Windsor Humanist Society

July 16, 2008

Barack Obama Steers Clear of Muslims across-the-river in Michigan

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Experts say candidate attempting to sidestep controversy, but at his peril

The cover of this week’s New Yorker magazine may explain why Barack Obama isn’t reaching out to Michigan’s Muslims.

The presumptive Democratic presidential nominee is shown in the Oval Office, wearing a turban and bumping fists with his wife, Michelle, who is in combat boots with a rifle slung over her shoulder. The cartoon, intended as satire, is a reminder of the dangers of any association with Muslims for Mr. Obama, who has fought false rumours that his middle name, Hussein, indicates he was born into the Islamic faith.

Muslim- and Arab-Americans represent four per cent of the vote in Michigan, a battleground in this year’s US election.

Yet Mr. Obama, who has held 13 events in the state during the presidential campaign, hasn’t visited a mosque or met with Muslim leaders.

Bill Ballenger, editor of the nonpartisan newsletter Inside Michigan Politics, said Mr. Obama, 46, has to strike a delicate balance. The Illinois senator “doesn’t have to pander” to such voters, who are likely to back him anyway, though he can ill-afford to “dismiss them in an arrogant fashion.

While Mr. Obama is leading in Michigan polls, some politicians said it would be a mistake for him not to actively court the state’s Muslim voters, who went for Democrat John Kerry four years ago and Republican George W. Bush in 2000.

The Democrats “do this at their own peril,” said David Bonior, a former Michigan congressman who is advising Mr. Obama.

Osama Siblani, publisher of The Arab American News in Dearborn, complained that Mr. Obama’s arms-length approach demonstrates that he views Muslims as “a liability.” Many Muslims who once leaned Republican have been turned off by the Iraq war and the law enforcement scrutiny of their community put in place after the Sept. 11 attacks.

Third-party candidate Ralph Nader, who is of Lebanese descent, was on the ballot in Michigan in 2004, and is petitioning to do so again this year. He could hurt Mr. Obama by peeling off 25 per cent of the Arab community’s vote, said Morley Winograd, former chairman of the Michigan Democratic Party.

“You have in Ralph Nader’s candidacy a genuine Arab-American who has a lot of notoriety and publicity,” he said. It “would be detrimental to Obama’s candidacy.”

Muslims in and around Detroit said they have been worried by several recent controversies, particularly a report last month that Obama campaign aides removed two young women wearing Muslim headscarves, called Hijabs, from his camera backdrop. The candidate later called the women to apologize.

Hassan Habhab, a 28-year-old Democrat who works at a Dearborn mall, said he supported Mr. Obama until the incident, though he hadn’t heard about the apology.

“I don’t know if I should vote for somebody like that,” he said.

Some of Mr. Obama’s foreign-policy stances also have raised concern. Last month, he was criticized by Saeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian negotiator, after he told the Washington-based American Israel Public Affairs Council, the leading pro-Israel lobbying group, that Jerusalem must remain the undivided capital of Israel.

“As long as he believes this way, I do not believe he is going to get the overwhelming support of our community,” said Osama Siblani, who voted for George W. Bush in 2000 and John Kerry in 2004.
…this post forwarded by Windsor Humanist, Matt Achine, after a July 16, 2008 article by Heidi Przybyla over The Bloomberg Service


Ontario’s North of 51 to be Protected, Premier McGuinty Makes Commitment

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Premier Dalton McGuinty has announced a provincial government commitment to protect an area one and a half times the size of the Maritimes in Ontario’s far North.

Fifty per cent or 22.5 million acres North of the 51st parallel will be protected from industrial development

“Although the Northern Boreal region has remained virtually undisturbed since the retreat of the glaciers, change is inevitably coming to these lands,” said Premier McGuinty in the announcement. “We need to prepare for this development and plan for it. It’s our responsibility as global citizens to get this right and to act now.”

“We need to find a balance,” reflected Minister of Northern Development and Mines, Michael Gravelle. “We have tremendous opportunities many of which First Nations communities are eager to move forward on but we need to preserve our north. Can we find a way to do both? I think we can.”

The region is home to 24,000 people living in 36 communities, the majority of which are First Nations north of Ontario’s grid of roads and power lines. Those communities will be able to develop their own land use plans within the context of the moratorium on development.

The boreal forests of the world store more carbon in trees, soil and peat than any other ecosystem.

Gillian McEachran, the senior boreal campaigner of the environmentalist organization ForestEthics, applauded protection of one of the largest remaining intact forest patches in the world in what she called “the largest commitment to conservation in Canada”.

“The premier has really stepped up and shown leadership, raising the bar for the whole planet.”

She points out the northern boreal forest stores 97 billion tones of carbon and that its maintenance will be essential for enabling species to react as the earth’s climate warms.

Scott Jackson, the policy manager of the Ontario Forest Industries Association, found the announcement to be short on details but stressed the 24 million cubic meters promised to the industry will not be compromised for the sake of forestry industry shareholders and sector workers.

“What we can say is that we hope the announcement won’t result in additional business uncertainty in this province. It’s something that the province can’t afford right now.”

The association cited a report from the Ministry of Natural Resources indicating the carbon stored in products of the forestry industry is four to five times greater than that stored in standing forests. Scott Jackson and association president Jamie Lim held up the “platinum standards” of the province’s forestry practices, reiterating their commitment to combating climate change.

“If you’re a country practicing deforestation, that’s not the case, but here in Ontario, because we reforest, that’s huge,” Jamie Lim stated.

“Remember when we’re taking about the boreal forest,” said Minister of Natural Resources Donna Cansfield. “The area of undertaking, we’re talking about the far North.”

Minister Cansfield anticipated that as the roadmap begins to take shape, it will be implemented hand in glove with the standards of the new Endangered Species Act, but that there is little to no logging currently occurring in most of the area under consideration.

As the provincial export-led mining industry generates $5-7 billion annually, the stakes are also high.

The province has been under intensifying pressure to change the 1873 Mining Act since the spring incarceration of Bob Lovelace of Ardoch Algonquin First Nation and six community leaders from Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninwug. A parallel, united lobby of 30 environmental and human rights organizations has been vocal on the need for change.

“That was an example of how things can go wrong,” said Gravelle of the so-called KI-6 imprisonment. “That’s why we are formally bringing the consultation on the Mining Act forward in August.”

Promising to work with First Nations, industry, the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Ministry of Aboriginal Affairs, Minister Gravelle committed to have revisions on the act completed by Christmas.

Peter McBride, the manager for communications at the Ontario Mining Association, pointed out the figures in Monday’s announcement include vast tracts of land that will be nowhere near communities and that it marked the instigation of the process, not a full plan.

“The reality in Northern Ontario is outside of the confines of Thunder Bay, Kenora, Sioux Lookout, Red Lake is that you would need two decades to gather enough information to develop a viable land use plan. The government is saying that they’re going to have a land use plan in 10 to 15 years? We’ll be at the table, but it’s a huge task.”

Mr. McBride complimented Minister Gravelle’s offices on narrowing the scope of the review to First Nations consultation and claim staking, stabilizing the confidence of his organization’s membership and stockholders.
…this post forwarded by Windsor Humanist, Matt Achine, after a July 15, 2008 article by Jon Thompson in The Kenora Miner & News

July 14, 2008

Excluded from Anglican Church Conference, Gay US Bishop Gene Robinson goes anyway

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The first openly gay U.S. Episcopal bishop was barred from a once-a-decade Anglican meeting so he wouldn’t become a focus of the global event.

Anglicans on all sides of the issue agree: the strategy has backfired.

New Hampshire Bishop Gene Robinson has been embraced by sympathetic Anglicans in England and Scotland who view his exclusion as an affront to their Christian beliefs.

The Bishop Robinson plans several appearances on the outskirts of The Lambeth Conference to be what he called a “constant and friendly” reminder of gays in the church.

“I’m just not willing to let the bishops meet and pretend that we don’t exist,” The Bishop Robinson said, in an interview Sunday with The Associated Press before preaching at St. Mary’s Church Putney. ``They’ve taken vows to serve all the people in dioceses, not just certain ones.”

The Anglican spiritual leader, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, did not include Bishop Robinson and a few other bishops in the conference as he tried to prevent a split in the world Anglican Communion. The 77 million-member fellowship – the third-largest in the world behind Roman Catholics and Orthodox Christians – has been on the brink of schism since Bishop Robinson was consecrated in 2003. The Episcopal Church is the Anglican body in the United States.

Bishop Robinson and Episcopal leaders had tried for years to negotiate a role for the New Hampshire bishop at Lambeth, but were unsuccessful. He resolved to come to England anyway.

“I’m not storming the pulpit to wrestle the microphone from the archbishop,” Bishop Robinson said. “My agenda is this: What does the church’s treatment of gay and lesbian people say about God? You’ve got all these people talking about gays and lesbians being an abomination before God. Does that make you want to run out and go to an Anglican church and sing God’s praises?”

Bishop Robinson preached Sunday at the 16th-century parish on the Thames River, despite a request from Rowan Williams that he not do so. A protester briefly interrupted the sermon, waving a motorcycle helmet and yelling “Repent!” and “Heretic!” before he was escorted out.

An emotional Bishop Robinson resumed preaching, asking parishioners to “pray for that man” and urging them repeatedly not to fear change in the church.

On Monday night, Bishop Robinson will join Sir Ian McKellan at a London literary festival for the British premiere of “For the Bible Tells Me So,” a documentary about gay Christians that features Bishop Robinson.

Next Sunday, after the Lambeth Conference holds its opening worship in Canterbury Cathedral, Bishop Robinson will join Anglican gays and lesbians in a separate service nearby. He will then sit in the public exhibition hall near the assembly sessions to be available for conversation.

A group of Episcopal bishops have organized two private receptions where Anglicans from other parts of the world can meet him. When the conference ends Aug. 3, he heads to Scotland where he has been invited to preach at Anglican parishes.

Bishop Robinson was a target of death threats at his consecration and wore a bulletproof vest throughout the ceremony. He said the threats resumed a few months ago when he published a book about his religious views. He has arranged personal security in England, but said he could not disclose details. Donors are covering the cost for the extra protection, he said. His partner of two decades, Mark Andrew, is travelling with him but declined to be interviewed.

Bishop Martyn Minns, a former Episcopal priest who now leads a breakaway network of U.S. conservatives, said in a recent interview that although organizers of the Lambeth Conference intended to move the topic off Bishop Robinson, their plan was bound to fail.

“He will end up getting all the attention,” Bishop Minns said.

Bishop Minns was also barred from Lambeth. He was consecrated by the conservative Anglican Church of Nigeria, which created the U.S. parish network despite an Anglican tradition of respecting the boundaries of other provinces.

For many theological conservatives, Bishop Robinson’s consecration was the final straw in a long-running debate over how Anglicans should interpret Scripture. Last month in Jerusalem, traditionalists created a worldwide network of conservatives to separate from liberal Anglicans without fully breaking away from the communion. More than 200 conservative bishops are boycotting Lambeth because Episcopal leaders who consecrated Bishop Robinson will be there.

Bishop Robinson said he felt “pretty devastated” when he learned he would not be allowed to participate in the conference, a key meeting that affirms membership in the communion.

He said he was also worried that he would flub his appearances in England this month.

“I so want to be a good steward of this opportunity. I want to do God proud,” he said. “I have this wonderful opportunity to bring hope to people who find the church a hopeless place.”
…this post forwarded by Windsor Humanist, Joe Pkr, after a July 13, 2008 article in The Toronto Star

July 6, 2008

Assisted Suicide of Healthy 79-Year-Old Renews German Debate on Right to Die

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FRANKFURT — When Roger Kusch helped Bettina Schardt kill herself at home on Saturday, the grim, carefully choreographed ritual was like that in many cases of assisted suicide, with one exception.

Roger Kusch & His \"Suicide Machine\"

Roger Kusch

Ms. Schardt, 79, a retired X-ray technician from the Bavarian city of Würzburg, was neither sick nor dying. She simply did not want to move into a nursing home, and rather than face that prospect, she asked Mr. Kusch, a prominent German campaigner for assisted suicide, for a way out.

Her last words, after swallowing a deadly cocktail of the antimalaria drug chloroquine and the sedative diazepam, were “auf Wiedersehen,” Mr. Kusch recounted at a news conference on Monday.

It was hardly the last word on her case, however. Ms. Schardt’s suicide — and Mr. Kusch’s energetic publicizing of it — have set off a national furor over the limits on the right to die, in a country that has struggled with this issue more than most because of the Nazi’s euthanizing of at least 100,000 mentally disabled and incurably ill people.

“What Mr. Kusch did was particularly awful,” Beate Merk, the justice minister of Bavaria, said in an interview. “This woman had nothing wrong other than her fear. He didn’t offer her any other options.”

Germany’s conservative chancellor, Angela Merkel, declared on a German news channel on Wednesday, “I am absolutely against any form of assisted suicide, in whatever guise it comes.”

On Friday, Bavaria and four other German states will push for new laws to ban commercial ventures that help people kill themselves. Suicide itself is not a crime, nor is aiding a suicide, provided it does not cross the line into euthanasia, or mercy killing.

But many here do not want Germany to follow the example of Switzerland, where liberal laws on euthanasia have led to a bustling trade in assisted suicide. In the last decade, nearly 500 Germans have crossed the border to end their lives with the help of a Swiss group that facilitates suicides.

“We want to make it illegal for people here to offer ‘suicide by reservation,’ ” Ms. Merk said. “That is inhumane.”

By helping Ms. Schardt end her life, and then broadcasting the result, Mr. Kusch has, in effect, hung out a shingle. A former senior government official from Hamburg, Mr. Kusch, 53, said he would help other people like her who decide of their own free will to commit suicide.

“My offer, since last Saturday, is to allow people to die in their own beds,” he said in a telephone interview on Wednesday. “That is the wish of most people, and now it is possible in Germany.”

With his penchant for brazen publicity, Mr. Kusch recalls Jack Kevorkian, the euthanasia crusader in Michigan who all but dared the authorities to stop his assisted suicides, and ended up in prison. But Mr. Kusch, who is trained as a lawyer, is careful not to cross the legal line.

In Ms. Schardt’s case, he counseled her about how to commit suicide, but did not provide or administer the drugs. He left the room after she drank the poisonous brew and returned three hours later to find her dead on her bed. He videotaped the entire process as proof that he was not an active participant.

Prosecutors have looked into the case, but it does not appear that Mr. Kusch is in legal jeopardy.

Mr. Kusch also videotaped five hours of interviews with Ms. Schardt, in which she discussed her fears and why she wanted to die. He showed excerpts at the news conference, causing an outcry. “A 10-minute video says more than if I had talked for two hours,” he said.

While Ms. Schardt was not suffering from a life-threatening disease, or in acute pain, her life was hardly pleasant, Mr. Kusch said. She had trouble moving around her apartment, where she lived alone. Having never married, she had no family. She also had few friends, and rarely ventured out.

In such circumstances, a nursing home seemed likely to be the next stop. And for Ms. Schardt, who Mr. Kusch said feared strangers and had a low tolerance for those less clever than she was, that was an unbearable prospect.

“When she contacted me by e-mail on April 8, she had already decided to commit suicide,” Mr. Kusch said, noting that she had also been in touch with Dignitas, the Swiss group that aids suicides.

In a goodbye letter to Mr. Kusch, posted on his Web site, Ms. Schardt thanked him, saying that if her death helped his battle it would fulfill her goal to have “the freedom to die in dignity.”

To some champions of assisted suicide, Germany’s laws do not allow for enough dignity. Ludwig A. Minelli, a former journalist who runs Dignitas, noted that those assisting in a suicide had to leave the person to die alone or risk being prosecuted. In Switzerland, he said, “the helping person, as well as family members or friends, could stay with the person who has decided to leave.”

The larger lesson of Ms. Schardt’s solitary death may have to do with the way Germany treats its old.

“The fear of nursing homes among elderly Germans is far greater than the fear of terrorism or the fear of losing your job,” said Eugen Brysch, the director of the German Hospice Foundation. “Germany must confront this fear, because fear, as we have seen, is a terrible adviser.”
…this post forwarded by Windsor Humanist, JoePkr, after a July 3, 2008 article by Mark Landler in The New York Times
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July 5, 2008

The God Inclusion – O Canada

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O Canada sheet music

O Canada sheet music

Yesterday, with perhaps more fervour than usual, many Canadians proudly sang O Canada as we, collectively and individually, reflected upon our national identity and heritage.

But a growing number of Canadians either gritted their teeth and mouthed a line or two, or fell silent when others sang the phrases “God keep our land glorious and free!” or, in the French version, “car ton bras sait porter l’épée, it sait porter la croix.”

Reflecting our history, both versions of the anthem have a clear religious, even Christian wording.

Yet, as Canada becomes ever more multinational and pluralistic, are those words still appropriate?

It’s a fascinating debate with wide-ranging implications.

The invited their regular panel from several major faith-based communities and a representative of the atheist/humanist/free thinker groups to debate these questions:

Given Canada’s history of intertwined politics and religion, and given Canada’s increasing multicultural nature, should all references to “God” be removed from our national anthem, O Canada? What does the inclusion of “God” say about our country? What would its elimination say about our country?

As usual, the panelists each have written a short essay and have answered questions from our readers — all of which you can read at the bottom of this page.

The members of our panel are:

1) Michael W. Higgins – President of St. Thomas University in Fredericton and past president of St. Jerome’s University in the University of Waterloo. Dr. Higgins is a broadcaster, author and co-author of numerous books and CBC Ideas series, including Heretic Blood, The Muted Voice, Power and Peril and Stalking the Holy.

2) Jennifer A. Harris is an Anglican Christian. She is assistant professor of Christianity and Culture at the University of Toronto. Her teaching interests include Christianity and contemporary popular culture, sacred space, and the Bible in medieval society.

3) Lorna Dueck is an Evangelical Christian journalist, writes a monthly column for The Globe. She is also executive producer of Listen Up TV, a weekly newsmagazine on spiritual perspectives in current events, seen Sundays on Global TV, and Thursdays on CTS, Salt and Light TV and Christian Channel.

4) Sheema Khan also writes a monthly column for The Globe. She has a Masters degree in physics and a Ph.D. in chemical physics from Harvard. She has worked in R&D, is an inventor and has worked at law firms in intellectual property law. Ms. Khan also served as chair of The Canadian Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-CAN) from 2000-2005.

5) Justin Trottier is executive director of The Centre for Inquiry Ontario, making him the first full-time paid staff member at the first venue dedicated to humanists and freethinkers in Canada. He is co-founder of the political advocacy group Canadian Secular Alliance, as well as president of the multimedia outreach group Freethought Association of Canada.

Michael Higgins: Although in a multicultural, multiracial and multifaith society, one should always be attentive to the particular nuances, needs and sensitivities of all the constituent parts, the temptation to eradicate difference in the interests of a common harmony is a false irenicism.

True harmony — not the ersatz kind preferred by ideologues — is built on the pillars of mutual respect, intelligent discernment of history, and genuine openness to correction.

The erasure, temporary or permanent, of God in our national vocabulary — anthem, Constitution, Charter, etc. — is hardly enlightenment.

The passion to do so has the whiff of Robespierre about it: Temple of the Goddess of Reason, the radical emergence of a new calendar, the extirpation of historical memory.

Not a Canada Day comfort.

God, for me at least, is not a static or single-definition concept. It admits of infinite — well not quite Infinite — variety and resonance.

If we mean by “God” a transcendent reality that attaches greater significance to our life as a community-in-time than historical record alone can guarantee, if we mean by “God” the attendant recognition of our collective dependence on an encompassing power that perudres beyond our numberless “isms” and sovereign entities, and if we mean by “God” a centre or locus of meaning that is trans-historical, then I am for its retention and celebration.

If, however, the inclusion of “God” in our national vocabulary and in the rituals that define us as a people is theologically specific, intolerant of personal interpretation, and invoked by political authorities to validate their judgments and decisions, then I am for its elimination.

God as hostage to political whim is a fearful reality. We know its kind in our time. The identification of God with the state is an invitation to misrule. We have seen the results.

But this is not the Canadian context. The calculated effort to delete God from our national discourse is itself a form of misplaced zeal.

Leave God alone. The alternatives, as George Steiner reminds us, can be quite grisly.

Jennifer Harris: When I was growing up in Toronto, there was no reference to God in O Canada.

The original set of English lyrics, by R. S. Weir, makes no such mention in its opening verse, and this was the version sung in my school, at hockey games, etc. Even the old Anglican hymn book, which includes our national anthem, made no mention of God in the popular first verse. Where we now sing “God keep our land glorious and free,” we once sang “O Canada, glorious and free.

I am not exactly sure when the words were changed. No doubt, it had something to do with the creation of O Canada as our official national anthem in the 1980s. The French-language version has always been explicitly Christian.

This reference to “God” in the English-language version is as blandly theistic as possible, allowing for the vast majority of people in Canada to sing our anthem convincingly. There is something quite Canadian about this desire for inclusion.

While the removal of this reference would indeed be even more inclusive, something would be lost. The newer lyric says something significant that the older version, written at the turn of the “Canadian Century,” does not: that Canada’s glory and freedom needs protecting. And this is a truth worth noting!

Certainly, we can debate about who protects Canada’s glory and freedom.

I, for one, believe that this task falls to its citizens. The request that God keep our land free need not (indeed, does not) abrogate our responsibility to an unknown, unseen force.

Rather, it reminds us, every time we sing our national anthem, that there is something very precious about Canada that requires our labour to protect. In an age of increasing fundamentalisms (religious, secular, and otherwise), this particular statement of God’s work in our land seems particularly fitting. The “God” we sing about reminds us to keep Canada and Canadians free.

The removal of “God” from the national anthem would be another step in the evacuation of religion from the public sphere.

The so-called separation of church and state is an American invention that has no real place in Canada’s heritage. And we have only to look to the United States to see how ineffective such a vision is.

Canada, on the other hand, should continue to maintain a respectful balance where religion is welcomed in the public domain (in schools, etc.), so long as it is not evangelistic and harmful.

This is the kind of freedom that makes Canada the fine country it is and well worth singing about.

Lorna Dueck…
I am sorry I’m going to be answering this important debate on my BlackBerry as my husband drives me to Ottawa so I can finally sing O Canada on Parliament Hill.

We’ve long wanted to co-ordinate summer travel around the ceremonies in the capital, so we’re on our way. As the fireworks burst over the Jacques Cartier Park, I will pray that God would keep our land glorious and free.

That would include a freedom which allows people of faith to vocalize their belief in God in our national anthem. Asking, as it were, for help in defending glorious freedom that humanity has shown it is incapable of maintaining.

More than 80% of Canadians profess to believe in God, and the non-specific wording about the deity in the English national anthem can cover all our interpretations of who this God is.

That is freedom, freedom to associate your faith with your expression of what it is to be a Canadian. It is an integrated, respectful reality that acknowledges Canadians who are believers in God.

The French version carries the phrase “car ton bras sait porter l’épée, it sait porter la croix.” (“since you can carry the sword, you can carry the cross”) and I, too, wish it could be modernized, or replaced with a phrase from the fourth and final stanza of O Canada which reads:

Ruler Supreme, who hearest humble prayer,
Hold our Dominion, in thy loving care.
Help us to find, O God, in thee,
A lasting rich reward.
As waiting for the better day,
We ever stand on guard.
God keep our land, glorious and free.
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee!
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee!

That old stanza was introduced to me not in Christian schools I attended in Canada but during the revival of grass roots prayer movements that sprung up for the nation around 2000.

It’s an interesting question Jennifer raises about how did “God keep our land” make its way into our anthem?

It was the Jesuit-educated Prime Minister Trudeau who proposed that we include a mention of God in our Constitution, an ecumenical group lobbied to help his idea survive, (thus acknowledging the supremacy of God is in our Constitutional preamble) and here we are today, still lobbying to keep a public expression of God in our country’s ideals.

To lose it would be a step away from freedom.

Sheema Khan…
On a personal note, my eyes begin to overflow every time I hear it. On Canada Day. At hockey games. At my children’s’ schools.

Our anthem begin with unassuming dignity and resonates with an expansiveness that parallels our glorious landscape and limitless human potential. O Canada has come to represent so much of what I love of this nation.

La belle province of Québec figures prominently in the origins of our national anthem. The score was completed in 1880 by Québec composer Calixa Lavallée, and the French language version soon thereafter by Adolphe-Basile Routhier. That version remains with us today.

In 1908, Robert Weir composed an English language version on the occasion of the 300th anniversary of the founding of Québec City. A few slight changes were made over the years resulting in the current version.

The reference to “God” in the English version is in harmony with the preamble of our Charter. It reflects a recognition of the sovereignty of God to sustain and protect this land.

Most Canadians, I believe, have no issue with this reference. In fact, a few years ago, when then-MP Svend Robinson attempted to introduce a motion to remove any reference to “God” in the Charter, Canadians responded overwhelmingly against the idea.

If the reference were to be removed, it would signify a sharp departure from the acknowledgement of a spiritual connection that is part and parcel of our past and present.

While many Canadians may not ascribe all that much to organized religion, I believe that many do recognize that spiritual connection within — especially when contemplating our incredible landscape. And, when reflecting upon the many bounties that we have here, such as peace and freedom, let’s not forget that this spiritual base serves to lay a moral foundation for many Canadians as well.

Recognition of a greater entity — God — as sovereign, is also a sign of humility.

I do, however, have a problem with the following passage in the French version: “Car ton bras sait porter l épée, il sait porter la croix,” which roughly translates as “Since you can carry the sword, you can carry the cross.”

It presents a crusading image, that is completely out of synch with the present reality. It also refers exclusively to Christianity — a reflection of the religious landscape of 1880, but not that of the 21st century.

And, it is insensitive to the experience of our aboriginal peoples at the hands of the church and state.

Should the words to our anthem be amended? At some point, yes. Some believe the reference to “all thy sons’ command” should be amended to become more inclusive (I agree).

I once came across a t-shirt that said “O Canada, our home on native land.” Our anthem was composed without any recognition of the Inuit and First Nations communities.

Given the recent historic apology to our aboriginal communities, we should have an anthem that includes the rich legacy of aboriginal peoples — who are the original inhabitants of this land. This may mean amending the reference to God, to also include reference to aboriginal beliefs.

Hopefully, Canadians will be open to such changes as we learn more about aboriginal history, and from the upcoming Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

Justin Trottier…
The inclusion of “God” in our national anthem should be removed, as should all reference to a deity (eg. government prayers and our constitutional preamble) that a quarter of Canadians reject and which is offensive, disrespectful and intolerant to those citizens who are non-theistic.

How would the anthem sound if this were done? Why, just like the original.

Forgive the history lesson, but it is crucial to realize that the national anthem has evolved considerably over time. Many English versions were drafted since 1880. One that happened to gain popularity was written in 1908 by Robert Stanley Weir, lawyer and Recorder of the City of Montréal. This version had the line simply “O Canada, glorious and free.” That held fast until 1980 when the National Anthem Act officially modified it to “God keep our land glorious and free.”

Incidentally, it was around this time that God found its way into the constitutional preamble.

Let me anticipate charges that Canada was founded on the Christian tradition. If we look at our founding values soberly, we might have to admit they include invasion, oppression and genocide, but I trust those are not the values one is referring to here.

Firstly, it seems racist to ignore the contribution of First Nations by instead focusing on a religion that was from the earliest days forced upon them.

Such revisionist history also ignores the complex set of forces that propelled the settling of Canada, including trade, commerce, exploration and imperialism.

Religion was certainly part of that mix, but it was not instrumental and it was often divisive (consider Protestant Upper Canada and Catholic Lower Canada).

More important, I believe, is our legal framework — provided by British common law, the French civil code and parliamentary government, all based on some form of church-state separation, where religion was up to a citizen’s private conscience.

Besides, are all traditions worthy of everlasting life? Consider slavery, atrocious child labour practices, or inhuman public punishments like drawing and quartering. These traditions are all as old as religion, certainly older then Christianity. Does that speak in their favour?

Consider the conclusion we’d reach if every change to our society was seen as counter to Christianity. That would have to imply female suffrage was anti-Christian.

Since I’m already in over my head and as we’ve seen that traditional can change, let me make the bold suggestion that several passages in our anthem are in need of review. These include the sexism of “in all thy sons’ command” and the immigrant-unfriendly “our home and native land!”

Canada needs an anthem that will unite our citizens, regardless of sex, religiosity, spoken language or place of birth.

Let’s uphold the traditions of evolving our sphere of equality and of government neutrality with respect to religion and conscience, rather than upholding a single word in a document as young as me.
…this post forwarded by Windsor Humanist, JimmyMac, after a July 2, 2008 article in The Globe And Mail
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July 2, 2008

Past President of Humanist Association of Canada Named to Order of Canada

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Dr. Henry Morgentaler opened his first abortion clinic in Montreal in 1969. Gov. Gen. Michaëlle Jean has named a leading abortion rights crusader to The Order of Canada, news that has outraged anti-abortion groups.Dr. Henry Morgentaler is one of 75 Canadians to receive honours for their contribution to the country. The Governor General announced the new inductées on Tuesday after the names were recommended by an advisory panel.

Anti-abortion Conservative MPs are stressing that appointments to the order are not made by cabinet. Nine people, including two government appointees, sit on the Order of Canada panel.

MP Maurice Vellacott, a Conservative from Saskatchewan who opposes abortion, told The Globe and Mail on Monday that he heard Morgentaler’s appointment was not unanimous.

“This is a pretty divisive issue,” he said. “I think we can all agree on that, so why would we have the highest honour in the country being issued when there is obviously a strong difference of opinion about it?”

Anti-abortion groups were more direct in their condemnation of the appointment.

The Campaign Life Coalition said it is dreadful that a man who spent his life performing abortions should be honoured. The coalition is urging other Order of Canada recipients to return their medals in protest.

“If Morgentaler had any integrity, he would refuse the medal,” Mary Ellen Douglas of the coalition said in a news release. “This presentation should be given to people who have made Canada a better place to live and the elimination of thousands of human beings who would have contributed to the future of Canada is a disgrace, not an honour.”

Now 85, Dr. Morgentaler, a Polish Holocaust survivor who immigrated to Montréal after the war, opened his first abortion clinic in 1969 and performed thousands of procedures, which were illegal at the time.

Dr. Morgentaler’s clinics were constantly raided, and one in Toronto was firebombed. Dr. Morgentaler was arrested several times and spent months in jail as he fought his case at all court levels in Canada.

His victory came on Jan. 28, 1988, when the Supreme Court of Canada struck down Canada’s abortion law. That law, which required a woman who wanted an abortion to appeal to a three-doctor hospital abortion committee, was declared unconstitutional.

Feminist and author Judy Rebick told The Globe and Mail on Monday that it is about time Dr. Morgentaler is honoured for his long battle.

“Dr. Morgentaler is a hero to millions of women in the country,” she said. “He risked his life to struggle for women’s rights … He’s a huge figure in Canadian history and the fact that he hasn’t got [the Order of Canada] until now is a scandal.”

Among the 75 appointments to The Order of Canada are former prime minister Kim Campbell, musician Randy Bachman and CBC News anchor Peter Mansbridge, according to the Governor General’s website. They will receive their medals at a later date.
…this post forwarded by Windsor Humanist, Matt Achine, after a Canada Day 2008 article in The CBC News OnLineCBC News logo

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