Anti-choice Christian front promotes abstinence-only sex ed in Edmonton Schools

Anti-abortion Christian groups are notorious in Canada for setting up “Crisis Pregnancy Centres” as fronts to proselytize to women facing a pregnancy scare and are unsure whether to exercise their legal right to terminate it or not. The Centres are often filled with deceptive anti-choice propaganda and mislead women.

One such front group in Edmonton, Alberta offers a program called “WAIT! Let’s Talk Sex!” to local schools, with a strong emphasis on abstinence-only based education. Education that has been demonstrated time and again to fail students, leading to higher rates of dangerous sex, teen pregnancy, and sexually-transmitted infections.

The program is designed to fit the provincial curriculum for grades 7 through 10 and they claim to have reached 14,000 students in Edmonton and area. Edmonton’s ostensibly secular public district has about 80,000 students and lists the centre as an “approved vendor.”

There is a petition circulating to get Edmonton Public Schools to bar these ministers from proselytizing to students and to instead teach comprehensive sexual education, as mandated by the Alberta curriculum.

Sign and share it now.

If you live in Edmonton, make sure you contact your Public School Trustee candidates and have them pledge to keep Edmonton Public Schools secular.

(H/t Luke Fevin)

New Abortion Caravan Counter-Protest in photos

On May 29, 2012, anti-choicers led by the Calgary-based Canadian Centre for Bioethical Reform launched their “New Abortion Caravan” in Vancouver. Their goal is to drive their graphic anti-abortion trucks across the country, descending on Ottawa for Canada Day.

After word of this was picked up by the pro-choice community, a counter-protest was hastily thrown together, but managed to attract a similar sized crowd to the pro-lifers. We ended up out-lasting the pro-lifers, both in terms of energy and time on the Art Gallery steps.

Cars were generally supportive of us, with a number honking in support of women’s rights.

Take a look through the photos below for more.

Continue reading New Abortion Caravan Counter-Protest in photos

Shooting themselves in the foot

There’s nothing like the comfort of a majority government to let even the most secretive governments let slip a couple guffahs but rarely do we get multiple instances in a matter of days.

The abortion debate

From the CBC:

A Conservative MP is calling for a special committee to examine when human life begins, a call opponents say is an excuse to reopen the debate over abortion.

Stephen Woodworth, who ironically likens himself to be morally equivalent to a nineteenth century feminist (his ideas are definitely situated in that era), believes that “It’s simply not legitimate — not even to achieve some important or desired result — for Parliament to accept a law that says that some human beings are not human beings when they are.”

Stephen Harper says his government won’t open the abortion debate but do we really believe this man – known for his tight caucus control – would freely let these motions hit the press if he wasn’t hoping to score at least a few points with Canada’s wingnut fringe?

Liberals are Nazis now

Whoops goes the tongue:

[Bruce Grey-Owen Sound MP Larry] Miller, an opponent of the [long-gun] registry, quoted former Liberal senator Sharon Carstairs as saying that "the registering of hunting rifles is the first step in the social re-engineering of Canadians."

"Mr. Speaker, can you believe that statement? The social engineering of Canadians. Mr. Speaker, that is what Adolf Hitler tried to do in the 1930s," he claimed, over a chorus of catcalls in the Commons.

"The long gun registry is at its core solely about an idea that the Liberals had that guns are inherently evil and must be taken out the hands of the general population. Again, who does that sound like?" Miller said.

Harper and Baird are trying hard to be the world’s best friend to Israel – even if it means dragging us first into World War 3 with Iran – to court the Jewish and wingnut Christian fringe. Too bad for them their caucus occasionally speaks.

Torture away, CSIS

Continuing our government’s pastime of ignoring the evidence, Public Safety Minister Vic Toews has advised CSIS that information acquired under torture is useful:

Public Safety Minister Vic Toews quietly told CSIS the government now expects the spy service to "make the protection of life and property its overriding priority" and may under exceptional circumstances share information based on intelligence that may have been derived from the use of torture.

"Information obtained by torture is always discounted. But the problem is, can one safely ignore it when Canadian lives and property are at stake?" Toews said in question period.

YES. Ignore the crap out of it.

Not just because torture is horribly inhumane, but because we know people will say anything under torture. There is no moral, ethical, or practical argument that holds up to justify torture. Of course, that only applies if we assume we have a government that operates with reason at its core.

Students get an A in anti-abortion activism

I was going to post this on Canadian Atheist, but I was beaten to the punch by one of my co-authors. It lives here instead.

Canada’s biggest secular battlefield is over the publicly-funded Catholic school districts in Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Ontario, but a number of provinces also fund private religious schools to varying amounts.

In Winnipeg, Manitoba, a private Catholic school receives 50% of the funding compared to a neighbouring public school. The school can then inject as much religious education as they want (typically so long as they meet the basic curriculum requirements).

It’s little wonder then why Christ the King School (yes, it’s that unapologetic) is brewing up controversy, given its latest stunt:

Children at a private Catholic school in Winnipeg who attend anti-abortion vigils outside the city’s Health Sciences Centre are receiving community service credits for their participation.

Principal Dave Hood of Christ the King School said Tuesday that joining the vigils is a voluntary and family decision. But he’s considering it as an official school activity as early as next year.

And before you ask, this isn’t a high school, or even middle/junior high. It’s an elementary school for 200 students from K-8.

The principal emphasizes that “We’re not there to block anyone,” but did advise parents of the daily anti-abortion vigils outside the hospital.

At least the paper adds a voice of reason to the debate:

Lori Johnson, executive director of the Klinic Community Health Centre and the Sexuality Education Research Centre, calls the vigils a political lobby and argued any school receiving public funding should not be allowed to involve children.

"It would certainly not be allowed in the public sector," said Johnson, a registered nurse and former longtime school trustee with the Winnipeg School Division board. "That is ill-considered by any school, public or private. It should be at the cost of losing their public funding."

So congrats Manitobans, a part of your tax dollars are going to promote a religious agenda through young children.

Of course this is also in the province that recently returned the NDP to a fourth majority government. It is also the province that has had some issues with the Lord’s Prayer being pushed on students in public schools.

While I am glad that Manitobans didn’t opt for the regressive Conservatives, democracy doesn’t end with election day.

Secular progressives (I think I need to write a book detailing this position) in Manitoba need to get involved in the provincial NDP and push for the end of this two-tier education system. I’ll discuss this further in a coming post though.

More Conservatives hate women

This morning’s ruling was so promising, I thought we might sneak into the weekend without the need to get angry.

Too late:

Two more Tory MPs are taking swipes at the International Planned Parenthood Foundation.

One claims the group conned the government when it applied for and got a federal grant of $6 million over three years.

Another is linking it to the sinister and long-discredited science of eugenics.

What do Brad Trost, Maurice Vellacott, and Leon Benoit have in common?

They’re all white conservative men willing to put their religious views ahead of women’s rights.

And they’re running our country.

Next week Kelowna celebrates the fetus

I spent Labour Day weekend camping near Vernon, touring wineries, and enjoying the good life. I highly recommend Arrowleaf Cellars.

The trip left me with a longing to live in such a warm, beautiful area, surrounded by delicious food, drinks, and beautiful lakes.

Then I read about things like this and the reality of small town BC comes back to me.

For the forth [sic] year in a row the mayor of Kelowna, British Columbia, Sharon Shepherd, has issued a proclamation recognizing Protect Human Life Week, at the request of the Kelowna Right to Life Society.

“It is the intention of this proclamation to promote respect and protection to all human life, especially the infirm, the aged, the handicapped and the unborn,” the Protect Human Life Week proclamation states.

Kelowna Right to Life is urging supporters of Protect Human Life Week to thank Mayor Shepherd personally for proclaiming the pro-life week.

“Aside from year one when she received a considerable amount of backlash from those who believe killing unborn babies is a good thing, she has largely escaped criticism of her show of tolerance toward the pro life community in the Central Okanagan. Supporters are encouraged to drop Mayor a Shepherd a quick note thanking her for respecting our mission,” the pro-life group said.

Four years straight.

This is four years of a mayor putting a creepy religious attachment to their warped morality ahead of the interests of women, seniors, and the terminally ill.

They even plan to show Ben Stein’s horrendous movie Expelled. I’m not sure what that affront to human dignity has to do with respecting life, if anything I want the bit of my life back that I wasted watching it.

Their week officially kicks off next Saturday, the 24th. Perhaps by then we can increase that criticism.

Mayor Shepherd’s email address is conveniently given in the article: mayorandcouncil@kelowna.ca

Let’s send her some backlash.

I’m going to try to craft something on behalf of the BC Humanists and encourage as many people as possible to write their own letters.

And if the mayor refuses to back down, perhaps we can get CFI Okanagan to host their own week. Either something civil like a Separation of Church and State day or perhaps more provocative like abortion and blasphemy rights week. If she goes ahead with this week under the guise of “tolerance” then she’ll have to “tolerate” our viewpoints too.

A death by 1000 cuts

Despite his power being somewhat shackled by a minority parliament, Stephen Harper has still had plenty of opportunity to enact his social agenda on the country.

Dennis Gruending presents the list of agencies that have seen funding cut or shrunk since the Conservatives gained power. Some definite anti-woman and anti-choice trends start to emerge, and taken in context with increased funding to evangelical organizations like Trinity Western University and Winnipeg’s Youth for Christ, start to paint a picture of what a Harper majority would enact.

Highlights (really, see the entire list):

(resignations)

·       Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (Linda Keen, chair)

·       Parliamentary Budget Officer (Kevin Page) (funding cut)

·       Rights & Democracy  (International Centre for Human Rights and Democratic Development – Rémy Beauregard, President)

·       Statistics Canada (Munir Sheikh, Deputy Minister)

Community organizations, NGOs and research bodies reported to have
been cut or defunded [see note 1 below]

·       Association féminine d’éducation et d’action sociale (AFEAS)

·       Canadian International Development Agency, Office of Democratic Governance

·       Canadian Research Institute for the Advancement of Women

·       Centre de documentation sur l’éducation des adultes et la condition feminine

·       Climate Action Network

·       Court Challenges Program (except language rights cases and legacy cases)

·       Department of Foreign Affairs, Democracy Unit

·       Feminists for Just and Equitable Public Policy (FemJEPP) in Nova Scotia

·       First Nations Child and Family Caring Society

·       International Planned Parenthood Federation

·       Marie Stopes International, a maternal health agency – has received only a promise of “conditional funding IF it avoids any and all connection with abortion.”

·       Native Women’s Association of Canada

·       Pride Toronto

·       Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada

·       Status of Women (mandate also changed to exclude “gender equality and political justice” and to ban all advocacy, policy research and lobbying

·       Womanspace Resource Centre (Lethbridge, Alberta)

·       Workplace Equity/Employment Equity Program

Peak: Free Speech not our only right

My latest submission to The Peak was printed last week in response to some free speech or nothing racket. Enjoy:

Free speech is not our only right
By Ian Bushfield

Last week’s Opinions section included two articles which attempted to defend freedom of speech against the onslaught of the obnoxious, politically correct left-wing ideologues [“Pro-lifers are oppressed on Canadian Campuses”, and “Dissent is the essence of democracy”, October 12]. Unfortunately, the arguments reek of libertarian dogma and simple-minded elitism.

It is almost stereotypical that bearded, white males would defend fetuses from the callous women who consider them cancerous parasites and wish to expunge the hassle from their body. But do not let me mischaracterize Graham Templeton; he really is pro-choice, although his article makes it seem like something to be ashamed of.

Templeton is sympathetic toward the persecuted pro-lifers and used his article to demand that they be allowed to post the goriest pictures and to harass troubled women in a time of crisis.

Templeton’s misinformed rant continues with him failing to understand why it is currently illegal to picket outside abortion clinics in BC. Since a woman has the right to freely choose, without coercion, to have an abortion, our courts have recognized and upheld laws that protect this right while infringing as little as possible upon the freedom to speech.

Without these laws, free speech turns to coercion and harassment, as is very often the case in the abortion clinic buffer zones. Similarly, we have laws against false advertising, libel, and defamation.

Getting back to the on-campus abortion debate, it is worth noting that these pro-life groups have mistaken the freedom of speech for a non-existent right to be heard. The campus associations at these schools, whose job is to ensure that all students feel welcome in their community, offered pro-lifers the compromise of setting up the Genocide Awareness Project behind screens so that those who chose to observe the event could do so. I guess the pro-lifers are not just anti-choice when it comes to abortion.

On the other side of the page, Templeton’s fellow editor David Proctor suggested that journalists ought to present both sides to every story, and if we do not like it we should go live in North Korea.

I am tempted to agree with Proctor’s thesis, however, he fails to provide any actual cases to support his argument. He blindly asserts that progressives are guiltier of attempting to stifle their ideological adversaries. Without any evidence, I remain skeptical.

In the evolving Goldcorp and K’naan controversies, both sides warrant presentation, since in a new story, not all the facts are available and it may take a while before the truth is wholly available. However, in many cases debates that are long past settled are still subjected to sub-par journalism which seeks to give equal time to unequal viewpoints.

This is much the case in scientific debates where the evidence is overwhelmingly agreed upon by all experts in a field. No legitimate scientists in their field debate the central tenets of evolution or climate science, and yet too often a controversy is stirred up where none exists.

Dogmatic libertarians like Templeton and Proctor assume that the only right that matters is freedom of speech, and yet without freedom from discrimination, free speech can become a weapon for intolerance or coercion. Verbal harassment and intimidation are more than just hurt feelings.

While I generally agree that freedom of the press, discourse, and disagreement are necessary and healthy in a democracy, I cannot subscribe to the libertarian idiom that freedom of speech trumps all other rights.

And if you want to run your head into your keyboard, also read Jonathon van Maren (VanMaren88)’s tribe about how much he loves foetuses.