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: Is Lying Ethical?

HAT Forum
Saturday 31 January 2015
519 Church St., Meeting Room #304
Topic: Is lying ethical?
Proposed by: Richard Dowsett

To lie is “to deliberately manufacture falsehoods or conceal important facts to the detriment of others”. In Sam Harris’ short book, “Lying”, he makes a strong case for lying being a corrosive element to all human relationships and well-being and challenges us all to eliminate it from our lives.
1.    1. If you are scrupulously honest yourself, do you judge dishonesty of all sorts more harshly? Can you still be empathetic with other’s lies and why they tell them?
2.    2. “With lying, intent is everything.” Discuss the different sides of this statement.
3.    3. Some people lie to children about the “tough questions” (death, religion, sex, violence) as they are deemed not ready for the truth. Is this ethically justifiable?
4.    4. “White lies” are those made with the best of intentions - to spare hurt feelings or boost morale and self-esteem. What are the pros and cons of “white lies”? Is it possible that we ourselves are the major beneficiaries of the “white lie”?
5.    5. Do you view life in terms of long-term relationships or a sequence of individual transactions? How does this view affect your approach to lying?
6.    6. Some cultures place a higher priority on honour or politeness than they do on honesty. Are there any rules that can be drawn about the value of honesty across cultures?

HAT Forum: Policing in the 21st Century

HAT Forum
Saturday 24 January 2014
519 Church St. , Meeting Room 304
Topic: Policing in the 21st Century
Proposed by: Dick Combeer

Why do big city police forces engender the most public scrutiny? What would policing, carefully and completely based on Humanist principles, look like? Is it a fair characterization that big city police forces are based on locker-room machismo? Are such cultures irredeemable? Have strides been made in the past 20 years to eradicate gender and race bias? Are further strides necessary? Can they be gradual?

How brutal is brutal? If you were a police chief faced with a massive crowd of violent protestors at a highly visible and sensitive event, what would you do? Are the police, with heavy weaponry and dehumanizing masks and vests, their own worst enemy? Is police use of force the problem or a by-product? How different is the situation in Canada and in Toronto from the United States? What are some of the underlying sociological causes of societal breakdown that result in police violence? What possible remedies? Is there any hope? Can anything positive be said for carding?

Petition for sex education curriculum including consent

Two Toronto middle school students are campaigning to include consent as a topic in updated sex education curriculum. You can sign the petition at

Recall that the last time the province considered updating the sex education curriculum, in 2010, the government abandoned all changes in the face of a public campaign by fundamentalists. The new proposal, over 4 years later, has much the same content as the abandoned version, which HAT had supported. Humanists should learn from our failure in 2010, and be more active in pressing for a long-overdue update.

A news article with a little background on the overall changes:

An article about the aforementioned campaign:

Book Discussion: The Caged Virgin

HAT's monthly book group will meet on Saturday, February 7 at 2:30 PM to discuss

The caged virgin: an emancipation proclamation for women and Islam

by Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Email the coordinator or leave a phone message (see HAT contact info) for location.

"Hard-hitting, outspoken, and controversial,The Caged Virginis a call to arms for the emancipation of women from a brutal religious and cultural oppression and from an outdated cult of virginity. It is a defiant call for clear thinking and for an Islamic Enlightenment." -- from the summary in the library catalogue.

HAT Forum: The Charlie Hebdo massacre

HAT Forum
Location: The 519 Community Centre, 519 Church St. just north of Wellesley, Meeting Room 304
Date & Time: Saturday Jan 17, 11:00 to 13:00
Proposers: Richard Dowsett & Dick Combeer

The staff of Charlie Hebdo paid the ultimate price for the magazine's editorial stance and its refusal to stop satirizing their chosen targets in the face of firebombs and mounting death threats. Unfortunately, several innocent bystanders also paid this price and the repercussions spread out from there with world-wide impact. 
  1. What is the value of satirical media (Jon Stewart, Charlie Hebdo, Private Eye etc) to society? 
  2. What are the costs to civil society? 
  3. Should we impose limits to certain forms of satire to try to lessen the costs? (i.e. hate speech provisions, libel, slander, defamation?)
  4. Could a Charlie Hebdo type attack happen in Canada? Would their form of satire even be permissible in our society under our laws in the first place?
  5. Are you satisfied with the response of the various media to this event and their ability to bring focus to the key issues? What biases do you detect and what are the sources of their biases?
  6. How do your humanist principles inform how you view this event? Would they have lead you to do the same things in the many roles or act very differently?

HAT Forum: Can a successful politician be moral?

Date: Jan 10, 2015
Time: 11:00 to 12:30. Note: shortened meeting so all involved can attend Debbie Pond's talk on human trafficking at OISE at 1:00.
Location: 519 Community Centre, 519 Church St. (@ Wellesley), Meeting Room 304
Proposer: Richard Dowsett
Topic: Can a Successful Politician be Moral?
In this instance, "successful" is defined as maintaining power by being re-elected consistently and "moral" is defined as "holding firm to a set of guiding principles that determine what are acceptable behaviours and outcomes".
1. Does the system of government which requires trade-offs and compromise penalize those politicians that will not play the game of "horse-trading" or swapping influence with other politicians?
2. Does the really electorate want a politician who is true to their word on every issue even if that means, in reality, only appealing to certain sectors?
3. Should a politician try to represent all of their constituents in all matters even if this means going against their own moral principles? i.e. voting against their conscience?
4. How is the situation different if the morals employed are derived from religious sources via revelation and tradition versus from social contract or ethical philosophy?
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.