Soka Gakkai International Association of Canada: It’s All About Buddhist Humanism

Humanism is the perspective that humans are the starting point for all ethical, moral and intellectual inquiry. Despite a starting point of this type, a dominant assumption about humanism in our contemporary culture(s) seems to suggest that a particular form of humanism is the only version of humanism to be explored – and that is secular humanism.

Earlier in January, we shared information regarding Humanistic Judaism and Toronto’ Oranyu Congregation. Oranyu says that you can choose both when facing the question “How Can I be both Jewish and Secular Humanist?”

Another Toronto-base organization seems to offer a similar perspective to those who may be interested in Buddhism. Soka Gakkai International Association of Canada (SGI) was founded in 1985 and currently has centres in eight cities across the country.

SGI’s website suggests that their community model has, “e no set rules that regulate the lives of SGI members, but they are encouraged to live constructive and contributive lives and to respect the laws and norms of the societies and cultures in which they live. Based on conviction in the dignity and inherent worth of all human beings, as taught in the Lotus Sutra, individuals are trusted to develop the ability to see the true nature of their thoughts, words and actions, and the wisdom to make the right choices for their lives. Practicing Buddhism naturally leads one to refrain from denigrating and destroying life and to wish to support and encourage others. The SGI Charter lays out the broad goals of the organization and its vision of contributing to a peaceful, just and sustainable world based on the principles of Nichiren Buddhism.

SGI’s religious practice model is base on the writing of Nichiren – a 13th-century Japanese Buddhist priest who formulated a practic eof chanting believe to bring a person’s life into harmony with the greater life of the universe,. This is believed to foster wisdom, courage, compassion and something called life force (at least, on the SGI website).

According to SGI, Nichiren’s version of enlightenment is the fusion of our subjective wisdom with objective reality (i.e. the real world). At SGI, Enlightenment is not a fixed point or achievement but an ongoing engagement of life’s challenges.

The peacefully-phrased position of SGI is that “At the heart of Buddhism lies the belief that each individual has limitless positive potential and the power to change his or her life for the better. Through their practice people can become more fulfilled and happier and also able to contribute more to the world. Buddhism teaches that a universal Law underlies everything in the universe, and that all life is interconnected. It also holds that we are all ultimately responsible for determining the direction of our own lives.

For those who may crave the community of a religion with a focus on various deities and dogmas, SGI offers a form of Humanism to explore.

Note that SGI publishes periodicals in both English and French.

Citations, References And Other Reading

  1. Featured Photo Courtesy of : https://tricycle.org/beginners/buddhism/who-is-nichiren-and-what-is-the-nichiren-school/
  2. https://www.sgicanada.org/about/sgi-canada-centres
  3.  https://www.oraynu.org
  4. https://tricycle.org/magazine/nichiren-chanting/

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.


By continuing to access, link to, or use this website and/or podcast, you accept the HumanistFreedoms.com and HumanistHeritageCanada.ca Terms of Service in full. If you disagree with the terms of service in whole or in part, you must not use the website, podcast or other material.

The Quest to Pantheonize Olympe de Gouges

Perched atop the Montagne Saint Geneviève in Paris, The Panthéon is a secular mausoleum for distinguished French citizens. Since 1791, it has been a temple of the nation and an altar to liberty. The building, which had formerly been a church was transformed to a secular celebration with patriotic statuary and murals. To be Pantheonized is to be celebrated by the nation as a hero.

On January 7, 2022, a movement to Pantheonize Olympe de Gouges launched a petition to achieve this goal. According to the organizers, “the political exclusion of women has long persisted and its effects continue to be felt….Olympe de Gouges fought this exclusion at the root, she immediately denounced its injustice and misdeeds.

Olympe de Gouges was is best remembered for championing women’s rights in her Declaration of the Rights of Woman and the Female Citizen (1791). As a humanist, she opposed discrimination, violence and oppression in all its forms.

According to olympedegouges.eu, Olympe was “denied a place in the powerful circles of her day she found her political voice by writing an astonishing number of pamphlets and posters that she freely disseminated around Paris. Her texts chart her battles against injustice and inequality, her belief that solidarity and cooperation should predominate, her hatred of dictatorships and the corrupting influence of power, her profound pacifism, her respect for mankind, her love of nature, and, of course, her desire that women be allowed a worthwhile role in society. She pleaded against slavery and the death penalty, dreamt of a more equal society and proposed intelligent taxation plans to enable wealth to be more fairly divided. She called for a form of welfare state, trial by jury and reasonable divorce laws to protect women and children from penury. Believing in the power of drama to encourage political change she wrote several plays that ingeniously highlight contemporary concerns...For having unreservedly expressed her opinions on democracy she was considered, by those in power during the last years of the French Revolution, to be a dangerous agitator. She was guillotined in Paris on the 3rd November 1793.”

Whether Olympe de Gouges is Pantheonized or not is a matter for the citizens of France. But it certainly seems as though she ought to be a leading contender.

What was Happening in Canada At Those Times?

In Canada in 1793, the Act Against Slavery came into force, making Upper Canada (i.e. Ontario) the first British-based jurisdiction to bring an end to slavery. While the act was a compromise that did not do all that it ought to have done, it remained in force until 1833 when it was superseded by the British Parliament’s Slavery Abolition Act.

Citations, References And Other Reading

  1. Featured Photo Courtesy of : https://olympedegougesaupantheon.org/about/
  2.  https://www.olympedegouges.eu/
  3. https://www.lemonde.fr/en/opinion/article/2023/01/14/olympe-de-gouges-an-exemplary-symbol-of-feminism-and-humanism-must-join-the-pantheon_6011553_23.html

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.


By continuing to access, link to, or use this website and/or podcast, you accept the HumanistFreedoms.com and HumanistHeritageCanada.ca Terms of Service in full. If you disagree with the terms of service in whole or in part, you must not use the website, podcast or other material.

Oranyu: You Can Choose Both

Humanism is the perspective that humans are the starting point for all ethical, moral and intellectual inquiry. Despite a starting point of this type, a dominant assumption about humanism in our contemporary culture(s) seems to suggest that a particular form of humanism is the only version of humanism to be explored – and that is secular humanism.

Indeed, the vast majority of the well-known humanist organizations in Canada and around the world assert an overtly secular humanist identity. In many cases, these organizations strive to forge a secular humanist identity that eliminates any and all traces of organized religion (and much of the culture that goes with it) from the mix. While that may be just the recipe for fulfillment that some people need, for others – it may not be quite right.

And this is where the universal nature of humanism’s starting point – an ethical, moral and intellectual centred on humans – draws a tremendous strength and versatility. It allows for organizations like Oranyu Congregation for Humanistic Judaism to firmly assert that “you can choose both.

Oranyu was founded in 1969 as the Secular Jewish Association by a group of families. Oraynu is based on the cultural and philosophical ideals of the Jewish Enlightenment, known as the Berlin Haskalah movement which began in Berlin in the late 1700s . The underlying principles of the Haskalah movement were to preserve Jewish culture while striving for integration with the dominant or surrounding societies.

In this modern iteration of these principles, Oraynu provides all the services required of a Jewish congregation within a secular humanist perspective.

For Oranyu, “The foundation of ethics is not God. The foundation of ethics is human dignity, human survival and human happiness. Ethical behavior consists of relationships between people. Some people behave well without believing in God and some people who believe in God do not behave ethically. We celebrate our Jewish identity. We use poetry and prose to express that connection – to encourage reflection and meditation. We sing Jewish songs in English, Hebrew, and Yiddish. We create our own liturgy which includes blessings for wine, challah, candlelighting, holidays, etc. As well, we sometimes adapt traditional materials to be consistent with humanistic Jewish philosophy.

Here in the second decade of this twenty-first century, we have already experienced the emergence of altogether too many polarizing social, political and ideological events and situations and faced altogether too many over-inflated false dilemmas. Oranyu’s message, whether it is new or simply renewed, that “You can choose both” is perhaps one of the most necessary messages of this decade that any humanist organization might care to extend to the community.

The Oranyu Congregation for Humanistic Judaism is one of the many examples of Canada’s rich humanist heritage.


Citations, References And Other Reading

  1. Featured Photo Courtesy of : https://www.oraynu.org

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.


By continuing to access, link to, or use this website and/or podcast, you accept the HumanistFreedoms.com and HumanistHeritageCanada.ca Terms of Service in full. If you disagree with the terms of service in whole or in part, you must not use the website, podcast or other material.

Atheistic Platonism

Looking for something to read in the new year?

Atheistic Platonism: A Manifesto by Eric Steinhart is available as an e-book or printed format via Amazon.

Eric Charles Steinhart is Professor of Philosophy at William Paterson University.  Among many articles and books, he has authored Your Digital Afterlives: Computational Theories of Life after Death, The Logic of Metaphor and Believing in Dawkins: The New Spiritual Atheism. You may wish to visit Steinhart’s website for chapter abstracts as a sampler.

According to Steinhart, “Atheistic Platonism is an alternative to both theism and nihilistic atheism. Where atheisms based on materialism fail, atheisms based on Platonism succeed.

Atheistic Platonism provides reality with foundations that are eternal, necessary, rational, beautiful, and utterly mindless. It argues for a plenitude of mathematical objects, and an infinite plurality of possible universes.

Atheistic Platonism provides mindless rational grounds for objective values, and for objective moral laws for the persons who evolve in universes.

Atheistic Platonism defines a meaningful and spiritually deep way of life, which facilitates ethical self-improvement.

Atheistic Platonism includes computational theories of life after death, in which humans ascend through transhuman and superhuman degrees of animal excellence.

Atheistic Platonism includes a rich system of spiritual symbols. It values transformational practices and ecstatic experiences.”

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Palgrave Macmillan; 1st ed. 2023 edition (December 1, 2022)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Hardcover ‏ : ‎ 352 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 3031177517
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-3031177514

Citations, References And Other Reading

  1. Featured Photo Courtesy of : ericsteinhart.com
  2. https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/religious-studies/archive-collection/platonic-atheism

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.


By continuing to access, link to, or use this website and/or podcast, you accept the HumanistFreedoms.com and HumanistHeritageCanada.ca Terms of Service in full. If you disagree with the terms of service in whole or in part, you must not use the website, podcast or other material.

Humanly Possible: 700 Years of Humanist Freethinking, Inquiry and Hope

COMING SOON – MARCH 2023

There’s a new history of humanism coming to libraries and bookstores in March that you may want to get your order(s) in for now! Written by Sarah Bakewell, Humanly Possible: 700 Years of Humanist Freethinking, Inquiry and hope promises to introduce “us to some of these people, as it asks what humanism is and why it has flourished for so long, despite opposition from fanatics, mystics and tyrants. It is a book brimming with ideas, personalities and experiments in living ‒ from the literary enthusiasts of the fourteenth century to the secular campaigners of our own time, from Erasmus to Esperanto, from anatomists to agnostics, from Christine de Pizan to Bertrand Russell, and from Voltaire to Zora Neale Hurston. It takes us on an irresistible journey, and joyfully celebrates open-mindedness, optimism, freedom and the power of the here and now ‒ humanist values which have helped steer us through dark times in the past, and which are just as urgently needed in our world today.

Whether you think of yourself as a humanist or not, an education in ethical, philosophical and religious material is essential to navigating the ever-more complicated and challenging options and opportunities that we face as individuals and society. Bakewell’s book presents a history of humanism for those who are drawn to humanism, literature and the humanities as well as those who may prefer to base their moral choices on fellow-feeling and responsibility to others, rather than on religious commandments.

Bakewell’s book tells the story of the many extraordinary individuals throughout history who have put rational inquiry, cultural richness, freedom of thought and a sense of hope at the heart of their lives.

UK: Chatto & Windus, March 2023.

US: Penguin, March 2023.

Canada: Knopf, March 2023.

Translations

Translations are forthcoming in Chinese, Dutch, German, Italian, Spanish, Swedish and Turkish. More information will be posted here when available.

Citations, References And Other Reading

  1. Featured Photo Courtesy of : sarahbakewell.com

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.


By continuing to access, link to, or use this website and/or podcast, you accept the HumanistFreedoms.com and HumanistHeritageCanada.ca Terms of Service in full. If you disagree with the terms of service in whole or in part, you must not use the website, podcast or other material.

December Solstice

As 2022 draws to a close, HumanistFeedoms.com extends greetings of the season. Regular visitors to the site may notice a number of changes to the site in the coming weeks as we prepare for a new year and some changes in our strategic plan for the website.

Earlier this year we launched our logo (as seen at right). The logo design is intended to convey contemporary humanist principles which we try to fulfill and convey with every new article that we post:

  • the “Happy Humanist” emblem is used to stay maintain a close connection to Humanist organizations around the world;
  • the logo features three figures, each rooted in a common point (humanism and human rights and freedoms) while reaching for joy in their individual directions (individuality and diversity;
  • the figures are green to symbolize a connection with the environment (Eco-Humanism)

You may have noticed that we have added the brand Humanist Heritage Canada to the site. This added branding is in an effort to diversify the work that we do.

Currently, and for the foreseeable future, you will be able to find the site using either humanistfreedoms.com or humanistheritagecanada.ca. The branding of our Humanist news activities will continue as HumanistFreedoms.com and will continue as the “News” (blog) feed and menu item.

The website will be updated with a focus on stories and information under the theme of Humanist heritage in Canada and from a Canadian perspective. We look forward to providing educational content about important Humanist individuals, organizations and events.

Finally – we will also be launching a new podcast in January called The Humanist Freedoms Podcast by Humanist Heritage Canada. Stay tuned, as they stay, for more!

We need your help! To continue growth, we need help tracking and telling important stories. The project is volunteer-driven and self-funded. If Humanism is your thing and you like what we’re doing around here, we’d love to talk about how you could joining the team.

Citations, References And Other Reading

  1. Featured Photo Courtesy of 

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.


By continuing to access, link to, or use this website and/or podcast, you accept the HumanistFreedoms.com and HumanistHeritageCanada.ca Terms of Service in full. If you disagree with the terms of service in whole or in part, you must not use the website, podcast or other material.

Humanist International’s 2022 Freedom of Thought Report

On December 8, 2022 Humanists International launched the 2022 Freedom of Thought Report. In the report, HI concludes that only 4% of the global population live in societies that are truly secular, where there is a clear separation of religious and political authorities, that do not discriminate against any religion or belief community.

“This year’s Report provides evidence of clear and systematic discrimination against humanists and non-religious people, and this discrimination is most prevalent in countries with less state secularism. State secularism appears to be a prerequisite for the full enjoyment of the right to freedom of religion or belief.”

Andrew Copson, President of Humanists International

According to the organization’s research, 70% of the world’s population live in countries where the expression of humanist values is severely repressed; where the full realization of one’s right to freedom of religion or belief is impossible. The result: harsh penalties for apostasy; a higher likelihood of the perpetuation of harmful traditional practices; religious nationalism entrenching conservative values within society.

Through 10 country chapters, this year’s Key Countries edition demonstrates the progressive erasure of the principle of secularism across the globe, and with it a decline in the protection of human rights. On the other hand, the report also exposes how extreme enforcement of so-called “neutrality” in the name of secularism can also impinge on the rights of others.

The Report exposes the harmful social and political consequences of both extremes of the spectrum of secularism, supporting the organization’s assertions that true secularism, which is inclusive of all, “is the best approach to politics and the ordering of states, and that it has proved itself to have greater potential for human freedom, happiness, and equality than all other political settlements in history.”

In HumanistFreedoms.com’s coverage of the 2020 edition, we indicated that the report contains an entry for every country in the world and uses a unique rating system ranging from “Fee and Equal” to “Grave Violations”. Canada’s rating overview states:

Canada is a federal parliamentary democracy, extending north into the Arctic Ocean, and sharing the world’s longest land border with the United States. Despite what should be strong constitutional protections for freedom of thought and expression, significant religious privileges are in force, both nationally and in several of its ten provinces and three territories.

Canada’s rating does not appear to have been altered since the 2022 edition, as there doesn’t appear to be any significantly new information presented. This lack of an update appears to be based on some strategic changes in the way the FOTR is published.

The last page of the report that bears any kind of text explains that the report is a worldwide survey of discrimination and persecution against humanists, atheists and the nonreligious published by Humanists. While the report is intended to be continuously updated, HI’s goal is to update 40 countries each year on average and to continue to publish a “Key Countries” edition.

While HI doesn’t appear to have much new to say about Canada at this time, you may be interested in the infographics showing overall ratings:

Watch List vs. Key Countries

HI’s most recent report contains a “watch-list” of countries the organization continues to monitor but for which no new entry is provided. Meanwhile, the “key countries” section of the report updates 40 countries.

One Big Indicator

In November of 2022, we published our own story where we suggested that a significant indicator of concern is any state which retains a religious police force.

At this time, seven nations have formalized and explicitly-designated religious police: Afghanistan, Indonesia, Iran, Malaysia, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia and Sudan. These are a dirty seven which should be under international scrutiny and pressure to discontinue faith-based policing – a practice that is nothing other than state violation of fundamental human rights.

What Big Indicators would you add to HI’s list and our reporting?

Citations, References And Other Reading

  1. Featured Photo Courtesy of https://humanists.international/
  2. https://humanists.international/2020/06/growing-evidence-of-worsening-persecution-targeting-the-non-religious-around-the-world-new-report-reveals/
  3. https://humanistfreedoms.com/2020/12/18/humanist-internationals-2020-freedom-of-thought-report/
  4. https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/world/us-leaders-gather-to-discuss-rights-of-nonreligious-people-across-the-world/ar-AA156MlE

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.

CHPCA’s Ethics at the End of Life: Unaddressed Suffering Needs Exploration

Image Courtesty: Wikipedia

According to their website, The Canadian Hospice Palliative Care Association (CHPCA) is “the national voice for Hospice Palliative Care in Canada. Advancing and advocating for quality end-of-life/hospice palliative care in Canada, its work includes public policy, public education and awareness. Established in 1991, its volunteer Board of Directors is composed of hospice palliative care workers and volunteers from Canadian provinces and territories as well as members-at-large.

It is always interesting to observe an organization declare itself to be “the” national voice for this, that or the other thing. That particular phrasing seems to presume, preclude or presuppose a variety of details, matters and alternatives. While this article isn’t an exploration of how organizations may be created out of nothing more than a handful of individuals with a common interest to become The National Voice on a given topic, it is interesting to note that the Government of Canada says that applying to be a charity is a four-step process. You’d think it would be more complicated than that.

On a rather tangential detail, did you know that Sue Rodriguez was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) — also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease — a quickly progressing neurological disease that attacks the nerve cells controlling voluntary muscle movement in 1991?

At that time, medical assistance in dying was illegal in Canada.

While the timeline of CHPCA’s creation and Sue Rodriguez’s diagnosis may earnestly be assumed as nothing more than coincidence, it does make one wonder what CHPCA’s policies and attitudes may be about medical assistance in dying. Fortunately, CHPCA has a page on their website dedicated to ethics. On that page, it says:

Palliative Sedation

Palliative sedation refers to the use of pharmacological agents to reduce consciousness with the intention of providing relief for intractable symptoms when all other possible therapeutic options have failed. This intervention is only considered in a patient who has been diagnosed with an advanced progressive illness and typically the patient is perceived to be close to death (i.e. in the last two weeks of life). Generally, the goal is the lowest level of sedation required to achieve the desired comfort level/control of symptoms; therefore, specific pharmacological agents are generally started at the smallest possible dose and titrated upwards to effect. This therapy is distinct from medical assistance in dying, as the intention is not to hasten death or shorten one’s life. Common indications include intractable cases of agitated delirium or dyspnea, massive hemorrhaging, and refractory seizures—all of which are extremely distressing to a patient3. The role of palliative sedation in psychological, spiritual, or existential distress is unclear. Commonly, the experience of having a patient sedated can be a conflicting and emotional time for families and caregivers; it is therefore crucial to ensure they receive appropriate psychosocial and spiritual support.

Responding to requests for assisted dying

When patients are confronted by their life-limiting illness and experience loss of function in their day-to-day lives due to their disease, it can be very distressing. In their suffering, some patients become compelled to wish for a hastened death. Some of those patients may endorse some passive suicidal thoughts, whereas others are insistent about wanting to end their lives in a specific moment with medical assistance. With recent developments in the movement for medical assistance in dying (MAID) in Canada, it is important for healthcare practitioners to recognize these requests and respond appropriately. Regardless of whether an individual healthcare practitioner supports or stands against this controversial topic, it is important that patients are still heard. Perhaps patients fear a protracted disease course with intractable symptoms, or they are distressed by the disability that their illness brings—regardless of what is driving their request, it is crucial for healthcare practitioners to recognize that there is some unaddressed suffering at the root of this request that needs further exploration.

On another tangential note. It wasn’t our idea to place those two paragraphs together. That’s the way we found them. The bold font is, admittedly, our innovation.

Despite CHPCA’s suggestion that palliative sedation’s role in distress is unclear, it does seem clear that CHPCA’s ethics suggest that dosing someone into un- or semi-consciousness in the clinically-expected final two weeks of their existence is reasonable as well as clinically and ethically sound. It may also be observed that CHPCA understands that patients should be heard. One wonders how articulate an individual who has been medicated into un- or semi-consciousness may be.

For those who are able to communicate strongly enough that their care-takers hear them, CHPCA’s ethics also make clear that any unaddressed suffering still needs to be explored. Even during the clinically-expected final two weeks of life. Ethics is such an interesting term.

While still able to make her voice heard, Sue Rodriguez asked whose life it was to continue or end, if not her own. It would be interesting and informative if CHPCA posted a clear, direct and unequivocal answer to that question on their ethics website.

Until then we’ll just have to infer.

On an Unrelated Matter

Dying With Dignity Canada (DWDC) is the national human-rights charity committed to improving quality of dying, protecting end-of-life rights, and helping people across Canada avoid unwanted suffering.

DWDC hosted the 2022  World Federation of Right to Die Societies (WFRTDS) International Conference in Toronto from November 3 to 6, 2022. The event brought international delegates and local attendees together. It was the must-attend event for clinicians, lawyers, advocates, and supporters who wanted to learn more about assisted dying in Canada and around the world.

DWDC’s 2023 to 2025 strategic plan states that the organization will “lead national advocacy efforts to eliminate obstacles to end-of-life choice, including access to advance requests and end forced transfers.” This is in an effort to:

  • To protect the constitutional right of Canadians to MAID
  • To identify and remove new and ongoing barriers and challenges to choice-in-dying
    • To ensure accurate information is easily available

What is a “forced transfer“? It seems to be what may happen if you’d rather end any unaddressed suffering in the final days of your life rather than be medicated into unconsciousness or have your suffering otherwise explored.

HumanistFreedoms.com wonders how long it will be until some ethical folks take the necessary four steps to ensure that there are institutions and facilities in place that provide a straight-forward palliative care alternative to all this forced transfer bullshit. But we suppose that things are probably more complicated than that.

Citations, References And Other Reading

  1. Featured Photo Courtesy of
  2. https://www.chpca.ca/resource/ethics/
  3. https://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/rodriguez-case-1993
  4. https://www.chpca.ca/resource/ethics/
  5. https://www.dyingwithdignity.ca/wp-content/uploads/2022/09/Dying-With-Dignity-Canada-2023-2025-Strategic-Plan.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.

Kaali: Screening out the Censors

Image Courtesy: Wikipedia

In September of 2022, HumanistFreedoms.com shared information about Humanists International‘s expression of deep concern regarding what it has called “the judicial harassment of poet and filmmaker Leena Manimekalai” and regarding Humanist Ottawa’s subsequent letter to the Canada Excellence Research Chair in Migration and Integration, Dr. Anna Triandafyllidou.

Manimekalai, who has previously identified as bi-sexual, had been selected to produce a creative piece on multiculturalism in Canada as part of the national level academic programme ‘Under the Tent’ organized by CERC Migration – Toronto Metropolitan University. The film, ‘Kaali’ was launched at the Aga Khan Museum on July 2, 2022.

Soon the inevitable occurred. As the film came to the wider attention, some people were offended and began to express outrage and hate. This controversy led TMU and the Aga Khan Museum to pull Manimekalai’s film and to apologize to any (essentially anonymous) offended parties.

We have learned since our previous coverage, Kaali: The Short-sightedness of Censors and Kaali: Choose Love and Champion Humanity, that representatives of the Humanist Society of Toronto (HAT) and Humanist Ottawa attended a screening of Kaali on November 3 at TMU. Indeed, HAT was one of several co-sponsors of the event.

Richard Dowsett, HAT spokesperson was one of the scheduled speakers and delivered a “wonderful and incisive statement” which received enthusiastic applause. News of Dowsett’s reception at the event was shared with us by another humanist named Richard who was in attendance – Richard Thain.

Thain, who has his own experience with censors violating his charter right to freedom of expression, was also invited to speak when the event organizers learned that a Humanist Ottawa board member was present:

It is a pleasure to join you for this important event. I was just invited a few minutes ago to say a few words, so I don’t have a prepared statement, but I don’t need a prepared statement to tell you, simply from my heart, how proud I am to stand here, with all of you, ( with a gentle wave toward the audience) in support Leena Manimekalai. And I don’t need a prepared speech to tell you, Leena, how strongly we support artistic freedom and how much we, at Humanist Ottawa, admire your creativity and perseverance, in the face of adversity. (audience actually applauded several times). 

As an historical aside, in 1954, the Humanist Fellowship of Montréal was founded by a man originally from India, Dr R K Mishra, a professor at Universite  de Montréal. This became one of the founding groups of the Humanist Association of Canada in 1968 (now Humanist Canada). 

I drove here from Ottawa, not only to support Leena, but also to oppose those people who have given-in to the “Heckler’s Veto.” People who should know better!

Our Humanist Ottawa president, Robert Hamilton, could not be here this evening, as he is  presently out of the country, but he sends his warm greetings and support. 

Thain also read Humanist Ottawa’s letter to TMU and the leadership of The CERC in Migration and Integration.

According to BlogTO and other mainstream media outlets, the  “sold-outevent, which also featured another of the creative’s films, was sponsored by the Centre for Free Expression, PEN Canada, the Poetic Justice Foundation and other champions of free speech and creative expression as a protest against censorship.

HumanistFreedoms.com congratulates Leena Manimekalai for courage and creativity and all of the individual and organizational supporters who didn’t leave as unchallenged the censors and the un-named (and therefore un-identifiable) offended attempt to stifle the fundamental human right to freedom of expression.

Citations, References And Other Reading

  1. Featured Photo Courtesy of: https://hindutrend.com/images-of-maa-kali-face/
  2. https://humanists.international/2022/08/india-drop-investigations-into-filmmaker/
  3. https://www.blogto.com/film/2022/11/toronto-filmmaker-bombarded-death-threats-gets-revenge/
  4. https://www.cbc.ca/news/entertainment/kaali-film-leena-manimekalai-screening-1.6638601

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.

The Cost of Being an Atheist: BBC Africa’s Documentary About Mubarak Bala

Image Courtesy: Wikipedia

On August 9, 2020, HumanistFreedoms.com published our first article about Mubarak Bala. At that time, we featured Wole Soyinka’s all-too-prophetic condemnation of the Nigerian government’s treatment of Bala:

When I accepted the International Humanist Award at the World Humanist Congress in 2014, I spoke of the conflict between Humanists and Religionists; one of enlightenment versus the chains of enslavement. Your arbitrary incommunicado detention over the last 100 days is the cruel reality of this conflict. All too often these chains of enslavement lead directly to the gallows or a prison cell.

On April 5, 2022 – the Kano High State Court sentence Bala to 24 years imprisonment following a guilty plea to 18 charges blasphemy and public incitement. As the president of the Humanist Association of Nigeria, Mubarak Bala is a prisoner of religious tyranny.

BBC Africa has recently published a documentary titled “The Cost of Being an Atheist” which carries a terrible reminder of just how correct Wole Soyinka’s words were. Too often and far too readily, tyrants curtail free speech with arbitrary actions which lead to prison cells and worse.

Mubarak Bala is a chemical process engineer. A husband. A father. He and his family deserve better than this. They don’t just deserve better – they had a fundamental right to better.

And so does every living person, regardless of the country they live in or the beliefs or non-beliefs that they may have. That’s why the freedom of thought, freedom of expression and freedom of religion (including freedom from religion) are called Fundamental Freedoms.

Citations and References

  1. https://humanists.international/2020/08/wole-soyinka-sends-message-of-solidarity-to-mubarak-bala/
  2. https://www.theguardian.com/books/2020/aug/06/wole-soyinka-protests-imprisonment-of-nigerian-humanist-mubarak-bala
  3. https://freemubarakbala.org/
  4. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wole_Soyinka

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.

Featured Photo Courtesy of Humanists International