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.
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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.
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HAT EVENTS | GTA EVENTS | GTA NEWS | HUMANIST NEWS | HAT NEWSLETTER | ETHICAL ACTIONS | UNIV of TORONTO EVENTS

HAT Forum: Democracy

HAT Forum
Saturday 20 December 2014, 11:00-1:00
519 Church St.
Topic: Democracy in Canada
Proposed by: Dick Combeer

  1. Does your vote matter?
  2. In what ways is Canada a Democratic country? In what was is it not?
  3. In Canada, and in provincial, urban and other jurisdictions, how do you see Democracy being obviously subverted?
  4. How many jurisdictions do you see where democracy is simply absent?
  5. What is so great about Democracy?
  6. How and why does democracy appear to work better (or worse)  in other jurisdictions (Ontario, Toronto, Unions, workplaces, etc)?
  7. Are there other countries where the Democratic Ideal is better understood, expressed, and implemented? Where? How?
  8. What is behind the typical alarmingly low voter turnout in elections here? 
  9. How to re-energize Canada’s democracy?

Some references of interest:
Democracy, Canadian style: How do you like it so far (Lawrence Martin, The Globe and Mail, December 2009)
Election Bill an Affront to Democracy, Marc Mayrand says (CBC, February 2014)
Wikipedia article on Proportional Representation
Has Big Oil Hijacked Democracy?

Debbie Pond speaks on Human Trafficking

HAT monthly speaker
Speaker: Debbie Pond, RCMP Inspector (retired), M.O.M.
Topic: Human Trafficking
When: Saturday 10 January 2015, 1:30-3:00
Where: OISE (252 Bloor St. W.) Room 4-414

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.


HAT Book club: Behind the Beautiful Forevers

HAT Book Discussion
Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity
by Katherine Boo
HAT discussion on Saturday January 3rd
Call 416-966-1361 or email HATcoord@gmail.com for location.

HAT Forum: pipeline questions

HAT Forum
Saturday 13 December 2014, 11:00-12:30
519 Church St., Meeting Room #304
Topic: Pipeline questions
Proposed by: Richard Dowsett
Note: The Forum will be shortened so that members can get to OISE for Paola Rodriguez Hidalgo's talk on quasars

The constant wrangle over the building of the Keystone XL pipeline has raised the profile Pipeline Questions in public discourse and in the media. What can we say about it as Humanists? as Citizens?
1. Economic - Is a pipeline from Alberta a key economic driver for Canada's future? What are the benefits to Canadians?
2. Environmental Direct - What are environmental risks of pipelines? How much risk is acceptable? Is the current regulatory framework enough to make the pipeline owners truly accountable? 

​3. Environmental Indirect - Some see tar-sand​ oil as an environmental catastrophe on it's own. Does investing billions in a pipeline "double down" on the tar-sands investment and dedicate Canada to a "fossil fuels at all costs" future?
4. Political - Who gets a say? Who gets to decide? Should levels government use Eminent Domain methods to force the cooperation from landowners in the name of a national interest? 

HAT wants your input

The HAT steering committee is looking for input from members on two questions:

(1) We will soon be awarding the 2014 Toronto Humanist of the Year award. It is given every year to a person in the Greater Toronto Area who, in her/his actions and creative endeavours, exemplifies the principles of Humanism: a commitment to reason, ethics, compassion and human dignity. We are soliciting nominations members for the newest recipient.

(2) Some time in the spring, we intend to organize a group excursion. What activites -- museums, cultural performances, nature trips, or whatever? -- would you be interested in sharing with other secular humanists?

Any suggestions on either of these questions can be sent to the co-ordinator at HATcoord@gmail.com

HAT Forum: Subcultures and Society

HAT Forum
Saturday 6 December 2014, 11:00-1:00
519 Church St. Meeting Room #303
Proposed by: Richard Dowsett


Canada acknowledges the powerful effects of traditional Mass media (TV, radio, print) by disallowing certain portrayals and presentations (sex, swearing, smoking) or limiting them according to voluntary codes of ethics and standards, in the interest of the public good. 

New media has facilitated the flourishing of sub-cultures (blog sites, social media, video gaming etc.) not subject to any such community oversight. Their independent “in-group” nature also makes them sensitive to scrutiny from “outsiders” and resistant to any change that is seen to come from them.
1.    1. Do we believe that immersion in and exposure to a subculture's values and norms affects the behaviour of its members in the wider world? Is this belief supported by scientific research or study?
2.    2. Should the greater society seek to have any input on sub-cultures if their norms and values are seen as detrimental to the greater society?
3.    3. Anita Sarkeesian on her website feministfrequency.com created a series of videos on the depiction of women in video games. Even though she never called for anything more than open consideration of the effects that video games were having on this sub-culture’s members, she has been vilified and subject to a massive online backlash called “GamerGate”. Should she “butt out” of this space or should she be defended on the grounds of “free and open inquiry”?
4.    4. Online cultures blur the lines between public and private spheres. Their open and easy access by anyone on the web makes them seem public yet their strong norms, unique culture and relationships mean they act like private clubs when approached. Should a private organization, club or sub-culture be subject to scrutiny through the lens of the greater society? In what ways is such scrutiny beneficial/appropriate or detrimental/intrusive?
5.    5. Think about religions as subcultures and apply the above questions and consideration to them as you have to online subculture​

Debate on Trinity Western Law School controversy

The Christian TV show Context with Lorna Dueck is inviting humanists to be part of its studio audience during a debate over Trinity Western Law School and its anti-gay, anti-premarital sex code of conduct.

Going Godless 
Tuesday, December 2, 5:30 PM
Attempts by a private BC university to open a Christian law school have faced strong winds of opposition in the courts—and in the court of public opinion.  This week on Context, Advocates and opponents of Trinity Western Law School will debate its right to exist.  Participants include; Clayton Ruby, one of Canada's top constitutional lawyers; Justin Trottier, with the Canadian Secular Alliance; Earl Phillips, executive director, Trinity Western Law School, Janet Buckingham, Author of Fighting Over God and Andy Bannister with RZIM Canada. 
To reserve your COMPLIMENTARY TICKETS please write to tickets@contextwithlornadueck.com or call 416-599-9777 x 58

Location: Studio 42 at the CBC building located at 250 Front St. W. in Toronto.

Paola Rodriguez Hidalgo speaks about Understanding Quasars

HAT Monthly Speaker
Dr. Paola Rodriguez Hidalgo, York University
Topic: Understanding Quasars
Saturday, December 13, 2014, 1:30 – 3:00 pm
OISE (252 Bloor St. W.), Room 4-414

Dr. Paola Rodriguez Hidalgo, who is from Spain, studied at the Instituto de Astrofisica de las Islas Canarias and did her PhD at the University of Florida. She was a visiting assistant professor at the University of Toronto and is currently back to York University as a Research Associate. She loves astronomy (obviously!), music and touring the city. She will speak on Understanding Quasars (and their extremely(!) high velocity outflows). Quasars are among the most luminous objects in the sky. These very energetic regions lie at the centre of massive galaxies and are powered by a super-massive black hole. If these concepts raise questions for you, come out and get some answers from an enthusiastic and much admired speaker.

HAT Forum: The Jian Ghomeshi Affair

HAT Forum
Saturday 29 November, 11:00-1:00
OISE (252 Bloor St. W.) Room 4-420  *NOTE UNUSUAL LOCATION*
Topic: The effect of the alleged behavior of Jian Ghomeshi on the relationship between the sexes
Proposed by: Michael Chin

1.      What might be the cause for this type of behavior?
2.      Why are some people attracted to celebrity even though they are aware of a potential risk. We often hear of people who are attracted to those who are on death row or to those who have been convicted of heinous crimes such as Paul Bernardo.
3.     There are many who do not want to leave abusive relationships and some seem to attract those with a history of inappropriate behavior.
4.      Is there anything we can learn from the reluctance of those in power to take action against a “star” such as a Jian Ghomeshi, Ray Rice or Jimmy Saville? Is this any different from our reluctance to “do the right” thing if there could be a personal cost? 
5.      How do we define consensual activity?  Should we require that any physical activity that occurs in private be agreed to in writing? Should we outlaw certain types of behavior? However, violent activities such as Boxing, MMA (mixed martial arts)  where the objective is to render your opponent incapable of functioning are legal and regulated. Should the government get more involved in regulating the behavior between the sexes? If Ghomeshi and others are interested in “rough sex” should the government regulate this activity to protect the public? 
6.      Might this case result in false accusations in the future?
7.      Could an unintended consequence be a chill in the banter as it relates to the majority of the interaction between the sexes that both parties do not find objectionable?

HAT Forum: Parental Authority and Parental Responsibility

HAT Forum
Saturday 22 November 2014, 11:00-1:00
519 Church St., Meeting Room #304
Topic: Parental Authority and Parental Responsibility
Proposed by: Moses Klein
1.       What responsibilities do parents have to their children? What responsibilities does the larger society have? Do they conflict?
2.       In what ways have our society’s standards about child-raising changed in your lifetime? In your opinion are these changes for the better?
3.       Is corporal punishment ever acceptable? With what limits? Under what conditions should outside agencies intervene?
4.       Religious parents typically inculcate their children with their own beliefs. Is this acceptable? With what limitations, if any?
5.       Should parents have the right to refuse medical treatment on their kids’ behalf? On what basis?

HAT Forum: Dying with Dignity

HAT Forum
Date: Saturday, November 15, 11:00 AM
Place: 519 Church St.,
Topic: Dying with Dignity
Proposed by Camila Arroyo

1. Is there an ethical difference between passive DWD (ie withholding treatment with palliative care) and active DWD and are both equally acceptable?
2. What legal sanctions should be put in place to avoid abuse of DWD laws?
3. Is it posible to put this law in place without having abuse? What's the best possible way to avoid abuse of the system on elderly or those unable to afford treatment?
4. How does one determine who is mentally capable of making these decisions and what possibilities could there be for those deemed uncapable for making those decisions? Moreover, Should this only be for terminal illnesses? 
5. In one study, When palliative care was provided, a statistically significant amount of people chose to change their mind about assisted suicide (45%). Should this choice be exhausted before doctor assisted suicide?
6. What kind of training and education, if any, should doctors and nurses have in discussion of this topic to terminally ill patients? For example, should doctors and nurses be allowed to inform patients on that option first?
7. Should the law be open to more than "terminaly ill patients with life expectancy of 6 months or less"? Can this decision be made by proxy (ie. parent to child)?
8. How do we best use this law in situations where prognosis is more unpredictable?

Note: This will be a shortened Forum, so that we can all get to Dale Roy's talk afterward.

HAT Book Club: A Year in Provence

HAT Book Club

A Year in Provence, by Peter Mayle
Discussion on Saturday, December 6th, 2:30 PM
Call 416-966-1361 or email HATcoord@gmail.com for location

Book summary:
Here is the month-by-month account of the charms and frustrations that Peter Mayle and his wife -- and their two large dogs -- experience their first year in the remote country of the Luberon restoring a two-centuries-old stone farmhouse that they bought on sight. From coping in January with the first mistral, which comes howling down from the Rhone Valley and wreaks havoc with the pipes, to dealing as the months go by with the disarming promises and procrastination of the local masons and plumbers, Peter Mayle delights us with his strategies for survival. He manages to transport us info all the earthy pleasures of Provencal life and lets us live vicariously in a tempo governed by seasons, not by days.

Dale Roy on SKETCH:Creating Opportunities through Art for Marginalized Young People

HAT monthly speaker
Speaker: Dale Roy
Topic: SKETCH:Creating Opportunities through Art for Marginalized Young People
Date: Saturday, November 15, 1:30 PM
Location: OISE (252 Bloor St. W.), Room 4-414

About SKETCH:
SKETCH creates opportunities for young people ages 16 to 29 living street involved, homeless or otherwise on the margins to experience the transformative power of the arts; to build leadership and economic self-sufficiency in the arts; and to cultivate social and environmental change through the arts.

About Dale Roy:
With an educational background in psychology, journalism and marketing, Dale Roy has been developing ideas and strategies to help organizations reach their objectives for over a decade. Dale joined SKETCH to lead its marketing and communication goals. At SKETCH, Dale is passionate about working with the community to develop the strategies, stories and relationships that bring SKETCH's mission to the public.

This event is free and open to the public.

HAT Forum: Taxation

HAT Forum
Saturday, November 8, 11:00-1:00
519 Church St., Room #106 (Eastroom South)
Topic: Taxes
Proposed by: Dov Mileevsky


1) what is the optimal method of taxing the public: (a) income tax (b) consumption tax (c) property tax?

2) is it fair to penalize higher income individuals by taxing them at a higher percentage vs lower income people? 

3) what should the US government do regarding corporations who have generated billions of dollars offshore and now refuse to repatriate those funds back to the US and incur the tax penalty?

4) is it true that the general public cannot always be trusted to make financially sound decisions with government funds?

5) is it acceptable that religious institutions have special privileges regarding taxes? Should religious schools be allowed to offer a tax write off for tuition? Are charities in general abusing "tax write offs" in comparison to other types of institutions?

HAT Forum: Responses to the Parliament shootings

HAT Forum
Saturday, November 1st, 11:00-1:00
519 Church St., Meeting Room #303
Topic: Responses to the Parliament shootings
Proposed by: Moses Klein

Did the Parliament Hill shootings change the way we feel about security, about openness, or about Canada? How is the country reacting, and how should it react? What concerns do you have about the balance between security and openness -- have we found the right balance, or do you think we will? What are the causes of such actions, and can we do anything to address them?
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.