Update on Parliamentary Petition e-382 calling for the elimnation of Canada’s anti-blasphemy law

On January 30, 2017 the federal government tabled a response to an electronic Parliamentary petition (E-382) calling for the repeal of Canada’s blasphemous libel law (Criminal Code Section 296).

Despite the generally accepted view that Canada’s blasphemy law is an outdated and dead law that would never be successful if used today, this is still an historic situation. The federal government has reviewed archaic legislation and repealed obsolete law before, but this is the first time that the blasphemy law has been clearly identified for attention (that we are aware of).

The government’s response to e-382 may be found on the Parliament of Canada website and states:

The government is committed to maintaining a fair, relevant, and accessible justice system for all Canadians.
In her mandate letter, the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada has been asked to conduct a broad review of our criminal justice system. The Minister’s overarching goal is to ensure our legislation meets the highest standards of equity, fairness, and respect for the rule of law as well as the Constitution of Canada.
The crime of blasphemous libel, although included in the original Criminal Code of 1892, has not been the subject of a reported legal case since 1935. In 1979, a charge of blasphemous libel was laid in Ontario in a case involving the showing of Monty Python’s Life of Brian, but the charge was stayed.
Blasphemous libel, along with numerous other provisions of the Criminal Code, are presently under review by the Minister and her officials. The Minister looks forward to addressing these provisions in the course of her mandate.

This is an encouraging situation.  Canadian secular humanists, and indeed any Canadian concerned to reduce faith-based tension and victimization in Canada and around the world must encourage our Parliamentarians to finally repeal this bill.  Whether the repeal is part of an omnibus bill or a dedicated legislative action – the blasphemy law must go!

Blasphemy laws are an attempt to protect faith-based concepts and ideas from criticism.  But this approach underlies much of the tension, victimization and violence throughout the world.  When rational discussion of ideas is considered a criminal act, the results often include alienation, isolation, frustration and a desire to strike back.

We must also remember that Canada’s position on human rights issues around the world is greatly respected.  When Canada opposes blasphemy laws here in Canada and around the world, an important message of inclusion, stability and good governance is sent.
It seems that the Canadian government, on this issue, is open to taking steps to advance an open Canadian society.  CFIC members are encouraged to educate their local Members of Parliament about the importance of this step. Consider using the CFIC website for further information regarding this bad law. Simply type “blasphemy, Canada” into your search engine!
 
Did You Know?
CFIC began our strategies to oppose Canada’s blasphemous libel law in 2014!  Change – even on an issue as self-evident as opposition to blasphemy laws is a long term commitment.  Please support CFIC with a donation today.  We are Canada’s leading secular humanist organization.

 

CONTRE L’HOMOPHOBIE RELIGIEUSE

CFI Canada has been a long-time supporter of LGBT rights, and a participant in pride parades across the nation. This year, CFI Montreal marched in the Montréal Pride/Fierté Montréal parade. Our message, “CONTRE L’HOMOPHOBIE RELIGIEUSE” (STOP FAITH-BASED BIGOTRY), is a reminder that most of the barriers held up against LGBT equality are religiously motivated.

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Ontario Pre-Budget Consultations

The Ontario provincial government is holding public budget consultations until the end of the month.  This provides an opportunity for Ontario secularists to voice our concerns about the waste of public funds used to support the Catholic school system, and the violation of human rights that privileges members of one particular religion over those of other religions or no religion.

At this writing, there are 65 budget ideas under the category of Catholic schools.   You can vote online (login required).  Of course, the Catholic schools have mobilized their side to downvote the proposals to remove their privilege, so let’s see if we can get the “nones” out to defend the principal of equality under secularism.

 

CFI Calgary Statement Re: Calgary Doctor Refuses to Prescribe Birth Control

Medicine and Health is one of three broad areas of education and activism that Centre for Inquiry Calgary focuses on. The issue regarding Dr. Chantal Barry of Westglen Medical Centre, and her refusal to prescribe contraceptives based on religious beliefs is of great concern to us and Calgarians. Public polls on this issue through the Calgary Herald, Global News Calgary, and CTV Calgary all show a resounding negative public reaction against this Doctor’s actions.

At Centre for Inquiry Calgary, we strongly disapprove when medical treatment is influenced by personal beliefs, whether they are cultural, religious, moral, bigoted, or racist. All Albertans have the right to receive equal and appropriate care from all Physicians. Under the Canadian Charter of Rights and freedoms, a person cannot be discriminated against based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability.

A Physician who refuses medical treatment based on a personal or religious belief is using that as an excuse to force their beliefs onto others and to discriminate. Specifically, when a Physician refuses to prescribe contraceptives because of religious beliefs, they are discriminating against that person, because they have differing religious beliefs.

Under the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta’s policy on Moral or Religious Beliefs Affecting Medical Care, doctors can refuse to provide medical services, but must ensure the patient is offered timely access to those services from another practitioner. In the case of Dr. Chantal Barry of Westglen Medical Centre, timely access is not given. If a Physician refuses to give medical treatment to a patient, we feel that “timely access” should mean “seamless access”.

When Dr. Barry is working alone at the clinic, there is no seamless access for the patients that she has denied medical services to. At a minimum, Dr. Barry should not be permitted to be the sole Doctor on duty at a medical practice to ensure that patients can receive all the necessary medical care entitled to all Canadians.

 

Montreal Pride 2013

CFI-Canada has been a long-time supporter of LGBT rights, and a participant in pride parades across the nation. In Montreal, CFI has walked in Fierté Montréal parade since 2010.

Our motto, “Stop faith-based bigotry,” is a reminder that most of the barriers held up against LGBT equality are religiously motivated, as highlighted by the recent battle to get publicly funded Catholic schools to allow GSA (Gay-Straight Alliance) clubs.

This year, we are partnering up with Concordia Freethought and Humanist Student Association to show CFI’s support for the LGBT community. We invite CFI members to join us with your friends and family to celebrate and defend equality!

More details to follow!