Ian Bushfield, M.Sc., is the Executive Director of the British Columbia Humanist Association (BCHA). The BCHA has been working to have humanist marriages on the same plane as other marriages in the province. Here we talk about recent updates from the view of the BCHA.
Bushfield and I talked several months ago, but I had not caught up with him. So, I decided to follow up with him on the updates from the non-religious, and the humanist more particularly, the landscape in Canada, especially in British Columbia.
Bushfield directed attention to the Government of British Columbia needing to tackle the ongoing housing crisis. This means a committed and concerted effort to work with non-profits, faith groups, and others, to develop more affordable housing united.
He noted the developments – the housing crisis kind – have put vulnerable groups at risk of religious coercion. “While we understand the urgency of getting units built, this shouldn’t come at the cost of violating the human rights of the nonreligious, religious minorities or the LGBTQ+ community,” Bushfield opines.
The second thing he noted as an ongoing concern is the need to table a bill for the creation of a new Human Rights Commission in the fall of 2018. Bushfield explained, “This can be an important institution that acts to proactively protect human rights in the province, including secularism. The devil is going to be in the details so we’ll have to keep our eye on what comes forward.”
For the concerns of the non-religious across the nation in 2018, Bushfield talked about the federal government tabling legislation for the repeal of the blasphemy law in Canada. However, the bill continues to be stalled in the Senate. It has been for several months as of now.
“We need to continue pressing the government and Senators to move the bill forward and ensure its passage this fall. There’s always a small chance that the government will opt to prorogue Parliament over the summer,” Bushfield stated, “and that could mean we have to start from square one again. While we’re on the Senate, the chamber has also created a committee to study Canadian charity law.”
The BCHA is coordinating with the Canadian Secular Alliance in order to speak out against the privileged position of religious groups in Canadian law. To those in some religious communities, this may as unnoticed as birds in air or fish in calm waters; however, to the non-religious, these tend to be more noticed, as if a mild storm for the birds in the air.
Bushfield noted, “Between this and the government’s expected response to an expert report on loosening the rules around charities’ political activities, we have a rare opportunity to remake Canada’s charity laws.”
Bushfield took part in a debate too. It was extended to Bushfield via Apologetics Canada. The debate was between Dr. Andrew or “Andy” Bannister. It was a “cordial dialogue” about Humanism or Christianity providing a better basis for human rights.
Dr. Bannister talked from the Christian view; Bushfield spoke from the Humanist view.
“While Dr. Bannister has far more academic training than me in philosophy and apologetics, I tried to present a layman case for the understanding that morality and therefore our contemporary human rights are the result of a cultural evolutionary process and something we can continually build upon,” Bushfield stated.
Bushfield wants to focus on the fundamentals of Humanism over 2018 as a big overarching goal. The goal is to make a difference in the lives of the citizens of British Columbia and Canada as well.
Bushfield describes Humanism as pro-human in the sense that it is not anti-religious but stands more for human rights, democracy, and peace.
“I’m increasingly worried that as a movement we’ve possibly spent too much time on the latter and that’s made some of our spaces less welcoming than we’d want. I think there’s an appetite for the secular, inclusive and progressive message that Humanism can offer and I’m eager to talk more about that,” Bushfield concluded.
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