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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

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Urgent Appeal to All Supporters of Secularism

Mouvement laïque québécois (MLQ) (Quebec Secular Movement)

The following text is the English translation of a message from the Quebec Secular Movement (Mouvement laïque québécois, MLQ). They need the support of all secularists in order advance the cause of secularism before the Supreme Court of Canada.

A crucial battle will soon be engaged before the Supreme Court of Canada and your support is essential.

Next October, the Supreme Court of Canada will hear the appeal of the MLQ whose goal is that the secular nature of public institutions be respected by prohibiting the reciting of prayers at municipal council meetings.

Recall that the Humans Rights Tribunal has, on two separate occasions, ruled in favour of residents of the cities of Laval and Saguenay who registered complaints against the imposition of prayers at their municipal council meetings. In Saguenay, mayor Jean Tremblay took the case to the Quebec Court of Appeal which reversed two previous decisions, thus displaying a complete lack of understanding of the principle of secularism.

If that decision of the Quebec Court of Appeal were to stand, it would constitute a serious setback for the secularisation of our public institutions and for the defense of freedom of conscience.

Not only would prayers be authorized, but the very concept of religion-state separation would be utterly annihilated. Thus, the implications of this case reach far beyond the mere reciting of prayers in Saguenay. That is why the MLQ cannot accept such a decision and has decided to take the case to the Supreme Court of Canada whose ruling will have an impact on all of Canada.

Such an operation will incur a cost of at least $100,000. The MLQ receives no grants and can proceed with this action only with the financial support of every supporter of secularism. We are aware that there are other causes related to secularism and freedom of opinion which are currently before the courts and which also need your generous support. But the events which will play out this coming October before the Supreme Court will undoubtedly have major repercussions for all related causes. We thus appeal for your support in order to fight this necessary battle right up to the very end.

You can contribute by Paypal on the MLQ web site, or by cheque made out to the Mouvement laïque québécois and sent by post to the following address:

C.P. 32132, succursale Saint-André
Montréal, Québec
H2L 4Y5

Thank you for your generosity.

 

Support for Assisted Suicide rises among Canadians

Results from a new poll by Forum Research:

In a random sampling of public opinion taken by the Forum Poll among 1433 Canadians 18 years of age and older, fully three quarters favour physician-assisted suicide for the terminally ill (74%), and this represents an increase since we asked this question last year (Oct. 2013 – 65%).

Learn more about Dying with Dignity Canada here.

June 21: Today is World Humanist Day

Today is World Humanist Day – Topic of the day – Panorama | Armenian news.

World Humanist Day is a Humanist holiday celebrated annually around the world on the June solstice, which usually falls on June 21st. According to the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU), the day is a way of spreading awareness of Humanism as a philosophical life stance and means to effect change in the world. It is also seen as a time for Humanists to gather socially and promote the positive values of Humanism.

The holiday developed during the 1980s as several chapters of the American Humanist Association (AHA) began to celebrate it. At the time, the date on which it was celebrated varied from chapter to chapter, with selections such as the founding date of the IHEU, or other significant dates. From the late 1980s to the early 1990s, the AHA and IHEU passed resolutions declaring World Humanist Day to be on the summer solstice.

The manner in which World Humanist Day is celebrated varies considerably among local Humanist groups, reflecting the individuality and non-dogmatism of Humanism as a whole. Whilst the event might be a simple gathering, such as a dinner or picnic, with ample time for both socialising and reflection, the method of celebration is down to the individual Humanists. Some groups actually develop intricate social rituals, music, and proceedings which highlight the metaphoric symbolism of the solstice and the light (knowledge) which brings us out of darkness (ignorance).

World Humanist Day has not yet become a fully celebrated holiday in all Humanist organizations, although many of them are beginning to recognize it and plan events and activities around the holiday. International Humanist and Ethical Union lists several different ways that national and local Humanist groups celebrate World Humanist Day. For example, the Dutch Humanist Association broadcast short films about World Humanist Day on Dutch TV in 2012. The Humanist Association of Ireland held poetry readings in the park to celebrate the day. The Humanists of Florida Association has recommended groups hold Introduction to Humanism classes on World Humanist Day.

Panel Discussion of LGBTQ Rights In Schools Hosted by CCLA

  CCLA Logo
CCLA Is Proud to Invite You To…
  

For anyone interested in attending, please RSVP to events@ccla.org (drop-ins will be welcome, space permitting).

 

The event is FREE and, since it is over dinner hours, we will have refreshments on hand!

 

All the best,
Noa Mendelsohn Aviv, Director of the CCLA Equality Program
Tasha Donnelly, CCLA TD Fellow

Contact:
Canadian Civil Liberties Association
215 Spadina Avenue, Suite 210
Toronto ON M5T 2C7
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Petition: Intervene with the Pakistan Military to release Zahid Kurd aka Baloch Khan

Please consider signing this petition to tell the Pakistan Military to release Zahid Kurd, aka Baloch Khan, Chair of the Baloch Students Organization.

Balochistan is a resource-rich territory occupied by Pakistan since 1948 and is now in the 9th year of a military action by the Pakistan Army and its intelligence agencies, the ISI ad MI that have abducted thousands of innocent civilians, suspected militants and activists.

An association for peaceful protest formed by some of the families of those missing, called the International Voice for Baloch Missing Persons (IIVBMP) says that up to 18,000 Baloch are currently unaccounted for, of whom more than 2000 were killed between 2001 to 2013. That figure is much higher than data from other NGOs and human rights organizations, but the IVBMP says it will be publishing details of all its data early next year.

In the latest sweep of kidnappings of Baloch youth, the Pakistan military raided a meeting of the Baloch Students Organisation (BSO) in Quetta where they abducted the organisation’s chair, Mr.  Zahid Kurd aka Baloch Khan on Marhc 18, 2014.

He is being illegaly held in a military camp where we have learnt he is being tortured and faces imminent death if the UNHRC and other international Human Rights bodies do not intervene.

Official Admission of Massive Deaths of Aboriginal Children

The International Tribunal into Crimes of Church and State (ITCCS) provides the following item.

Seventeen years after Rev. Kevin Annett publicly disclosed evidence that over 50,000 children died in Canada’s church-run “Indian residential schools”, Canadian governments have finally confirmed this genocidal mortality rate after releasing hitherto-concealed death records from the schools.

(http://westcoastnativenews.com/tens-of-thousands-first-nation-child…)

Until this week, government and church officials have either denied or stayed silent about Rev. Annett’s documented estimate.

But previously “segregated” statistics of the deaths of residential school children made public last Friday by different provinces indicate that “tens of thousands” of these children died in the facilities, which were operated primarily by the Roman Catholic, Anglican and United Church of Canada.

In British Columbia alone, government records indicate that nearly 5,000 children between the ages of four and nineteen died in the residential schools until 1956, although the schools continued in operation until 1996, putting the total death figure even higher. Rev. Annett’s research established that the high death rate of over 40% of the students was the result of deliberately infecting them with tuberculosis and denying the sick treatment.

“This news officially confirms what our Court established in its lawful verdict of February 25, 2013” stated George Dufort of the International Common Law Court of Justice in Brussels today.

“Canada and its churches, the British Crown and the Vatican stand guilty as charged as disestablished criminal bodies and can no longer have any lawful or legitimate constitutional authority if the rule of law is to be followed”.

This week’s official admission of massive deaths in the Indian residential schools comes on the heels of shocking new evidence showing that a Vatican and Church of England child sacrifice cult known as the Ninth Circle operated at the same schools for over a century, including at the Mohawk residential school in Brantford, Ontario.

Kevin Annett was reached at his home in Nanaimo, British Columbia today and provided the enclosed you tube commentary on the remarkable news.

“I always knew their lies would fall apart, and persistence would pay off” remarked Kevin.

“But I’m thinking now of all my friends who died after struggling to see this day come about, like Bingo Dawson, Billie Combes, Ricky Lavallee and Harry Wilson – some of the eyewitnesses to the Canadian Holocaust who went public at great personal risk. This is their victory, as it belongs to all the missing children. But it will only mean something if Canadians act on this final proof of Genocide by church and state to enforce the verdict and arrest warrants of the Common Law court.

Stacking the Deck for the 2015 Election

Leadnow.ca sends this item of interest to anyone passionate about democracy in Canada.

Why is Prime Minister Harper’s new elections law so dangerous? Why have so many experts from across the political spectrum spoken out, including moderate conservatives? It’s because this law would stack the deck in Harper’s favour for the 2015 election, and fundamentally damage our democracy by denying hundreds of thousands their right to vote.

Over 60,000 of you have signed our petition against this bill, donated to run hard-hitting radio ads, and rallied at conservative MP offices to help raise the alarm. Together, we’ve made huge progress, and the pressure is starting to work.

A Senate Committee just issued a report unanimously recommending changes to the bill, and the Conservatives have said they’re open to making amendments. Yet it’s nowhere near enough, and we need your help to keep turning up the pressure. We have to stop them stacking the deck for the next election!

Can you send an email right now to your MP, and the members of the committee studying this bill, calling on them to fix this bill once and for all, or kill it.

We’ve heard from the experts, and we know what has to be done to fix this law. At a minimum:

• Remove voter suppression rules that would stop hundreds of thousands of Canadians from voting (the strict ID requirements, ending Voter Information Cards as proof of address, and preventing Elections Canada from promoting voting).

• Remove the new finance loopholes that would let parties write-off massive fundraising expenses.

• Give elections watchdogs the power to force testimony in investigations of fraud, like the robocall scandal.

Over the next two weeks we’ll flood key MPs inboxes with emails, and visit their offices again to show them Canadians are watching and organizing, and they will suffer a steep political cost if they force this terrible bill through as is.

Time is running out: The PROC committee will be voting on amendments to this bill in just two weeks. Click here to tell your MP and the committee to kill Harper’s Elections Act unless voter suppression and financing loopholes are removed, and election fraud investigators get the power to compel testimony.

http://www.leadnow.ca/elections-act

Thank you so much,

Matthew, Rodrigo, Katelynn, Jamie, Amara, Stefan and the whole Leadnow team

P.S. Your campaign has helped shape the media narrative and raise awareness. Check out our latest op-ed, which counters Harper’s bogus talking points about this terrible new law: http://thetyee.ca/Opinion/2014/04/14/Fair-Elections-Act-Death-of-Reason/

Sources

[1] –  Fair Elections Act ‘undoubtedly’ violates Charter, Lortie commission chair tells MPs (iPolitics)
http://www.ipolitics.ca/2014/04/08/fair-elections-act-undoubtedly-violates-charter-lortie-commission-chair-tells-mps/

[2] – Andrew Coyne: Very little ‘fair’ about how Conservatives are pushing controversial Elections Act
http://fullcomment.nationalpost.com/2014/04/09/fair-elections-act/

[3] – Senators want nine major changes to controversial Fair Elections Act, setting up clash with House
http://news.nationalpost.com/2014/04/15/senators-want-nine-major-changes-to-controversial-fair-elections-act-setting-up-clash-with-house/

[4] – Elections Act changes drawing scrutiny from Conservatives (CBC)
http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/elections-act-changes-drawing-scrutiny-from-conservatives-1.2611293

[5] – Andrew Coyne: The Tories were right to be nervous. Marc Mayrand shredded their ‘Fair Elections Act’ almost line by line
http://fullcomment.nationalpost.com/2014/03/07/andrew-coyne-the-tories-were-right-to-be-nervous-marc-mayrand-shredded-their-fair-elections-act-almost-line-by-line/

[6] – The Fair Elections Act is ever so telling
http://www.theglobeandmail.com/globe-debate/the-fair-elections-act-is-ever-so-telling/article18021234/


Leadnow.ca is an independent campaigning community that brings Canadians together to hold government accountable, deepen our democracy and take action for the common good. You can follow us on TwitterFacebook and Google+.


 

New book – Science and Religion: 5 Questions

Are science and religion compatible when it comes to understanding cosmology (the origin of the universe), biology (the origin of life and of the human species), ethics, and the human mind (minds, brains, souls, and free will)? Do science and religion occupy non-overlapping magisteria? Is Intelligent Design a scientific theory? How do the various faith traditions view the relationship between science and religion? What, if any, are the limits of scientific explanation? What are the most important open questions, problems, or challenges confronting the relationship between science and religion, and what are the prospects for progress? These and other questions are explored in Science and Religion: 5 Questions—a collection of thirty-three interviews based on 5 questions presented to some of the world’s most influential and prominent philosophers, scientists, theologians, apologists, and atheists.

Science and Religion: 5 Questions, edited by Gregg D. Caruso—a collection of interviews with thirty-three of the world’s leading philosophers, scientists, theologians, apologists, and atheists. For more information, you can also visit the book’s Facebook page.

International Association of Freethought Conference 2014, London, UK

The IAFT was founded in August 2011 in Oslo, Norway. Its 2nd congress took place in Mar del Plata, Argentina in November 2012 and its 3rd in Conception, Chile in November 2013.

Its 4th Congress will take place in London on August 11th, 2014 (from 9 to 5) at Conway Hall, the mythical place for militantism in London, 25th Red Lyon Square.

The morning will be dedicated to a conference run by Keith Porteous Wood, Executive Director of the National Secular Society on “Church crimes and justice for the victims”. Contributions on different countries will fuel the debate with those taking part to the IAFT Congress.

In the afternoon there will be an international meeting for the separation between Churches and States.  Free Thought Delegates from different countries will speak. This 4th IQFT Congress will be a landmark in the international development of both Free Thought and the European Coordination Bureau of Free Thought.

If you are interested and able to attend, a registration form can be downloaded here.

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.

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