My ideal for a reformed electoral system

I’ve written about electoral reform in Canada a couple times. It’s certainly a topic that interests me. Thing is, the only thing I’ve done in my previous posts on the topic is point out the problems. I never really detailed a particular solution. I’d like to change that. Read the rest of this entry

A Humanist Canada response to Japanese Canadian internment

Last month, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission wrapped up its work looking into the Indian Residential School System. They released a comprehensive report that amazingly managed to be at times both horrifying – with tales of aboriginal children forced to eat their own vomit – and inspiring. Its closing call for reconciliation as an act of ongoing education, communication and cooperating is beautiful. And supremely humanist.

Yet Humanist Canada’s official response to the report was tragically misguided. Completely missing the entire point of the report and its recommendations, they managed to not only reduce it to a condemnation of a handful of churches, but to shockingly turn around and blame the report for not putting a positive enough spin on the residential school system.

Even after these and other failings were pointed out to Humanist Canada, their directors have stepped up to defend itstill completely missing the point. It seems more drastic measures are necessary to get through to them.

Since I’ve been told that closed-minded people can’t handle too many words, I decided that instead of an essay going in depth into the wrongheadedness of Humanist Canada’s response, I need to try something else. I need to speak Humanist Canada’s language. Since their behaviour the last few years has shown them to be a bit of a joke, perhaps humour is the best way to reach them.

The following “press release” is a parody of Humanist Canada’s press release about the TRC report, using the World War ⅠⅠ internment of Japanese Canadians rather than the residential school system. I felt using the current topic (residential schools) would too easily allow Humanist Canada’s board members to dismiss the critique with yet another example of the point-missing pedantry they seem to like to engage in. At the same time, I felt using a completely fictional atrocity would blunt the impact. I did take extensive liberties with the historical facts of the internment, but I hope you will indulge me the inaccuracies for the sake of the point I’m making.

It is not my intention to belittle what survivors of either internment camps or residential schools went through. My goal is only to shine a light on Humanist Canada’s clueless self-absorption, and to graphically demonstrate the wrong way for a humanist to approach tragedy and atrocity.

A Humanist Canada response to Japanese Canadian internment

Humanist Canada welcomes the release of the final report of the National Association of Japanese Canadians. We agree that Canada’s internment of Japanese Canadians represented a shameful chapter in the country’s history, because it included forced religious proselytization. We call on our government to join with the majority of the world’s nations in signing the United Nations Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, which should fix everything.

More importantly, we believe that the National Association of Japanese Canadians paid insufficient attention to the culpability of Canada’s churches in this improperly executed endeavour. It is well known that the government of Canada handed over the day-to-day management of these camps to religious groups. Although the government of Canada wished for, planned, ordered, implemented, legislated, funded, enforced, and defended internment camps – as part of their own explicitly stated and long pursued policy to single out and stigmatize Canadians with Japanese heritage, and ultimately eliminate them entirely as an identity from the Canadian landscape – the fact that churches were involved is tragic.

Much of the suffering in internment was due to the fact the government of Canada did not provide enough funding to run the camps. Detainees often paid for this shortfall with poor health flowing from insufficient rations and inadequate health care. This was obviously a failing of the churches, for not getting enough funding from the federal government. When a report pointed out the failings due to lack of funding, the churches successfully pressured the government to do something about it. Thus, the churches got more funding from the federal government. This was another failing of the churches.

We wish to reiterate that all Christian denominations are equally guilty. But the Roman Catholic Church is more guilty than others. Unlike the others, their national organization has failed to offer an apology or to pay reparations. This is because unlike the others, they do not have a national organization, which is another failure on their part. Although we are not Japanese Canadians ourselves, we have decided to not accept the numerous apologies of the various local dioceses on their behalf. We call on the federal government to force the Catholic Church to create a national organization, assign it blame for the involvement it didn’t have in running the internment camps, and then make them apologize. We will pass the apology on to Japanese Canadians.

We are disappointed that the National Association of Japanese Canadians failed to report on Japanese Canadians who had good internment camp experiences, as reconciliation cannot be achieved without balanced reporting. The need for balanced reporting is why we have taken such great pains in our response to balance the blame we are handing out for the internment camps created by the Canadian government and run by the churches; the blame we dispense is balanced equally among each of the churches involved.

We also believe the NAJC could have provided greater insight into why some Japanese Canadians wanted to keep the camps open. We know a guy who knows a guy who said the internment camp wasn’t all that bad, and that some of the people did actually deserve to be there, as they were, in fact, of Japanese descent. Some of the detainees wished to stay in the camps rather than be released penniless and alone into a society that hated and feared them; without the NAJC providing more insight into this phenomenon, it will surely remain a mystery. We also note that instances of physical and sexual abuse happened in those schools and suggest that if there were any Japanese Canadians in positions of power at these internship camps, they should be punished; perhaps by forcibly removing them from their homes, confiscating their possessions, stripping them of their citizenship, and sending them to some kind of temporary incarceration facility.

Finally, the report introduced the term “spiritual violence”, which we don’t really know what it means, but we think it means that religions are to blame. And if that’s so, we are deeply troubled by the fact that the report uses language of reconciliation that seems to suggest we can’t take advantage of this horrifying situation to criticize religion. We consider this potential abrogation of our right to criticize religion the most important human rights violation related to the report.

The internment of Japanese Canadians was a black mark on Canadian history, which – we must remind – was all religion’s fault. But we must never forget the real victims of this atrocity: people who don’t like religion. Those of us who live today reaping the benefits of the shameful institution of internment are forced to live with the fact that we must thank the churches who ran the camps for those benefits. We face now the challenge of enjoying our privilege while it is tainted by the memory that the churches did something awful.

But the churches alone do not bear responsibility for the inhumane institution of Japanese Canadian internment camps. We must not forget that some Japanese Canadians were also complicit. It is only by highlighting and calling attention to the culpability of the churches and the victims of the internment camps, that the rest of us can move forward without guilt.

We thank you for taking the time to read this release.

Fuck religion.

On Canadian Atheist: Chevalier de la Barre Day

Logo for the blog 'Canadian Atheist'.

Canadian Atheist

Most Canadians will be celebrating Canada on June 1st, but I will not. I will be raising a toast to the Chevalier de la Barre, a 19 year-old Frenchman who was legally tortured, beheaded, and burned in 1766, for failing to take his hat off for a religious procession. Remembering this 250 year-old tragedy becomes an imperative when you realize that Canada – today – still has a blasphemy law. For more details, check out the post on Canadian Atheist.

The CBC’s shitty year

2015 hasn’t been a good year for our national broadcaster. High-profile scandals among some of its biggest celebrities, and mounting frustration over its unbalanced journalistic practices have soured the once stellar reputation of the CBC. Read the rest of this entry

On Canadian Atheist: How do Canadians feel about removing prayer from government meetings, and God from the anthem?

The Supreme Court ruling in Mouvement laïque québécois v Saguenay changed the entire landscape of secularism in Canada. But how do Canadians feel about it? The Angus Reid Institute did a forum survey asking that question, along with other related questions about the separation of church and state in Canada. For more details, check out the post on Canadian Atheist.

Religious indoctrination and using children as weapons

It may not be obvious from my writing, but I am a very sanguine person. There are a lot of things that make me annoyed, or upset, and depressed, but there aren’t many that enrage me. Leave it to religious people to find just the right button to push to pull that off. Read the rest of this entry

Scott Vrooman for Senate

Following Canadian news can be a challenge and a half. Mainstream sources are easy to find, but about as reliable as a gauze condom. Alternative sources are a chore. Sometimes it takes a comedian to make sense of Canadian politics. Read the rest of this entry

On Canadian Atheist: What do Canadians think about publishing images of Muhammad?

Shortly after the murders of the Charlie Hebdo cartoonists, the Angus Reid Institute conducted a survey to see how Canadians felt about the balance between freedom of expression and religious sensitivity. The results were uplifting. Canada is often stereotyped as a country full of people who don’t want to step on anyone’s toes. It’s refreshing to see that we do recognize that some things are more important that protecting religious egos. For more details, check out the post on Canadian Atheist.

The stories we don’t hear: Michael Harris’s talk

I consider myself fairly non-partisan, politically. I’d vote for any party with a platform that was rational. There is no such thing in Canadian politics, of course, so I am forced to vote for the party with the least irrational platform, but I hold no strong attachment or animosity to any particular political party. All parties disappoint me to some degree or another. Nevertheless, it seems I am finding myself more and more viscerally disgusted with the Conservative Party of Canada – and in particular, Stephen Harper – the more information I discover about them. Read the rest of this entry

Voting for pizza: electoral reform illustrated

So electoral reform is on my mind again – no, not for that reason, but because the next federal election is coming up. Last year I wrote a post for Canadian Atheist about electoral reform, and I was shocked and horrified to discover how little most Canadians know about the issue. My goal this year is to shine a little more light on it. Read the rest of this entry