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 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.
Questions:
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
vs.
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?
References:
http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/85-002-x/2015001/article/14146-eng.htm#wb-tphp
https://www.attorneygeneral.jus.gov.on.ca/inquiries/ipperwash/policy_part/projects/pdf/AfricanCanadianClinicIpperwashProject_SIUStudybyScotWortley.pdf
http://www.ohrc.on.ca/en/report-ontario-human-rights-commission-police-use-force-and-mental-health


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


The title of this Forum is a reference to this viral video:
http://news.nationalpost.com/news/they-might-have-guns-but-we-have-flowers-father-sweetly-reassures-son-over-paris-attack-in-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
response.

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
guns?

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 office@donheights.ca 
                     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 www.donheights.ca

N.B. This event is hosted by the Don Heights Unitarian Congregation, not by the Humanist Association of Toronto (HAT). 

HAT Monthly Speaker
Saturday, October 17, 1:30 – 3:00
OISE, 252 Bloor St. west, Room 8-170
The Syrian Refugee Crisis

Topic: The Syrian Refugee Crisis: What can we do? What should we do?
Speaker: Suzanne Silk Klein is a former university professor and retired provincial civil servant. Much more germane to this talk, she is co-chair of the Congregation Darchei Noam Syrian Refugee Sponsorship Committee, a learning opportunity that has generated a lot of activity lately.  She will give a little background to this Syrian crisis and tell us what she and her group are doing to help make things better. Please join us for an elucidating and hopeful talk.

HAT Forum Saturday Oct 3rd 2015 11:00 - 1:00 at 519 Church Street Rm 304 "Carding or Street Checks - A Humanist Perspective"

HAT Forum
Topic:  “Carding or Street Checks – A Humanist Perspective”
Location: The 519 Community Centre, 519 Church St. north of Wellesley, Rm 304 
Time: 11:00 to 13:00
Proposer: Richard Dowsett
Currently in Toronto, the practice of “Carding” a.k.a. Street Checks, has been suspended pending review of its detrimental effects on the community, possible racism or unconstitutionality and ineffectiveness as a policing tool.

Other jurisdictions (Peel Region, Hamilton) have refused to discontinue it against the advice of their civilian oversight boards, activists and experts (ombudsman, former Chiefs-of-Police and Attorney Generals).

Some facts as per research by The Globe:
  On average, in 2014 police forces had stopped 0.86 per cent of their jurisdiction's 2011 population.
  The majority of police forces that disclosed the length of time they keep records on community members who are stopped and questioned, reported keeping records indefinitely.
  All but two police forces interviewed have no formal procedure in place to guide interactions between officers and community members who are stopped and questioned.
 
Departing Ontario ombudsman AndrĂ© Marin’s reported that “the detrimental effects of street checks on individuals and the community are simply too great to justify this practice.”

Here is a very informative short video by The Star called “Known to Police” about how carding works:  http://bcove.me/xse3e3y8
Questions:
1.   1. What are the pros and cons of Carding as it has been recently employed in Toronto?
2.   2. What personal or close experience do the members have of carding, if any?
3.   3. According to Humanist principles, on what grounds could carding be criticized? On what grounds could it be upheld?
4.   4. Is there a way to change carding such that the criticisms are properly addressed?
5.   5. Is it reasonable in social questions such as this, to weigh utility versus harm and decide in favour of the weight of evidence or is any harm unacceptable?

HAT Forum
Saturday Sep 26th 2015
11:00 - 1:00 p.m.
519 Church Street Room 304
Topic: Increasing the Responsiveness of Government in Canada

HAT Forum
 Topic: Increasing the Responsiveness of Government in Canada
Location: The 519, 519 Church Street north of Wellesley, Room 304 Time: 11:00 to 1pm
Proposer: Richard Dowsett
- One of the knocks on the current political system has been its lack of responsiveness to the will of the people. Can the use of Ballot Initiatives (as in the State of California) be employed here to increase responsiveness between elections?
- What are the upsides of citizen input via plebiscite, referenda and voter ballot initiatives?
- What problems do you see with them?
- By what criteria would you decide what questions would get on the ballot?
- What questions would you like to see on the ballot for the coming Canadian Federal election?
- Could Ballot Initiatives become a progressive element to speed social change?

HAT Forum: After the Truth and Reconciliation Commission

HAT Forum
Saturday 19 September 2015, 11:00-1:00
519 Church St., Meeting Room #304
Topic: After the Truth and Reconciliation Commission
Proposed by: Moses Klein

After Catherine Rodd's talk last week, how do we see Canada's progress in terms of the objectives of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission?

(1) Has the paradigm for relations with aboriginal peoples changed since the days of residential schools?

(2) What can non-aboriginal Canadians do to achieve a more mutually respectful relationship with aboriginal Canadians?

(3) What can aboriginal Canadians offer non-aboriginal Canadians?

(4) What can non-aboriginal Canadians offer aboriginal Canadians?

(5) Are you optimistic about the future of the relationship between aboriginal and non-aboriginal Canadians?

HAT Monthly Speaker
Saturday, September 12, 1:30 – 3:00
OISE, 252 Bloor St. West, Room 4-414
Speaker: Catherine Rodd, Toronto-based video producer

HAT Monthly Speaker
Saturday, September 12, 1:30 – 3:00
OISE, 252 Bloor St. west, Room 4-414
Speaker: Catherine Rodd, Toronto-based video producer
Topic: The Truth and Reconciliation Commission: A Personal Perspective

The closing ceremonies of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission marked the end of one journey and the beginning of another. Catherine Rodd is a Toronto-based video producer. She covered the event for the United Church, one of the parties to the Residential Schools Settlement Agreement. This is the single most important issue before all Canadians. Truth and Reconciliation may be our last chance to get it right. The time has come to fundamentally alter the role aboriginal people play in Canadian society.

HAT Forum
Saturday Sep 12th 11:00 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.
Room 304 519 Church Street -
A discussion of Bill C51

N.B. Forum ends at 12:30
to allow forum attendees
to go to HAT
Monthly Speaker Meeting at OISE 


Questions:

What is your opinion about Bill C51?

What are the positive aspects of this Bill

What are the negative aspects of this Bill?


HAT End of Summer Party!
Sunday, August 30th
4 p.m. to 8 p.m.

END OF SUMMER PARTY!

Welcome to all HAT members and guests on Sunday, August 30th; 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Location will be at the home of one of the HAT Steering Committee members,
please call (416) 966-1361 for details.
TTC transport suggested as parking is limited.
HAT members and guests on Sunday, August 30th; 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Party is potluck with a meats and shellfish diet restriction.

HAT Forum:
Saturday Aug 29th 2015, 11:00 - 1:00,
519 Church Street Rm 304
Disaporas; What is the World to Do?

HAT Forum: Disaporas; What is the World to Do?
submitted by Gary Higgins
Context:
Definition: from the Greek meaning ' the spreading or scattering across '

There have been so many migrations and diasporas through out history; and their causes were manifold. 
the exodus of the Jews under Moses, 
the Irish potato famine, 
the deportation of English convicts to Australia,
natural disasters, like the floodings in New Orleans
the Chinese and the Indian subcontinent are noted for the largest of diasporas

But of late in world news, we are bombarded daily with horror stories of boat people escaping civil wars & racial & religious conflicts.
From North Africa, they are smuggling from Libya to Italy ; from Syria & Iraq through Turkey.

The EU is trying to help by accepting percentages of the migrants held in camps just inside Europe,

Greece is dead broke, and cannot afford to feed and care for an island full of refugees being detained
GB says no way they will accept any; and promises to fly them back to their country of origin, (First Class?)
Thousands have been camped out in Calais, France, trying to smuggle themselves to England.

Human smugglers are capitalizing on their plight, women & children, whole families on overcrowded boats are turning up drowned.

Donald Trump & Ted Cruz are very hostile to Mexicans and people from Central American countries crossing into the US, aware of how this message plays to the Republicans during a federal election.
 Calling them the worst of the worst; with greater percentages of rapists; ( "quick; hide the women and children ")

Into the US, economic migrants come in search of the American Dream.
"Anchor babies " is the newest term for giving birth to an illegal, that they will automatically become American Citizens, and will later sponsor the parents  and family

Questions:

1. What is the world to do?
They are building a wall to separate Mexico from the US

2. What are the advantages to diasporas?
Economics, ideas, knowledge
The economist magazine sees only benefits
" the magic of diasporas "; plus numerous other articles

3. What are the negatives?
Xenophobia, racism, cheap work force displacing others

4. Is this just a cheap way around regular routes of citizenship, green cards?
Are rich countries in danger of being made poorer, because of these waves of illegal migrants?

5. Can NIMBY be tolerated?
Remember the Holocaust, and the Jews refused entry to America, "ship of fools"?

HAT Forum
Sat Aug 22nd 2015 11:00 a.m.
519 Church St Rm 304
If the price of Oil never recovers,
Will Canada change in a fundamental way?

HAT Forum
Sat Aug 22nd 2015 11:00 a.m.-1:00 p.m.
519 Church St Rm 304
If the Price of Oil never recovers, Will Canada change in a fundamental way?

- Are there examples of entire countries changing their core value systems?
- Do such changes happen gradually or suddenly?
- What is the tipping point for Canada to disown 'dirty' oil? (tar sands)
- What is the tipping point for Canada to disown all oil? (for renewables)
- How many aspects of Canadian Life are, directly or indirectly, dependent on oil?

HAT Forum: ​Leadership in Canada
Sat Aug 15th 2015
519 Church St. Rm 304

HAT Forum: ​Leadership in Canada
 Date: Saturday August 15th 2015
 Time: 11:00am to 1:00pm 
Location: The 519 Community Centre, 519 Church St. Room 304
 Proposer: Isabel Foote 

What qualities​ do we currently need most in a Canadian Prime Minister?

 Which of these qualities do we see in the current party Leaders?

HAT Forum
Greek Debt; a discussion of Issues
Saturday Aug 1st 2015
11: a.m. - 1:00 p.m.
519 Church Street, Room 304

HAT Forum - Greek Debt; a discussion of Issues
Saturday Aug 1st 2015
11: a.m. - 1:00 p.m.
519 Church Street, Room 304
proposed by Cecilia Rayo

We are not experts in Economics, but we can elaborate using our critical thinking to offer some answers to these complicated questions:
What went wrong in Greek”s economy?
Why was it allowed to drag this long?
Are the Greeks the only ones to be blamed?
Who are the beneficiaries of this crisis?
Why it is said that “Bankruptcy is worst than Austerity?
Corruption and tax evasion are easy to be controlled?
What are the consequences for EU if this crisis is not contained?

HAT Forum : Fixed Election Dates: Sat July 25th 11:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m. OISE Rm 4-426

HAT Forum

Saturday 25 July 2015 11:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m

OISE, 4-426

Proposed by: Moses Klein

Before 2007 Canadian election law recognized the Prime Minister’s
prerogative in setting an election date, but a 2007 law established a
semi-fixed date. (All provinces except Nova Scotia have also enacted fixed
election laws.) It does not prevent early elections when the government
loses a confidence vote, as in 2011, nor did it prevent the Prime Minister
from calling an early election in 2008. However, analysts do attribute to
the fixed election schedule the extended campaign we seem to be in.

1. 1. Are there other reasons, besides the 2007 law, that political
campaigning before the writ period is more active than it used to be?

2. 2. How do you feel about longer political campaigns? If it’s a bad
thing, what can or should be done about it?

3. 3. Does the fixed election date limit the Prime Minister’s power
in important ways? Is this a good thing?

4. 4. Overall, do you support fixed election dates?

5. 5. Should the rules for political activity outside the writ period
be changed? In what ways, and why?

One of the issues I'm touching on (although not directly related to the
2007 changes) is the rules about activity before and during the writ
period. For background information, the best article I know explaining this
is this blog post from Alice Funke, aka The Pundit:
http://www.punditsguide.ca/2015/01/how-a-little-noticed-clause-in-the-fair-elections-act-up-ends-all-conventional-election-timing-speculation/

Forum topic: The Pan-Am games and similar major events Saturday 18 July, 11:00-1:00 OISE (252 Bloor St. W.) Room 4-426

HAT Forum - Forum topic: The Pan-Am games and similar major events

Saturday 18 July, 11:00-1:00

OISE (252 Bloor St. W.) Room 4-426

Toronto is in the middle of hosting the largest international sports event
ever held in Canada. How has that affected our lives and our city? Is it an
asset to the city? An inconvenience? What consequences do you expect for
the city in the aftermath? Should Toronto bid for other major international
events?

HAT Book Club Meeting Sat Jun 8 to discuss "Decade of Fear: reporting from terrorism's grey zone" by Michelle Shephard

We will be discussing the following book at our regular meeting on Saturday, August 8 at 2:30.
 
Decade of fear: reporting from terrorism's grey zone  
Year/Format: 2011, Book, 320 p.
4 holds / 28 copies
Decade of Fear is a darkly entertaining journey through the complicated, often bizarre world of national security since 9/11. Shephard began a ten-year search for answers that took her through the streets of Mogadishu and Karachi, into the mountains of Waziristan and behind the wire of Guantanamo Bay two dozen times.
Michelle conducted hundreds of interviews worldwide, and with sharp insight and an appreciation for the absurd, she weaves together stories of warlords, presidents, spies, grieving widows and global terrorists, to describe the historic decade where often the West’s "solutions” for terrorism only served to exacerbate the problem.. Gripping, heartbreaking and infuriating, Decade of Fear broadens our understanding of a decade that was all too often described through panicked rhetoric.
For further info and location please leave your contact info at 416-966-1361

HAT Newsletter Summer 2015

Please click on this link to see the HAT Summer 2015 Newsletter

HAT Forum Sat July 11th 2015 11:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m. Setting Precedence: Culture vs Ethics

HAT Forum Sat July 11th 2015 11:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m.

Location: The Klein House (call 416-966-1361 for specifics if you are a member or regular Forum attendee)

Setting Precedence: Culture vs Ethics

As we have no received wisdom from an objective higher power to guide us, humanists are asked to critically consider all sources of wisdom to develop and redevelop our ethical sense and give meaning to our lives. Our views of right and wrong, desirable and undesirable and our values determine our own course through life.
If we wish to go beyond ourselves to influence the world and make it a better place for ourselves and for others we need to decide a direction based upon our values and ethical sense. We realize, however, these can be biased by our position in the world - our race, our gender, our class and our culture.
From the desire to positively impact the world but also be respectful of the differences between humans comes some tension and a potential conflict.
1. Are there ethical standards that take precedence over culture?
2. How far can we go to produce a philosophy of human well-being that can be applied across all cultures? What are the pitfalls associated with this?

3. Example: The Wulin Dog Eating Festival in China took place recently. A reported 10000 dogs were killed and eaten. Many of the dogs were treated inhumanely, by Western standards (boiled alive, skinned alive). Protests against the Festival took place. Are there legitimate ethical grounds to argue against this cultural practice?
4. Example: Many cultures in the world place a lower value on women than men and treat them very differently in many spheres. Do we have any grounds to promote a value of respect and equality for women on these cultures in other countries? What about when they are acting within our own country?
5. Democracy, Freedom of Speech, gender equality, wealth equity, tolerance can all be discussed in terms of where each of these values is limited by culture (including religion) and whether the need to respect the value trumps cultural sensitivity.

Who decides what is Hate Speech?

HAT Forum
Saturday June 27th 2015 11:00 a.m. - 1 p.m.
OISE, 252 Bloor Street West Room 4-426
Supreme Court upheld hate speech laws
But who decides what is hate speech?  

HAT Monthly Speaker Meeting: Fair Vote Canada and Proportional Representation: It’s Time for Change

HAT Monthly Speaker Meeting
Saturday, June 13, 1:30 – 3:00 pm
OISE, 252 Bloor St. west, Room 4-414
Speaker: Joyce Hall, Co-chair Fair Vote Toronto Action Team
Topic: Fair Vote Canada and Proportional Representation: It’s Time for Change

Fair Vote Toronto is the official Toronto-area action team of Fair Vote Canada, the national organization calling for the replacement of the current first-past-the-post voting system with a fair and proportional system that provides equal votes for all, fair election outcomes and legitimate majority rule. The questions Joyce will address include: What is proportional representation (PR)? How does it work? Does it benefit women and minorities? What is wrong with the candidate with the most votes winning? In an election, doesn’t someone have to lose? Won’t PR result in chaos and instability? Join us for a lively and informative presentation, and bring your own questions!    

Cultural Genocide - a discussion of our reactions

HAT Forum
Saturday June 13th 2015, 11:00-12:30
519 Church St., Meeting Room #304
Proposed by Bill Kennedy
N.B. This will be a shortened Forum to enable Forum attendees to get to OISE for the HAT monthly speaker series event (see next post)

Cultural Genocide - a discussion of our reactions to this appelation

HAT Forum: Genetic Modification of Human Embryos

Date: Saturday May 30th 2015, 11:00-1:00

Location: Room 304, 519 Church Street
Proposed by: Cecilia Rayo

Discussion Questions:
What if you could screen embryos for diseases before they became babies?

What if you have the power to choose the traits your baby would have? Would you use it?

HAT Forum: Personal Choices and the Environment

Personal Choices and the Environment

HAT Forum
Saturday 15 May 2015, 11:00-1:00
519 Church St., Meeting Room #304
Proposed by: Moses Klein

1.       How much can personal choices affect environmental issues?
  • ·         land use
  • ·         overpopulation
  • ·         climate change
  • ·         air or water quality
  • ·         resource conservation
  • ·         waste
  • ·         toxins

2.       What, if anything, do you do to improve the environment or minimize harmful effects?
3.       What are some things that we could do better?

4.       How important are personal decisions, as opposed to political decisions, in protecting the environment?

HAT Forum: Are we in Canada as classless as we think we are?

HAT Forum
Saturday 9th May 2015, 11:00-12:30
(N.B. 12:30 finish to allow Forum participants to attend the
HAT SPEAKER SERIES EVENT ON CLIMATE CHANGE
 at OISE Rm 3-311 1:30 - 3:30)
519 Church St., Meeting Room #304
Topic: Are we in Canada as classless as we think we are?
Proposed by: Dick Combeer

- What are the typical visible distinctions between social classes?
- What are the typical determinants of social class?
- Can class distinctions ever be useful and important?
- How do individuals and groups move to a different social class?
- Are there steps that can be taken to collapse and otherwise mitigate the effects of social class?



We Must Act Now on Climate Change – For Our Grandchildren

Humanist Association of Toronto Monthly Speaker Event
Saturday, May 9, 2015
1:30 – 3:00 pm
OISE, 252 Bloor St. west, Room 3-311
Speaker: Peter Jones, lawyer (retired), chairperson For Our Grandchildren
Topic: We Must Act Now on Climate Change – For Our Grandchildren

“I don’t want my grandchildren to see the earth die.” These poignant words introduce the video on the home page of For Our Grandchildren (4RG), a web-based organization whose vision is to connect and empower grandparents and prospective grandparents who are concerned about the potentially disastrous effects of climate change, and to enable them to join a movement to counter and prepare for these effects on behalf of all our children and grandchildren.

4RG offers opportunities for grandparents to learn, comment and to come together with others to discuss initiatives such as contacting their decision-makers with their concerns. The website www.forourgrandchildren.ca features an extensive blog with insightful posts on all aspects of climate change, videos, a monthly newsletter, tips on writing letters to the editor, and posters and other documents for use at events. 4RG is endorsed by honorary members Stephen Lewis, David Suzuki and Bishop Desmond Tutu. If you are concerned about the impending effects of climate change and want to help ensure that there is a world for our grandchildren to inherit, join us for this inspiring and informative presentation and discussion.

HAT Forum: Diplomacy and International Relations

HAT Forum
Saturday 2nd May 2015, 11:00-1:00
519 Church St., Meeting Room #304
Topic: Public Shaming
Proposed by: Bill Kennedy

Is Diplomacy in International relations a meaningless panacea?
Can Diplomacy make substantial contributions in International Relations?

HAT Forum: Public Shaming in the Internet Age

HAT Forum
Saturday 25 April 2015, 11:00-1:00
519 Church St., Meeting Room #304
Topic: Public Shaming
Proposed by: Moses Klein

Lately there has been much discussion in the media about the phenomenon of public shaming. How do we react to this? How has new media changed the nature of reputation? When, if ever, is public shaming fair? Do the targets have any responsibilty for their own fate?

For the purposes of this discussion, public shaming refers to the phenomenon discussed by Jon Ronson in the book So You've Been Publicly Shamed.

Some reading to consider:

Show your support for open science communication

From evidencefordemocracy.ca:

Over the past several years, Canadian scientists working in the federal government have experienced a substantial shift in the way they can communicate their research to the public and the media. Reports of widespread muzzling and delayed access to Canadian government scientists have been covered in prominent national and international media. Extensive coverage and concern prompted the Information Commissioner of Canada to pursue an investigation, currently ongoing, into the alleged muzzling of scientists.

More information and an online peitition in support of open science communication at
https://evidencefordemocracy.ca/canscientistsspeak/takeaction

Forum: Character in Education

HAT Forum
Saturday 11 April 2015, 11:00-1:00
519 Church St., Meeting Room 304
Topic: Should Character Matter?
Proposed by: Dick Combeer

Should Character Matter?

1. What role should formal education have in the development of character?
2. Are Ontario public schools obliged to remove all discussion of values out of fear of offending or not catering to all groups?
3. How does this compare to the situation in the Catholic School system in Ontario, where they have the benefit of one unifying set of values?
4. In the dialectic between the cult of personality and the cult of character, could we define what values should compose "character" and could they be fundamental enough for most of our society to agree upon?
5. In the world of business, adults dealing with adults, how does character measure up against performance?

HAT Forum: Humanitarian Aid / Military Action in Syria

HAT Forum
Saturday 4 April, 11:00-1:00
519 Church St., Meeting Room #304
Topic: Humanitarian Aid
Proposed by: Isabel Foot

The government has described the bombing or invasion of Syria as humanitarian aid. Have they convinced us? If not, what is the real agenda?

Spring 2015 newsletter

HAT's Spring 2015 newsletter is out. You can download the electronic version (pdf) at this link.

Annual General Meeting: April 18

The Humanist Association of Toronto will have its 
Annual General Meeting 
on Saturday, April 18th, 11:00-1:00
OISE (252 Bloor St. W.) Room 5-170

All HAT members are encouraged to attend. If you cannot attend, you can designate a proxy to represent you with this form. The Steering Committee for 2016-16 will be elected at the meeting.

Note that there will be no Forum that day.

The Swerve (HAT book discussion)

The HAT Book reading group will be discussing the following book on Saturday April 25 2015 at 2:30 at our regular location:

The Swerve: How the World Became Modern

Year/Format: 2011, Book, 356 p., [8] p. of plates
14 holds / 41 copies
Summary/Review:
In this work, the author has crafted both a work of history and a story of discovery, in which one manuscript, plucked from a thousand years of neglect, changed the course of human thought and made possible the world as we know it. Nearly six hundred years ago, a short, genial, cannily alert man in his late thirties took a very old manuscript off a library shelf, saw with excitement what he had discovered, and ordered that it be copied. That book was the last surviving manuscript of an ancient Roman philosophical epic, On the Nature of Things, by Lucretius, a beautiful poem of the most dangerous ideas: that the universe functioned without the aid of gods, that religious fear was damaging to human life, and that matter was made up of very small particles in eternal motion, colliding and swerving in new directions. The copying and translation of this ancient book, fueled the Renaissance, inspiring artists such as Botticelli and thinkers such as Giordano Bruno; shaped the thought of Galileo and Freud, Darwin and Einstein; and had a revolutionary influence on writers such as Montaigne and Shakespeare and even Thomas Jefferson.

If you wish to join us please contact Jodi at 416-925-3395 or HATcoord@gmail.com.
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.