Doug Thomas is the President of Secular Connexion Séculière. Here we talk about the Special Humanitarian Assistance Program for Afghan Nationals in Canada.
Scott Douglas Jacobsen: What were the first realizations of the need to change the Special Humanitarian Assistance Program for Afghan Nationals?
Doug Thomas: SCS was working on getting clarification of Canada’s Less Complex Claims refugee policy that favours religious refugee applicants over atheists, apostates and other non-believers when Afghanistan was overrun by the Taliban. This puts many freethinking Afghans at risk and needing to apply for refugee status from countries like Canada. We were already working with the members of the coalition on e-petition #3638, realized that Canada’s Special Humanitarian Assistance Program for Afghan Nationals carried on with the bias toward religious refugee applicants. By the way, petition e-3638 as read in the House of Commons on February 8th so Minister Fraser has until March 25th to respond to it.
Jacobsen: What is the status of atheists and apostates in current Afghanistan?
Thomas: Under the Afghan constitution that Canada defended during the 11 years we had troops fighting the Taliban, the only legal religion is Islam. Even under the former regime, Christians, Jews, and non-believers were tolerated, but only because the regime wanted to maintain good aid relations with other countries. Atheists and apostates are now in grave danger since the Taliban does not seem to care about any relationships with other countries and is committed to absolute Sharia law including killing infidels (atheists) and apostates. Of course, this makes it difficult for atheists and apostates to even leave the country because the Taliban would rather execute them. In any case, they have to travel to Pakistan, a country that doesn’t look kindly on them either, but is at least aware that ticking off the West is not good for trade. This makes it even more important that Canada’s Special Humanitarian Program for Afghan nationals include atheists and apostates.
Jacobsen: As Canada’s policy “fails to meet Article 18 of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which enshrines the observance and promotion of ‘freedom of religion or belief’,” what is the simplest change the federal government can do to meet the requirements of international human rights here?
Thomas: As we have requested, Canada’s policy must be changed to include atheists and apostates in the Special Humanitarian Program for Afghan Nationals. Otherwise, Canada’s immigration and refugee policies do not meet the spirit of our own Charter of Rights and Freedoms that guarantees the right to freedom from religion in addition to not meeting UN standards. This is a policy change and can be made at the ministerial level without changing legislation. Then it must be sent out to Canada’s immigration officers and proxy immigration officers (foreign officers that represent Canada where we do not have embassies or consulates) so they understand that the change has been made.
Jacobsen: How can individuals keep informed and updated on this and other policies at Secular Connexion Séculière?
Thomas: We try to keep information updated on our website www.secularconnexion.ca under the Federal Campaign menu item. Recently, we have start posting a notification bulletin called Now! Maintenant! on the website that gives people direct access to what is going on now. People who subscribe to SCS also get a monthly bulletin (restarting this month) to keep them informed.
Jacobsen: Thank you for the opportunity and your time, Doug.
Thomas: Thanks for the opportunity to update our progress with the federal government and with our Canadian and international allies.