Secular Human Rights Campaigns
CFIC is committed to educational and advocacy programs which support the secular human rights which protect all people from persecution, bigotry and violence. Following are a selection of our priority programs and activities to promote secular human rights.
End Blasphemy Laws
In January of 2015, CFI Canada stepped up to be a leader and co-founder of the International Coalition Against Blasphemy Laws. This initiative is a response to events such as the brutal torture of Raif Badawi and the murders at Charlie Hebdo. CFIC asserts that it is hypocritical and embarrassing for Canada to be considered a world-leader on human rights and to retain an archaic blasphemy law in the criminal code.
To learn more about Canada’s blasphemy law and this campaign visit our relevant webpages:
Death With Dignity: Physician-assisted Death in Canada
On February 6th, 2015 the Supreme Court of Canada released its judgment in the case of Carter Vs. Canada and effectively created a 12-month window for the federal government to draft new legislation on physician-assisted death in Canada.
In the first months of 2015, the world has been witness to repeated acts of violence and murder around the world. CFIC condemns all faith-based violence.
Publicly Funded Schools Should Be Strictly Secular
Religious privilege, particularly of Christian churches, is strongly entrenched in Canadian schools. CFI Canada is documenting the various examples of religious entrenchment and incursion into publicly funded schools with case after case of systemic violations of Canadians’ human rights.
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
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.
Ontario’s system of publicly-funded Catholic school boards has long been a long-standing human rights embarrassment to Ontario. CFI Canada supports the work of the One School System Network to oppose Ontario’s system of funding religious privilege.
Religious privilege in publicly funded schools sometimes extends to include the inclusion of religious symbolism. See our member-driven inquiry into a school in
A fundamental aspect of free speech should be the ability for atheist, humanist and secular agencies to publicly engage the community. However there is a long history, in Canada and around the world, of organizations like CFI Canada being frustrated or denied the right to speak about reason. Your support of CFI Canada billboard and bus ads sends the message that CFI Canada members demand free speech.
In response to the outpouring of concern expressed by members and volunteers of CFI Canada over the earthquake in Nepal (May 2015), we have launched the Skeptics and Humanists Aid and Relief Effort (SHARE).
The SHARE fund was initially developed by CFI (US) as a service for their donors who wished to give to disaster relief in a way that is consistent with their ethics and standards; in Canada, the SHARE model is a service to CFIC members and donors who wish to give to disaster recovery initiatives through secular charities. CFIC will provide a tax receipt to donors and pass 100% of donations to a secular disaster recovery charity partner. Donor names and details will not be shared with other organizations (unless explicitly requested by the donor).
Giving to assist during disasters should respect your ethics and reach the vulnerable. We can help.
Secular Human Rights Campaign Archives