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
Avaaz – They’re eyeing our inboxes — let’s stop them!.
The Harper government is attacking our privacy by sneaking new online spy rules into a giant omnibus bill. They could act very soon — but a massive outcry can stop them from eyeing our inboxes.
They say it’s about protecting kids from cyber bullying, but only four of its 70 pages deal with the issue. The rest could systematically dismantle key civil liberties making it easier for authorities to spy on everything we do online, and easier for them to covertly track our movements using our own phones.
The last time Harper tried to sneak a bill like this past us, citizens fought back and won by creating an uproar in the press — let’s do it again! Click now to stop them from eyeing our inboxes. When 50,000 sign we’ll launch a massive media storm in key Ministers’ ridings to make sure they feel the heat from their own constituents.
“As concerned citizens we call on you to withdraw Bill C-13 and reintroduce only the portion dealing with cyber bullying. The remainder of the bill greatly increases the government’s power to spy on our online activities and even monitor our movements. This is an unacceptable infringement on the basic civil liberties of all Canadians. The government should seek to achieve the legitimate aims of fighting cyber bullying without also threatening our basic privacy rights.
Here is a short list of various days and events which have been developed by humanists around the world. The IHEU endorses World Humanist Day (21 June), Darwin Day (12 February), Human Rights Day (10 December) and HumanLight (23 December) as official days of Humanist celebration, though none are yet a public holiday.
DARWIN DAY, Feb 12
WORLD HUMANIST DAY, June 21
HUMAN RIGHTS DAY, Dec 10
HUMANLIGHT, Dec. 23
Humanists may also recognize other dates, such as
HYPATIA DAY, March 15 A pagan, and probably an atheist, Hypatia of Alexandria was a woman of remarkable intellect who advanced mathematics and the science of astronomy in her time. Her death at the hands of a christian mob in March 415ce has been described as marking the end of classical antiquity.
“All formal dogmatic religions are fallacious and must never be accepted by self-respecting persons as final.” —attributed to her, unverified
EARTH DAY, April 22
PI DAY, March 14
Pi Day is an annual celebration commemorating the mathematical constant π (pi). Pi Day is observed on March 14 (or 3/14 in the U.S. month/day date format), since 3, 1, and 4 are the three most significant digits of π in the decimal form. In 2009, the United States House of Representatives supported the designation of Pi Day.
Pi Approximation Day is observed on July 22 (or 22/7 in the day/month date format), since the fraction 22⁄7 is a common approximation of π.
But for something truly encompassing, see
CARL SAGAN’s COSMIC CALENDAR (illustrations at this link)
Cosmic Calendar is a scale in which the 13.8 billion year lifetime of the universe is mapped onto a single year. At this scale the Big Bang took place on January 1 at midnight, and the current time is mapped to December 31 at midnight. At this scale, there are 434 years per second, 1.57 million years per hour, and 37.7 million years per day. The concept was popularized by Carl Sagan in his book The Dragons of Eden and on his television series Cosmos as a way to conceptualize the vast amounts of time in the history of the universe.
Write for Rights 2013 | Amnesty International Canada.
Every year on December 10th, activists in more than 80 countries gather on their own or in large and small events to press governments to respond to a human rights concern on selected high-priority cases. We also write letters of hope and solidarity directly to prisoners or people experiencing human rights violations.
7 reasons why it’s easier for humans to believe in God than evolution
“I don’t think there’s any question that a variety of our mental dispositions are ones that discourage us from taking evolutionary theory as seriously as it should be taken,” explains Robert N. McCauley, director of the Center for Mind, Brain, and Culture at Emory University and author of the book Why Religion is Natural and Science is Not….
So what can science tell us about our not-so-scientific minds? Here’s a list of cognitive traits, thinking styles, and psychological factors identified in recent research that seem to thwart evolution acceptance:
Biological Essentialism. First, we seem to have a deep tendency to think about biology in a way that is “essentialist”—in other words, assuming that each separate kind of animal species has a fundamental, unique nature that unites all members of that species, and that is inviolate. Fish have gills, birds have wings, fish make more fish, birds make more birds, and that’s how it all works….
If essentialism is a default style of thinking, as much research suggests, then that puts evolution at a major disadvantage. Charles Darwin and his many scientific disciples have shown that essentialism is just plain wrong: Given enough time, biological kinds are not fixed but actually change. Species are connected through intermediate types to other species—and all are ultimately related to one another.
Teleological Thinking. Essentialism is just one basic cognitive trait, observed in young children, that seems to hinder evolutionary thinking. Another is “teleology,” or the tendency to ascribe purposes to things and objects so as to assume they exist to serve some goal.
Recent research suggests that 4 and 5 year old children are highly teleological in their thinking, tending to opine, for instance, that clouds are “for raining” and that the purpose of lions is “to go in the zoo.” The same tendency has been observed in 7 and 8 year olds who, when asked why “prehistoric rocks are pointy,” offered answers like “so that animals could scratch on them when they got itchy” and “so that animals wouldn’t sit on them and smash them.”
Why do children think like this? One study speculates that this teleological disposition may be a “side [effect] of a socially intelligent mind that is naturally inclined to privilege intentional explanation.” In other words, our brains developed for thinking about what people are thinking, and people have intentions and goals. If that’s right, the playing field may be naturally tilted toward anti-evolutionist doctrines like “intelligent design,” which postulates an intelligent agent (God) as the cause of the diversity of life on Earth, and seeks to uncover evidence of purposeful design in biological organisms.
Overactive Agency Detection. But how do you know the designer is “God”? That too may be the result of a default brain setting.
Another trait, closely related to teleological thinking, is our tendency to treat any number of inanimate objects as if they have minds and intentions. Examples of faulty agency detection, explains University of British Columbia origins of religion scholar Ara Norenzayan, range from seeing “faces in the clouds” to “getting really angry at your computer when it starts to malfunction.” People engage in such “anthropomorphizing” all the time; it seems to come naturally. And it’s a short step to religion: “When people anthropomorphize gods, they are inferring mental states,” says Norenzayan.
There has been much speculation about the evolutionary origin of our anthropomorphizing tendency. One idea is that our brains developed to rapidly assume that objects in the world are alive and may pose a threat, simply because while wrongly mistaking a rustle of leaves for a bear won’t get you killed, failing to detect a bear early (when the leaves rustle) most certainly will. “Supernatural agents are readily conjured up because natural selection has trip-wired cognitive schema for agency detection in the face of uncertainty,” write Norenzayan and fellow origin of religion scholar Scott Atran
Dualism. Yet another apparent feature of our cognitive architecture is the tendency to think that minds (or the “self” and the “soul”) are somehow separate from brains. Once again, this inclination has been found in young children, suggesting that it emerges early in human development…
Dualistic thinking is closely related to belief in phenomena like spirits and ghosts. But in a recent study, it was also the cognitive factor most strongly associated with believing in God. As for evolutionary science? Dualism is pretty clearly implicated in resistance to the idea that human beings could have developed from purely natural processes—for if they did, how could there ever be a soul or self beyond the body, to say nothing of an afterlife?
Inability to Comprehend Vast Time Scales. According to Norenzayan, there’s one more basic cognitive factor that prevents us from easily understanding evolution. Evolution occurred due to the accumulation of many small changes over vast time periods—which means that it is unlike anything we’ve experienced. So even thinking about it isn’t very easy. “The only way you can appreciate the process of evolution is in an abstract way,” says Norenzayan. “Over millions of years, small changes accumulate, but it’s not intuitive. There’s nothing in our brain that says that’s true. We have to override our incredulity.”
Group Morality and Tribalism. All of these cognitive factors seem to make evolution hard to grasp, even as they render religion (or creationist ideas) simpler and more natural to us. But beyond these cognitive factors, there are also emotional reasons why a lot of people don’t want to believe in evolution. When we see resistance to its teaching, after all, it is usually because a religious community fears that this body of science will undermine a belief system—in the US, usually fundamentalist Christianity—deemed to serve as the foundation for shared values and understanding. In other words, evolution is resisted because it is perceived as a threat to the group.
So how appropriate that one current scientific theory about religion is that it exists (and, maybe, that it evolved) to bind groups together and keep them cohesive. In his recent book The Righteous Mind, moral psychologist Jonathan Haidt argues that religions provide a shared set of beliefs and practices that, in effect, serve as social glue. “Gods and religions,” writes Haidt, “are group-level adaptations for producing cohesiveness and trust.” The upside is unity; the downside, Haidt continues, is “groupishness, tribalism, and nationalism.” Ideas and beliefs that threaten the group or the beliefs that hold it together—ideas like evolution—are bound to fare badly in this context.
Fear and the Need for Certainty. Finally, there appears to be something about fear and doubt that impels religiosity and dispels acceptance of evolution. “People seem to take more comfort from a stance that says, someone designed the world with good intentions, instead of that the world is just an intention-less, random place,” says Norenzayan. “This is especially true when we feel a sense of threat, or a feeling of not being in control.”
Indeed, in one amazing study, New Zealanders who had just suffered through a severe earthquake showed stronger religiosity, but only if they had been directly affected by the quake. Other research suggests that making people think about death increases their religiosity and also decreases evolution acceptance.
It’s not just death: It’s also randomness, disorder. In one telling study, research participants who were asked to think of a situation in which they had lacked control and then to “provide three reasons supporting the notion that the future is (un-) controllable,” showed a marked decline in their acceptance of evolution, opting instead for an intelligent design-style explanation. (Another study found that anti-evolutionists displayed higher fear sensitivity and a trait called the “need for cognitive closure,” which describes a psychological need to find an answer that can resolve uncertainty and dispel doubt.) ……
Oil Giant SWN Is Suspending Its Work in New Brunswick After Nationwide Protests | VICE Canada.
Harsh opposition to Texas energy firm SWN spread throughout Canada this week. Demonstrations popped up across the country in solidarity with protests in New Brunswick that resulted in a brutal RCMP response. The militarized police force has been enforcing a court ordered injunction to protect the company’s natural gas exploration on unceded native land. An international call to action came from Idle No More and Elsipogtog First Nation using the hashtag #SHUTDOWNCANADA. The call was answered by roadblocks, banner drops and solidarity protests in Vancouver, Victoria, Winnipeg, Toronto, Hamilton, Montreal and even Ireland on December 2nd. Evidently, these movements have done something to stir SWN—as the company announced today they’d be shutting down all operations in New Brunswick until 2015.
A film Directed by Cara Mumford in 2012, featuring evalyn parry’s spoken word, “14 (for December 6).” A powerful statement, about the montreal engineers who were killed, and about violence against women. Evalyn performs all over the world, but lived in Toronto and Ottawa and went to university in Montreal.
Oliva Chow said today: “Twenty four years ago today, 14 women were murdered at École Polytechnique in Montréal. Please take a moment to learn more about the white-ribbon campaign, co-founded by my late husband Jack Layton in 1991 to promote the end of violence against women. This tragedy must never be repeated”
Teachers’ union calls on Ontario to merge public, Catholic school systems | CTV Kitchener News.
The Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation wants the province to spend more money on all levels of education, continue to expand early learning programs and eliminate standardized testing.
But it’s a proposal to condense Ontario’s four school systems into two – one English and one French, ending separate systems for Catholic schools – that’s drawing the strongest reaction.
OSSTF president Paul Elliott announced the union’s six-point plan for public education at a Thursday morning news conference in Toronto.
Eliminating Ontario’s separate English- and French-language Catholic school systems was the last of the six ideas Elliott introduced. As he did so, he suggested merging the school systems could lead to administrative savings that would then allow for increased spending on classrooms. “There’s unnecessary duplication of administrative services and facilities,” he said.
Michael Devoy, president of the Waterloo unit of the Ontario English Catholic Teachers Association, says he isn’t so sure there would be savings at the school board level were the systems to merge. “I don’t see where amalgamation results in anything other than disruption,” he tells CTV News.
Devoy calls existing administrations “fairly lean”, and questions whether merging the systems would lead to school closures and rebalancings – taking students away from the communities they’re familiar with. “Changing those boundaries is always very difficult,” he says.
Nelson Mandela changed the course of history – for South Africa and the US | Jesse Jackson | Comment is free | theguardian.com.
Here is Jesse Jackson’s tribute to Nelson Mandela.
President Nelson Mandela was truly a transformative force in the history of South Africa and the world. My heart weighs heavy about his transition, but we are reassured because his life was full, and we know the imprint he left on our world is everlasting.
If ever the teaching that “Suffering breeds character. Character breeds faith. In the end faith will not disappoint” rang true, it did in the life of Mandela.
Despite imprisonment in Robben Island for 25 years and 8 months, Mandela never lost faith in winning freedom for the South African people. Suffering breeds character.
Mandela was a transformational figure; to say he was a “historical figure” would not give him his full due. Some people move through history as being the “first this or that” – just another figure in a lineage of persons. To be a transformer is to plan, to have the vision to chart the course, the skills to execute. To be transformational is to have the courage of one’s convictions, to sacrifice, to risk life and limb, to lay it all on the line. “Historical figures” will reference Nelson Mandela.
I recall marching against apartheid with Oliver Tambo and the enormous rally at Trafalgar Square in November 1985. I later met with Prime Minister Thatcher to decry Britain’s economic, political and military support of the apartheid regime. Let us not forget that Britain, the US, all of the western powers, labeled Mandela a terrorist and steadfastly propped up the apartheid regime – they were on the wrong side of history. I appealed to her to support the release of Mandela, and departed for South Africa.
My heart burst with excitement on that day of Mandela’s release from Victor Verster Prison, 11 February 1990. When word got out about his impending release, maids started doing the toya toya in the hallways, beating pots and pans, weeping and demonstrating. “In the end, faith will not disappoint.”
I met Mandela and Winnie at City Hall, and when we spoke later at our hotel, he thanked me and recalled hearing about my 1984 convention speech. Even from his jail cell, he was keenly aware of the outside world, and the ebbs and flows of the world. Three years later, as part of the official US delegation, I was honored to celebrate Nelson Mandela’s inauguration as president of the new, free South Africa.
We forged an everlasting relationship. We’ve welcomed him to our home and headquarters in Chicago. We’ve met numerous times in South Africa – the last time in 2010 where we spoke about boxing, sports, politics and traded baseball caps.
Mandela was a giant of immense and unwavering intellect courage and moral authority. He chose reconciliation over retaliation. He changed the course of history.
Now, both South Africa and the US have unfinished business to complete.
Nelson Mandela is not gone, he remains with us always. He’ll always be a chin bar to pull up on. He has indeed forged South Africa as a new “beauty from ashes”. He has left this earth, but he soars high among the heavens, and his eloquent call for freedom and equality is still heard amongst the winds and the rains, and in the hearts of the people the world over.
Discovery of oldest human DNA in Spanish cave sheds light on evolution | Science | The Guardian.
esearchers have read strands of ancient DNA teased from the thigh bone of an early human who died 400,000 years ago in what is now northern Spain.
The genetic material was pieced together from a clutch of cells found in bone fragments – the oldest human remains ever to yield their genetic code.
The work deepens understanding of the genetics of human evolution by about 200,000 years, raising hopes that researchers can build a clearer picture of the earliest branches of the human family tree by studying the genetic make-up of fossilised remains dug up elsewhere.
“This is proof of principle that it can be done,” said Matthias Meyer at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig. “We are now very eager to explore other sites of a similar age.”
The thigh bone was among the remains of at least 28 early human ancestors found at the bottom of a vertical shaft in a cave complex in the Atapuerca mountains in northern Spain. The Sima de los Huesos, or “pit of bones”, lies 30 metres underground and half a kilometre from the cave system’s nearest current entrance.
Scientists managed to analyse DNA found in the thigh bone of this skeleton found in Spain. Photograph: Javier Trueba/AP
The individuals at Sima de los Huesos looked a little like Neanderthals, and many anthropologists classified them as Homo heidelbergensis, a potential forerunner of modern humans. The corpses were probably washed into the pit rather than buried intentionally.
Meyer’s team sequenced DNA found in tiny sausage-shaped structures called mitochondria, which sit inside cells and provide them with power. Mitochondria are passed down the maternal line only, unlike DNA found in the cell nucleus, which carries genetic information from both parents and their ancestors.
The age of the bone fragments meant the cells and their DNA were badly degraded. “This is the hardest sample I have ever worked on that yielded a result,” said Meyer.
Meyer’s team dated the bone fragments to 400,000 years old, but further analysis left them baffled. The mitochondrial DNA did not match that of Neanderthals, but was closer to a sister group called the Denisovans that lived in Siberia. Details of the study appear in the journal Nature.
Meyer says there are a number of explanations, but admits more work is needed. One possibility is that an older lineage of human ancestors, perhaps Homo erectus, bred with the ancestors of the Sima de la Huesos individuals, and passed on their mitochondria. But several other explanations are being explored by anthropologists.”Either way, this new finding can help us start to disentangle the relationships of the various human groups known from the last 600,000 years,” said Chris Stringer, head of human origins at the Natural History Museum in London. “If more mitochondrial DNA can be recovered from the Sima population of fossils, it may demonstrate how these individuals were related to each other, and how varied their population was.”
Meyer said the Leipzig group now hopes to extract so-called nuclear DNA from the Sima fossils, which contains more information but will be much harder to extract because there is far less material.
“We have taken a first glimpse now and what we find is unexpected and confusing,” he said. “But I’m confident we’ll get more data, and then it’s very likely we’ll be able to nail down some hard facts, about whether these Sima de la Heusos guys are the ancestors of Neanderthals, the ancestors of both Neanderthals and Denisovans, or even something completely different.”
Premier Wynne: No tar sands pipeline through Ontario | The Council of Canadians
he Ontario government recently announced that it will hold public consultations on TransCanada’s proposed Energy East pipeline.
This is great news for communities with serious concerns about this pipeline. Our voices will be heard in a real public consultation – not just the corporate tradeshows that TransCanada’s been holding.
But during Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne’s first official trip to Alberta a few weeks ago, she made some deeply concerning comments about the Energy East pipeline. She emphasized the positive impact of Alberta’s oil and gas industry on Ontario and considers “moving crude eastward a ‘national project.’”
Running from Alberta to Saint John, New Brunswick, Energy East is the largest pipeline under consideration in Canada. The pipeline would ship 1.1 million barrels of crude per day, far surpassing controversial pipeline proposals such as Keystone XL.
The TransCanada project involves many risks and questionable benefits for Ontario. The Energy East pipeline threatens Ontario with a devastating diluted bitumen spill, puts Ontario’s gas supply at risk and facilitates reckless expansion in the tar sands.
Write to Premier Wynne and tell her why you’re concerned about Energy East. Use the sample letter or write your own to have an even bigger impact.
The letter form is at the link above.
The January issue of Enlightenment, the newsletter of the Humanist Association of London and Area (HALA), is now available.
Topics in this issue include:
- What is politics?
- America: What Went Wrong? book review)
- Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth (book review)
Back issues of Enlightenment are available for download here.
Critical Condition: Reviving Public Science in Canada
will take place on Nov. 29, 2013, from 5:30-7:30, Univ of Toronto, JR McLeod Auditorium, 2158 MedSci bldg. Free admission - all welcome
Come to an event celebrating the life of three scientific organizations that died and one that was resuscitated, and help us brainstorm about ways to revive public science in Canada.
Dr. Paul Cappon, the former President of the Canadian Council of Learning (2004-2012) will talk about the Council’s birth and untimely death. The Council studied and fostered ways in which Canadians were learning in school, at home, in the workplace and in their community, throughout their life cycle.
Dr. Robert Page, former Chair of the National Round Table on Environment & Economy (1988-2013), will discuss the life and death of the Roundtable and its valuable contributions to our understanding of the links between the environment and the economy – now more needed than ever! It researched and advocated a low carbon economy and argued that Canada was well positioned to achieve this goal. However, its advice was not appreciated, which led to its demise.
Dr. Peter Ross, former senior research with the Ocean Pollution Research Program will talk about “Ocean pollution science in Canada: Navigating without a compass” – the outcome of terminating a program within the Department of Fisheries and Oceans that led to many important regulations and controls improving commercial and traditional seafoods by lowering levels of various chemicals in marine wildlife. It improved the health of several fish and marine mammal populations. Sadly, the program itself died in 2013.
Dr. Diane Orihel, founder of Save ELA, will discuss the death of the world-renowned Experimental Lakes Area and its miraculous resuscitation through Ontario – find out why it is still in critical condition on life support, unable to rise from its bed of suffering. During its healthy life, the ELA influenced public policy in water management in Canada, the USA and Europe.
The talks will be followed by a Q and A period, and we will then brainstorm together what can be done to Revive Public Science in Canada.
This event is organized by Scientists for the Right to Know, the University of Toronto Faculty Association, the Graduate Students’ Union of the University of Toronto, the York University Faculty Association and Save ELA
OHS POSITION STATEMENT ON FRACKING
“Hydraulic fracturing – or “fracking” as it is more commonly known – is a technique that involves the injection of millions of litres of water and thousands of litres of unidentified chemicals and sand underground at very high pressure to break up underlying shale rock formations and release natural gas below the surface.” (Autumn 2013, Canadian Perspectives)*
The fracking method akin to the extraction of bitumen in the tar sands of Alberta is a last ditch effort to release ‘peak oil’ locked in the geological features beneath the surface of our planet. These highly destructive methods can be understood as the oil industry’s way of squeezing the last remaining profits from a dying industry without care or consideration for our planet, our environment and the earth’s inhabitants including our own species. The extraction methods poison water, land, animals and the people who reside in the vicinity of fracking wells.
In the face of clear evidence of damage to the environment in Texas, Colorado and North Dakota as well as in Alberta and British Columbia and in the expectation of further environmental and human damage by the continued use of this practice, OHS takes the position that fracking must be banned by our provincial legislatures until such time as environmental consequences have been removed with objective evidence proving that condition has been met.
For greater insight on this issue, look for two documentaries available on itunes or documentary channels: Gasland and Gasland II report on the methods and outcomes of fracking in the USA where such gas wells are placed in close proximity to schools, farms, and residential neighbourhoods resulting in the pollution of water supplies with methane gas and other contaminants as well as a bevy of illnesses afflicting individuals who reside near the wells. In Ontario, a resident on or near a First Nations reserve reported that methane floated out of his tap following testing in the area by a company wanting to see if ‘fracking’ resources existed in the area.
Ontario has been relatively free of fracking installations, but industry is knocking on our door as well as on the doors of all Canadian provinces and territories. For those reasons, the Ontario Humanist Society is taking the position that fracking must be banned by our provincial legislatures as a detrimental, destructive and unwarranted industrial activity. The energy industries must be directed toward conservation of our energy resources and to the development and use of sustainable alternative energy sources.
For more information about “fracking” and actions you can take to stop “fracking,” we suggest that you visit the Council of Canadians website at www.canadians.org. The Council’s publication, Perspectives, Autumn, 2013, is available for downloading on the website at http://www.canadians.org/canadian-perspectives-fall-2013. The Fall edition covers the topic of “Fracking Our Future?” extensively with “5 Things You Can Do to Stop Fracking” on page 14.
Drafted on November 12, 2013
*Canadian Perspectives is published by the Council of Canadians
Right now families across Canada are suffering terribly from fracking… and it’s getting worse.
David and Carol Diwell live every day fearing for their health. After fracking began next door to them in Dawson Creek, B.C., their once clean, safe drinking water is now extremely volatile and toxic.
In neighbouring Alberta, farmers Shawn and Ronalie Campbell found the home of their dreams outside Ponoka. But relentless fracking has contaminated their groundwater with deadly methane and ruined their dream. South of them in Rosebud, Jessica Ernst can light her tap water on fire and has brought worldwide attention to her battle with energy giant EnCana.
Filthy, flammable drinking water is the terrible new reality for more and more families whose lives are being destroyed by the booming fracking industry.
It’s why at this very moment women, men and children of the Elsipogtog First Nation are courageously blocking American fracking company SWN from illegally entering their land. “I want my children to be able to eat fish and drink water without getting sick,” is how mother Amy Sock puts it.
Yet premiers like Christy Clark in B.C. and David Alward in New Brunswick are pushing for more fracking – not less! Government-issued permits allow fracking companies to drain local watersheds at the rate of up to 200 million litres per fracked well, leaving little for families and farms. A criminal lack of industry regulation and government oversight keeps landowners and communities powerless and in the dark. And Big Oil & Gas couldn’t have a better friend in Ottawa than Stephen Harper to keep it all this way.
Who’s going to put a stop to this fracking madness?
You and me, that’s who.
That’s why I’m urgently writing to you now. The Council of Canadians has just launched our national “Ban Fracking Now” campaign to help families and communities protect their land and drinking water, including developing public education materials, producing community action tools, and planning strategic political interventions.
Now we need to raise $150,000 by the end of November to put these plans into action! Will you help crowdfund this urgently needed frack-tivism?
I know that sounds like a lot. But challenging government agendas and Big Oil & Gas isn’t cheap. And we can’t sit by and allow even one more family to suffer like the Diwells and Campbells.
Chip in right now and your gift will immediately fund tools and actions to:
1. Empower communities to say “NO” to fracking. You’ll help produce our “Ban Fracking Toolkit” packed with research, case studies, and tools for communities to stop fracking before it starts.
2. Expand our student engagement program. You’ll fund the development of new course material on fracking for schools throughout Canada to reach the next generation of “frack-tivists.”
3. Brief Members of Parliament. You’ll help organize a formal meeting with MPs in Ottawa to urge cross-party support – and action – for a federal ban on fracking.
4. Build our Community Fracking Action Fund. You’ll provide urgently needed resources and legal assistance to families on the front lines fighting to save their water.
If just 3,000 of us give $50 each, we’ll hit our goal! I know we can do this because the Council of Canadians has been crowdfunding effective public advocacy work for almost 30 years.
And if you can give $75 or more I’ll send you a FREE, SIGNED copy of my bestselling new book, Blue Future!
Thanks to your generous support, we have a proven track record when it comes to taking on industry and government. It was only last month that you and I helped stop Nestlé from stomping the water rights of a rural Ontario community!
That’s why I know we can do it again.
Fracking is the most immediate threat to our drinking water today. Together we’ll raise the public awareness and political will needed to ban it for good.
Let’s do this!
National Chairperson, the Council of Canadians
Booking has opened for the World Humanist Congress, 2014. The following letter from the IHEU provides details about this important event.
I’m delighted to let you know that booking has now opened for the World Humanist Congress hosted in the beautiful city of Oxford, UK! The Congress is held only every three years and is a major event that we hope you will want to be part of.
8 – 10 August 2014 in Oxford, UK
In addition to its stunning architecture and rich academic tradition, Oxford has strong humanist roots going back centuries. The World Humanist Congress will allow you to soak up the surroundings of this magical place in some of its most iconic buildings.
The theme of the Congress is “Freedom of Thought and Expression” and we have a stellar array of top quality speakers from Nobel prize winners, to persecuted free speech activists, to scientists, poets and philosophers at the heights of their discipline.
Combined with the opportunity to meet fellow humanists from so many countries and eat, drink and socialize with them at the reception, three lunches and gala dinner, and all in some of the most beautiful and famous venues in the world in one of the world’s most famous cities, we’re sure this is going to be an irresistible event.
Tickets are £299 and each ticket includes:
- Three days of plenary sessions in the Sheldonian Theatre, where generations of Oxfordgraduates have received their degrees since the 17th century, and workshops, talks, and panel discussions in the 19th century Oxford University Examination Schools
- Three sit-down ‘English picnic’ style lunches in the Oxford University Examination Schools
- A gala Congress dinner in the high Gothic surroundings of the Oxford Examination Schools, with special guest speakers
- A private viewing of the unique collections of the Ashmolean Museum, the first university museum in the modern world, at an evening reception with special guest speakers
Our hosts, the British Humanist Association, have block-booked high quality but reasonably priced accommodation in the Colleges of Oxford University but you will need to book your ticket soon to take advantage of it! If you book early you also have the opportunity of a payment plan to spread the cost of a ticket out over time.
Full details are on the WHC2014 website at whc2014.org.uk.
Eligible delegates can also find details about how to apply for grants to attend the Congress.
Please let your contacts know! In addition to your staff and representatives we hope you will please notify your members, supporters or contacts about this important event, so that they too have the opportunity to attend.
You can follow the World Humanist Congress on Twitter at @WHC2014News and on Facebook at facebook.com/worldhumanistcongress.
Sincerely hope to see you there.
PS – other reminders:
Member Organizations interested in hosting the next World Humanist Congress in 2017can still apply until November 1st.
You can also still make submissions for the hotly anticipated IHEU 2014 Freedom of Thought report. Visit freethoughtreport.com for information on the report and how to submit data about your country.
Harmful practices inflicted on women or girls can never be justified in the name of freedom of religion or belief
NEW YORK / GENEVA (31 October 2013) – United Nations Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, Heiner Bielefeldt, told the UN General Assembly that “harmful practices inflicted on women or girls can never be justified in the name of freedom of religion or belief.”
“Countless women are exposed to complex forms of human rights violations based on both religion or belief and their sex,” the human rights expert noted with concern during the presentation of his latest report*, while urging Governments to ensure the full and effective implementation of all fundamental principles and norms related to equality between men and women.
Forced conversion in combination with forced marriage is one particularly grave abuse when freedom of religion or belief clashes with gender equality, Mr. Bielefeldt noted. “In a number of countries women or girls from religious minorities run the risk of being abducted with the purpose of forcing them to convert to mainstream religion – often in connection with an unwanted marriage,” he said.
In his report, the expert calls for an all-inclusive human rights approach “in order to do justice to such complex forms of human rights problems in the intersection of freedom of religion or belief and equality of men and women.” All human rights are “universal, indivisible and interrelated and interdependent,” he stressed, recalling consensus arrived at the 1993 Vienna World Conference on Human Rights.
The Special Rapporteur urged Governments and civil society to “look for synergies between freedom of religion or belief and equality between men and women.”
“In virtually all traditions,” he said, “one can find persons or groups who make use of their freedom of religion or belief as a positive resource for the promotion of equality between men and women, often in conjunction with innovative interpretations of religious sources and traditions.”
Mr. Bielefeldt called on States to identify and close human rights protection gaps in personal status laws, including denominational family laws, which disproportionately affect women from religious or belief minorities.
“The purpose must be to create family law systems that fully respect equality between men and women while at the same time doing justice to the broad reality of religious or belief diversity, including persuasions that go beyond the realm of traditionally recognized religions,” the Special Rapporteur said.
Mr. Bielefeldt’s report offers a number of recommendations to uphold the universal spirit of human rights by integrating a gender perspective into programmes designed to protect and promote freedom of religion or belief. Likewise, it also encourages integrating sensitivity on issues of freedom of religion or belief into gender-related anti-discrimination programmes.
Heiner Bielefeldt assumed his mandate on 1 August 2010. As Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, he is independent from any government, and acts in his individual capacity. Mr. Bielefeldt is Professor of Human Rights and Human Rights Politics at the University of Erlangen-Nürnberg. From 2003 to 2009, he was Director of Germany’s National Human Rights Institution. The Special Rapporteur’s research interests include various interdisciplinary facets of human rights theory and practice, with a focus on freedom of religion or belief. Learn more, log on to: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/FreedomReligion/Pages/FreedomReligionIndex.aspx
Take action for human rights | Amnesty International Canada.
Up to October 31, the province is inviting public comments on the plan to renew clearcut logging in the Grassy Narrows territory. Amnesty International takes no position on the details of the plan. However, we strongly support the people of Grassy Narrows who have said this decision cannot be made without their consent. We are encouraging our members and supporters to take this opportunity to express their own support for this fundamental human rights standard.
The draft ten-year plan will not be subject to an environmental impact assessment or any other public process. However, all comments submitted this month will form part of the public record and the province has promised to consider all the comments it receives.
Girls Are Dying From Unsafe Abortions, Why Won’t Canada Help? | Rathika Sitsabaiesan.
In the past three weeks, Minister of Foreign Affairs John Baird made repeated statements committing Canada to address the issue of early and forced marriage.
His announcements come just days before the release of the United Nations Populations Fund’s (UNFPA) 2013 State of World Population report, for which the theme this year is: facing the challenge of adolescent pregnancy. The report will no doubt draw important connections between the issue of adolescent pregnancy and the sexual and reproductive health needs of young women and girls in early and forced marriages.
The sexual and reproductive health needs of millions of girls who are forced into marriage every year are clearly evident as an estimated 90 per cent of adolescents who give birth are married. Married girls are more likely to experience sexual violence, encounter unwanted pregnancies and seek out unsafe abortions. In low and middle income countries, complications from pregnancy and childbirth are the leading cause of death among girls aged 15-19.
More than 4-million unsafe abortions are performed on adolescent girls in developing countries every year and adolescent girls make up to 70 per cent of hospitalizations due to complications from unsafe abortions. The failure to prevent these deaths and injuries is a violation of human rights as per the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights which guarantees the right to life, liberty and security of person.
These deaths are preventable. Unfortunately, the Canadian government has no intention of saving these women’s lives through the provision of access to safe abortion services.
International Development Minister Christian Paradis and Status of Women Minister Kellie Leitch have confirmed that the government will not fund safe abortion services in its overseas initiatives, as part of Canada’s contribution to the 2010 Muskoka Initiative on maternal and child health. In addition, they also refuse to provide funding to organizations that would give women and girls referrals to safe abortion services. Canada’s refusal to fund abortion services, even in cases of rape as a weapon of war and for young women and girls in early and forced marriage, is unacceptable.
Limiting women’s access to abortion through the refusal to fund these services, even in countries where abortion is legal, contradicts the technical guidelines of the World Health Organization (WHO). In response to the Muskoka Initiative, a WHO expert opinion concluded that ready access to contraception and safe abortion significantly reduces high rates of maternal mortality and morbidity. Access to safe abortion can prevent the costs currently imposed by unsafe abortion on health systems, on society, on families and individuals. The WHO clearly states that in countries where there are few restrictions on the availability of safe abortion services, deaths and illness are dramatically reduced.
Canada’s position has garnered considerable opposition from many Parliamentarians and criticism from Canadian civil society organizations that ground their work in the international human rights system, which has clearly recognized safe abortion services as part of a comprehensive package of sexual and reproductive health services and critical to the realization of individuals’ right to health.
As Canadian Members of Parliament, we have the responsibility to ensure we examine the impact of Canada’s development initiatives, with a specific focus on the reproductive health care of women and girls. Canada is bound by the Official Development Assistance Accountability Act (ODAAA), which requires Canadian assistance to contribute to poverty reduction, take into account the perspectives of the poor, and be consistent with international human rights standards.
Canada-EU Non-Trade Agreement Stalled Over Human Rights Language.
OTTAWA – Canada and the European Union are hoping the momentum of last week’s free-trade announcement will carry over into a troublesome side agreement.
Sources close to the talks say the separate Strategic Partnership Agreement — which covers non-trade matters such as human rights — may get a shot in the arm from the recent signing in Brussels of the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper flew to the European capital Oct. 18 to sign an agreement-in-principle with European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso. The far-ranging deal improves the exchange of goods, services, investment and labour.
That capped four years of negotiations, but it’s expected it will take another 18 to 24 months to finish the fine print and ratify the pact. Both sides need to sell it to their member provinces and countries.
The other piece of unfinished — and related — business is the Strategic Partnership Agreement, which Canada and Europe began negotiating in 2011 and has been linked to the broader trade and investment pact.
Canada is balking at the inclusion of language in a final text that would refer to the importance of affirming human rights and non-proliferation efforts.
The EU insists that all major agreements it negotiates contain language that promotes human rights and fights the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction — and it doesn’t want to make an exception for Canada.
The EU’s new ambassador to Canada, Marie-Anne Coninsx, has said that the two pacts are linked and there won’t be a deal on one without the other.