British Columbia

Believe it or not: Victoria proclaims Blasphemy Rights Day

Did you know blasphemy is still an offence in Canada? It's true, and that's why the B.C. Humanist Association asked Victoria City Council to declare Sept. 30 International Blasphemy Rights Day.

B.C. Humanist Association says still many countries where blasphemy a serious charge

Members of the British comedy team, Monty Python, during the filming of their controversial film The Life of Brian. The last time a person was believed to be charged with blasphemous libel in Canada was in 1980 over a screening of the film. (Getty Images)

Victoria City Council has declared Sept. 30 as 'International Blasphemy Rights Day' in the city.

In many countries, the right to disbelieve is not protected, and in some, religious apostasy can be met with punishment.

Ian Bushfield, executive director of the B.C. Humanist Association, asked council to approve the proclamation several months ago.

"It seems like a bit of a distant issue for us here in Canada, but then there are these real issues going on around the world," Bushfield told All Points West guest host David Lennam, citing countries such as Jordan and Ireland

"We also wanted to draw attention to the fact that Canada does have its own blasphemy laws."

It's true: Section 296 of the Criminal Code of Canada states, "Everyone who publishes a blasphemous libel is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years."

The law hasn't been used to lay a charge since 1980 over the Monty Python film Life of Brian, but Bushfield said it's troubling it's in the Criminal Code at all.

"We're hoping the federal government will repeal the law," he said.

"That repeal is more than cleaning up old elements: it's sending a message to these countries like Jordan and Ireland that blasphemy laws are not okay in the 21st Century."

International Blasphemy Rights Day in Victoria has been proclaimed for Sept. 30.

With files from CBC Radio One's All Points West

To hear the full story, click the audio labelled: Believe it or not: City of Victoria proclaims Blasphemy Day


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