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.
Canada’s Supreme Court, in a unanimous decision, has struck down the ban on doctor assisted dying and has given Parliament a year to draft new legislation that allows consenting adults enduring intolerable suffering to end their lives with medical assistance.
The court notes that the current ban “infringes on all three of the life, liberty and security of person provisions in Section 7 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms” and “an individual’s response to a grievous and irremediable medical condition is a matter critical to their dignity and autonomy”.
Wanda Morris, of Dying with Dignity called the ruling “a fantastic victory” and said “We’re deeply heartened by the court’s compassion towards those who suffer unbearably or face the prospect of a horrific death… and today we rejoice with the 84 per cent of Canadians who support the right to compassion and choice at end of life.”
We at the Ontario Humanist Society are in full support of the Supreme Court’s decision and we hope that the resulting legislation will allow all Canadians the opportunity to face the end of their lives with dignity, supported by medical care that respects their choices, and treated with reason and compassion.
OHS has been contacted by photographer Colin Boyd Shafer who is in search of Interfaith couples across Ontario who may be interested in participating in his documentary photography series, the INTERLOVE Project.
INTERLOVE “explores how people with differing beliefs come together in love and shared respect” and the project is open to “people who may identify as having no faith, people in same-sex relationships, or people who identify as polyamorous”.
the date, time and location of the GA this year (with an online registration facility)
deadlines relevant to the GA
to make nominations to fill the positions of 2 Executive Committee members
forms for proxy votes and
the convention being organised in conjunction with the GA, by IHEU member organisation the Philippine Atheists and Agnostics Society (PATAS)
the area surrounding the GA location, Pasig City
Please do forward this important information to colleagues, IHEU individual supporters and any others who may be interested.
IHEU very much looks forward to welcoming registered delegates (representatives of IHEU member organisations in good standing, IHEU international representatives, IHEU Officers, paid-up IHEU individual supporters, volunteers and invitees) to the IHEU General Assembly 2015 in the Philippines.
Raif Badawi is in prison in Saudi Arabia, sentenced to receive 1000 lashes, 10 years of incarceration, and a travel ban which would prevent him from joining his family in Canada once he is released. As the news coverage of his situation fades, don’t forget that we still need to bring attention to his case. Find out more about Raif and his family by watching this video, and visit Amnesty to see what you can do to help.
Dying with Dignity (DWD), a “national, member-based charity committed to helping people achieve quality in dying”, was given charitable status upon its founding in 1982. The government only allows charitable organizations to spend 10% on their resources on political activities and since last January, Dying with Dignity has been undergoing a political activities audit, as required by the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA), to confirm that it adheres to this requirement.
On January 16, 2015, DWD learned the results of this audit in a letter from CRA annulling their charitable status. The claim is not that their political activities have exceeded 10% of their resources, but that they were given charitable status in error when they were registered in 1982 (and again when they re-registered in 2011). The error comes, the CRA says, from the fact that DWD does not conduct “any activities advancing education in the charitable sense”.
A major theme of this issue is the need for reform in Islam. This is particularly appropriate at this time considering the amount of Islamic terrorism occurring in the world today. A second theme is the role humanism might play in future societies. This is the longest (12 pages) Enlightenment yet produced so readers may wish to read it in a couple of instalments.
You can download this issue of Enlightenment here.
Issue 64 of the Humanist Association of London and Area (HALA) is a special issue that features HALA member Donald Hatch’s new book, The Road Not Travelled. The book is described in the foreward by University of Western Ontario professor Goldwin Emerson, Ph.D.:
The Road Not Travelled is a concise informative book. The author, Donald Hatch, has packed each page with knowledge, and thoughtful comments about our past and the emerging of a hopeful future as we proceed from the path of religious superstition and supernaturalism into a more enlightened time. Hatch describes the road not travelled as one that will re-emerge from the early Greek philosophers which had powerful influences in Renaissance thought and later in the Enlightenment of the seventeenth century. As the powerful grip of religious domination lessens in our time, humanists can look forward with hope to renewed enlightenment led by science and reason. This is a book that should be read by secular thinkers, but it will also help religious thinkers understand and question their present practices. I hope it will be read by both.
The Road Not Travelled is available at all regular monthly meetings of the Humanist Association of
London and Area for $15.00. To receive a copy in the mail, send a cheque or money order for $17.00 to Don Hatch, 14 Kingspark Crescent, London ON. N6H 4C4. Please include your mailing address.
Debbie Pond, RCMP – Inspector (Ret.), won many awards during her career in law enforcement, including the Order of Merit of the Police Force (2007) and the Queen Elizabeth 11 Diamond Jubilee Medal (2013). She is a member of the National Advisory Team of Defend Dignity, an organization to end human trafficking in Canada, and Chair of the Board of Directors of u-r home, a place of hope for rescued victims of human trafficking. She will bring her considerable credentials and experience to bear on an examination of this very important topic.
The CN tower turns blue today for International Human Rights Day, observed by the international community every year on 10 December. It commemorates the day in 1948 the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.The formal inception of Human Rights Day dates from 1950, after the Assembly passed resolution 423 (V) inviting all States and interested organizations to adopt 10 December of each year as Human Rights Day.
When the General Assembly adopted the Declaration, with 48 states in favor and eight abstentions, it was proclaimed as a “common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations”, towards which individuals and societies should “strive by progressive measures, national and international, to secure their universal and effective recognition and observance”. Although the Declaration with its broad range of political, civil, social, cultural and economic rights is not a binding document, it inspired more than 60 human rights instruments which together constitute an international standard of human rights. Today the general consent of all United Nations Member States on the basic Human Rights laid down in the Declaration makes it even stronger and emphasizes the relevance of Human Rights in our daily lives.
The IDHR draft was written by Canadian John Peters Humphrey born to on April 30, 1905 in Hampton, New Brunswick.
Humphrey applied to Mount Allison University at age 15 and was accepted. He transferred to McGill. Humphrey was awarded a fellowship to study in Paris
Humphrey returned to Montreal after the fellowship to practice law for five years before accepting a teaching position as a professor at McGill; he also specialized in international law. During the 1930s Humphrey was considered a renaissance man with his interests in education, the arts and humanities, and human rights. While teaching at McGill in the early 1940s, Humphrey met Henri Laugier, a refugee fromFrance who was working on behalf of the Free French. In 1943 Laugier moved to Algeria to teach at the University of Algiers and later became the Assistant Secretary-General of the United Nations.
Arizona State University professor Lawrence Krauss has been named the 2015 Humanist of the Year by the American Humanist Association.
The Humanist of the Year award was established in 1953 to recognize a person of national or international reputation who, through the application of humanist values, has made a significant contribution to the improvement of the human condition.
Previous honorees include astronomer Carl Sagan; Nobel laureates Steven Weinberg, Murray Gell-Mann, Andrei Sakharov and Linus Pauling; polio vaccine discoverer Jonas Salk; feminist Gloria Steinem; biologists Edward O. Wilson and Stephen Jay Gould; psychologist B.F. Skinner; designer Buckminster Fuller; birth control activist Margaret Sanger; and author Kurt Vonnegut.
“I was shocked when I received the news, and humbled when I read the list of previous awardees, many of whom are intellectual heroes of mine,” said Krauss. “To be listed along with that group in any context is an honor of the highest order.
“As it is, I feel privileged that my activities, which ASU has helped foster and which I am motivated to do both because I enjoy them and because I hope that they might have a positive impact, have now also been so generously recognized by this award,” he added.
Krauss is internationally known for his work in theoretical physics and cosmology, and is a well-known author, science communicator, activist and public intellectual. His research covers science from the beginning of the universe to the end of the universe, and includes the interface between elementary particle physics and cosmology, the nature of dark matter, general relativity and neutrino astrophysics.
In addition to being an ASU Foundation Professor, Krauss is the director of the Origins Project at ASU, which explores key questions about our origins, who we are and where we came from, and then holds open forums to encourage public participation.
Continuing its tradition of “firebrand-style” billboards at Christmastime, American Atheists launched a new campaign in Bible Belt cities, beginning Monday. The billboards feature a young girl writing a letter to Santa; her letter reads, “Dear Santa, All I want for Christmas is to skip church! I’m too old for fairy tales.”
The billboards are located in Memphis; Nashville; St. Louis; and Fort Smith, Arkansas. A fifth billboard in Milwaukee is co-sponsored by the Southeast Wisconsin Freethinkers (SWIFT). While previous billboards have been located in urban settings such as Times Square, these billboards are located in more residential areas to be near schools and churches.
The billboards are aimed at in-the-closet atheists who are pressured to observe religious traditions during the holidays, and who might also want to attend the annual American Atheists National Convention in Memphis in April.
“Even children know churches spew absurdity, which is why they don’t want to attend services. Enjoy the time with your family and friends instead,” said American Atheists President David Silverman. “Today’s adults have no obligation to pretend to believe the lies their parents believed. It’s OK to admit that your parents were wrong about God, and it’s definitely OK to tell your children the truth.”
Despite multiple attempts, American Atheists was unable to secure a billboard advertising space in Jackson, Mississippi, as area lessors rejected the design due to content. “The fact that billboard companies would turn away business because they are so concerned about the reaction by the community to a simple message that not everyone goes to church and not everyone believes in gods shows just how much education and activism on behalf of atheists is needed in the South,” said Public Relations Director Danielle Muscato.
American Atheists is bringing the billboards and its national convention to the South, where discrimination and mistrust of atheists is especially pronounced.
The billboards will be on display from December 1 to December 24
Outfront Media (formerly CBS Outdoor) installed four different ads on eight transit (bus) shelters on Wednesday, Nov 26 in Winnipeg. The ads appear on bus shelters in the vicinity of Winnipeg’s new Canadian Museum for Human Rights. The ads focus on the discriminatory nature of Ontario’s (and Alberta’s) publicly funded schools and use the words “human rights” at least once in each ad.
The ads were readily accepted by Outfront Media for posting as submitted, without requiring any modifications. These are four of the six ads I submitted to Pattison Outdoor which they did not accept. Pattison Outdoor has never told me which words or phrases they thought violated the Ad Council code.
It IS embarrassing and disgraceful to be told by the UN Human Rights Committee that Canada/Ontario is guilty of religious discrimination. Hopefully these ads will encourage others to speak out and join the growing number of Canadians who think it is time for our government to treat all citizens equally. The ads direct people to our websites for more info.
I am grateful to the enlightened people at Outfront Media who understand the fundamental principle of freedom of expression and have enabled me to express this view.
As you know, my motivation in placing the “Winnipeg Ads for Human Rights” is simply to help put this issue on the public agenda: eliminate the religious discrimination and save tax payer’s money at the same time. (I am neither an author trying to sell a book nor do I have any intentions to run for public office!)
It is noteworthy that when my ads were being rejected by Pattison and my right to express an opinion (and facts!) was being denied, the Fraser Institute released a report indicating how Ontario could revamp the way it funds its publicly funded schools (public and Roman Catholic separate) in a fair and equitable manner and at the same time, save taxpayers 1.8 billion dollars annually.
It is shocking that Pattison Outdoor arbitrarily denied my right to express my view on the one school system concept; a view that has been expressed numerous times in editorials and opinion pieces in newspapers across Ontario in recent months.
When it comes to publicly funded education in Ontario, it’s time to let go of our “separate ways” so we can come together. Providing Catholic education with public money is an anachronism waiting to be brought to an end by a courageous Queen’s Park legislature.
No doubt it takes political courage to bring Ontario into a present so different from 1867 when the deal to support a single religion’s aspirations with tax dollars was reached to construct the Canadian “entity.” Enter Greg Sorbara, the highly respected but recently retired Ontario politician. In his just published memoir, Sorbara recommends the end of separate school funding, noting “theOntario of today is a secular society that is a welcome home to every religion in the world.”
One wonders why incumbent politicians find certain files so politically toxic. Exhibit A? While giving up on the monarchy has a significant public opinion edge, those royalists who want to hang on to the Queen’s skirt tails are tougher and more vociferous than the majority. The same dynamic exists with the funding of a separate school system in Ontario.
From a principled perspective, as Sorbara points out, it simply does not make sense to continue singling out a sole religion for public support. From a political perspective, well, just ask recently elected mayor John Tory.
Irony of ironies, Tory may not have become mayor of Toronto had he not led with his chin in his campaign for premier in 2007, when he advocated for the provision of tax dollars to support additional forms of religious education. But for that miscalculation, he might have become premier of Ontario.
I have no doubt that Tory thought of his vision as a principled matter of equity — “let’s fund others because we fund Catholics.” Fair enough, but holy “two wrongs don’t make a right”! No doubt, Sorbara, who headed up Dalton McGuinty’s successful campaign over Tory in that provincial contest, did cartwheels with Tory’s political gift of gaffe. When Sorbara enthusiastically offered Tory support for his run for mayor earlier this year, was he simply returning the favour? Or was it just two guys hooking up in their shared sense of what’s best for the city? Maybe a combo.
In rejecting Tory’s bid for Queen’s Park, the people of Ontario were not only turning thumbs down on his expanded version of “public education,” but implicitly rejecting the very existence of Catholic support as well. Make no mistake, the Catholic leadership was very nervous that Tory’s plan would ignite an electoral wake-up call and provide enough political capital for the McGuinty/Sorbara partnership to risk the ire of the Bishop. Likely considered too much of a distraction, they took a pass.
But there is nothing like the freedom of expression that arises with post-political life. Thankfully, Sorbara, a Catholic himself, who had a youthful dalliance with studying for the priesthood, is now pressing for Ontario to follow the lead of Quebec and Newfoundland who have already done the political heavy lifting that wasn’t so “heavy.” In Ontario, this historical “contract” continues to provide support for an idea crafted in a context breathtakingly different from today and foreign to anyone’s aspiration for a better future.
Within a secular context, it is easy to imagine an Ontario curriculum embedded with a comparative “beliefs” opportunity for building understanding and empathy regarding different religions. Strengthening a collective “commons” by fostering deeper respect for our differences is the right pathway.
With certainty, Catholic leaders will respond with a very spirited argument for their special “faith-based” approach. This is perfectly understandable. A deal is a deal and history is on their side. There are countless examples of wonderful Catholic education experiences provided so well for so many for decades. Catholic educators have pioneered many innovations worthy of adoption by the public side. All good, but it is well past the time to pursue a single public system in Ontario.
In my view, the purest and most consistent approach to supporting one’s faith and that of our children is at home and in our churches, mosques, temples and synagogues; or perhaps, in a nearby park, meditating on core notions of decency and respect for those around us.
The subtitle of Sorbara’s book is The Battlefield of Ontario Politics. While he has left the battlefield, it’s never too late to provide his former colleagues with something worth fighting for.
Charles Pascal is a former Ontario deputy minister of education and professor at OISE/University of Toronto
Barry Hazle was imprisoned in 2007 for failing to complete a state-mandated 12-step program. Hazle is an atheist, and the program required him to ‘submit to a higher power'; there was no secular alternative and, even though he was told to “fake it till you make it” he refused and was incarcerated for 100 days. This week, after seven years and two federal court rulings, he and his lawyers announced a $1.95 million settlement of “a suit against the state and its contractor, WestCare California, for wrongful incarceration in violation of his religious liberty”.
Mr. Hazle is by no means the only non-religious person struggling to cope with addiction in a system based on belief in a ‘higher power’. A recent article on substance.com, which explores the history of Christian-based 12-step programs and the struggle faced by non-believers to create a secular alternative, states that in the last 4 years, there has been a 40% increase in listed agnostic/atheist AA groups. Groups like Secular Organizations for Sobriety (SOS) are growing and AA-without-prayer is the fastest growing segment of AA.
If you are looking for help with addiction, and are interested in a secular alternative to traditional 12-step programs, the following links may be useful:
The International Declaration on the Future of the Arctic is a charter for Arctic protection which will be presented to the leaders of the Arctic States as well as to representatives at the United Nations. OHS has joined signatories such as David Suzuki, Stephen Lewis, Maude Barlow and Margaret Atwood in signing this declaration that calls for “the creation of a global sanctuary in the international waters around the North Pole, a ban on oil drilling in icy waters, full implementation of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and an urgent renewal of efforts to reduce GHGs, among other demands”.
Skeptical Science has launched a 97 hour campaign to bring attention to the fact that 97% of climate scientists agree that humans are the cause of climate change. Every hour, for 97 hours, they are posting a statement (along with a caricature) from a climate change scientist…
You can see the rest here, and you can also follow them on twitter (@skepticalscience) using the hashtag #97Hours