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Eric Adriaans: National Executive Director, Center for Inquiry Canada/CFIC/CFI Canada (Part One)


Author(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Publication (Outlet/Website): In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal

Publication Date (yyyy/mm/dd): 2015/08/08


Interview with Eric Adriaans. National Executive Director of the Center for Inquiry Canada (CFI Canada), and charitable sector leader, legislative drafting student, and writer. He discusses: geographic, cultural, and linguistic family background; pivotal moments in personal belief, personal life, with respect to humanism, secularism, skepticism, and with commentary on other “-isms”; personal writing and poetry through novel personal websites, and the inspiration for this self-expression; and academic, professional, and experiential qualifications with an emphasis on the assistance of each qualification to personal and professional life up to the present day.

Keywords: academic, charitable sector, Center for Inquiry Canada, Eric Adriaans, humanism, leadership, legislative drafting, National Executive Director, poetry, religious affiliation, secularism, self-expression, skepticism, writer.

*Incomplete, common reference style listing without access dates.*

1. In terms of geography, culture, and language, where does your family background reside?

My family and I currently reside in SouthWestern Ontario but we have lived just about everywhere a highway will take you in Ontario from Thunder Bay to Ottawa and from Elliot Lake to St. Thomas.

We are primarily Anglophones but like most Canadians and almost everyone who has spent significant time in Ottawa, we have a working knowledge of French.  My daughter, Chloe-Lynne, and I have both attempted to pick up some German.  She’s far more likely to be successful with that than I am.

Culture is an interesting question, isn’t it?  My father was born in Germany but when he obtained Canadian citizenship, he proudly identified as Canadian.  I don’t recall that he ever used the hyphenated language (ie. German-Canadian) that people use today.  My mother’s family has English roots but has been in Ontario for many generations.  Our home was a secular home – meaning religion did not play any significant role in my upbringing.  I expect that my parents would have claimed a belief in a supernatural power but there was no religion in my upbringing.   Our house was a blue-collar home with a healthy counter-authoritarian independent streak.  Education and intelligence was, and is, valued in my family.  Literature and reading were core expectations in my family.

For most of my elementary school years, we lived in Ontario’s Durham Region and were connected through my father and sister to the labour movement and the NDP.  In today’s language, we might fairly be called social democrats.

My wife, who has been one of the most important influences on me as a cultural person is from a small town north of Montreal.  In a way that is very Canadian, our slightly different cultures have come together in our house to create our own family culture that I would call contemporary Canadian.  We love the diversity that this country offers.

2. What seem like pivotal moments in personal belief, and personal life, with respect to humanism, secularism, skepticism, and the associated suite of “-isms” relevant to you?

I consider myself fortunate to have been raised outside of religion in a home that was open to and embracing of people from other cultures.  My earliest childhood friends were variously…. two kids from first nations families, a brother and sister whose family had immigrated to Canada from India and a couple of brothers from England.  Basically, if you were different than me, I wanted to meet you and hang out.  That eagerness for diversity and wanting to treat everyone as a valuable and equal person was fundamental.  I observed the same trends in my older siblings, so I know it was part of how our family worked.

We were very reluctant to associate with “isms” and I continue to be uncomfortable with labels or the assumptions that come with them.  That being said, there are perspectives which gain prominence.  I suppose my skepticism came from a basic rule of our family. “Don’t believe them just because they say it’s so,” I heard that about everyone from employers and politicians to teachers or priests.  Any authority figure was not to be accepted at face value.

Humanism is a term that I struggle with a bit; I prefer humanitarianism; that is charitable work done for the benefit of people, society, animals and the environment…that general “leave the world a better place” ethic but done without any religious framework.  When I was in second-year University, I was choosing between English Literature studies and Psychology.  Wanting to avoid significant student debt, I worked during the day.  As chance would have it, I was out with a friend who was looking for work and learned about a job at the Canadian Diabetes Association.  I was amazed that it was possible to have a career in the charitable sector (I assumed it was entirely volunteer driven) and the path for me was suddenly clear.  The idea that my working life could be focused on helping people was simply too compelling not to act on.  Humanism and humanitarianism seem to me to be intimately connected as philosophy and application.

Although the organizations I’ve worked for have always been secular (i.e. not religiously affiliated and embracing modern diversity), I was not a part of the specifically secular movement until I joined CFIC in 2014. As most Canadians have been exposed to issues of faith-based bigotry and violence, so was I.  From religious opposition to women’s health progress or physician assisted dying to issues of fanaticism or terrorism…the harms and dangers of religion seemed to have become more prominent to everyone’s attention. I recognized that my former status as a polite agnostic might need to shift to impolite atheist-agnostic in order to defend basic human rights.

3. You have done some writing and poetry through personal websites.[1],[2],[3],[4],[5],[6],[7],[8],[9],[10],[11] Your writing remains new. In that, the outlets exist, to date, for only a short time. What inspires these forms of self-expression?

Creative writing and journalling has always been an extremely important part of my self-development.  Writing allows me to work out my thoughts and try on new ways to communicate.  In my poetry, I’ve explored what I think may be new rhyme structures while retaining a deep respect and appreciation for highly formalized structures like sonnets or haiku.  I suppose it is the challenge of expressing an idea or creating an image within a pre-determined structure that appeals to me.  So often people think they want to do something that is “outside the box” when they may not even know what they can do inside the box.

Whether it is writing or some other undertakings, I am something of a nomad.  I am interested in some pursuits for what I can learn or explore.  So my writing is sometimes retained only for a short period of time until I’m ready to move on.  I don’t hold my prior accomplishments up as significant unless they are informing something that I am working on now or wish to work on in the future.  What I do now is intended to help me drive forward.

Sometimes my pursuits are to help me learn something or work on a part of my character.  I spent several years watching CFL football and listening to the commentary, because I wanted to understand if the many football metaphors I noticed in the language of business and day-to-day life held any validity.  I did eventually become a football fan but it started as an intellectual exercise rather than as a passion.  Recently I took up motorcycle riding.  I was amazed by the experience of learning a new basic physical skill – the interactions of balance, controlling fear, focusing awareness, coordinating movements.

Self-expression is about communicating something of yourself to others.  We do it for strategic reasons whether it is through the way we dress, what we write or anything we do as an attempt to reach others.  For me that is all about what I’m learning today, helping others, growing as a person and preparing for tomorrow.

4. You earned a Bachelor of Arts, psychology and English, from 1987 to 1992 at Carleton University.[12],[13] In addition to this, you hold the following certifications: Volunteer Development (1994), Fundraising Management (1999), FDZ Licence (2005), Certified Automotive Fleet Manager (2010), PB Diploma (2014) – with continued education in Legislative Drafting at Athabasca University.[14],[15],[16] Within each domain, the consistent pragmatic elements of charitable leadership and work, management of individuals, and clear communication seem prominent to me, how does each qualification assist in personal and professional life to the present day?

What we learn as individuals today helps to make future options either possible or out of reach.  I wanted to learn how to drive large commercial vehicles at one time my life and that positioned me as a uniquely qualified candidate for a specific career opportunity at the Canadian Red Cross Society – not many people have a long charitable sector management background and the capacity to operate commercial vehicles).  That career opportunity gave me the opportunity to study legislation and how to communicate the need for regulatory compliance to a variety of people, which in turn led to further studies and opportunities.  It may be that my most valuable skills have been literary, an ability to recognize strategically important information and to communicate what I learn.

If you aren’t able to communicate what you know, then the information isn’t of much value to anyone.  That to me has been the value of my English literature and language studies.

Leadership in the charitable sector has always been a very clear situation to me.  Given the dependence of charitable organizations on volunteers, if people don’t like you or what you’re trying to do, they won’t help.  Pretty simple.  So I have always looked at it as a situation of creating an environment where people are not only able to do the work of the organization but actively want to do it.  You have to show that you are aspiring to be the best representative of the organization that you can be.

I actively manage myself more than anybody else; in life and in charitable organizations we have to learn, understand, communicate and drive forward to new and better circumstances and outcomes.  We’re here to make things better.  The status quo is always a launching point to a better tomorrow.

[1] See Adriaans, E. (n.d.). BlackerletterWorks.

[2] See Adriaans, E. (2015, June 21). Expand.

[3] See Adriaans, E. (2015, June 21). During Those Years.

[4] See Adriaans, E. (2015, June 25). Csikzentmihalyi’s Flow Model.

[5] See Adriaans, E. (2015, June 26). Canada’s Criminal Code Section 14.

[6] See Adriaans, E. (2015, June 27). Something to Consider: Part One.

[7] See Adriaans, E. (2015, June 27). On Offence.

[8] See Adriaans, E. (2015, June 28). Clenching.

[9] See Adriaans, E. (n.d.). Commuter.

[10] See Adriaans, E. (n.d.). Home: Leviathan.

[11] See Adriaans, E. (n.d.). Shovel the Circumstance.

[12] See LinkedIn (2015). Eric Adriaans: National Executive Director at Centre For Inquiry Canada.

[13] See Carleton University. (2015). Carleton University.

[14] Ibid.

[15] See Adriaans, E. (n.d.). Eric Adriaans.

[16] See Athabasca University (2015). Athabasca University.


In-Sight Publishing by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Based on a work at


© Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing 2012-Present. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. All interviewees and authors co-copyright their material and may disseminate for their independent purposes.

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