The Humanist Association of Toronto provides a focus of activities and discussion for Humanists in the Toronto area. Please note: HAT events are open to the public, and views expressed do not necessarily represent the official views of the Humanist Association of Toronto. For all public statements, educational events, media enquiries, please contact the webeditor, who will forward your enquiry to our Spokesperson.
The Humanist Forum meets Saturday morning 11am-1pm
The Monthly Meeting the 2nd or 3rd Saturday at 1:30pm (TBD)
The Steering Committee meets 1st Wednesday, 7pm
The Book Group meets monthly.

HAT Forum Sat Sept 29, OISE "Freedom of Expression"

DATE:  Sat Sept 29, 11am -1 pm
Location:  OISE, 242 Bloor Street West
TOPIC:  Freedom of expression
FACILTATOR:  Jodi Perrin

The essence of freedom of expression, of course, is not the right to insult the beliefs of others, but rather the freedom to report or convey facts, opinions, philosophies, and worldviews in an effective manner, using both objective and subjective means. Freedom of expression empowers citizens through knowledge, opinion, and the possibility to gain their own voice. Within democracies, free expression allows citizens to challenge political leaders, journalists to uncover information for the public, and the public to ensure the accountability of their government. Without the principles of a free media and free speech, there could be no self-government.
         What are some reasons freedom of speech and expression are valued so highly in our culture?
         What are some of the limitations that we have placed on the right of free speech currently and in the past?
         How can we make distinctions between virulent hate speech and  bullying or insulting speech and what consequences might be applied?
         How could we move forward and perhaps look at ways to discourage hateful and negative activity that offends many world citizens?         

Heather Mallick accepts Humanist Of The Year Award, 2012

 Tanya Long, Programme Directory, presented the Humanist of the Year award for 2012 to Toronto Star journalist, and author, Heather Mallick, at OISE on Sept 15.
Heather was most gracious and held a lively conversation with members and guests, about her experiences as a journalist.  We discussed Humanist values, secularism, separation of government and religion in public life, and also the intersection of politics and religion, locally, federally, and internationally.   We all thank Heather for her generosity and humour - and also for her voice in the public forum - upholding reason, science, ethical behaviour and human compassion.  - Mary

Anti-Muslim video and violence show the value of atheism - Mallick

Anti-Muslim video and violence show the value of atheism -
[Please buy a paper,  or go online and read the whole thing  :-]
By Heather Mallick, Toronto Star

"....The world is not a kindly place unless we humans choose to make it so. In this case we did. In the case of that absurd anti-Muslim YouTube video assembled by a fraudster from a religion I hadn’t even heard of until now, we did not...
I talked to the Humanist Association of Toronto last week, a group of intelligent people who were startlingly . . . relaxed. It’s not a quality you see often. We discussed the world over cookies and juice.
They were entirely at ease, which is unusual for any group of humans nowadays. People are poised to take — and give — offence. They are stiff with aggression. They drop things on other people’s heads for religious reasons.
But humanists are a mighty force, albeit so polite, well-spoken and attuned to the hurt feelings of others that they are an unused one. They don’t organize, campaign, harangue or even mildly irritate people. They don’t send out multiple choices forms demanding that their children be taken out of class lest something possibly anti-religious be implied.

Global TV Taping tonight: CFI: Is religion bad for the environment?

[Please note:  this message is from the Centre for Inquiry, which is a separate organization, and not part of HAT.  However, a HAT Steering Committee member has asked us to inform our members of this event in case you are interested in attending, and presenting a Humanist view in the audience]
GLOBAL TV EVENT:  IS RELIGION BAD FOR THE ENVIRONMENT?This monday, September 24, we ask: 'IS RELIGION BAD FOR THE ENVIRONMENT?' Bestselling author Andrew Nikiforuk has made a strong case that many religious people in Canada have little regard for the planet. U of Toronto's star anthropologist Stephen Scharper, author of 'Religion and Ecology' weighs in along with the Centre for Inquiry's Justin Trottier.

Join the studio audience this monday night to add your voice. Filmed at CBC Broadcast Centre in downtown Toronto and air on Global TV. Check-in at 5:30 PM, taping at 6.
Get your tickets now:
Context with Lorna Dueck investigates where current affairs and spirituality converge.
1. Is religion to blame (at least in part) for the environmental crisis? (see for example Dr. Lynn White's thesis in "The Historical Roots of the Ecological Crisis"
2. How has Christianity been complicit in environmental degradation instead of an antidote to it? Why is this so?
3.  New broad-ranging religious activism across religious lines in the name of "creation care" suggests that religion and science may not be as incompatible as is often assumed.  Are we blaming the (religious) messenger when the message may be more nuanced than often assumed?
4. Has religion on balance been more of a curse than a blessing to the planet?
5. What is the humanist/skeptic's positive case for a green ethic?

LTE re Prayer at Council Meetings, Owen Sound/Grey County

Ontario Humanist Society « LTE re Prayer at Council Meetings, Owen Sound/Grey County
From HAT member, OHS officiant Terri in Owen Sound:
Recently our MP wrote a letter to the editor talking about how and why prayer has a place at meetings of government (Christianity is OUR tradition), and how those who oppose it are the ‘whining minority’.
This is the letter I wrote in response. I’ve had great feedback and thought you and others might want to see it.
Sept 18, 2012 (published Owen Sound Sun Times)
To the Editor, I write this in response to the recent letter from MP Larry Miller.

Mr. Miller,
In your Letter to the Editor, you explained that opening meetings with prayer is a tradition in Grey County, and how the ‘whining minority’ totally ignore the rights of the majority.
You may be aware that years ago, our leaders recognized that some majorities were capable of impinging on the rights of minorities, and thereby created laws that protected everyone. They are called ‘human rights’.
Majorities once felt that slavery was a time-honoured tradition, and vigorously defended their right to continue the practice. The same is true for denying women the vote. Finally courts had to protect the ‘whining minorities’ against those majorities. Times were thankfully changing.
Mr Miller:  How is it that you don’t recognize the Lord’s Prayer as specific to the decisions YOU have made about your life? You believe in a deity, and chose to follow the Christian faith. Not everyone has made these choices, and vocal or quiet, those who haven’t, feel excluded.
You say that those of us who object to prayer in government meetings are merely being “politically correct”, that we’re complaining that  “our rights are being trampled, kicked around.” Did it ever occur to you that many people have been quietly looking on from the sidelines for years, and are only now revealing their displeasure at your sense of entitlement?
For the first time in many, many years, people who have not chosen the Christian faith  are openly objecting to religious invocations, your naming the tradition “ours”, when in fact it was YOURS.  Why is this so difficult to understand?
I am proposing that we begin with an invocation representing everyone, wishing our elected officials a thoughtful and productive meeting.  Here’s my suggestion: A Councillor says:
“As we approach our work here today, may we be mindful of our role as leaders in Owen Sound/the Province of Ontario/Canada, etc., a place of great beauty and opportunity. As we face our decisions, may we be guided by strong ethics, sound judgement, wisdom, fairness and carefully acquired knowledge. May we never forget the trust placed in us by the people of Owen Sound/the Province of Ontario/Canada.”
And thankfully, religious people can continue to pray in their homes, churches and synagogues.
Terri Hope,  Owen Sound

HAT Monthly Meeting: Sat Oct 13, 1:30-3pm Ulli Diemer

Saturday, October 13, 1:30-3:00
OISE, 252 Bloor St. west, Room 5-230
Speaker: Ulli Diemer, “Is that an Archive in your Basement, or are you just Hoarding?”

Are you an ‘accidental archivist’? Have you been saving the publications and documents produced by the social justice projects you’ve been involved in? Have those materials you collected grown into a daunting accumulation of stuff in your basement, garage, or storage locker? Are you looking for a solution? Connexions is a Toronto-based project that works to preserve the history of grassroots movements for social change and make it accessible to new generations.
 According to Connexions coordinator Ulli Diemer, “We do it because we believe in the importance of people’s history, keeping alive memories, experiences, successes, failures, and visions” of those who have worked for social justice over the years. Connexions, an all-volunteer project founded in 1975, is best known for its online library for activists at, which attracts more than 70,000 users a month.

Urgent: Canadian Women’s Rights Under Attack

Urgent: Canadian Women’s Rights Under Attack
[this alert sent in by several people]

In just 48 hours, our MPs will debate a Conservative motion that the Canadian Medical Association, representing 70,000 doctors, is calling a ‘backdoor’ attempt to criminalize abortion.[1,2]In 1988, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that the abortion provision of the Criminal Code was unconstitutional. But this week, Parliament will be debating a motion that would threaten our reproductive rights - and the rights of our friends, daughters, mothers, sisters, and partners.[3,4,5]
Prime Minister Harper has chosen to allow this motion to go forward to a free vote in Parliament, so every MP must decide whether or not they will stand up for the rights that women and our allies have been fighting to protect for decades.
We need a huge public outcry to show our MPs that Canadians will not tolerate this covert attack on women’s rights.
Twenty-four years ago, Supreme Court Justice Wilson stated that governments in a democratic society must never interfere with a woman’s right to choose:
“The decision whether or not to terminate a pregnancy is essentially a moral decision and in a free and democratic society the conscience of the individual must be paramount to that of the state.” – Supreme Court Justice Wilson[3]
The motion seeks to undermine the Supreme Court’s ruling by reopening the debate on the legal definition of a human being under the Criminal Code. High-profile members of Harper’s caucus have stated that the real goal of the motion is to attack women’s rights:
“The ultimate intention of this motion is to restrict abortions at some development stage in Canada.” – Conservative Party whip, Gordon O'Connor[6]
This tactic has been used in the United States in a slow and relentless campaign to criminalize women’s reproductive rights and fan the flames of their culture war. Prime Minister Harper has publicly stated that he does not want to reopen this debate. Yet, while he exerts complete control over his own party, he has still chosen to let this covert attack on women’s rights go to a free vote that will test how Canadians react and open the door to attempts to criminalize abortion.
If enough of us speak out and contact our MPs right now, we can make sure this motion is decisively defeated and send a clear message that Canadians will defend our reproductive rights

Getting more women elected: Event tonight Sept 18

Getting more women elected
Tuesday September 18
Getting more women elected. How and Why?
How do proportional systems help get women elected and why it matters.  Joyce Hall, June Macdonald, film Menocracy.
130 Carlton Street—7:30pm---please register with Eventbrite
130 Carlton Street—7:30pm---please register with Eventbrite

Religion No Longer Adequate For The Dalai Lama

Ontario Humanist Society « Religion No Longer Adequate For The Dalai Lama

(thanks to Michael, who brought this up at the Heather Mallick meeting..)

 When His Holiness the Dalai Lama (HHDL) posted on Facebook this last Monday that “religion is no longer adequate,” every journalist with a religious beat was up in arms over his words. What did this mean for the millions of practicing Buddhists, not to mention for his millions of spiritually-curious online followers? But his atheistic-toned words should not come as a surprise. Back in June, he tweeted that he is “increasingly convinced that the time has come to find a way of thinking about spirituality and ethics beyond religion altogether.”

HAT FORUM Sat Sept 15 (11-12:30, time change)

HAT Forum
DateL  Saturday, September 15, 11:00-12:30  (note unusual time, as the special Afternoon Dialogue with Heather Mallick will begin at 1:30 pm )
Topic: What HAT is, could be, or should be.
Facilitator: Moses Klein
What to you are the goals of an organized humanist society such as HAT? How well does it achieve those goals? How could it do better? What would you like to see out of HAT?

Parents’ right to pull kids out of class should go only so far.

[upated editorial, see last 2 pp]

Ontario has tried hard to accommodate parents with conservative religious views who want their children excused from sex education classes. Typically, that means some students head to the library when the health nurse comes to talk about condoms.
But now a small group of parents who are angry that they lost the battle to keep support clubs for gay students out of the schools are taking things to a new level by demanding the right to pull their kids out of a wide range of classroom discussions that do not conform to their particular beliefs.
Their demands are impractical, indeed unacceptable in a public school system. Everyone from the education minister down to individual principals must push back against this pernicious trend.
Something called “traditional values” form letters are trickling into boards across the Greater Toronto area from conservative Christian and Muslim parents. The generally ask that schools notify them before teachers deal with certain subjects, including evolution, the environment, wizardry or any discussion that portrays gay relationships as “natural, healthy or acceptable.” This demand for prior notice is unreasonable. The schools need to be able to deal with these matters as they come up.
What’s a teacher to do when a student starts reading his English essay about Harry Potter flying his broom to the recycling depot? Whistle down the reader while the class is cleared of objectors?
Moreover tolerance and respecting differences is not something kids learn at 2 p.m. on Tuesday and then move on. It is imbedded, quite rightly, into the curriculum. No teacher should have to cover up a family drawing by a young girl with two moms, so as not to offend other students. How would the young girl feel to be told that some of her peers aren’t allowed to see her family portrait?
“A little person can draw a picture of her two moms or two dads, for example, and feel safe and accepted,” says Education Minister Laurel Broten. “That’s what happens in classes across Ontario and that’s what should happen.”
She’s right. But for it to remain that way, the education system must push back against this growing pressure from those who want to impose their agenda and censor what children are taught. The public schools serve a broader community.
We get that some may not accept the theory of evolution. That they may object to a novelist’s characters. Or that they may not be supportive of gays. But the public school system teaches science and literature and tolerance, and it must remain free to do so.

Stock letter asks school to warn when sensitive subjects arise -

Stock letter asks school to warn when sensitive subjects arise -
A number of conservative Christian and Muslim parents — unusual political bedfellows — suddenly are asking schools across the GTA to notify them when their child’s class will discuss topics ranging from homosexuality and birth control to wizardry, evolution and “environmental worship,” so they can withhold their child from classes that contradict their religious beliefs.
They are giving schools the same five-page “Traditional Values Letter” used by a Greek Orthodox father who has sued the Hamilton school board for refusing to warn him when his children’s teachers plan to talk about family, marriage or human sexuality. Hamilton dentist Dr. Steve Tourloukis said Monday he only wants those issues taught to his Grade 1 daughter and Grade 4 son “from a Christian perspective.”
“I’m not an extremist, but I must ensure that my children abstain from certain activities that may include lessons which promote views contrary to our faith,” said Tourloukis, who is supported by a group called the Parental Rights in Education Defense Fund. “We know other denominations like Jehovah’s Witnesses and Muslims are excused for certain activities. Does our being Christian disqualify us from equitable treatment?”....
“We do agree with many of the goals of conservation, however these principles are often presented from a humanistic world view (for the benefit of man) or a naturalistic world view (deifying the earth) which is in conflict with our teachings,” notes the letter. “Conservation would be more successful for our children if connected to their understanding of being respectful of their Creator’s creation.”...
The letter was penned by PEACE (Public Education Advocates for Christian Equity) Hamilton, a Christian parent group led by Phil Lees, also head of Ontario’s Family Coalition Party. PEACE Hamilton is helping to raise an estimated $65,000 for Tourloukis’ lawsuit, said Lees, and has posted a blank copy of the Traditional Values Letter for parents to download from its website. Parents simply insert the name of their faith, into the same letter.
“If we’re really a public education system, we need to be pluralistic and embrace values that go beyond the humanistic approach of Ontario schools that’s based on the belief there is no spiritual being,” said Lees. The former teacher has visited several Muslim parent groups to offer tips on how to try to sidestep school equity policy, including the Seerah School group in Toronto’s largely Muslim Thorncliffe Park neighbourhood.

Peace and Conflict Lecture series 2012, University of Toronto

Vital Discussions of Human Security and Peace
Lecture Series for 2012-13 academic year. Co-Sponsored by University College Health Studies Programme, Canadian Pugwash Group, Science for Peace, and Voice of Women for Peace.

Thursdays, 7-9 pm, usually in Rm. 144,University College, 15 Kings College Circle, U.of Toronto. All welcome. No charge.
13-Sept. Walter Dorn, Chair, Canadian Pugwash Group (room 052)
Wars Waged by the USA and Canada: Just, Unjust and Everything In Between

20-Sept. Ellen Michelson, recent Green Party candidate (room 052)
Fixing Canada's Electoral System: Four Fallacies

27-Sept. Danny Harvey, Professor of Geography, University of Toronto.
Global Warming and Human Security: Food and Water

4-Oct. Barry Wellman, Professor of Sociology, University of Toronto,
Networked individualism

11-Oct. Helmut Burkhardt, Professor of Physics Emeritus, Ryerson University.
Security for All: But How and at What Price?

18-Oct. Timothy Donais, Associate Professor, Wilfrid Laurier University.
Peacebuilding and Local Ownership

25-Oct. Pia Kleber, Prof. of Drama, Comparative Literature, U of Toronto.
A Cultural Approach to Human Security

1-Nov. John Hannigan, Professor of Sociology, University of Toronto.
Disasters Without Borders: The International Politics of Natural Disaster

8-Nov. Doug Saunders, Journalist with The Globe and Mail.
The Myth of the Muslim Tide

15-Nov. Ron Craig, Prof of Communication & Design, Ryerson University.
New Strategies for Dealing with Global Problems

22-Nov. Lloyd Helferty, Engineering Technologist, Biochar Consultant.
Biochar and Food Security: Dealing with the Droughts

 29-Nov. Peter Bessau, International Affairs, Natural Resources Canada.
International Model Forest Network: Canada's Contribution to Forest Sustainability Since Rio

10-Jan. Aysan Sev'er, Professor Emerita of Sociology, U. of Toronto.
Honour-Killings: Women's Safety in Honour-based Cultures

 17-Jan. John Bacher, Preservation of Agricultural Land, Ontario.
Toward a Billion More Trees in Ontario

24-Jan. Duff Conacher, Coordinator of Your Canada, Your Constitution, Founder of Democracy Watch, Director of in Toronto.
What Makes Up an Actual, Working Democracy?

31-Jan. Shawn-Patrick Stensil, Staff of Greenpeace in Toronto.
Lessons from Fukushima: Implications for Nuclear Safety International

 7-Feb. Valerie Zawilski, Associate Prof. of Sociology, Western University.
The Sexual Slave Trade in Kosovo

4-Feb. Seva Gunitsky, Asst. Professor of Political Science, U of Toronto.
Competing Visions of Democracy in the Post-Soviet Space

28-Feb. J.C. Luxat, Professor of Nuclear Safety, McMaster U, and Richard Denton, M.D. President, Physicians for Global Survival.
The Nuclear Safety Issue

7-Mar. Gordon Edwards, Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility.
Can We Be Free of Nuclear Weapons and Still Have Nuclear Power?

14-Mar. Peter Victor, Professor of Environmental Studies, York University.
Managing Without Growth: Slower by Design, Not Disaster

21-Mar. Harriet Friedmann, Professor of Geography, U. of Toronto.
From "Feeding the World" to Sustainable Farming

28-Mar. Jack Veugelers, Professor of Sociology, U. of Toronto.
The Far Right in France

 4-Apr. Leo Panitch, Professor of Political Science, York University.
The Making of Global Capitalism: The Canadian Model. 

HAT FORUM, Sat Sept 8, 11am OISE

DATE:   Sat. Sept 8, 11am-1pm
LOCATION:   OISE, 252 Bloor Street W,
FACILITATOR:   Isabel Foot
TOPIC: Prime Minister Pauline Marois?

Asymmetrical Federalism- we already have it. Jean Charest compared it to the status of France in Europe.

"Charest told Express magazine, a weekly newsmagazine in France during his visit to Paris in July, that asymmetrical federalism in Canada gives Quebec a unique political status in the country apart from the other provinces and that his government is able to express itself ’’without inhibition’’ on the world stage.

’’There is no doubt that we are a people and a nation. And I see no contradiction in the fact that we, Quebecers, are also Canadian, like the French are French, but also European,’’ said Charest, pointing out that Quebec federalists are just as aggressive as separatists when it comes to defending Quebec’s identity."

1. What does asymmetrical federalism look like? multinational vs. multicultural view of Canada.
2. Many Quebeckers want radical changes to Quebec society

The Solidarite party seems like the Occupy movement, what kind of  accommodation, or not, will they seek?
HAT meetings are free and open to members and the public. Call (416) 966-1361 for location information. ___________________________________________________
The Humanist Forum meets Saturday morning 11am-1pm.
The Monthly Meeting, is usually the second Saturday at 1:30pm; specifics should be found on this blog.
The Steering Committee meets the first Wednesday of each month, at 7pm.
The Book Group usually meets on the first Saturday afternoon of the month.