CANADIAN PARLIAMENTARY PETITION e-3114:

In our January 2021 Call for Submissions, we asked for articles in consideration of “Contemporary Humanism’s Biggest Priorities and Challenges for 2021“. In Canada, two leading humanist organizations, Centre For Inquiry Canada (CFIC) and Humanist Canada announced their backing of Parliamentary e-Petition 3114.

The meat of this e-Petition, which was opened for signatures on January 25, 2021, is a call upon Canada’s Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship to change the policy regarding Less Complex Claims to include atheists in the list of people eligible for the status, so that they will be treated equally with those people belonging to the religions currently listed in the Less Complex Claims policy.

While you will find the text of the e-Petition via the link to the e-Petition’s government website (above), we have provided the text at the bottom of this article.

Canada’s system of Parliamentary e-Petitions was introduced in December of 2015. The e-Petition system follows the same principles as paper petitions, but with particular procedural rules in place for the digital age. These rules include, but are not limited to:

  • the petitioners completes a petition form (250 word maximum) based on the classic model on the government website
  •  the petitioners submit names and contact information of at least five individuals who support the process
  • the e-petition must be sponsored by a Member of Parliament
  • when an e-petition has cleared all preliminary screening, it is published and remains open for signature for 120 days
  • individuals who sign an e-petition must provide their contact information, confirm that they are a resident of Canada or a Canadian citizen living outside of Canada
  • e-petitions that have a minimum of 500 valid signatures are sent to the sponsoring Member of Parliament for presentation to the House of Commons

In an email we received from Centre For Inquiry Canada, we learned that CFIC’s involvement in the e-Petition is tied to their involvement in assisting atheist and humanist refugees. Currently, CFIC is “supporting Omer (a pseudonym) [a refugee from Pakistan] while he waits to come to Canada. In 2011, after a heated debate about religion with a friend, Omer was abducted and beaten by five men. Omer was sexually assaulted, his finger was cut off, and the abductors used a burning cigarette to write Tauba (“repent”) on his arm.” CFIC has been involved in assisting atheist refugees since 2015 when it led a successful campaign to support another atheist targeted for attack, Raihan Abir.

CFIC also appears to have been tracking Canada’ e-Petition system since the system was launched. In a 2016 article on the CFIC website, the organization states: “Some of these e-petitions will fail to garner the support they require to justify a response by Parliament; others will be ill-timed to existing legislation (e.g. the physician assisted death petitions above) and as identified by the limited responses by Parliament to date, a great many that do reach Parliament are likely to be dismissed, shuffled to the side or otherwise punted by the politicians.  It is possibly, however, that some e-petitions may result in policy change.  At minimum, these e-petitions offer an opportunity to communicate directly to Parliament on federal issues such as Canada’s blasphemous libel law or other federal policy.  As leading secular citizens of Canada – it is a process which CFIC and its members should monitor and participate in.”

CFIC and Humanist Canada were leading organizers of e-Petition 382, opposing Canada’s blasphemous libel law in 2016. The two organizations were essential to garnering 7406 signatures on the e-Petition. The targeted section of the Criminal Code was repealed in 2018.

As of February 17, 2021, e-Petition 3114 has collected 1139 signatures and remains open for signature through to April 25, 2021.

The Member of Parliament whose name currently appears with e-Petition 3114 is Nathaniel Erskine-Smith from the Beaches—East York riding.

It will be interesting to observe whether CFIC and Humanist Canada release further education regarding the Parliamentary e-Petition process and the particular regulation that e-Petition 3114 targets. At this time, it is not clear whether either organization has developed a related position paper or policy brief on the matter. It is also not yet clear whether the national leaders of these organizations are actively engaged with their provincial and local counterpart organizations to raise awareness and action on the issues in Canada. Nor whether this may be a part of international partnerships regarding atheist, humanist and apostate refugees. We welcome an opportunity to publish any articles that may be made available.

Changing government policy or federal law is a significant challenge in any country. As may be the case with the Less Complex Claims policy, strategic targets for change may also be an important part of furthering and fostering humanism around the globe.


Petition to the House of Commons in Parliament assembled

Whereas:

  • Atheists are persecuted in several countries both by government and the public;
  • Atheist persecution can result in serious injury, imprisonment, or death at the hands of family members, street mobs, or governments;
  • Some countries, including Saudi Arabia, label all atheists as terrorists: this alone should not disqualify them for refugee status;
  • The Supreme Court of Canada has ruled several times that the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees the right to freedom from religion as much as the right to freedom of religion, a standard which applies to refugees as well as citizens;
  • Atheists are denied access to the Less Complex Claims Policy of Canada because they are excluded from the list of those who qualify, all of whom are members of a religion; and
  • This is an urgent matter because the lives of several atheists are currently in danger while awaiting their refugee hearings, which would be avoided if atheists were included in the less complex claims process.

We, the undersigned, residents of Canada, call upon the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship to change the policy regarding Less Complex Claims to include atheists in the list of people eligible for the status, so that they will be treated equally with those people belonging to the religions currently listed in the Less Complex Claims policy.



Citations, References And Other Reading

  1. Featured Photo Courtesy of : https://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-images-immigration-canada-close-up-concept-image33437539
  2. https://petitions.ourcommons.ca/en/Petition/Details?Petition=e-3114
  3. https://irb-cisr.gc.ca/en/legal-policy/policies/Pages/instructions-less-complex-claims.aspx
  4. https://petitions.ourcommons.ca/en/Home/About
  5. HOUSE OF COMMONS PROCEDURE AND PRACTICEThird Edition, 2017 Edited by Marc Bosc and André Gagnon
  6. https://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/world/couple-finds-sanctuary-in-canada-to-escape-killings-of-writers-in-bangladesh/article27890972/
  7. https://centreforinquiry.ca/canadas-new-parliamentary-e-petition-system/
  8. https://centreforinquiry.ca/parliamentary-e-petition-opposing-canadas-blasphemy-law/
  9. https://www.jpierimmigration.com/streamlined-process-less-complex-refugee-claims
  10. https://atheist-refugees.com/en/the-foundation-story-ranas-escape/

The views, opinions and analyses expressed in the articles on Humanist Freedoms are those of the contributor(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the publishers.

February 2021 Call for Submissions

2020 was HumanistFreedoms.com’s first full year of operation. We enjoyed publishing content which promoted and celebrated humanism and our common humanity. We thank our contributors, readers and visitors for making http://www.humanistfreedoms.com a unique online magazine.

Now for 2021 we are looking for even more essays, articles and stories to share. We are not able to pay for articles (yet) but we want to hear what you have to say. This month, themes that we want to explore include:

  • Contemporary Humanism’s Biggest Priorities and Challenges for 2021
  • Leadership Within The Humanist Movement
  • Humanism and Secularism
  • Humanism and Human Trafficking
  • Humanism and Global Population
  • At Home with a Humanist: Stories from the Lockdown
  • A Humanist Perspective of Radical Politics
  • Humanist Photography: Photographer Review
  • Humanism in the Arts
  • Humanism Behind the Mask: Maintaining Respect and Compassion During the Pandemic
  • Humanism and the Environment
  • Humanism and Freedom of Expression: Lessons From 2020
  • Humanism and Freedom of/from Religion: Global Lessons
  • Book Review: A Humanist Recommends….

Do you have an idea that isn’t on our list? Let us know. Inquire at humanistfreedoms@gmail.com

Leadership Change at American Humanist Association

In our January 2021 Call for Submissions, we asked for articles in consideration of “Contemporary Humanism’s Biggest Priorities and Challenges for 2021“. In the United States of America (USA), one of the leading humanist organizations, American Humanist Association has left the gates with a clear indication that the identity of leadership within humanist organizations is a leading priority.


Roy Speckhardt announced that he will be leaving his position as American Humanist Association Executive Director by the fall of 2021

Speckhardt, who joined the American Humanist Association (“AHA”) staff 20 years ago and was appointed Executive Director in 2005, says his decision to open his position for a new voice is the right one for the AHA and the humanist movement.

Speckhardt explained that, “Being at the helm of such an organization as the AHA, whose mission is so critical to our times and whose influence far outstrips its size, was the greatest honor of my life, but I’ve decided it’s time for me to step down and make room for new leadership. It is my emphatic hope that my seat is filled with a Black or Brown humanist because our movement has gone too long without such diversity at the helm and this would open the door for the AHA to truly achieve its potential as a humanist and anti-racist institution.”

Speckhardt oversaw the AHA’s exponential growth and evolution from a small organization focused more on the philosophical aspects of humanism to an advocacy powerhouse with significant access in all levels of government. During his tenure, the organization quadrupled its capacity and membership, and its annual reach grew explosively from thousands previously to millions today. He helped move the organization from a modest townhouse to a statement headquarters building in the heart of the nation’s capital, a venue where the founding members of the Congressional Freethought Caucus gathered to determine its mission. Speckhardt saw the organization achieve many firsts, from seeing humanists and other nontheists named in federal legislation, to launching the movement’s first staffed social justice department, to seeing the first time an AHA staff attorney argued a case before the U.S. Supreme Court.

“I have gratitude for everything our team, members, and supporters invested. It’s because of you that we were able to achieve successes together,” Speckhardt added. Coming to the AHA after serving six years with the Interfaith Alliance and once appointed the AHA’s Executive Director, Speckhardt made hundreds of public appearances, wrote scores of published articles, and authored the AHA’s primer, Creating Change Through Humanism. His next book, Justice Centered Humanism, will be released in April 2021.

Sunil Panikkath, President of the AHA Board of Directors, praised Speckhardt for his many years of service.

“Roy drove the humanist perspective to new heights of awareness, acceptance, and prominence. He traveled the nation meeting with local leaders and other supporters, regularly defended humanist viewpoints in the media, and assembled a team of professionals ready to make a difference in Washington,” said Panikkath.

Panikkath said that a search is underway to find a new Executive Director for the AHA, which will celebrate its 80th anniversary next year. Speckhardt will remain at the AHA through the transition and will continue to be closely involved as chair of a new AHA Board Committee on Advancement.

“With the help of our chosen executive search firm Professionals For Non Profits, who have posted the position, we are getting started on a thorough, nationwide search to find new leadership for the American Humanist Association, a search that will involve all AHA stakeholders,” said Panikkath. “I am confident we will find a new leader who will be well qualified to meet the challenges before us and to take advantage of opportunities for further growth and development of humanism.”

The American Humanist Association (AHA) works to protect the rights of humanists, atheists, and other nontheistic Americans. The AHA advances the ethical and life-affirming worldview of humanism, which—without beliefs in gods or other supernatural forces—encourages individuals to live informed and meaningful lives that aspire to the greater good of humanity.


Citations, References And Other Reading

  1. Featured Photo Courtesy of :
  2. https://americanhumanist.org/press-releases/longtime-executive-director-of-the-american-humanist-association-to-step-down-calls-for-new-leadership/

The views, opinions and analyses expressed in the articles on Humanist Freedoms are those of the contributor(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the publishers.

Events: Separation of Church and State In Education

In our January 2021 Call for Submissions, we asked for articles in consideration of “Contemporary Humanism’s Biggest Priorities and Challenges for 2021“. In Canada, two leading humanist organizations, Humanist Canada and Ontario Humanist Society appear to have left the gates with clear demonstrations that the separation of church and state in the publicly-funded education system is among their top priorities. Each has upcoming events focused on this ongoing issue.

HumanistFreedoms.ca was founded in support of one Ontario citizen’s attempts to protect his human rights while trying to oppose Ontario’s existing system of public funding of Catholic school systems. Read more about Dr. Richard Thain’s legal battle in our featured article.


A One School System In Ontario

With Alvin Tedjo and Leonard Baak

February 21, 2021 3:00 pm EST Register Today

Humanist Canada

The Ontario government currently funds four overlapping school systems: English public, English Catholic, French public, and French Catholic. In Quebec, Manitoba, Newfoundland, and Labrador, religiously segregated school systems have been eliminated. Ontario is now the only province that funds the religious schools of the Catholic faith exclusively.

The Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario and the Ontario Secondary Schools Teachers’ Federation have urged the Ontario government to end funding of the province’s Catholic schools and move toward one secular school system for each official language.

Join us for a conversation about the one school system initiative:

How did the Ontario school system come to be the way it is? What are the social, financial, environmental, and educational consequences of the current organization of our school system? How would the transition to a single school system be implemented? How would it impact teachers and parents? What are the financial benefits of merging the public and catholic school boards across Ontario? What is the current political situation with respect to moving towards a single secular school system for each official language?

Alvin Tedjo

Alvin Tedjo was a leadership candidate in the 2020 Ontario Liberal Party election to replace Kathleen Wynne. He was the first-ever Liberal candidate to propose merging the public and catholic school boards across Ontario in order to improve the quality of education for all students, regardless of their religion. Alvin’s proposal was supported by two public polls during the leadership election that saw a majority of Ontarians agree with him. He also proposed introducing a basic income and expanding child care.

Alvin has previously served as Vice President of the Ontario Coalition for Better Childcare. He is the founder of Canadians for Paternity Leave, a coalition that successfully pressured the federal government to increase paternity leave for Canadians. Alan was Director of Government Relations at Sheridan College and Senior Policy Advisor to the Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities. He currently works as a senior manager at Ryerson University.

Alvin is the father of three young children. He lives in Mississauga with his wife Rebecca, a registered nurse.

Leonard Baak

Leonard Baak is President of One School System.

Leonard was born and raised in Nova Scotia. In 1986, he moved to Ontario to attend university and has worked as a software developer in Ottawa since 1991.

Appalled at what he saw as “the discrimination and waste in our school system”, Leonard and two other equally dissatisfied parents, incorporated OneSchoolSystem.org in 2004 to lobby for change.

Leonard is a married father of two university-aged kids.

Register Today : OntarioSchool SystemWebinar



Separation of Religion and State

Support of a Single Public School System

The mission of the Ontario Humanist Society (OHS) is to practise and to foster humanism at the Provincial level by providing focus, service and a sense of ethical identity to humanists and humanist associations across Ontario in a manner consistent with humanist principles, practice and core values as stated in the Humanist Manifestos, Amsterdam Declaration and the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Ontario Humanist Society presents the first virtual speaker program in their showcase of 2021 events.

Via: ZOOM Meeting

Date: Tuesday February 23, 2021

Time: 7:30 pm – 8:30 pm

The Ontario provincial government is currently the only province funding religious schools of the Catholic faith exclusively. The Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario and the Ontario Secondary Schools Teachers’ Federation have urged the government to move toward one secular school system for each official language. This discussion will include a short history, major issues, current state, and how we can better serve our children and society as a whole.

Our moderator and speaker, Zain Ghadially, is a passionate Ontario public school educator who focuses a lot of his own time on discussion, debate, and ethics.

Join in on the conversation…

Register to Attend

References and Resources

  1. https://zoom.us/meeting/register/tJYrfuqtrjgrEtKeHipLbEVMnL8T8cR6QWSh
  2. https://www.ontariohumanists.ca/
  3. https://www.humanistcanada.ca/webinar-series-2021-a-one-school-system-in-ontario/

The views, opinions and analyses expressed in the articles on Humanist Freedoms are those of the contributor(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the publishers.

UNODC 2020 Report on Trafficking in Persons

In our January 2021 Call for Submissions, we asked for your submissions on topics relating to humanism, including a request for articles on the theme of Humanism’s Biggest Priorities and Challenges for 2021. As a website devoted to providing information about the fundamental links between humanism and human rights & freedoms, we cannot ignore the worst deprivations of human dignity during our aspirations for the highest of human freedoms.

On February 2, 2021 the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime released the fifth edition of its Global Report on Trafficking in Persons. The report covers 148 countries and provides an overview of patterns and flows of trafficking in persons at global, regional and national levels, based primarily on trafficking cases detected between 2016 and 2019. As UNODC has been systematically collecting data on trafficking in persons for more than a decade, trend information is presented for a broad range of indicators.

Divided into six sections (Global Overview, Socio-Economic Factors and Risks of the COVID-19 Recession, Children – Easy to Target, Trafficking for Forced Labour, Traffickers use of Internet and Regional Overview) and pushing 200-pages, the report provides a sobering perspective on one of humanity’s oldest and most odious problems.

Traffickers see their victims as commodities without regard for human dignity and rights. They sell fellow human beings for a price that can range from tens of US dollars to tens of thousands, with large criminal organizations making the highest incomes.

The report is produced every two years. The 2020 edition covers data from the world’s largest database on trafficking victims, compiling figures from official sources across 148 countries. It also analyses 489 court cases from 71 different countries, providing qualitative information on the perpetrators and the characteristics of the crimes.

The article below the infographic is a related press release that had been embargoed until February 3, 2021.


Share of children among trafficking victims increases, boys five times; COVID-19 seen worsening overall trend in human trafficking, says UNODC Report

Vienna 2 February 2021 – The number of children among detected trafficking victims has tripled in the past 15 years, while the share of boys has increased five times. Girls are mainly trafficked for sexual exploitation, while boys are used for forced labour, according to the Global Report on Trafficking in Persons, launched by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) today.

In 2018 about 50,000 human trafficking victims were detected and reported by 148 countries. However, given the hidden nature of this crime, the actual number of victims trafficked is far higher. The Report shows traffickers particularly target the most vulnerable, such as migrants and people without jobs. The COVID-19-induced recession is likely to expose more people to the risk of trafficking.

“Millions of women, children and men worldwide are out of work, out of school and without social support in the continuing COVID-19 crisis, leaving them at greater risk of human trafficking. We need targeted action to stop criminal traffickers from taking advantage of the pandemic to exploit the vulnerable,” said UNODC Executive Director Ghada.

“The UNODC Global Report on Trafficking in Persons 2020, coupled with the technical assistance UNODC provides through its global programmes and field network, aims to inform governments’ anti-trafficking responses, end impunity, and support victims as part of integrated efforts to build forward from the pandemic.”

Profile of the Victims

Female victims continue to be the primary targets for trafficking in persons. For every 10 victims detected globally in 2018, about five were adult women and two were young girls. Around 20 per cent of human trafficking victims were adult men and 15 per cent were young boys.

Over the last 15 years, the number of detected victims has increased, while their profile has changed. The share of adult women among the detected victims fell from more than 70 per cent to less than 50 per cent in 2018, while the share of children detected has increased, from around 10 per cent to over 30 per cent. In the same period, the share of adult men has nearly doubled, from around 10 per cent to 20 per cent in 2018.

Overall, 50 per cent of detected victims were trafficked for sexual exploitation, 38 per cent were exploited for forced labour, six per cent were subjected to forced criminal activity, while one per cent were coerced into begging and smaller numbers into forced marriages, organ removal, and other purposes.

Victims’ profiles differ according to the form of exploitation. In 2018, most women and girls detected were trafficked for sexual exploitation, whereas men and boys were mainly trafficked for forced labour.

The share of detected victims trafficked for forced labour has steadily increased for more than a decade. Victims are exploited across a wide range of economic sectors, particularly in those where work is undertaken in isolated circumstances including agriculture, construction, fishing, mining, and domestic work.

Profile of the Offenders

Globally, most persons prosecuted and convicted of trafficking in persons continue to be male, with around 64 and 62 per cent respectively. Offenders can be members of organized crime groups, which traffic the great majority of victims, to individuals operating on their own or in small groups on an opportunistic basis.

Traffickers see their victims as commodities without regard for human dignity and rights. They sell fellow human beings for a price that can range from tens of US dollars to tens of thousands, with large criminal organizations making the highest incomes.

Traffickers have integrated technology into their business model at every stage of the process, from recruiting to exploiting victims. Many children are approached by traffickers on social media and they are an easy target in their search for acceptance, attention, or friendship. UNODC has identified two types of strategies: “hunting” involving a trafficker actively pursuing a victim, typically on social media; and “fishing”, when perpetrators post job advertisements and wait for potential victims to respond. The internet allows traffickers to live stream the exploitation of their victims, which enables the simultaneous abuse of one victim by many consumers around the globe.

Citations, References And Other Reading

  1. Featured Photo Courtesy of : https://www.unodc.org/documents/data-and-analysis/tip/2021/GLOTiP_2020_15jan_web.pdf

The views, opinions and analyses expressed in the articles on Humanist Freedoms are those of the contributor(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the publishers.