Are You (Or Do You Know) An Alberta Lawyer With Human Rights Experience?
CFIC was recently contacted by a Sergeant (I will use the pseudonym “Bob”) in the Calgary Police Service (CPS). He brought to our attention that many of CPS’ informal practices assume its members are Christian by default.
A few examples of how Christianity is embedded in the CPS:
- When the CPS built a new headquarters a little over a decade ago, it included a chapel. The design clearly makes it a Christian room of worship, with an altar, pews, stained-glass windows, and a Christian saint prominently displayed. A CPS document describing its intended use listed predominantly Christian ceremonies (“wedding services, baptisms and christenings”). While lip service was paid to other faiths (“Any or all of the rows can be removed to accommodate special purposes, such as First Nations ceremonies, the placement of prayer mats for Muslim prayer services”), the document makes clear that the standard, default, and assumed use of the chapel was for Christians and Christian rites.
- Before getting married, Bob and his fiancee took the CPS couples’ course, intended to assist officers and their partners with their relationships. The instructor — a psychologist (with inflated credentials) under contract for 23 years with the CPS — stated couples with previous sexual partners cannot achieve the same level of intimacy as those that “saved themselves” for marriage. While a common Christian trope, there is no evidence that couples without previous sexual partners have happier, healthier, or longer relationships.
- The instructor also stated LGBT couples would need a separate course “because of the number of sexual partners they have” and “they would make the straight couples feel uncomfortable.”
- Bob asked to provide a secular invocation at a service dinner in lieu of the customary Christian grace. The request was grudgingly granted, but the management team made it clear such efforts were unwelcome (loudly proclaiming “Amen” after the invocation).
- The CPS has a District Chaplaincy program. However, unlike the Canadian military (listen to Podcast for Inquiry with Marie-Claire Khadij to learn more about the Canadian Armed Force chaplaincy program), all 13 chaplains in the CPS are Christian pastors. There is no representation for other faiths, First Nations people, or the non-religious.
- Some of the CPS chaplains represent the Billy Graham Association, which believes (among other things) in evangelizing Christianity and that “marriage is exclusively the union of one genetic male and one genetic female.” Needless to say, this is hardly inclusive of non-Christians and members of the LGBT community.
The CPS has made some improvements in recent years:
- The chapel was renamed Memorial Hall (likely as a result of a complaint filed by Bob).
- The “intimacy” portion of the couples’ course has been removed.
- The CPS instituted an official policy of religious neutrality (which has since been removed).
- Recruits are no longer invited to seemingly secular ceremonies that turn into a Catholic mass, though the CPS still hosts Catholic services including a Christmas Eve mass).
Nonetheless, in many respects the Calgary Police Service remains a “Christian-default” workplace. Bob has faced retaliation in ways subtle and overt for his attempts to make the CPS a more inclusive, welcoming, and secular institution. Therefore, in September 2021, Bob submitted an official complaint with the Alberta Human Rights Commission.
The AHRC has reviewed Bob’s complaint, and has accepted it as valid (most files are rejected at this stage). It will therefore proceed to a conciliation hearing (yet to be scheduled).
CFIC will be writing a letter of support for Bob’s case, outlining the legal requirement for the Calgary Police Service, as an agent of the state, to respect the principle of secularism: not privileging one faith over another, or belief over non-belief.
If you know an Alberta lawyer with human rights experience, please let me know at email@example.com.
We will keep you apprised of Bob’s case at the AHRC in future editions of Critical Links.
Volunteer Opportunity: Toronto Branch Manager
CFIC is looking for a volunteer to fill the role of Toronto Branch Manager.
Branch managers work with a team of local volunteers to plan and implement programs for members in their community. As a part of the overall CFIC Leadership Team, branch managers promote and support the work of CFIC nationally.
If you’re interested, please fill out a volunteer application form here.
You can also email CFIC’s Volunteer Coordinator for more information about this position or other volunteer opportunities.
Skeptics Conference, Calgary, May 5 to 6
Over the weekend of May 5 to 7, The Rocky Mountain Atheists are proud to sponsor the WeCanReason (Western Canadian Reason) conference. This conference will feature the following lineup of great speakers.
Aron Ra, science communicator and secular activist. He is best known as the author of Foundational Falsehoods of Creationism, and for public testimonies contesting the Texas State Board of Education in their attempts to denigrate evolution and teach creationism in both science and history classrooms of public schools.
Janice Selbie, a registered professional counsellor and religious recovery consultant located in the un-ceded territory of the Syilx people in Kelowna, BC. She deconverted from evangelical Christianity after nearly four decades and now has a private practice devoted to helping former believers recover from religious trauma.
Celestia Ward, cohost, editor, and producer of “Squaring the Strange,” a biweekly podcast examining the mysterious and the mundane through a critical lens, since 2017. She is a recurring columnist for AIPT Comics and Skeptical Inquirer.
Adrienne Hill has been a Guerilla Skepticism on Wikipedia (GSoW) editor since 2019. She is a regular reporter for the “Skeptic Zone” podcast and has written for The Skeptic (Australia). She was part of Richard Saunder’s Great Australian Prediction Project, which researched and scored almost 4,000 Australian psychics’ predictions.
Stay tuned for more speakers and information. Get your tickets here.
DAY OF ACTION TO #FREESOHEIL
CFI Canada joins Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain and other secular and humanist organizations around the world on 4 February for a day of action in support of Soheil Arabi.
Soheil Arabi was beaten so badly during his arrest that he reportedly had a heart attack and was taken to hospital. Since 7 January, he is being held in Greater Tehran Prison. He is at risk and being tortured.
Participants are encouraged to take photos holding signs with the hashtag #FreeSoheil and #FreePoliticalPrisonersinIran , record voice messages of solidarity to Soheil, or contact elected representatives to take action.