemy laws have been abused to suppress minorities and stifle inconvenient speech.

  • Authoritarian states point to Canada’s blasphemous libel law to defend their own laws criminalizing blasphemy.

  • Repealing Canada’s blasphemy law would demonstrate, at home and abroad, Canada’s commitment to the value of free speech for all.

  • Freedom of expression is the foundational human right in our society. Many others, including freedom of assembly and freedom of conscience, are derived from freedom of expression.

We, the undersigned, residents of Canada, call upon the Government of Canada to repeal section 296 (Blasphemous Libel) of the Canadian Criminal Code.

Now is the time for Canada’s Blasphemy Law to fall!

For more Information regarding Criminal Code Section 296 and its history, to download a sample educational letter for your local MP, and its connection to other blasphemy laws around the world, visit CFIC’s website.

CFI Canada’s Experts, Members and Friends Speak out!


 Dr. Jeremy Patrick, Lecturer University of  Southern Queensland


Paul Marshall, Senior Fellow at the Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom, Distinguished Senior Fellow the Institute for the Study of Religion at Baylor University, Senior Fellow at the Leimena Institute, Jakarta, and Visiting Professor at the Graduate School of Syarif Hidayatullah Islamic University (UIN) Jakarta, Indonesia. Author, Silenced: How Blasphemy and Apostasy Codes Choke freedom Worldwide.

I have examined blasphemy laws in over 50 countries and, regardless of the the intentions of their proponents, they universally become tools for repressing minorities and critics. They also choke debate about and within religions. No country that values robust criticism and discussion should have such laws.

Stephen Pinker, Johnstone Family  Professor – Harvard University

Blasphemy laws are archaic, irrational, repressive, and an embarrassment to a modern democracy.

Dr. James Linville – Associate Professor – Department of Religious Studies, University of Lethbridge

As a professor of Religious Studies whose research and teaching subjects involve the critical examination of scriptures and beliefs held by many people today, Canada’s retention of a blasphemy law is very troubling. This is especially so given the increasing polarization of different political and religious groups in Canada and the horrific violence and discrimination of religious and secular minorities in many parts of the world.

There also seems to be a growing sensitivity to any perceived offence, and so “playing the devil’s advocate” in a class room carries a very real danger of being misunderstood.  The law is a potential recourse for those offended by what is said in the context of Religious Studies or other academic disciplines and this only makes the teaching and the dissemination of this work more difficult than it already is.  I feel it is only a matter of time before an academic or other student has to deal with threats of court action for something said in a class or written online or in print. Even though I consider it unlikely that myself or another professor may be found guilty or even charged under the law, any defense of the need for such a law is troubling.

Public discourse about religion hardly needs such a law. Most people already are respectful of others’ beliefs, and government agencies, political groups, corporations, and educational institutions generally follow their own policies of respect without reference to the law.  The ending of the blasphemy law is not an attack on any religion or religion in general, but rather is recognition of the significance of Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The right to say nothing controversial is hardly a right at all.

Jason Lawrence, CFI Canada’s Human Rights Chair & Member of Board of Directors

It is important that Canadian citizens and the government are aware thatwhen we criticize religious and faith-based violence in other countries where blasphemy is punishable by death and imprisonment, we undermine our cause by still having a blasphemy law of our own.

The blasphemous libel law is an affront to free speech and human rights. If Canada seeks to “move forward as a county”, then the Canadian government must recognize that blasphemy laws put marginalized groups, who have historically been the targets of religious persecution, at risk.*It is a conflict of interest for a secular society and for a country who both proclaims and recognizes the separation of church and state to still have a blasphemy law in the books.

Tom Henheffer, Executive Director – Canadian Journalists For Free Expression

Canada’s blasphemous libel law is an outrageous relic, a clear violation of charter rights, and a completely unjustifiable chill on free expression in our country.  Every good journalist and free expression defender is opposed to this archaic law, and it must be scrapped. The fact that it is unlikely to be used is no excuse to have criminal libel on the books in a western democracy. Even worse, Canada’s blasphemous libel law gives a tragic comfort to despotic leaders around the world who use such regulations to jail free thinkers. It allows them to point to this Canadian statute as a shining justification for their choice forms of oppression.

Do you have something to say about Canada’s blasphemy law or blasphemy laws around the world?  Please add your comments below!


Support Parliamentary Petition e-382 to repeal Criminal Code Section 296!


C-14 Passed

On June 17th, Bill C-14, the Liberal’s physician-assisted death bill passed.  This situation, with its rejection of the very case which initiated the legislation, should be interpreted as a stand of faith-based dogma against individual secular human rights.

While there is ample coverage of the implications and meaning of the passage of the bill from media outlets and human rights organization (such as Dying With Dignity Canada), a leading focus of attention appears to be on the political power dynamics between the Senate and the House of Commons (Toronto Star,  National Post) rather than the effects on human rights law in Canada or on the vulnerable and suffering individuals who have just witnessed the federal government place options out of their reach.  Even further from public analysis, of course, is any mention of the influence of religion on the language of Bill C-14, or of the motivations of religious organizations who lobbied against human rights advances in this country.  Even The Catholic Register avoided mention of the Catholic position or actions on C-14.

It is shameful that one of the major effects of this new law, beyond the extension of unnecessary suffering for many Canadians, will be the need for further human rights challenges – more legal fights by individuals who are least able to undertake them.  On the GlobalNews website, Joan Bryden stated that,

Some other senators, who are morally opposed to assisted dying and would have preferred an even more restrictive law, also voted for the bill in the belief that a law governing assisted death is better than no law at all.

and it is indeed this situation which Canadian secularists, atheists, agnostics, humanists and human rights activists should be concerned with.  Kay Carter’s family (News 1130) warned Canadians that Bill C-14 would not even have helped her – the individual whose case demanded the advancement of law.   When human rights advances do not even include the class of cases which forced the government to change, it should be clear that others will be forced to repeat the fight that was already won.  It is a situation that defies reason.  Despite the risk of asserting un-substantiated claims,  it is my opinion that unreasonable blockage to  human rights advances may reliably be traced to faith-based dogma and religious lobbying.

Try to hide it as they may under terms such as “morally opposed” or pretenses of protecting vulnerable people – the outcome is not that religious opponents to physician-assisted death have protected their right to faithfully endure every miserable moment of illness and injury.  They would have retained their right to a miserable death if they wanted one.  Instead, they have continued to try to assure that everyone else must endure a miserable death as well – in other words that their religious perspectives will continue to have the effect of law on others who do not share them.

Already in Ontario, a coalition of Christian physicians has launched objections to the physician-assisted death referral system adopted in Ontario; Ewan Goligher, a physician from Toronto’s Mount Sinai was quoted by the Globe and Mail as claiming to be a conscientious objector to physician-assisted death,  “I think the patient is of greater value than their preference, and I cannot lift my hand to destroy that which is of fundamental value,”

Goligher demonstrates the lengths to which faith-based ideologues will go to force the implications of their chosen religions on others – even those who may not share their perspectives.   Goligher extends his ethics argument, and his fundamental objection to physician assisted death when he says, “If I knowingly refer my patient to anyone who does things that are unethical, I need to be held to account.” Goligher’s argument is, of course,  an appeal to an ethics he considers to be higher than Canadian law – his faith-based ethics.  It seems that the passing of this weak bill C-14  will also provide opportunities for petty procedural roadblocks by religious objectors – for what else is the insistence on a intermediary office to handle referrals than a petty roadblock?  And indeed, even if such an intermediary office were to be established, it is entirely predictable that  physicians who object to referring to other physicians will also object to referring to an administrative procedure.

What is Goligher’s ethical and clinical prescription for irremediable illness and un-ceasing misery? “.… the underlying issues need to be explored and treated.”   The underlying issue is not whether the patient is suffering and will die suffering – that’s been established both clinically and legally.  That’s a certainty.  The underlying issue is whether the patient has the right to choose the manner and time of the end to that suffering.  That, too has been established in law – but the passing of C-14 failed to live up to that human rights decision.

Eric Adriaans

National Executive Director

CFI Canada






Canada’s New Parliamentary E-Petition System

E-petitions are a new feature of Canada’s federal parliamentary system…..a feature which promises to provide increased access to Parliamentarians.

This new system is designed to allow individuals or groups to write and submit petitions to Parliament.  Every petition requires at least 5 Canadian citizen supporters and the sponsorship of a Member of Parliament to proceed.  Any petition which receives 500 signatures within 120 days are submitted to the House of Commons for response.

This new system will be one that is well worth observation by Canadians.  By June 2016, the system had already collected 111 petitions and the government had issued 3 responses.  Here are just a few examples of the petitions:

Petition e-411 (Islam):

  • Islam is a religion of over 1.5 billion people worldwide. Since its founding more than 1400 years ago, Muslims have contributed, and continue to contribute, to the positive development of human civilization. This encompasses all areas of human endeavors including the arts, culture, science, medicine, literature, and much more;
  • Recently an infinitesimally small number of extremist individuals have conducted terrorist activities while claiming to speak for the religion of Islam. Their actions have been used as a pretext for a notable rise of anti-Muslim sentiments in Canada; and
  • These violent individuals do not reflect in any way the values or the teachings of the religion of Islam. In fact, they misrepresent the religion. We categorically reject all their activities. They in no way represent the religion, the beliefs and the desire of Muslims to co-exist in peace with all peoples of the world.
We, the undersigned, Citizens and residents of Canada, call upon the House of Commons to join us in recognizing that extremist individuals do not represent the religion of Islam, and in condemning all forms of Islamophobia. 
  • Cell towers emit radiofrequency / microwave radiation which has been classified by the World Health Organization as a class 2b possible human carcinogen;
  • Unlike other possible carcinogens in this category such as chloroform, the emissions from cell towers radiate humans continuously;
  • Studies in Brazil, Israel and Germany show cancer rate increases up to over 40 times higher within 400 meters of a cell tower than beyond 1000 metres;
  • It has been proven by the scientific community that children are more vulnerable to the effects of exposure to radiofrequency/microwave radiation due to their thin skulls and developing brains. No laws currently prevent the installation of cell towers near schools;
  • A Nanos poll indicated that 60% of Canadians are concerned or somewhat concerned about possible health effects related to electromagnetic frequencies. Cell phones and cell towers were the top two sources of electromagnetic frequencies that Canadians were concerned about; and
  • Industry Canada does not monitor emissions once cell towers / antennas are approved, i.e, no one measures the amount of radiation emitted when additional antennas are added.
We, the undersigned, residents of Canada, call upon the Government of Canada to
1. Enact the ALARA principle (As Low As Reasonably Possible) when it comes to radiofrequency/ microwave radiation exposure allowances;
2. Ensure that cellular antennas /towers are kept away from schools and other sensitive areas; and
3. Enforce continuous monitoring during and after the installation of cellular antennas /towers for minimum achievable radiofrequency / microwave radiation levels.
  • The Liberal government has committed to appointing a Chief Science Officer who will ensure government science is fully available to the public, that scientists are able to speak freely about this work, and that scientific analyses are considered when the government makes decisions;
  • The principle of independence is fundamental to scientific integrity;
  • International best practices demonstrate Canada’s new science advisor should have a mandate to provide objective, impartial and apolitical scientific information;
  • Tenure of a position is necessary to provide objective and impartial advice to policy-makers; and
  • First created in 2004, the former Office of National Science Advisor was not established through legislation, lacked institutional independence, and was consequently easily eliminated in 2008 following a change in government;
We, the undersigned, Citizens of Canada, call upon the Government of Canada to establish the position of Chief Science Officer through an act of legislation in order to ensure that its independence and mandate are protected by law.
  • In current federal law, a pre-born child is not recognized as a victim with respect to violent crimes;
  • When a pregnant woman in Canada is assaulted or killed, because we offer no legal protection for pre-born children today, no charges can be laid in the death of the pre-born child;
  • Forcing upon a pregnant woman the death/injury of her pre-born child is a violation of a woman’s right to protect and give life to her child; and
  • The Kaake and Durham families of Windsor, Ontario are grieving the loss of Cassandra and her daughter Molly, who she was thirty-one weeks pregnant with when they were brutally murdered in December 2014.
We, the undersigned, Residents of Canada, call upon the House of Commons to Pass legislation which would recognize pre-born children as separate victims when they are injured or killed during the commission of an offence against their mothers, allowing two charges to be laid against the offender instead of just one.
Petition e-366 (Physician Assisted Death):
  • In Carter v. Canada (AG), the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that competent and consenting adults who have a grievous and irremediable medical condition that causes enduring and intolerable suffering should be allowed to access Physician-Assisted Death (PAD);
  • The not-for-profit Canadian organization ‘Dying With Dignity’ has determined through extensive research and polling of the Canadian public that the vast majority support choice in end-of-life for dying with dignity, including the legalization of Advance Directives and Physician-Assisted Death;
  • End-of-life experts, professionals and sufferers concur with the findings of ‘Dying With Dignity’ and the majority of Canadians; and
  • Dying with dignity and compassionate end of life through physician-assisted death are not suicide and should not be labelled as such as it creates a biased and derogatory reference;
  • Bill C-14 does not honour Advance Directives; nor the Carter v Canada Supreme Court of Canada Ruling to allow competent and consenting adults who have grievous and irremediable conditions, to self-determine through an Advance Directive, a physician-assisted death.
We, the undersigned, Citizens of Canada, call upon the Government of Canada to legally enable and support competent persons the right to determine their end of life choices should they become grievously and irremediably debilitated, and honour their Advance Directive, including physician-assisted death.
Petition e-263 (physician assisted death):
  • In Carter v. Canada (AG), the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that competent and consenting adults who have a grievous and irremediable medical condition that causes enduring and intolerable suffering should be allowed to access Physician-Assisted suicide;
  • During testimony at the Special Joint Committee on Physician-Assisted Dying, expert witnesses strongly cautioned against creating an open regime with few safeguards that protect vulnerable Canadians; and
  • The Special Joint Committee on Physician-Assisted Dying refused to act on this advice, leaving vulnerable Canadians at risk.
We, the undersigned, residents of Canada, call upon the Government of Canada to draft legislation that will include: adequate safeguards for vulnerable Canadians – especially those with mental health challenges, clear conscience protection for health-care workers and institutions, and protection of children and those under 18 from Physician Assisted Suicide.
Some of these e-petitions will fail to garner the support they require to justify a response by Parliament; others will be ill-timed to existing legislation (e.g. the physician assisted death petitions above) and as identified by the limited responses by Parliament to date, a great many that do reach Parliament are likely to be dismissed, shuffled to the side or otherwise punted by the politicians.  It is possibly, however, that some e-petitions may result in policy change.  At minimum, these e-petitions offer an opportunity to communicate directly to Parliament on federal issues such as Canada’s blasphemous libel law or other federal policy.  As leading secular citizens of Canada – it is a process which CFIC and its members should monitor and participate in.

WiFi Rats

A recent paper on rats exposed to cell-phone radiation (text note: for more information on Wifi and Cell Phone radiation, please see our article on our Extraordinary Claims website) has garnered much attention, even though it has not completed peer review and offers inconclusive results.

For some reason the US National Toxicology Program (NTP) decided to publish a paper in May, 2016 about “Cell Phone Radiofrequency Radiation” in rats before the peer review process was completed, presenting a learning opportunity for lay people.  Reviewers have noted several problems with the experimental design and the presentation of the results but most of the popular media has either misrepresented the findings or grossly extrapolated the conclusions. The following is a list of reasons why this paper does not overturn the thousands of other studies that have, so far, failed to find any link between cell phone use and cancer of any kind.

  1. The study is not yet published.  There was no reason given for releasing the paper as a preprint, but it may be related to some public discussions of their findings.

  1. The study is in rats. It’s difficult to overemphasize that rat and mouse physiology is very different to that of humans.   There are hundreds of drugs that looked promising in rodent studies but utterly failed in humans.  Only human studies can tell us about human physiology.

  1. An important anomaly that has yet to be explained is why none of the control rats developed tumours. Background rates for gliomas and schwannomas (the two nervous system tumour types included in the study) are between 1-6% (according to the authors) for the Sprague-Dawley rats they used.  The tumour rates for the test rats (those exposed to the radiation) in this study were in the range normally found in the control groups for other studies.  This represents a huge red flag pointing to the need for replication.

  1. The most troubling problem is one of cherry-picking. There were 3 test groups for each of two cell phone protocols (GSM and CDMA). Rats in each protocol were exposed to 1.5W/kg, 3W/kg or 6W/kg for a total of 9 hours per day and there was one control group. Each of the 7 groups contained 90 rats of each sex.

The raw data show no correlation between radiofrequency dose and tumour incidence.

There were 3 malignant gliomas in the male rats receiving each of the low and middle doses of GSM radiation but only 2 in the highest dose group.  Carcinogens typically show a dose-response curve, meaning that higher rates of carcinogen result in more tumours, but this is the opposite of that. In the CDMA group there were no tumours in the first two groups and 3 in the largest dose group. Three rats is a small number and should not be considered significant for this experimental design.  In fact the authors repeated state that there was “no statistical difference” between any of the groups and the control group.

For female rats there were no tumours in the two low doses for the GSM protocol and only 1 for the highest dose. For the CDMA protocol there were no tumours in the highest dose group and 2 in the lowest dose group. If these differences were statistically significant, which they are not, it would suggest that the radiation prevented cancer, but thankfully nobody jumped to that conclusion.

Schwannoma tumours occurred in 2, 1 & 5 male rats for the GSM protocol and 2, 3 and 6 for the CDMA protocol, in order of increasing dose. For females it was 0, 2 and 0 for GSM and 2, 0 and 2 for CDMA. Clearly there is no trend.

There was one group with a tumour incidence of 6.6% and the rest were below that. These data fall within the normal control rate of 1-6% and should not be considered significant. Reviewers noted that the nature of the experimental design and statistical analysis were such that it would lead to false positives and one bluntly stated “I am unable to accept the authors’ conclusions”. Reading the reviewers’ comments at the end of the paper is highly instructive for those who want to know what it’s like to have a paper reviewed.

Despite the lack of significant results the authors reported that there is a “trend” if you group the results a certain way. This kind of bias is called cherry picking if you want to be polite. If you construct enough groups, by chance alone you will eventually get one that increases but that is not the one you should base your headlines on. These results simply constitute “noise” and are meaningless.

  1. The dosage was in excess of anything a human with a cell phone would experience, by the authors’ admission. Also, the exposure began as the rat pups were gestating, in utero, and continued for two years, the typical lifespan of a lab rat.

What is significant is that a huge National Cancer Institute study showed that, despite a massive increase in cell phones and other devices using electromagnetic radiation over the past few decades, brain cancer has been steadily declining.  Cancers of the ovaries, larynx, esophagus, stomach as well as Hodgkin’s lymphoma have also been decreasing in the US.

Surprisingly the male rats exposed to the radiation lived longer than the control groups for both protocols, but that didn’t make the headlines.


Further Inquiry and Sources