Saturday, June 28, 2014

“Not Our Problem”: An Open Letter to the Canadian and Dominican Governments

This letter may be republished in its totality without prior consent.


The Government of Canada c/o
Stephen Harper, Prime Minister
John Baird, Foreign Affairs Minister
Bob Paulson, RCMP Commissioner
Peter MacKay, Attorney General

The Government of Dominica c/o
Roosevelt Skerrit, Prime Minister and Foreign Affairs Minister
Evelina Baptiste, Director of Public Prosecutions


Dennis Augustine

I am writing today to call upon the governments of Canada and Dominica to honor their roles as guardians of justice and the lives of their citizens by bringing my sister, Canadian Citizen, Sarah Lynn Augustine, to stand trial for the September 16, 2010 murder of her two children, Canadian Citizens, Rachael Vigilant Augustine (five years old) and Sophia Vigilant Augustine (two months old) in Mahaut, Dominica.

Sarah was arrested for these crimes in Dominica in 2010.  At the time she was suicidal and showed signs of having experienced a postpartum psychotic episode.  Recognizing how ill Sarah was, the former DPP of Dominica was keen to see her repatriated to Canada for treatment since it soon became apparent that Dominica was ill-equipped to treat her but wanted some assurance that she would in-fact be treated in Canada and eventually returned when she was fit enough to stand trial.

My family worked tirelessly to try to make that happen.  We thought that surely the Canadian and Dominican governments would work something out but Foreign Affairs on both sides indicated that they could do nothing since there was no extradition treaty between the two countries.  My attempts to involve the Canadian Attorney General and the RCMP similarly fell on deaf ears. “These crimes happened in another country. It’s not our jurisdiction” they said. I was in shock. I explained that the murderer and the victims were all Canadian citizens. How could it be that a Canadian could murder others and Canadians could be murdered in a foreign country and the Canadian government was not interested?

When it became evident that no deal would be brokered the Dominican DPP simply discontinued Sarah’s trial and released her into my hands to be repatriated and treated in Canada.  While we were glad that Sarah would be treated (I doubt she would have lived much longer had she stayed in prison in Dominica given her condition) we were not pleased that upon arrival in Canada she would have no official restrictions placed on her whatsoever but we had little choice and only a brief window of time to get her out of Dominica.

I personally brought Sarah back to Canada in January of 2012 and delivered her to the CAMH in Toronto where she voluntarily committed herself for treatment.  The fine folk at CAMH did everything in their power under the law to treat Sarah. She eventually was declared well enough to make her own medical decisions and was released into the community. I do not know if she continues to receive treatment of any sort and to the best of my knowledge she has not restrictions or public record of any sort relating to the murder. I ask you, is this compassionate, just or in the public interest? I think not.

While I do not regret my role in helping to save my sister’s life by getting her repatriated for treatment and would like nothing more than to see her returned to health and living a happy prosperous life, I do deeply regret the fact that she has not been made to stand trial for my niece’s murders.  While it’s clear to me that my sister was not well at the time she brutally stabbed these precious children to death, I nonetheless believe that it is a disgrace to their memory not to have this matter settled in a court of law and therefore I call on you to act.

I want to make it clear that I do not necessarily speak for my family. I have consulted no one but my conscience. I speak as a citizen of Canada and of Dominica who is ashamed that his governments would abdicate their responsibility to safeguard life and justice. I speak as a brother who knows a few months in care is not enough to return my sister to health. I speak as the uncle of two lovely children who were born into my hands, whom I helped name and raise, children cannot speak for themselves, whose blood cries out from a hillside grave in Dominica. In their names I demand a response. What do you intend to do?


Dennis Augustine

Friday, May 30, 2014

Dear Yahweh, You're Fired: An open termination letter for God.

TO: Yahweh
God, Life of @SonOSamuel Inc
1 Celestial Palace, Unit 1
Pearly Gates, Kingdom of Heaven

FROM: Dennis Augustine
Acting CEO, Life of @SonOSamuel Inc.
Earth, Milky Way
Observable Universe

Dear Yahweh,

Our working relationship is not what it used to be. My parents absolutely worshiped and adored you so, out of respect  for them, I feel that it’s only right to explain to you my thought process re what I’m about to tell you. I’m sure you can see what’s coming next and have anticipated it for a while. If not, why not?

We used to communicate often at the start, then less and less. Some years ago I noticed that certain duties which are part of your job description where being neglected or mismanaged, I've called you several times, leaving you messages asking you to address the issues but you have repeatedly refused to answer my calls.

When my parents first handed this life over to me you had already been in charge for a long, long time. They told me that you were the family’s closest friend and knew more about the life business than anyone else.  They told me to trust you so I let your apparent negligence slide, remembering how they told me to trust you no matter what. In deference to them I decided overlook your unexplained behavior considering all of the fine work that I thought you were doing in other areas. The universe, after all, is pretty incredible, my life could have been worse and beer was definitely a nice touch. I am afraid however, that my patience with you has come to an end due to relatively recent (to you) developments which have been brought to my attention. I know you’re kind of old-school so let me break it down for you.

I have followed with great interest the interim findings of the ongoing Public Inquiry into the Workings of the Universe (a.k.a. “The Sciences”) for some time now. As I became more familiar with the findings of The Inquiry I began to see that much of the work that you have taken responsibility for—the work that really was the only thing that prevented me from firing you long ago—was not your doing at all. In fact, I learned that it’s been known for centuries that pretty much everything that I credited you for had actually been fully outsourced to the universe since the very beginning but that you and your cronies suppressed that information, hiding it from my family and countless others who employed you, with tireless zeal. If only you all had applied that same level of devotion to your actual jobs I wouldn't be writing this letter now.

You lead us to believe that you had lovingly and purposefully created our amazing bodies. That, I learned, was actually Evolution. You said that you created the universe. I should have suspected that you were full of it when you had the audacity to say you did it by the sheer force of your own will out of nothing at all in just six days. I’ll give you this, you sure did show some balls in demanding a day off on account of the good job you did! By the way, QA results on the universe are in and it’s not all that well “designed” after all. Yeah, the universe was the big-bang.  The “acts of God”? Natural disasters. (I never understood, why did you want to take credit for those anyway?) Love, compassion, justice, community? That was all us, it had nothing to do with you. I wish you had told me yourself and I didn't have to find this out from other people. Boy, I was so gullible! Oh well, you've tricked better men than me so I’ll forgive myself for falling for it. Well, enough is enough. Something has to be done about the situation.

I don’t know how many years you've held your position, my parents said that you had been in office for as long as they could remember and that one of their great, great, great… grandfathers had put you in charge. Wow! Just how old are you? I wish you had retired, before now so I wouldn't have had tell you what I’m about to.

There’s no point in continuing this working relationship.  You do nothing useful (or anything at all it seems) and your contractual demands are utterly outrageous! I mean, it’s all fine and good if you don’t like bacon or aren't into boys (I hear you knocked up some lady and had a son a while back so I’m assuming you’re straight but with all that homophobia and misogyny you keep spouting it’s hard to tell) but it’s not part of your job to enforce your personal preferences on others or to threaten the kinds of punishments you've been known to hurl around if they don’t share them. Come on, death followed by ETERNAL FIRE!!?? Wow, If that isn't the very definition of “overkill” I don’t know what is!

Well, this is the end of the road for you as far as I’m concerned.  You offer me no value, take credit for work you don’t do and cost too much. I am therefore terminating your position effective immediately and cancelling all contractual obligations between us.

Don’t bother returning to clean out the mess you left in my life, all of your stuff should be in the parcel which accompanies this letter (though it’s doubtful that you’ll receive this as most communications to you are returned to me marked "Return to Sender"). If you’re thinking of using me as a reference in the future, don’t bother, I wouldn't give you a good one.  In fact, I’ll be sure to tell everyone who asks not to waste their time, love, energy and resources on you. They can do a better job managing life themselves at a fraction of the cost with better results.  I’m sure that won’t bother you as there are many who continue to let you manage their lives. I’ll be sure to warn as many of them as I can to stay far away from you.

Good riddance. You’re fired.

Dennis Augustine
Acting CEO, Life of @SonOSamuel Inc.
**Under New Management**

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

"But What About the Holy Ghost?" Response to @YoBringItOn

No and yes.  No, because strictly speaking I don't believe in that sort of thing; yes, because I know what you mean: yes, when I was a believer I did "speak in tongues". How do I resolve this with my atheism? Well answering that question requires some background.


I was raised Pentecostal and grew-up hearing my parents and other community members practice glossolalia (commonly referred to as "speaking in tongues"). I was taught that this was the result of being filled with the Spirit (a.k.a. Holy Ghost) and that if I was fervent in my dedication God would baptize me in the Spirit with tongues following as evidence. My parents were ministers (my father is dead, my mother still serves), bright and I respected them, so naturally I believed them.

One summer I was shipped off to Braeside Pentecostal Camp in lovely Cobourg Ontario to spend a couple weeks with other teens. The focus of this camp was to get us "filled with the Holy Ghost". Evening after evening we listened to energetic sermons, were reminded of our sins, wept in repentance, sang and prayed for God to fill us with the Spirit. I prayed fervently but nothing happened until one of the last few nights of camp.

On that fateful evening all those who STILL hadn't received the Spirit and wanted to were invited to come forward so others could beseech God to fill us.  I went forward and was surrounded by friends, councillors, ministers and youth leaders who laid their hands upon me encouraging me to "Just let it out". All the while they were also speaking in tongues.  I was encouraged to just go with whatever sounds I felt the Spirit was prompting me to utter and not to resist.  As they prayed I listened, prayed and eventually (after a few HOURS) started to feel an urge to say things I didn't understand.  At first I thought it was merely gibberish but after a while..."Maybe that's it?", I thought, "This must be what I'm supposed to let out!" I started to whisper those sounds under my breath very sheepishly at first and then just a little louder. When the others heard me they would prompt me on, "Yes, that's it. Let it out! Glory to God, he's been filled with the Spirit!" I felt fantastic.

"Keep That to Yourself"

Fast-forward a few years and I was a young minister in seminary.  I was taking a course called Pentecostal Distinctives which focused on the the Charismata (gifts of the Spirit) and other tenants of Pentecostal doctrine.  For my final paper I wrote an essay suggesting that what we experienced in modern times re glossolalia was not the same thing that happened in Acts 2 where it was evident that the languages being spoken were real languages. That part wasn't too problematic and fell in the normal range of Pentecostal doctrine.

(formerly EPBC)

It would have been all fine if I had stopped there but I also suggested that the tendency of Charismatic expression to vary depending on where and when believers were and who they were with was indication that there was a strong sociological and psychological component to the phenomenon that warranted further study.  At different times and places people exhibited very different behaviours when filled with the Spirit: Quakers quaked, some people sang, some folks rolled around (Does "Holly Rollers" ring a bell?). Heck, some even used to crawl along on all fours and bark like dogs as the Spirit would prompt them to "Tree the Devil." (Yes, I'm serious!)

When we got our assignments back, my professor held onto mine and said he wanted to talk to me after class. I waited. When he handed the paper back I saw that I had received an A+ and that he had inscribed a little note saying that my father would have been proud. I nearly wept with pride.  What he said next though was just one more straw on the breaking back of a faith already weakened by a course on the history of the Biblical canon (for another discussion). He said that it was a brilliant paper and that he thought I was completely correct in my observations and conclusions but that I should probably keep my opinions to myself at least until after my credentials examination with the denomination.

The Resolution

So how do I resolve my Charismatic experience with my atheism?  I think the answer should be obvious from the above but I'll be a little more explicit.  I realize the truth about it: I was a young and impressionable kid who, like so many people at different points in history, succumed a brilliant demonstration of psychological and social conditioning. I think that any competent psychologist who studied the environments where people get "Filled" would come to the same conclusion.

Thanks for the question @YoBringItOn ! 


BTW, the professor who told me to "keep it to myself" he left the Pentecostal church just a few years after I graduated. He's now a Presbyterian, opting to trade in the wackiness and conservative ideologies for a kinder gentler god.  Hmmm... go figure. I think he's moving in the right direction.