death and grief
Upcoming HAAM Events
Winter Solstice Party
December 23rd at the Belgian Club, 407 Provencher Blvd, 5:30 PM
Please bring an item for the potluck supper.
Optional – bring your favorite board game.
See complete event listings and details for all upcoming HAAM events on our Events page.
Charity of the Month – Koats for Kids
Koats for Kids is a United Way program that collects and distributes winter outerwear to needy families. They collect new or gently used winter jackets (clean with working zippers), ski pants, boots, hats, scarves, and mittens. All sizes are needed – from infant to toddler to youth.
Please bring your donations to our Winter Solstice Party! We’ll collect them up and drop them off at the depot.
Call to Action – Register Your Intent to be an Organ Donor
The Organ Donor Registry is now online!
Organ and tissue donation in Manitoba have gone high-tech. Paper ‘organ donor’ wallet cards are no longer considered adequate, because they are not recorded in any database and may not be available when needed. Instead, Manitoba Health now recommends that you register your wishes online to ensure that they will be known – if and when you ever qualify to donate.
Register your consent to donate at Sign Up for Life.ca. Your information will be recorded and stored in the secure Manitoba eHealth database. In the event of your death or imminent death, your decision will be shared with your family so that they can honor your wishes. Donation will not take place without your family’s consent.
How does it work?
You can register if you are 18 years of age or older and have a valid Manitoba Health Card. You can donate organs and tissues (heart, liver, kidneys, pancreas, lungs, small bowel, stomach, corneas, heart valves, pericardium, bone, cartilage, tendons, ligaments and skin) for transplant. You can also indicate whether or not you would want your organs or tissues to be used for medical education or scientific research purposes.
Everyone can register to be a donor regardless of age, medical condition or sexual orientation. Your decision to register should not be based on whether YOU think you would be eligible or not. Eligibility is determined by the health care team after a patient’s death.
Thanks to Karen Donald for the tip!
Bill Favors Religion over Patient Rights
Having sat through a community hearing at the Manitoba Legislature on the issue of Bill 34, The Medical Assistance in Dying (Protection for Health Professionals and Others) Act on the evening of November 6th, I’d like to share some observations, comments, and take-away points from what was said. It should be noted that I learned about this hearing at the very last possible minute, and I’m uncertain as to whether the speakers were there by invitation or whether there had been an option for the public to sign up ahead of time to speak. As such, I can’t account for the small number of speakers calling for amendments, vs. the majority, who called for keeping the bill as is. Of the 16 speakers, only 3 (Dr. Alewyn Vorster, representing the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Manitoba; Mary J. Shariff, from the Faculty of Law, University of Manitoba; and Cory Ruf of Dying with Dignity Canada), advocated for amending the bill with clearer language that removes ambiguity, out of concern that a broad interpretation of the bill could result in denial of MAID information, referrals, and services to Manitoba patients.
Of the 13 speakers in favor of the bill as presented (two representatives from Catholic organizations, 10 doctors, and a private citizen), all cited personal religious beliefs as part of their presentations, in addition to many other arguments. Their most common arguments and concerns centered on personal religious conviction/conscience, the Hippocratic Oath, fear of health care professionals being required to make MAID referrals, reprisal should they refuse to do so, patient abandonment, assertions that medication is adequate to maintain comfort until “natural” death occurs, and the belief that “there is no crisis of access”. Most maintained that they wouldn’t do anything to block access to MAID services, and while all stated that they wouldn’t make a direct referral to the MAID team, most (with a couple of exceptions) were willing to refer patients to a third party who would.
Since When Do Institutions have Rights?
From what I learned during a previous conversation with my MLA, Andrew Micklefield (who was in attendance), and certainly from what was shared at this hearing, it’s clear that there is a disconnect between Health Minister Kelvin Goertzen’s statement, “We will protect the rights of institutions”, and the real-life ramifications of that statement for patients who are now forced into a potentially agonizing, painful, and certainly undignified transfer of service to another hospital if they opt for MAID while in a faith-based facility in Manitoba. As an example, to quote one speaker, Dr. Albert Chudley (a Professor of Pediatrics and Child Health, as well as Biochemistry and Medical Genetics, at the University of Manitoba, and who ironically professed to have taught clinical ethics), the bill “doesn’t diminish patient rights”, “transfer remains an option”, and “patients are not in pain”. Dr. Ann McKenzie, amidst stories of personal tragedy and appeals to the Hippocratic Oath, is of the opinion that vulnerable patients who choose MAID as an end of life option “lose time with family” and create trauma for those who remain.
Is there a duty to refer?
In conclusion, when asked by Andrew Swan, an opposition MLA who supports the bill, if the Health Minister would require health professionals to provide MAID referrals, Goertzen stated that he doesn’t believe health professionals (including nurses, pharmacists etc.) should be required to make referrals. The Minister said the government would “support the rights of institutions… not at the expense of access”; however, he did not acknowledge that failing to provide information and referral directly impacts that access. The provincial government is siding with publicly-funded, faith-based hospitals that are denying on-site access to MAID services, which is a violation of the Charter Rights of Manitobans. This bill sets the rights of religious institutions above patient dignity and humane end-of-life care.
All clauses of Bill 34 were passed, unamended. – Rob Daly
Is Christmas really a Christian Holiday?
If you celebrate and enjoy Christmas, don’t feel guilty about it. There’s no need to give it up just because you no longer view it as a religious holiday. Some of the following details may be disputable, because sources vary, and it’s difficult to pinpoint the exact origins of customs and rituals that date back to antiquity and cross cultures. But this much is clear – Most of the traditions we associate with Christmas either originated in pre-Christian myths or have absolutely NOTHING to do with Christianity.
It’s all about the solstice
Winter Solstice is the longest night of the year. Ancient astronomers were able to detect that after the solstice, the days became longer and the noonday sun rose higher in the sky. This was interpreted as a promise that warmth would return once more to the Earth. Numerous pre-Christian cultures and Pagan religions celebrated the return of the Sun and honored a birth or rebirth of one of their gods or goddesses on or near the solstice. These included Attis (Roman), Dionysus (Greek), Osiris (Egyptian), and Mithra (Persian). Saturnalia (the Festival of Saturn) was celebrated from December 17 to 23 throughout the Roman Empire. Many of these celebrations included fertility rituals and symbols intended to encourage Mother Earth to begin reproducing again.
In the late 3rd century the Roman Emperor Aurelian blended Saturnalia with the birth celebrations of savior gods from other religions into a single holy day (December 25th), so it was relatively easy to incorporate the celebration of Jesus’ birth.
These are Pagan? Really?
It’s no surprise, then, that quite a few of our modern Christmas traditions have Pagan roots. Here are a few examples:
Feasting and partying – Saturnalia was the liveliest of the ancient Roman festivals. The celebration included days off work, street parties, candles, gifts, and greenery. Saturn was the god of agriculture, so feasting was an appropriate way to celebrate the fruits of the harvest.
Mistletoe and Holly – Mistletoe was considered a magical plant and a fertility symbol by many ancient cultures, so people used to practice ‘fertility rituals’ underneath it; nowadays we usually just kiss. The complimentary colors of red and green represent male and female, and we still see them in the holly leaves with their red berries used in Christmas wreaths.
Santa Claus is partly based on myths that predate St Nicholas. The Norse god Odin is often pictured as an old man with a white beard and long cloak. Odin led a hunting party through the skies, riding an eight-legged horse. In winter, children would leave their boots near the chimney, filled with carrots or straw for the horse, and in return, Odin would leave a little gift in the boot. In Celtic Neopaganism, the Holly King and the Oak King fight a battle each summer and winter solstice, with each reigning half the year. Depictions of the Holly King often look remarkably like a sort of woodsy Santa Claus.
Caroling originated with the practice of wassailing – traveling through fields and orchards in the middle of winter, singing and shouting to drive away any spirits that might inhibit the growth of future crops.
Gift-giving – During Saturnalia, it was tradition to give children gifts of wax figures that represented the sacrifices made to Saturn to wish for a bountiful harvest.
Evergreens – Romans decorated their homes with bits of greenery during Saturnalia. Pines and firs were cherished as a symbol of life and rebirth in the depth of winter, and were traditionally hung around doorways and windows. Egyptians used palm fronds instead.
Fruitcake comes from Egypt. Once baked, it lasts a looooong time without going bad, so it was often placed as an offering on the tomb of a loved one.
The Yule log originates in Norway. The Norse believed that the sun was a giant wheel of fire which rolled away from the earth, and then began rolling back again on the winter solstice. To celebrate the return of the sun each year, they would light a Yule log and let it burn all night long. Once the log was burned in the hearth, the ashes were scattered about the house to protect the family within from hostile spirits.
Decorated trees – During Saturnalia, on the eve of the Midwinter Solstice, Roman priests would cut down a pine tree, decorate it, and carry it ceremonially to the temple celebrations. Pagan families would bring a live tree into the home so the wood spirits would have a place to keep warm in the cold winter months; food and treats were hung on the branches for the spirits to eat.
Most Humanists enjoy the various celebrations and traditions around the Winter Solstice, regardless of their origins. So
from all of us at HAAM – whatever you celebrate!
Countdown to 2018
Please support HAAM with your Membership
Membership renewal for 2018 is now open. Please note that HAAM operates on a calendar year, meaning that membership fees are due in January. First time members who join between October and December pay the full fee but their membership includes the upcoming year. If you are one of those brand new members, this notice does not apply to you. Everyone else needs to become a member or renew.
We count on membership revenues to support HAAM’s continuing work in creating community and providing a voice for non-believers. Fees are affordable and include a ‘limited income’ option if applicable. Please support the group that supports you! Memberships are payable anytime by credit card using the PayPal link on our website, by cheque in the mail, or by cash or cheque at any event. More information about membership and renewal is on our website.
If you plan to attend our AGM in January, dues MUST be paid in order to vote.
Get to know your fellow Humanists and help us develop a supportive community. Do you have a suggestion for a meeting topic or social event? An issue you’d like to discuss? A charity you think we should support? Do you have a talent to share? Can you help out with a specific task, project, or event? To keep our group active and interesting, we need YOUR input and help.
Watch for our New Ads
On Saturday, December 7th, HAAM will be running a seasonal ad in the local Steinbach newspaper, The Carillon. It will appear in both the print edition (on the front page of Section C), and in the online edition. We will also be running an ad on Facebook in December.
If you want a sneak preview, check out the banner image on our Facebook page.
Watch for our ads – and when you see them, please share them to spread the word!
Stressed Out About the Upcoming Holidays?
Do you live in a religious community, or with religious family members? Is the holiday season stressful for you because of it? Are family get-togethers uncomfortable? A little guide called Being Openly Secular During the Holidays might be helpful. Topics include managing stress, adhering to holiday traditions, and dealing with religious family. It also contains a secular grace and some links to further resources.
We also covered this topic in last year’s December newsletter.
Book of the Month – Salt Sugar Fat
Here’s a book that might give you pause before you dig into too much holiday party food – Salt Sugar Fat, by Michael Moss. After reading it, you probably won’t want to dig into quite so much holiday party food.
How much of our food comes from cardboard boxes, plastic packaging, fast food restaurants, take out, microwaves, lunch meats, processed cheese, cookies, candy bars, etc.? If you don’t know, or feel uneasy about the answer, you may not want to know.
Moss looks into labs where scientists calculate the “bliss point” of sugary beverages, unearths marketing techniques taken straight from tobacco company playbooks, and talks to concerned insiders who make startling confessions. Just as millions of “heavy users” are addicted to salt, sugar, and fat, so too are the companies that peddle them. You will never look at a nutrition label the same way again.
Get a head start on your New Year’s resolutions! If you read this book now, guaranteed you’ll be making different (and better) choices in 2018.
Visit our library page if you would like to borrow this book.
Is There a Right to be an A**hole?
At our (packed) November meeting, U of M professor Steve Lecce spoke about free speech. His awesome presentation was followed by a lively Q and A. If you couldn’t attend, you can now catch it on our YouTube channel.
September HAAM Events
Monthly Meeting – A History of Atheism in Canada
Saturday September 9th, Canad Inns Polo Park, 1405 St Matthews Ave, 5:30 PM
Complete event listings and details for all this and all upcoming HAAM events are on our Events page.
You can find past events by using the ‘Search this Site’ tool, also in the right sidebar.
Upcoming Community (Non-HAAM) Events
Advance Care Planning
Thursday September 21st, The Reh-Fit Centre, 1390 Taylor Avenue, 1:00 – 3:30 PM
Who will speak for you if you can’t speak for yourself? Advance registration is required.
Public Lecture – Refugees and Immigrants
Wednesday, Sept 27th, Canadian Fossil Discovery Centre, Morden, 7 – 9 PM
For details on these and more upcoming non-HAAM events, visit our Community Events page.
Solar Eclipse 2017 – A traumatic event for some of our members
Sometimes HAAM members get asked why we publicly challenge religion and why we are so angry about it. The following Facebook status, posted on the day of the recent solar eclipse, perfectly illustrates the answer. We fight because, unfortunately, the type of anguish expressed in this post is common among survivors of childhood religious indoctrination (brainwashing). Instilling this level of fear in children whose minds have not yet developed the ability to think critically about what they are being taught is psychological abuse. We frequently hear similar stories in person from many of our members. Decades later, the PTSD remains.
The post is copied and pasted to protect the privacy of the HAAM member who shared it. The event described occurred almost 30 years ago.
I vividly remember seeing a partial eclipse as a child (not sure when?) and the terror I felt because we were reading the Bible and singing, “When the skies of heaven shall fall and the moon shall be turned into blood, the sons of God shall arise, Zion awake.”
I’m sitting here remembering and feeling how terrified I was as a child because it could have been the end of the world, as we were told, and I was told that meant that I would be tortured for my faith. I can still see the pictures of people being tortured, and being told that would happen to me to try to get me to deny Christ – stretching, ripping off nails, gouging out eyes and ripping out intestines. I saw these AS A CHILD. Was told it would happen to me AS A CHILD.
I’m feeling sick and I’m shaking with the memory, and how it makes me feel today. It is irrational to feel fear as what I really feel is amazement at seeing a partial eclipse. But brainwashing goes deep, and this is the first time I’m thinking about this and feeling it as an adult. I’m feeling the lasting trauma of emotional abuse and how it shaped my mind. This is so sick. *tears*
A google search for the quoted line (“when the skies of heaven shall fall…”) turned up several hymns containing those or similar lyrics. One version is this (not the exact hymn that our HAAM member sang as a child):
Awake Zion, awake
Awake and trim your lamps
For the stars of heaven shall fall
And the moon shall turn into blood
And the son of man shall appear
As to which Bible verse these lyrics are based on, there are over a dozen verses that refer to the darkening of the sun, moon, stars, or some combination of these. Three specifically mention the moon turning blood red – an obvious reference to an eclipse.
- Joel 2:31 The sun will be turned to darkness, and the moon to blood, before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord.
- Acts 2:20 The sun will be turned to darkness, and the moon to blood, before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord.
- Revelation 6:12-13 The sun turned black like sackcloth made of goat hair, the whole moon turned blood red, and the stars in the sky fell to earth.
Seriously, there are only two conclusions we can draw from these verses.
1 The writer of Acts (ostensibly Luke, but in fact, scholars don’t really know who wrote Luke and Acts, although they know the same person wrote both books) plagiarized the book of Joel.
2 People living 2,000 years ago didn’t understand what an eclipse was.
Are apologists still peddling this fear and nonsense today? You betcha! (see book cover, right) And as long as they do, Humanists will continue to promote science, reason, and critical thinking as the best ways to understand the world. This is the only way we can ever hope to diminish the kind of fear and ignorance that leads to otherwise loving families scaring innocent children out of their wits and traumatizing them for life.
Calls to Action
End Violence Against Apostates in Malaysia
Members of an atheist group in Malaysia are facing death threats and government-sponsored “re-education” after their photos were seen in a Facebook post. Click here for the story, and a sample letter that you can write to urge an end to the intolerance of apostasy.
‘Voice Your Choice’ on Assisted Dying
The federal government is studying the possible impacts of allowing medical assistance in dying (MAID) for three groups of Canadians who don’t currently qualify:
- Those who will be excluded unless the law is changed to allow for advance requests;
- Individuals whose primary medical condition is a mental illness; and
- Mature minors.
Dying With Dignity is seeking submissions from Canadians who have personal concerns or stories to tell about how the current restrictions on MAID have already unfairly restricted (or may, in future, restrict) choices in dying for themselves or someone they know.
Click here for more information about this campaign. Deadline for submissions is September 15th.
If you don’t have a personal story to tell right now, but still want to add your voice to those of others who support advance requests for assisted dying, click here.
Charity of the Month – Island Lake Relief Fund
Once again, wildfires in northern Manitoba have forced the evacuation of several communities in the Island Lake area (northeast). As many as 5,000 people have been flown out of the Wasagamack, St. Theresa Point, and Garden Hill First Nations. They are staying in temporary accommodations and emergency shelters in Winnipeg, Brandon, and Portage. Many left home with little or no possessions, and are relying on charities for assistance while they are away.
CBC news posted images of the devastation, like the scene shown here. Click for more photos.
Here’s how HAAM members can help:
If you have needed items to donate, you can take them directly to one of the following locations. (Please do not bring them to the HAAM meeting.)
- The Island Lake Tribal Council, at 338 Broadway, is accepting diapers, water, baby formula, condensed milk and other toiletries. They don’t need any more clothes or blankets.
- The Ma Mawi Chi Itata Centre, at 445 King St., is accepting donations of clean clothing (especially men’s clothing), non-perishable food, diapers, kids’ toys, and hygiene products.
If you are able to make a financial contribution:
The Me-Dian Credit Union (formerly the Metis Credit Union of Manitoba) has started an Island Lake Relief Fund. It’s accepting donations to help with short-term costs for the evacuees. We will be collecting donations at our September 9th HAAM meeting and forwarding them to this fund.
Tax receipts are available for donations over $10. If you would like to donate but cannot attend the meeting, you can do so via the Paypal button on this page. Just include a note letting us know that the money is for the charity.
The Jesus Stick
Sanded wood with tapered ends, and a small leather lace with five plastic beads tied onto it. That’s the Jesus Stick that was handed out by the hundreds at the Morden Corn and Apple Festival this year. These walking sticks are supposed to symbolize your walk with Jesus. Now normally I wouldn’t bother with booths like this; it’s not my habit to visit Christian booths just to annoy people. However, we had several Christians come by our HAAM booth and mention that we really need to hear their message. So myself and fellow Humanist Laura Stephens, not wanting to decline the invite, decided we’d go over and get ourselves a Jesus stick.
They’re not completely free. When you get to the booth, you stand in line with others until you hear their message, and only after you listen to the message, do they cough up a stick. So with that in mind, I thought when I got to the front of the line “maybe I’ll make this guy work for it a little”. Both Laura and I offered full disclosure when we walked up – we told the fella were Humanists and atheists, and had been encouraged by Christians with sticks to hear their message. So here is the message about the five beads on the stick (click to enlarge photo):
The first bead is gold and symbolizes heaven and God’s plan for you. After the fellow explained the first bead, and how heaven is a paradise, I asked him “suppose I accept all this and get saved, how am I supposed to enjoy paradise when my kids are burning in hell because they’re atheists too?” All the fellow could do was to quote some scripture that, to me, seemed to indicate that everybody gets in to heaven. Then he moved on to the next bead.
Black symbolizes the sin of man in the world, our fall from grace, and how the wages of sin is death… but that you could be saved from this because God sent his son, the “sinless Jesus”, to pay our debt. So I asked the fella “if Jesus was completely sinless, how come the New Testament said ‘slaves obey your earthly masters’? It seems to me that the Bible was endorsing slavery and the ownership of other people, and that would, in my books, be a sin.” His answer was a Bible story from Philemon, where Paul sends a runaway slave back to his master. This was somehow supposed to demonstrate that Jesus didn’t support slavery. So I asked “how on earth does sending a slave back to his master demonstrate that anything has changed?” His answer – “because the slave had turned into a Christian” – was even more baffling. And he was on to the next bead.
Red symbolizes the blood of Jesus and his death on the cross, his resurrection, and his payment for our sins. Later Laura mentioned to me that at this part of his spiel she really wanted to say “resurrected? So he really only gave up a long weekend?”… I wish she had, as I’m sure the fella’s reaction would’ve been priceless. I took a pause in his speech to ask him why he would think that human sacrifice could pay for someone else’s crimes (that they didn’t actually commit), and why anyone would think a human sacrifice is good. Any good and moral person who was alive at the time would have done everything in their power to stop the slow torture of another human being. His comeback for that was a nervous (or possibly uncomfortable) smile, and he replied “it was a different time and Jesus was the perfect sacrifice. He gave his life for you”.
The white bead symbolizes purity and the need to repent and ask for forgiveness. I mentioned to him that this is one of the big differences for us as Humanists. When we do wrong, we try to right those wrongs ourselves and ask for forgiveness from those we have wronged. It seems to me that asking for forgiveness from a supernatural God is the easy way out. To which our Christian potential stick-giver could only a muster a somewhat subdued “ahuh”.
Green symbolizes growing in Christ. I let him have this one; after all it was his booth and he had suffered enough. It didn’t escape Laura’s attention that the fella gave us our sticks and let us go before getting to the second card. The second card (shown at right, click to enlarge) is where he explains how and what to pray to ask Jesus to come into our hearts. This was a bummer, ‘cause I had all kinds of questions about prayer.
Maybe next year. – Pat Morrow
Check out our Gallery for photos of the Morden Outreach.
Book of the Month – The New Atheism: Taking a Stand for Science and Reason
Victor J. Stenger grew up in a Catholic working-class neighborhood in New Jersey. He earned a PhD in physics in 1963 and enjoyed a long and successful career in particle physics. He was also a long-time and well-known advocate of skepticism, philosophical naturalism, and atheism; a fierce critic of intelligent design and pseudoscience (even being once sued by Uri Geller for questioning Geller’s psychic powers); and a public speaker and debater, taking on apologists like John Lennox and William Lane Craig.
Stenger didn’t mince words in his criticism of religion. His statement about religion flying people into buildings is often quoted online. He argued that absence of evidence for God is, indeed, evidence of absence, when the evidence should be there and is not.
Stenger’s 2009 book The New Atheism is a well-argued defense of non-belief. He summarizes the main points made by the New Atheists (Dawkins, Harris, Hitchens, and Dennett), and offers up a few more arguments of his own. Along the way, Stenger also discusses his critics’ arguments — and offers excellent rebuttals to them. This book is an great primer for godless newbies; it’s not overly philosophical, and it provides easy-to-understand arguments to use if you’re ever in a religious debate.
Stenger died in 2014 at the age of 79. His soul doesn’t live on, but his written works continue to encourage others to take a stand for science and reason. The 2009 lecture based on this book at the time of its release is on YouTube.
Visit our library page if you would like to borrow this book.
Our informal weekend brunches are a great way to get to know your fellow Humanists. Here’s a photo of our September brunch in the cafe at Assiniboine Park.
Our next brunch will be on Sunday, October 22nd, but we haven’t chosen a location yet. We’ve been rotating locations around the city for variety, and so that the same people don’t always have to drive across town. Do you have a favorite place to suggest for a future brunch? Let us know.
Did You Miss the Evening with Richard Carrier?
We had a packed – almost ‘standing room only’ room for Dr. Carrier’s speech on the historicity of Jesus and the origins of Christianity. If you were unable to attend, you can now catch it on our YouTube channel.
Why is Religion Controlling Access to Medical Care?
You’ve probably heard and read about the situation at St Boniface Hospital in Winnipeg, where a Catholic-controlled board of directors was ‘stacked’ in order to vote down a proposal to allow Medical Assistance in Dying (MAID) on the premises. This is a serious concern, especially since St Boniface Hospital is only one of a number of ‘faith-based’ health care facilities in Manitoba and across Canada that are restricting access to legal services. So far, the provincial government has shown no inclination to step in. It’s time for the majority of Canadians who support MAID to speak up and demand that something change.
Important points about MAID
No health care worker is required to participate
In Manitoba, MAID is the responsibility of a specialized team of physicians, nurses, pharmacists, and social workers who travel from site to site carrying out interviews and examinations with patients who request an assisted death. They subsequently carry out the procedure on site. Health care workers in those facilities are not expected to participate in the assisted death of patients in their care. Indeed, they specifically have the right remove themselves from the area based on conscientious objection to the procedure. Individual people have rights – but buildings don’t. What faith-based institutions are doing is refusing to allow the procedure to take place on their premises – even if their own staff are not involved.
Patients cannot choose their hospital
In our publicly-funded health care system, patients frequently do not have the opportunity to choose the hospital in which they are treated. Many services are consolidated at certain sites and not offered at others – so even if a patient presents to the emergency room at the hospital of their choice, they could end up being transferred to another. Ambulances are directed to hospitals according to both service and bed availability, so in an emergency, the patient has no say whatsoever. This means that all publicly-funded hospitals must be able and willing to accommodate all patients.
This is not a criticism of the hospital or its staff
Neither HAAM nor anyone in the media is criticizing the staff or the care provided at St Boniface Hospital. The staff there are dedicated professionals who provide excellent care, and the majority of them support their patients’ right to make their own health care decisions. Indeed, several staff members have bravely spoken out publicly to advocate for their patients’ comfort and autonomy. The issue at stake is the control of hospital policy by a religious board of directors. There is no place for that in a public hospital, and the board should be removed.
Not happy with the current situation?
Speak up about it! Here’s a sample letter that you can use to make your views known. Copy and send as is, or edit and personalize it. Or phone instead if you wish, and use this letter for talking points.
Contact information follows at the end.
I’m writing you today as a concerned citizen regarding the issue of publicly-funded, faith-based hospitals denying tax-paying Canadians the right to Medical Assistance in Dying (MAID). I’m sure you agree that Canada has, is, and will continue to be defined as a Cultural Mosaic. This term represents what is at the very strength and heart of our nation – namely our diversity represented by people of many cultures and faiths, and increasingly those who choose no faith at all.
I am asking that you take action to ensure that this defining characteristic is not rendered meaningless and continually violated by the partisan agreement signed by the Manitoba government in 1996 allowing faith-based facilities to “maintain their respective mission, vision and culture” to the detriment of patient care. In this agreement, our government showed deference to one faith over others, and empowered the Catholic Health Corporation to supersede the right of choice for dying patients of all or no faiths, in clear violation of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
- Section 2(a) of the Charter grants: freedom of conscience and religion.
- Section 7 of the Charter grants: Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of the person and the right not to be deprived thereof except in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice.
- Section 12 of the Charter grants: Everyone has the right not to be subjected to any cruel and unusual treatment or punishment.
While the Charter guarantees the rights of individuals to religious freedom, it does not guarantee that right to publicly-funded institutions. By continuing to honor this agreement, the Manitoba government is allowing publicly-funded faith-based hospitals to violate the rights and freedoms of every qualifying patient who would choose to receive MAID, by denying them the liberty to make this end-of-life choice, and subjecting them to cruelty via prolonged suffering. I see nothing in the Charter, and quite the opposite, that gives the Catholic Health Corporation the right or authority to impose its religious views on Canadians, or to withhold services on that basis as a public entity, and in so doing, deny freedom of conscience to its patients.
I am asking that steps be taken by this government to enforce our Charter rights and revoke this agreement on those grounds. Further, I ask that steps be taken to make the regional health authorities responsible for the oversight of health care in the province so that all Manitobans have equal access to all health care options, regardless of their own religious or cultural affiliation or that espoused by the health care facility, in keeping with the non-partisan spirit of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. I am asking you to support the individual’s right of conscience in making end-of-life decisions that will preserve their dignity and prevent the cruelty of unnecessary suffering.
I look forward to hearing what you and your government are prepared to do to resolve what is an unconscionable state of affairs in our hospitals.
Manitoba premier Brian Pallister: firstname.lastname@example.org or 204-945-3714
Minister of Health, Kevin Goertzen: email@example.com or 204-945-3731
Since assisted dying falls under federal jurisdiction, contact the federal government as well.
Minister of Health Jane Philpott: Jane.Philpott@parl.gc.ca or 613-992-3640
Send a copy to your own MP: Find your MP here
St Boniface Hospital
And of course, don’t forget to tell St Boniface Hospital exactly what you think of their board’s shenanigans.
firstname.lastname@example.org or 204-237-2067
- Medical aid in dying becomes legal
- Perspective on the Canadian Museum for Human Rights
- New Outreach plans
- Summer reading suggestions
- and more…
In this issue:
- A Life Membership Presentation
- Conversations with Believers
- Outreach reports
- Update on medically assisted dying
- and more….
- Our Atheist Bible Study wraps up
- We Stand With Planned Parenthood
- Reactions to the Refugee Crisis
- and more…
- Updates on the stories we’ve been following on religion in our public institutions,
- Details about all our upcoming events (including speakers who will be appearing at our River City Reasonfest conference in September), and
- A link to view the presentation on the Ethics of Religion if you missed it at our May meeting.
April can bring daffodils or blizzards and just about everything in between! But don`t miss out on the latest news. In this month`s newsletter we get details on our April meeting, learn about a call to action here in Winnipeg regarding the Child Evangelism Fellowship in local schools, and learn which book we`re recommending this month.
We’re busier than a hive of bees this March. We’re got a book club, our regular monthly meeting, and a secular parenting group meeting.
So, don’t miss out on a single word!
- Our October meeting was chilling and spooky. (Member Heather M. in the picture to the right)
- What is the Faith response to Dying with Dignity? Find out in this month’s issue.
- Allan Gregg talks religion and reason at the U of W.
- Our November meeting focus is all about YOU!
- Find out what atheists do at book clubs and round tables…
Click below and read the November newsletter!
- Our buses are still roaming the city streets, but they won’t be around much longer! Find out who won a prize for the first picture submitted.
- A.C. Grayling was a hit with HAAM. Find out about his visit to Winnipeg.
- Learn more about what Arthur Schafer has to say on the topic of dying with dignity.
- And much more…
Go ahead! Click and read the October newsletter!
- Canadian Blood Services is on high alert – and donations are urgently needed. HAAM is part of the Partners for Life program. Find out how you can make your blood donation count.
- We’re doing it! Making our dream of a Winnipeg Atheist bus advertising campaign a reality!
- In September, Dying With Dignity is holding a special presentation.
Find out more in the August newsletter
At our May Meeting, we’re talking about some good news related to Climate Change! Come on out and hear Curt Hull from the Climate Change Connection.
Plus… why is Diana Goods spurning a declaration of love? Find out!
Image (r) Our panelists at our April Bill 18 Public Discussion. From l. to r., Chad Smith, Jeff Olsson, Sharon Wilson, Jim Rondeau and Donn Short.