Another Immodest Proposal: Canadian Freethought Coalition (CFC)

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*Edited 2022-01-31.*

The assertive face and voice of Canadian freethought is, more or less, a mosaic with the uniformity of a crumpled piece of paper. There is a series of freethought communities. There are voices for parts of the communities.

However, I see no unified voice. A singular referent for activism, whether as a whole or on particular projects, consistently, which raises an issue to me. I proposed something for some of the ex-Muslim community, humbly (and not-so humbly), which was the idea of the International Coalition of Ex-Muslims.

However, I was several years too late(!) – so missed the mark by a period of years with the proposal, as the inimitable Maryam Namazie of CEMB informed me. Ex-Muslims International, a recent shortening of the older name, was, in fact, founded in July of 2017 at the International Conference on Freedom of Conscience and Expression.*

Within the Canadian freethought landscape, I do not see a positive singular voice for effective political campaigning at the national level. Even with some efforts by others and myself, they tend to be one-ticket items, at most.

When I interviewed a number of humanist or humanistic organizations’ leaders in Canada, “Humanism in Canada: Personal, Professional, and Institutional Histories (Part One),”[1] I found some consistent efforts within the leaderships or themes of values and the like.

At the time, for the interview with Canadian humanist leaders, Spring 2020, Cameron Dunkin was the Acting CEO of Dying With Dignity Canada, Dr. Gus Lyn-Piluso was – and is – the President of Center for Inquiry-Canada, Doug Thomas was – and is – the President of Secular Connexion Séculière, Greg Oliver was – and is – the President of Canadian Secular Alliance, Michel Virard was – and is – the President of Association humaniste du Québec, Dr. Lloyd Hawkeye Robertson was the Vice-President of Humanist Canada, and Seanna Watson was – and is – the Vice-President of Center for Inquiry-Canada.

In other words, out of the small population of Canadian society, in independent research, I found a number of common themes amongst leading humanists in the nation. I conducted group interview of its type to explore the issue, independently.

With a small population in Canada, as a whole – simply contrast the international numbers, came a small number of humanist or humanistic organizations in Canada, those individuals represented the first collective interview in the history of Humanism, as far as I am aware.

While, at the same time, even still, the number of organizations remains small; the organizations continue to make inroads into Canadian society for humanist values, especially critical thinking, science education, and advancement of human rights (e.g., reproductive rights).

There’s a decent number of directly humanist organizations and indirectly humanistic organizations: Humanist Canada[1], Center for Inquiry-Canada[2], Association humaniste du Québec (AhQ)[3], Canadian Secular Alliance[4], Secular Connexion Séculière [5], Mouvement Laïque Québécois[6], Canadian Association for Equality[7], Humanist Freedoms, Canadian Atheists[8], Libres penseurs athées — Atheist Freethinkers (LPA-AFT)[9], Canadian Humanist Publications[10], Fondation Humaniste Du Quebec[11], Dying With Dignity Canada[12], Egale Canada[13], One School System Network[14], Canadian Civil Liberties Union[15], and then a host of smaller or local humanist organizations not devoted to a particular language group or a national reach, or thematic emphasis.

There are North American wide organizations, which means an overlap into Canada and an inclusion of, for example, the United States of America, e.g., Ex-Muslims of North America and Freedom From Religion Foundation. Yet, it’s incredible no single coalition exists for direct political activism in Canada, even with a temporary existence for concerted humanist or humanistic changes to Canadian law and society.

My (rather immodest) proposal would be one akin to the International Coalition of Ex-Muslims, which became Ex-Muslims International[16], with the Canadian Freethought Coalition (CFC) or something akin to this. They’ve done an incredible job for themselves — sincerely from the bottom-up. Many overcoming individual trauma, while still paving paths.

In that, the efforts for a truly humanistic Canada should incorporate an adaptive democratic umbrella organization capable of handling unified or consensus-based political and legal assertiveness for greater efficacy at the national level.

One in which no singular leadership for a national, linguistic, or thematic, organization holds complete or absolute power, while a rotating spokesperson holds the position for speaking on timely humanist issues. Those humanist issues most Canadian humanists want forcefully, assertively directed at the federal level for downstream impacts throughout Canada.

I write this to broach the issue, as I consider this, not only a possibility but, a plausible proposal for all humanists, or humanistically oriented individuals and organizations, in Canada.

Footnotes

*CEMB hosts the largest gathering of ex-Muslims in history in London in July 2017 at the International Conference on Freedom of Conscience and Expression with over 70 notable speakers from 30 countries or the Diaspora gathered in what is dubbed “The Glastonbury of Freethinkers” and “a Conference of Heroes” to honour dissenters and defend apostasy, blasphemy, and secularism. The sold-out conference highlights the voices of those on the frontlines of resistance – many of them persecuted and exiled. The conference made a space for crucial discussions and debates on Islamophobia and its use by Islamists to impose de facto blasphemy laws, the relation between Islam and Islamism as well as communalism’s threat to universal rights, art as resistance and Laicite as a human right. The conference hashtag, #IWant2BFree, trends on Twitter. The conference includes a public art protest of 99 balloons to represent those killed or imprisoned for blasphemy and apostasy around the world. Resolutions against the no platforming of Richard Dawkins and in support of Egyptian atheist Ismail Mohamed and CEMB at Pride are adopted. A Declaration of Freethinkers is adopted at the conference. See https://www.ex-muslim.org.uk/2019/12/cemb-timeline/.

[1] Humanist Canada is comprised of the Board of Directors with Martin Frith (President), Ric Glowienka (Vice-President), Ruth Henrich (Treasurer & Corporate Secretary), Donna Harris (Member), Kathleen Johnson (Member), Meltem Kilicaslan Greisman (Member), Sassan Sanei (Member), and Sonia Mallet (Member), and staff Dr. Anna Popovitch (Program Director), Jag Parmar (Administrative Assistant), and Karina Chu (Social Media Coordinator).

[2] Center for Inquiry-Canada’s Board of Directors is currently comprised of Gus Lyn-Piluso (President), Seanna Watson (Vice-President), Diane Bruce (Critical Thinking Chair), Zack Dumont (Science Chair), Alex Kenjeev (Policy Officer), John Varghese (Communications Liaison), Leslie Rosenblood (Treasurer & Secular Chair), Edan Tasca (Mental Health Chair), and E. Onur C. Romano, and its Leadership Team with Sandra Dunham (Executive Director of Development), Mark Maharaj (Office Manager), David Simmons (Manager of Records & Recording Secretary). Its past Board membership has been S. Wynton Semple, Debora Del Monte, Paul Zammit, Carol Parlow, Richard Thain, Jack Wallas, Zak Fiddes, Lorne Trottier, Ron Lindsay, Thomas Flynn, Derek Rodgers, Barry Karr, Ian McQuaig, Michael Gardiner, Kathryn Calder, Iain Martel, William Cranor, Gary Fitzgibbon, Dorothy Hays, Veronica Abbass, Mike Gray, Joanna Nguyen-Truong, Genessa Radke, Pat O-Brien, Wil McDowall, Danielle Russell, Kevin Smith, Blythe Nilsson, Christopher Myrick, and Sarah Pekeles.

[3] Association humaniste du Québec’s Board of Directors is comprised of Michel Virard (President), Michel Pion (Vice-President & Treasurer), Claude Braun (Administrator & Editor-in-Chief, “Quebec Humaniste”), Daniel Baril (Administrator & Spokesperson), Michel Lincort (Administrator & Secretary), Danielle Russell (Administrator), and Alain Bourgault (Administrator).

[4] Canadian Secular Alliance’s Board of Directors is Bob Lent, Glen MacDonald, Greg Oliver, and Justin Trottier.

[5] Secular Connexion Séculière leadership is comprised ofDoug Thomas (President), Barrie Webster (Vice President), Rick Dondo (Manitoba Provincial Advocate), Kayla Horan-Dmytruk (Saskatchewan Provincial Advocate), Gordon Wolters (Alberta Provincial Advocate), and Alan Danesh (British Columbia Provincial Advocate).

[6] Mouvement Laïque Québécois’s President is Daniel Baril, with assistance from Me Luc Alarie (through the Supreme Curt of Canada in the Ville de Saguenay case) and Me Guillame Rousseau as a lawyer (and associate professor of law at the University of Sherbrooke).

[7] Its current Board of Directors is made of Edward Sullivan (Chair), Sean Sullivan (Vice Chair), James Brown (President), Jill Hendry (Secretary), Lynda Yardley (Treasurer), Justin Trottier (Founder & National Executive Director), Glenn Hendricks (Director of Advancement), Mark Austerberry (Technical Director), and Denise Fong (Outreach Coordinator), and three regional boards with the Ottawa Regional Board made of John Robson (Chair), Eric Verwijs (Secretary), Jean-Jacques Desgranges, John Kingsley, Keith Savage, and Simon Gardner, Alberta Regional Board made of Sean McMurtry (Chair), Joachim Mueller, Neil Scully, Vanessa Farkas-Brahmakshatriya, Tanis Mooore, and Christine Giancarlo, and BC Regional Governance Board comprised of Paul Dowell, Roger Challis, Martin Nugter, Fiona Wang, Liam Wilson, Warren Senkowski, and Mayra F. Paiva, and Equality Advisory Fellows Hon Roger Gallaway, Barbara Kay, Jackie Orsetto, Lionel Tiger, Warren Farrell, Miles Groth, Fred Litwin, Heidi Nabert, Edward Sullivan, James Brown, Janice Fiamengo, Eleanor Levine, Rob Keays, William Spotton, Suzanne Venker, Brian Jenkins, Rev. Alan Steward, Joseph Henry, Walter Fox, Paul Sandor, Sita Kaith, Kush Gupta, Rob Whitley, Gene C. Colman, Dean Harvey, Ralph Shiell, Don Neufeld, Adam Jones, Don Dutton, Don Wright, Paul Nathanson, Tonia Nicholls, Dan Bilsker, Damuel Veissiere, and Carey Linde.

[8] Canadian Atheists is comprised of Randolf Richardson (President), Neil Bernstein (Community Advocate), and Darwin Bedford (Ambassador of Reason).

[9] Its President is David Rand. Its Secretary is Pierre Thibault. Its Treasurer is Marco DeRossi.

[10] Canadian Humanist Publications is comprised of Simon Parcher (President), Madeline Weld (Vice President), Richard Young (Secretary), and Josh Bowie (Book Review Editor), and with “Humanist Perspectives” magazine under it with Madeline Weld and Richard Young as co-editors, Rchard Young as the Art Director, Joan Perry as the Office Manager, and Josh Bower as the Book Review Editor.

[11] Fondation Humaniste Du Quebec is comprised of Sarto Blouin (President), Edouard Boily (Vice-President), Richard Aubert (Secretary), Pierre Lacasse (Treasurer), Marie-France Tremblay, Lina Comtois, Laurent Blouin, Guillaume Carpentier, Bruno Deschênes, and Alain Bourgault.

[12] At present, Dying With Dignity Canada is comprised of staff Helen Long (CEO), Candy Alexander (Development Coordinator), Alexa Bogoslowski (Office Administrator), Sarah Dobec (Communication Specialist), David Gosse (Manager, Volunteer Engagement and Chapter Development), Kelsey Goforth (Senior Program Manager), Nicole Curtis (Program Specialist), Ryan Lindsay (Director, Development), Alisha Martins (Digital Engagement Specialist), Melissa Muller (Development Officer), Samantha Shier (Program Coordinator), and Liberty Vinas (Administrative Coordinator), and Board of Directors with Bev Heim-Myers (Chair), Susan Desjardins (Vice-Chair), Ryan A. Webster (Treasurer), Fancy C. Poitras (Secretary), Wayne Cochrane (Member), James Cowan (Past-Chair, Member), Daphne Gilbert (Member), Roslyn Goldner (Member), Eva Kmiecic (Member), Sherry Moran (Member), Chantal Perrot (Member), Jonathan Reggler (Member), and Tammy Pham (Member), and Disability Advisory Council Linda Jarrett (Executive Member) and Cindy Player (Executive Member), and Patrons Council with Richard W. Ivey, Margaret Atwood, Maude Barlow, Lee Carter, Bill Cunningham and Agi Gabor, Hon David Crombie, Atom Egoyan, Charlotte Gray, Al Hancock, Nancy Ruth, Ann-Marie MacDonald, Clayton Ruby, Hon. Joan Bissett Neiman, David Wilson, and Moses Znaimer, and Clinicians Advisory Council with Valerie Cooper, Dr. Tanja Daws, Dr. Stefanie Green, Dr. Anne Kenshole, Dr. J.R. LaFrance, Dr. Robert Langford, Dr. Georges L’Espérance, Dr. Roey Malleson, Dr. Jean Marmoreo, Erica Maynard, Dr. Peter McKernan, Dr. Chantal Perrot, Dr. Vona Priest, Dr. Jonathan Reggler, Dr. Konia Troutan, Dr. Ken Walker, and Dr. Ellen Wiebe, and a First-Person Advocates’ Initiatives Council with Ed Borchardt, Sandy Doyle, Jenny Hasselman, Sylvia Henshaw, Jack Hopkins, Sue McCaffrey, Tracy McDowell, Paul Morck, Tamara Nazaruk, Chelsea Peddle, Ron Posno, Doniya Quenneville, and Stephen Trepanier.

[13] Egale Canada is comprised of Helen Kennedy (Executive Director), Kendall Forde (Director, Project Management), Jennifer Boyce (Director, Communications & Public Relations), Kim Vance-Mubanga (Director, International Programs), Robyn Johnston (Director, Human Resources), Mark Fellion (Director, Development), BevMitelman (Director, Learning), Valentyna Kulesh (Director, Finance & Administration), Dr. Brittany Jakubiec (Director, Research), and Jacki Lewis (Chair of the Board), Christine Wilson (Vice President), Dan Irving (Secretary), Robert Mitchell (Treasurer), Dali Hammouch (Director), and Susan Rose (Director).

[14] One School System Network is made of Leonard Baak (President and Principal Spokesperson), Geraint (Gegs) Jones (Chairman and Alternate Spokesperson), Paula Conning 9Coordinator, Orangeville and area chapter), and Nadine Clark (Director).

[15] Canadian Civil Liberties Union is made of the Board of Directors with Larry Baldachin, Audrey Boctor, Julie DiLorenzo, Andrew Forde, Joe Freedman, Julianna Greenspan, Nadar Hasan, Patricia Jackson, Anil Kapoor, Jonathan Lisus, Andrew Lokan, John McCamus, Ron Ness, Linda Schuyler, Simron Singh, and Steven Sofer, and staff Abby Deshman, Cara Faith Zwibel, Akwasi Owusu-Bempah, Noa Mendelsohn Aviv, Brenda McPhail, April Julian, Talayeh Shomali, Aruna Aysola, Rnadi Thomson, Kelsey Miki, Mishma Gashyna, Tom Naciuk, and a former General Counsel Emeritus with A. Alan Borovoy.

[16] Ex-Muslims International is a coalition of Ateizm Dernegi (Turkey), Atheist & Agnostic Alliance Pakistan, Atheist Iranian Community, Council of Ex-Muslims of Jordan, Council of Ex-Muslims of Morocco. Council of Ex-Muslims of Singapore, MALI — Mouvement Alternatif pour les Libertés Individuelles — Maroc, Ex-Muslim Somali Voices, Ex-Muslims of India, Ex-Muslims of Sri Lanka, Ex-Muslims of Tamil Nadu, India, Freethought Lebanon, Manaarah Initiative, Atheist Refugee Relief, Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain, Council of Ex-Muslims of France, Council of Ex-Muslims of Germany, Council of Ex-Muslims of Scandinavia, Ex-Muslims of Norway, Ex-Muslims of the Netherlands, Faithless Hijabi, Council of Ex-Muslims of New Zealand, Ex-Muslim Support Network of Australia, Ex-Muslims of North America, and Muslimish. It is a large and rapidly growing interconnected activist collective — kudos to them.

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

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