In our January 2021 Call for Submissions, we asked for articles in consideration of “Contemporary Humanism’s Biggest Priorities and Challenges for 2021“. In Canada, two leading humanist organizations, Centre For Inquiry Canada (CFIC) and Humanist Canada announced their backing of Parliamentary e-Petition 3114.
The meat of this e-Petition, which was opened for signatures on January 25, 2021, is a call upon Canada’s Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship to change the policy regarding Less Complex Claims to include atheists in the list of people eligible for the status, so that they will be treated equally with those people belonging to the religions currently listed in the Less Complex Claims policy.
While you will find the text of the e-Petition via the link to the e-Petition’s government website (above), we have provided the text at the bottom of this article.
Canada’s system of Parliamentary e-Petitions was introduced in December of 2015. The e-Petition system follows the same principles as paper petitions, but with particular procedural rules in place for the digital age. These rules include, but are not limited to:
- the petitioners completes a petition form (250 word maximum) based on the classic model on the government website
- the petitioners submit names and contact information of at least five individuals who support the process
- the e-petition must be sponsored by a Member of Parliament
- when an e-petition has cleared all preliminary screening, it is published and remains open for signature for 120 days
- individuals who sign an e-petition must provide their contact information, confirm that they are a resident of Canada or a Canadian citizen living outside of Canada
- e-petitions that have a minimum of 500 valid signatures are sent to the sponsoring Member of Parliament for presentation to the House of Commons
In an email we received from Centre For Inquiry Canada, we learned that CFIC’s involvement in the e-Petition is tied to their involvement in assisting atheist and humanist refugees. Currently, CFIC is “supporting Omer (a pseudonym) [a refugee from Pakistan] while he waits to come to Canada. In 2011, after a heated debate about religion with a friend, Omer was abducted and beaten by five men. Omer was sexually assaulted, his finger was cut off, and the abductors used a burning cigarette to write Tauba (“repent”) on his arm.” CFIC has been involved in assisting atheist refugees since 2015 when it led a successful campaign to support another atheist targeted for attack, Raihan Abir.
CFIC also appears to have been tracking Canada’ e-Petition system since the system was launched. In a 2016 article on the CFIC website, the organization states: “Some of these e-petitions will fail to garner the support they require to justify a response by Parliament; others will be ill-timed to existing legislation (e.g. the physician assisted death petitions above) and as identified by the limited responses by Parliament to date, a great many that do reach Parliament are likely to be dismissed, shuffled to the side or otherwise punted by the politicians. It is possibly, however, that some e-petitions may result in policy change. At minimum, these e-petitions offer an opportunity to communicate directly to Parliament on federal issues such as Canada’s blasphemous libel law or other federal policy. As leading secular citizens of Canada – it is a process which CFIC and its members should monitor and participate in.”
CFIC and Humanist Canada were leading organizers of e-Petition 382, opposing Canada’s blasphemous libel law in 2016. The two organizations were essential to garnering 7406 signatures on the e-Petition. The targeted section of the Criminal Code was repealed in 2018.
As of February 17, 2021, e-Petition 3114 has collected 1139 signatures and remains open for signature through to April 25, 2021.
The Member of Parliament whose name currently appears with e-Petition 3114 is Nathaniel Erskine-Smith from the Beaches—East York riding.
It will be interesting to observe whether CFIC and Humanist Canada release further education regarding the Parliamentary e-Petition process and the particular regulation that e-Petition 3114 targets. At this time, it is not clear whether either organization has developed a related position paper or policy brief on the matter. It is also not yet clear whether the national leaders of these organizations are actively engaged with their provincial and local counterpart organizations to raise awareness and action on the issues in Canada. Nor whether this may be a part of international partnerships regarding atheist, humanist and apostate refugees. We welcome an opportunity to publish any articles that may be made available.
Changing government policy or federal law is a significant challenge in any country. As may be the case with the Less Complex Claims policy, strategic targets for change may also be an important part of furthering and fostering humanism around the globe.
Petition to the House of Commons in Parliament assembled
- Atheists are persecuted in several countries both by government and the public;
- Atheist persecution can result in serious injury, imprisonment, or death at the hands of family members, street mobs, or governments;
- Some countries, including Saudi Arabia, label all atheists as terrorists: this alone should not disqualify them for refugee status;
- The Supreme Court of Canada has ruled several times that the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees the right to freedom from religion as much as the right to freedom of religion, a standard which applies to refugees as well as citizens;
- Atheists are denied access to the Less Complex Claims Policy of Canada because they are excluded from the list of those who qualify, all of whom are members of a religion; and
- This is an urgent matter because the lives of several atheists are currently in danger while awaiting their refugee hearings, which would be avoided if atheists were included in the less complex claims process.
We, the undersigned, residents of Canada, call upon the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship to change the policy regarding Less Complex Claims to include atheists in the list of people eligible for the status, so that they will be treated equally with those people belonging to the religions currently listed in the Less Complex Claims policy.
Citations, References And Other Reading
- Featured Photo Courtesy of : https://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-images-immigration-canada-close-up-concept-image33437539
- HOUSE OF COMMONS PROCEDURE AND PRACTICEThird Edition, 2017 Edited by Marc Bosc and André Gagnon
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.