BC Secularists who aren’t white men

Inspired by similar lists of diverse secular thinkers, I thought I’d put out there a compilation of some rising secularists – both thinkers and activists – who break the mould in British Columbia.

My criteria:

  • Alive
  • Does not identify as white (i.e. Caucasian/European) and male
  • Is either an active atheist/skeptic/humanist or their work demonstrates a commitment to human rights and secular values
  • Was born in, lived in, or presently lives in British Columbia

Feel free to add your own in the comments. Names are alphabetical by last name. Not all of the below are officially atheist/humanist but they do show a commitment to secular values.

If you see your name below and would rather not be on this list, please email me.

Joyce Arthur

Executive director of the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada. Feminist and humanist.

Donna F. Barker

Addictions counsellor and presenter at Skepticamp Vancouver.

Lindsay Beyerstein

Investigative journalist, blogger, and photographer based in Brooklyn, originally from Vancouver.

Susan (Suzie) Beyerstein

Skeptic living in Nanaimo. Won 2008 Skeptics’ Toolbox In the Trenches Award.

Sandhu Binning

Retired UBC Punjabi professor, secular and rationalist South Asian. Frequent debater of Sikhs on Punjabi TV. Author of Atheist Verses. Read more.

Kim Campbell

Former Prime Minister of Canada, as Justice Minister introduced “no means no” and rape shield laws. Now works to promote democracy and women’s rights around the world. Lapsed Anglican.

Amanda Catching

Aboriginal Science Coordinator at UBC. Part of Vancouver’s skeptics community.

Crystal Catudal

Digital marketing and graphic designer, past president of the BC Humanist Association.

Jenna Capyk

Past contributor to Radio Freethinker with a background in life and neuro-sciences.

Raffi Cavoukian

Egyptian-born Canadian children’s singer-songwriter. Promotes children’s rights and environmentalism from Victoria.

Carrie Chapman

Laboratory demonstrator and skeptical activist at Langara University.

Patricia Churchland

Canadian-American philosopher, born in Oliver, BC and attended UBC. Attended Beyond Belief in 2006, 2007, and 2008.

Leah Costello

Founder of the Bon Mot Book Club and former Director of Events for the Fraser Institute. Event host and community activist. Atheist.

Ian Cromwell

Former Freethought Blogs contributor on the intersection of race and religion and health economist.

Libby Davies

Member of Parliament for Vancouver East since 1997, co-founder of the Downtown Eastside Residents Association and past Vancouver City Councillor.

Nicole Deagan

Co-founder and host of F Word feminist radio show on Vancouver Co-Op radio, co-founder of Vancouver Feminist Action Project.

Ujjal Dosanjh

Former Premier of BC 2000-2001 and Member of Parliament for Vancouver South 2004-2011. Frequently speaks out against Sikh extremism.

Hedy Fry

Member of Parliament for Vancouver Centre since 1993, originally from Trinidad and Tobago. A former physician, Fry was Secretary of State for Multiculturalism and Status of Women and is currently the Liberal Critic for Health. A lapsed Catholic.

Nina George

Founder of Mountain Sky Soaps and director of Centre for Inquiry West Kootenays.

Lisa Gemino

Self-described geek, martial arts expert and writer. Repeat guest on Caustic Soda podcast and part of Vancouver’s skeptic community.

Jarrah Hodge

Feminist writer and blogger. Founder and editor of Gender-Focus and Trekkie Feminist. Humanist.

Annette Horton

Psychiatrist and past president of the BC Humanists.

Sue Hughson

Veterinary doctor and feminist. Vice-president of the BC Humanists.

Lynn Hunter

Former Member of Parliament and current advocate for Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada. A practicing Unitarian in Victoria.

Gabrielle Jackson

Research assistant in Archaeology at SFU. Past executive of SFU Skeptics.

Kathy Leavens

Chartered financial assistant and past treasurer for the BC Humanists.

Sarah McLachlan

Canadian singer-songwriter, founded Lilith Fair, supports AIDS, animal welfare, and women’s charities. Agnostic or pantheist living in Vancouver.

Wanda Morris

Executive Director of Dying with Dignity Canada. Unitarian.

Armin Navabi

Iranian-Canadian atheist living in Vancouver. Founder of Atheist Republic Facebook Page (with over 750,000 likes) and website.

Blythe Nilson

Associate Professor of Biology at UBC Okanagan and Advisory Fellow for Centre for Inquiry Canada.

Ara Norenzayan

UBC social psychologist concerned with the religious mindset. Raised in Lebanon.

Katrina Pacey

Lawyer with focus on labour and human rights. Litigation director for Pivot Legal Society and counselled sex workers in a constitutional challenge to Canada’s prostitution laws.

Chloe Packer

Former contributor to Radio Freethinker.

Kate Pullinger

Novelist and author, born in Cranbrook BC living in London. Won 2009 Governor General’s Award for The Mistress of Nothing. Atheist.

Shiraz Ramji

Poet and figure of SFU – as a student, staff, researcher, and guest lecturer. Born in Tanzania and an advocate of pacifism and human rights.

Rosie Redfield

UBC Zoologist and science blogger. Refuted NASA’s arsenic-life claim.

Natalie Reed

Former blogger with Freethought Blogs, covers trans-feminist issues.

Zena Ryder

Assistant branch leader with CFI Okanangan. Studied philosophy. Founder of their Kids for Inquiry series.

Jinny Sims

Indo-Canadian Member of Parliament for Newton-North Delta and secular Sikh.

Sharon Manson Singer

SFU Professor with School of Public Policy. Establishing BC Population Prospertity Network and co-founder of EvidenceNetwork.ca.

Gurpreet Singh

Indo-Canadian broadcaster and journalist. Frequently promotes Tarksheel and other rationalist voices in English and Punjabi media.

David Suzuki

Famed Canadian science populariser, environmentalist, and survivor of Japanese interment camps (despite being third-generation Canadian). Atheist.

Jessica Tracy

Associate Professor of Psychology at UBC. Work focuses on emotion and self-esteem. Spoke for the BCHA on her work “Death and science: The existential underpinnings of belief in intelligent design and discomfort with evolution.”

Anne Trudel

Head of Environment Health & Safety at TRIUMF – UBC’s particle accelerator – with a background in subatomic particle physics. Spoke for Cafe Scientifique.

Stephanie Van Dyk

UBC math and computer science undergraduate student and president of UBC Freethinkers 2012-13.

Nienke van Houten

Lecturer at SFU’s Faculty of Health Science and speaker and attendee for CFI Vancouver and Vancouver’s skeptic community.

Susan Vickers

Cafe Scientifique Vancouver host and inorganic materials chemistry PhD candidate.

Harsha Walia

A South Asian activist and writer with a focus on anti-racism, immigrant justice, Indigenous solidarity, feminism, and anti-imperialism. Works with No One is Illegal and other secular and human rights organizations.

Marilee Welch

Long-time volunteer and present interim Executive Director of Centre for Inquiry Vancouver.

Lorrie Williams

New Westminster City Councillor since 2002 and long-time member of the BCHA. Founded the Canadian Harambee Education Society which sponsors education for girls in East Africa. A BC marriage commissioner.

Mary Lynn Young

Associate Professor of Journalism at UBC. Founder of FeministMediaProject.com and frequent commentator on media and policy issues.

Additions (5 August 2013)

Bif Naked

Musician, born in India, raised multi-religious in Manitoba. Breast cancer survivor living in Vancouver.

Andrea Reimer

Vancouver city councillor and atheist.

Heather Deal

Vancouver city councillor and biologist.

Elizabeth Ball

Vancouver city councillor, opposed purchase of Vancouver Centre for Performing Arts by conservative church.

Jane Sterk

Leader of the Green Party of BC, spiritual but not religious.

Desiree Schell

Host of Edmonton’s Skeptically Speaking, union organizer, former Vancouver resident, and all around awesome human being.


Additionally, half of the present BCHA Board of Directors are women and many of our members and the various women of the Vancouver skeptic community (Jules, Julia, Mel, Danielle, Chantelle, Lara, etc.) also deserve to be on this list. Also check out the Tarksheel Cultural Society of Canada, which promotes Rationalism in the Punjabi and Indian communities. And of course my wife.

There’s countless others I could probably include in this list but wasn’t entirely sure of whether they would consider themselves secularists (despite commitments to human rights). This includes people such as most of the women in UBC’s Faculty of Law (such as Dean Mary Anne Bobinski, multicultural expert L. Michelle LeBaron, Chair in Feminist Legal Studies Susan B. Boyd, Margot Young, or Mary Liston); the women of UBC and SFU’s Department of Physics and Faculties of Science; any number of female nonprofit executives (like YWCA Vancouver’s Janet Austin, Options for Sexual Health’s Jennifer Breakspear, the Portland Hotel Society’s Liz Evans, or Vancity’s Tamara Vrooman); local philanthropists (like Alison Lawton); the various feminist scholars and activists in Vancouver (like Veronica Fynn); or numerous other BC politicians (like Adriane Carr, Carole James, Dawn Black, Dianne Watts, or Suzanne Anton).

Feel free to add others below, I will update this page as appropriate. There’s no shortage of voices in Canada’s least religious, most diverse, and arguably most activist province.