Category Archives: civil rights

Overtime, Wages and Theft

civil rights, crapitalism, economics, ethics, law Leave a reply

I know a number of people here in Vancouver working in restaurants and bars, and the prevalence of unlawful behaviour is just astounding. Of course, I don’t mean the staff stealing from employers, but employers just stealing wholesale from the staff.

While BC has some fairly mediocre labour laws, it has labour laws that employers are obligated to abide by. Unfortunately, as the laws are civil in nature (rather than criminal), the enforcement of these laws falls on the shoulders of the employees: if the staff don’t report the breach to the Employment Standards Branch, then the company happily trundles on, stealing from the employees.

This isn’t theft, you say? Since the staff have implicitly agreed to this state of affairs, it’s no-one else’s business to intervene? I’m sure that it’s possible that you could be more wrong about this, but it’s not obvious how. Allow me to explain.

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Government Funding of Religious Schools

civil rights, culture, Education, politics, religion Leave a reply

In many parts of Canada (and, of course, other parts of the world), there are two systems of schooling in place: a secular system that does not explicitly endorse any particular religious faith (though can implicitly do so), and an explicitly religious system. In Canada, both of these are funded by the government, and it’s deeply problematic.

According to the Globe and Mail, proponents of the system believe that “(…) Catholic schools provide better education, structure and discipline than public ones (…)”, a claim which is certainly up for debate. In any case, religious schools typically have a list of requirements for both students and employees that go beyond the workplace, and impact their daily lives beyond school property. Many require that teachers be of a particular religion (in the case of Canada, it’s usually Catholic), or that they abstain from certain behaviours (mostly, unsurprisingly, focused on homosexuality). Others limit people who may speak at their schools, again largely denying access to people based on their sexual preferences.

Funding for schools that are religious is just simply wrong, one the grounds of discrimination, economics, and quality of education.

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Conscience Clauses and Religious Bigotry

civil rights, ethics, religion Leave a reply

There was an article written recently in The Telegraph, a British paper, discussing a statement by Lady Hale, the UK Supreme Court Deputy President, that there should be some sort of “conscience clause” put into law to protect religious folk who wish to exercise their beliefs, and not be at risk of losing their jobs over it. On the face of it, this seems like an entirely reasonable suggestion.

But, with a bit more analysis, it’s complete tripe.

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Lester B. Pearson School Board, Bastion of Small Thinking

civil rights, culture, Education, ethics, feminism Leave a reply

Montreal teen, Lindsey Stocker, was suspended from her school (Beaconsfield High School) for having an opinion. Her opinion was that the school (Beaconsfield High School) was policing the clothing of the girls of the school rather than policing the unacceptable behaviour of the boys in the school, and thus contributing to a culture whereby women and girls are held responsible for the behaviour of men and boys.

By suspending her for expressing her opinion, the buffons who operate Beaconsfield High School have exemplified her argument.

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Tenure, and the Bizarre Case of the University of Saskatchewan

civil rights, crapitalism, culture, Education, ethics Leave a reply

On May 14th, it hit the news that the University of Saskatchewan had done the unthinkable: they had fired a tenured professor for the crime of ‘having an opinion’. It’s worth noting here that the opinion wasn’t racist, mysogynist, called for the armed overthrow of the Canadian government, declared that the Moon People were our new overlords, or anything that could reasonably be considered ‘extreme’. Not in the slightest. Dr. Robert Buckingham, then executive director of the University of Saskatchewan’s School of Public Health, was fired for issuing a letter in which “he explained his issues with TransformUS, a restructuring plan at the university, and detailed efforts by the administration to ensure that senior leaders toe the institution’s line.”

Fortunately, a mere 7 days later, this was reported as being resolved, with the president of the University being fired instead, and the Dr. Buckingham having his tenure reinstated. Note that, according to the CBC article of May 21st, he had not been reinstated as the executive director of their School of Public Health.

While this may seem shocking to some, to those paying attention to what’s happening in the education systems world-wide this is merely an inevitability, and it’s not the end of the road by any means. This is merely the next step in the corporatisation of the University, that is that (world-wide) Universities are being turned into corporate entities with duties primarily to shareholders, not the general public.

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The Ethical Failing of the Law Society of British Columbia

civil rights, culture, Education, law, Philosophy of Law Leave a reply

Trinity Western University (TWU) is a University in British Columbia that explicitly holds certain Christian creeds at its foundation. In their own words, they hold a “Christ-centred approach to education”, whatever that means. They have been in the news recently as they’ve started a law school on their premises, and it has come to the attention of Canadians that this school forbids sexual intimacy (i.e. sex) between people who aren’t 1) married, and 2) of opposite sex (for the purposes of this essay I won’t be going the problems with a worldview that only recognises the existence of two sexes in a strict binary sense). It’s worth noting that their policy is not only homophobic, but it also impacts anyone who is heterosexual, in a relationship, but not married. But, of course, that second part is entirely minor, and (in practice) doesn’t discriminate against an entire class of already-oppressed people.

Various law societies around Canada have voted to determine if they will recognise the accreditation from TWU, and the response has been mixed. Nova Scotia’s law society, for example, has rightly agreed to accredit if and only if the school drops the discrimination against non-binary, non-heterosexual people. Ontario’s law society has simply refused to recognise the accreditation. Meanwhile, the Law Society of British Columbia has agreed to recognise this accreditation. Reviewing this opinion piece by Tony Wilson, a member who voted in favour of accepting the accreditation of TWU’s law school, should be instructive in understanding the ethical failings of a law degree.

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Unpaid Internships Need to Go

civil rights, economics, ethics, liberalism, philosophy, politics Leave a reply

As the job market becomes more and more competitive (i.e. there are more and more people in the world), people in the recruiting world seek quick and easy ways to distinguish candidates from one another. If you’ve got a stack of 500 resumes in front of you, and the bulk are simply people who have graduated from University, how do you even begin to create a short-list? You can’t (legally) discriminate on the basis of the candidates age, ethnicity, gender, or religion, so… what now?

As a candidate for a position, you want to present the best possible picture to a prospective employer. Getting a job while at school, however, isn’t really an option: the kinds of jobs that will allow part-time work that doesn’t interfere with your classes during the day are not really all that useful when applying for the kind of work that a university graduate has the education for.

The solution to both problems is: internships. And this is deeply problematic.

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Anti-Abortion Arguments, Including the Secular Ones, are Uninformed Drivel.

Atheism, civil rights, Conceits, culture, Education, ethics, feminism, freethought community, liberalism, philosophy, politics, science 32 Replies

I’ve had something of a writing block for the last month or so, so I’m thankful to Hemant Mehta over at Friendly Atheist for providing me with some fodder to dissect. I’ve always figured that there had to be some folk out there whose anti-abortion stance wasn’t built on a foundation of religion, as the latter simply isn’t logically necessary for the former. Plenty of people hold ignorant and poorly thought-out positions, appeals to god are simply gap fillers: people can also either fill in the gaps with a non-religious non-explanation, or just ignore them.

Such is the case in the guest post by Kristine Kruszelnicki, titled “Yes, There Are Pro-Life Atheists Out There. Here’s Why I’m One of Them“. An alternative title would be “I’m unaware of how shallow my arguments are, but here they are anyway”. That is, perhaps, unfair: it’s possible that Kruszelnicki is aware of how shallow these arguments are, but she claims that they are compelling….

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Integrity: Something Catholic Schools *Shouldn’t* Teach?

Atheism, civil rights, culture, Education, ethics, religion Leave a reply

Sometimes, I read something that’s really quite awesome, like a bunch of High School kids protesting against the firing of the Assistant Principal of their school. Why was he fired? Because he was gay. I think that it’s a credit to those kids that they felt they should stand up against an injustice and a credit to the school for instilling a sense of civic responsibility and ethics into their students.

However, some incredibly ignorant folk (like Rebecca Hamilton, 18-year member of the Oklahoma House of Representatives) believe that the job of a Catholic School is to raise mindless drones. In her own words:

It also points to a failed Catholic school. Based on the behavior of its students, this school appears to have failed in what most people think is the real mission of a Catholic school, which is raising up young people who can stand for the faith.

Huh…

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Equality of Outcome

civil rights, crapitalism, culture, economics, ethics Leave a reply

One of the tensions in the economic arguments about the world is whether we should focus on equality of outcome, or equality of opportunity.  The short version of each reads as follows:

Equality of Outcome:

It describes a state in which people have approximately the same material wealth or in which the general economic conditions of their lives are similar. Achieving equal results generally entails reducing or eliminating material inequalities between individuals or households in a society, and usually involves a transfer of income or wealth from wealthier to poorer individuals, or adopting other measures to promote equality of condition. [From the wiki]

Equality of Opportunity:

The aim according to this often complex and contested concept[2] is that important jobs should go to those “most qualified” – persons most likely to perform ably in a given task – and not go to persons for arbitrary or irrelevant reasons, such as circumstances of birth, upbringing, friendship ties to whoever is in power,[3] religion, sex,[4] ethnicity,[4] race, caste,[5] or involuntary personal attributes such as disability, age, or sexual orientation.[5][6] Chances for advancement should be open to everybody interested[7] such that they have “an equal chance to compete within the framework of goals and the structure of rules established.  [From the wiki]

The claim that they are in tension is almost uniformly submitted by people who self-identify as Conservatives (in the American political sense), and that we should favour Equality of Opportunity over Equality of Outcome because the latter is Communism and therefore bad.

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