By Bob K.
On the evening of Tuesday, January 31, at the monthly gathering of Toronto area Intergroup reps, the executive committee announced that they had reached a settlement of the Human Rights complaint launched against GTAI some two years earlier. Details of the basic case and settlement can be found at AAAgnostica.org in Roger C.’s February 2nd posting, “Toronto Intergroup yields to agnostics in AA.“
Below is a copy of the media release made available February 6th, 2017, by Larry K. and his lawyer. The two agnostic-friendly AA groups have been reinstated to intergroup membership, relisted, and their rights under group autonomy have been specifically recognized.
“GTA Intergroup acknowledges that the manner in which individual AA members or groups of AA members interpret and apply the Steps and Traditions in their own lives is a matter for those individuals alone.” (From the executive committee’s statement to member groups)
In applying for reinstatement, the now relisted groups agreed to the terms of the now standard submission form, viewable at aatoronto.org. There is an agreement to “adopt or acknowledge” AA’s 12 steps, traditions, et. al Although this can clearly be seen as a face-saving measure on the part of Toronto Intergroup, there are two keywords. “Or” allows us to dismiss the “adopt” option, and move on to the second keyword “acknowledge.”
Prior to the 2011 delisting, the agnostic groups read a blurb before reciting a secularized interpretation of the 12 steps. The blurb “acknowledged” that what they were reading weren’t AA’s original 12 steps, which they further “acknowledged” were to be found in Chapter 5 of the book Alcoholics Anonymous. I expect that these acknowledgments will continue.
The now relisted groups, at their option, will be reading altered versions of the 12 steps. Toronto Intergroup is aware of that. GSO is aware of that. There will be no interference. There will be no policing. The taste for battle has disappeared.
Toronto Alcoholics Anonymous Intergroup re-affirms right to inclusion, regardless of beliefs
“Anyone with the barest knowledge of recovery knows timely help is a matter of life and death,” said Lawrence Knight. Knight’s struggle to list agnostic groups with the Toronto A.A. Intergroup ultimately led him to the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario.
On January 18, 2017, representatives of the Greater Toronto Area Intergroup, Knight and A.A. World Services Inc. and the General Services Board of Alcoholic Anonymous Inc. met to formally resolve Knight’s human rights claim. Lawrence Knight is ecstatic. “This is huge. There can be no doubts for A.A. chapters around the world – a desire to be sober really is the only requirement.”
Knight and GTA Intergroup agree that it is not A.A.’s practice to exclude anyone, including A.A. groups, based on creed: “All groups, regardless of their belief system form part of the A.A fellowship. The only requirement for A.A. membership is a desire to stop drinking, and any two or more people who come together for the purpose of being sober may call themselves an A.A. group, as long as they have a desire to be sober, and provided they have no outside affiliation”.
GTA Intergroup has re-affirmed that any A.A. group in the Greater Toronto Area that acknowledges or adopts the suggested 12 Steps and 12 Traditions of Alcoholics Anonymous can be recognized as a member of Intergroup with the right of representation on The Floor of Intergroup, regardless of how their members interpret and apply those steps in their own lives.
Mr. Knight said, “Many groups, such as Chicago’s Quad-A have been running agnostic A.A. groups continuously for over 35 years acknowledging or adopting the traditional 12 Steps and 12 Traditions of Alcoholics Anonymous and state unequivocally their membership is open to ‘all people with a desire to stop drinking. There are no further qualifiers or disqualifiers.’”
As noted on the Quad A website, “The atheist, agnostic and freethinkers meetings function no differently than other A.A. meetings – allowing recovering alcoholics to gather on a regular basis as autonomous groups. We share and learn how to live sober and rewarding lives.”
Given this understanding between the parties, the Greater Toronto Area Intergroup representatives have indicated the groups that were removed from the meeting lists in 2011 can be re-listed.
Megan Evans Maxwell, Knight’s lawyer from the Human Rights Legal Support Centre, was “thrilled to support Larry’s tenacity and passionate advocacy. There is no question in my mind. What Larry did was save lives.”
The Human Rights Legal Support Centre provides free legal assistance to people in communities across Ontario who have experienced discrimination contrary to Ontario’s Human Rights Code.
GTA Intergroup is the body of Alcoholics Anonymous in The Greater Toronto Area that serves as a forum for discussion and a focus for cooperation and coordination among AA groups in the area.
GTA is carrying the message of Alcoholics Anonymous to the suffering alcoholic. There are more than 117,700 A.A. groups around the world.
More Media Coverage
CBC Here and Now
Gill Deacon spoke with Toronto lawyer, Megan Evans Maxwell about a Alcoholics Anonymous human rights case.