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

Responding to reporters this morning as the AHA's latest case gets national atte...

1 days ago

American Humanist Association

Lots of press coverage this morning on our New Jersey lawsuit challenging 'under...

1 days ago

American Humanist Association

Happy Earth Day Everyone! Be kind to your Earth. It's where you live!

1 days ago

American Humanist Association

Congratulations to Ventura County, California for now officially recognizing May...

1 days ago

American Humanist Association

Taken from a 1940's Justice Society Of America comic before "Under God" was adde...

1 days ago

American Humanist Association

The American Humanist Association has filed lawsuit against “Under God” in the P...

1 days ago

American Humanist Association

The 2014 American Atheists Conference was awesome! Check out pictures of the Ame...

2 days ago

American Humanist Association

Happy Friday Everyone!

5 days ago

American Humanist Association

Humanist Poll! http://thehumanist.com/arts_entertainment/culture/your-humanist-...

5 days ago

American Humanist Association

Announcing our 2014 AHA Annual Conference Keynote Speaker, Professor Max Tegmark...

5 days ago

American Humanist Association

Have you had this problem? The Ethical Dilemma: My Son Sends Me E-Mails Signed...

5 days ago

American Humanist Association

Hurry! Going to the AHA annual conference in Philly? May 5th is the last day to...

5 days ago

American Humanist Association

Rules Are for Schmucks: Darwin Award Nominee by Luis Granados. http://thehumani...

5 days ago

American Humanist Association

The Cartoon History of Humanism Episode Three: The Archpoet, 12th-Century Gang...

6 days ago

American Humanist Association

Throwback Thursday! The January/February, 1989 issue of the Humanist magazine...

6 days ago

American Humanist Association

This is creepy... http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2014/04/17/toddl...

6 days ago

American Humanist Association

Check out what the AHA staff is watching! http://thehumanist.com/arts_entertain...

6 days ago

American Humanist Association

Here's another installment of Carl Coon’s ongoing “A Short History of Evolution”...

7 days ago

American Humanist Association

Five Non-Magic Words: “How Can I Help You?” Advancing the Humanist Chaplaincy h...

7 days ago

American Humanist Association

On this day in 1862, President Abraham Lincoln signed the District of Columbia C...

7 days ago

American Humanist Association

We're happy to welcome a new affiliate, Deltona Humanist, to the American Humani...

7 days ago

American Humanist Association

Idaho Humanists, check out this Summer Day Camp for Kids! For more information...

8 days ago

American Humanist Association

Check out Executive Director Roy Speckhardt's new Huffpost article, Pandora's Bo...

8 days ago

American Humanist Association

Freedom from Religion in Kazakhstan: An Interview with Atheist Blogger Aleksand...

8 days ago

American Humanist Association

Today is A. Philip Randolph's 125th birthday. He was the American Humanist Assoc...

8 days ago