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OHS AGM 2014

Registration still available!

We will be hosting our Annual General Meeting in KINGSTON on April 12 2014.

Registration forms have been e-mailed to all members. If you are interested in attending and have not yet received a registration form, contact us or download a registration form here.

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Hello from the Ontario Humanist Society

We are a group of Ontario-based Humanists with a passion for social justice, civil and human rights, and environmental action, who have established a provincially-based organization to complement the work of Humanist Canada and local Humanist groups.

If you are concerned with Human and Civil Rights issues in secular society, such as Pro-choice, One School System, Equal Marriage, Gender issues, Dying with Dignity, Environmental justice, Science education, Intellectual Freedom and other progressive issues, we may be able to connect you with other volunteers, speakers and organizations. See our WELCOME page for more information.  Here is our OHS Mission Statement.

We invite you to subscribe to our News blog  (box at the upper left of this page),  and to join our OHS Facebook Group and to  ‘like’  our HumanismHelps Facebook Page  Send news items to OHS web editor

Morgentaler abortion clinic in Fredericton to close

The Morgentaler abortion clinic in Fredericton — the only private abortion clinic in Canada east of Montreal — is closing at the end of July due to inadequate funding.

Because of New Brunswick’s restrictive abortion policies, the clinic has never received funding from the provincial Department of Health for performing abortions. The province does fund abortions at two hospitals, but only if two doctors certify that the procedure is “medically necessary.”

From a statement on the closing issued by the clinic:

Regulation 84-20 remains on the books and New Brunswick women will now have no option to access abortions in the province except by meeting its discriminatory and medically unjustifiable requirements.

Had the province provided funding for clinic abortions, or paid for abortions for women without ability to pay, the clinic would not be closing. To make matters worse, Regulation 84-20 makes it impossible for the majority of New Brunswick women to access an abortion in one of the two hospitals where the service is provided.

More on this unfortunate event here.

OHRC launch new Policy on preventing discrimination due to Gender identity and expression

The Ontario Human Rights Commission

Invites you to the launch of our new Policy on preventing discrimination because of gender identity and gender expression

Date: Monday, April 14, 2014
Time: 10 a.m. to 12 noon
Place: The 519 Church Street Community Centre, Ballroom
519 Church Street, Toronto, ON M4Y 2C9

People who are transgender, or who otherwise don’t conform to gender stereotypes, come from all walks of life.
Yet, trans people are one of the most disadvantaged groups in society.
They routinely experience prejudice, discrimination, harassment, hatred and even violence.
The OHRC’s new policy promotes understanding and awareness about trans people and their rights.

Join us to learn about how to prevent and deal with discrimination based on gender identity and gender expression.
This policy can help:

  • trans people, organizations and advocates
  • employers
  • housing providers
  • service providers
  • unions and other vocational associations.

To attend, please respond by email to rsvp@ohrc.on.ca by April 7, 2014.
If you would like to respond by telephone, call Alicia Carr at 416-314-4526.

If you need any Human Rights Code-related accommodations such as sign language interpretation,
real-time captioning or materials in an electronic format,
please let us know by email to rsvp@ohrc.on.ca, or call Alicia Carr 416-314-4526.

World Humanist Congress – Last Chance for Tickets

The World Humanist Congress 2014, which will take place in Oxford, England on the 8th-10th of August, has already sold out of tickets. However, those wanting tickets still have one last hope — the British Humanist Association have announced that they are planning to expand the congress.

Now is the very last chance to be able to attend, by signing up to the waiting list so that you will be told first when new tickets become available. The waiting list can be found at https://humanism.org.uk/whc2014/tickets/.

Ottawa Humanists Rendez-vous, 21 March

The Humanist Association of Ottawa (HAO) invites all area humanists for an enjoyable social outing.

Come out and join us with one of the best Vietnamese restaurants in town:

Date: 21st March 2014

Location: Vietnam Palace Restaurant/819 Somerset St W/613-238-6758

Time: 7:00 pm

Licensed: Yes

Parking: Free

Please email sheila@secularism.net if you plan to attend.

HAT Monthly Meeting: Early notice for June 21, “The Science of Shakespeare”, Dan Falk

HAT Monthly Meeting: Early notice for June 21, “The Science of Shakespeare”, Dan Falk.

Humanist Association of Toronto Monthly Speaker Meeting
Saturday, June 21, 2014
1:30 – 3:00 pm
OISE, 252 Bloor St. West, Room tbd
Speaker: Dan Falk
Topic: “What Did Shakespeare Know About Scientific Developments of His Time?”

William Shakespeare lived at a remarkable time – a period we now recognize as the first phase of the Scientific Revolution. New ideas about the human body, the earth, and the universe were transforming Western thought – and yet “Shakespeare” and “science” are rarely uttered in the same breath. But as award-winning journalist Dan Falk has found, a reassessment is at hand. In this illustrated talk, Falk will explore Shakespeare’s interest in the scientific discoveries of his time – asking what he knew, when he knew it, and how that knowledge is reflected in his work.  Copies of his new book, “The Science of Shakespeare,” will be available for purchase and signing.

 

Report from IHEU – UN on Status of Women

This report from Dr. Sylvain Ehrenfeld, the IHEU and National Ethical Service Representative to the UNITED NATIONS (ECOSOC)

STATUS OF  WOMEN  UPDATE
“According to a Chinese proverb, “women hold up half the sky”. Unfortunately, this fact is not reflected in the experience of many women.

Over the years some women have made much progress. However, for many women inequalities still persist; e.g., in access to education, health care, and political and economic opportunities. A number of current evaluations demonstrate the situation. Nearly 70 percent of the 1.2 billion people living in poverty are women. Nearly 70 percent of the world’s illiterates are women. Women contribute about two-thirds of the hours worked, but earn only one tenth of the world’s income. And yet own only one percent of the world’s property. Women are paid an average of 30 percent less than men for comparable work. The most devastating fact is that worldwide one in five women will become a victim of rape or attempted rape.

Recently, a major report from the UN Population Fund reported in detail the changes in the condition of women over the last 20 years. Some of the news is encouraging. Worldwide women have made great strides in literacy. Women now have fewer children due to the greater availability of contraception. Furthermore, they are less likely to die in childbirth and have an increasing life expectancy. In fact, in general both for women and men, the number of people living in extreme poverty has fallen dramatically from a stark 47 percent in 1990 to 22 percent in 2010.

The bad news is that this progress is not equally distributed.  A closer look reveals large differences between so-called richer and poor countries with poor women in some richer countries not experiencing improvement in many aspects of their lives.  Many of the one billion people living in the 50-60 poorest countries will stagnate as the rest of the world gets richer.

The UN report highlights the fact that the gains of the last 20 years cannot be sustained unless governments tackle the inequalities that have hurt the poorest and most marginalized people. The growing inequalities worldwide are staggering. It is estimated that less than 1 percent of adults worldwide control 40 percent of the wealth while more than two-thirds control only 3 percent of the wealth. While the wealth of a country is important there is significant variation, in the condition of women, even among rich countries.

Let’s take a closer look. The World’s Economic Forum publishes an annual Global Gender Gap report. It ranks countries by a gender gap index. This index incorporates four key areas- Health, Access to education, Economic participation and Political participation. The top 5 in the 2013 ranking are Iceland (1), Finland (2), Norway (3), Sweden (4) and the Philippines (5). The Philippines among the poorest country in Asia, is a surprise. It ranks high because of education, health and political empowerment.  [Note: Canada is 20th, down from high of 14 in 2006].

This fact demonstrates that a country can be poor and still get a high ranking in some important areas. On the other hand, a country can be rich and get a bad ranking. For example, Nicaragua is number 10 and Cuba is 15. Cuba has a dismal economy but Cuban women rank high in education, health as well as economic and political equality, filling professional and technical positions in ministries and government run enterprises. In the Arab world the gender gap is extremely wide. In spite of their wealth, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia rank very badly in the ranking. The United Arab Emirates is 109 down the list and Saudi Arabia is way down to 127.

The conclusion we draw is that the culture of a country and willingness to use resource for public policy really matters.

Klaus Schwab, executive director  of the World Economic Forum states “A world where women make up less than 20 percent of the global decision makers is a world that is missing a huge opportunity for growth and ignores untapped reservoirs of potential “.

Thus, despite progress much improvement is still needed.”
– submitted by Dr. Sylvain Ehrenfeld

New issue of Enlightenment now available

The April 2014 issue of Enlightenment, the newsletter of the Humanist Association of London and Area (HALA), is now available. This issue includes:

  • “Pale Blue Dot” by Carl Sagan
  • “The Hidden Hand of Terror” by John K. Nixon
  • Celebrating ten great years of HALA
  • and more!

Back issues of Enlightenment are available for download here.

Invitation: attend Zoomer taping with Gail McCabe

Ontario Humanist Society members and our colleagues are all invited to attend the upcoming Zoomer taping on March 12, featuring HAT and OHS spokesperson Gail McCabe. Details are below. Please make it out if you can — it looks like a great show!

The taping of the Zoomer show on March 12th will take place at 64 Jefferson Avenue in Liberty Village (3 blocks east of Dufferin south of King Street). You are all invited to attend and to join the audience for a cocktail and canape get-together at 3:30 or 3:45 pm that day.

March 12 RoundTable topic: ANGELS AND THE AFTERLIFE

Panelists include:

  • JOHN GEIGER –  Author, The Third Man Factor
  • PATRICIA PEARSON –  Author, Opening Heaven’s Door
  • COLETTE BARON-REID, Oracle
  • GAIL MCCABE – Ontario Humanist Society
  • RONALD DE SOUSA – Professor, Philosophy, University of Toronto
  • REV. TODD CANTELON –  Christian Minister
  • ANNE-MARIE DEAN –  RN, Executive Director, Hill House Hospice
Performance by:

KATHLEEN KAJIOKA  Violinist; Host Classical 96.3FM

Conversations with Denise: KAREN KAIN

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Gail McCabe to appear on Zoomer TV March 17

Gail McCabe, spokesperson for the Ontario Humanist Society and the Humanist Association of Toronto, will appear on The Zoomer, as part of a panel debating the concept of the “Afterlife.” The show includes interviews and panel discussions focusing on topics of interest to Zoomers (the 50+ set). The program is hosted by Conrad Black and Denise Donlon.

The show airs on a weekly basis on Mondays at 9:00 pm. Gail will appear on the March 17th edition — be sure to tune in!

From Zoomer TV:

Despite a rise in secularism, 70% of Canadians (63% of Zoomers 55+) believe in life after death. The question of what happens to us after corporeal death is a hot topic with a glut of media detailing near death experiences as well as contact with guardian angels in times of duress. But what is behind this new compulsion to believe? And how does this belief differ from traditional belief systems? However comforting it might be, some traditionalists criticize “new agers” for adopting a convenient spirituality that isn’t subject to an omniscient authority figure.

But, even the Vatican is taking heed, appointing Fr. Renzo Lavator as its “angelologist”. He says angels are “back in fashion” thanks to New Age religions but forget old images of cherubic, harp-playing winged beings. Today’s angel is merely a shard of light, not so much seen as felt.

Still, exactly what happens after we expire is hotly debated among true believers, new age spiritualists, agnostics and atheists. And, if the afterlife does exist, it’s not clear what those on the other side are trying to tell us, if anything at all.

Wherever we stand on the belief-o-meter, one thing’s for certain: death and what happens after can have a profound impact on how we live our lives today.

Lebanese march against domestic violence in rare non-partisan protest | Reuters: IHEU

Lebanese march against domestic violence in rare non-partisan protest | Reuters.

From IHEU.org

(Reuters) – A few thousand protesters took to the streets of Beirut on Saturday to demand that politicians approve Lebanon’s first law against domestic violence in a non-partisan display rarely seen in Lebanon’s highly politicized climate.

Organizers harnessed popular outrage over the deaths of two Lebanese women in suspected domestic violence cases which struck a nerve in a country where regular car bombs and rocket attacks have desensitized many to violence.

“The people want the passage of the law,” protesters chanted outside the ministry of justice, invoking one of the most popular slogans of the Arab Spring uprisings.

The demonstration, called to coincide with International Women’s Day, appeared to number at least 3,000 – large for a politically independent event in Beirut.

Lebanon, known for its nightclubs, stylish boutiques and liberal social norms, offers women freedoms denied to many in the Arab world, but campaigners say one woman a month is killed by domestic violence in the country of 4 million.

Many Lebanese took to social media following the deaths last month of Manal Assi and Cristelle Abou Chakra to condemn a seven-month delay in passing the domestic violence law, held up by political disagreements and backlog of bills linked to the Syrian civil war.

“How many wives must die assaulted by their husbands before the state passes the law to protect women?” said one tweet…

While Lebanon’s legal code is largely secular, personal status laws give Muslim and Christian religious authorities control of many civil affairs. The confessional system settles disputes over marriage, divorce and inheritance in religious courts.

Human rights lawyer Nizar Saghieh, who runs the legal reform NGO Legal Agenda, said the amendments would dilute its ability to combat domestic violence.

One amendment removes a reference to forced marriage, while another one introduces the spousal right to sexual intercourse, essentially legalizing marital rape, he said.

The amended proposal also removes a special status for women and adds adultery to the definition of domestic violence. According to Saghieh, this could extend to men the protections intended to shield women from their historically inferior social position.

HAT MONTHLY MEETING: Sat March 22, “Toxic Trespass”

HAT Monthly Meeting, Sat March 22, 1:30 pm Dorothy Rosenberg, Toxic Trespass

Saturday, March 22, 20141:30 – 3:00 pm
OISE, 252 Bloor St. West, Room 4-414
Speaker: Dorothy Goldin Rosenberg
Topic: Toxic Trespass – a film about health and the environment

Dorothy Goldin Rosenberg is an executive producer of the award-winning NFB film Toxic Trespass, an investigation into the effects of the chemical soup around us. Filmmaker Barri Cohen starts with her 10-year-old daughter, whose blood carries carcinogens like benzene and DDT. Then Cohen heads out to Windsor and Sarnia, Canadian toxic hotspots with clusters of deadly diseases such as respiratory illnesses, leukemia and brain tumours. She journeys into toxic nightmares all too common in industrialized countries and meets passionate activists working for change and doctors and scientists who see evidence of links between environmental pollution and health problems. And she learns how quickly barriers can go up when anyone asks questions about these links. A moving and empowering documentary, Toxic Trespass is essential viewing for anyone concerned about the effects of pollutants on our health – and our very DNA.

Join us as Dorothy Goldin Rosenberg leads us through a screening of the film followed by discussion and Q&A.

OHS urges the Senate to pass Bill C-279

On Thursday, Feb. 20, 2014, OHS joined Amnesty International, Aidslaw, Egale and many other civil society organizations in urging the Senate to pass Bill C-279. This bill will protects the rights of transgendered people by adding  gender identity and gender expression to the prohibited grounds of discrimination in the Canadian Human Rights Act. and we look forward to it passing!

The following is the letter sent to the Senate on Thursday morning:

Dear Senators,

The following organizations, representing a broad cross section of civil society groups from across Canada, urge the Senate to pass Bill C-279, the Gender Identity Bill, as drafted and without delay, to ensure that the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Canadian Criminal Code protect the human rights of all people in Canada.

We recognize the violence and discrimination faced by the trans/transsexual/transgender/ intersex/two-spirit/gender variant (“trans”) community in Canada. In a recent nationwide survey, 74% of transgender youth reported experiencing verbal harassment in school, and 37% reported experiencing physical violence. Transgender individuals in Ontario face unemployment over three times the national rate and many more are underemployed. As a result of discrimination and bullying, the trans community faces high rates of mental health issues. Rates of depression are as high as two-thirds; 77% of transgender individuals in Ontario report having considered suicide, and 43% have attempted suicide at least once.

Given the extreme vulnerability to human rights abuse faced by trans people in Canada, Bill C-279 will help to prevent discrimination and ensure that those who commit hate crimes are held to account. By amending the Canadian Human Rights Act and Criminal Code to include gender identity, the Bill will be an important step in ensuring that trans people have access to the justice and equality for which Canada is internationally-renowned and for Canada to meet its international human rights obligations.

We support Senator Nolin’s statement that, “if discrimination based on the gender identity of some prevents them from having an opportunity equal to that of other individuals to make for themselves the life that they are able and wish to have, to the extent of being a source of prejudice and causing a strike against the human dignity of those individuals, such discrimination must become prohibited and in so doing guarantee the equality of rights pledged for all by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.” And we stand with Senator Mitchell’s statement that, “these are individuals… They are sons, daughters, fathers, mothers, sisters and brothers and they are Canadians and they are our neighbours…[We can respond] by taking a step to change the lives of these important Canadians who have been discriminated against psychologically and brutalised violently all too often. We can stand up and do the right thing.”

We call on the Senate of Canada to pass Bill C-279 to help fully protect the human rights of all people in Canada.

A full list of signatories can be found here.

 

Anti-fracking resolution submitted to Hamilton City Council

An anti-fracking resolution presented to the Hamilton City Council by the local branch of the Council of Canadians is available below. The resolution has been submitted to the City Clerk with a request that it be referred to a Council Committee or staff for consideration and a report. Local members are working to enlist the support of his Councillor Terry Whitehead and will be contacting other Councillors to obtain their support. There is a chance the resolution may come up at the Council Meeting on Wednesday, Feb. 12.

Other groups who are committed to protecting the environment from this dangerous practice are encouraged to consider similar action in their own communities.

Download the anti-fracking resolution here.

Enlightenment 57 available

Issue 57 of Enlightenment, the newsletter of the Humanist Association of London and Area (HALA), is now available. This issue includes:

  • Results of the 2013 membership survey
  • 2013 Solstice Event photos
  • Information on the upcoming HALA 2014 Wolf Hall event
  • and more!

Back issues of Enlightenment are available for download here.

Poll on Catholic school funding in Ontario

The Globe and Mail recently published an interesting article questioning the fairness of public funding for Catholic schools.

To gauge public opinion the Globe and Mail is running an opinion poll. Please consider voting.

Supreme Court of Canada to hear municipal prayer case

Background

An applicant from the City of Saguenay (Quebec) took this municipal council to the Quebec Human Rights Tribunal stating that the council violated the applicant’s rights when the council recited prayers and displayed religious symbols.  The Tribunal agreed but the Quebec Appeals Court overturned the verdict.

The applicant along with the Mouvement laïque québécois applied for leave to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada.  We have just heard that the Supreme Court will hear the case.  I can’t stress how important this step is because the Supreme Court receives many appeals but only a few are actually heard.  The fact that the Court will hear this appeal means it has merit.

And further, if the Court rules in our favour, it means municipalities across the country will no longer be able to renders prayers or display religious symbols.

Because of the significance of such a ruling, Secular Ontario donated $3,000 to the Mouvement laïque québécois to help them with their fight.

Below is the Court’s repose to hear the case.

 

MUNICIPAL LAW IN QUEBEC: PRAYERS; RELIGIOUS SYMBOLS

The Applicant Mr. Simoneau was a “non‑believer” and, at the relevant time, a citizen of the Respondent City of Saguenay.  He attended the meetings of the municipal council.  A municipal by‑law provided that council members who so wished could stand and say a prayer at the start of council proceedings.  In addition, near the mayor, there was a crucifix at the La Baie town hall and a statue of the Sacred Heart at the Chicoutimi town hall. Mr. Simoneau and the Mouvement laïque québécois eventually filed an application against the City and its mayor with the human and youth rights tribunal.  They alleged the Respondents had, in a discriminatory manner on the ground of religion, violated Mr. Simoneau’s freedom of conscience and religion and his right to respect for his dignity (ss. 3, 4, 10, 11 and 15 of theCharter of human rights and freedoms).  They asked the recitation of the prayer cease and the religious symbols be removed from the proceedings rooms.  They also claimed damages for the moral prejudice suffered by Mr. Simoneau and exemplary damages. The tribunal allowed Mr. Simoneau’s application in part, but the C.A. set aside the decision on the ground the content of the prayer did not violate the duty of neutrality imposed on the City and, in any case, even if the recitation of the prayer interfered with Mr. Simoneau’s moral values, the interference was trivial or insubstantial in the circumstances.

Mouvement laïque québécois, et al. v. City of Saguenay, et al. (Que. C.A., May 27, 2013) (35496) “The application for leave to appeal… is granted with costs in the cause.”

Special edition of Enlightenment now available

A Special Issue of Enlightenment, the newsletter of the Humanist Association of London and Area (HALA), is now available. This issue includes presentations by Goldie Emerson and Rod Martin on how they became humanists.

Back issues of Enlightenment are available for download here.

Thomas Aikenhead: last person executed for blasphemy in Britain

January 7 was the anniversary of a sad day in history: the execution of Thomas Aikenhead for blasphemy. Aikenhead was the last person executed for blasphemy in Britain, in 1697.

An Ontario humanist remarks:

Thomas Aikenhead, a 20 year old Scottish student, was hanged for blasphemy in 1697, the last Britain to suffer this fate. Inter alia he publically doubted the truth of most of the Bible including the Trinity.

This date should be marked with reverence on the Humanist calendar of martyrs, saints and prophets. A moment of silence please for this courageous rational skeptic who spoke out in an age when it was dangerous to criticize the state religion.

A full account of Aikenhead’s life and death is available from the Dictionary of Unitarian & Universalist Biography.

Gros Morne fracking proponent loses exploration licence |

WIN! Gros Morne fracking proponent loses exploration licence | The Council of Canadians.

BC reports, “Shoal Point Energy, which has drawn public criticism for a fracking proposal near Gros Morne National Park in western Newfoundland, is losing an exploration licence and the $1-million deposit that went with it. Shoal Point said the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board rejected the company’s request to extend an exploration licence for hydraulic fracturing by one year, to January 2015. The company disclosed the decision to investors after the close of business on Thursday. The C-NLOPB’s decision was made Dec. 5, it said.”

The Council of Canadians
We are a member of the Newfoundland and Labrador Fracking Awareness Network, a non-partisan network of organizations and individuals who have serious concerns about the potential risks of hydraulic fracturing.

On May 17, we first raised our concerns about fracking near Gros Morne in a campaign blog.

On May 24, we issued a media release to express solidarity with communities who are fighting proposals to frack on the West Coast of Newfoundland, including near the boundaries of Gros Morne National Park. Ken Kavanagh of the Council of Canadians’ St. John’s chapter said, “We are alarmed that these companies have plans to frack within kilometres of Gros Morne National Park.”

On September 22, Maude Barlow provided a pre-recorded video introduction for the ‘People’s Forum on Fracking in Newfoundland’ that took place in Stephenville, Newfoundland.

On September 26, we made a submission to the C-NLOPB raising concerns about the impacts on water sources, climate change, public health and sustainable employment. We asked them to: 1) Refrain from giving authorizations to projects currently submitted in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, including Corridor Resources’ Old Harry Project and Shoal Point Energy and Black Spruce Exploration’s Western Newfoundland Drilling Project, 2) Cancel the call for bids issued on May 16th, 2013 for four parcels in the Newfoundland offshore area, and 3) Defer the issuing of any new exploration licenses in the Newfoundland offshore area.

And on November 6, we celebrated and noted the implications of the moratorium on fracking announced by the government of Newfoundland and Labrador.

We do take this caution though. The CBC article notes, “Shoal Point also said that in its application it was willing to surrender much of the 499,000 acres in its licence area, including the area that sparked the most controversy, near Gros Morne National Park. Instead, Shoal Point wanted to focus its exploration efforts on another area, south of the park. It said it was also willing to pay an extra $250,000 to extend its licence for the year. …Shoal Point’s two other exploration licences on the west coast of Newfoundland were not affected.”

As Kavanagh noted last May, “It’s not just about Gros Morne. Communities all along the West Coast are getting informed and organizing to stop the proposed fracking projects from moving forward.”

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