On Saturday 4th February 2017, an active local Atheist and Secularist speaker, Justin Trottier was due to debate on the topic of ‘Which Is a Better Standard of Morality?’ at the Mississauga Valley Community centre (Canada). About two weeks ago, Justin was contacted by the i3 Institute in Canada, to attend the event, and he readily accepted. Many people were looking forward to see a healthy engagement in a convivial, but robust intellectual discussion.
Justin Trottier’s Intolerant Right-Wing Leanings
As I was preparing for the debate, I discovered that Justin Trottier has frequently been hosted on Canadian far-right TV platforms, like the notorious right wing Canadian pundit Ezra Levant’s show ‘The Source’. Ezra Levant has made a number of comments ‘critical’ of the Muslim community in Canada, including on the show. However, more shockingly, Justin notably agreed with much of Ezra’s sentiments on his platforms, including agreeing with Mr Levant that ‘hijab is a political statement’ and therefore not the same as religious symbols, remarking they deserve different treatment from others religious symbols. See shows here , .
I’ve debated the far-right before, not to mention right-wing Secularists, so didn’t think there would be any problem. However, on the morning of the prospective debate, Justin Trottier sent a email to the organisers explaining he was not turning up to the debate citing the Quebec attack and consequent ‘security issues’ with Muslim venues. I wonder what would be said if someone accepted to attend an event involving Jewish attendees, then turned it down because of ‘security reasons’.
Justin used an excuse that he was concerned over the security of this event after the Quebec shootings. So is he saying he doesn’t want to be around Muslims in case we get shot at and he would become collateral damage? If so, hardly brave sentiments. I wonder what would be said if someone accepted to attend an event involving Jewish attendees, then turned it down because of ‘security‘ reasons.
Despite the fact that security would be arranged and with full promises and after a full one week after the horrific Quebec shootings, and knowing full well that we’d not be able to find a replacement speaker in time, he decided to cancel last minute.
Apparently this is not the first time a right-wing pundit in Canada has cancelled an event last minute with Muslims. Tarek Fateh (Canada’s version of Maajid Nawaz & Taj Hargey) also pulled out of a debate at the North American Muslim Foundation with Imam Shehreyar on the topic of ‘Secularism and Islam’ , .
What scares them about open and fair debate?
The Event’s Proceedings
Justin therefore didn’t honour his word to attend Saturday’s debate, and the event went on without him. In lieu of Justin’s contributions, the Q/A session was extended and audience members given a chance to respond and rebut the speaker’s answers, which led to a fantastic questions and answers session from a mixed audience of atheists/secularists, Muslims and agnostics.
Can Atheism Justify Morals When Inconvenient?
Whatever the reasons behind Justin’s cancellation and change of heart, it does illustrate one thing, when he saw that it was no longer convenient to keep his word, he broke it. Considering he speaks of Atheism/Secularism being able to provide ‘moral codes’ without God, I find Justin’s behaviour to be a more palpable argument against his position then anything I could ever say.
As John Locke, the intellectual founding father of Justin’s own ideology – Secular Liberalism, said:
‘Promises, covenants, and oaths, which are the bonds of human society, can have no hold upon an atheist. The taking away of God, though but even in thought, dissolves all’
[A Letter on Toleration, 1689]
It’s a shame Justin has not helped dispel the beliefs against Atheists that even his own ideology’s founder held.