Tag Archives: Canada

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 : http://jfmresearch.com/

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 HumanistFreedoms.com and HumanistHeritageCanada.ca 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 Researchco.ca 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 : https://chrishart.com/so-what-really-is-evolution/
  2. https://researchco.ca/2023/04/14/evolution-2023/

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 HumanistFreedoms.com and HumanistHeritageCanada.ca 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.

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 Conference@WeCanReason.com 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 HumanistFreedoms.com and HumanistHeritageCanada.ca 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 HumanistFreedoms.com and HumanistHeritageCanada.ca 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.

Oranyu: You Can Choose Both

Humanism is the perspective that humans are the starting point for all ethical, moral and intellectual inquiry. Despite a starting point of this type, a dominant assumption about humanism in our contemporary culture(s) seems to suggest that a particular form of humanism is the only version of humanism to be explored – and that is secular humanism.

Indeed, the vast majority of the well-known humanist organizations in Canada and around the world assert an overtly secular humanist identity. In many cases, these organizations strive to forge a secular humanist identity that eliminates any and all traces of organized religion (and much of the culture that goes with it) from the mix. While that may be just the recipe for fulfillment that some people need, for others – it may not be quite right.

And this is where the universal nature of humanism’s starting point – an ethical, moral and intellectual centred on humans – draws a tremendous strength and versatility. It allows for organizations like Oranyu Congregation for Humanistic Judaism to firmly assert that “you can choose both.

Oranyu was founded in 1969 as the Secular Jewish Association by a group of families. Oraynu is based on the cultural and philosophical ideals of the Jewish Enlightenment, known as the Berlin Haskalah movement which began in Berlin in the late 1700s . The underlying principles of the Haskalah movement were to preserve Jewish culture while striving for integration with the dominant or surrounding societies.

In this modern iteration of these principles, Oraynu provides all the services required of a Jewish congregation within a secular humanist perspective.

For Oranyu, “The foundation of ethics is not God. The foundation of ethics is human dignity, human survival and human happiness. Ethical behavior consists of relationships between people. Some people behave well without believing in God and some people who believe in God do not behave ethically. We celebrate our Jewish identity. We use poetry and prose to express that connection – to encourage reflection and meditation. We sing Jewish songs in English, Hebrew, and Yiddish. We create our own liturgy which includes blessings for wine, challah, candlelighting, holidays, etc. As well, we sometimes adapt traditional materials to be consistent with humanistic Jewish philosophy.

Here in the second decade of this twenty-first century, we have already experienced the emergence of altogether too many polarizing social, political and ideological events and situations and faced altogether too many over-inflated false dilemmas. Oranyu’s message, whether it is new or simply renewed, that “You can choose both” is perhaps one of the most necessary messages of this decade that any humanist organization might care to extend to the community.

The Oranyu Congregation for Humanistic Judaism is one of the many examples of Canada’s rich humanist heritage.

Citations, References And Other Reading

  1. Featured Photo Courtesy of : https://www.oraynu.org

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 HumanistFreedoms.com and HumanistHeritageCanada.ca 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.

Preamble, schmeamble….right? Perhaps

In our search for interesting, challenging and critical perspectives on contemporary humanism, we occasionally find articles published via other venues that we think HumanistFreedoms.com readers may enjoy. This week, we found the following information (italicized below) on www.the-star.co.ke .

Image Courtesy: Wikipedia

A case has been filed in court seeking to make atheism illegal in Kenya. The court has been asked to declare as unconstitutional the Atheists in Kenya Society.

The argument for the ban is flimsy: the Preamble to the 2010 Constitution starts by acknowledging ‘the supremacy of the Almighty God of all creation“. Therefore atheists who deny God are denying the constitution.

The petition argues that this overrules the constitutional right to freedom of belief, conscience, religion and opinion.

Firstly, if God is all-powerful, surely he has permitted those atheists to exist. Would a court ban go against his will?

Secondly, religions like Buddhism and Taoism do not believe in a God. Would they be the next belief-systems to be banned as unconstitutional?

Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, do these atheists do any harm to anyone? If they break the law and injure their neighbours, let them be punished. But if they live peaceably and are productive members of society, then leave them alone.

This court petition is the first step to bringing the thought police to Kenya to tell us what we are allowed to think. The petition should be thrown out.

It should seem ridiculous or preposterous that anyone might attempt to use a legal pre-amble (don’t take our word for it, read the document) to undermine a fundamental human right. And yet, here we have it – someone is trying to make that case.

It ought to make any and all individuals or organizations perk up their ears – not just humanist or atheist organizations, either. Consider that Kenya’s constitution carries a twenty-first century date. And just where might Kenya have taken this idea of a constitutional preamble front-loaded with a deity?

Consider the fact that Kenya is a member of the Commonwealth. And please further consider the fact that the Commonwealth has a program called the Commonwealth of Learning which (per their website) “is the world’s only intergovernmental organisation solely concerned with the promotion and development of distance education and open learning. COL is hosted by the Government of Canada and headquartered in Burnaby, British Columbia Canada. Created by Commonwealth Heads of Government, COL encourages the development and sharing of open learning/distance education knowledge, resources and technologies. COL is helping developing nations improve access to quality education and training.”

Image Courtesy Athists in Kenya Society

And finally consider that one of the Commonwealth of Learning’s programs happens to be a training program in Legislative Drafting – the writing of laws. Note that Athabasa University, based in Alberta, currently offers a Post-Baccalaureate Diploma in Legislative Drafting. It seems to be not unreasonable to connect a these particular dots. Two separate and equal nations in the Commonwealth happen to cooperate in educating and training the individuals whose profession is to craft the verbiage of laws. Canada in particular bears a leadership role in this area of Commonwealth operations.

How similar are these constitutional pre-ambles?

Canada’s Constitution Act (1982) has a preamble which states “Whereas Canada is founded upon principles that recognize the supremacy of God and the rule of law.

Meanwhile, Kenya’s Constitution Act (2010) preamble states “Acknowledging  the supremacy of the Almighty God of all creation

Canada’s constitutional preamble is a bad precedent with readily identifiable mechanisms for distribution and influence. Whether the situation in Kenya is dismissed (as it ought to be) or otherwise fails, we can’t yet know. And is hardly the point. The point is that ideological fanatics will attempt to leverage every and any opportunity to advance their position. It is shortsighted, at best, to view things otherwise.

Canada finally rid itself of the dangerously ridiculous and anachronistic blasphemy law (the former Section 296) in 2018. We can only assume that political leaders must have been confronted by the hypocrisy of advocating against blasphemy laws around the world (via the former Office of Religious Freedom) while maintaining a blasphemy law on its own books.

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.

Suddenly, we can see the potential for harm lurking within the slightest hint of theism in secular law and decision making.

Citations, References And Other Reading

  1. Featured Photo Courtesy ofhttps://atheistsinkenya.org/
  2. https://www.the-star.co.ke/opinion/leader/2022-09-28-atheist-petition-could-bring-thought-police/

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.

Canadian Armed Forces First-Ever Humanist Chaplain

June 13, 2022

The Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) has a new kind of chaplain. On May 18, 2022, Captain Marie-Claire Khadij became the CAF’s first-ever humanist chaplain.

Humanism is a worldview rooted in reason and science, human rights, compassion and social responsibility. Humanism says that human beings have the right and responsibility to give meaning and shape to their own lives.

Captain Khadij – currently posted with the Canadian Army’s 2nd Canadian Division at CFB Valcartier, Que. – entered the CAF as a chaplain in 2017, initially representing the Roman Catholic faith tradition. Over time, she found that humanism is more aligned with her values. She views spirituality as a search for meaning in life, which some do through religion while others, like herself, seek meaning through humanist values or secular ethics.

The humanist’s approach to spirituality is consistent with the vision held by the CAF’s Royal Canadian Chaplain Service (RCChS); it is a set of core values and beliefs that colour our view of the world, our understanding of the people around us, the events that occur, and how that influences our daily actions.

The addition of a humanist chaplain – with more expected in the future – provides another option for the moral and spiritual support of CAF members. Captain Khadij feels many CAF members will welcome the opportunity to speak to a humanist chaplain with no link to a particular religion.

“Relatively few members come to see chaplains for religious matters,” says Captain Khadij. “The majority of members come simply to speak with us and get support. Most members know that the religious or spiritual tradition of the chaplain does not change the kind of service they receive. Regardless of the chaplain, each member is welcomed, listened to and supported on their journey. And if they have specific faith questions, they can be referred to a chaplain of that specific tradition.”

While the addition of a humanist chaplain is new for the CAF, it’s not out of the ordinary for an existing chaplain to transition between religious or spiritual categories.

“Each year, there are a few faith or spiritual tradition changes within the Royal Canadian Chaplain Service (RCChS),” says Lieutenant-Colonel Jean-François Noël, acting director of recruiting and policies for the RCChS.

Humanist Canada has been actively engaged in establishing a system of accreditation for those who wish to become humanist chaplains. The Interfaith Committee on Canadian Military Chaplaincy (ICCMC) and the Office of the Chaplain General worked with Humanist Canada to enable and facilitate Captain Khadij’s recognition as a humanist chaplain, and is working with the organization to enable the future enrolment of more humanist chaplains.

Citations, References And Other Reading

  1. Feature Image Courtesy: https://www.canada.ca/en/department-national-defence/maple-leaf/defence/2022/06/caf-introduces-humanist-chaplain.html
  2. https://onlysky.media/hemant-mehta/the-canadian-armed-forces-just-announced-its-first-humanist-chaplain/

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.

Book Review: There is No Difference by Peter Best

According to the back cover of his book and his website, Peter Best is “a lawyer who has practiced law in Sudbury, Ontario for 43 years. Raised in nearby Espanola, favored with lifelong personal and professional relationships with indigenous Canadians, he brings a personal, literary and historical perspective to the greatest social crisis experienced by Canada today- the perilous state of its original peoples.”

What is the book? The long-form version of the title probably acts as the best summary of its contents: There Is No Difference: An Argument for the Abolition of the Indian Reserve System and Special Race-based Laws and Entitlements for Canada’s Indians. In a regular book review, we might investigate the overt arguments and contents of the book. Certainly the title contains enough potential for drama and controversy to whet almost any intellectual appetite. But that’s not what we’re going to do here. What we’re going to do, instead is feature, an underlying theme presented by Mr. Best.

On page three, he writes that when he was growing up in Espanola, “there was a sense that old religious and ethnic prejudices were hollowing out and being overcome, and that increasing social unity and equality was happening.” It is the first of many hints (and outright declarations) of an underlying theme of humanism to be found in the book. This is what we will consider.

How many books are currently published with an overt declaration of humanism or humanist values? More specifically, how many books are written about contemporary issues wherein humanist-based positions are asserted, explained, referenced and documented? These aren’t questions with precise answers. These are startled observations of an avid reader. I haven’t seen humanism asserted and affirmed so clearly and frequently in a long time. Water for the thirsty.

On page seven, Best writes…”the humanist assumptions were ones that emanated from the confident, busy, properous people we were then. They seemed to be shared by everyone, right to the political and economic top of the country. They highlighted what a civilized, progressive, ‘ideals in action’ society Canada was becoming.

The book is written as a series of essays which, across 700+ pages, delves the matter outlined in the title in pains-taking detail. Frequently Best grapples head-on with various ideologies and asserts arguments and positions contrary to those from Canadian intellectual and political “elites” (Best’s term). The book is thoroughly referenced and widely sourced. The overall theme is that “somewhere along the way, liberal, humanist aspirations once common to our entire country have ceded to various forms of petty and chauvinistic ideological tribalisms and, with respect to our Indian peoples, to actual racial tribalism.”

And then again, Best asserts that he believes “that the vast majority of Canadians profoundly disagree with this trend towards further legal and social racial apartness between Indian and non-Indian Canadians. They want our humanist values – with their emphasis on equality and the rights of the individual over the rights of any racial group – respected, maintained and promulgated in all areas of society….why this rejection of 200 years of enlightenment thinking?

The point to be made is not that all of Best’s arguments represent a clear, consistent and authoritative humanist approach to the topic. It seems highly unlikely, not to mention undesirable, that a singular humanist outlook should be asserted on any substantive matter. Nor should this article be read as an endorsement of every argument Best makes. Instead, Best is here approved on the basis of making an attempt to present a considered humanist-principled perspective on a hot and fraught topic.

Best makes an argument about his chosen subject that may be stated about any number of contemporary issues: “this issue is being driven and dictated by…a minority elitist theory of democracy, where on an issue of this importance the majority is being asked for and being offered no say.

Peter Best has asserted his version of a humanist-informed opinion. More humanists need to step forward to assert similarly cogent humanist perspectives on whatever contemporary issue seems to require the attention.