In this Edition of Critical Links:

August Dates of Interest

News & Events
  • Fall Election Questionnaire
  • One Small Step
  • Toronto Event: Author Talk with Barry Brown
  • Upcoming Ottawa Events: Losing Our Religion Screening and Pride Parade
  • CSICon 2019

Science Check
  • Congratulations to France on Discontinuing Funding for Homeopathy! (Is Canada Paying Attention?)

Secular Check
  • Commentary: The State of Religious Freedom in Canada
  • Munich Pride and International Humanism
  • Unplanned

Think Check
  • Ideology and the Federal Election
  • Keith’s Conundrums

August Dates of Interest
The first of August — a.k.a. “DOGust" — is the designated birthdate for shelter and rescued dogs.

August 3 is International Beer Day.

If you celebrate any of these, or have any suggestions for upcoming celebrations or observances, please drop us a line or send a picture to .

News & Events
Fall Election Questionnaire
Sandra Dunham

CFIC is asking our membership to tell us what issues are most important to them in the upcoming federal election. We will report back to our members on each party’s position on the five most important issues. If you are member, you should have received an invitation to participate in this survey. If you did not, please email to receive your code. If you are not a member, please consider joining. Not only will you receive a code to contribute to our poll, but you will support science, secularism, and critical thinking with your $30 membership fee.
One Small Step
Seanna Watson
CFIC Ottawa had a BBQ to celebrate the 50 th anniversary of the Moon landing. We drank Tang, ate a round cheese, and perused vintage newspapers and magazines. Amazing to think that these days, most of us carry more computing power in our pockets than a ll of NASA had at the time .

Like we always say in the CFIC-Toronto branch Twitter feed : #ScienceRules
Toronto Event: Author Talk with Barry Brown
Edan Tasca

Earlier this month, CFIC’s Toronto branch hosted a talk by author Barry Brown about his new book Humanity: The World Before Religion, War and Inequality. Brown’s book illustrates the intriguing theory that there was no such thing as large-scale human war until about 6,000 years ago, and that this shift from a relatively peaceful and equitable existence quickly descended into the more familiar state of human affairs we see today, involving military conflicts and a lopsided distribution of resources.

The talk was followed by a question period and a book signing.
Upcoming Ottawa Events: Losing Our Religion Screening and Pride Parade
Diane Bruce

August is always the transitional time for CFIC Ottawa, as people start coming back from the cottage and we gear up for the year. This August 21 we have a free screening of  Losing Our Religion followed by a discussion. This Canadian-produced documentary explores what happens when clergy lose their faith.

But the big event in August for us is the Pride March, on the 25th. Yes, unlike most cities Ottawa's pride march is in August due to the city not wanting a conflict with Father's Day. Nevertheless, CFIC Ottawa has marched just about every year since 2009 to give our support to marginalized people and to protest the role organized religion has had in this. We are planning an after-Pride BBQ for marchers. Check back on Meetup or Facebook for details.
CSICon 2019

If you need an excuse to visit Las Vegas, why not consider attending CSICon 2019. The Center for Inquiry U.S. annual conference will be held in Las Vegas from October 16 to 20. This year there will be presentations on climate change, pseudoscience, filing suit against homeopathy, and much more. Please visit for more information or to register.

Science Check
Congratulations to France on Discontinuing Funding for Homeopathy! (Is Canada Paying Attention?)
CFIC Members
Following the recommendation of the High Authority of Health (HAH), France has committed to discontinuing reimbursing its citizens for Homeopathy in 2021 . Under the current system, France has a 30% reimbursement rate which will decrease to 15% in 2020 and then be discontinued entirely on January 1, 2021. Minister of Health, Agnès Buzyn , has committed to following the recommendation of the HAH regarding the discontinuation of funding for a treatment modality that has been repeatedly demonstrated to be no more effective than a placebo.

This decision will have major political and economic implications. The discontinuation of reimbursement for homeopathy is projected to result in the loss of 1,300 French jobs. Boiron , the self-proclaimed world leader in the manufacture of homeopathic products, is headquartered in France. French MP Sibeth Ndiaye suggested that the government needs to balance the science with economic considerations and the well-being of the French population.

Buyzn indicates that she is willing to shoulder the unpopular opinions this decision brings. According to Buzyn, the phase-in period will allow enough time to educate French patients about the change and will provide time for manufacturers of homeopathic products to reorganize. Additionally, she points out that the change in reimbursement does not prevent doctors from prescribing or limiting the French from purchasing homeopathic products.

Other French politicians have supported Buzyn. National Assembly member Bertrand Bouyx believes that the government should make a rational decision without considering public opinion or economic impact. Further, Olivier Véran (also a member of the National Assembly) reminded us that there is no health risk to discontinuing the coverage. Véran went on to say that the money saved from reimbursing homeopathic costs can be used to help pay for other types of medicine.

This decision may lead to other gains for science-based medicine in France. Dr. Patrick Bouet, the head of the National Council of the College of Physicians, indicates that following this decision the Council will reevaluate whether homeopaths have the “right to title.” Many French universities have discontinued granting diplomas for homeopathy and this decision could lead to the elimination of the degree from the remaining 15 universities which offer it.

It is past time for the Government of Canada to follow the French lead. Ontario is the only province in Canada that allows Homeopathy as a medical expense for Income Tax purposes. Other practices with no scientific evidence to support them such as naturopathy, chiropractic, traditional Chinese medicine healers, and acupuncturists are allowed in many provinces across Canada.

With the federal election coming up this Fall, the time is right to ask your local candidates what their position is on educating Canadians about the lack of evidence for so-called “alternative” treatments, and to demand that they stop forcing all Canadians to pay for this magic by allowing tax relief for those who choose to use it.

Thank you to our CFIC members for bringing this French article to our attention and translating it to English.

Secular Check
Commentary: The State of Religious Expression in Canada
Leslie Rosenblood

Secularism can be defined in several ways. The definition that I, the Canadian Secular Alliance, and CFIC subscribe to is government  neutrality  in matters of religion, whereby the government of Canada neither supports nor suppresses religious expression for its citizens.

Quebec's functional definition of secularism seems to be removing all religious symbolism from the public square. The province recently passed Bill 21, which forbids any new government employees (including civil servants and teachers) from displaying any religious paraphernalia on the job, including crucifixes, turbans, yarmulkes, and hijabs. The Quebec government was clearly aware this violated section 2(a) of the  Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms  (guaranteeing religious freedom), because it preemptively invoked the Charter's section 33 (commonly referred to as the “notwithstanding clause”), shielding the legislation from most legal challenges.

Therefore I was interested to read an op-ed piece in the Globe and Mail on July 11 entitled, “ Religious expression is under attack in Canada – and not just in Quebec .” I was unaware of other attacks on religious expression, and wanted to see how Canada was violating secular principles elsewhere in the country.

It turns out the piece is half precisely right, and half entirely wrong.

I agree entirely with the sentiment in the first part of the essay: “Even the most benign expressions of religious conviction must be kept out of the public service, and accommodation will only be afforded to employees who are non-religious or who agree to give that appearance. This should alarm believers and non-believers alike, regardless of whether they are directly affected by this law."

But from this solid foundation, the article quickly loses its way. It makes sweeping claims that are wholly unsupported by the remainder of the piece, such as that Canadians increasingly believe “religion should not be accommodated if it makes others feel uncomfortable” and “decision-makers are increasingly upholding religious-rights violations with little, if any, discussion of the important interests protected by religious freedom.”

The authors cite only two examples of how religious expression in Canada is under attack beyond Bill 21. They decry the  Supreme Court's decision  on Trinity Western University (TWU) law school, describing it as having “denied graduates of Trinity Western University’s proposed law school equal admission to the practice of law based on the university’s faith-based code of conduct.” The other case is that Ontario physicians “can be forced to help facilitate procedures that violate their ethical judgment” and “religious convictions.”

Both cases are presented in misleading manner. They involve not a suppression of religious expression, but the protection of rights from religious discrimination. The difference is crucial. 

I have  written extensively  about the TWU decision; in essence, the Supreme Court ruled that freedom of religion does not grant the right to discriminate against others. TWU demanded from all students that sexual intimacy be restricted to between a married man and woman; homosexuals (married or not) were welcome, but must commit to celibacy while a student at TWU. Violators were subject to academic discipline up to and including expulsion. Blatant discrimination against the LGBT community is not moral or acceptable solely because some interpretations of scripture justify it. 

The  College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario  created a  policy  whereby a medical practitioner cannot prevent a patient from seeking an assisted death, in accordance with Canadian law. Individual physicians may recuse themselves, but “must not impede access to medical assistance in dying, even if it conflicts with their conscience or religious beliefs.” They must provide an “effective referral.” Again, this is not an attack on the faithful; it is protecting the rights of Canadians from those who seek to deprive patients of medical procedures to which they are entitled.

Religious freedom allows for the maximum autonomy for individual religious expression, subject to reasonable limits in a free and democratic society; it does not include a protected right to coerce others to behave according to the tenets of a particular faith. Quebec's Bill 21 is a travesty that is justifiably opposed by almost all religious and civil rights organizations, including CFIC and the Canadian Secular Alliance; if religious expression is under attack elsewhere in Canada, Mr. Ross and Mr. Kinsinger have failed to provide a single legitimate example. 
Munich Pride and International Humanism
Seanna Watson

Arriving in Munich, we checked our city bus tour reservation, and discovered that part of the tour was shortened as a result of road closures for “a festival.” Of course, the festival that the tour company had declined to explicitly name turned out to be none other than the Munich Pride celebration (a.k.a. Christopher Street Day ).

So after completing the shortened bus tour, we went off to the city centre to check out the festiv al. One of the groups we came across was the Munich Bund für Geistesfreiheit (League for Spiritual Freedom) , which traces its origins back to the German revolution of 1848. They had participated in the Atheist Bus Campaign back in the day — a significant challenge in the Bavarian region, which tends to be more religious (mostly Roman Catholic) and conservative than much of the rest of the country.

Bund für Geistesfreiheit (BFG) has followed up with another campaign promoting the separation of religion and state, challenging public institutions that are run by religious groups. For example, as recently as 2018, the Bavarian government required Christian crosses at the entrances of all state buildings . Further, religious influence on schools has been used to set employment standards: People in same-sex relationships or with children out of wedlock need not apply. (Sounds familiar, given that several Canadian provinces have publicly funded religious schools with similar employment restrictions).

Also, as in Canada, German church-run hospitals have policies that affect reproductive freedom (including abortion). And of course these religious-based hospitals stand in opposition to medically assisted dying — currently illegal in Germany, but under discussion .

With so many battles for secularism still left to wage, CFIC stands with our fellow humanists in Germany and all over the world.  
Seanna Watson

Now showing at a theatre near you: Unplanned, based on the story of a former director of a Planned Parenthood who becomes converted from feminist pro-choice champion to zealous anti-choice advocate. 

Articles in Maclean’s and The Walrus review the movie here and here and
CBC News discusses how a low-budget, poorly reviewed movie (which some have called “hate propaganda”) managed to be released in major theatres across Canada.

If you have seen the movie, or if you’ve engaged in any discussions about it, we invite you to comment on the CFIC website. Come join the discussion!

Think Check
Ideology and the Federal Election
Sandra Dunham

According to Wikipedia , “An ideology is a collection of normative beliefs and values that an individual or group holds for other than purely epistemic reasons. In other words, these rely on basic assumptions about reality that may or may not have any factual basis. The term is especially used to describe systems of ideas and ideals which form the basis of economic or political theories and resultant policies. In these there are tenuous causal links between policies and outcomes owing to the large numbers of variables available, so that many key assumptions have to be made. In political science the term is used in a descriptive sense to refer to political belief systems .

This Fall we will all visit an election booth (I hope) and cast our ballot for the leadership of Canada. This causes me to wonder how each of us makes this very important decision. Many Canadians consistently vote for the same party. Of late, I’ve become frustrated with people who are very politicized on social media, lambasting every comment of the party they do not support and extolling the virtues of their favoured party. This serves to reinforce their ideology and decreases the effort they must put forth to actively contemplate what is best for Canada and for themselves.

As critical thinkers, we are confident that CFIC membership votes based on how each party’s platform performs on the issues that are most important to them, as well as the perceived likelihood that the platform will be implemented as promised. Like our membership, CFIC does not espouse any specific political ideology. We do support political activity that relies on good data and good science and actively seeks to separate the church and the state.

This year, we hope to assist our members to compare the platforms of each political party on the issues that matter the most. We invite our members to complete a brief survey to tell us which specific issues within these broad categories (science, critical thinking, and secularism) are most important to them. We will report back to you on each party’s position on our members’ top five priorities.
Keith’s Conundrums: Prediction, Scientific Realism, and Testing Kids

In this column I will pose “funny problems.” Some will be paradoxes; some will be weird things to think through. Generally they will have a popular science and philosophy feel, though some are taken from undergraduate-level discussions as well. Feel free to write back with comments, questions, and any feedback you wish. You can email me at , or post a comment on the CFIC website . In each column, I will discuss the feedback and more details about the previous problem and introduce a new one.  

I didn’t manage to get a July Conundrum in, and nobody had much to say about the June one. I press on with one that educational policy people should really think hard about. (HINT!)

Predict the next value in this sequence: 0, 1, 1, 3, 2, 5, 3, 7, 4, …

Now, imagine data from an experiment. X is the independent (manipulated) value and Y is the measured (dependent) value. Predict the unmeasured Y, given the data below (i.e., for the X value of 4).
Now for a slightly more interesting activity: In what ways are the two cases different, if any?

Fields of study to think about: scientific realism, aptitude testing.
Books (and Podcasts and Blogs) and Authors
What Not to Eat
The always informative and often entertaining blog Nature's Poisons celebrated its 100th post with an alphabetical compendium of 26 ways nature is trying to kill us.

From Aconitine to Zetekitoxin provides a fine reference to cite next time your favorite purveyor of woo touts their favourite “all natural” remedy.


This is your space: Please tell us what you are reading and your thoughts about it. We accept book reviews; commentary on secular, scientific, or critical thinking issues; reviews of podcasts and blogs; and even television shows and movies. Please submit your reviews to .
Like what you see? Become a member, or make a tax-deductible donation to CFIC , and help ensure that Critical Links remains your source of information about Critical Thinking, Science, Secularism and the CFIC community.
Centre for Inquiry Canada | 613-663-8198| |