Tag Archives: human rights

The Morgentaler Decision: 35 Years-on

On January 28, 1988, the Supreme Court of Canada struck down Criminal Code provisions which made abortion illegal in Canada. Only 35 years ago! Known as the “Morgentaler decision”, the case stands as one of Canada’s strongest legal precedents for the advancement of human rights. 

Dr. Henry Morgentaler (1923-2013) was born in Poland but moved to Canada in 1950, having survived the holocaust. He started a medical practice in Montreal in 1955; In 1967, Dr. Morgentaler presented a brief before a House of Commons Health and Welfare Committee that was investigating illegal abortion. At the time, medical practitioners could, under Canada’s criminal code, face life in prison for attempting to induce an abortion; women could also face up to two years in prison. Typical of his deep compassion and humanism, Morgentaler presented the position that any woman should have the right to end her pregnancy without risking death.

Initially, Dr. Morgentaler refused requests to end pregnancies, referring to two other physicians providing abortions. In 1968, however, Dr. Morgentaler founded the Montreal Morgentaler Clinic, the first freestanding clinic to offer safe abortion services in Canada. It was established when Dr. Morgentaler, as an activist with the Canadian Humanist Association, began protesting Canada’s restrictive laws. The clinic was situated in the same house where Dr. Morgentaler had his family medicine practice, and remained there until 1995.

Despite raides by policy, criminal charges and conviction, firebombing of his Toronto clinic and decades of opposition, Dr. Morgentaler persevered in his fight to advance and sustain human rights of women in Canada and was appointed to the Order of Canada for his commitment to increased health care options for women in 2008. Polling indicted that two-thirds of Canadians agreed at that time.

Should you wish to learn more about Dr. Morgentaler and the Morgentaler Decision, you may wish to visit the 25th-Anniversary Celebratory website which remains available at this time.

Citations, References And Other Reading

  1. Featured Photo Courtesy of :
  2. http://www.morgentaler25years.ca/

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.

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.

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.

AAT’s Atheist Refugees Assistance Program

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. The following article was located on Bianet.org on June 1, 2022.

By: Melin Durmaz

İstanbul – BIA News Desk – 26 May 2022

The Atheism Association in Turkey is running several projects, most notably the Atheist Refugees Assistance Program (ARAP).

As part of the ARAP project, 13 people were provided with housing, nine people were provided with jobs, 25 people were provided with legal assistance and reference letters were provided for 22 files in two years. Also, 20 people were provided with psychological, financial or educational counseling.

The ARAP project has three partners: The Atheist Alliance International, the Center for Inquiry and the Ex Muslims of North America.

Summarizing their work, Süleyman Karan, the chair of the association, said, “With the ARAP Project, the association carries out integration work for people who had to migrate due to religion. The association provides translation support in addition to legal support for refugees’ questions, such as ‘How to find a home? How to get a residence permit? How to access education?'”

“At least 3 percent of Turkey are atheists”According to the official data, at least 3 percent of the people in Turkey are atheists. Atheism is divided within itself and the association forms an umbrella, said Karan.”The reason for the existence of the Atheism Association is to show that different atheists exist in this country as a community of at least 3 percent [of the country]. Currently, deism has the highest share; it is followed by agnostics.”Deism and agnosticism have a manageable comfort in the public. For an atomized individual, to feel is super comfortable. Saying that a creator exists facilitates one’s existence in society. Agnostic atheism, however, says positioning ourselves on a thing that we can never know whether it exists or not is not right.”

Karan also talked about the stories of the people who applied to them:

“Atheists refugees are under threat”

“People are coming from Iran, Afghanistan. There are many refugees whose families are taken prisoner in Iran. We had atheist friends who lost one eye because of torture in their own countries. An activist in Afghanistan is currently trying to survive by changing hotels every day.

“In this region, there is a considerable number of secular, atheist and deist people. Refugee people are under double oppression. They are both displaced from their homeland and they are subjected to discrimination and threats within their communities because they are atheists. For example, a Syrian atheist is under serious threat in terms of mental health and life safety within their refugee community.”

The ARAP project is carried out with two employees who speak Persian and Arabic. The association is also looking for lawyers because their services in migration law are weak, said Karan.

“We are the pole star in the region”

Noting that they are the only atheism association in Turkey that is accredited by the European Union and the United Nations, Kata said, “Along with being the only atheist and humanist association in the region, we are in a transit location for migrants.”

“Even though there is an association in Nigeria with the name of the Nigerian Humanism Association, its chairperson Mubarak Bala was sentenced to prison. Raif Badawi in Saudi Arabia was sentenced to 10 years in prison and 1000 lashes for writing blog posts criticizing religious regulations. In this context, we are a little pole star that the countries in the region can look at.”

Campaign against high azan volume

The Atheism Association is also running campaigns about the compulsory religion class, high volume of azan, the Muslim call for prayers, and removal of the “religion” section from ID cards.

“[Lawyer] Tuba Torun brought the compulsory religion class issue to the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) and won. We also provide legal support in this regard.

“Another issue is the campaign to remove religion from identity. The ‘Take five minutes to get rid of this’ campaign. This is also child abuse. Your family cannot assign you a religion before you can make up your mind. This is a successful campaign that we run, saying, ‘Show courage and give the right answer to one of the most fundamental problems of existence.’

“In Rize, someone told the civil registry directorate that they wanted to erase the religion section and the official told them that ‘They will kill you.’ The boy came to the Beşiktaş Civil Registry Directorate [İstanbul] and had it erased.

“Another campaign of ours is the high volume of azan, which we consider to be environmental and noise pollution. The [Presidency of] Religious Affairs is responsible for the volume not exceeding a certain level. But, while the azan would not be heard in Teşvkiye and Muradiye Mosques in the past, it is now very disturbing in Şişli. We provide legal support for this.”

Humanist perspective

The association puts the humanist perspective at the center of atheism. Karan is of the opinion that refugee policies in Turkey should also be addressed within this framework.

“Refugees come to Turkey from different countries and regions. Integration policies should be developed by protecting the freedoms and rights of refugees within the framework of human rights, starting from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. We have to support refugees. This is the case from a humanist perspective.

“When I say humanist, I’m not talking about loving humans, I mean being human-centered. I mean the likes of Thomas More and David Hume.

Humanism is the basic proposition behind the universal declaration of human rights, the rule of law, and secularism. The main effort of humanism is to take the power from there and bring it here. Humanism is people putting themselves before God.” (MD/AÖ/VK)


Citations, References And Other Reading

  1. Feature Image Courtesy: https://www.atheistrefugeesturkey.com/post/jana-s-story
  2. https://bianet.org/english/migration/262402-turkey-s-atheism-association-is-helping-atheist-refugees-faced-with-double-oppression
  3. https://www.atheistrefugeesturkey.com/about-us#:~:text=WHAT%20IS%20ASSOCIATION%20OF%20ATHEISM%2C%20TURKEY%3F%20The%20Association,Republic%20of%20Turkey%2C%20European%20Union%20and%20United%20Nations.
  4. http://turkishatheist.net/
  5. https://www.atheistrepublic.com/news/turkish-atheism-association-shuts-down-due-pressure

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.

Toppled Legacies: How the Renaming of Ryerson University Recommends the End of Public Funding of Ontario’s Catholic School Boards

In August of 2021, the Board of Directors of the former Ryerson University voted to change the name of the institution due to (as one CBC story phrases it) concerns about the man the institution is named for and his links to Canada’s residential schools.

RU/TMU: Is it a University or a Fortress?

According to www.ryerson.ca, “Names matter. They tell the world who we are and what we stand for. They communicate ideas, values and aspirations. They speak to the future even as they acknowledge the past.  A new name offers an invitation to be more inclusive, to imagine novel ways of thinking and creating —  to open ourselves to new possibilities.  This is a new chapter for our university, informed by the pages that come before but open to the opportunities that lie ahead. Now is a time to recommit to the values that define us, to invite our community to gather around our shared mission and to shape a future in which everyone belongs.” So Ryerson University is now the Toronto Metropolitan University where “It’s the many collisions between peoples and perspectives that take place in a metropolitan setting that drive innovation. As such, our name is as much a marker of location as it is a statement of identity, one that’s befitting of a thoroughly urban university.” Collisions? OK. We can take that as food for thought.

Since questions of a dead legislator’s legacy is not only fair game for consideration (Ryerson/TMU has a 131-page document examining the life and legacy of their former namesake), it is the inspiration for baseball bats and crowbars to be taken to statuary (per featured image), perhaps it is reasonable and even to-be-encouraged that all areas of that legislator’s legacy be examined.

Consider, for example the Common School Act of 1850. As spacing.ca explains it: “The Common School Act of 1850 set into law what was already being practised (sic) by local communities throughout Ontario. The act permitted any group of five Black families to ask local school trustees to establish a separate school. The law also permitted the creation of separate schools for Roman Catholic and Protestant families.”

Here in 2022, as ideas of how to implement contemporary values of diversity and inclusivity collide with the legacy institutions, it seems odd that those who are concerned with updating our systems to reflect the values of the present and our aspirations for the future haven’t decided that a certain elephant in the room needs to be addressed. The public funding of Catholic school boards in Ontario is the single largest and least supportable example of segregation and systemic faith-based discrimination (faithism) in Canada.

By all means, let us rename, rebrand, renew. A better, more diverse and inclusive future is waiting.

Citations, References And Other Reading

  1. Feature Image Courtesy: CBC Canada
  2. https://www.msn.com/en-ca/news/canada/ryerson-university-to-change-its-name/ar-AANMA8o#:~:text=Ryerson%20University%27s%20board%20of%20directors%20has%20voted%20to,for%20and%20his%20links%20to%20Canada%27s%20residential%20schools.
  3. https://www.ryerson.ca/next-chapter/
  4. http://spacing.ca/toronto/2021/02/19/how-racism-in-ontario-schools-today-is-connected-to-a-history-of-segregation/#:~:text=The%20Common%20School%20Act%20of%201850%20set%20into,separate%20schools%20for%20Roman%20Catholic%20and%20Protestant%20families.

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.

Read: Ontario’s Funding of Catholic School Systems – A Story of Systemic Faithism

The concept of systemic faithism may not be familiar to HumanistFreedoms.com readers, so as a kind of preamble to the focus of this article, consider this definition of systemic faithism as presented by the Government of Ontario’s own Ontario Human Rights Commission presented in its 2013 Human Rights and Creed Research and Consultation Report.:

Systemic faithism refers to the ways that cultural and societal norms, systems, structures and institutions directly or indirectly, consciously or unwittingly, promote, sustain or entrench differential (dis)advantage for individuals and groups based on their faith (understood broadly to include religious and non-religious belief systems). Systemic faithism can adversely affect both religious and non-religious persons, depending on the context, as discussed in the examples below. Some forms of systemic faithism can be actionable under the Code (e.g. those amounting to “systemic discrimination”), while others may not be (e.g. those taking broader cultural or societal forms). This section looks more closely at two dominant forms of systemic faithism in the current era, flowing from the “residually Christian” structuring of public culture and institutions, and from “closed secular” ideology and practice...Among the most obvious examples of residual Christianity in Ontario…public funding in Ontario of Roman Catholic separate schools, but not other religion-based schools.

How is it that a provincial government is able to simultaneously identify, define and detail a form of systemic discrimination and continuously defend and perpetuate the abuse? It’s a puzzler.

The authors of upsetting.ca have decided to do their best to explore and communicate the lengthy and, well as the website says – upsetting history of ongoing privileging of a particular community within the provinces of Ontario, Alberta and Saskatchewan (a bit of rough math reveals that roughly half of all Canadians live in a jurisdiction that continues to ensconce and fund a major form of systemic discrimination).

Upsetting’s authors make their position clear: On the practical side, the Ontario public has never sanctioned the public funding of separate school systems for Roman Catholic citizens, just politicians.  The RC school systems (French & English) were foisted upon Ontario through two dictatorial moves by politicians.  Skullduggery (trickery, dishonesty) in the highest places has maintained them.  Each post in this series will tell a different story in order to reveal all the events and the characters associated with them.  Posts will be every Sunday evening, Tuesday evening, and Thursday evening for several weeks.

You can subscribe to the series of fifteen articles/posts at: https://civilrightsinpubliceducationinc.forwardtomyfriend.com/r-hkftrjdkk-3AC2157C-tyyusdl-l-j.

A Second Thought…

Perhaps you’re interested to investigate systemic faithism from a distinctly different angle? Have a listen to a podcast from York University’s Critical Spirituality in Leadership who say that they recognize that “neutral” or “secular” views often privilege agnostic or atheist traditions and worldviews (Ontario Human Rights Commission, n.d.) and are “residually and normatively Christian” (Seljak et. al, 2008). This leads to systemic faithism.. we consider Seljak et. al’s (2008) analysis of the close connections between religion, ethnicity and race in the Ontario context and caution that Christian privilege can result in anti-religious sentiment, ethno-religious alienation, polarization, and alienation, rooted in the belief that religious practices and identities are incompatible with Canadian identity and citizenship (OHRC, n.d.). This encourages the creation of religious “ghettoes” that may lead to religious radicalization and disengagement from Canadian public life (OHRC, n.d.). We heed Butler’s (2000) warning that spirituality may be commodified in modern schooling, reducing it to individual approaches instead of situating it in larger contexts of social struggle. 

Citations, References And Other Reading

  1. https://www.ohrc.on.ca/en/human-rights-and-creed-research-and-consultation-report
  2. https://www.ohrc.on.ca/en/iii-background-and-context/4-systemic-faithism
  3. https://www.upsetting.ca/
  4. https://www.yorku.ca/edu/unleading/podcast-episodes/critical-spirituality/#:~:text=This%20leads%20to%20systemic%20faithism%2C%20which%20the%20Ontario,broadly%20to%20include%20religious%20and%20non-religious%20belief%20systems%29.

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.

Human Rights Challenge to Government Funding of Catholic Schools in Ontario

The following article has been compiled from information provided by OPEN.


An application stating the current funding of Ontario separate schools violates s.15(1) of the Charter of Rights has been filed at the Ontario Superior Court and served on the Ontario government on behalf of One Public Education Now (OPEN) lawyers Adair Goldberg Bieber.

Learn more about Ontario’s History of Ontario Catholic Separate School Funding by reading the only book about that we’ve been able to find.

The two plaintiffs, a public high school teacher, and a parent of children in the French public school system, are founding members of OPEN (One Public Education Now). OPEN is a coalition of groups and individuals dedicated to challenging the current discriminatory funding of the schools of one religion.

Many people want to do something about this discriminatory funding of one religious school system, but don’t know what to do. Governments and political parties ignore letters, articles and petitions. But they can’t ignore lawsuits, and people can do something by contributing to our challenge.  Our lawsuit is funded by the donations of many people and needs additional funding to continue our legal fight.

The Application states there have been sufficient changes since 1987 that the Reference re Bill 30 Supreme Court of Canada ruling that the Charter does not apply to the funding of Ontario separate schools should be re-examined.

Therefore, the only rights protected from Charter challenge are those that existed in 1867 and are protected by s.93(1); and the public funding of non-Catholics at separate schools and the public funding of Grades 11 and 12 at separate schools, neither of which existed in 1867, violate the equality sections of the Charter of Rights.

Not only is the public funding contrary to the Charter of Rights, but it wastes money in duplicate administration and unnecessary busing of students at a time when money is needed for, among other things, protecting the safety of teachers and students. Estimating the savings is difficult because so many of the costs are hidden but it has been estimated up to 1.6 billion dollars a year could be saved. So many people think separate schools are funded by residential property taxes, not realizing just 7% of separate school operational funding, and none of the capital funding, come from the property taxes of residential separate school supporters.

OPEN’s Positions Regarding Funding of Catholic School System in Ontario
  • Separate schools were started under historical circumstances that no longer exist; for example, there were fights between Protestants and Catholics in public schools and Ontario agreed to protect separate Catholic schools in return for Quebec protecting separate Protestant schools; these circumstances no longer apply
  • So much has changed since the 1987 Reference re Bill 30 Supreme Court of Canada decision, such as Quebec abolishing its funding of separate schools in 1997,  that the ruling the Charter of Rights does not apply to the funding of Ontario separate schools, should be reconsidered
  • Separate schools are not paid for by separate school residential property taxes.
  • Capital funding is paid for entirely by general provincial revenues.  In general, only 7% of operating revenues of separate schools come from residential property taxes; 15% comes from business property taxes; 70% comes from general provincial funding.
  • By contrast, 15% of  public school funding comes from residential property taxes and only about 60% from general provincial funding.
  • The current system wastes money.  Boards of Trustees, Superintendents of Education, Board offices and administrative staff, are duplicated.
  • We don’t have two fire services, one for Catholics and one for everyone else.  Think of the waste if we did.
  • Students are bused to the closest public or separate school, instead of walking or being bused to the nearest publicly-supported public school.
  • Local community schools are being closed that could be kept open if all local students went to a public local school, not split between public and separate schools
  • Estimating the savings is difficult because so many of the costs are hidden but it has been estimated up to 1.6 billion dollars a year could be saved.
  • One third of Ontario publicly-funded teaching jobs are denied to the two-thirds of the population who are not Catholic even though all Ontario tax-payers pay for these schools.
  • Of course Catholics who want to can pay to send their children to religious schools, just as Anglicans, Baptists, Muslims and others do.  What is unfair is the government, for outdated reasons,  funding one religious group .
  • People have signed petitions, written articles, and sent letters and emails.  But because all the major parties support the status quo, nothing changes.

People can contribute to the challenge via the OPEN website, https://open.cripeweb.org/aboutOpen.html through our secure PayPal link, or send through e-transfer (Interac) to open@cripeweb.org. All contributions greatly appreciated.

Contact : open@cripeweb.org for more information.

Image Courtesy of Civil Rights In Public Education


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

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.

What Does a Humanist need to know about Humanism, Human Rights and Afghanistan in 2022?

In our search for interesting, challenging and critical perspectives on contemporary humanism, we locate articles and information published via other venues that we think HumanistFreedoms.com readers may enjoy. The featured image is from the portfolio of Farzana Wahidy, an award-winning photographer from Afghanistan. Born in Kandahar in 1984, Wahidy moved with her family to Kabul at the age of six. She was a teenager when the Taliban took over Afghanistan in 1996. At age 13 she was beaten in the street for not wearing a burqa. Looking back at that moment, she stated that she wished she was a photographer at the time, able to show today’s society what it was like for young girls like herself, but photography and other forms of creative expression were banned. During the Taliban era women were forbidden from continuing their education. Hiding books under her burka so she wouldn’t get caught, she attended an underground school with about 300 other students in a residential area of Kabul, and when U.S.-led forces ended Taliban rule in 2001, she began high school. In 2007 Wahidy received a full scholarship for the two-year Photojournalism Program at Loyalist College in Belleville, Ontario, Canada, graduating on the Dean’s List in 2009. Since 2008 Wahidy has been the recipient of numerous awards and grants from organizations such as the Open Society Institute, National Geographic All Roads Film and Photography Program, University of Missouri and Mountain Film for her photography work.

Following is a collection of information pertaining to humanism and human rights inf Afghanistan.

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What does Secular Underground Network Have to Say?

Based in Rotterdam, an organization going by the name Secular Underground Network was started in 2020 as an initiative of the International Association of Atheists. The group’s stated purpose is to connect atheists, agnostics, secularists, apostates and their friends to support community members in need. The group aims to provide wide-ranging assistance to the defined community from moral support and job finding resources to fleeing a dangerous situation, providing shelter, study help.


What Does the United Nations Have to Say?

December 14, 2021 – Excerpts from Humanitarian crisis threatens basic human rights

Briefing the UN Human Rights Council, Nada Al-Nashif detailed how the profound humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan is threatening basic rights, with women, girls, and civil society among those most affected. 

Staff from the UN human rights office, OHCHR, remain on the ground in Afghanistan, where the economy is largely paralysed and poverty and hunger are rising. 

Ms. Al-Nashif said that as Afghans struggle to meet basic needs, they are being pushed to take desperate measures, including child labour and child marriage. News reports have also surfaced of children being sold.

Ms. Al-Nashif was also deeply concerned about the continued risk of child recruitment, particularly boys, by both ISIL-KP and the de facto authorities.  Children also continue to comprise the majority of civilians killed and injured by unexploded ordnance.

Meanwhile, women and girls face great uncertainty when it comes to respecting their rights to education, livelihoods and participation. Some 4.2 million young Afghans are already out of school, 60 per cent of them girls.   

There has also been a decline in girls’ secondary school attendance, even in provinces where the de facto authorities have permitted them to attend school.  This is largely due to the absence of women teachers, since in some locations girls are only allowed to be taught by women.

Afghan civil society has also come under attack in recent months.  Since August, at least eight activists and two journalists have been killed, and others injured, by unidentified armed men. 

The UN mission in the country, UNAMA, has documented nearly 60 apparently arbitrary detentions, beatings, and threats of activists, journalists, and staff of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, attributed to the de facto authorities. 

Several women’s rights defenders have also been threatened, and there is widespread fear of reprisals since a violent crackdown on women’s peaceful protests in September. Many media outlets have shuttered, as have numerous civil society groups.

Furthermore, the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission has been unable to operate since August, while the Afghanistan Independent Bar Association faces a loss of independence as the de facto authorities now administer its activities under the de facto Ministry of Justice. 

“The safety of Afghan judges, prosecutors, and lawyers – particularly women legal professionals – is a matter for particular alarm,” Ms. Al-Nashif added. “Many are currently in hiding for fear of retribution, including from convicted prisoners who were freed by the de facto authorities, notably men convicted of gender-based violence.” 

December 12, 2021 – Joint Statement: UNHCR & UN Women join efforts to protect and uphold the rights of women and girls in Afghanistan

Kabul, 12.12.2021- UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, and UN Women, the UN entity dedicated to gender equality and the empowerment of women signed a letter of intent committing to strengthen their partnership to protect the rights of women and girls in Afghanistan.

The complex humanitarian crisis unfolding in Af­ghanistan is marked by gender-specific restrictions that directly impact the ability of women and girls to realize their rights. Afghan women and girls face unique vulnera­bilities and risks as gender inequality is interwoven with conflict dynamics and humanitarian needs.

Recognizing how gender inequality is shaping the ongoing humanitar­ian crisis in Afghanistan, UNHCR and UN Women committed to further strengthen their partnership to protect the rights of women and girls in Afghanistan.

The overall objective of UNHCR and UN Women in Afghanistan is to strengthen cooperation between the two organizations leveraging their respective leadership role in ensuring the centrality of protection, with a particular focus on addressing the specific needs of women and girls, through jointly advocating for the rights; and responding to the needs, of women and girls among refugees, returnees, internally displaced persons, and vulnerable members of host communities.

Without a gender lens the interna­tional community risks exacerbating pre-existing forms of inequality rather than creating pathways to ensuring no one is left behind. The UNHCR, UN Women partnership also strives to advance the civic, social and economic empowerment of women and girls and strengthen the evidence-base by improving sex and gender disaggregated data collection systems and gender analysis that address discriminatory gender norms.

For more information on this topic, please contact:

What Does Human Rights Watch Have to Say?

Image Courtesy of the Human Rights Watch website January 5, 2022

What Does Amnesty International Have to Say?

Excerpts from Amnesty International‘s website

Women and girls continued to face gender-based discrimination and violence throughout Afghanistan, especially in areas under Taliban control, where their rights were violated with impunity and violent “punishments” were meted out for perceived transgressions of the armed group’s interpretation of Islamic law.

Violence against women and girls remained chronically under-reported, with women often fearing reprisals and lacking confidence in the authorities if they came forward. According to the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC), more than 100 cases of murder were reported during the year. Where these cases were reported, there was a persistent failure to investigate them. In some cases, victims of violence came under pressure from their communities or state officials to withdraw their complaints, or “mediation” was used to resolve complaints beyond the protection of the law. As a result, there was widespread impunity for the perpetrators of beatings, killings, torture and other ill-treatment, and corporal punishments.

Children continued to face harassment and sexual violence. Despite the sexual abuse of children being well-publicized, and the abusive practice of “bacha bazi” (male children being sexually abused by older men) being criminalized in 2018, the authorities made little effort to end impunity and hold perpetrators accountable.

Children lacked adequate opportunities to pursue their right to quality education. According to UNICEF, over 2 million girls remained out of school, and according to government figures about 7,000 schools in the country had no building. Large numbers of children continued to be pressed into forced labour or begging on the streets.

The conditions grew more difficult for journalists, media workers, and activists to function due to increasing insecurity and the targeted killings of activists, journalists, and moderate religious scholars. Journalists raised concerns over the lack of access to information and did not enjoy adequate protection from attacks by armed groups. The government introduced a draft mass media bill, which would have imposed further restrictions on the right to freedom of expression. It was forced to withdraw the bill in the face of widespread criticism.

Discussions were ongoing in parliament over a draft bill on public gatherings, strikes and demonstrations, which if passed would significantly restrict the right to freedom of peaceful assembly.

The cabinet rejected a third draft bill on NGOs after Amnesty International raised concerns that it placed unnecessary restrictions on registration processes and operational independence.

Attacks and targeted killings against activists, human rights defenders and journalists increased. Human rights defenders continued to come under attack, facing intimidation, violence and killings. In March, government officials in Helmand province physically assaulted human rights defenders who had alleged corruption. They needed hospital treatment for their injuries. In May, Mohammad Ibrahim Ebrat, a facilitator of the Civil Society Joint Working Group, was attacked and wounded by unknown gunmen in Zabul province. He subsequently died of his injuries. In June, two staff members of the AIHRC, Fatima Khalil and Jawad Folad, were killed in an attack on their car in Kabul.


Citations, References And Other Reading

  1. Featured Photo Courtesy ofhttps://www.farzanawahidy.com/portfolio-item/burqa/
  2. https://news.un.org/en/story/2021/12/1107902
  3. https://www.hrw.org/asia/afghanistan
  4. https://www.amnesty.org/en/location/asia-and-the-pacific/south-asia/afghanistan/report-afghanistan/

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.

Humanism In The Digital Age: The Urban Contribution Online Conference

Critical thinking about the social impacts of technology is becoming urgent, particularly in a scenario of emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence and algorithmic automation. Global digitalisation continues to widen the inequality gap as well as the digital divide, as digitalisation is not happening equally all over the world.

The event aims to explore how to build a digital transition that does not leave anyone behind, protects and reinforces human rights in the digital age, and places both people and the planet at the centre of the technological deployment.

It will assemble top-leading thinkers and doers who will discuss, identify, and address the challenges our societies are facing from a human-centred technological perspective, through themes such as Digital Inclusion, Ethical Artificial Intelligence and Digital rights.

When
Monday, November 15th
9:30 h – 18:30 h CET

Where
Hospital de la Santa Creu i Sant Pau, Barcelona.

REGISTRATION

The event will take place in Barcelona on November 15th and it will also be streamed online. Please select below the registration option you prefer. Registration for the in person and online modalities is free.

All sessions will have simultaneous translation in Spanish, Catalan and English.

In case you have already registered and need to do a modification, please click on ‘View/Edit your registration’.