What’s Happening with CFI Canada?

CFI Canada has branches and paid staffers in several cities and they’ve had quite a bit of media attention as the result of a couple ad campaigns, but the organization looks like it’s in chaos right now.

The former National Director Justin Trottier was fired by the Board of Directors months ago. His replacement Derek Pert resigned last week because he felt he wasn’t getting the support (PDF) from the board that he needed. The group is hemorrhaging money and donors are fleeing.

Larry Moran has a far more detailed summary (with links).

I don’t know much about the Board of Directors even though I’m a CFI Canada Advisory Fellow. This could be because I haven’t been paying attention but I don’t think I’m entirely to blame for the lack of information; for example, if you check out the CFI website you’ll see that it’s hopelessly out-of-date. There’s nothing on the website to indicate that the organization is in (possibly fatal) turmoil.

A meeting with the Board of Directors has been scheduled for December 11, 2011. I don’t know where this meeting is going to be held and I don’t know who can attend. This is typical of CFI Canada. Nobody ever knows what’s going on.

If, as I suspect, this is an open meeting, then it’s a good time to challenge the current directors and try to get some new directors who can fix the problems at CFI Canada. Otherwise, I fear it is doomed to death by suicide.

Jacob Fortin, Zak Fiddes, and Ian Bushfield add more to the story.

I don’t have all the details here, but I would urge anyone in Canada who cares about the organization and who believes it needs to be salvaged to take an active role in getting to the bottom of what’s going on and attempt to steer the ship straight.

No matter what drama is going on behind the scenes, it’d be a shame to see such a large skeptical organization slip away because a handful of people can’t get their act together.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the chair of Foundation Beyond Belief and a high school math teacher in the suburbs of Chicago. He began writing the Friendly Atheist blog in 2006. His latest book is called The Young Atheist's Survival Guide.

  • Ian Bushfield

    I wrote the long and detailed Canadian Atheist article, not Zak.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/ Hemant Mehta

      Whoops! Fixed now.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Paul-Pilon/707816274 Paul Pilon

    I recently joined CFI Canada, and I was surprised at the lack of activity.  The local CFI group has a book club and the occasional pub-meeting.  Where is the lobbying?  Where is the activism?  If I just wanted to be an atheist and critical thinker, I can do that on my own.  If I want to have a really positive impact on my community, I need to join with like-minded people.  I thought CFI would be that group.

    • Anonymous

      I’ll say one thing, they send out an awful lot of emails detailing upcoming events/lectures, etc………though, given the cities they’re in, I could never attend anyway.  I’d say that I get an email from CFI about upcoming events every couple of days ~ but I’d like to see them gain more visibility outside of atheist/freethinker groups.

    • http://twitter.com/xinit0 Richard Murray

      I’m not sure where you are located, but there are committees that handle that sort of thing – CASS is the one that I’m aware of that’s working on some aspects of the lobbying and activism. Physical meetings in Toronto with Skype availability for others.

      http://www.cficanada.ca/ontario/events/skepticism_advocacy_committee_meeting/

  • Anonymous

    If Justin Trottier is a misogynist, I say good riddance. Hopefully the Board can move forward in a productive manner.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/ Hemant Mehta

      What’s the evidence for that?

      • Anonymous

        From Ian’s post:

        Justin was running a blog called Equalism Activism, on which he mixed his work for CFI Canada with his sometimes anti-feminist statements. I wrote a criticism of CFI Canada and Justin (who I jokingly called the Archbishop of Atheism in Canada) at the time and referenced a few of his controversial statements, including a public complaint that a female vice-president
        was interviewed instead of a male spokesperson.

        • Anonymous

          I haven’t read much about Justin himself, but I do strongly disagree with your suggestion that any white person, straight person, man, or Christian who talks about their group is saying that they persecuted. Double standards and stereotypes do affect the minority groups the most, but they can affect majority groups as well and people of those groups should be allowed to speak out just as much as everyone else. The goal is equality and that is true in all cases, not just the ones where the minority is disadvantaged.

          • Anonymous

            I do strongly disagree with your suggestion that any white person,
            straight person, man, or Christian who talks about their group is saying
            that they persecuted.

            I didn’t say this. I didn’t even suggest this. What I’m suggesting is that if a person claims whites are being persecuted and goes so far as to self-identify as a “white rights activist”, that suggests to me that their being a racist bigot is more likely than not.

            I agree that patriarchal stereotypes and discrimination harm men as well. And men should speak up about it and try to change it. Men can be feminists too. Just like white people can fight for racial equality, and straight people can fight for queer acceptance. Pretending that we live in a world without privilege does nothing to promote true equality for either gender.

            • Anonymous

              So you think if Justin had refused the MRA label (and I don’t see any immediate evidence that he ever took that label), explained at the beginning of every post that he understood that women faced more discrimination than men, but that he felt that he had an example of negative stereotypes that affected men, and gave evidence to support it, that he would be better received by the feminists in Atheism?

              From my short glance over Justin’s site, it seems that the only thing he didn’t do was remind his readers at the beginning of every post that women faced more discrimination than men. If he had done that and then continued talking about the same issues, do you think that he would be more accepted by the feminists in atheism?

    • Anonymous

      What is this about Justin Trottier being a misogynist??

      This is the first time I’ve ever heard such an accusation ~ where is it coming from?

      I’ve seen Trottier on many, many panel discussion shows and he’s never been less than intelligent, articulate and respectful.

  • Anonymous

    I don’t know what this organization is or what it does. They are doing something wrong to be sure.

  • Michel Virard

    For too long, CFI Canada was a one man show. Justin did about everything and probably burnt himself doing so. Deeper than this is the reluctance of many Canadian humanists-atheists to join an organisation that is remotly controlled by wealthy US citizens even if the money is tempting. The split between the American Humanist Association and Paul Kurtz (CFI) has a parallel North of the border.  Although humanists come from many different backgrounds, they often have a common thread regarding how a humanist organisation should be run: as democratically as possible. That means all members elect an all volunteer board, one (wo)man-one vote  and decide how to spent the donations. Then it will be possible to recruit other volunteers with a sense of belonging, a sense of equality, not a sense of being “used” for someone else glory.  

    In Canada there are dozens of Humanist organisations run that way. In English speaking Canada the largest one is a pan-Canada organisation called Humanist-Canada (http://humanistcanada.ca/)  and in the French speaking Quebec, there is the Association humaniste du Québec (http://assohum.org/). Both are completely democratic associations. They are quite active and in fact both are jointly preparing the IHEU World congress in Montreal, in August 2012. You can also join a local Humanist group, many are affiliated with Humanist Canada.

  • Ivan Ferguson

    Hi, I’m a volunteer at CFI Ontario, and I feel that the information gap between volunteers and the board is almost as wide as between them and the general public.  I’ve been called a key volunteer, and a stakeholder and I still don’t feel like I have many answers. I’m going in where the meetings are being held today with the intention hovering around during breaks in the vague hope of soaking up some information, I’d like to see my own organization make some sort of attempt to be a more open community.


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