Category Archives: Canada

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.

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.

Secularphobia and Secularphoria in the Middle East: Online Education Event!

SAT, DEC 10 · 2:30 PM EST

Hamed Abdel-Samad:

Secularphobia and Secularphoria in the Middle East

Presented by the Halton Peel Humanist Community

The Middle East has never been far from the headlines.

The last 100 or so years has seen the Middle East to be the center of continuous struggles starting with the end of the first world war, the subsequent collapse of the Ottoman Empire and over the next forty or so years the withdrawal of the western powers from the region.

Many of these struggles led to bloody conflicts, some between Arab countries and Israel, and others between allegedly secular or progressive republics and conservative monarchies.

Starting in the mid 1970’s the Middle East has been the scene of the resurgence of Islamic revivalist forces attempting to replace both republics and monarchies, and to overthrow all aspects of modernity. This in turn led to resistance by secular groups; some uneasily allied with the existing regimes, while others doing so enthusiastically while ignoring or justifying corruption and repression.

This sad state of affairs has obscured a lively fermentation of enlightened intellectual thought asserting the necessity of secularism for progress and modernity to take hold, and triggered strong reactions from forces seeking to reinforce religious privileges and blunt any progress.

Professor Hamed Abdel-Samad will describe for us these countervailing forces and the prospects for the future.

About Hamed Abdel-Samad
Hamed Abdel-Samad is a German-Egyptian writer and political scientist.

Hamed was born in Egypt and grew up in a devout Muslim family, his father being an Imam. He studied French and English at Ain Shams University in Cairo during which time he joined the Muslim Brotherhood. That close association triggered within him a skepticism of Islam, and led to him eventually abandoning it.

He moved to Germany at age 23 to study political science at Augsburg
University, subsequently taught Islamic studies at Erfurt, conducted research at Munich University and worked as an educational expert for UNESCO.

He has authored several books in German and Arabic with titles translating to “Muhammad– A final reckoning”, “The downfall of the Islamic world”, “My farewell to heaven”, “War or peace – The Arab revolution and the future of the West”, and most recently “What the commoners don’t know about Islam: A brief history from Mohammed to the present”. One book, “Islamic Fascism”, has been translated into English and released by Prometheus Press in 2016.

Hamed appears frequently on German television, and is very active on his YouTube channel Hamed.TV (also the name of his website). There he released series of talks called “Box of Humanity” and “Box of Islam” that deal with life, with history and with Islam. He is a sought after guest on many other YouTube channels.

Unfortunately Hamed’s has rarely appeared on English language media.

Citations, References And Other Reading

  1. Featured Photo Courtesy ofhttps://www.meetup.com/haltonpeelhumanists/events/289775343/?_xtd=gqFyqTIzOTYzOTY1MqFwo2FwaQ%253D%253D&from=ref

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.

An Unfulfilled Guarantee: OPEN Update to a Legal Challenge to Public Funding of Catholic Schools in Ontario

Image Courtesy: Wikipedia

In January of 2022, HumanistFreedoms.com reported on a human rights challenge to the Province of Ontario’s public-funding of Catholic schools led by an organizations named One Public Education Now (OPEN). Recently, OPEN has sent us an update on their work.


Two members of OPEN are plaintiffs in a Charter of Rights challenge to the current funding of separate schools in Ontario. The lawsuit states the funding of non-Catholics in separate schools and the funding of Grades 11 and 12 are not protected from Charter challenge and violate the s.15(1) guarantee of equal protection and benefit of the law for all religions and beliefs (including beliefs in no religion).


The two plaintiffs are a teacher who cannot obtain a teaching position in one-third of publicly-funded separate schools because she is not Catholic, and a parent whose children must travel an extra 80 minutes per day in order for them to have a non-denominational public education, and not a publicly-funded Catholic education.


The Attorney-General of Ontario has brought a Motion to Dismiss the Application before it even gets to a full hearing. The Motion is scheduled for Friday, November 25, 2022 and we think it will not be successful for various reasons including that the funding of non-Catholics in separate schools has not been ruled on by any court in Ontario. But obviously it means further delay and further expenses. We have already raised over $175,000, but we know we need to raise more. People can find out more on our website, https://open.cripeweb.org/, where they can also donate through secure PayPal or by E-transfer to open@cripeweb.org.

Citations, References And Other Reading

  1. Featured Photo Courtesy ofhttps://www.ontariocourts.ca/scj/about/
  2. https://open.cripeweb.org/aboutOpen.html
  3. http://www.cripeweb.org/home.php
  4. https://humanistfreedoms.com/2022/01/19/human-rights-challenge-to-government-funding-of-catholic-schools-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.

Mahsa Amini: The Tragedy that Reminds the World Why Policing Must Be Secular

Image Courtesy Wikipedia

Amidst a set of global events such as the COVID-19 pandemic/epidemic response, the war in Ukraine and the so-called culture wars of right wing versus left wing politics, it is predictable, if not absolutely inevitable, that attention to the ongoing travesties and tragedies of violated fundamental human rights would be reduced.

It seems equally likely that faith-based authoritarians (or for that matter any ideologues) would take advantage of the distracted times to increase their entrenched influence and control.

HumanistFreedoms.com hopes that the distractions of the early 2020’s may finally pass and that secularist organizations may again be relied-upon to focus attention and action upon promoting humanist values and undertaking serious opposition to theocracies and religious police forces.

The tragic death of Mahsa Amini seems like an excellent matter to begin with.

Humanists International (Excerpts below from HI Sept 28, 2022)

In a statement made during the General Debate segment of the 51st UN Human Rights Council, Humanists International’s Advocacy Officer, Lillie Ashworth, responded to the recent murder in custody of 22-year old Kurdish-Iranian Mahsa Amini. Amini had been arrested by Iran’s “morality police” on 13 September for wearing her hijab “improperly”. She was accused of being in violation of Iran’s discriminatory compulsory veiling laws which require girls from the age of 9 to cover their hair completely. As several UN independent experts stated in the days following her death, there is evidence that Amini had been beaten and subjected to torture while in the custody of Iran’s theocratic regime. The Iranian police have claimed that she had suffered a stroke and a heart attack.

Ashworth’s statement reminded Iran that “compulsory veiling is a human rights violation, and that appeals to religious morality can never be used to police women’s choices, or to invalidate their equal dignity and worth.”

Since Amini’s murder, there has been widespread protests in Iran and around the world. In Iran, crackdowns by the theocratic state has resulted in further faith-based beatings and murders.

Religious Police

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.

HumanistFreedoms.com looks forward to observing whether Canadian (in particular) and global humanist, atheist, secularist organizations join Humanist International in a re-focus on issues of this scope and type. We feel certain that there are still many other women, girls and families who might appreciate the kind of help from the international community that might have saved Mahsa Amini’s life.

Citations, References And Other Reading

  1. Featured Photo Courtesy of: ttps://www.smh.com.au/world/acehs-religious-police-crack-down-on-tight-jeans-20100526-weap.html
  2. https://humanists.international/2022/09/at-un-humanists-international-calls-for-justice-following-murder-of-mahsa-amini/

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.

October 2022 – HumanistFreedoms.com Surpasses Annual Visits Two Years in a Row!… and Call for Participation

2020 was HumanistFreedoms.com’s first full year of operation. Today we reached a new milestone!

At the end of July 2021, we had surpassed the total visitors to the site in 2020. Effective today, October 23, 2022, we are thrilled to see that we’ve surpassed the 2021’s annual total visitors and pages read. By year’s end we expect to have grown 25% in 2021!

We have enjoyed publishing articles which promoting and celebrating humanism and our common humanity. We thank our contributors, readers and visitors for making http://www.humanistfreedoms.com a unique online magazine.

By contemporary internet standards, HumanistFreedoms.com is still a new and growing project. But we think that every small project has the potential to bring humanist values, outlooks and news to a continuously-growing audience; we look forward, therefore, to promoting other start-up Humanist-themed projects. Recently, the “Reasons for Reason” Youtube channel caught our attention. The channel features R4R, The Rational Robot, undertaking a number of classic counter-apologetics exercises. Currently, the channel’s most popular video is one devoted to the so-called Shroud of Turin.

If you enjoyed the R4R’s adventures in reason, please share your thoughts below and share the video with those who may be interested to learn more bour Reasons for Reason, counter-apologetics and humanism.

For the remainder of 2022 and looking forward to the new year, 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 2022
  • Leadership Within The Humanist Movement
  • Humanism and Secularism
  • Humanism and Human Trafficking
  • Digital Humanism
  • Humanism and Global Population
  • A Humanist Perspective of Radical Politics
  • Humanist Photography: Photographer Review
  • Humanism in the Arts
  • Humanism and the Environment
  • Humanism and Freedom of Expression: Lessons of the 2020’s
  • Humanism and Freedom of/from Religion: Global Lessons
  • Humanism and Architecture
  • Book/Movie/Music/Arts Review: A Humanist Recommends….

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

Elected Office(s) and the Catholic School System in Ontario: A Match Made In…

Image Courtesy: Wikipedia

There’s something about elected office(s) and democracy that doesn’t quite match-up well with religious prerequisites. The concepts are fundamentally opposed. Elected office and democracy puts the leadership selection process in the hands of the people that the system is intended to serve while religious prerequisites place the selection process in the hands of religious authorities, regardless of who may be within that system. That seems fairly obvious doesn’t it?

Canadian media outlets have recently reported the outcome of a legal case wherein an Ontario student sued the York Catholic District School Board after having been barred from running for elected office within the school system. It seems that Dasha Kandaharian, an Orthodox Christian (i.e. not a Roman Catholic), was not allowed to run for student trustee at the high school she attended because of that sectarian difference.

Media stories have referred to the case as a “landmark” – which it undoubtedly is. The decision undoubtedly addresses the situation faced by thousands of non-Catholic students who have attended publicly-funded Catholic schools in the past (clearly, Kandaharian was not he first and only student to be barred from the elected office) – and the thousands more who may do so in the future.

What the media have not (that we can find) spent much time in considering is where the Catholic School Board(s) of Ontario may have gotten this notion that a sectarian religious prerequisite for elected office is an acceptable thing.

Perhaps a peek at the Ontario Municipal & School Board Elections (2022) webstie might offer some perspective. The “Become A Trustee” page clearly states:

A person is qualified to be elected as a school board trustee if the person is qualified to vote in a school board election and is a resident of the school board district.

When filing a nomination a candidate must meet all of the following requirements:

  • a resident within the jurisdiction of the board;
  • a supporter of the board (“supporter” refers to the individual’s support for one of the four publicly funded school systems. A list of supporters for each system is kept by the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation);
  • a Canadian citizen;
  • at least 18 years old;
  • Roman Catholic (if running for a Catholic school board);
  • not legally prohibited from voting; and
  • not disqualified by any legislation from holding school board office.

Note: A candidate, if nominated, must remain qualified throughout the election and, if elected, throughout the term of office. The term of office is 4 years. School board candidates should confirm that they have the qualifications described here and in section 219 of the Education Act. It is the responsibility of the candidate to determine whether he or she is qualified to be elected to and hold office.

In case you’re interested, Section 219 of the Education Act doesn’t seem to actually bear the qualification that we’ve bolded in the language above. Perhaps the argument is implicit or explicit in some other section of the Act. But for the moment, we can skip over that murky inconsistency and observe that the York Catholic District School Board (and any other publicly funded Catholic School Board) appears merely to have been applying the same criteria to the selection and election of Student Trustees as the Government of Ontario appears to tolerate for the selection and election of School Board Trustees.

Well, this landmark court decision rather brings to question whether what’s good for the goose (students) may also be good for the gander (adult politicians).

So let us consider, in the spirit of taking note of landmarks, an entirely fictional scenario: a hypothetical Secular Humanist who happens to be a (legally defined) ‘supporter’ of the Catholic School system in their area decides that they would like to be Board Trustee of that system. Regardless of how they might fare in an open election – how well do you imagine this hypothetical individual might fare in the qualification screening process?

Here is a separate and perhaps more fundamental question: Can you imagine any other elected office in a 21st-century democratic country named Canada where membership in a religious sect would be accepted as a pre-requisite condition?

And here, in an un-related way, is an observation from our recent Preamble, schmeable article:

Did you notice that the US Supreme Court Judges who turned against Roe v Wade are all Catholic? Well, according to Catholic News Agency, they appear to be. A coincidence, no doubt.

Clearly, religious sectarian membership and elected/selected public office in a contemporary democracy is a match made in….

Citations, References And Other Reading

  1. Featured Photo Courtesy of
  2. https://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2022/10/13/teen-wins-landmark-case-against-york-catholic-school-board-heres-what-it-could-mean-for-others.html
  3. https://www.yorkregion.com/news-story/10741916-teen-wins-landmark-case-against-york-catholic-district-school-board/
  4. https://elections.ontarioschooltrustees.org/BecomeATrustee/

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.

Preamble, schmeamble….right? Perhaps

In our search for interesting, challenging and critical perspectives on contemporary humanism, we occasionally find articles published via other venues that we think HumanistFreedoms.com readers may enjoy. This week, we found the following information (italicized below) on www.the-star.co.ke .

Image Courtesy: Wikipedia

A case has been filed in court seeking to make atheism illegal in Kenya. The court has been asked to declare as unconstitutional the Atheists in Kenya Society.

The argument for the ban is flimsy: the Preamble to the 2010 Constitution starts by acknowledging ‘the supremacy of the Almighty God of all creation“. Therefore atheists who deny God are denying the constitution.

The petition argues that this overrules the constitutional right to freedom of belief, conscience, religion and opinion.

Firstly, if God is all-powerful, surely he has permitted those atheists to exist. Would a court ban go against his will?

Secondly, religions like Buddhism and Taoism do not believe in a God. Would they be the next belief-systems to be banned as unconstitutional?

Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, do these atheists do any harm to anyone? If they break the law and injure their neighbours, let them be punished. But if they live peaceably and are productive members of society, then leave them alone.

This court petition is the first step to bringing the thought police to Kenya to tell us what we are allowed to think. The petition should be thrown out.

It should seem ridiculous or preposterous that anyone might attempt to use a legal pre-amble (don’t take our word for it, read the document) to undermine a fundamental human right. And yet, here we have it – someone is trying to make that case.

It ought to make any and all individuals or organizations perk up their ears – not just humanist or atheist organizations, either. Consider that Kenya’s constitution carries a twenty-first century date. And just where might Kenya have taken this idea of a constitutional preamble front-loaded with a deity?

Consider the fact that Kenya is a member of the Commonwealth. And please further consider the fact that the Commonwealth has a program called the Commonwealth of Learning which (per their website) “is the world’s only intergovernmental organisation solely concerned with the promotion and development of distance education and open learning. COL is hosted by the Government of Canada and headquartered in Burnaby, British Columbia Canada. Created by Commonwealth Heads of Government, COL encourages the development and sharing of open learning/distance education knowledge, resources and technologies. COL is helping developing nations improve access to quality education and training.”

Image Courtesy Athists in Kenya Society

And finally consider that one of the Commonwealth of Learning’s programs happens to be a training program in Legislative Drafting – the writing of laws. Note that Athabasa University, based in Alberta, currently offers a Post-Baccalaureate Diploma in Legislative Drafting. It seems to be not unreasonable to connect a these particular dots. Two separate and equal nations in the Commonwealth happen to cooperate in educating and training the individuals whose profession is to craft the verbiage of laws. Canada in particular bears a leadership role in this area of Commonwealth operations.

How similar are these constitutional pre-ambles?

Canada’s Constitution Act (1982) has a preamble which states “Whereas Canada is founded upon principles that recognize the supremacy of God and the rule of law.

Meanwhile, Kenya’s Constitution Act (2010) preamble states “Acknowledging  the supremacy of the Almighty God of all creation

Canada’s constitutional preamble is a bad precedent with readily identifiable mechanisms for distribution and influence. Whether the situation in Kenya is dismissed (as it ought to be) or otherwise fails, we can’t yet know. And is hardly the point. The point is that ideological fanatics will attempt to leverage every and any opportunity to advance their position. It is shortsighted, at best, to view things otherwise.

Canada finally rid itself of the dangerously ridiculous and anachronistic blasphemy law (the former Section 296) in 2018. We can only assume that political leaders must have been confronted by the hypocrisy of advocating against blasphemy laws around the world (via the former Office of Religious Freedom) while maintaining a blasphemy law on its own books.

Did you notice that the US Supreme Court Judges who turned against Roe v Wade are all Catholic? Well, according to Catholic News Agency, they appear to be. A coincidence, no doubt.

Suddenly, we can see the potential for harm lurking within the slightest hint of theism in secular law and decision making.

Citations, References And Other Reading

  1. Featured Photo Courtesy ofhttps://atheistsinkenya.org/
  2. https://www.the-star.co.ke/opinion/leader/2022-09-28-atheist-petition-could-bring-thought-police/

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: The Short-sightedness of Censors

Image Courtesy: Wikipedia

Following Humanists International‘s expression of deep concern regarding what it has called “the judicial harassment of poet and filmmaker Leena Manimekalai“, Humanist Ottawa has issued a letter to the Canada Excellence Research Chair in Migration and Integration, Dr. Anna Triandafyllidou.

In the letter, Humanist Ottawa President Robert Hamilton expressed the organization’s “deep concern for the egregious actions taken by CERC Migration and Integration and Toronto Metropolitan University against filmmaker Leena Manimekalia and her short artistic film, “Kaali.

Image Courtesy of Humanist Ottawa

Humanist Ottawa asserted that CERC “asserted a privileged position of your organization over a person of colour and a member of the 2SLGBTQ+ community – in glaring opposition to your own stated values of diversity, equity and inclusion. As well, these action unequivocally contravened Article 18 of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights supporting freedom of thought, conscience and religion.

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.

The documentary film documents Manimekalai in the guise of the Hindu goddess Kali wandering the streets of Toronto at night during a pride festival. Manimekalai observes groups of people out on the town, riding the subway, stopping at a bar, taking selfies with members of the public, and sharing a cigarette with a man on a park bench.

Humanist Ottawa pointed out in their letter to Dr. Triandafyllidou that CERC’s actions “directly empowered others who have disseminated hate speech posters and other social media advocating violence and death against Leena Manimekalai. Your actions have cause the perpetration of flagrant injustice and have forced Leena to take steps to protect her safety.”

Maintaining an intent to promote diversity and inclusive values, Maimekalai was quoted in the New Indian Express as saying: “Kaali, the film is all about choosing love and championing humanity. Trolls who are witch-hunting me are fueled by hate. They have nothing to do with faith. If they are patient enough to watch the film they might choose love. But that’s exactly why they want the film to be banned.”

Taking aim at CERC’s status as a federally-funded status, Robert Hamilton also wrote, “In addition, your acquiescent public apology to vague assertions of offence were not only short sighted, but were indeed corrosive to individual freedoms that Canadians cherish and have fought to preserve including the freedom to express artistic and religious idea.

Finally, you took quick actions against the filmmaker without due consideration to the foreseeably dangerous consequences that could ensue. This speaks to a failure in judgement and accountability unworthy of a federally-funded program and an institution of higher learning. Canadians deserve and expect better than this.

On 4 July, the High Commission of India in Ottawa issued a statement calling on the Canadian authorities and event organizers to withdraw her film. Her film was subsequently withdrawn and her name removed from the ‘Under the Tent’ programme by Toronto Metropolitan University, while Toronto’s Aga Khan Museum host to a screening of her film apologized for any offence caused by the film.In India, a de facto ‘blasphemy’ provision , Section 295A of the IPC allows up to three years imprisonment for “whoever, with deliberate and malicious intention of outraging the religious feelings of any class of citizens of India, by words, either spoken or written, or by signs or by visible representations or otherwise, insults or attempts to insult the religion or the religious beliefs of a class.”

To date, CERC does not appear to have provided any public statement of how it may plan to take accountability for its contributions to the risks faced by Manimekalai. Humanist Ottawa provided some expectations from the perspective of the organization’s inclusive humanist values:

Accordingly, we therefore urge you to:

  • Promptly express a public apology to the filmmaker, Leena Manimekalai
  • Publicly articulate support for the legal, free expression of thoughts and ideas
  • Financially compensate the filmmaker for the pain and suffering that she continues to endure
  • Financially underwrite all expenses needed to ensure the safety and security of the filmmaker

HumanistFreedoms.com encourages you to share your perspective on this situation with Dr. Triandafyllidou by writing a letter of your own – and by commenting in this post.

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/

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.

Second Annual Pride Week In Russell Township

Image Courtesy: Wikipedia

On Saturday, August 20, 2021 , local residents and community leaders of Russell Township gathered at the Township Hall for the second annual flag-raising celebration of Pride Week.

HumanistFreedoms.com is proud to have reported the activism of a dedicated humanist in organizing the first Russell Township Pride Week flag-raising ceremony in 2021.

Russell Pride Week 2022

During this year’s celebration, Dr. Richard Thain, one of the event’s organizers said he was proud to take some time to “stop and reflect about things which are important to us: community, inclusion and renewal.

Two of Russell Township’s Councillors (Cindy Saucier and Mike Tarnowski) were in attencance. As was the Township’s mayor, His Worship Pierre Leroux who delivered a welcoming speech.

Other speakers included a local mother of two gay sons, and a high-school student who explained how in some local schools, 2SLGBQTQ+ students do not feel that they receive acceptance and support from the school administration.

Key organizers of the bi-lingual event included the KIN Club of Russell as well as Geneviève and Réjeanne Thain. Kinship, care and the passing of compassionate values from one generation to the next was clearly a theme of the activity. Geneviève commented that “…selon Statistique Canada, en 2018, les Canadiens de minorité sexuelle étaient deux fois plus susceptibles de déclarer avoir été victimes de comportements inappropriés en public, en ligne ou au travail. N’oublions pas que l’article premier de la Déclaration universelle des droits de l’homme stipule que « tous les êtres humains naissent libres et égaux en dignité et en droits.

Richard and Geneviève Thain

According to Statistics Canada, in 2018, sexual minority Canadians were twice as likely to report experiencing inappropriate behavior in public, online or at work. Let us not forget that article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that “all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.

A highlight of the event was the performance of Lara Fabian’s La Différence by local singer, Lise Dazé and a brief presentation by Mme Denise Latulippe.

In 2022, human rights and the warm inclusion of all people in our community remains both one of our most fundamental of Canadian values – but also something that individual and collective Canadians should take time to reflect on and contribute to in a meaningful way. There are so many wonderful communities throughout the country and all of them can only be enriched when their members take time to care for one another.

Well done to all those who gathered on a warm August day to remember where we’ve been, where we are and where we wish to go with UNIVERSAL human rights.

Citations, References And Other Reading

  1. Featured Photo Courtesy of: Dr. Richard Thain
  2. https://kinclubofrussell.ca
  3. https://www.facebook.com/388050434576352/videos/1532015760478037
  4. https://editionap.ca/2022/08/24/russell-township-raises-pride-flag/

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.