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Why should I care about the Supreme Court?

Posted by Don McLenaghen on May 18, 2011

Supreme Court of Canada

Where does it fit in?

Although established at the inception of our nation, the original the Supreme Court of Canada was not supreme; in fact until the British Privy Council was abolished in 1949 it was last court of appeal. There was a sort of limbo for our legal system until the repatriation of our constitution in 1982 at which point the court truly was supreme. Since 1982 not only does the Supreme Court rule on the letter of the law; they also interpret the meaning of and implementation of the Constitution and Charter of Rights as well as a unique role of answering ‘reference questions’. Reference questions occur when the Governor General (on the behalf of the PM) asks the court if a proposed law would be constitutional or not; a prejudgment of law as it were.

Why are they important?

Although parliament may make law, how that law is actually enforced in our country or IF it is allowed to remain a law at all lies in the hands of the Supreme Court. One great example was the legality of Abortion; for decades the Supreme Court upheld limitations on abortion however in 1988 the court struck down our laws and to this date we have no law on abortion…we are one of the few countries that treat abortion as a purely medical matter between doctor and patient. Similar landmarks occurred with regard to the recognition of Aboriginal rights or the definition of hate speech and the limitation of free speech.

Who are they?

Currently there are 9 members of the SC of C. By law, 3 must be appointed from Quebec, by tradition 3 from Ontario, 2 from “the West” and 1 from the Maritimes. For a case to be heard by the court, it must first be approved of by a committee of at least 3 justices. This means that before any case even reaches the Supreme Court it must first be approved by a this committee; this is the first opportunity for the ideology of the justices can influence the way our constitution and laws are implemented.

Once a case is approved, it is then heard by any from 5 to 9 judges unlike the American Court there cases are heard by the complete 9 court members. At the moment, of the 9 justices 6 have been appointed by the Liberals and 3 by the Conservatives however in the next 4 years, 4 more members are to be replaced due to forced retirement and that does not include those who quite for other reasons. This point is brought home by the recent announcement of Justice Louise Charron who is retiring early for personal reasons. At present these retirements will allow Harper to appoint at least 7 of the 9 justices.

How are they appointed?

First, there are two parts of our Canadian constitution – legislative and convention. The legislative are those parts of our constitution that are written down…such as the Constitution Act of 1982 or our Charter of Rights and Freedoms…they are physical documents that set down in words the rule of law. Another part is the convention part…those procedures that are followed not because they are prescribed in law but by tradition…they have always been done that way.

An example of this is the Governor General does not HAVE to sign a bill into law; there is no legal requirement or a legal means for the Parliament to sidestep the necessity of the Royal Assent. However, by convention the GG has never refused to give consent to a bill passed by Parliament although one Lieutenant Governor did refuse to sign three laws in 1937 that he felt were unconstitutional; a belief that was upheld by the Supreme Court/Privy Council.

The appointment of Justices to the Supreme Courts largely falls into the convention part of our constitution. Technically the GG appoints them on the advice of the Privy Council…in fact they are selected solely by the whim of Prime Minister. However by law[1] they must be members of the Bar (i.e. lawyers or judges) and by convention, the PM selects the Justices from candidates presented to him by a judicial advisory committee of the provinces ‘due’ a justice (to maintain the balance mentioned earlier. For “the west”, each province rotates, so one justice comes from BC, the next from Alberta…etc.; this also occurs in the Maritimes).

There have be over time many complaints about the power invested in the PM to “stack the deck” with ideologically friendly justices, that there was no input from the Parliament in the appointment and there was a lack of transparency in the process. In response to these criticism, Prime Minister Paul Martin in 2004 attempted to set up a committee to review nominees however this process became politicised when the Conservatives on the committee refused to sign off on the report from the committee because they felt the powers they had were insufficient; desiring a system that emulated the process in the USA where justices must be voted on by the senate prior to appointment…a process that is now considered a hyper-partisan inquisition. In response, the process was amended so as to allow the committee to select the “top three” candidates from a list of 7, one of which the PM would then select. Once in power, Harper did set up a review committee for his first nominee but quickly abandoned the idea and appointed the nominee of his choice stating that the process was too slow and political.

Lesson south of the border

caveat – it has been brought to my attention that the following paragraph is presented in a less than flattering light with some literary and political licence. As my readers probably know by now my political leanings are a little left of extreme left, so in my discussion of the US Supreme Court, I hope you will understand that I believe what I am writing to be honest and fair is not exactly balanced however one may wish to read it with “a grain of salt”[2]>

After years of lobbying and concerted effort the American Supreme Court has become what appears to be the judicial branch of the Republican Party promoting a right-wing corporatist agenda. For example, Clarence Thomas[3] and Antoni Scalia[4] have been noteworthy and active participants at a number of Neo-con gatherings with Thomas’s wife being a lobbyist for the prominent Tea-party group[5]. Having successive far right justices being promoted to the court (Clarence Thomas, Antonin Scalia and Samuel Alito being the worst with John Roberts, Anthony Kennedy not much better), the current court has become infamous for its patrician decisions including what has been called the Supreme Court coup d’état of 2000, the Citizens United case and many more. Don’t get me wrong, with the possible exception of the ruling on the “Florida Election Recount of 2000”, the courts are not ‘creating’ law but how they interpret laws and how they word their verdicts have wide ranging implications. My point is to show why and how the justices are important.

Let’s take a look at judicial philosophy; in the US there is a debate about how the constitution should be interpreted (one I am sure will become common here). On the one side you have what are called “living constitutionalist”, who believe that when the constitution was written the authors accepted that as time changes the interpretation of the constitution would change…that like a living creature the constitution (and the law it would give rise to) would evolve. A great example is the status of African Americans and their civil liberties. As society changed so did the depth and breadth of civil liberties.

On the other hand there is what is called Literalist or Originalist. They hold that what is written is written in stone, which comparing the constitution to a ‘living creature’ one would have to be, using the words of Justice Scalia, an “idiot”[6]. To them it is from the original meaning of the words used and not the intent of the founders, which should form the basis of interpreting the constitution. For example, capital punishment has been largely banned from civilized countries because it is seen as ‘cruel and unusual punishment’ and therefore a violation of civil rights. Justice Scalia would argue that capital punishment, at the time of the writing of the applicable part of the constitution (8th amendment), was not seen as cruel or unusual punishment therefor it does not violate civil rights and should therefore be legal[7].

Who is on the court can have a huge impact not only on what they rule but on what they see as their powers of interpretation…the very philosophical foundation of the rule of law.

Beyond how the constitution or laws are interpreted, the scope of the ruling can also have a wide ranging impact. In the US (they tend to provide more colourful, extreme and clear examples) the case of Citizens United was to determine that a third party could release a documentary about Hilary Clinton during the Primaries in the US. Clinton got an injunction because of the bias nature of the film, Clinton argued it was actual political advertising and as such violated electioneering laws. The case in the narrow sense was an issue of broadcasting rights but out of character for this court, Chief Justice Roberts decided to rule on an issue not actually part of the plaintiffs case; that being the financing of the film. This was unusual because the plaintiff (Citizens United) had already abandoned facial complaints[8]. In a landmark decision the Roberts case essentially struck down election advertising rules.

Who is on the court can have a huge impact not only on what they rule but on what they see as the question.

In Canada, our constitution is seen differently than the American one. We follow, for now, a doctrine of interpretation called Living Tree Doctrine or Doctrine of Progressive Interpretation. Lord Sankey stated: “The British North America Act planted in Canada a living tree capable of growth and expansion within its natural limits.” This means that the Constitution cannot be interpreted in the same way as an ordinary statute. Rather, it must be read within the context of society to ensure that it adapts and reflects changes.

Why should skeptics worry?

The worry we may have is that as PM, Harper has shown signs of being both extremely controlling and dictatorial. A number of political commentators have expressed concern and surprise at the level of control Harper has maintained over his party and the level of contempt for parliament in general. Remember the Conservatives were convicted of contempt of Parliament in part for lying to parliament and in part for refusing to provide government information to committees over public policy. In articles written in the Globe and Mail[9] and the National Post[10], concern was raised over the possible radical direction the court may take on if Harper’s selection, for the Supreme Court of the land, should be of a similar ideological mind as his own.

IF the fears that he does have intention, now that he has a majority to promote a neo-con agenda, the Supreme Court may be the only restraining force left in the land. Now although personally I find most of the conservative government’s policies wrong, many of them are open to valid debate this is not why I fear what Harper may do to our judiciary; what I worry about is the likelihood that Harper will take his tendencies to ideologically dictate political policy to the judiciary and that some of those ideologies should be of concern not just to leftist but skeptics in general. Some issues that may be of concern: Harper seems to be a Climate Change Denier, there have been many members of his party who wish to put restriction on marriage and abortion based on religious grounds, G20 has shown that there is a lack of respect of political and individual rights, and with his conviction of contempt of parliament and election fraud one must wonder where he may lead the country in the future.

As skeptics we must remain informed, aware and poised to action. We should insist that appointees to the Supreme Courts…any court…should base their decision on law or on science based principles…and not on political ideology or religious theology.

Upcoming cases…

Charter of Rights – Reasonable limits prescribed by law [11]

Legality of the Safe injection site – Does the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act violate the Charter of Rights because enforcement has grossly disproportionate effects on addicted persons

Hate Speech –

The Christian Truth Activists distributed four flyers in the mailboxes of various homes in Saskatoon and Regina in 2001 and 2002. Four persons who received the flyers filed complaints alleging that the material in them “promotes hatred against individuals because of their sexual orientation”. The Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission held the pamphlets, which referred to “sodomy marriage” and graphically described sexual behaviours in a derogatory manner, was hate speech.

The Christian Truth Activists argue first it does not count for it does not single out a group based on sexual orientation but a sexual behaviour and that further that IF the law does apply to sexual behaviour, then the definition of sexual orientation is overbroad in its definition.

Environmental Law[12]

Abitibi-Bowater Inc. has argued that a statutory duty to remove environmental contamination may be extinguished under the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act like a commercial debt. Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act is a Federal Act that allows financially troubled corporations the opportunity to restructure their affairs to avoid bankruptcy. The Government of Newfoundland issued several environmental protection orders for Abitibi to clean up land it had contaminated by its large scale industrial activities. Abitibi argued that when it filed for a restructuring it freed itself of the obligation of the clean-up orders. The court must determine if government orders are legally equivalent to ‘commercial debit’ claims.

Intellectual Property[13]

Bell Canada argued that providing previews consisting of excerpts of works is fair dealing for the purpose of research that does not infringe copyright.

Some commercial internet sites that sell downloads of works allow users to preview the works. A preview typically consists of an extract taken from the work, for example a 30-second extract of a musical track, streamed online and accessible to consumers. On October 18, 2007, the Copyright Board of Canada decided that royalties should be collected for these communications.

Charter of Rights – Freedom of conscience and religion[14]

Mandatory attendance to an “ethics and religion” class – Ethics and Religious Culture program became mandatory in elementary schools. Based on the experience of an older child, a family requested an exemption for the course because serious harm disruption caused by forced, premature contact with a series of beliefs that were mostly incompatible with those of the family, as well as the adverse effect on the religious faith of the members of this family. The school board refused to grant the exemption.


[5] The consulting firm she set up in 2011 was Liberty Consulting; previously she was employed by Tea Party-affiliated Liberty Central and earlier by the right-wing Heritage Foundation.

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Who can form a government?

Posted by Don McLenaghen on May 1, 2011

First the formation of a government….

After an election, the Governor General asks the leader of the party with the largest number of seats if he(/she?) believes they can secure the confidence of the parliament. Obviously in a majority situation it’s a given; however in a minority situation some negotiation may need to take place before a positive answer can be given. When the ‘major’ party believes it cannot gain this confidence, the GG will then give the ‘runner-ups’ an opportunity to meet the standard of confidence. The Confidence of the house is simply the majority of MP’s supporting government either directly in a non-confidence vote (ie. The majority reject this motion) or indirectly by the failure to pass the budget, however the recent government (not uniquely but more frequently) have declared other bill-votes to be votes of confidence in an attempt to browbeat the opposition so as to pass said legislation[1].

What is the difference between minority and coalition government?

A minority government is one where a party forms a government while not having a majority in parliament but maintaining the confidence of the majority of MPs in parliament. We have a long history of minority governments with the first occurring in 1873 and twice the ruling party changed without an election (1873: Conservative to Liberal and 1926: Liberal to Conservative). There are two kinds of minority rule – arrogant or cooperative.

The Arrogant minorities tend to have a short life span as we have seen with Arthur Meighen (who lasted about 6 months) or Diefenbaker (who lasted less than 5 months). This form attempts to implement their party platform irrespective of what the majority of parliament wishes, where they attempt to balance the opposition’s aversion for another election against aversion of the government’s legislation. In this way, Harper has proven quite adept; manipulating the electoral fears of the opposition so as to pass far more regressive conservative (neo-con?) legislation that one would think possible. Of course his domineering control of the conservative party, his totalitarian control of the ‘media message’ (helped by the absence of a pluralistic press) and his contempt for parliament (for which the government ultimately fell) and the democratic processes has helped him push his extremist agenda…sorry, for the rant however true it may be.

The Cooperative minority is one that acknowledges the opinion of the nation is mixed…that it likes policies from some most/all the parties and a responsible Prime Minister should attempt to push legislation that is supported by the majority of the population regardless of the originating party. The greatest of these PM’s probably was Lester Pearson during whose tenure as PM we saw the adoption of such great advances the current Canadian Flag, the creation of universal Health Care, Canadian Student Loans and Canada Pension Plan.

A Coalition government is one where two or more parties form a government which can maintain the confidence of the majority of MPs in parliament. Canada has never had a coalition government (although during WWI, some liberal members joined the Borden Government however, the Liberal party officially declined the offer of coalition). As of yet Finland has never had a majority government, Israel, India and Germany regularly rely on coalitions and currently England has a coalition government.

Recent claims by the Conservatives that the Liberals-NDP planned to form a coalition government WITH the Bloc is incorrect (a lie?). The coalition was comprised of the Liberals (who would get 18 ministries) and the NDP (who would get 6 ministries); the Bloc only offered support so that when the Lib-NDP leadership approached the GG they had a credible claim to have the confidence of the house. By this standard, the Bloc was in a coalition with Harper’s Conservatives government.

Do we elect our Prime Minister?

Yes and no…technically the Prime Minister is simply the leader of the house…the leader of the house is simple any individual who can command the confidence of the house. The office of Prime Minister is not defined in our Constitution; in fact the PM is only referenced indirectly as the person responsible for organising Constitutional Conferences (to amend the constitution). Unlike our American neighbours whose presidential powers are explicitly outlined, we rely on history and precedent to define the PM’s powers and role (there is also a  large degree the willingness or acquiescence of the public/parliament to accept changes for example the recent decision of to officially refer to government projects not as “the Canadian government” but as “the Harper government”…something I find very disturbing and wrong but something that seems to disappear for the headlines due to other Conservative scandals.

In fact all ministers and their portfolios of responsibility are defined by constitutional convention or the whim of the PM themselves. By convention, the leader of the party that holds the confidence of parliament is the PM; usually this is a member of the House of Commons but on occasion are not (John Abbot and Mackenzie Bowell were senators while PM). As well; on several occasions’ ministers of the crown were not elected members of government at all, although this is seen as extreme and against convention. On occasion, governments have had ministers of the crown who only later became MPs and often senators have been ministers with portfolio.

The PM serves “At her majesties pleasure”, meaning that unless a PM resigns, dies or is dismissed by the GG (or Queen), they remain PM even if they or their party loses an election. If a PM party loses a majority, they may still remain PM if they can command the confidence of the house. They may also be dismissed by the GG who will then ask the leader of the majority party (or the leader who can command the confidence of the house) to form the government.

Why are elections called?

An election is called by three mechanisms; firstly in our constitution a government cannot hold power longer than 5 years before an election MUST be called. As well as the Canada Elections Act (CEA) states that a general election is to take place on the third Monday in October, in the fourth calendar year after the previous poll, starting with October 19, 2009. The CEA however can be amended at any time so has little effective weight as our current election shows.

Under parliamentary rules, the prime minister can ask the Governor General to dissolve Parliament but the Governor General can refuse the request. This precedent was set in 1926 when William Lyon McKenzie asked the GG to dissolve the parliament but Lord Byng refused and gave the Conservatives a chance. When Paul Martin was in a minority situation after the 2004 election, Harper drafted an agreement between the opposition parties (including the Bloc) to approach the GG to form a government. In 2008, the shoe was on the other foot and the NDP and Liberals signed an agreement to form a coalition; this was avoided by the unusual act of prorogation of parliament.

For those who do not know, prorogation  is ending one session of parliament and starting a new one without calling an election traditionally done to allow MP’s to engage their constituency. In modern times, the length of the first ‘session’ of parliament is around 6 months to a year. Harper has the record for the both the shortest session, 17 days[2], and also the earliest call for Prorogation after an election… 51 days[3].

Lastly, an election is triggered whenever the sitting government loses the confidence of the parliament. As mentioned before, this can occur by a direct motion of non-confidence or the failure to pass a moneyed bill (such as the budget). Technically, any bill can be declared a confidence vote by the sitting government, but only a motion of non-confidence can be moved by the opposition to defeat a sitting government. It is interesting to note that a third motion may become an automatic non-confidence motion resulting in the defeat of the government; that is a motion of contempt of parliament. Technically that was the motion that caused the Harper government to dissolve parliament and request the GG to call for an election. In the future it may become constitution convention that to be found in contempt of parliament is to also be fired as government…as so it should be.


[2] I have excluded session a) 1873 which was only to call an election, b) only enacted the War Measures Act in 1914 c) the declaration of war on Germany in 1939, and d) 1930 for no good reason at all!

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Accommodationalism

Posted by Don McLenaghen on February 20, 2011

I have been tracking a number of stories in Canada this week relating to accommodation…religious – or if you wish to use a less loaded term cultural – accommodation. At first, I saw these stories as short segments we could use as examples of how dogma, both religious and secular, could take small incidences and blow them out of proportion. However, as I did more research I saw a growing connection between them and that there was a bigger issue being played out.

My first thought, and the one that is raised most often in these debates, is the concept of multiculturalism. I think that is valid issue for discussion and something we will be focusing our skeptic eye on in the near future. However, there was another greater thread being woven by these issues that is the concept of ‘accommodationalism’.

As a Dawkian atheist, I think religion is innately bad for society; however,this can itself be a dogma that has lead others to support people or actions that are harmful to the cause (notable the xenophobic Pat Condell). So, I could not just rule out accommodationalism’ because I think there is a place for it in an open well-functioning socialist society and thus an issue worthy of a greater examination. The stories that inspired this segment were the Sikh kirpan (ceremonial dagger) and the Islamic hijab (head cover) or nijab (face veil). I would have included Mormon Polygamy for more ethnic diversity but we covered this rather extensively in a previous episode although I think it worthy of a re-listen to.

On Feb 9th of this year, the Quebec parliament officially banned the Kirpan from the provincial legislature. This was the culmination of several weeks of controversy over the claimed right of Sikhs to wear the religiously required ceremonial dagger while addressing the legislature. Here is that story.

A group of four Sikhs, representatives of the World Sikh Organization, were scheduled to make a presentation at Quebec’s national assembly on Bill 94. This bill is itself controversial and was being reviewed in an effort to find a reasonable accommodation of the religious and cultural practices of minorities in the Quebec civil society. This delegation of Sikhs were denied entry to the legislature because they refused to remove their kirpans.

According to security services, “This decision was taken by the security services, solely for security reasons”. The guards offered them the option to put the kirpan in a safe place, but the offer was refused and they were denied entry.

Balpreet Singh, a member of the delegation, said “We weren’t allowed to enter because we wear the kirpan, which is a bit ironic because we were here to speak upon the issue of accommodation and we weren’t accommodated”

The Bloc Québécois wasted no time taking up the issue. “It was a well-founded decision [in Quebec] and it is perhaps time that Parliament adopt similar rules”. Conservative MP Navdeep Bains accused the Bloc of seeking to make cheap political gains from the controversy. He said, “I’ve been wearing a kirpan since 2004 and they have never raised this as a cause of concern.”

The Supreme Court ruled unanimously in 2006 that a total ban of the kirpan in a Quebec school violated the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms because it infringed on religious freedoms. However, the court allowed school boards to impose some restrictions in the name of public safety.

Okay, I have been using the term Kirpan a lot but many…maybe most…don’t know what one is. The kirpan is both a defensive weapon and a symbol. Physically it is an instrument of “ahimsa” or non-violence. The principle of ahimsa is to actively prevent violence, not to simply stand by idly whilst violence is being done. To that end, the kirpan is a tool to be used to prevent violence from being done to a defenseless person when all other means to do so have failed.

Symbolically, the kirpan represents the power of truth to cut through untruth. The Reht Maryada, a Sikh religious text, does not specify the length of the Kirpan or the construction of the various parts of the Kirpan or how and where it is to be worn by the devotee.

So, one of the issues raised by Bill 94 was the push by the Parti Quebecois to regulate Kirpans, which as I mentioned they seem to be accomplishing. Some may see this as a strictly civil rights issue while others a security issue. I think one line made by MNA Louise Beaudoin encapsulated THIS issue. They said “It may be a religious choice, but maybe it’s not a choice that everybody should accept everywhere” and therein lies the rub.

One of the reasons people adopt these religious customs is to show their commitment and SACRIFICE for their beliefs and that is their right; however at what point do their choices begin to infringe on my life. First, being around a dangerous weapon may be a decision they are willing to live with but I fail to understand why it is one that I must also accept? There are limitations placed upon me as to where and how I may carry a gun; why should the specter of religion suddenly allow me special privileges.

Secondly, as mentioned, the construction and placement of the kirpan are not strictly speaking ‘written in stone’, so it is possible that the kirpan be, for example a harmless 3 cm in size or encased in resin…maintaining its symbolic meaning while removing it as a physical threat. Lastly, one aspect of these religious practices is the idea of sacrifice. They have chosen this path and accepted the sacrifices that are to be made…so accept the limitations imposed by your decision and don’t try and change the world so there no longer is any sacrifice in the choice…removing the ‘sacrifice’ part…that somehow defeats the purpose doesn’t. In this case I don’t see that any accommodation should be made.

This leads me into a related story, also focused on Bill 94. The heart of this bill would deny government services to those covering their faces. About a year ago, Naïma Atef Amed filed a complaint with the province’s human rights commission because of her experience at a government-funded language class for new immigrants in Montreal. The school insists that to learn French, the instructor must be able to see the face of the student. When Amed refused to take off her veil, she was kicked out of class.

Now, this is another example of someone who should be willing, at least on the surface, to accept the sacrifices her beliefs have imposed upon her; however in this case I am willing to say that an accommodation is appropriate. This case differs in two key ways; first whether or not she wears a nijab will have no effect on my life. The nijab, at least the ones I have seen, are not sharp weapons; so my previous complaint about safety does not seem to apply. Further, there still is the sacrifice aspect in her compliance because it will (assuming the school was not being vindictive) hamper her ability to learn French if the instructor is unable to ‘see her face’. The teacher will do as good a job as they can but there is no necessity, that I can find, for Amed to be forced to remove her nijab. Also, I do not think that wearing a piece of clothing, a catholic habit, the hijab or even a hockey mask, should preclude one from accessing normal civil services. Bill 94 states that any civil service can be denied to anyone who refused to remove their veil; this is secularist (or maybe just xenophobic) dogma. In this case, I think Bill 94 is wrong and that accommodation is appropriate.

That said, there are limits even in this class of complaint. I have only told you part of Amed’s story. She was not actually expelled JUST because she refused to show her face…the school could live with that. However, she insisted that she sit at the back of the room so as to avoid the possible ‘gaze’ of 3 men also in the class. She did at one point agree to lift her veil in private with a female instructor but backed out on this compromise when no assurance could be made that a female instructor would be available for future lessons. She refused to partake in ‘round table’ exercises because she could not tolerate any of the men in her class see her eyes. This attempt to accommodate Amed continued for three months until the disruption in the class to the other students forced the instructor to remove Amed. I think at this point, Amed has failed to understand that accommodation is a two way street.

Having the complete story perhaps we can understand why the decision to expel the niqab-wearing woman was widely supported in Quebec. This includes a few noteworthy people.

Constitutional lawyer Julius Grey, who defended the right of inmates to smoke in prison and the right of Sikh students to wear ceremonial daggers in class said “Accommodation should not lead to separation”.

Yolande Geadah, an Egyptian-born writer, said: “There is no possible compromise with people with such inflexible attitudes.”

Raheel Raza, a Pakistani-born Muslim women’s rights activist, said: “When we come to Canada, we’re not coming to the Islamic Republic of Canada.”

So, to wrap up this thought. We (as most Canadians and most atheist) do not believe cultural groups should be discriminated against but what if the cultural trait that is the cause/object of the discrimination is a religious one? As secularist, we do not think religion should be protected…that i should be treated like any other social “harm” (that is if we regulate guns, we should not treat ‘religious guns’ differently).

Further, as a Dawkian Atheist, I think every effort should be made to cure society of religion…but what happens when those efforts are co-opted by racist (such as Draw Mohamed day?). I think I remain rationally committed to my form of anti-spiritualism while denying support for hate groups provided I use the scientific method guard against that new form of secular dogma. I will discuss this more in an upcoming blog about a new bill being debated requiring visual confirmation of voters.

What are your thoughts?

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