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 April 23 30th 2016
11 a.m. To 1 pm
519 Church Street Room 304
Topic: “Trump and the Media"
Proposer: Andrew Smith

Trump and the Media

(1)        Trump has received what some people would say is a disproportionate amount of media coverage in relation to the other candidates.[i]  Given this fact, what could be causing the media to give him so much coverage?
            –He brings in the ratings (experience with reality TV)?
            –The media wants to promote his campaign?
            –The media wants to discredit his campaign?

(2)        Survey data of the party affiliations of most reporters in the Unites States shows a preponderance of Democrats to Republicans (28% vs. 7%).[ii]  Why is this?  The parent companies of major media outlets also donate millions of dollars to both Democratic and Republican candidates.[iii]  Given this ideological slant and potential conflict of interest, is it reasonable to worry about systemic bias?

Immigration and Multiculturalism

(3)        Data indicates that there are between 7 and 22 million illegal immigrants presently in the United States, with the overwhelming majority coming from Mexico and other parts of Latin America.[iv]  73 percent of households headed by immigrants (both legal and illegal) from Mexico and Central America use at least one welfare program[v] and overwhelmingly identify as Democrat (by margins of 5:1 over identifying as Republican).[vi]  In contrast, 30 percent of native households use at least one welfare program.[vii]
            In Europe, mass immigration from North Africa, the Middle East, and sub-Saharan Africa is a topic of growing concern for many people.  For example, Sweden now has the highest rate of rapes in the West[viii] and has at least 55 “no-go zones” in the country,[ix] regions where the police are reluctant to venture into.
Is mass immigration from non-Western cultures compatible with a democratic welfare state, given the facts above?  What has driven Western governments to adopt policies of mass immigration from non-Western cultures since about the 1960s?[x]

(4)        What is multiculturalism?  What assumptions underlie support or opposition to it?
            Conventional definition:  “the preservation of different cultures or cultural identities within a unified society, as a state or nation.[xi]

The Nature of Modern American Politics

(5)        What are the fundamental differences underlying left-wing and right-wing worldviews?  Are Trump’s policies right wing, left wing, or a mixture?
            Some of Trump’s Major Policies:[xii]
            –Compel the Mexican government to pay for the construction of a wall along the border, in exchange for the continuation of remittance payments, visas, and favorable trade terms (tariffs, etc.).
            –Defunding of sanctuary cities, enhanced enforcement of immigration law, ending of birthright citizenship, pause in green card issuance until native unemployment levels improve.
            –Full repeal of Obamacare, decrease barriers to insurance companies operating across state lines, decrease barriers to sale of foreign prescription drugs, require price transparency for all healthcare providers, individual tax deductions for health insurance premium payments.

[ii]. The American Journalist in the Digital Age:  Key Findings, by Lars Willnat & David H. Weaver.

HAT Forum
Sat April 23rd 2016
11 a.m. To 1 pm
519 Church Street Room 304
Topic: “Medically Assisted Dying from a Humanist Perspective"
Proposer: Richard Dowsett

“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 above is Principle (vii) from the HAT Constitution: Section 3 - Declaration of Principles. It seems to be the one most pertinent to the discussion of Medically Assisted Dying (MAD).

Below is a link to the Government’s proposed Bill C-14 “to amend the criminal code in respect of Medical assistance in Dying” and another link to the Special Parliamentary Committee’s report. Let’s discuss the differences between them, whether they are reasonable and how Humanist principles can help guide our thoughts and feelings:

1.    “Advanced directives” were recommended by Committee but are not part of C-14.

2.    MAD for “matures minors” was recommended by Committee but is not part of C-14.

3.    MAD for mental health conditions was recommended by Committee but is not part of C-14.

4.    A 15 day Period of Reflection is part of C-14, against the recommendations of the Committee.

5.    To gain the exemption for MAD, the applicant must “have a grievous and irremediable medical condition” that includes death being “reasonably foreseeable” according to the opinion of the doctor of nurse practitioner. Is this a reasonable condition?

6.    Is it fair to expect medical practitioners to risk a trial, up to 5 years in jail and loss of their medical license every time they conduct a medical procedure because the law is so subjective?

HAT recognizes the valuable contributions of the 519

The Humanist Association of Toronto ("HAT") would like to recognize the contribution made by "the 519",  the 519 Church Street Community Centre, to the City of Toronto, particularly by providing valuable community resources to many organisations, including the Humanist Association of Toronto.

HAT Forum
Sat April 2nd 2016
11 a.m. To 1 pm
519 Church Street Room 304
Topic “Rob Ford: His Impact on Our City"
Proposer: Richard Dowsett

With the passing of councillor and former-Mayor Rob Ford last week many Torontonians have taken the opportunity to look back on his life and assess it’s very many aspects.
In Ford Nation and in many homes across the GTA, Ford was loved as a non-politician, dedicated to his constituents, direct and honest, a champion of the common citizen fighting their cause against bureaucracy and special interests. They saw a great man who cared about his family, coached at his old school and loved the City.
In some sectors, Rob Ford was truly hated. They saw selfish, narcissistic rich kid fighting to retain the privilege for himself and people like him. To them he was a bully who dominated with language and power, an ignoramus who obstructed city government for petty motives and a sad, reckless addict bringing Toronto into mocking and disrepute.
Each side sees the other’s opinions as a conspiracy. Now, in the days after his death, the race is on to sanctify or to vilify. Where will Rob Ford’s place in history lie?
1.    What is your opinion of Rob Ford? Challenge yourself to take up an opinion counter to your current one by thinking where went wrong or, conversely, where he excelled.
2.    In two elections Rob Ford and Doug Ford got over 713,000 votes. What factors were Ford voters responding to? How did the conservative Fords get so many votes in traditionally liberal Toronto?
3.    Was Rob Ford, on balance, a “good person”? Did he have positive ethics? Good Morals? Strong character? Wisdom? Good Judgement? Caring? Empathy?
4.    Did Ford exhibit the characteristics of “a good mayor”?
5.    The Ford Effect: Total number of Voters in 2010 and 2014 jumped up 114K and 166K respectively, election over election, increases far ahead of mere population growth. Can we all credit the Fords for this stimulating effect on Toronto’s democracy?
6.    On a related issue, tradition holds that we don’t “speak ill of the dead”. How do you think and feel about the regard and abeyance of this tradition in the case of Rob Ford?

April 6: Science for Peace: Windows of Opportunity: How Women Seize Peace Negotiations for Political Change

Perhaps of interest to HAT members.  Free program:

Science for Peace: Windows of Opportunity: How Women Seize Peace Negotiations for Political Change
Please join us for a free public lecture on Wednesday April 6th from 7-9pm in Room UC 144 of University College ( 15 King’s College Circle, Toronto, ON M5S 3H7 ) at the University of Toronto’s St George campus:
Dr. Miriam Anderson is Assistant Professor in the Department of Politics and Public Administration and a member of the Yeates School of Graduate Studies at Ryerson University. She holds a PhD from the University of Cambridge (2010) in Politics and International Studies, an MA in Political Science (2004) from the University of British Columbia, and a BA in International Relations from the University of British Columbia.

Dr. Anderson researches peace processes, post-conflict reconstruction, and transnationalism in war and peace. She currently holds (as the principal investigator) a SSHRC Insight Development Grant entitled “Sustaining Women’s Gains Made During Peace Negotiations” (2014-2016) and a SSHRC Connection Grant (2014-2015), “Transnational Actors in War and Peace.
Miriam Anderson teaches courses on women, war and peace; global governance; and women and politics.

From 1999-2002, Anderson served as a human rights monitor for the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) in Croatia. During this period she also monitored elections in Bosnia-Herzegovina and in Croatia for the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR). Anderson has also volunteered with grassroots organizations in Nicaragua and El Salvador.
This event is part of a weekly series of talks entitled: “Vital Discussions of Human Security”. Please see for details on all of our upcoming events. Please see our YouTube channel for videos from past events.

Humanists for Social and Environmental Action: URGENT: Email Minister of Immigration McCallum to stop next week's litigation 

Humanists for Social and Environmental Action: URGENT: Email Minister of Immigration McCallum to stop next week's litigation 

The Canadian government is going ahead with  litigation that was initiated by the Harper government against U.S. Iraq War resisters. The Federal Court hearings are scheduled for April 5 and 6.

In light of McCallum's announcement today sponsoring more refugees, it is important to state opposition to the Harper Government's attacks on US war resisters.  The War Resisters Support Campaign is asking for your help:
  • We are asking every supporter to immediately email Minister of Immigration John McCallum,  at and (model message below)
  • Under your name, please include city and province
  • Please cc Prime Minister Justin Trudeau:
  • Please also bcc the War Resisters Support Campaign at
Here is a model email message you can copy and paste into your message (or feel free to personalize it) --
SUBJECT: U.S. Iraq War resisters – Stop litigation initiated by Harper government
Honourable John McCallum
Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship

Dear Minister McCallum,
I am writing to ask that you immediately cease the litigation initiated  by the former Conservative government against U.S. Iraq War resisters. Our new government should not defend decisions made under the previous  government and re-litigate matters the Court has already found on in  favour of these conscientious objectors. As you know, Canadians  overwhelmingly opposed the Iraq War and the Liberal government under Jean Chr├ętien made a decision not to participate in it.

The cases to be heard by the Federal Court on April 5 and 6 should be settled, and the matters sent back to be re-determined by new  immigration officers.

I thank you for your consideration and look forward to your response.


cc: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau

HAT Forum
Sat March 26th 2016
11 a.m. To 1 pm
519 Church Street Room 304
Topic “ I fear those who are unemotional, and I solicit emotional response whenever I can."
Proposer: Jody Perrin

From article by Jeanette Armstrong in Yes! Magazine:

1. What is your feeling about this phrase in Jeanette’s closing paragraph?

2. Is there a connection to her desire to personalize every thing and not to be “objective” about anything?

3. How important might these thoughts be?

4. How could we include them in our way of looking at and acting in life’s journey?

HAT panel: Medically Assisted Dying, Sat 14 May, 1:30-3pm, Koffler House, UofT

Panel info here:
FREE REGISTRATION at link above.
Apologies if this is posted, but reposting might help!

Humanist Association of Toronto present a panel:
Medically Assisted Dying - Where Do We Go From Here?

The Supreme Court has ruled. Polls indicate 4 out of 5 Canadians support physician-assisted dying. Parliament has the directive to produce simple and straightforward legislation. Our distinguished panel will speak to many of the questions that arise as we consider where we go from here.
Panel Members:
  • Shanaaz Gokool, CEO, Dying with Dignity
  • Dr. Isser Dubinsky, Physicians’ Advisory Council, DWD
  • Blair Henry, Ph.D (pending) Clinical Bioethicist Sunnybrook Hospital
Koffler House - 569 Spadina Crescent Room 108, Toronto, ON M5S 2J7, Canada - View Map

HAT Forum
Sat March 19th 2016
11 a.m. To 1 pm
519 Church Street Room 304
Topic “Why Aren’t HAT (and the HAT Forum) Bigger?"
Proposers: Ron Coles and Richard Dowsett

1. What do religious groups offer their members, even to those who have a weak or no belief in their God?

2. What are the options for people who find themselves as non-believers but still want their religion's benefits in an environment outside a religion?

3. Who is HAT (or The HAT Forum) for? Established Humanists? New Humanists? Those who are questing for a new life Philosophy? The 'Nons'? Can HAT satisfy all of these groups differing needs?

4. If HAT decides that membership should increase, what groups would be the most fruitful to appeal to? How would this change how we do things?

5. Has HAT (or The HAT Forum) made decisions that indicate that it wants to remain a small group? Is there an 'optimum number' of members?

HAT Forum
Sat March 12th 2016
11 a.m. To 1 pm
519 Church Street Room 304
Topic “The Sharing Economy"
Proposer: Moses Klein

The Sharing Economy is a socio-economic ecosystem built around the sharing of human and physical resources. It includes the shared creation, production, distribution, trade and consumption of goods and services by different people and organisations. 

1.      What potential does the “sharing economy” offer?
2.      What pitfalls do you see in the trend toward the “sharing economy”?
3.      Do you participate in any “sharing economy” activities? Which ones, and what is your impression?
4.      The most controversial has probably been Uber. How should municipal regulators respond to the challenge to taxi regulations?
5.      Is “sharing economy” an accurate description of these ventures? If not, how would you describe them?

And two articles for background information:
From Wikipedia
From the Economist

HAT Forum
Sat Feb 27th 2016
11 a.m. To 1 pm
519 Church Street Room 304
Topic “Wisdom"
Proposer: Richard Dowsett

From Alain de Botton’s “School of Life”, a video about Wisdom:

In this video, de Botton breaks Wisdom down into a series of attributes. What do we think about the following as attributes of Wisdom and are there any of our own we would add?
What part does age and experience play in gaining or honing these attributes?
·         Realism – it is wise to expect problems to come your way and then expect to have to deal with them
·         Gratitude – it is wise to be especially sensitive to the small beauties and sweetness that come your way.
·         Folly – Budget for madness in others and yourself and be slow to panic when it reliably rears its head.
·         Humour – it is wise to laugh at ourselves and about the absurdity of life
·         Politeness – changing ourselves or others is difficult so criticism and conflict are unwise. The wise value harmony over honesty, commonalities over differences.
·         Self-Acceptance – Know thyself. Don’t be ashamed.
·         Forgiveness – Everyone makes mistakes and behaves poorly. Don’t take it personally, assume the best and be slow to anger. Forgive.
·         Resilience – understanding the bare minimum of what you need to be happy (needs vs wants) and being prepared to live with this bare minimum as required.
·         Envy – understanding what other people have is for good reasons and no reasons at all.  The world does not have to be fair or just.
·         Regret – In life, errors are endemic, perfection is an illusion. Regret only a little.
·         Calm – turmoil is common so appreciate peace, calm and a lack of anxiety.

HAT Forum
Sat Feb 20th 2016
11 a.m. To 1 pm
519 Church Street Room 304
Topic “Dissent & Intolerance"
Proposer: Michael C.

Why are some of us intolerant of others, just for their curiosity or because they do not conform to what is expected of them.

Actor Richard Dreyfuss (Jaws) recently attended a Ted Cruz rally and as a result, was branded as a Republican supporter. It appears that he is not. The assumption and expectation is that those in the arts community lean left.  

Someone who disagrees with a platform of a group is often attacked or accused of being a traitor. If you belong to this group, you have a unified voice. Dissent will not be tolerated.

If you are black in America, can you be a Republican?

Can a Humanist see any value in religion?

HAT Forum
Sat Feb 13th 2016
11 a.m. To 1 pm
519 Church Street Room 304
Topic "A Humanist on Death and Dying"

Proposed by: Bill Kennedy

Let's talk about our own dying.

1) In what details may my dying resemble an experience in my lifetime?

2) Do I really experience falling asleep? How could I?

3) How do I feel about Dylan Thomas's poetic lines?
Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

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 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.