Category Archives: Uncategorized

Humanly Possible: 700 Years of Humanist Freethinking, Inquiry and Hope


There’s a new history of humanism coming to libraries and bookstores in March that you may want to get your order(s) in for now! Written by Sarah Bakewell, Humanly Possible: 700 Years of Humanist Freethinking, Inquiry and hope promises to introduce “us to some of these people, as it asks what humanism is and why it has flourished for so long, despite opposition from fanatics, mystics and tyrants. It is a book brimming with ideas, personalities and experiments in living ‒ from the literary enthusiasts of the fourteenth century to the secular campaigners of our own time, from Erasmus to Esperanto, from anatomists to agnostics, from Christine de Pizan to Bertrand Russell, and from Voltaire to Zora Neale Hurston. It takes us on an irresistible journey, and joyfully celebrates open-mindedness, optimism, freedom and the power of the here and now ‒ humanist values which have helped steer us through dark times in the past, and which are just as urgently needed in our world today.

Whether you think of yourself as a humanist or not, an education in ethical, philosophical and religious material is essential to navigating the ever-more complicated and challenging options and opportunities that we face as individuals and society. Bakewell’s book presents a history of humanism for those who are drawn to humanism, literature and the humanities as well as those who may prefer to base their moral choices on fellow-feeling and responsibility to others, rather than on religious commandments.

Bakewell’s book tells the story of the many extraordinary individuals throughout history who have put rational inquiry, cultural richness, freedom of thought and a sense of hope at the heart of their lives.

UK: Chatto & Windus, March 2023.

US: Penguin, March 2023.

Canada: Knopf, March 2023.


Translations are forthcoming in Chinese, Dutch, German, Italian, Spanish, Swedish and Turkish. More information will be posted here when available.

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.

December Solstice

As 2022 draws to a close, extends greetings of the season. Regular visitors to the site may notice a number of changes to the site in the coming weeks as we prepare for a new year and some changes in our strategic plan for the website.

Earlier this year we launched our logo (as seen at right). The logo design is intended to convey contemporary humanist principles which we try to fulfill and convey with every new article that we post:

  • the “Happy Humanist” emblem is used to stay maintain a close connection to Humanist organizations around the world;
  • the logo features three figures, each rooted in a common point (humanism and human rights and freedoms) while reaching for joy in their individual directions (individuality and diversity;
  • the figures are green to symbolize a connection with the environment (Eco-Humanism)

You may have noticed that we have added the brand Humanist Heritage Canada to the site. This added branding is in an effort to diversify the work that we do.

Currently, and for the foreseeable future, you will be able to find the site using either or The branding of our Humanist news activities will continue as and will continue as the “News” (blog) feed and menu item.

The website will be updated with a focus on stories and information under the theme of Humanist heritage in Canada and from a Canadian perspective. We look forward to providing educational content about important Humanist individuals, organizations and events.

Finally – we will also be launching a new podcast in January called The Humanist Freedoms Podcast by Humanist Heritage Canada. Stay tuned, as they stay, for more!

We need your help! To continue growth, we need help tracking and telling important stories. The project is volunteer-driven and self-funded. If Humanism is your thing and you like what we’re doing around here, we’d love to talk about how you could joining the team.

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.

Humanist International’s 2022 Freedom of Thought Report

On December 8, 2022 Humanists International launched the 2022 Freedom of Thought Report. In the report, HI concludes that only 4% of the global population live in societies that are truly secular, where there is a clear separation of religious and political authorities, that do not discriminate against any religion or belief community.

“This year’s Report provides evidence of clear and systematic discrimination against humanists and non-religious people, and this discrimination is most prevalent in countries with less state secularism. State secularism appears to be a prerequisite for the full enjoyment of the right to freedom of religion or belief.”

Andrew Copson, President of Humanists International

According to the organization’s research, 70% of the world’s population live in countries where the expression of humanist values is severely repressed; where the full realization of one’s right to freedom of religion or belief is impossible. The result: harsh penalties for apostasy; a higher likelihood of the perpetuation of harmful traditional practices; religious nationalism entrenching conservative values within society.

Through 10 country chapters, this year’s Key Countries edition demonstrates the progressive erasure of the principle of secularism across the globe, and with it a decline in the protection of human rights. On the other hand, the report also exposes how extreme enforcement of so-called “neutrality” in the name of secularism can also impinge on the rights of others.

The Report exposes the harmful social and political consequences of both extremes of the spectrum of secularism, supporting the organization’s assertions that true secularism, which is inclusive of all, “is the best approach to politics and the ordering of states, and that it has proved itself to have greater potential for human freedom, happiness, and equality than all other political settlements in history.”

In’s coverage of the 2020 edition, we indicated that the report contains an entry for every country in the world and uses a unique rating system ranging from “Fee and Equal” to “Grave Violations”. Canada’s rating overview states:

Canada is a federal parliamentary democracy, extending north into the Arctic Ocean, and sharing the world’s longest land border with the United States. Despite what should be strong constitutional protections for freedom of thought and expression, significant religious privileges are in force, both nationally and in several of its ten provinces and three territories.

Canada’s rating does not appear to have been altered since the 2022 edition, as there doesn’t appear to be any significantly new information presented. This lack of an update appears to be based on some strategic changes in the way the FOTR is published.

The last page of the report that bears any kind of text explains that the report is a worldwide survey of discrimination and persecution against humanists, atheists and the nonreligious published by Humanists. While the report is intended to be continuously updated, HI’s goal is to update 40 countries each year on average and to continue to publish a “Key Countries” edition.

While HI doesn’t appear to have much new to say about Canada at this time, you may be interested in the infographics showing overall ratings:

Watch List vs. Key Countries

HI’s most recent report contains a “watch-list” of countries the organization continues to monitor but for which no new entry is provided. Meanwhile, the “key countries” section of the report updates 40 countries.

One Big Indicator

In November of 2022, we published our own story where we suggested that a significant indicator of concern is any state which retains a religious police force.

At this time, seven nations have formalized and explicitly-designated religious police: Afghanistan, Indonesia, Iran, Malaysia, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia and Sudan. These are a dirty seven which should be under international scrutiny and pressure to discontinue faith-based policing – a practice that is nothing other than state violation of fundamental human rights.

What Big Indicators would you add to HI’s list and our reporting?

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.

CHPCA’s Ethics at the End of Life: Unaddressed Suffering Needs Exploration

Image Courtesty: Wikipedia

According to their website, The Canadian Hospice Palliative Care Association (CHPCA) is “the national voice for Hospice Palliative Care in Canada. Advancing and advocating for quality end-of-life/hospice palliative care in Canada, its work includes public policy, public education and awareness. Established in 1991, its volunteer Board of Directors is composed of hospice palliative care workers and volunteers from Canadian provinces and territories as well as members-at-large.

It is always interesting to observe an organization declare itself to be “the” national voice for this, that or the other thing. That particular phrasing seems to presume, preclude or presuppose a variety of details, matters and alternatives. While this article isn’t an exploration of how organizations may be created out of nothing more than a handful of individuals with a common interest to become The National Voice on a given topic, it is interesting to note that the Government of Canada says that applying to be a charity is a four-step process. You’d think it would be more complicated than that.

On a rather tangential detail, did you know that Sue Rodriguez was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) — also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease — a quickly progressing neurological disease that attacks the nerve cells controlling voluntary muscle movement in 1991?

At that time, medical assistance in dying was illegal in Canada.

While the timeline of CHPCA’s creation and Sue Rodriguez’s diagnosis may earnestly be assumed as nothing more than coincidence, it does make one wonder what CHPCA’s policies and attitudes may be about medical assistance in dying. Fortunately, CHPCA has a page on their website dedicated to ethics. On that page, it says:

Palliative Sedation

Palliative sedation refers to the use of pharmacological agents to reduce consciousness with the intention of providing relief for intractable symptoms when all other possible therapeutic options have failed. This intervention is only considered in a patient who has been diagnosed with an advanced progressive illness and typically the patient is perceived to be close to death (i.e. in the last two weeks of life). Generally, the goal is the lowest level of sedation required to achieve the desired comfort level/control of symptoms; therefore, specific pharmacological agents are generally started at the smallest possible dose and titrated upwards to effect. This therapy is distinct from medical assistance in dying, as the intention is not to hasten death or shorten one’s life. Common indications include intractable cases of agitated delirium or dyspnea, massive hemorrhaging, and refractory seizures—all of which are extremely distressing to a patient3. The role of palliative sedation in psychological, spiritual, or existential distress is unclear. Commonly, the experience of having a patient sedated can be a conflicting and emotional time for families and caregivers; it is therefore crucial to ensure they receive appropriate psychosocial and spiritual support.

Responding to requests for assisted dying

When patients are confronted by their life-limiting illness and experience loss of function in their day-to-day lives due to their disease, it can be very distressing. In their suffering, some patients become compelled to wish for a hastened death. Some of those patients may endorse some passive suicidal thoughts, whereas others are insistent about wanting to end their lives in a specific moment with medical assistance. With recent developments in the movement for medical assistance in dying (MAID) in Canada, it is important for healthcare practitioners to recognize these requests and respond appropriately. Regardless of whether an individual healthcare practitioner supports or stands against this controversial topic, it is important that patients are still heard. Perhaps patients fear a protracted disease course with intractable symptoms, or they are distressed by the disability that their illness brings—regardless of what is driving their request, it is crucial for healthcare practitioners to recognize that there is some unaddressed suffering at the root of this request that needs further exploration.

On another tangential note. It wasn’t our idea to place those two paragraphs together. That’s the way we found them. The bold font is, admittedly, our innovation.

Despite CHPCA’s suggestion that palliative sedation’s role in distress is unclear, it does seem clear that CHPCA’s ethics suggest that dosing someone into un- or semi-consciousness in the clinically-expected final two weeks of their existence is reasonable as well as clinically and ethically sound. It may also be observed that CHPCA understands that patients should be heard. One wonders how articulate an individual who has been medicated into un- or semi-consciousness may be.

For those who are able to communicate strongly enough that their care-takers hear them, CHPCA’s ethics also make clear that any unaddressed suffering still needs to be explored. Even during the clinically-expected final two weeks of life. Ethics is such an interesting term.

While still able to make her voice heard, Sue Rodriguez asked whose life it was to continue or end, if not her own. It would be interesting and informative if CHPCA posted a clear, direct and unequivocal answer to that question on their ethics website.

Until then we’ll just have to infer.

On an Unrelated Matter

Dying With Dignity Canada (DWDC) is the national human-rights charity committed to improving quality of dying, protecting end-of-life rights, and helping people across Canada avoid unwanted suffering.

DWDC hosted the 2022  World Federation of Right to Die Societies (WFRTDS) International Conference in Toronto from November 3 to 6, 2022. The event brought international delegates and local attendees together. It was the must-attend event for clinicians, lawyers, advocates, and supporters who wanted to learn more about assisted dying in Canada and around the world.

DWDC’s 2023 to 2025 strategic plan states that the organization will “lead national advocacy efforts to eliminate obstacles to end-of-life choice, including access to advance requests and end forced transfers.” This is in an effort to:

  • To protect the constitutional right of Canadians to MAID
  • To identify and remove new and ongoing barriers and challenges to choice-in-dying
    • To ensure accurate information is easily available

What is a “forced transfer“? It seems to be what may happen if you’d rather end any unaddressed suffering in the final days of your life rather than be medicated into unconsciousness or have your suffering otherwise explored. wonders how long it will be until some ethical folks take the necessary four steps to ensure that there are institutions and facilities in place that provide a straight-forward palliative care alternative to all this forced transfer bullshit. But we suppose that things are probably more complicated than that.

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.

Kaali: Screening out the Censors

Image Courtesy: Wikipedia

In September of 2022, shared information about Humanists International‘s expression of deep concern regarding what it has called “the judicial harassment of poet and filmmaker Leena Manimekalai” and regarding Humanist Ottawa’s subsequent letter to the Canada Excellence Research Chair in Migration and Integration, Dr. Anna Triandafyllidou.

Manimekalai, who has previously identified as bi-sexual, had been selected to produce a creative piece on multiculturalism in Canada as part of the national level academic programme ‘Under the Tent’ organized by CERC Migration – Toronto Metropolitan University. The film, ‘Kaali’ was launched at the Aga Khan Museum on July 2, 2022.

Soon the inevitable occurred. As the film came to the wider attention, some people were offended and began to express outrage and hate. This controversy led TMU and the Aga Khan Museum to pull Manimekalai’s film and to apologize to any (essentially anonymous) offended parties.

We have learned since our previous coverage, Kaali: The Short-sightedness of Censors and Kaali: Choose Love and Champion Humanity, that representatives of the Humanist Society of Toronto (HAT) and Humanist Ottawa attended a screening of Kaali on November 3 at TMU. Indeed, HAT was one of several co-sponsors of the event.

Richard Dowsett, HAT spokesperson was one of the scheduled speakers and delivered a “wonderful and incisive statement” which received enthusiastic applause. News of Dowsett’s reception at the event was shared with us by another humanist named Richard who was in attendance – Richard Thain.

Thain, who has his own experience with censors violating his charter right to freedom of expression, was also invited to speak when the event organizers learned that a Humanist Ottawa board member was present:

It is a pleasure to join you for this important event. I was just invited a few minutes ago to say a few words, so I don’t have a prepared statement, but I don’t need a prepared statement to tell you, simply from my heart, how proud I am to stand here, with all of you, ( with a gentle wave toward the audience) in support Leena Manimekalai. And I don’t need a prepared speech to tell you, Leena, how strongly we support artistic freedom and how much we, at Humanist Ottawa, admire your creativity and perseverance, in the face of adversity. (audience actually applauded several times). 

As an historical aside, in 1954, the Humanist Fellowship of Montréal was founded by a man originally from India, Dr R K Mishra, a professor at Universite  de Montréal. This became one of the founding groups of the Humanist Association of Canada in 1968 (now Humanist Canada). 

I drove here from Ottawa, not only to support Leena, but also to oppose those people who have given-in to the “Heckler’s Veto.” People who should know better!

Our Humanist Ottawa president, Robert Hamilton, could not be here this evening, as he is  presently out of the country, but he sends his warm greetings and support. 

Thain also read Humanist Ottawa’s letter to TMU and the leadership of The CERC in Migration and Integration.

According to BlogTO and other mainstream media outlets, the  “sold-outevent, which also featured another of the creative’s films, was sponsored by the Centre for Free Expression, PEN Canada, the Poetic Justice Foundation and other champions of free speech and creative expression as a protest against censorship. congratulates Leena Manimekalai for courage and creativity and all of the individual and organizational supporters who didn’t leave as unchallenged the censors and the un-named (and therefore un-identifiable) offended attempt to stifle the fundamental human right to freedom of expression.

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.

An Unfulfilled Guarantee: OPEN Update to a Legal Challenge to Public Funding of Catholic Schools in Ontario

Image Courtesy: Wikipedia

In January of 2022, reported on a human rights challenge to the Province of Ontario’s public-funding of Catholic schools led by an organizations named One Public Education Now (OPEN). Recently, OPEN has sent us an update on their work.

Two members of OPEN are plaintiffs in a Charter of Rights challenge to the current funding of separate schools in Ontario. The lawsuit states the funding of non-Catholics in separate schools and the funding of Grades 11 and 12 are not protected from Charter challenge and violate the s.15(1) guarantee of equal protection and benefit of the law for all religions and beliefs (including beliefs in no religion).

The two plaintiffs are a teacher who cannot obtain a teaching position in one-third of publicly-funded separate schools because she is not Catholic, and a parent whose children must travel an extra 80 minutes per day in order for them to have a non-denominational public education, and not a publicly-funded Catholic education.

The Attorney-General of Ontario has brought a Motion to Dismiss the Application before it even gets to a full hearing. The Motion is scheduled for Friday, November 25, 2022 and we think it will not be successful for various reasons including that the funding of non-Catholics in separate schools has not been ruled on by any court in Ontario. But obviously it means further delay and further expenses. We have already raised over $175,000, but we know we need to raise more. People can find out more on our website,, where they can also donate through secure PayPal or by E-transfer to

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. Recognized

On November 16, 2022, was notified by that we made their list of the top 15 Humanist blogs on the web. According to the content reader site, earned a #10 rating based on: traffic, social media followers, domain authority and freshness.

Feedspot further explains the basis of their rankings as:

  • Relevancy
  • Industry blogs (those not favoring a specific brand) are given higher rank than blogs by individual brands (who often tend to promote their own products).
  • Blog post frequency (freshness)
  • Social media follower counts and engagements
  • Domain authority
  • Age of a blog
  • Alexa Web Traffic Rank, and many other parameters.

Feedspot claims to routinely remove inactive blogs as well as those that aren’t relevant to any given list. Lists are updated as they receive new blog submissions to ensure updated rankings every few weeks.

When notifying us of this honour, Anuj Agarwal (a founder of FeedSpot) said, “I personally give you a high-five and want to thank you for your contribution to this world. This is the most comprehensive list of Top 15 Humanist Blogs on the internet and I’m honored to have you as part of this!

Feedspot discovers, categorizes and ranks blogs, podcasts and influencers in several niche categories. We have curated over 250,000 popular blogs and categorized them in more than 5,000 niche categories and industries. With millions of blogs on the web, finding influential, authority and trustworthy bloggers in a niche industry is a hard problem to address. Our experience leads us to believe that a thoughtful combination of both algorithmic and human editing offers the best means of curation.

You may wish to view Feedspot’s top-15 rankings to learn about other leading Humanist blogs that you may find useful or informative.

We thank Anuj Agarwal and the Feedspot team for being recognized in it’s rankings!

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.

Mahsa Amini: The Tragedy that Reminds the World Why Policing Must Be Secular

Image Courtesy Wikipedia

Amidst a set of global events such as the COVID-19 pandemic/epidemic response, the war in Ukraine and the so-called culture wars of right wing versus left wing politics, it is predictable, if not absolutely inevitable, that attention to the ongoing travesties and tragedies of violated fundamental human rights would be reduced.

It seems equally likely that faith-based authoritarians (or for that matter any ideologues) would take advantage of the distracted times to increase their entrenched influence and control. hopes that the distractions of the early 2020’s may finally pass and that secularist organizations may again be relied-upon to focus attention and action upon promoting humanist values and undertaking serious opposition to theocracies and religious police forces.

The tragic death of Mahsa Amini seems like an excellent matter to begin with.

Humanists International (Excerpts below from HI Sept 28, 2022)

In a statement made during the General Debate segment of the 51st UN Human Rights Council, Humanists International’s Advocacy Officer, Lillie Ashworth, responded to the recent murder in custody of 22-year old Kurdish-Iranian Mahsa Amini. Amini had been arrested by Iran’s “morality police” on 13 September for wearing her hijab “improperly”. She was accused of being in violation of Iran’s discriminatory compulsory veiling laws which require girls from the age of 9 to cover their hair completely. As several UN independent experts stated in the days following her death, there is evidence that Amini had been beaten and subjected to torture while in the custody of Iran’s theocratic regime. The Iranian police have claimed that she had suffered a stroke and a heart attack.

Ashworth’s statement reminded Iran that “compulsory veiling is a human rights violation, and that appeals to religious morality can never be used to police women’s choices, or to invalidate their equal dignity and worth.”

Since Amini’s murder, there has been widespread protests in Iran and around the world. In Iran, crackdowns by the theocratic state has resulted in further faith-based beatings and murders.

Religious Police

At this time, seven nations have formalized and explicitly-designated religious police: Afghanistan, Indonesia, Iran, Malaysia, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia and Sudan. These are a dirty seven which should be under international scrutiny and pressure to discontinue faith-based policing – a practice that is nothing other than state violation of fundamental human rights. looks forward to observing whether Canadian (in particular) and global humanist, atheist, secularist organizations join Humanist International in a re-focus on issues of this scope and type. We feel certain that there are still many other women, girls and families who might appreciate the kind of help from the international community that might have saved Mahsa Amini’s life.

Citations, References And Other Reading

  1. Featured Photo Courtesy of: ttps://

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.

Philosophy Now Issue 152: God and the Philosophers

Back in the summer of 2020, we brought Issue 138 of Philosophy Now to readers’ attention as we thought that the issue’s Table of Contents offers a number of great articles, including a feature section on religion and secularism. The periodical’s website appears to allow complimentary viewing of up to four articles per month.

This month, Issue 152 God and the Philosophers appears to be similarly thought-provoking:

God and the Philosophers

by Rick Lewis


“Is there a God?” has been a central philosophical question since the earliest times. Don’t roll your eyes! These arguments should interest you too, and I’ll try to explain why.

The Philosophy Now editorial team includes both humanists and religious believers, but we agree that questions about God are tied up with a whole series of philosophical concerns of the deepest and most personal kind – questions which keep honest folk awake at night. How should we live our lives? How should we treat one another? What’s the point of it all? What happens when we die? Where did this world come from? Some say that the idea of God arises from our need to answer such questions. Others retort that without God we’d never have had the wit to ask such questions in the first place. The questions are difficult and the question of whether God exists – and what we mean by God – particularly so, which is why Benedict O’Connell’s agnostic article on ‘God and Humility’ is well worth a read.

The Ontological Argument Revisited

Peter Mullen explores the argument that by definition, God exists.

God & Humility

Benedict O’Connell argues we must recognise our limitations about knowing God.

Deism: Traditional & Contemporary

Robert Griffiths looks into an anti-religion, pro-God way of thinking.

How Theology Pre-Empts Philosophy

Tony McKenna relates how theology beat philosophy to fundamental metaphysics.

A Theological Self

Stuart Hannabuss journeys into the human condition with Søren Kierkegaard.

Faith & An Unreliable God

Patrick Wilson argues that it’s irrational to trust an untrustworthy God.

Existentialism is a Humanism by Jean-Paul Sartre

Kate Taylor recalls a ‘humanist’ classic by Jean-Paul Sartre.


Sartre makes two basic claims – firstly that God is dead and this has consequences for the way we live; and secondly that all claims about humanity and the world must begin with human experience. Given these two claims, Sartre concludes that ‘existence precedes essence’. What he means by this is that human beings are without any pre-existing purpose or ‘essence’ which is not of their own making….In a post-God world, only human beings can choose what to make of their existence. Sartre in fact says that we are ‘condemned to be free’. Our freedom is a condemnation because we cannot escape having to choose, nor escape the responsibility that comes from having that capacity. We cannot deny the weighty responsibility that accompanies our freedom to will as we choose.

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.

Elected Office(s) and the Catholic School System in Ontario: A Match Made In…

Image Courtesy: Wikipedia

There’s something about elected office(s) and democracy that doesn’t quite match-up well with religious prerequisites. The concepts are fundamentally opposed. Elected office and democracy puts the leadership selection process in the hands of the people that the system is intended to serve while religious prerequisites place the selection process in the hands of religious authorities, regardless of who may be within that system. That seems fairly obvious doesn’t it?

Canadian media outlets have recently reported the outcome of a legal case wherein an Ontario student sued the York Catholic District School Board after having been barred from running for elected office within the school system. It seems that Dasha Kandaharian, an Orthodox Christian (i.e. not a Roman Catholic), was not allowed to run for student trustee at the high school she attended because of that sectarian difference.

Media stories have referred to the case as a “landmark” – which it undoubtedly is. The decision undoubtedly addresses the situation faced by thousands of non-Catholic students who have attended publicly-funded Catholic schools in the past (clearly, Kandaharian was not he first and only student to be barred from the elected office) – and the thousands more who may do so in the future.

What the media have not (that we can find) spent much time in considering is where the Catholic School Board(s) of Ontario may have gotten this notion that a sectarian religious prerequisite for elected office is an acceptable thing.

Perhaps a peek at the Ontario Municipal & School Board Elections (2022) webstie might offer some perspective. The “Become A Trustee” page clearly states:

A person is qualified to be elected as a school board trustee if the person is qualified to vote in a school board election and is a resident of the school board district.

When filing a nomination a candidate must meet all of the following requirements:

  • a resident within the jurisdiction of the board;
  • a supporter of the board (“supporter” refers to the individual’s support for one of the four publicly funded school systems. A list of supporters for each system is kept by the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation);
  • a Canadian citizen;
  • at least 18 years old;
  • Roman Catholic (if running for a Catholic school board);
  • not legally prohibited from voting; and
  • not disqualified by any legislation from holding school board office.

Note: A candidate, if nominated, must remain qualified throughout the election and, if elected, throughout the term of office. The term of office is 4 years. School board candidates should confirm that they have the qualifications described here and in section 219 of the Education Act. It is the responsibility of the candidate to determine whether he or she is qualified to be elected to and hold office.

In case you’re interested, Section 219 of the Education Act doesn’t seem to actually bear the qualification that we’ve bolded in the language above. Perhaps the argument is implicit or explicit in some other section of the Act. But for the moment, we can skip over that murky inconsistency and observe that the York Catholic District School Board (and any other publicly funded Catholic School Board) appears merely to have been applying the same criteria to the selection and election of Student Trustees as the Government of Ontario appears to tolerate for the selection and election of School Board Trustees.

Well, this landmark court decision rather brings to question whether what’s good for the goose (students) may also be good for the gander (adult politicians).

So let us consider, in the spirit of taking note of landmarks, an entirely fictional scenario: a hypothetical Secular Humanist who happens to be a (legally defined) ‘supporter’ of the Catholic School system in their area decides that they would like to be Board Trustee of that system. Regardless of how they might fare in an open election – how well do you imagine this hypothetical individual might fare in the qualification screening process?

Here is a separate and perhaps more fundamental question: Can you imagine any other elected office in a 21st-century democratic country named Canada where membership in a religious sect would be accepted as a pre-requisite condition?

And here, in an un-related way, is an observation from our recent Preamble, schmeable article:

Did you notice that the US Supreme Court Judges who turned against Roe v Wade are all Catholic? Well, according to Catholic News Agency, they appear to be. A coincidence, no doubt.

Clearly, religious sectarian membership and elected/selected public office in a contemporary democracy is a match made in….

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.