Updates from the BC Humanists

I just thought I’d give a quick update of how things are going with the BC Humanists here in Vancouver.

First, we’ve finalized the date and location of our new book club. We’ll be meeting the first Tuesday of each month at Our Town Cafe at Broadway and Kingsway in Vancouver. The discussion starts at 7:00PM and our first book will be Hitch-22 on February 7th. RSVP to the meetup group here.

Next, we have agreed to give two scholarships to students or low-income BCHA members to go to the Northwest Freethought Alliance Conference in Renton, WA featuring Richard Dawkins. If you’re interested in learning a bit more about the scholarships or interested in applying, just fill out the form here.

We will also be helping to sponsor the Imagine No Religion 2 Conference in Kamloops. This was a very successful conference last year and this year the speaker’s line up is headed by astrophysicist Lawrence Krauss. If you register for both conferences you can save 15%.

We have also created a tentative schedule for our Spring Series of Sunday morning meetings which includes speakers on Secular Meditation, Canada’s Race History, Darwin Day, and Occupy Vancouver.

Between March 15 and 17, Secular Student Alliance speaker and award-winning journalist Ted Cox will be doing a whirlwind tour of the Lower Mainland, speaking for the UBC Freethinkers, the BC Humanists, and SFU Skeptics (in that order). Details are still being finalized for his tour.

Finally, we’re also going to be advertising aggressively online and streamlining our fundraising so that we can keep this pace up well into the future.

It should be a good start to 2012!

Stand against homophobia on the Vancouver School Board

Robin Perelle, writing for Xtra!, gives a good background on the swell of opposition to anti-homophobia policy in the lower mainland.

Basically, NPA trustees Ken Denike and Sophia Woo have been caught red-handed in videos lying to the Christian Social Concern Fellowship that Vancouver has no anti-homophobia policy, when in fact one was passed in 2004. They’ve also been trotting out the “parent’s rights” arguments, long used by the Christian Right who want the right to continue to keep their children as ignorant and biggoted as themselves.

Vancouver’s LGBTQ community isn’t taking this one lying down.

On Monday evening, the first Vancouver School Board meeting was held and a resolution was put forward calling on the VSB to reaffirm its support for the policy and to censure trutees Denike and Woo. The resolution passed with the strong Vision-COPE majority but the crowd was split between pro- and anti-gay protesters.

There is now a Facebook call for people to send letters to Denike, Woo, and VSB chair Patti Bacchus, calling for the NPA trustees to resign. Please consider sending this message (or a modified version) to the emails listed below.

Dear Trustees Woo and Denike,

You have failed in your position within the Vancouver School Board. You have infracted and abused your powers and position, and have tried to spread hate within our society.

-You have made many students feel unsafe and uncomfortable within their schools.
-Publicly disagreed with the ‘Anti Homophobia Policies’ that were put in place by VSB (2004)
-Accused the ‘Out in Schools’ program for showing pornographic images.
-Are closely related and in support with the Parents Voice Committee, Who are known for their Anti-Homosexual campaigns.

I do not support your actions and views on this issue. The messages you and your groups are spreading are inhumane and dishonest. I do not want people in my city to feel unsafe or unwanted, Vancouver is meant to be a city that accepts differences and respects culture and diversity.

Because of these actions you have taken, I am asking you to resign from your position as Trustee as you have failed to protect all the students within the school board.

ken.denike@vsb.bc.ca
sophia.woo@vsb.bc.ca
patti.bacchus@vsb.bc.ca

Christy Clark’s staff respond to homophobic bullying

5 days ago I sent a form letter to Christy Clark, as my MLA, asking her to address homophobic bullying in BC schools.

Dear Christy Clark, Premier and MLA,
I am writing this message in the interest of protecting the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender youth in the province of British Columbia.
Recently calls have come from across the province for an explicit provincial policy to offer protection for all students from discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. These calls have come from the British Columbia Teachers Federation, the City of Vancouver, the Vancouver School Board, the Representative of Children and Youth, and grassroots activists meeting with the Minister of Education through the Purple Letter Campaign. These calls have come as a result of a year of highly publicized youth suicides across North America, including several in Canada. While this is not a new issue, attention is being paid that was not in the past.
In Canada research done by EGALE recently noted that this homophobia and transphobia are pandemic in our schools. 70% of all participating students, LGBT and non-LGBT, reported hearing expressions such as “that’s so gay” every day in school and almost half (48%) reported hearing remarks such as “faggot,” “lezbo,” and “dyke” every day in school. More than one in five (21%) LGBT students reported being physically harassed or assaulted due to their sexual orientation.
Recently Quebec introduced legislation titled "Plan d’action gouvernemental de lutte contre l’homophobie" which includes explicit policies, funding for anti-homophobia initiatives and a provincial research chair on homophobia. In Ontario the government has introduced legislation calling for explicit policies, enforcement and the creation of support networks within schools through Gay Straight Alliances or similarly themed clubs.
Where British Columbia was once on the forefront of protecting youth, we are now lagging behind other provinces.

Struggling students in British Columbia need explicit protections now to prevent tragedy from striking in our province. I would like to know where you stand on creating an explicit provincial plan on ending bullying based on sexual orientation and gender identity and how you plan to work with your colleagues in government and opposition to make sure it is done quickly.
I thank you for your time and look forward to your response.
Sincerely,
Ian Bushfield

Well I actually got a response today from one of her staffers.

Thank you for your email regarding bullying in schools. We appreciate the time you have taken to share your concerns.

It is regrettable to hear when any young person takes their own life. Bullying is a terrible phenomenon and the province recognizes that something must be done about it. We understand that LGTB students face many challenges which can be dramatically compounded due to bullying and discrimination. No student should feel that they are unsafe or the target of harassment and abuse due to their sexual orientation or identity.

Premier Christy Clark has been very out spoken about the unacceptable nature of bullying. One of her most important accomplishments was helping to bring the Pink Shirt Day anti-bullying campaign to BC. The Premier has also been vocal very recently about the need for action on this issue. Our government remains committed to making sure that we bring in anti-bullying policies and anti-bullying actions at schools all across British Columbia. We want our schools to be a safe haven for our students, not a place of fear and intimidation and there is more to come from this government in this regard.

We have shared your input and the information you have sent us with the Honourable George Abbott, Minister of Education, so he, too, can review your feedback. Please be assured your comments will be included in any related discussions.

Again, thank you for writing. It was good to hear from you.

It’s good but will be better when it’s backed by real action. I hope whatever legislation or action gets introduced will recognize the unique challenges faced by the LGBTQ community and will seek to combat homophobic bullying with a multi-pronged approach.

Thoughts on the BC NDP 50th Anniversary Convention #bcndp50

imageThis weekend was the first time I’ve ever attended a political convention, so I was quite happy that I was able to represent my riding as the youth representative (which came with a discounted admission).

I wasn’t the first convention-virgin there, although a couple people in attendance had attended the first BC NDP convention back in 1961.

You can read my play-by-play thoughts on my Twitter stream under #bcndp50. I can be seen tweeting from the convention #tweetup at the right of the picture.

Continue reading Thoughts on the BC NDP 50th Anniversary Convention #bcndp50

I guess until now atheists knew to keep their mouths shut in Surrey

Wow I love newspaper titles.

The South Fraser Unitarian Congregation was kind enough to send out a press release for my upcoming talk on humanism. Peace Arch News, based in White Rock, picked up the story under the headline “Atheist to speak in Newton.”

It’s a fine article, but does set the bar for all the things I need to explain:

Organizers say Ian Bushfield is to discuss how humanism…promotes living a good and moral life without the need for divine revelation.

Bushfield will also explain why humanists choose not to rely on immutable words and holy books, but instead find value and purpose in life through reason and science.

Of course, I think I wrote some of those words into the abstract that I sent along, so it may be my own fault.

For more information on the talk, check out the Unitarian’s website.

John Horgan on Smart Meters

I wrote this morning’s post last night and scheduled it, assuming in part that it would be a few weeks to never when I received a reply (as if often the case with many politicians).

It was to my surprise then that one of the first emails I read this morning was a reply from John Horgan. He actually responded to me before I posted this letter!

Anyways, his response displays honesty and a respect for democracy. I think the skeptics can feel safe with the BC NDP for now.

Good morning Ian, thanks for the e-mail.

I have been monitoring the smart meter program since it was announced in 2007.  I have significant concerns about the cost of the initiative and the absence of an independent assessment of the benefits or possible impacts of the technology.  In addition, I do not believe time of use metering will have much impact on conservation.  Our water based system is not as sensitive to hourly price spikes as thermal based utilities.  Our conservation activities should be focused on reducing overall consumption, not just peak times as the smart meters plan proposes.

I am not a physician nor a physicist. I have received over 5000 e-mails from people that profess an intolerance to wireless radiation.  I have no concern about impacts to my health, but they most certainly do.  I was asked to table a petition as is my right and responsibility as a Member of the Legislature and that is what I did last Thursday -  15,528 signatures.

Evidence will always guide my personal activity. I do not fear monger. If you have issues with the StopSmartmeters website, I suggest you contact them.

Regards

John Horgan

Putting conspiracy theories to the vote

Inspired by the success of the No HST campaign that saw British Columbians of all stripes push back against a government bent on implementing policies against the popular will of the people an with no mandate, some fear mongers are hoping to repeat that success in the hopes of banning smart meters.

I almost want them to succeed in getting enough signatures so that we can really put this to a vote and we can have a clear demonstration of how intelligent our province really is. Although, I’m not quite willing to risk it against the ability of a vocal minority of quacks to sway a large number of people.

What’s more disappointing than the attempt to get a petition going is NDP energy critic and past leadership candidate John Horgan’s position

Meanwhile, NDP energy critic John Horgan plans to present another petition against smart meters, called Occupy Smart Meters, in the legislature. Horgan did not respond to Straight messages by deadline.

The Straight also notes that BC Hydro’s smart meter program spokesperson didn’t respond to calls by deadline, which makes me wonder how quickly they pushed this story through. Regardless, Horgan and the NDP’s position (further elucidated on Horgan’s website) may be one of criticizing the costs and heavy-handed implementation rather than unfounded technophobia.

Continue reading Putting conspiracy theories to the vote

#vanelxn Debrief

It’s hard to believe that the election was an entire week ago. Luckily though I handed in my thesis on Friday, so regular blogging can resume again.

A lot has already been written about the Vancouver election, and I just thought I’d summarize my thoughts here quickly in a feature of The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.

The Good

The best news for me was the Burnaby Citizen’s Association’s sweep of everything. Derek Corrigan seems to know how to run a progressive city and has a competent team. While I wouldn’t normally be too concerned with how Burnaby was being run, it was very heartening to see Parents’ Voice and their homophobia be soundly rejected by the city. Good job.

Gregor Robertson soundly defeated Suzanne Anton. While there are legitimate criticisms of Robertson, Anton’s “common sense” platform was anything but. Furthermore, Robertson’s first moves after the election were to continue on his commitment to ending homelessness with the announcement of more homeless shelters.

It was also good to see a progressive majority. Vision handily won every seat they contested and will have little difficulty doing whatever they want in the next three years, which is generally positive for the city. The Vancouver School Board is definitely in good hands.

I was happy to see Adriane Carr make it in as Vancouver’s lone Green councillor. I won’t agree with everything she says, but her voice will provide a strong balance if Vision gets away from its roots.

Finally, it was good to see a strong showing by Sandy Garossino and Neighbourhoods for a Sustainable Vancouver. While not close to winning, they did well for being outside the establishment, and represent a glimmer of hope for some progressive alternatives in the next election.

The Bad

COPE was badly defeated. We lost almost everything except for Alan Wong’s seat on the School Board. It’s not clear to me if we lost many votes or if more people just turned out and only voted for Vision. Clearly the COPE-Vision coalition will need to be questioned. This story is likely far from over.

Voter turnout, despite a slight increase, is still embarrassingly low. Two-in-three people don’t care about how their city is being run, and that’s sad.

The Ugly

The finger pointing started within hours of the election results.

Sean Bickerton criticized his party, the NPA, for running a nasty and bitter campaign. Others said they needed more bitterness.

Tim Louis quickly blamed the coalition deal and COPE’s leadership. David Cadman blamed Tim Louis for knocking him off the ballot. Others blamed the leadership for blocking Tim Louis with RJ Aquino. Some suggestions were made that Vision didn’t promote COPE enough (despite evidence to the contrary and the fact that it’s not their job). Almost no one has been willing to take any responsibility on their own. For my own part, I didn’t canvass nearly as much as I’d hoped. People need to start setting aside their egos and begin work figuring out the goals of COPE and how to accomplish them.

Ian votes in Vancouver

Because Saturday is municipal election day in Vancouver, it’s the week of announcing everyone’s slates, and I don’t intend to break that trend.

Before I state who I’ll be voting for in Vancouver, I want to highlight a couple other worthy candidates in the Lower Mainland.

I’m not too familiar with Burnaby’s politics, but Derek Corrigan’s Burnaby Citizens’ Association has kept Burnaby as one of the best run cities in Canada according to Maclean’s magazine. More importantly though, I strongly urge everyone in Burnaby to vote for the BCA slate for School Board to block any religious homophobic candidates from Parents’ Voice from getting elected. The anti-homophobic bullying policy they recently passed needs a strong voice to continue its implementation to ensure that LGBTQ students feel safe in their schools.

In New Westminster, Humanist Canada’s 2011 Humanist of the Year Lorrie Williams is standing for re-election to council. Vote for her.

Now, on to the main show.

Continue reading Ian votes in Vancouver

#ndpldr Peggy Nash in Vancouver

In my whirlwind tour last night, I first saw Paul Dewar before racing downtown to catch Peggy Nash’s meet and greet at the Railway Club.

While Dewar’s event was held in a large condo meeting room, a slightly larger crowd packed into the small backroom of the Railway Club (where Skeptics in the Pub downtown meets) to meet Nash. While Dewar’s event had pop, chips, veggies, cookies, and some leftover Halloween candy, Nash’s event had veggies and mini-sandwiches – a happy sight since I hadn’t had time to find dinner. Sadly it was still a cash bar, but I wouldn’t hold that against any candidate.

Venues and snacks aside, I still didn’t walk away from Nash’s event as impressed as I was with Dewar. I met a friend there and we were both a little underwhelmed with the buzz and feel-good fluff that composed most of her speech.

I re-listened to it again this morning and I think the above characterization is a bit harsh, but listen yourself:

Peggy Nash speech

I think she planned on taking more questions later in the evening, but I was getting a bit tired and the room was hot, noisy, and crowded, so I snuck off, had a beer, and went home.

Her speech focussed a lot on what we need to differently than Harper, specifically focussing on the economy, becoming the greenest country, and working together as a country. Proposals may come later, but after witnessing the winning policy-heavy campaigns of Naheed Nenshi and Alison Redford, it makes me long for something more substantive.

The final thing I’ll say about her event is that while she attracted an enthusiastic crowd of all ages, it was a very heterogeneous crowd – predominantly Caucasian. Perhaps this was due to the venue and location difference, but it was a bit striking.

Regardless, I haven’t written her off after last night, but I was much more impressed with Paul Dewar last night.