Hnn | HNN Articles

Across the Miles: Communicating the Humanist Message in Canada

 

COLUMN By DOUG THOMAS

For HumanistNetworkNews.org
Oct. 7, 2009

There are two constants in getting any message to every Canadian: many languages and many kilometers. Anyone who wants to bring Canadians together is confronted at every turn by these realities and anyone who wants to be successful has to master them at least to some extent. Such is the task for any national humanist organization in Canada.

Officially, Canada has two languages, English and French. For the most part the English language dominates areas outside Québec and French is dominant within Québec. However, the population of New Brunswick is fifty percent French-speaking and there are significant pockets of Francophones throughout the country. Canada's first female governor-general, for example, was Madame Jeanne Sauvé, a Francophone from the heart of Saskatchewan, a five-hour flight from Québec.

Additionally, there are intense pockets of other languages as well. Our hazardous material labeling system includes clear symbols and a brief description of the danger in at least two languages on each label. For most of Canada those languages are English and French. In Toronto, there are two additional labeling protocols: English and Cantonese and English and Mandarin. If you want to access the Toronto Transit Commission information system, you can do so in one hundred and seven different languages.

The Northwest Territories - Yukon and Nunavut - have their own collection of Inuit languages, in addition to English and French. You may have figured out by now that there are several different alphabets involved as well.

Canada's size is difficult to communicate to outsiders. We are the second biggest country in the world geographically and have the longest coastline of any country. Our southernmost island is as far south as the northern part of California, Toronto is three degrees north of the French Riviera, and we go as far north as the North Pole.

Roughly thirty-three million people are scattered across this vast geography. They are not distributed evenly, by any stretch of the imagination. Someone described Canada's population as thirty million people huddled up against the American border for warmth. The corridor from Windsor, Ontario (the city directly south of Detroit) to Montréal is as densely populated as the Eastern seaboard of the United States. A few hundred kilometers north of that corridor is virtually empty territory.

As you can see, any national organization must learn to communicate through telephone, and via the Internet. That explains why Canada, the third nation in the world to have satellites in orbit, concentrated on communications satellites and why Canadians make more long distance calls per capita than anyone else in the world. That national organization must also learn to communicate in at least two official languages as well.

When one adds the challenges of communicating to freethinking humanists (something like organizing cats into a choir), one can appreciate the difficulty managing a national humanist organization. The result is that humanism in Canada exists in small pockets across the country with the major concentration in Ontario. To unite these pockets into a viable political-social unit will require flexibility and consistent efforts at communication.

 

 

 

Doug Thomas is an English teacher and novelist, an agnostic member of SOFREE (Society of Ontario Freethinkers), and an active member of the Humanist Association of Canada. He is also Managing Editor of Canadian Freethinker.

 

 

blog comments powered by Disqus

American Humanist Association

We're happy to welcome a new chapter, Washington DC, Atheists, Humanists and Agn...

20 hours ago

American Humanist Association

Check out some photos from yesterday's congressional briefing on humanist celebr...

22 hours ago

American Humanist Association

Our first congressional briefing was a success! The room was completely packed w...

1 days ago

American Humanist Association

Wonder Works Day Camp in Moscow, Idaho has begun! The first day was a huge succe...

1 days ago

American Humanist Association

The briefing on military chaplaincy has begun.

1 days ago

American Humanist Association

Today, the American Humanist Association will be hosting our first Congressional...

1 days ago

American Humanist Association

Thank You! Thank You! Thank You!

1 days ago

American Humanist Association

Here is a video from Harvard's Making Caring Common Project. 5 Ways to Raise M...

3 days ago

American Humanist Association

Why the Way We Live is More Important. Get TheHumanist.com by email once a week...

3 days ago

American Humanist Association

Hey, have a laugh! http://hmn.st/1sFRZ33 Get TheHumanist.com by email once a we...

3 days ago

American Humanist Association

No matter how right or how wrong, religion can not establish morality for the ma...

3 days ago

American Humanist Association

I have come across this many times. While this topic may not be important to all...

3 days ago

American Humanist Association

Jesus Cones! A new way to violate church-state separation, in Gwinnett County, G...

5 days ago

American Humanist Association

Well this is rad! AHA Board Member Herb Silverman is featured in this short (10...

6 days ago

American Humanist Association

It may seem silly, maybe even a blatant mockery, but if you really think about i...

6 days ago

American Humanist Association

Happy Birthday Nelson Mandela!

6 days ago

American Humanist Association

A Blessing in Disguise for Atheists? Check out AHA Legal Director David Niose's...

6 days ago

American Humanist Association

This is a very interesting interactive chart explaining bible contradictions, sh...

6 days ago

American Humanist Association

Have you seen the new FYI Network show Married At First Sight? Tell us what you...

7 days ago

American Humanist Association

The Vaccination Exception; God doesn't want me to receive vaccines... Luis Gran...

7 days ago

American Humanist Association

With Corporations becoming "people", they will obviously be exploring religion.....

7 days ago

American Humanist Association

An Invocation for Everyone: What the Secular Invocation in Greece, N.Y., Means f...

8 days ago

American Humanist Association

What religions make Americans feel all warm and fuzzy inside? Here is another re...

8 days ago

American Humanist Association

This is unacceptable! Check out the preview of Kidnapped for Christ. Check out t...

8 days ago