The Magdalene Laundries: Phoebe Judge and the Criminal Podcast Team Tell the Story

Episode 216 of Criminal, a podcast hosted by Phoebe Judge tells a story of Ireland’s Magdalene Laundries where some 10,000 to 30,000 women and girls were confined, abused and enslaved. The laundries were typically operated by the Roman Catholic church.

As a Canadian humanist publication, well aware of various abuses and human rights violations that the Catholic Church has been connected-to in Canada and around the world, what caught our particular attention was the podcast’s statement that, “The women did the laundry for all kinds of local businesses including the Royal Dublin Hotel, the Fitzwilliam Lawn Tennis Club and the French, Argentinian and Canadian embassies. They washed sheets for hospitals…”

Lest we think that the Magdalene Laundries were a uniquely Irish matter that touches Canada solely via criminally lax supply chain expectations, the Toronto Star reported in 2016 about a Canadian researcher who had been gathering information regarding laundries operated in Canada as well. That research resulted in the book, Shaped By Silence: Stories from Inmates of the Good Shepherd Laundries and Reformatories published in 2019.

There is an valuable interview with Croll published in the National Post in 2019 as well…and we’ll merely quote that article briefly:

“The state was working with the Church, and families were too….“The very system of incarceration that was supposed to reform them, became a significant factor in shaping their lifelong inequality,” Croll said. “Those who the Church and state targeted for saving were simultaneously treated as bad, dirty and unsalvageable.”

The article’s title, by the way reminds us that these institutions operated in Canada as recently as the 1960s. While there seems to be significantly less information available about these operations in Canadian society than in Irish society, there seems to be every reason to assume that the Roman Catholic church is consistent in its methods.

To learn more about the (Irish) Magdalene Laundries, you may wish to visit the Justice for Magdalenes Research website. The organization has recently published, A Dublin Magdalene Laundry: Donnybrook and Church-State Power in Ireland. It is a a new collection of essays co-edited by Mark Coen, Katherine O’Donnell and Maeve O’Rourke, with further contributions by Maolíosa Boyle, Lindsey Earner-Byrne, Chris Hamill, Máiréad Enright, Brid Murphy, Martin Quinn, Lynsey Black, Laura McAtackney, Brenda Malone, Barry Houlihan and Claire McGettrick.

In the name of all of the girls and women held in the Magdalene Laundries the editors are donating all authors’ royalties to the charity Empowering People in Care.

The editors have written to Minister Roderic O’Gorman to request that the Magdalene Restorative Justice Implementation Team provide a copy of the book to every survivor who wishes to receive one.

The book’s front matter is available free of charge here.

This book offers a comprehensive exploration of the Magdalene system through a close study of Donnybrook Magdalene Laundry (DML) in Dublin. The disciplinary perspectives featured include history, philosophy, law, archaeology, criminology, accounting, architecture, archival studies and heritage management.

By focusing on this one institution–on its ethos, development, operation and built environment, and the lives of the girls and women held there–this book reveals the underlying framework of Ireland’s wider system of institutionalisation. The analysis includes a focus on the privatisation and commodification of public welfare, reproductive injustice, institutionalised misogyny, class prejudice, the visibility of supposedly ‘hidden’ institutions and the role of oral testimony in reconstructing history. In undertaking such a close study, the authors uncover truths missing from the state’s own investigations; shed new light on how these brutal institutions came to have such a powerful presence in Irish society, and highlight the significance of their continuing impact on modern Ireland.

Citations, References And Other Reading

  1. Featured Photo Courtesy of :

The views, opinions and analyses expressed in the articles on Humanist Freedoms are those of the contributor(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the publishers.

By continuing to access, link to, or use this website and/or podcast, you accept the and Terms of Service in full. If you disagree with the terms of service in whole or in part, you must not use the website, podcast or other material.

Majority of Canadians Choose Evolution in a Poll

More than three-in-five  Canadians side with evolution when asked about the origin and development of human beings on earth, a new Research Co. poll has found.

In the online survey of a representative national sample, 63% of Canadians think human beings evolved from less advanced life forms over millions of years, down two points since a similar Research Co. poll conducted in March 2022.

Just over one-in-five Canadians (21%, +3) believe God created human beings in their present form within the last 10,000 years, while 16% (-2) are not sure.

Canadians aged 18-to-34 are more likely to endorse evolution (71%) than their counterparts aged 35-to-54 (63%) and aged 55 and over (61%).

More than a quarter of Canadians who voted for the Conservative Party in the 2021 federal election (28%) think God created human beings in their present form within the last 10,000 years. Fewer Canadians who cast a ballot for the Liberal Party (21%) or the New Democratic Party (NDP) (12%) feel the same way.

Consensus is not as clear when Canadians ponder whether creationism—the belief that the universe and life originated from specific acts of divine creation—should be part of the school curriculum in their province.

This year, 43% of Canadians (+5) believe there is a place for creationism in the classroom, while 38% (-4) disagree and 19% (-2) are undecided.

“Over the past three years, the numbers have fluctuated wildly on the question of discussing creationism at school,” says Mario Canseco, President of Research Co. “Support peaked at 44% in 2021, fell to 38% in 2022, and has now jumped to 43% in 2023.”

Just under half of Ontarians (47%, +3) and Atlantic Canadians (46%, +15) are in favor of teaching creationism in schools. The proportions are lower in Saskatchewan and Manitoba (41%, +4), Alberta (40%, +9) and British Columbia (39%, +11).

Methodology: Results are based on an online study conducted from April 7 to April 9, 2023, among 1,000 adults in Canada. The data has been statistically weighted according to Canadian census figures for age, gender and region. The margin of error, which measures sample variability, is +/- 3.1 percentage points, nineteen times out of twenty.

Find the data tables here.

Citations, References And Other Reading

  1. Featured Photo Courtesy of :

The views, opinions and analyses expressed in the articles on Humanist Freedoms are those of the contributor(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the publishers.

By continuing to access, link to, or use this website and/or podcast, you accept the and Terms of Service in full. If you disagree with the terms of service in whole or in part, you must not use the website, podcast or other material.

The Compatibility of Humanism and Indigeneity

In our search for interesting, challenging and critical perspectives on contemporary humanism, we occasionally find articles published via other venues that we think readers may enjoy. The following article was located on In-Sight Publishing. Dr. Robertson and the publishers have kindly provided permission to re-publish here.

Featured sections of the text are selections of our own.

National Indigenous Peoples Day is June 21 in Canada.

Is Humanism Compatible with Indigeneity?

By : Dr. Lloyd Hawkeye Robertson

In this essay I argue that humanism is perfectly compatible with aboriginality; however, its compatibility with “indigeneity” will depend on the meaning assigned to the word. Connotative meaning not only impacts on the immediate message, it can influence the trajectory of thought, making definition necessary at the beginning of meaningful discourse. The term, “humanism,” involves the belief that science, reason and compassion can lead to material and spiritual progress. As defined by the late Carl Sagan (1996) the word “spiritual” exists within the realm of science conveying our ability to “grasp the intricacy, beauty and subtlety of life” that includes a “sense of elation and humility combined” (p. 29).

This humanist belief system flows from the Enlightenment that began in 17th Century Europe. In The Evolved Self  (Robertson, 2020), I suggest this Enlightenment honoured the individualism that was already inherent in having a self that was capable of taking oneself as an object in remembered past events and imagined future ones. I argued that this skill had been in existence for at least 3 millennia and that organized religions evolved to put constraints or limitations on the self in the interest of preserving collectivist societies. The question posited in the title to this article then becomes, Is the humanist rejection of supernatural explanations in favour of scientific and rational understandings compatible with cultures aboriginal or indigenous to the Americas?”

The connotative power of words was impressed on me in 1982 when I chaired a committee reporting to the Regina Public School Board on the education provided aboriginal students. Naming our committee proved to be more controversial than our examination of text books or teacher training. The descendants of those who signed treaties with the Canadian government insisted the word “Indian” be in our name arguing, “It was Indians who signed the treaties, and we should honour to treaties and be known as Indians.” Emphasizing our commonality, the Metis, who were recognized as an aboriginal people in Canada’s constitution that year, argued that the more inclusive word “native” should be used. This resulted in the somewhat confusing name: “The Indian and Native Committee on Education for the Regina Public School Board.”

The term “aboriginal,” means “original inhabitants” and its use is controversial when used to describe descendants of multiple migrations. For example, are the descendants of the Clovis peoples who settled most of the American supercontinent more aboriginal than the Dene who appeared around 15,000 years later? Can we call the Inuit, whose ancestry can be traced to the Siberian Birnirk people and who replaced the now extinct Paleo-Eskimo people in the Arctic about 1,000 years ago aboriginal while denying the term to the Norse who were simultaneously migrating from the other direction (Raff et al., 2015; Raghavan et al., 2014)?  In accordance with modern usage, this essay refers to all peoples who inhabited the Americas before the 16th Century European migration by the adjective “aboriginal” or by the proper nouns Amerindian, Inuit and Metis.

Those who originally peopled the Americas were explorers and adventurers. They established empires in Central and South America, but in North America sovereign clan based bands of 100 to 1000 people were the norm. They were not particularly adept conservationists and during their watch woolly mammoths, giant mastodons, ground sloths, glyptodonts, bear-sized beavers, saber-toothed tigers, American lions, cheetahs, camels, and horses all went extinct (Shermer, 2004). Like humans everywhere else on the planet, Amerindians and later the Inuit and Metis made war. War was the cause of death of 30 to 35 percent of the aboriginal populations in northern British Columba from 1,500 BCE to 500 CE (Shermer, 2004). While women and children were often taken as captives following war, there is documentation of entire populations being murdered (Denig, 1856/1961; Widdowson & Howard, 2008).

Humanists often trace religious precepts to notions of supernatural agency developed by pre-historic hunters and gatherers. Equating the animism practiced by aboriginal peoples with the religious dogmatism that served to constrain science is an over-reach. Animism, of course, flowed from our evolved ability to attribute motives to others. In filling a very human need to answer the question “why” the agency we attribute to other humans was often attributed to lakes, mountains, weather systems and other species by Neolithic peoples. It would be logically consistent to assert that these animate forces would have wants and needs that could be appeased by human intervention. “If everyone “knows” that a person needs to make a sacrifice to the sentient spirit of a lake to ensure a safe journey across, then one makes the sacrifice” (Robertson, 2014, p. 31).   Such beliefs are not religiously held if held tentatively subject to new evidence.  In this example, such new evidence could be provided by the repeated successful crossings of people who did not make the prescribed sacrifice. Traditional aboriginal beliefs were more pragmatic than religious.

While I was on the staff of the Saskatchewan Indian Federated College during the 1980s,  a Dakota Sioux elder used to say “Dem Crees, we taught them everything they know.” Historically, he had a point. During the 18th century the Cree, armed with Hudson Bay rifles, drove the Sioux out of the northern Great Plains; but they adopted many of the cultural practices of the Sioux such as powwows, sun dances, horse dances and the heyoka.  They did not convert to the religion of the Sioux in a religious sense, but they chose practices that had worked for the peoples already present. George Catlin, a U.S. American artist who married a Plains Cree woman at the beginning of the 18th century and joined her band described these pragmatists as a nation of atheists. Edwin Denig, who married an Assiniboine woman at the beginning of the 19th century and joined her band was surprised that they had no belief in a creator god and that they asserted that life began when the sun’s rays impregnated the ground (Denig, 1856/1961). This understanding can be used to teach the theory of evolution since life began in earth’s primordial shallow seas warmed by the sun’s rays and continues to be plant based to this day. So where did the idea begin that there is a Creator-god to whom we could pray?

There are creators in some aboriginal mythologies. Saulteaux elders have shared that while their Anishinaabe tradition included a great spirit that spirit was not a creator. Creation of plants and animals was left to four lesser spirits who acted in the spirit of the great one, and they suggested it would be disrespectful to pray to the Great Spirit. In 1871 Wanapum tribal leader and shaman, Smohalla, declared:

It is good for man and woman to be together on the earth…. We do not know how the earth was made, nor do we say who made it.  The earth was peopled and their hearts are good, and my mind is that it is as it ought to be.  The world was peopled by whites and Indians and they should all grow as one flesh. (Bell, 2011)

Smohalla’s words suggest humility and mental flexibility – necessary qualities for the development of knowledge. I have suggested that the traditional stone medicine wheels that dot the Great Plains demonstrate a similar flexibility (Robertson, 2021). The circle can be taken to represent holism but the contents vary. Few of the estimated 343 wheels were divided into four. One in southern Alberta has 26 spokes. Many have no spokes at all with some featuring parallel lines and others featuring petro forms both inside and outside the circle. The number of variations suggests flexibility in thought and representation. Such flexibility allows for new evidence based approaches to life’s challenges. Medicine wheels can be constructed to represent the intersection of two or more variables. They can also be used to illustrate a variety of concepts not necessarily based on the number four which in itself has no magical power.

Secular humanism is a philosophical and ethical stance that emphasizes the value and agency of human beings, with an emphasis on critical thinking and evidence. It is relevant to aboriginal peoples in several ways: 1) A humanist perspective emphasizes individual agency leading to people taking control of their own lives, communities, and cultural heritage; 2) Humanism values diversity and respect for different cultures, beliefs, and lifestyles; and 3) Evidence-based decision-making as embraced by humanism can be seen as important for aboriginal communities in making decisions about their future and addressing social, economic, and environmental challenges. Respect for all cultures involves accepting that people can benefit from the knowledge science and reason creates, and they can enrich their cultures accordingly. While it would be tempting to declare, “Yes, humanism and aboriginality are compatible with each other,” such a position ignores a significant challenge mounted by people who call this approach “assimilation.”

During the first decade of this century I presented at six annual conferences of the Native Mental Health Association of Canada on such topics as the use of prior learning and assessment in building the aboriginal self, the self in family and community, residential school syndrome, attention deficit disorder, youth suicide, and building community. Other presenters focused on “The Medicine Wheel” which they assumed was a circle with four basic quadrants: mental, emotional, spiritual and physical. These presenters often attacked the “Bering Strait Theory” that holds that humans, perhaps as early as 20,000 years ago migrated to the Americas from Asia. As with Christian literalists who attack the theory of evolution, these presenters defined the word “theory” to be a guess. They declared that there is a thing called “western science” that holds the individual to be completely separate from the object of investigation; and they asserted that these “scientists” believe they are infallible, exact and accurate, unbiased, objective and impartial. Humanists will recognize the strawman created here as the actual opposite of science which holds that human beings are subjective and we need to find means to reduce our subjectivity to advance knowledge.

At mid-decade, Bill Mussel, president of the Native Mental Health Association of Canada, began talking circle discussions with presenters and members of the association as to whether the preferred term to be used with Amerindian, Inuit and Metis peoples should be “aboriginal” or “indigenous.”  Mussel said he liked both terms but preferred “indigenous” because it implies a people who are rooted in the land. From the Latin indigena, the word refers to a plant or animal that lives, grows, originates or is naturally occurring to a particular area. Those who asserted that there is such a thing as “western science” contrasted it with “indigenous knowledge” which was rooted in North America. The implications of this particular word usage were demonstrated at an Ontario university while these discussions were being held.

In 2005 philosopher Chris DiCarlo suggested to a graduate class at Wilfrid Laurier University that given our common human origins in East Africa any racist philosophy is untenable. When a student complained that DiCarlo was being “insensitive” to the aboriginal teaching that a creator placed aboriginal people to the American continents, he suggested a class debate on the subject. The debate did not happen and he was made to appear before a disciplinary committee for being disrespectful of  this “indigenous knowledge” (DiCarlo, 2005; Kaill, 2005). His teaching contract was not renewed.  Conversely, many aboriginal elders end their prayers with the phrase “All my relations.” This phrase denotes the unity of all living things and can be taken to support the theory of evolution and the united ancestry of the human race.

In discussing the DiCarlo example, Cree/Metis elder and historian, Keith Goulet, said there is a spectrum of views associated with aboriginal or indigenous spirituality similar to the spectrum that exists within the sects of Christianity. I have previously referred to the more “fundamentalist” indigenous spirituality on this spectrum as Native Spirituality (Robertson, 2014) in describing how it was used to discipline an elder support worker in a northern Cree community.

While the Plains Cree of the 19th Century adopted many of the practices of Siouxian culture, the Cree who remained in the boreal forest did not. In the 1990s I assisted one such community battling the problem of youth suicide (Robertson, 2015). With the assistance of community elders, we were successful. This community had voluntarily become Anglican in the mid-19th Century, and the elders identified as Anglican. For the band’s health department, located some 80 kilometers away, this was “problematic.” The department conducted workshops and sponsored cultural gatherings promoting “Native Spirituality,” but the elders appeared unmoved. They recognized that historically their people had not always been Christian, but they said many of the practices promoted by the “traditionalists,” including powwows and sun dances, had never been part of the Woodland Cree culture, and the efforts to convert them to this new Native Spirituality were felt to be oppressive. The local elder support worker was threatened with disciplinary action for failing to promote Native Spirituality with sufficient vigor, and this led to legal action.

The band health staff did not view their efforts to be one of oppression but one of healing.

Brave Heart (2003), a Lakota Sioux, popularized the notion that all Amerindian peoples suffer from historic trauma irrespective of their actual history. This trauma is “awakened” using audiovisual materials and role play, so that a “cathartic working-through necessary for healing” (p. 11) can commence using prayer, smudging, pipe ceremonies, sweat lodge ceremonies and medicine wheel teachings.  One participant in a workshop on Prior Learning Assessment and Recognition that was sponsored by the local community college did not perceive this approach as healing stating:

Our provincial Department of Higher Education and Manpower has no more business teaching Native Spirituality—with the intent of conversion—than it has teaching Tibetan Buddhism…. Imagine what towering indignation would have been engendered had (the PLAR instructor) been a Catholic and she had asked us to burn incense, to partake in Holy Sacraments, to confess our sins, and tied problem-solving to the four points of the Cross. (Robertson, 2011, pp. 99-100)

In the mind of this participant smudging, the burning of sweet grass often used in a cleansing ceremony, was like the burning of incense in the Catholic tradition. The pipe ceremony was thought of as like holy sacraments. The presumption that all participants suffer from trauma from which they need to publicly confess was felt to be like the concept of original sin. The use of the four part reified medicine wheel seemed to have a similar function to the Catholic cross. The parallels between Christianity and Native Spirituality are not accidental.

Earlier in this article I quoted Smohalla as saying in 1871 that he did not know who created Earth, but that it was good that all races work together. By 1875 he was a changed prophet. He had climbed a mountain in what is now Washington State and received a new vision that led him to predict a day of redemption when people of European descent would be removed from the American continents leaving indigenous people to resume their pre-ordained way of life. At that time the spirits of the deceased who were true to their aboriginal ways would return to their bodies in a great resurrection. Smohalla, who was the first recorded aboriginal leader to use the concept of Mother Earth (Gill, 1991), told his followers to not farm as that was like taking a knife to her bosom. They were also to not participate in mining as that was chipping away at her bones. He was not the first aboriginal prophet to preach a messianic religion.

Wovoka, became a 19th century Paiute shaman after being adopted and raised by Christian missionaries. He taught that by living piously and by performing a type of round dance called “the ghost dance” the Europeans would disappear from the Americas, the buffalo would return, and the way of life of people aboriginal to North America would be restored. Wovoka performed levitation and bullet stopping tricks to convince onlookers of the power of his magic. As the new religion spread northward his Lakota Sioux disciples came to believe the ghost shirts worn by dancers would stop the bullets of the white men (Robertson, 2014). The dream of Smohalla and Wovoka to rid North America of Europeans did not materialize, but many of the teachings were codified and exported to other aboriginal peoples where they continued to evolve protected by a smoldering sense of entitlement.

The modern medicine wheel, often known as “The Medicine Wheel,” is divided into quadrants representing physical, emotional, mental and spiritual selves. The four quadrants  are said to be symbolically representative of the “four” races of the earth: red and yellow; black and white, but many readers will recognize that the order and colours of these so-called races come from a Christian children’s song “Jesus Loves the Little Children.” It is said that this medicine wheel divides the stages of life into four: childhood, adolescence, adult and old age; but adolescence was unknown to Neolithic societies having been invented by European civilization with the advent of the industrial revolution.   This medicine wheel is said to count the four seasons failing to note that the Woodland Cree had six.  Widdowson and Howard (2013) questioned whether the concept itself could be used to advance critical thinking, the dissemination of abstract ideas, or the organization of complex information into constituent parts:

While it appears that the Medicine Wheel . . . offers a more systematic pedagogical technique (as compared to concrete conceptualizations in hunter-gatherer societies), this turns out to be a mirage. The “constituent parts” that emerge from the “breaking down of complex situations” are arbitrarily constructed, the only basis for which is a spiritual belief about the significance of the number four. (p. 294)

The Medicine Wheel critiqued by Widdowson and Howard had non-aboriginal origins. The word “mental” has no direct translation in any Algonquian language native to Canada. For example, the Cree word/phrase Kiskwew (literally, “s/he is crazy”) is used to represent the term in northern Saskatchewan to the angst of practicing mental health workers. It can be inferred that whoever first added the word mental to the Medicine Wheel was thinking in a European language, and we need to consider the possibility that it was influenced by the New Age Movement that in the mid-20th century embraced and promoted a Native Spirituality with non-aboriginal pipe carriers. While Native Spirituality is situated on the spectrum of aboriginal spiritualities referenced by Elder Goulet, more traditional spiritualities described here were local to the band, tribe or nation. In contrast, Native Spirituality can be considered to be linked to pan-Indianism where indigineity is viewed to be universal.

My daughter and I attended a powwow on the Kahnawake reserve near Montreal in 2002, and we recognized all but one of the drum songs and dances as being from the northern plains. We attended a family reunion on the Ashcroft reserve in western British Columbia. The drum songs at the honor feast were again plains culture except for one traditional hand drum number. The export of plains culture goes beyond songs and dances. In his study of two bands in Nova Scotia, Poliandri (2011) noted that what is understood as Mi’kmaq spirituality as practiced by traditionalists often involves the beliefs and ceremonies of the Sioux and Blackfoot. While the older spiritualities may be practiced in local communities, the pan-Indian Native Spirituality is recognized by universities and the general public. I have often had students tell me they learned to be aboriginal by attending university. I want to tell them that it is likely their home communities never had aspects of culture taught at university, and in any case their traditional beliefs and practices were not held religiously, that is for all time and place.

At the beginning of the millennium Steven Pinker (2003) noted that a proto-religious movement had coalesced around three myths: the blank slate, the ghost in the machine, and the noble savage. The blank slate is the notion that we are created by culture and thus are infinitely malleable dependent on cultural change with a particular emphasis on how words are used. The ghost in the machine myth supposes some essence prior to birth that, for example, might determine that doctors made a mistake in naming an infant with a penis a boy.  The noble savage myth supposes that pre-colonization civilizations and indigenous knowledge were inherently superior but that this “better world” was destroyed during the process of colonization. Humanists will recognize the parallels with fundamentalist Christianity in 1) being “born again” as a new person, 2) having an essence or soul that defines a true self, and 3) needing salvation from original sin. This new religious movement that includes but transcends Native Spirituality is, as yet, without an official name but is often referred to as “Wokism.”

In 1493 a Papal Bull proclaimed that America was unoccupied and that any aboriginal people found had no right of ownership and could be taken as slaves. Although this original “Doctrine of Discovery” was, in effect, modified by subsequent Papal Bulls, humanism was founded on the idea that no religious order should be able to make such pronouncements and that humans are self-determined knowledge producers in their own right. This is compatible with the traditional aboriginal stance of being humble in one’s beliefs that are dependent on evidence and context. While humanism is compatible with more traditional aboriginalities, it would find those who proclaim superior moral authority based on authority “rooted” in the land to be “problematic.”

In summation, the Enlightenment is a technology that allows for knowledge creation and should thus be available to all cultures ensuring their progressive advancement by the people who constitute those cultures. Humanism is an ethical and moral stance that grew out of the European Enlightenment that recognizes the worth and value of all people. Traditional aboriginal cultures practiced animism, and while supernatural beliefs are incompatible with humanism such beliefs were not traditionally religiously held thus allowing for an indigenization of the tools of the Enlightenment. A new religious movement is evolving that romanticizes a fundamentalistic form of indigeniety, and this has the effect of keeping the tools of the Enlightenment from peoples aboriginal to the Americas.

Acknowledgement: The author conveys his thanks to Francis Widdowson who critiqued an earlier draft of the is article and to Keith Goulet who contributed his knowledge through a series of two interviews.


Bell, D. D. (2011). The bottomless pit becomes the arch-nemisis Ridged Valley Reflections

Brave Heart, M. Y. (2003). The historical trauma response among natives and its relationship with substance abuse: A Lakota illustration. Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, 35(1), 7-13.

Denig, E. T. (1856/1961). Five Indian Tribes of the Upper Missouri. University of Oklahoma Press. (Five Indian Tribes of the Upper Missouri)

DiCarlo, C. (2005, June 25). The importance of being ignorant: Critical thinking and the relations of natural systems Humanism Now Conference, Ottawa, ON.

Gill, S. D. (1991). Mother Earth: An American story. University of Chicago Press.

Kaill, D. (2005). We are all African. Humanist Perspectives154, 5-7.

Pinker, S. (2003). A biological understanding of human nature. In J. Brockman (Ed.), The new humanists: Science at the edge (pp. 33-51). Barnes & Noble.

Poliandri, S. (2011). First Nations Identity and Reserve Live: the Mi’kmaq of Novia Scotia. University of Nebraska Press.

Raff, J. A., Rzhetskaya, M., Tackney, J., & Hayes, M. G. (2015). Mitochondrial diversity of I ñupiat people from the A laskan N orth S lope provides evidence for the origins of the Paleo‐and Neo‐E skimo peoples. American Journal of Physical Anthropology, 157(4), 603-614.

Raghavan, M., DeGiorgio, M., Albrechtsen, A., Moltke, I., Skoglund, P., Korneliussen, T. S., Grønnow, B., Appelt, M., Gulløv, H. C., & Friesen, T. M. (2014). The genetic prehistory of the New World Arctic. Science, 345(6200), 1255832.

Robertson, L. H. (2011). An application of PLAR to the development of the aboriginal self: One college’s experience. International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 12(1), 96-108.

Robertson, L. H. (2014). Native Spirituality: The making of a new religion. Humanist Perspectives47(1)(1), 16-23.

Robertson, L. H. (2015). The trauma of colonization: A psycho-historical analysis of one aboriginal community in the North American “North-West” Interamerican Journal of Psychology, 49(3), 317-332.

Robertson, L. H. (2020). The Evolved Self: Mapping an understanding of who we are. University of Ottawa Press.

Robertson, L. H. (2021). The Medicine Wheel Revisited: Reflections on Indigenization in Counseling and Education. SAGE Open, 11(2), 1-11.

Sagan, C. (1996). Demon haunted world: Science as a candle in the dark. Ballantine Books.

Shermer, M. (2004). The science of good and evil: Why people cheat, gossip, care, share, and follow the golden rule. Henry Holt and Company.

Widdowson, F., & Howard, A. (2008). Disrobing the Aboriginal Industry: The deception behind indigenous cultural preservation. MiGill-Queen’s University Press.


American Medical Association (AMA 11th Edition): Robertson L. Is Humanism Compatible with Indigeneity?. April 2023; 11(2).

American Psychological Association (APA 7th Edition): Robertson, L. (2023, April 8). Is Humanism Compatible with Indigeneity?. In-Sight Publishing. 11(2).

Brazilian National Standards (ABNT): ROBERTSON, L. Is Humanism Compatible with Indigeneity?. In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal, Fort Langley, v. 11, n. 2, 2023.

Chicago/Turabian, Author-Date (17th Edition): Robertson, Lloyd. 2023. “Is Humanism Compatible with Indigeneity?.” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal 11, no. 2 (Spring).

Chicago/Turabian, Notes & Bibliography (17th Edition): Robertson, L Is Humanism Compatible with Indigeneity?.” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal 11, no. 2 (April 2023).

Harvard: Robertson, L. (2023) ‘Is Humanism Compatible with Indigeneity?In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal, 11(1). <>.

Harvard (Australian): Robertson, L 2023, ‘Is Humanism Compatible with Indigeneity?In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal, vol. 11, no. 2, <>.

Modern Language Association (MLA, 9th Edition): Robertson, Lloyd. “Is Humanism Compatible with Indigeneity?.” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal, vo.11, no. 2, 2023,

Vancouver/ICMJE: Lloyd R. Is Humanism Compatible with Indigeneity? [Internet]. 2023 Apr; 11(2). Available from:


In-Sight Publishing by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

Based on work at


© Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing 2012-Present. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen, or the author(s), and In-Sight Publishing with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. All interviewees and authors copyright their material, as well, and may disseminate for their independent purposes.

Citations, References And Other Reading

  1. Featured Photo Courtesy of :

The views, opinions and analyses expressed in the articles on Humanist Freedoms are those of the contributor(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the publishers.

A Universalist Humanism Proposal from Chile

In our search for interesting, challenging and critical perspectives on contemporary humanism, we occasionally find articles published via other venues that we think readers may enjoy. The following article was located on Pressenza (publish date 12/04/2023).

We publish here the paper presented by Virtual Ediciones at the 1st International Social Sciences Fair, organised by the Municipality of Recoleta in Santiago de Chile, under the title “Position and proposal of New Humanism in the face of the current crisis of civilisation”.

The presentation by José Gabriel Feres said: “On behalf of Virtual Ediciones we thank you for your presence. In our publishing house we decided a couple of years ago, at the beginning of 2021, to give life to a “New Humanism Collection”. There are currently twelve publications by two authors: ten by Mario Rodriguez Cobos, Silo – an Argentinian thinker and writer, initiator during ten by Mario Rodriguez Cobos, Silo – Argentinian thinker and writer, initiator during the 80s of this current of thought – and two by Salvatore Puledda – Italian scientist, one of the most important disseminators of these ideas.

We hope to continue adding texts by other authors in the future.

We wanted to make this collection known, and for this we considered that the best way was not to present one or several of their books, but rather to present the thought that corresponds to the theoretical formulation and proposals for action of the so-called New Humanism (or Universalist Humanism, as it is also called).

In order to fulfil this objective, we developed a paper entitled: “Position and proposal of New Humanism in the face of the current civilisational crisis”.

We worked on a common text among the four of us who are here, which will be presented by the following: Francisco Ruiz Tagle -from the Humanist Observatory of Psychosocial Reality-; Pía Figueroa -from the International News Agency Pressenza- and Guillermo Sullings -from the Humanist Movement of Argentina. What unites the four of us is our participation, since its beginnings, in the development and action of New Humanism.

I leave with you, then, our friends who will present our reflections and proposals; and after our presentation, if we still have time, we would like to hear some of your opinions on the issues raised”.

After that, the panellists read out the following text:

“Good afternoon, everyone.

We will then try to fulfil the objective of explaining the thinking contained in this Collection, and to do so, we ask ourselves what is the beginning of our reflection? Basically, the sustained advance of a profound dehumanisation of social life, which was beginning to emerge as a collective and planetary phenomenon. The origin of the problem seemed to lie in the conception of the human being and the tendency towards the reification (or animalisation) of the human being proper to a materialistic and mercantilist society such as the one that has ended up imposing itself on the whole world, as Puledda explains, in the words of Silo, in one of his books in the Collection:

…human consciousness is not a passive or deformed ‘reflection’ of the natural world, nor a container of ‘psychic facts’ existing in themselves. Human consciousness ‘transcends’ the natural world, that is, it constitutes a phenomenon radically different from it. It is intentional activity, a ceaseless activity of interpretation and reconstruction of the world. Consequently, consciousness is fundamentally power-being, it is future, overcoming what the present gives us as ‘fact’. In this reconstruction of the external world and in this leap towards the future resides the constitutive freedom of consciousness: freedom between conditionings, subject, yes, to the pressure of the past, but freedom nonetheless. On the other hand, for the naturalist interpretation, human consciousness is essentially passive and anchored to the past: it is a reflection of the external world and its future is a deterministic updating of the past. This interpretation, if it is to be coherent, leaves no room for human freedom.

This tendency to reify the human has been accentuated in the economic sphere with the transformation of productive capitalism into speculative capitalism. Whichever way you look at it, the productive must deal with human realities: concrete needs, markets, workers, aspirations, demands, relationships with localities, and so on. Finance, on the other hand, moves in the sphere of abstractions: there is no sweat, no fatigue, nothing close to reality, just an endless dance of figures that come and go, rise and fall on the screens of the world’s stock exchanges and banks. It is a completely dehumanised universe because the real human being does not exist there. Neither their daily cries nor their daily despair are heard by the indifferent technocracy that populates this kind of virtual Olympus. For them, people are superfluous and only indexes count.

The British historian Arnold Toynbee resorted to the Greek term hybris (immoderation) to explain that a civilisation collapses when its foundation or creative principle plunges into irrationality and disproportion, a phenomenon very close to what is happening in all fields and particularly with speculative capital, whose level of delirium seems to have crossed all limits.

For his part, as early as 1933 José Ortega y Gasset referred to a “historical crisis” in his “En torno a Galileo” (On Galileo):

… Because if it is true that we are living in a situation of profound historical crisis, if it is true that we are leaving one Age to enter another, it is very important for us: 1°. to take proper charge, in a rigorous formula, of what this system of life that we are abandoning was like; 2°. what it is to live in historical crisis and 3°. how a historical crisis ends and we enter a new time.

In turn, Silo, in June 1992 in Moscow, in his conference on “Crisis of Civilisation and Humanism”, calls this a “crisis of civilisation”, pointing out:

… we are talking about the vital situation of crisis in which we are immersed and, consequently, the moment of rupture of beliefs and cultural assumptions in which we were formed”, and explains: “… To characterise the crisis from this point of view, we can look at four phenomena that have a direct impact on us, namely: 1. There is a rapid change in the world, driven by the technological revolution, which is clashing with the established structures and with the habits of life of societies and individuals; 2. This gap between the acceleration of technology and the slowness of social adaptation to change is generating progressive crises in all fields and there is no reason to suppose that it will stop but, on the contrary, that it will tend to increase; 3. The unexpectedness of events makes it impossible to foresee what direction events, the people around us and, in short, our own lives will take. In reality, it is not change itself that preoccupies us but the unpredictability that emerges from such change; and 4. Many of the things we thought and believed no longer serve us, but neither are solutions in sight that come from a society, institutions and individuals suffering from the same malady.

And in recent years, in his latest book, The End of Societies, the sociologist Alain Touraine gives a very accurate description of the relationship between globalisation and speculative economics, as well as the rupture that has occurred between economy and society, and asks himself who can resist globalisation?

…In the post-social era that is opening up before us there are no revolutions possible since there are no longer any political actors or social forces organised enough to provoke them. Capital is taking its revenge on work and eroding the gains made by social democracy in the second half of the 20th century. Apart from the analysis of the situations, this diagnosis leads us to ask an extremely pressing question: what forces are capable of opposing the unchecked power of finance?

And further on, he says the following:

…It is therefore a matter of asking oneself in the name of what and for what reasons actors can emerge; but in the face of the invasion of social life by the economy, which imposes its own logic on all domains of life, both personal and collective, where can resistance to the might of the globalised economy come from?

We are aware that such a question does not only require political responses; it carries within it a general conception of social life, just as religions, the proclamation of universal rights and the critique of capitalism did in the past.

The economy is undoubtedly one of the fields in which the brutal dehumanisation with which decisions are taken is most transparently evident, but the same is experienced in other areas of human coexistence in which the same evil is manifested, as in the case of the very serious, almost irreversible deterioration of the planet’s environment, the migratory crisis, the danger of a nuclear confrontation, as we are exposed to today, the possible food crisis, etc… In short, everything indicates that we are no longer dealing with isolated or local problems but with a global crisis, produced by the closed system regime into which the world has entered as a result of globalisation.

The characteristics of this crisis are described and explained with considerable precision in several of the books in this Collection that we are presenting here today, and if they were realised thirty years ago, they have only been confirmed with time.

At that time New Humanism presented its proposals as a possible “fire escape”, an “escape hatch” or an “emergency exit”, in the event that the situation at that time continued to deteriorate or got out of control.

If, regrettably – and here we assume the responsibility of those of us who have participated in this movement since its beginnings – we were not able to present these developments with greater force and clarity, we consider that the worsening of the crisis over the last few decades has created a better condition for understanding its roots and accepting the profundity of the changes that need to be made.

Today, the accelerated decomposition of a system that has become universal and of which we are witnessing its de-structuring is clearly visible. In general terms, this means that the links that gave cohesion and coherence to the various dimensions of social life are being broken, which necessarily implies that the civilising intention behind this form of coexistence and the project derived from it are becoming unviable.

Silo, in his Seventh Letter, defining the humanist revolution that he will be proposing for this time, says:

…In this system which is beginning to be globally closed, and there being no clear direction of change, everything is left at the expense of the simple accumulation of capital and power. The result is that in a closed system nothing else can be expected but the mechanics of general disorder. The paradox of the system informs us that in attempting to order growing disorder, disorder will be accelerated. There is no other way out than to revolutionise the system, opening it up to the diversity of human needs and aspirations. Put in these terms, the theme of revolution acquires an unusual grandeur and a projection that it could not have had in earlier times.

In short, this “civilisational model” (let’s call it that) is no longer working. By the way, there have been many decadences throughout history, so what we are living through is nothing new, except for one factor: it is the first time that the historical process has led to a single, universal system. We are all in the same boat which, given the conditions we have described, looks very much like the Titanic. It is quite obvious that the current institutionalism is not being able to find the responses or design the paths to overcome this crisis, because its parameters are obsolete, they are part of that past in crisis.

For New Humanism, sociological criteria such as social Darwinism, or the notion of passivity with respect to human consciousness, considering it as a mere receiver of the data of reality, are all concepts that must be overcome if new responses are to be found that will allow us to go beyond this difficult moment that humanity is living through. As we have already said, we find ourselves in a social situation of a closed system that is also unique, so that there are no external references that could be imitated and thus make it possible to break the inertia to change the direction of the process.

If in previous historical moments there was talk of processal determinisms, of hegemonies, of objective conditions, concepts many of them inspired by classical mechanics, today physics is beginning to speak of the end of certainties, of probabilities. If this is true for physics, it is all the truer in the human world, where the margin of freedom takes a gigantic leap. The great possibility of opening up this closed system is to be found in the vision we have of “the human” and in the recognition of its diversity as an expression of this active subjectivity.

It is stated in the various texts we are presenting today that a new definition of the human being must be assumed. It is explained that although human beings participate in the natural world insofar as they possess a body, they are not reducible to a simple natural phenomenon, they do not have a “nature”, an essence defined once and for all, but are a “project” of transformation of the natural and social world and of themselves. If we wanted to define it anyway, we could say that “the human being is that historical being who transforms his own nature by means of social activity”.

In a 1983 talk in Buenos Aires, Argentina, which he entitled About the Human, Silo develops two aspects of this theme: the understanding of the human phenomenon in general and the register of the humanity of the other.

In part of the first of these he points out:

…we are at a great distance from the idea of human nature. We are at the opposite. I mean, if the natural had suffocated the human, thanks to an order imposed with the idea of the permanent, now we are saying the opposite: that the natural must be humanised and that this humanisation of the world makes man a creator of meaning, of direction, of transformation. If this meaning is liberating from the supposedly “natural” conditions of pain and suffering, the truly human is what goes beyond the natural: it is your project, your future, your child, your breeze, your dawn, your storm, your anger and your caress. It is your fear and your trembling for a future, for a new human being free of pain and suffering.

Already in relation to the register of the other, he points out in turn:

…As long as he registers from the other his “natural” presence, the other will not pass from being an object-like, or particularly animal presence. As long as he is anaesthetised to perceive the temporal horizon of the other, the other will only make sense as a for-me. The nature of the other will be a for-me. But in constructing the other as a for-me, I constitute and alienate myself in my own for-me. I want to say: “I am for-me” and with this I close my horizon of transformation. Whoever reifies reifies himself, and thereby closes his horizon.

…As long as I do not experience the other outside of the for-me, my vital activity will not humanise the world. The other should be to my internal register, a warm sensation of an open future that does not even end in the reifying meaninglessness of death.

Very much in synthesis, we will find in these texts a proposal that we could enunciate by saying: “…only by developing a new look at “the human”; assuming that today the problems and their solutions are no longer restricted to the geopolitical ambit of the nation-state, but are universal and refer to the Human Nation; and, finally, the need to open the system to human needs and aspirations; we can try to positively resolve this crossroads between “chaos and evolution” to which we have arrived as a species”.

Certainly, when we speak of crossroads, and ask ourselves about possible ways out, interrogative adverbs inevitably arise: Who, how, where and when? Silo always considered the generational struggle as the engine of change, and today we see that a new sensibility is growing among the new generations, a sensibility that rejects violence and wars, that repudiates discrimination of minorities and injustice, that questions patriarchy and resists the predatory voracity that is destroying our planet. Perhaps in these new generations we will find the force to overcome the crisis of civilisation. With regard to the how, we will surely have to advance towards forms of Real Democracy that truly empower the people when it comes to shaping structural transformations, and therein lies a real challenge, because we have seen how on numerous occasions the revolutionary force of powerful social movements ends up being diluted in the bureaucratic labyrinths and possibilities of formal democracy, manipulated by politicians who are hostages or partners of a Real Power that opposes change. And with regard to when and where, it is very difficult today to glimpse a response, precisely because the characteristics of the global crisis make chaos penetrate everywhere; nevertheless, it is worth recalling in this sense the first paragraphs of the “Tenth Letter to my friends”, written by Silo almost 30 years ago:

What is the destiny of current events? The optimists think that we will enter a world society of abundance in which social problems will be solved; a sort of paradise on earth. Pessimists believe that the current symptoms show a growing sickness of institutions, of human groups and even of the global demographic and ecological system; a kind of hell on earth. Those who relativise historical mechanics leave everything to our behaviour in the present moment; heaven or hell will depend on our action. Of course, there are those who are not the least bit interested in what will happen to those who are not themselves.

Among so many opinions, we care about the one that makes the future depend on what we do today. However, even in this position there are differences of opinion. Some say that since this crisis has been caused by the voracity of banks and multinational companies, when it reaches a point that is dangerous for their interests, they will put in place recovery mechanisms, as has happened on previous occasions. In terms of action, they favour gradual adaptation to the processes of capitalist reconversion for the benefit of the majority. Others, on the other hand, indicate that it is not the case of making the whole situation depend on the voluntarism of minorities, therefore it is a matter of manifesting the will of the majorities through political action and clarification of the people who are being extorted by the dominant scheme. According to them, there will come a time of general crisis of the system and this situation must be exploited for the cause of revolution. Beyond that, there are those who argue that capital, work, cultures, countries, organisational forms, artistic and religious expressions, human groups and even individuals are caught up in a process of technological acceleration and destructuring that they do not control. It is a long historical process that is now a global crisis and affects all political and economic schemes, with neither general disorganisation nor general recovery depending on them. The advocates of this structural vision insist that it is necessary to forge a global understanding of these phenomena while acting in the minimal fields of social, group and personal specificity. Given the interconnectedness of the world, they do not argue for a successful gradualism that would be socially adopted over time, but seek to generate a series of “demonstration effects” sufficiently strong to produce a general inflection of the process. Consequently, they exalt the constructive capacity of human beings to engage in transforming economic relations, modifying institutions and fighting relentlessly to disarm all the factors that are provoking an involution with no return. We adhere to the latter position. It is clear that both this and the previous ones have been simplified and, moreover, the multiple variants deriving from each of them have been avoided.

Ultimately, nothing is determined and the future is open in one direction or another; although at times the urgencies can make us despair and spill out into pessimism, since the threat of nuclear war, accelerated ecological disaster and economic catastrophe are imminent, while the possibility of change is not yet on the horizon. And indeed, nothing and no one assures us that change will come, or that it will come in time, nothing guarantees that civilisation will not regress into a new middle age of obscurantism and precarity. But perhaps the acceleration of the crisis will also accelerate the reaction of the populations and, not only because of a revolutionary vocation but also because of the need for preservation, the populations will rebel and the demonstration effects will begin to multiply.

We would like to end this presentation of the New Humanism Collection with the no end paragraph of one of the books in the Collection we are presenting today, Salvatore Puledda’s Interpretations of Humanism:

In the few years remaining before the end of the second millennium, the silhouette of the first planetary civilisation may begin to emerge. In such a situation, New Humanism may find fertile ground for the development of its ideas. However, this emerging civilisation will gain momentum amidst conflicts and crises that will affect us in profoundly. It will be then that we will begin, as a human organisation and as individuals, to ask ourselves seriously about the destiny of our species and the meaning of our actions. New Humanism, precisely, seeks to provide a response to these questions.

Nothing more, thank you very much.

Citations, References And Other Reading

  1. Featured Photo Courtesy of:

The views, opinions and analyses expressed in the articles on Humanist Freedoms are those of the contributor(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the publishers.

Humanist Ottawa Calls Out Canadian Governments via United Nations’ Universal Periodic Review

Humanist Ottawa Calls for Action to Address Religious Discrimination in Canada

OTTAWA, April 5, 2023 — Humanist Ottawa (HO) has identified significant concerns with the Canadian legislative framework, citing evidence that it perpetuates systemic religious discrimination in violation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). The organisation is advocating for change in two key areas: state-funded separate school systems for minority religious populations and the inconsistent regulation of marriage solemnization across provinces.

“There’s an enormous loophole in Canada’s legal framework”, said Robert Hamilton, President of Humanist Ottawa. “It drives preferential religious practices in the funding and administration of Ontario, Alberta, and Saskatchewan schools to the detriment of believers in other faiths as well as non-believers in any religion.”

The Ontario Superior Court’s recent dismissal of a case addressing state-funded separate school systems for minority Catholic and Protestant populations highlights the deep-rooted religious discrimination in Canada’s legislation. This situation is compounded by the inconsistencies in provincial regulations governing marriage solemnization, which creates a discriminatory environment for humanists and the non-religious.

HO argues that these discriminatory practices damage Canada’s reputation as a nation that upholds human rights and equality. As a result, the organisation is recommending a series of actions:

  1. Establish by November 2025 a publicly accessible legal defence fund for Canadians who have human rights claims against any federal/provincial/territorial government or its agencies in matters of systemic faithism, and freedom of religion or belief.
  2. Establish by April 2026 a task force responsible jointly to the Canadian Human Rights Commission and The Council of the Federation to research and propose solutions to Canada’s ongoing funding of faith-based educational institutions and establish an action-oriented plan, within three years, which treats all Canadians equally and fairly.
  3. By November 2026, hold a referendum vote on the fair treatment of all Canadians in matters of public funding of faith-based educational institutions. The referendum question should solicit the perspective of Canadians as to whether they support the claims of constitutionality of discriminatory funding.
  4. By November 2027, amend the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms to formally assert neutrality in all matters of religion, whether historically based or not, and reject systemic faithism as a violation of the human rights of all Canadians. 

Humanist Ottawa is dedicated to promoting the principles of fairness, equality, and the right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion. HO is committed to advocating for change to ensure that all Canadians, regardless of their province of residence, have access to the same rights and freedoms.

Citations, References And Other Reading

Featured Photo Courtesy of :

The views, opinions and analyses expressed in the articles on Humanist Freedoms are those of the contributor(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the publishers.

By continuing to access, link to, or use this website and/or podcast, you accept the and Terms of Service in full. If you disagree with the terms

WeCanReason: A Conference

According to Rocky Mountain Atheists, the lineup of speakers is locked, the Keynote Speaker will be Seth Andrews and, on top of that, the early bird discount of $40 was extended to until March 31.

But don’t wait: tickets are limited and are going fast.

Tickets are now on sale! Early registration discount until March 31!! Save $40 by registering early!

Full Conference Ticket includes all speakers, Lunch, Dinner and 2 coffee breaks throughout Saturday

Conference ticket includes all speakers and Lunch on Saturday

Saturday Dinner is for anyone who can only attend the dinner and enjoy the entertainment Saturday night

Speaker’s Lunch: a limited number of seats are available to have a private catered lunch with our guest speakers in attendance. This ticket is separate from any attendance tickets and for those who would be interested in having a deeper discussion with one or more of our speakers. The lunch will be in a private dining area at the Hotel Clique.

Friday Fun: meet your future friends at the Hotel Pub on Friday night! This is a free social event, no cost, no registration and no tickets!

Donations: In addition to the Donation button below, or purchasing a Donation ticket, if you want to support the conference financially, in any amount, or to sponsor a speaker or attendee, we can also accept Interac e-transfers in any amount. Please send an email to to discuss.

ALL TICKETS ARE NON-REFUNDABLE. You will receive an email with a copy of your order and payment confirmation. You MUST bring this email to the conference (phone version acceptable, or print)

Hotel Rooms: The Hotel Clique has provided a special rate of $109/night for conference participants, if you are coming in from out of town or just want to spent the night! You need to call the hotel directly at 403-460-9588 and mention you are attending the “We Can Reason” conference. Special rate is available ONLY until April 4!

Register Now:

Ticket type:Ticket Qty:Per Ticket Price:
FULL CONFERENCE (EARLY)Lunch, Dinner, 2 breaks and entertainment Saturday evening$185.00
CONFERENCE (EARLY)Lunch and 2 breaks on Saturday$150.00
SAT EVENINGDinner and entertainment only, Saturday after the conference$75.00
DONATIONDonate or sponsor someone to attend, multiples of $75$75.00
SPEAKERS LUNCHAn intimate lunch with our speakers. Seating is limited.$100.00

Citations, References And Other Reading

Featured Photo Courtesy of : Rocky Mountain Atheists

The views, opinions and analyses expressed in the articles on Humanist Freedoms are those of the contributor(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the publishers.

By continuing to access, link to, or use this website and/or podcast, you accept the and Terms of Service in full. If you disagree with the terms

Ontario Humanist Society Conference & AGM

Join us for two days of education, activities, fun and fellowship.

We have an exciting *agenda of events including provocative guest speakers, discussion groups, activities, and more.


  • Saturday Guest Speaker: Tibby Johnston – “Truth; How the Indian Residential System Broke Community, and becoming an Ally for Reconciliation”
  • Panel Discussion: “Why Choose Humanism?”
  • OHS Strategic Plan 2023 – Mission, vision and goals
  • Complimentary professional portraits
  • #FillYourLife – Ethical Actions Committee activity
  • Discussion Group – “Humanists Solve”
  • Catered Luncheon
  • OHS Annual General Meeting
  • OHS Ceremonies Committee AGM
  • Hospitality and more
  • Sunday Guest Speaker: Adam Shoalts – “Solo Journeys in the Wild”

Every year Adam Shoalts spends months alone in some of the most remote places in Canada, often going weeks or longer without even seeing another human. His expeditions have included crossing Canada’s Arctic alone to mapping rivers, tracking endangered species, and searching for lost explorers. Shoalts will discuss insights from his solo adventures with us, including the value of the wild in ever more interconnected, digital world.

*Agenda subject to change

Citations, References And Other Reading

Featured Photo Courtesy of : Ontario Humanist Society

The views, opinions and analyses expressed in the articles on Humanist Freedoms are those of the contributor(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the publishers.

By continuing to access, link to, or use this website and/or podcast, you accept the and Terms of Service in full. If you disagree with the terms

Non-Crime Hate Incidents Code

The Home Office is a ministerial department of the United Kingdom’s government. The Home Office takes its primary duty as being the safety and security of the country and it’s citizens.

On March 13th, 2023, the Home Office published a draft Non-Crime Hate Incidents Code of Practice on the Recording and Retention of Personal Data, as provided for in the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022.

This statutory draft code of practice, once in effect, will provide guidance to the police in England and Wales relating to non-crime hate incident (NCHI) recording. It sets out the common-sense and proportionate approach that should be adopted by the police.

The publication of this Code of Practice appears to be in direct response to recent events and controversy surrounding an incident when the purchased copy of a Koran, owned by a 14-year-old autistic child, happened to become smudged and scuffed. According to media reports, the accidental dropping of the Koran was investigated by police as a hate crime and the child was threatened with death.

It is a strange world when an incident of clumsiness by a child leads to outrage of “adults” and investigation by police. However, it did. And a Code of Practice has been issued.

According to the Home Office, the new Code of Practice:

  • includes guidance relating to whether and how the personal data of an individual who is the subject of an NCHI report should be processed as part of an NCHI record
  • provides detailed information on the right to freedom of expression, and clear case studies to illustrate how this right should be taken into account in the context of NCHI recording
  • clarifies that debate, humour, satire and personally-held views which are lawfully expressed are not, by themselves, grounds for the recording of an NCHI
  • sets out that a non-crime hate incident should not be recorded if the report is deemed by the police to be trivial, irrational, malicious, or if there is no basis to conclude that it was motivated by intentional hostility

The code also introduces the additional threshold test, which clarifies that personal data should only be included in an NCHI record if the event presents a real risk:

  • of significant harm to individuals or groups with a particular characteristic or characteristics
  • that a future criminal offence may be committed against individuals or groups with a particular characteristic or characteristics

For the purposes of the code, a ‘particular characteristic’ means race, religion, sexual orientation, disability or transgender identity, as defined in hate crime legislation. This test will enable the police to intervene where necessary to safeguard vulnerable individuals and communities.

The code is subject to the affirmative procedure and will enter into force 31 days after it is approved by Parliament.

Suella Braverman KC (i.e. the government representative in charge of these things) had apparently stated that the UK does not have blasphemy laws and everyone should respect freedom of speech and pluralism. She wrote that ‘The education sector and police have a duty to prioritise the physical safety of children over the hurt feelings of adults. Schools answer to pupils and parents. They do no have to answer to self-appointed community activists.’

Those comments appear to have preceded the release of the new Code of Practice.

It is difficult to be certain what the UK’s general population thinks about this situation. Humanists UK, however, has posted on their website that:

We welcome this draft code of practice. The state has strong interests both in protecting free speech and in preventing harassment, discrimination, and incitement to hatred against people on the basis of their innate characteristics. The code of practice carefully balances these competing needs, considering the motivations behind incidents, their seriousness, and whether debate, humour, or satire are relevant factors.

‘What happened in Kettlethorpe appears to simply have been schoolboy foolishness. As such it never warranted the involvement of the police. We’re pleased that the Government has listened by bringing some much-needed clarity to the table. The police are often put in a difficult position by vocal religious groups in their area demanding action – kowtowing to which only can sometimes only escalate tensions further.  We look forward to further action from the Government to make sure that what happened in Kettlethorpe never occurs in a school again.’

Whether “clarity” has been established by this release of a Code of Practice for the documentation of non-Criminal matters by police is something that bears some consideration. Indeed, one wonders how and why people who threaten a child with assault and murder are not the ones considered candidates for investigation of a hate crime. Uttering threats is, after all, not precisely an utterance of affection.

Citations, References And Other Reading

Featured Photo Courtesy of :


    The views, opinions and analyses expressed in the articles on Humanist Freedoms are those of the contributor(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the publishers.

    By continuing to access, link to, or use this website and/or podcast, you accept the and Terms of Service in full. If you disagree with the terms

Atheist Ireland Applauds WRC Ruling

The Workplace Relations Commission has ruled that the Irish Defence Forces discriminated on the ground of religion against former Atheist Ireland officer John Hamill by not giving him an equal opportunity to apply for the position of military chaplain. The Irish Times reported on this yesterday, and John Hamill has blogged about it today and has published the full WRC ruling.

Atheist Ireland welcomes the ruling. John’s tenacity over four years has resulted in a more secular army. The ruling also vindicates the arguments made in 2021 by Atheist Ireland, the Evangelical Alliance of Ireland, and the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community of Ireland, in our joint submission to the Public Consultation Commission on the Defence Forces.

In that submission, we said the Defence Forces is a microcosm of society and should have a clear neutral policy on religion and belief. It should not be seen as promoting a particular religious belief or obliging personnel to participate in religious rites. We said that about 9% of Defence Forces personnel are non-Christian or have no religion, yet all Chaplains are either Roman Catholic (the majority) or Church of Ireland.

We highlighted that the chaplaincy website links military situational awareness with ‘deepening awareness of the role of faith’ and is illustrated by a Christian Bible passage from Exodus. Catholicism is part of the culture of the Defence Forces. A commitment to pluralism, diversity and inclusion is not part of the culture notwithstanding the fact that Ireland is pluralist country with different religions and nonreligious beliefs.

In times past and also today Defence Force personnel are coerced to take part in Catholic or Catholic-led religious ceremonies without any effort made to put in place rules/guidelines to ensure that they need not participate on the grounds of conscience.

That behaviour was and is unconstitutional. Regardless it is still is part of the culture of the Defence Forces. The Defence Forces have never apologised or even acknowledge that this behaviour breaches the rights of all and undermines our Constitution and human rights law.

The Defence Forces is a microcosm of society and should have a clear neutral policy on religion and belief. It should not be seen as promoting a particular religious belief or obliging personnel to participate in religious rites by including religious services in military events.

This ruling should result in a fair procedure for appointing chaplains and a wider reform of the influence of the Catholic church on our defence forces.

Relevant extracts from the ruling include:

On the 30th December 2020, the complainant referred a complaint pursuant to the Employment Equality Act. The complaint was scheduled for adjudication on the 8th March 2022, and this took place remotely… the complainant has been writing to the respondent since November 2018 regarding ‘religious discrimination in military chaplaincy’. This letter is on headed paper entitled ‘Atheist Ireland’…

In evidence under affirmation, Michael Nugent outlined that he had made representations on this issue on behalf of Atheist Ireland. He referred to the census returns and the increasing proportion of the population who identified themselves as non-religious.

The complainant (John) outlined that he had written to the respondent several times regarding the appointment of military chaplains in the Defence Forces. He indicated his interest in applying for the role of military chaplain. He submitted that the respondent was not a religious body, nor was it under the control of a religious body, so section 37 of the Employment Equality Act did not apply.

This case relates to the complainant’s expressed wish to apply for the role of chaplain in the Defence Forces. There was no process for him or anyone else to submit a formal application, and nor was he considered for appointment in November 2020. The question is whether discrimination occurred in the filling of this post of chaplain.

In this case, the respondent followed an established path of seeking a nomination from the relevant Bishop, and then appointed the priest put forward by that Bishop.

While there may be historical reasons for the appointment process as constituted, and no evidence of deficiency in the service, the process is, by operation, discriminatory on grounds of religion. Section 37(2) does not exempt this from the ambit of discrimination because being a priest or minister of one of two religions is not a ‘determining occupational characteristic’ and the requirement is not proportionate.

I, therefore, conclude that there was unlawful discrimination in contravention of the Employment Equality Act because there is no application process for potential applicants to apply for the role and the process that is in place is based entirely on being a clergy member of one of two churches.

I decide that the complainant was discriminated against on grounds of religion, and I order that the respondent review the process of appointing military chaplains to ensure compliance with the Employment Equality Act and to ensure that suitably-qualified candidates can apply for military chaplaincy roles in order to reflect and foster the diversity of members of the Defence Forces.”

Citations, References And Other Reading

Featured Photo Courtesy of : Atheist Ireland

The views, opinions and analyses expressed in the articles on Humanist Freedoms are those of the contributor(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the publishers.

By continuing to access, link to, or use this website and/or podcast, you accept the and Terms of Service in full. If you disagree with the terms

New Enlightenment Project: A Digital Humanist Community

As a part of the Humanist Heritage Canada’s updated organization plan for 2023, we are featuring articles about the wide variety of contemporary Canadian organizations that self-proclaim a humanist philosophy.

This week, we are pleased to present an update from the New Enlightenment Project (NEP). We introduced this organization of Canadian Humanists, who felt the need for a “platform where all subjects of concern to Humanists could be discussed freely and where civilized debate could be held without fear” in a discussion article in October of 2021 – shortly after the organization was founded.

NEP currently operates a website and Facebook discussion page. The latter requires users to join. Our own “membership” was pending at the time this article was posted – so we can’t comment on the quality nor quantity of discussions to be enjoyed.

Enlightenment Humanism Projected to Advance in 2023-24

Lloyd Hawkeye Robertson, President
New Enlightenment Project

In an October 2021 interview I told Humanist Freedoms that our newly created organization aimed to 1) provide education on the enduring qualities of reason and compassion which define humanism; 2) affirm that the application of humanist values flow from a stance firmly rooted in reason and compassion; and, 3) improve our knowledge base through open discussion and free debate. The New Enlightenment Project accomplished much in 2022 and we project major future advances for Enlightenment Humanism.

As part of our podcast interview series, Steven Pinker touched on the challenge of defending humanism from people who claim to be secular but nonetheless attack Enlightenment principles such as our support for science, reason and freedom of speech. Another podcast interview discussed how these people, often called the “Woke,” cancelled two articles by B.C. lawyer Shahdin Farsai on the subject of “correct pronouns,” and then attempted to cancel her law practice. An article co-authored by the president of NEP and the news editor of the Centre for Inquiry Canada opined:

Our goal above all else should be to value evidence-based critical thinking. In keeping with Article 4 of the Amsterdam Declaration on humanism, we strive for open, undogmatic dialogue that seeks to combine personal liberty with social responsibility. (Robertson & Tasca, 2022 p. 25)

In 2022 Humanists International ratified an updated “New Amsterdam Declaration” affirming the ethical and rational principle by which humanists can lead fulfilling and meaningful lives within the modern world context. We see the Declaration as a guide and we are reviewing it for the purpose of adopting our own declaration this coming year.

In the 2021 interview with Humanist Freedoms I said that one of our priorities was “to come to terms with indigeneity in a postcolonial world.” The challenge is to present an alternative to the new religious movement of Native Spirituality that positions science and reason as “one way of knowing” among many. For those who hold this view their beliefs trump evidence, but such dogmatism is not inherent in aboriginal cultures (Robertson, 2021) . Secular humanism is relevant to aboriginal peoples in several ways: 1) A humanist perspective emphasizes individual agency leading to people taking control of their own lives, communities, and cultural heritage; 2) Humanism values diversity and respect for different cultures, beliefs, and lifestyles; and 3) Evidence-based decision-making as embraced by humanism can be seen as important for aboriginal communities in making decisions about their future and addressing social, economic, and environmental challenges.

Diversity of thought is common in both humanism and cultures aboriginal to North America and, indeed, is a strength leading to new solutions. In the spirit of promoting such diversity we interviewed Frances Widdowson, co-author of the book Disrobing the Aboriginal Industry. We then completed two interviews with Cree/Metis elder and author Keith Goulet , In the first we explored the history and application of the Doctrine of Discovery as espoused by the 15th Century Roman Catholic Church, In the second interview we explored the traditional Cree family or clan system and the link between language and worldview. In both interviews we explored humanism within the aboriginal context.

The Doctrine of Discovery, which declared that the Americas were uninhabited for the purpose of colonization, had profound and lasting effects. Going forward, we are planning a joint campaign with the Italian humanists, Unione degli Atei e degli Agnostici Razionalisti, to encourage the pontiff to rescind or repudiate the doctrine. We also note that land acknowledgements, meant to acknowledge Canada’s original inhabitants, have become performative and are often historically inaccurate. In the upcoming year we will explore the function and purpose of these land acknowledgements.

In our 2021 interview I noted that globally we have to deal with religiously infused authoritarian regimes, particularly in the Muslim world, who harass, jail and even execute atheists. We have united with humanists internationally in defending those suffering from such oppression and defending those apostates who are often cancelled from universities and publishers for their bravery. We are concerned that Islam is shielded from criticism by our prime minister who accuses critics of “Islamophobia,” and that no other religion is defended in this way. We agree with the Association humaniste du Quebec that the term “Islamophobia” should be replaced with the phrase “combating violence against Muslims” with recognition that criticizing a doctrine or practice is not the same thing as violence. We abhor actual violence against all groups including women and children in Islamic families and communities and that will be part of our campaign in 2023.

In summation, our mandate is to unite humanists who are still committed to Enlightenment ideals. We shall gather with Enlightenment humanists across Canada and abroad in pursing this mandate into 2024.


Robertson, L. H. (2021). The Medicine Wheel Revisited: Reflections on Indigenization in
Counseling and Education. SAGE Open, 11(2), 1-11.
Robertson, L. H., & Tasca, E. (2022). Waking from Wokism: Inoculating Ourselves against a
Mind Virus. Free Inquiry, June/July, 21-25.

Citations, References And Other Reading

  1. Featured Photo Courtesy of : New Enlightenment Project

The views, opinions and analyses expressed in the articles on Humanist Freedoms are those of the contributor(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the publishers.

By continuing to access, link to, or use this website and/or podcast, you accept the and Terms of Service in full. If you disagree with the terms of service in whole or in part, you must not use the website, podcast or other material.