The 2010 Canadian Atheist Bus Campaign running in British Columbia is a project of Centre for Inquiry Canada which promotes and advances reason, science, secularism and freedom of inquiry in all areas of human endeavour. Click HERE to donate directly to this campaign in BC. Your donation will have a direct impact on how long and on how many buses this campaign will be run.
The Centre for Inquiry Canada‘s Extraordinary Claims Campaign will feature bus ads, educational events and online discussions to challenge well-known and widely believed claims by demanding evidence as extraordinary as the claims themselves.
Why is belief in Bigfoot dismissed as delusional while belief in Allah and Christ is respected and revered? All of these claims are equally extraordinary and demand critical examination.
At CFI Canada we challenge ideas and ask tough questions to promote reason, science, secularism and freedom of inquiry.
Pending adequate financial support from individuals like yourself, we intend to run the two ads featured on this page on public transit:
A few months ago, you may recall that our ad was rejected by Metro Transit in Halifax due to its supposed controversial nature. You may also recall that a case was put forward under the Supreme Court of Canada with regards to British Columbia transit officials refusing to carry political messages on the side of their buses, and that this would be a guiding case for our atheist ads.
British Columbia transit officials were on the wrong side of the Charter when they refused to carry messages on the sides of their buses aimed at provincial voters, the country’s top court said today.
The Supreme Court of Canada struck down transit policies banning all political ads, saying they violate rights to free speech.
“Like a city street, a city bus is a public place where individuals can openly interact with each other and their surroundings,” wrote Justice Marie Deschamps in the 8-0 ruling.
All nine judges heard the case in March 2008 but Justice Michel Bastarache has since retired.
“I do not see any aspect of the location that suggests that expression within it would undermine the values underlying free expression,” Deschamps wrote. “On the contrary, the space allows for expression by a broad range of speakers to a large public audience.
“I therefore conclude that the side of a bus is a location where expressive activity is protected by … the Charter.”
The judgment was being watched by cities across Canada that have so far rejected atheist bus banners declaring: “There’s probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.”
The ruling protecting political ads will be viewed as a boon to those hoping to buy bus space for their atheist message. (To continue reading, click here) – Toronto Star
This is great news for free speech but also great news for our atheist ad. Metro transit informed us months ago that they would revise their policy on advertising what some may deem ‘controversial’, if the courts ruled in favour of the Canadian Federation of Students. We are hopeful that Metro Transit will make good on their stated intentions and reconsider our proposed advertisements with as little additional delay as possible.
More news to be posted as it becomes available, in the mean time you can sign up on our discussion board and start talking with other atheists at http://atheistdiscussion.com. Atheist Discussion began with the Canadian Atheist Bus Campaign and is now the home discussion board for both the Canadian and also Indiana Atheist Bus Campaign.
*UPDATE* – July 11, 2:30pm. It appears that Metro Transit will accept our ad according to TheChronicalHerold.ca
A Supreme Court of Canada decision on freedom of speech in bus advertising means Metro Transit will run atheist ads from a national organization.
[…] “Yes, when they apply, they can . . . purchase the ads.” [said Lori Patterson] (Full article, click here)
On Monday we will be applying. Stay tuned for more details.
As you probably know we’ve had a rollercoaster ride in the nation’s capital, being refused access to buses by the Ottawa transit, then having that challenged to the Ottawa transit committee which ended in a split vote meaning the original decision was sustained. But this was then further challenged by Ottawa city councillor Alex Cullen to the Ottawa city council where it was overturned. To make a long story short, our ads went up on Ottawa buses last week, accompanied by the following media release:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact:
416-402-8856 (Justin Trottier)
613-592-3609 (Seanna Watson)
Web site: http://atheistbus.ca
Atheist bus campaign rolls into Ottawa
Toronto, ON. (April 13, 2009)―There’s probably no god. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life. The atheist ads are now up on buses in Ottawa.
“The campaign has overcome a few hurdles,” said Justin Trottier, President of the Freethought Association. “A long bus drivers’ strike followed by refusal by OC Transpo and city of Ottawa Transit committee.” In March, those decisions were overturned by a vote of Ottawa City Council.
These ads are an invitation to begin dialogue, discussion, and demonstrate the principles of freedom of expression and religion that apply equally to non-believers and people of all faiths.
Visit the Campaign at http://atheistbus.ca for more information.
The Humanist Association of Ottawa (http://ottawa.humanists.net/) has been promoting secular humanism in the nation’s capital for over 40 years.
April 1st: Well folks, it looks like we were wrong. There really is a God after all, or at least some ‘thing’ up there that heals and answers prayers. Young Angie O’Plasty was a documented amputee after a freak airplane accident that left her two legs less. Keyword being ‘was’ an amputee because yesterday morning she woke up to a very pleasant surprise, an itchy toe. Angie had miraculously discovered she had two full legs again.
“The night before we held a prayer service at our church and we all laid hands on Angie, we asked that God would show mercy on our child and heal her to finally prove that he really is a merciful and loving God” said Angie’s mother.
Young Angie lost her legs back in 2004 after a very bizarre incident that took place aboard a Boeing 747 heading from New York to Calgary. “She went to the on-board washroom during the flight and saw a bug crawling across the floor. Out of fright Angie jumped onto the toilet seat… and unfortunately slipped with both legs plunging into the toilet bowl. When she tried to pull her legs out, she couldn’t and by the time we landed it was too late, the circulation in both legs had been cut off for too long- both legs had to be amputated below her knee caps” explains Angie’s father.
We’ve tried contacting the owner of whywontgodhealamputees.com to get his response but thus far have been unsuccessful. There have been unconfirmed sightings that the website owner has finally left his mothers basement and is spending the day in a synagogue.
We’ve also noticed YouTube parodies popping up that seem to mock our atheist bus campaign now that scientists have confirmed Ms. O’Plasty’s miraculous healing. A parody has been created based on the widely used “Der Untergang” movie which in the past has been used to parody other events such as the Grand Theft Auto 4 Release on PC. See video to the right for clip about our campaign.
It is not known what will be the next move of the bus campaign now that young Angie O’Plasty’s legs have been healed by God but we are exploring our options. It was proposed that we use the money to spread the news about this incident but no decisions have been made on what do with the remaining donations.
Little Angie wanted to send a message to all our website viewers and we agreed to pass it along, she said “Happy April 1st everybody… don’t be fooled!”
Hey everyone, here is an update on where we’re at with the Canadian Atheist Bus Campaign, what’s coming up, and some news about a Calgary counter advert campaign.
Ottawa Atheist Bus Ads:
We’ve signed a contract and our production artwork has been submitted, the ads are scheduled to be posted on April 6th. There will be 24 King Size bus ads (the big ones on the sides of buses).
Next Step in Advertising:
We have a little bit of money left to advertise with, those who have any suggestions on the best way to spend it please post in the comments. I personally would like to either advertise quotes on the interiors of buses and subways or put a poster up on Dundas Square as seen in the mock-up picture I created to the right. Dundas Square has always seen religious groups advertising through word-of-mouth and fliers and just yesterday I saw a group attempting to convert passerby’ers to Islam. Maybe it’s time to spread a little bit of atheist love.
I also wanted to propose an idea similar to that of which the bus stop bible studies is already doing. During the CFI Ontario Annual General Meeting I proposed that we should be advertising educational quotes sponsored by donors. We would have a list of proposed quotes to advertise and donors would send us money for the advertisement and we’d handle the production and posting. We would also give the donor a choice to have his or her name listed on the advertisement as the sponsor. If you want to share your suggestions about this idea, please comment below.
Allah vs. God, What’s the Difference?
I’ve received at least a dozen emails asking why we are apparently picking on Christians with our advertisement (we aren’t picking on Christians btw), they would like us to advertise a message that opposes the Muslim and Islamic religion. So to anyone reading this and wondering why we don’t say ‘Allah’, here is the answer. Allah means God. Taken from godallah.com, “The word “Allah” is the perfect description of the “One God” of monotheism for Jews, Christians and Muslims“. From dictionary.com, “–noun Islam. the Supreme Being; God“. When we mention ‘God’ we are referring to all monotheistic and polytheistic gods of every religion. That’s probably why Imam Syed B. Soharwardy, a Muslim, has recently used $12,000 of credit with his own personal credit card to purchase and produce 8 advertisements for the sides of Calgary’s city transit buses.
Imam Syed Soharwardy Buys $12,000 of Ad Space With Personal Credit.
In Calgary a group titled “God Exists” has started advertising a message that says “God cares for everyone…. even those who say he doesn’t exist”. The ads were paid for by Imam Soharwardy with his own personal credit card.
According to CBC, Soharwardy has said “The message they are saying is that believing in God creates worries, that it takes away joy from people’s life, which is wrong. It is not true,” and that “Believing in God brings strength, especially in this economic crisis when millions of people face losing their jobs.”
To add a little bit of my own commentary as a response, I would say that believing in god ‘takes strength’ rather than ‘brings strength’ because it is always harder to believe in something/someone that doesn’t exist. And rather than clasping our hands in prayer during this time of economic crisis, we should be lending eachother a helping hand and doing what we can to help our follow man/woman out.
Soharwardy has it wrong when he said that beliving in god doesn’t create worries. I’ll share with you a personal anecdote from my childhood when my friend and I went to see a church play. When I was 11 years old and at the time a Pentecostal Christian, the church I attended allowed a travelling Christian show to perform. The title of the performance was “Heaven’s Gates and Hells Flames”. The play was about various people of Christian faith and non believers- it showcased the last minutes of their lives. After each person died they appeared at the gates of heaven. Those who believed in the Christian God and Jesus were permitted to enter heaven and those who weren’t were dragged into hell after a group of demons and ‘Lucifer’ appeared. There was loud music, demonic voices, and sound effects used that were accompanied by lighting and fog machines to try and amplify the experience of hell. After my friend watched this, he told my family that he ‘gave his heart to Jesus twice’ just to be safe because he was so scared that he would go to hell. Looking back at this I feel great sadness for any child that is subjected to such mental torture and abuse. The fact is that religion does bring fear and worry into many peoples lives and so Sohwardy is wrong. I can’t imagine why anyone would want God to exist after reading the bible or the Qur’an (visit evilbible.com to see what I’m talking about).
The Atheist Bus Campaign has been spreading like wildfire ever since it’s arrival in the United Kingdom. Below is a list of campaigns around the world for those interested in following their developments (list borrowed from the UK Campaign):
United Kingdom Campaign– where it all began, the original Atheist Bus Campaign with buses in dozens of cities across the UK.
Bus Kampagne / Germany – the campaign to put buses on the streets in Germany (Köln, München, Berlin) is now online. Site visitors can choose their slogan and make online donations. Berlin and München transport authorities do not want the ads it seems, but the guys are determined to find alternatives.
Atheist Bus / Switzerland (DE | FR | IT) – local bus firms are resisting the advertisements, but this might also result in bans on religious advertising. Paypal donations are possible.
Atheist trams / Croatia – ads appeared for 1 day on trams in Zagreb but were removed after complaints. Freedom of speech in a formerly communist country? News in Croatian here, Google translation from Slovenian here.
Campagna Bus / Italy – despite some legal issues with the bus company the campaign continues in Italy, with €30000 raised so far.
Bus ateo / Spain – buses in Madrid, Barcelona, Malaga with slogans in Spanish and Catalan.
We are working closely with the advertising agency that manages OC Transpo’s ad space. Within the next couple of days our contract should be finalized. If all goes well, Ottawa will be seeing our pretty pink, red, and orange banners next week.
Below is a video that discusses the dispute with Ottawa City Council, OC Transpo, and our advertisement disapproval and then approval. The interview is with David Burton, the Director of Humanist Association of Ottawa.
The song below is at the end of the video above. It is by Paul LeClair and was created as part of the protest against the OC Transpo’s attempt to censor our ad. To listen to the full version please visit his website.
Despite receiving some opposition from various Councilors at Ottawa City Hall to delay the vote, our advertisement today received approval! Councilor Cullen made a very good case to support our advertisement and the city’s legal council had informed him that if we challenged their decision through the courts, they most definitely would have lost and wasted tax payers money with needless legal costs. Councilor Cullen, I applaud your great effort and I think you did an excellent job.
But even in our success I have to say that I am a little disappointed by the reaction of a few Ottawa councilors. Some of them didn’t seem to understand how hypocritical OC Transpo’s response to deny our ad really was. The few that opposed our ad kept citing that religious advertisements were permitted only “[…]if the information is designed to promote a specific meeting, gathering or event and the location, date and time of said event”. Contrast this policy to their approval of the Anglican Church, United Church of Canada, Alpha Course, and Bus Stop Bible Study ads that did not advertise a meeting, gathering, or event but rather some type of religious doctrine or school of thought.
Councilor Bob Monette mentioned that our ad was created to be funny, implying that we are running some sort of media stunt or joke. Let me tell you that this is not a media stunt, advertising a message that doesn’t agree with mainstream religion doesn’t warrant such a claim to say we are trying to be “funny”. We think it is very serious that people try to impose their beliefs on others without any credible evidence to support their claims, and it is even more serious that they try to impose their beliefs on children before a child can develop and become their own person and formulate their own world view. Somehow religion can make extreme and extraordinary claims, preach all sorts of ideologies, quote a book and claim it is true in its entirety and that people should live by it despite its scriptures of racism, hate, sexism, and murder and still these groups remain tax exempt. This is not funny, and it is not funny asking people not to worry about that, put it all aside, and just go ahead and enjoy their lives.
Today (March 11th) the Ottawa City Council will vote on a motion to approve our ads. If all goes well, we could be seeing bright pink, orange, and red “probably no god” banners on Ottawa city buses very soon. If you want to tune in from your computer and watch the council vote, visit http://www.ottawa.ca/city_hall/events/plug_in_council_en.html. The webcast begins at 10:00am.
Humanist Association of Ottawa has also organized a protest that is set to take place this morning, those attending are asked to show up by 9:15am at the Lisgar Street Entrance of City Hall (click here for google map). The protest will take place right outside the council chamber.
Last month we were all a little shocked to hear that OC Transpo had rejected our ad; most of us thought it surely would’ve been approved considering Ottawa’s history of religious advertisement acceptance. Pattison Outdoors was also a little surprised- they had been predicting approval. The response from Marianne Wilkinson (Councilor of Ward 4 in the City of Ottawa) was confusing and contradicting to say the least. In her template letter that she used to respond to the majority of incoming emails asking for her reconsideration, she stated:
“[…]this policy include principles in the Canadian Code of Advertising Standards which includes as unacceptable “demean, denigrate or disparage any identifiable person, group of persons, firm, organization, industrial or commercial activity, profession, product or service or attempt to bring it or them into public contempt or ridicule”. It also condones any form of discrimination based on religion.”
Perhaps Ms. Wilkinson hasn’t realized that 1) our advertisement has been approved in Toronto and Calgary and 2) both cities we were approved in are also subject to the Canadian Code of Advertising Standards. I also certainly hope she meant to say condemn rather than condone. In her template letter she also said:
Even more direct is article 5 of the OC Transpo Ad Guidelines which states that religious advertising is not permitted “which promotes a specific ideology, ethic, point of view, policy or action, which in the opinion of the City might be deemed prejudicial to other religious groups or offensive to users of the transit system”. It then goes on to state that “Religious advertising will be permitted if the information is designed to promote a specific meeting, gathering ore event and the location, date and time of said event.”
This is odd because many Ottawa residents have seen several religious ad campaigns in recent years, such as the Anglican church’s “cometochurch.ca” campaign, United Church’s “wondercafe” ads, and the Alpha Course campaign. And all campaigns had a few commonalities: 1) they advertised a religious message, 2) none of them contained a location, date, and time for some sort of religious event. Furthermore, the Bus Stop Bible Study ads were approved by OC Transpo – some of which could be viewed as extremely offensive. For example, “What does the LORD your God require of you? He requires you to fear him, to live according to his will, to love him and worship him with all your heart and soul[…]”… apparently they’ll approve the message of a narcissist and megalomaniac but not ours.
Fortunately for us, not all of the members at Ottawa City Council bend the rules to benefit their own religious affiliation. There are some that truly believe in fairness for all rather than double standards, and it is those elected councilors that deserve the respect of the city because they’ve been able to do their jobs properly. Hopefully tomorrow OC Transpo’s double standard against our ad will draw to a close.
On another note, our advertisement in Calgary started running this past weekend. Six more ads are now making their way around on the sides of Calgary’s buses to let people know there’s probably no god.
WHEREAS the Free Thought Association of Canada is running an advertisement campaign on public transit buses that states “There’s Probably No God. Now Stop Worrying And Enjoy Your Life”; and,
WHEREAS these ads are running on buses in Toronto and Calgary, but have been rejected by OC Transpo based on their interpretation of their policy that this message “might be deemed prejudicial to other religious groups or offensive to users of the transit system”; and,
WHEREAS the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms states: “2. Everyone has the following fundamental freedoms:
(a)freedom of conscience and religion;
(b)freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication;” and,
WHEREAS these fundamental freedoms can be “subject only to such reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society” (Section 1 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms); and,
WHEREAS the Supreme Court of Canada, in interpreting the application of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, has ruled that a public transit company, city or municipality cannot impose a blanket ban on religious (or political) advertising (Canadian Federation of Students vs. Greater Vancouver Transportation Authority); and,
WHEREAS the Supreme Court of Canada, in interpreting the application of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, has ruled that no individual has a right not to be offended, in particular: “The key is that people will disagree about important issues, and such disagreement, where it does not imperil community living, must be capable of being accommodated at the core of a modern pluralism. People are free to disagree with our beliefs as they wish.” (Chamberlain vs. Surrey School District No. 36); and,
WHEREAS the Canadian Human Rights Commission has stated: “The essence of the concept of the freedom of religion is: the right to declare religious beliefs openly and without fear of hindrance or reprisal; and the right to manifest religious belief by worship and practice or by teaching and dissemination.”; and,
WHEREAS the Canadian Code of Advertising Standards, in Section 14 – Unacceptable Depictions and Portrayals, states: “It is recognized that advertisements may be distasteful without necessarily conflicting with the provisions of this Clause (14); and the fact that a particular product or service may be offensive to some people is not sufficient grounds for objecting to an advertisement for that product or service.” ;
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that OC Transpo be directed to accept the ads proposed by the Free Thought Association of Canada (subject to the usual charges).