Science and Secularism Speakers!
CFI Canada is proud to offer a wide variety of speakers through our branches. CFIC members are provide advance notice and special pricing on CFIC speaker events and book launches. Following are a few of the speaker events that CFIC has hosted at our branches; for upcoming speakers and events, visit our Upcoming Events Page, or view our calendar of events.
June 22, 2015: Author Tony Ortega visited with the Toronto Branch with his new book, The Unbreakable Miss Lovely; along for the visit was Paulette Cooper, the subject of the book. Cooper and Ortega shared the story of the Church of Scientology’s decades-long harassment of Ms. Cooper. Over 80 people attended an informative and engaging event!
June 10, 2015: Jerry Coyne spoke at our Toronto Branch during the Canadian launch of his book “Faith vs Fact: Why Science and Religion are Incompatible”. Over 150 people enjoyed Jerry’s talk at the OISE Auditorium and enjoyed a book signing opportunity following the event. While he was in Toronto, Jerry was able to squeeze in an interview with TVO’s The Agenda with Steve Paiken. See Jerry’s analysis of the show. Coyne also spoke about his visit to CFIC on his visit to Toronto here and here.
May 14, 2015: Historian and Bigfooter-enthusiast, Jarret Ruminski spoke to CFI Canada members about recent Bigfooter culture and the broader subject of crypto-zoology. Jarret’s blog That Devil History explains how politics, history, public policy and culture collide to blow your mind. Jarret’s talk is available on CFI Canada’s Extraordinary Claims website.
March 8, April 15 & May 6 2015: Launching his book “Is Gwyneth Paltrow Wrong About Everything”, Tim Caulfield spoke to CFIC audiences in Calgary, Toronto and Ottawa. The speaking engagement, “When Celebrity Culture and Science Clash” gave attendees an extremely informative take on everything from holistic medicines to fad diets, from the mouth of the acclaimed Timothy Caulfield, the Research Director of the Health Law Institute at the University of Alberta. The event was a single feature speaking engagement appealed to everyone who interested in critical thought, the health debate or science in general.
November 2, 2014: Penn Jillette spoke to a massive CFI Canada audience in Toronto with his book “Every Day is an Athiest Holiday”.
May 29, ,2014: Atheist Alliance International president David Silverman spoke to CFI Canada in Calgary about Firebrand Atheism.
March 6 & October 2014: Dr. Richard Carrier is a popular philosopher, historian, lecturer, author and debater on the subject of the historicity of Jesus Christ. In 2014, Dr. Carrier visited CFIC’s Ottawa, Okanagan, Calgary, Saskatoon and Regina branches for a series of lectures and debates.
February 12, 2014: Dr. Eugenie Scott celebrated Darwin’s birthday with CFI Canada.
January 19, 2014: Peter Boghossian, author of “A Manual For Creating Atheists” spoke to CFIC members in Calgary.
Secular Seminars Series
- Prayers in Public Spaces (now available!) See our Supreme Court Decision page
- Canada’s Blasphemy Law (available summer 2015)
- Writing About Secularism (available autumn 2015)
Education In The Community
Education is a top priority for Canadians. CFIC undertakes to provide educational materials and support to Canadian communities. Kids need access to science-based, critical thinking educational resources.
Chilliwack, British Columbia
The Chilliwack School District has a long history of promoting Gideon Bible distribution, despite community opposition to that activity. In October of 2012, local parents objected to Gideon Bible distribution with complaints to the provincial Education Minister. Over a period spanning 2012 and 2013, the School District unanimously approved a policy which would allow the distribution of Gideon bibles. The policy states:
Recognized charitable organizations and other organizations having educational or community service attributes may be authorized by the superintendent of schools or the superintendent’s delegate to have information or materials distributed.
The BC Humanists Association and the BC Civil Liberties Association expressed at that time a concern that the distribution of bibles in public schools contravenes Section 76 of the B. C. School Act. That Act requires schools to be secular.
The CFIC Education Committee determined that working within the District’s policy framework as a recognized charitable organization would be a reasonable test of the District’s process and would be a proud opportunity for CFIC to provide an excellent educational resource to BC students. Kevin Smith, CFIC’s Board Chair said, “You never know where the next Darwin or Dawkins might come from. Wouldn’t it be terrific to have motivated a young mind to great scientific achievements!”
Read the full documentation of CFIC experience in Chilliwack, BC.
According to this report in the Lethbridge Herald, reading of The Lord’s Prayer will be renewed at a local school. The decision was based on a survey conducted by Board. According to the report, the local decision-makers had
informed parents the council had determined 70 per cent of the surveys needed to be returned and 70 per cent of those returned needed to be in support of the action.
The view expressed was that a “strong majority” support would justify the implementation of the Lord’s Prayer in schools. This sentiment ignores an essential human rights principle of protecting minority perspectives from the tyranny of a strong majority view.
Taber, Alberta is the same community which passed a by-law restricting swearing in public and public assembly. CFIC has received a reply (dated May 21, 2015) from Wilco Tymensen – Superintendent of schools For Horizon School Division 67 stating in part,
When dealing with the aforementioned matter, one must realize that a school board within Alberta has a constitutionally protected right to direct that a school be opened by the recitation of the Lord’s Prayer, and that such a decision is either consistent with or supersedes any provincial or federal law stating otherwise.
This is a startling and deeply concerning perspective and statement when considered in the light of fundamental diversity and human rights in Canada today.
On May 4th, 2015 the Winnipeg School Board passed a motion to propose changes to provincial legislation relating to religious instruction in Manitoba schools (See the Winnipeg Free Press report). The proposed legislation change appears to refer to The Public Schools Act section 80(2) which states:
Petition for instruction in religion
80(2) If a petition requesting that religious instruction be given in a school is presented to the school board and is signed by
(a) the parents or guardians of at least 10 children attending the school having one or two classrooms; or
(b) the parents or guardians of at least 25 children attending the school having three or more classrooms;
the school board shall pass a by-law authorizing instruction in religion in compliance with the petition.
Altering this section from “shall pass” to “may pass” is intended to move in the direction of secularization of schools (see Humanists Atheists and Agnostics of Manitoba’s analysis) but could also be read to provide the School Board options to choose which faith-groups are granted their petitions and which are not. CFIC prefers that section 80(1), which currently states: ”Instruction in religion may be conducted in any school in Manitoba if authorized by a by-law passed by the school board.” be altered to read
80(1) Instruction in religion may not be conducted in any school in Manitoba.
Such a modernization of Manitoba’s The Public School Act would be consistent with the diversity of contemporary society and ethics while protecting all religious and non-religious perspectives from faith-based bigotry. CFIC has received a reply (dated July 15, 2015) from David Yeo, Manitoba’s Director of Education Administration Services which reads (in part):
We believe that schools should be safe and inclusive places for all children to learn. Parents have an important role in their children’s education and we support their right to choose activities that they feel are best for their children. The current legislation provides an appropriate balance and there are no plans to reopen it at this time. It is our expectation that Winnipeg School Division’s new framework will ensure that parents have a clear path to follow and that school administrators can fulfil their duty to ensure safe and inclusive environments for all students.
Based on this reply, it appears that Manitoba has not immediate plans to remove religious accommodations and privileges in publicly funded schools.
Religious privilege in publicly funded schools sometimes extends to include the inclusion of religious symbolism. See our member-driven inquiry into a school in Dorval, Quebec.
A forum for discussion of topics and issues related to CFI Canada’s mandate to promote science, reason, and secular values.
Canada’s Finest Dedicated Freethought Library is located at 55 Eglinton Avenue East – Suite 307.
Teaching The Controversy
Teaching the Controversy is a video-based educational programme based on popular “Teach The Controversy” t-shirts available at the CFI Canada office. What is the flying teapot anyway? Who is Chthulu? What do you mean by Extraordinary Claims? This series is focussed on providing the essential critical thinking background to todays’ most prevalent scientific, religious or philosophical controversies.