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.

February 7 Forum location: U of T Multifaith Centre

The HAT Forum for February 7 will be at
Multi-Faith Centre in Koffler House, U of T
569 Spadina Avenue, 3rd Floor, Toronto
(enter by rear door)
Access: 510 Spadina streetcar south from Spadina Station to Willcocks St. stop
              650 m walk from Spadina Station
              1100 m walk from Queen's Park Station

The topic will be published in this space soon.
On February 14 we will return to 519 Church St.

HAT Forum: Is Lying Ethical?

HAT Forum
Saturday 31 January 2015
519 Church St., Meeting Room #304
Topic: Is lying ethical?
Proposed by: Richard Dowsett

To lie is “to deliberately manufacture falsehoods or conceal important facts to the detriment of others”. In Sam Harris’ short book, “Lying”, he makes a strong case for lying being a corrosive element to all human relationships and well-being and challenges us all to eliminate it from our lives.
1.    1. If you are scrupulously honest yourself, do you judge dishonesty of all sorts more harshly? Can you still be empathetic with other’s lies and why they tell them?
2.    2. “With lying, intent is everything.” Discuss the different sides of this statement.
3.    3. Some people lie to children about the “tough questions” (death, religion, sex, violence) as they are deemed not ready for the truth. Is this ethically justifiable?
4.    4. “White lies” are those made with the best of intentions - to spare hurt feelings or boost morale and self-esteem. What are the pros and cons of “white lies”? Is it possible that we ourselves are the major beneficiaries of the “white lie”?
5.    5. Do you view life in terms of long-term relationships or a sequence of individual transactions? How does this view affect your approach to lying?
6.    6. Some cultures place a higher priority on honour or politeness than they do on honesty. Are there any rules that can be drawn about the value of honesty across cultures?

HAT Forum: Policing in the 21st Century

HAT Forum
Saturday 24 January 2014
519 Church St. , Meeting Room 304
Topic: Policing in the 21st Century
Proposed by: Dick Combeer

Why do big city police forces engender the most public scrutiny? What would policing, carefully and completely based on Humanist principles, look like? Is it a fair characterization that big city police forces are based on locker-room machismo? Are such cultures irredeemable? Have strides been made in the past 20 years to eradicate gender and race bias? Are further strides necessary? Can they be gradual?

How brutal is brutal? If you were a police chief faced with a massive crowd of violent protestors at a highly visible and sensitive event, what would you do? Are the police, with heavy weaponry and dehumanizing masks and vests, their own worst enemy? Is police use of force the problem or a by-product? How different is the situation in Canada and in Toronto from the United States? What are some of the underlying sociological causes of societal breakdown that result in police violence? What possible remedies? Is there any hope? Can anything positive be said for carding?

Petition for sex education curriculum including consent

Two Toronto middle school students are campaigning to include consent as a topic in updated sex education curriculum. You can sign the petition at

Recall that the last time the province considered updating the sex education curriculum, in 2010, the government abandoned all changes in the face of a public campaign by fundamentalists. The new proposal, over 4 years later, has much the same content as the abandoned version, which HAT had supported. Humanists should learn from our failure in 2010, and be more active in pressing for a long-overdue update.

A news article with a little background on the overall changes:

An article about the aforementioned campaign:

Book Discussion: The Caged Virgin

HAT's monthly book group will meet on Saturday, February 7 at 2:30 PM to discuss

The caged virgin: an emancipation proclamation for women and Islam

by Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Email the coordinator or leave a phone message (see HAT contact info) for location.

"Hard-hitting, outspoken, and controversial,The Caged Virginis a call to arms for the emancipation of women from a brutal religious and cultural oppression and from an outdated cult of virginity. It is a defiant call for clear thinking and for an Islamic Enlightenment." -- from the summary in the library catalogue.

HAT Forum: The Charlie Hebdo massacre

HAT Forum
Location: The 519 Community Centre, 519 Church St. just north of Wellesley, Meeting Room 304
Date & Time: Saturday Jan 17, 11:00 to 13:00
Proposers: Richard Dowsett & Dick Combeer

The staff of Charlie Hebdo paid the ultimate price for the magazine's editorial stance and its refusal to stop satirizing their chosen targets in the face of firebombs and mounting death threats. Unfortunately, several innocent bystanders also paid this price and the repercussions spread out from there with world-wide impact. 
  1. What is the value of satirical media (Jon Stewart, Charlie Hebdo, Private Eye etc) to society? 
  2. What are the costs to civil society? 
  3. Should we impose limits to certain forms of satire to try to lessen the costs? (i.e. hate speech provisions, libel, slander, defamation?)
  4. Could a Charlie Hebdo type attack happen in Canada? Would their form of satire even be permissible in our society under our laws in the first place?
  5. Are you satisfied with the response of the various media to this event and their ability to bring focus to the key issues? What biases do you detect and what are the sources of their biases?
  6. How do your humanist principles inform how you view this event? Would they have lead you to do the same things in the many roles or act very differently?

HAT Forum: Can a successful politician be moral?

Date: Jan 10, 2015
Time: 11:00 to 12:30. Note: shortened meeting so all involved can attend Debbie Pond's talk on human trafficking at OISE at 1:00.
Location: 519 Community Centre, 519 Church St. (@ Wellesley), Meeting Room 304
Proposer: Richard Dowsett
Topic: Can a Successful Politician be Moral?
In this instance, "successful" is defined as maintaining power by being re-elected consistently and "moral" is defined as "holding firm to a set of guiding principles that determine what are acceptable behaviours and outcomes".
1. Does the system of government which requires trade-offs and compromise penalize those politicians that will not play the game of "horse-trading" or swapping influence with other politicians?
2. Does the really electorate want a politician who is true to their word on every issue even if that means, in reality, only appealing to certain sectors?
3. Should a politician try to represent all of their constituents in all matters even if this means going against their own moral principles? i.e. voting against their conscience?
4. How is the situation different if the morals employed are derived from religious sources via revelation and tradition versus from social contract or ethical philosophy?

HAT Forum: Censorship

HAT Forum
Saturday 3 January 2015
519 Church St., Meeting Room #304
Topic: Censorship
Proposed by: Michael Chinn

Act of changing or suppressing speech or writing that is considered subversive of the common good. In the past, most governments believed it their duty to regulate the morals of their people; only with the rise in the status of the individual and individual rights did censorship come to seem objectionable. Censorship may be preemptive (preventing the publication or broadcast of undesirable information) or punitive (punishing those who publish or broadcast offending material).

For our discussion, let’s discuss the following:
·        Where does it occur?
·        Are there instances where censorship is appropriate?
-      Do you know of instances where censorship may have occurred?
·        What happens when we allow the free market to decide without any restrictions?
·       Should we consider political and economic influences?

Do news outlets consider the implications of reporting a story, critical of a major advertiser?
Do news outlets consider the implications of reporting a story, critical of an individual or political party if it might result in having less access? Consider information outlets, favourable to those with power are given more access, compared to those that are not.

HAT Forum: "The Interview" and its consequences

HAT Forum
Saturday 20 December, 11:00-1:00
519 Church St., Meeting Room #304
Topic: Events surrounding the movie "The Interview"
Proposed by: Moses Klein

A discussion of issues related to computer hacking and bomb threats responding to the movie "The Interview". Have various actors (Sony, DPRK, USA, the directors, et al) acted responsibly? What implications do you see for the movie business, for artistic freedom, or others?

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 II 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 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

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 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​
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.