The Humanist Association of Toronto provides a focus of activities and discussion for Humanists in the Toronto area. Please note: HAT events are open to the public, and views expressed do not necessarily represent the official views of the Humanist Association of Toronto. For all public statements, educational events, media enquiries, please contact the webeditor, who will forward your enquiry to our Spokesperson.
The Humanist Forum meets Saturday morning 11am-1pm
The Monthly Meeting the 2nd or 3rd Saturday at 1:30pm (TBD)
The Steering Committee meets 1st Wednesday, 7pm
The Book Group meets monthly.

HAT Forum
Sat Feb 6th 2016
11 a.m. To 1 pm
519 Church Street Room 304
Topic "Social Engineering"

“Social Engineering"
Proposer: Richard Dowsett (from Hassan’s suggestion)
Social Engineering refers to efforts made to influence attitudes and behaviours –
on a large scale by governments, media, corporations, action groups or, 
on a small scale by activists, hackers, con-men or those wishing to gain a social advantage or societal improvement. 
These efforts employ:
an understanding of how people make decisions and 
the motivations behind their behaviours 
to target them in such a way that desired behaviours will be elicited.

Examples of Social Engineering (SE) or where it is employed,
Public Service Ads
Government Campaigns (e.g. anti-smoking)
Political opinion shaping, spin doctoring, news releases
Public Relations
1. Is SE inherently manipulative? 
2. Does your view of SE change if its aims are seen as societally positive?
3. Does your view of SE change with the degree of transparency involved? 
4. The “calling out” or “naming and shaming” of others’ negative social behaviours could be seen as a form of SE. Discuss the real world benefits and drawbacks of this type of SE.
5. Discuss SE on the following dimensions: Pragmatic, Coercive, Necessary, Ineffective, Ethical, Obsolete
6. Should Humanist groups attempt to create their own "agenda" to infuse into the population psyche using SE? Do SE tactics align with Humanist Principles?
7. Humanist groups are often occupied with preventing religious indoctrination of children in schools. If we were in the position to instill humanist values instead, would we do it? Is this a potential source of hypocrisy?

HAT Forum Saturday, Jan 30th 2016
11:00 a.m. to 1 p.m.
519 Church St. Room 303
"Conflicts within liberalism"
Proposer: Richard Dowsett

There is an ongoing conflict in countries such as Canada, the USA and Britain. The widely held values of social liberalism (Protection of Basic Liberties, Equality of Opportunity, Progress as a goal, issue based politics) have been challenged by a newer form of Liberalism that has a different set of values (A recognition of oppression as a primary ill, the desire to redress past ills, the concern that all institutions and societal are tainted by bias, the questioning of progress, the importance of culture, religion and identity as the primary drivers of politics). These values go beyond and are sometimes in conflict with the original ones.

1.    Describe your own affiliations with each of these schools of thought? What do you see as their benefits and drawbacks as a method to achieving societal goals?
2.    In social liberalism, there is a belief that society can change and progress to achieve higher levels of freedom, equality and benefits for its members. Discuss.
a)    Comment on the strong criticisms that social liberal Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders has received from Black Activists about his lack of racial sensitivity.
3.    In new the liberalism, there is a belief that society is basically flawed. Redress of historic oppression and relief of current oppression must be prioritized over equality and basic liberties (i.e. free speech). Discuss.
a)    Comment on the backlash that “New Atheists” (e.g. Dawkins & Harris) have received from certain quarters with the new liberal community (Greenwald, Myers)
4.    In the past, Multiculturalism has been viewed as Interculturalism, fusing the best of different cultures to produce a better culture as a whole. New liberalism approaches Multiculturalism as minority identities under threat of assimilation or appropriation by the dominant culture and therefore needing protection. How do you react to each of these conceptions?
5.    The new liberalism asserts the rights of minority cultures against integration. How can countries like Canada defend these rights while prohibiting those (allegedly) cultural practices that the state judges illiberal (e.g. the subjugation of women or LGBT people?)

HAT Forum Saturday, Jan 16th 2016
11:00 a.m. to 1 p.m.
519 Church St. Room 303
"Charitable Giving from a Humanist Perspective"
Proposer: Richard Dowsett

While HAT is in the midst of its largest charitable project and fund-raising effort in many years, this may be a good opportunity to reflect on our society’s and our own giving habits and what they should be according to our Humanist Principles.

1. 1. HAT’s 7th principle is as follows:

“Human Ethics: *Ethical decisions* should be made in the context of real people, real situations, *real human needs* and aspirations and the consideration of *real consequences*. Humanism combines personal liberty with *social responsibility*. It affirms the dignity of every person, the right of the individual to the greatest possible freedom compatible with the rights of others, and the need for *community*. Without this context we risk the worst excesses of ideology.”

The *bolded phrases* would seem to impinge most upon the giving habits of HAT members. How does your consideration of these phrases affect your giving habits?

2. 2. According to Stats Can determine our charitable giving by which organizations ask for our time or money. i.e. it’s a decision made more by reflex that by plan.What are the benefits and drawbacks or giving in this way?

3. 3. What criteria, if any, do you use to determine what causes benefit from your time and money?

4. 4. What have been the effects of Social Media and technology (e.g. internet, e-mail) on charitable  concerns and giving of money, time and attention?

5. 5. Charities distributing collected funds (and governments distributing tax dollars) usually put certain qualification requirements on the recipients. In what ways can this be an unwarranted intrusion or unreasonable manipulation of those in need? Stats Can Report

Best Regards,

Richard Dowsett

HAT Forum:
Sat Jan 9th 2015 11:00a.m. - 1:00p.m.
519 Church Street Rm 303
Does the world need more Canada?

proposed by Moses Klein

A quote attributed to Bono, but probably repeated mostly by Canadians, is that "the world needs more Canada". Is that wisdom, or are we just flattering ourselves?
(1) Does the world need to become more like Canada? In what ways should it, or should it not?
(2) Does the world benefit from the involvement of Canada? What forms of involvement does the world need more of, or not?
(3) Do other countries have a comparable claim that the world needs more of them?

HAT Forum Saturday, Jan 2nd 2016
11:00 a.m. to 1 p.m.
519 Church St. Room 303
"Men’s Issues: A Closer Look"
Proposer: Richard Dowsett

Warning: This is a potentially controversial topic. Participants are asked to consider it from a Humanist perspective with intellectual curiosity, open mindedness and fairness. If your history precludes you from being able to consider the topic and your own biases objectively, then you may want to reconsider your participation.

Men’s groups have been around for centuries. They have generally been formed around social activities (eating & drinking), common interests (business, hobbies) & pursuits (sports), service or business (networking). These groups were “of men”, “for men” but not about the experience of “being men”.
A new type of Men’s group has arisen over the past 20 years – The Men’s Advocacy group. This sees men and their allies deciding upon societal issues that affect men and then advocating for them as a societal class.
As in all social movements, there is a continuum from moderates who want to fine tune the system in certain areas to extremists who believe the whole system is corrupt/damaged and want to either scrap it all and start again or opt out entirely. Then there is the search for causes, for blame, for theories and following those, proposed solutions. These again fall on a continuum of moderate to extreme.
1.    Are there legitimate issues involving men’s treatment by society that need to be addressed?
2.    There is a thought process in certain quarters that because men have been the dominant force in our culture, any fallout from this is theirs to bear and their issues will fall very low on the priorities list for society. Discuss the legitimacy of this theory.
3.    Even the idea of an advocacy group for men rings as absurd or even obscene in the ears of some members of society. Explore your feelings about this concept.
4.    Another theory is that, in some ways, men have also been victims of patriarchy, biology and history. Rigidly defined roles have limited their options, their range of emotional responses, their expected behaviours and this has lead to stress, anxiety, unhappiness and all the accompanying phenomena (depression, suicide, addiction, violence, early death). Discuss the legitimacy of this theory.
Useful References:

HAT Forum
Saturday Dec 12
519 Church, Room 304 11:00 - 12:30
Freedom of Expression
the New Censorship on Campus
N.B. Speaker Event at OISE 1:30 p.m.
Please see post below

Freedom of Expression vs. the New Censorship on Campus: Safe spaces, trigger warnings, appropriation issues, and no-platforming 

1. What do you make of the following events that have happened on campuses in the last few months? (Please check out online info and numerous videos of some of these events on YouTube in advance if possible.)

- The University of Ottawa canceled yoga classes out of concerns about cultural appropriation.

- At LSE student union, the motion to condemn the Paris attacks failed to pass

- Some universities have allowed male and female divided seating at events on campus.

- Increasingly common free speech suppressing "safe space" policies and the increasingly common disparagement and denigration of the First Amendment on US campuses

- Many comedians, such as Jerry Seinfeld, no longer want to perform at college campuses due to the dampening effect on audiences of overly sensitive extreme PC climate there now.

- Safe space vs. The first amendment: Communications professor Melissa Click asking for "muscle" among the protestors to prevent the student newspaper photojournalists from covering a protest at the University of Missouri (see YouTube).

- Erika Kristakis and the Yale Halloween costume email incident (see YouTube)

- Attempted no-platforming of speakers Germaine Greer and Maryam Namazie (at Warwick University and at Goldsmith University, where the no platforming was supported by the Goldsmith feminist group and the LBGT group) among others - see YouTube

- "Brown University professor denounces McCarthy-like witch hunts." The Daily Beast

- Professor Boghossian, who teaches a course on atheism, now has a notice that on his course outline that reads: Trigger Warning: This whole course is a trigger warning. (He has received a fair bit of flak for this.)

- Mandatory indigenous studies courses at high school level are now also at the University of Winnipeg and Lakehead University (required for graduation)

- In the UK, there have been demands for lecturers to report students showing signs of extremism.

2. What are the merits of censorship? Of self-censorship? Of free speech? Of academic freedom? Of anti-blasphemy laws? Of hate speech laws? Of no hate speech laws? What are the drawbacks of all of these?

3. What is the place of freedom of expression in universities? Of identity politics? What do you make of safe spaces, trigger warnings, no platforming, and appropriation issues?

4. Students of the 1960s fought to have paternalistic constraints such as restrictions on their personal decisions removed from the role of university administrations. In contrast, many claim that today's students are fighting to have university administrations assume more control over their lives. What is the function of a university administration today? Thoughts?

5. There have been many grave problems around racism, sexism, and homophobia on campuses in the last several years, actions from students that have caused a great deal of pain and outrage. What should universities be doing about these problems and what are the limits to what they can do?

HAT Forum
Saturday, Dec 5 2015
11:00am to 1pm
519 Church St. Room 304
Topic:"Policing in Canada"
Proposer: Richard Dowsett

Stats Canada's annual Police Resources in Canada report (2014) highlights the statistical trends in policing and crime in Canada. Some of the most interesting facts:
Canada's level of Police staffing has varied just above and just below the 200 per 100000 of population mark since the mid-1970's
this level is amongst the lowest of the world's developed countries
crime level (incidents per 100000 of pop) and the severity of those crimes has dropped dramatically since a peak in the early '90's.
crime is at a 1970 level, half of what it was in the early '90's
Compared to a decade ago, police expenditures in constant dollars in Canada have increased by 37%.
1 in 10 officers in Canada currently qualify for retirement
Outside of the statistics, several reports have been compiled questioning apparent biases in police behaviour against people of colour and people with mental health disabilities. Of particular concern are:
fundamental levels of disrespect toward groups (racial, from a particular locality, age) thought to be of a criminal character while ironically demanding respect from these same groups
insidious effects of certain elements of police subculture including "us vs them", "war on crime", "war stories" and "contempt of cop" as a crime in itself
a system that is heavily biased toward an assumption of police innocence and a lack of accountability. In Ontario, even if an officer is suspended, that officer still earns full pay pending investigation
The questions:
In light of this information are there actions we would expect our government to take that they are not taking concerning changes to policing?
In what ways can police be made more accountable without making their position untenable?
In what ways should our traditional view of police and the police's view of themselves modernize to better serve Canada's needs?
What personal experiences have you had with police and how does this inform your views?

HAT Forum Saturday 28
November 2015, 11:00
OISE, 252 Bloor St. W., Room 8-200
Topic: Guns vs. Flowers

The title of this Forum is a reference to this viral video:

In crisis situations, take guns as a metphor for any response involving
hostility or conflict, and flowers as a metaphor for any life-affirming

Can flowers ever defeat guns? What does it take? In what circumstances are
flowers ineffective? How do we find flowers in the face of guns? And should
we even try? Do you have any favourite examples of flowers responding to

HAT Forum
Sat Nov 21st 2015 11:00-1:00 p.m.
519 Church St Room 304
Topic: Loosening Prejudice

 How can we acknowledge prejudice in our perceptions of the world, people, and issues around us?
   - Acknowledge to ourselves.
   - Acknowledge to others.

What might help us modify or change our prejudice?

Are there strategies we might use in our Forum and other discussions to work towards loosening the hold of prejudice upon us?

How does witnessing diversity in action affect our prejudice?

HAT Forum Saturday, Oct 31 2015
11:00am to 1pm
519 Church St. Room 304
"Belonging: Becoming a Part of Canada’s Future"

HAT Forum
Saturday, Oct 31 2015 11:00am to 1pm
The 519 Community Centre, 519 Church St. Room 304
"Belonging: Becoming a Part of Canada’s Future"
Proposer: Richard Dowsett
The concept of Belonging in a national context refers to “being rightly placed” in a society – to know that you deserve to be recognized by a country, to feel as if you are recognized. There is a dual aspect of you belonging to the country (that “it” has some expectation of you, can judge you, can change you) and the country belonging to you (that you can have expectation of it, can judge it, can change it).
The degree to which you feel all of these things as a citizen or resident of Canada can be determined by many factors from birthplace to personality but there is no doubt that these feeling affect your connection to Canada, your happiness in being here and your willingness to participate in building its future.
1.    Describe your feelings of Canadian Belonging, why they might be this way and how they have affected your life.
2.    In what ways could you say strong feelings of Belonging are a positive? A negative?
3.    In what ways could a lack of Belonging be a positive? A negative?
4.    Do you view your sense of Belonging as changing or static? What circumstances lead to this?
5.    Some view having innate feelings of Canadian belonging conveyed by first to be a form of privilege. That being so sure of your belonging blinds you to others’ struggles to belong.
6.    With HAT embarking on a Sponsorship Agreement for a Syrian Family a important questions might be:
·         is it worthwhile to have a plan to try to engender a sense of belonging in our Family? How might we accomplish this if we wanted to?
·         Is it enough to cater to their physical well-being and leave them to sort their mental needs out for themselves?
For more background, listen to this fascinating audio presentation from CBC Radio’s “Ideas” program 

HAT Forum Saturday, Oct 24 2015
11:00am to 1pm
519 Church St. Room 304
"The HAT Forum: Questions for the Future"

HAT Forum
Saturday, Oct 24 2015 11:00am to 1pm
The 519 Community Centre, 519 Church St. Room 304
"The HAT Forum: Questions for the Future"
Proposer: Richard Dowsett

​The HAT Forum is one of HAT's core programs. Since the beginning, The Forum has been a source​ of education and community for our members.  But we must not be complacent about its future. With the internet and media so easy to use, we need to ensure that The Forum adapts to remain a relevant and vibrant feature of our members' and the wider communities' lives.
1. What questions need to be asked of our members to serve our members in the best way?
2. How can we cast our net wider to appeal to members and guests alike?
3. What topic changes and format changes are necessary to properly service our community and keep the Forum thriving?
4. Are there features of The Forum (time, place, manner of discussion etc.) that may be holding people back or turning them off attending?

History of Humanism

History of Humanism

When:          3 evenings : October 28, November 4 and November 11
Time:           7 p.m.
Where:         Don Heights, Unitarian Congregation.  
                   18 Wynford Drive, Unit 103, Toronto, ON  M3C 3S2 (near Don Mills and Eglinton)
Registration:  Minimum of 10 people  Please e-mail 
                     or call the office at 416-444-8839 to register.
Cost:             Free  

Learn about the beginnings of Humanism and how it has changed over the years.  
The first session will describe the some history and the relationship to Unitarianism.
The other two will look at the relationship of humanism to Unitarianism, Paganism, Christianity etc.

Led by Tom Brown.

For more information go to

N.B. This event is hosted by the Don Heights Unitarian Congregation, not by the Humanist Association of Toronto (HAT). 
HAT meetings are free and open to members and the public. Call (416) 966-1361 for location information. ___________________________________________________
The Humanist Forum meets Saturday morning 11am-1pm.
The Monthly Meeting, is usually the second Saturday at 1:30pm; specifics should be found on this blog.
The Steering Committee meets the first Wednesday of each month, at 7pm.
The Book Group usually meets on the first Saturday afternoon of the month.