University of Laval Canadian Political Blogger survey

Are you Canadian and blog at least once per week about politics?

If so, Laval wants you to fill out a survey by the end of the month for the first research ever conducted on the Canadian political blogosphere.



The Political Communication Research Lab (GRCP) at Laval University would like to invite bloggers to participate in a ground-breaking study of the Canadian political blogosphere (Research Ethics Board file number : 2010-289/16-12-2010).

Participants must be at least 18 years old, must live in Canada, must have the right to vote in Canada and must have a blog where they mostly or frequently post (more than once a week) on Canadian, international or Quebec politics.

The participants will complete an online survey on their socio-demographic profile, their political practices and their motivations for engaging in political blogging. The survey is made up of 76 questions, the majority of which are closed-ended. However, there are also open-ended questions that will allow participants to freely reflect on the themes of the survey. The survey can be completed in about 30 minutes.

All participants are invited to complete the online survey available from the website of the Political Communication Research Lab:

The survey will be open until 28 Feb. 2011.

For more information about the study please contact :

Thierry Giasson
Lead investigator
Political Communication Research Lab (GRCP)
Département d’information et de communication, Université Laval
1055, avenue du Séminaire, Québec, Qc, G1V 0A6
Tél : (418) 656-2131, 7709

The old New Atheist

It turns out that Mark Twain wrote an autobiography of his life but decided that it shouldn’t be published until 100 years after his death (which occurred in 1910). Newsweek has posted an excerpt, and it seems like it’s a well timed release.

About once a year some pious public library banishes Huck Finn from its children’s department, and on the same plea always—that Huck, the neglected and untaught son of a town drunkard, is given to lying, when in difficulty and hard pressed, and is therefore a bad example for young people, and a damager of their morals.

Two or three years ago I was near by when one of these banishments was decreed and advertised, and I went over and asked the librarian about it, and he said yes, Huck was banished for lying. I asked,

“Is there nothing else against him?”

“No, I think not.”

“Do you banish all books that are likely to defile young morals, or do you stop with Huck?”

“We do not discriminate; we banish all that are hurtful to young morals.”

I picked up a book, and said—

“I see several copies of this book lying around. Are the young forbidden to read it?”

“The Bible? Of course not.”

I can’t wait to do this with the book club (although in the end it will be 3 volumes and half-a-million words).

The return of European fascism?

It’s a bit scary to me that ultra-nationalist, anti-immigration parties are soaring in popularity. The fact that a party that believes the Netherlands needs its own Guantanamo Bay or that wants to ban the Koran has placed third and will potentially grab a seat in a coalition is very worrisome.

While Muslim extremism is a threat, racist fascists are still not the answer.

Of course, similar wing-nuts are easily found much closer to home.

CFI Ontario – now with free parking!

Apparently the easiest way to get out of a parking ticket in Toronto now is to claim you were with a religious group at a worship service.

I guess the best way to see if this law is truly discriminatory or not is for humanists meeting at the Centre For Inquiry Ontario (just blocks from the University of Toronto campus) is to try to get parking exemptions.

Parking fines either apply universally (people can walk/ride/transit to church) or they don’t apply to anyone.

What’s the point of a law if you just give exemptions left, right and centre?

(h/t Friendly Atheist)

Evil, evil, evil

It’s mothers day, but I guess that means that sometimes you have to sit in class bleeding if you have 2 mothers and a bigot for a teacher.

The story isn’t completely confirmed yet, but early reports seem to be that an 11-year-old in New Mexico tripped and cute her nose and loosened some teeth was denied access to the school nurse or a call home because her teacher thinks she should attend another school since she has married lesbian parents.

The Albuquerque Journal also reports that when the girl submitted an assignment about her summer vacation, where her parents got married, the teach ripped the page out and told her “this is gross, this is horrible, you need to write about something else.”

The family is rightfully filing a lawsuit for negligence and violations of her civil rights (this is a public school).

"We don’t send our kids to school in New Mexico to get hurt and to learn hatred and intolerance," Foster [the family’s attorney] said. He said his suit will aim to show a pattern of harassment.

It is racism

I’ve been somewhat torn over the French (both France and Quebec) laws that are being moved in to ban Niqabs and Burqas in public settings.

On the one hand I think it’s a symbol of a repressive society and that no one should have to wear such clothing. But on the other hand, I support a free society where no one has the right to tell you what you can’t wear.

The Humanist Association of Ottawa comes down on the side that as an issue of secularism – “separation of church and state made clear and simple” – the Niqab ought to be banned from being worn on government property.

Now I have to part ways with the HAO author Ricky here, as a secular issue you can argue that no religious symbols ought to be promoted by the government, it is wrong to argue that (1) no religious symbols can be displayed, and (2) that private citizens who are at government buildings ought to be suppressed from displaying their symbols. And here’s why

  1. My argument is that a secular state should not promote any one religion. This is best phrased in the First Amendment to the US Constitution: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” While Canadian law is not directly equivalent, I believe most Canadian legal scholars would agree that we have, for all intents and purposes, a secular state. To argue that the government cannot display religious symbols would be to suggest that state sponsored museums, art galleries or zoos can’t deal with religion in any form. Imagine a museum exhibit on the middle ages that was prevented from displaying a cross – it’s absurd.
  2. As a private citizen in a free country, I ought to be allowed to wear a cross, star-and-crescent, Star of David, or a scarlet A into a government building and still receive services.

So in the end, I have to side with the Muslim women. Many have chosen (whether coerced or not is another discussion) to wear a veil in public, despite public ridicule and discrimination, and no laws ought to control that clothing. As for government employees, I use similar reasoning goes to Christians pharmacists who want the right to refuse prescribing contraceptives in that you leave your faith at home or find a line of work that fits your worldview. Pacifists don’t sign up for the army and complain they have to carry guns.

I’ll add one note about the Sikh Kirpan ceremonial daggers – if we are going to exempt one segment of the population the right to carry weapons in public, we have no reason not to let everyone. My personal preference is for everyone to leave their knives at home, regardless of their value to you. Similar logic applies to most religious accommodations to our laws – our laws either apply to everyone equally or they are useful.

It seems to me that most of the arguments for selectively banning Muslim garments stem purely from the newest forms of racism and xenophobia.

On bad precedents

I don’t care how you see Rahim Jaffer’s $500 fee for speeding, drunk driving and cocaine possession (actually he got off scotch-free on the last two), but hoping that a large enough Facebook group can overturn the results of our justice system is asking for trouble.

We live under the rule of law, as soon as that rule can be overturned by majority (or sizable minority) opinion, minorities lose their protection, and our basis as a free democracy is threatened.