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Sunday, March 11, 2007

Standing Room Only

 
It was standing room only at the opening of the first Centre for Inquiry in Canada. An attentive audience of more than 150 freethinkers, skeptics, atheists, and humanists listened to a dozen speakers bringing greetings and congratulations from every rationalist organization in Canada.

Unfortunately, Paul Kurtz, the founder of the Centers for Inquiry was unable to make it because he was resting up for open heart surgery next week. We were assured that it wasn't serious and he's expected to recover fully in about six weeks.

Among the speakers we heard from was Coralie D'Souza representing a student group at the University of Toronto. She has been active in many issues of concern to the atheist community, especially prayer before every university graduation ceremony. D'Souza announced that after months of negotiation the university has agreed to drop all prayers at convocation starting this June.

Elka Enola of the Oakville Humanist Community was able to report success in her negotiations with Oakville Hospital. (Oakville is just west of Toronto.) From now on patients who declare "no religion" when they are admitted will have access to non-religious counselors if they need help while they're in the hospital. The hospital will contact the Oakville Humanist Community for a list of suitable social workers and grief counselors.

Mark Robinson of the Clarington Durham Region Humanists presented Justin Trottier with a Centre for Inquiry plaque that he (Mark) made especially for the occasion. (See it in the photo at the bottom of the page.) Mark has been active in the attempt to stop prayers at Durham Region Council Meetings.

Henry Beissel congratulated the Centre for Inquiry on behalf of Secular Ontario. That's the Ontario group trying to stop reciting of the Lord's Prayer at city council meetings. I got a chance to meet James Alcock. He's a Professor of Psychology at York University, here in Toronto. Some you might know him because he's a Fellow and Member of Executive Council, Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP) and a member of the Editorial Board, The Skeptical Inquirer. He brought greetings from Skeptical Inquirer.

We all toasted the successful founding of the Centre for Inquiry. Fortunately, in spite of the huge turnout there was more than enough champagne to go around. There was also plenty of food served by efficient volunteers bustling in and out of the back kitchen. (I loved the little sandwiches.)

This is a wonderful achievement. The Centre for Inquiry brings together many diverse groups such as the Freethought Association and The Humanist Association. Other groups such as Skeptics Canada (that's my organization) will undoubtedly be working closely with the Centre for Inquiry in the future as indicated in an address by its President Eric McMillan.

Most of the Credit goes to Justin Trottier who chaired the celebration and received many accolades from the speakers. I was proud to have my photograph taken with him after the formal part of the celebration was concluded. (Justin is the young handsome one with the name tag.) Congratulations to Justin and all those who made this possible. I'm looking forward to visiting the centre often.

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