Humanists for Social Justice and Environmental Action supports Human Rights, Social and Economic Justice, Environmental Activism and Planetary Ethics in North America & Globally, with particular reference to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other Human Rights UN treaties and conventions listed above. see About Us. Subscribe below.

Tuesday

Amnesty International Canada - the world's longest imprisoned Journalist

Amnesty International Canada

Muhammad Bekzhanov is one of the world’s longest-imprisoned journalists. Uzbek authorities seem determined to keep him behind bars and silence his voice. Persecution, harassment and intimidation forced Muhammad Bekzhanov to leave Uzbekistan In 1993 while he was editor-in-chief of Erk (Freedom), the main opposition newspaper.

In 1999, Ukrainian authorities forcibly returned Muhammad Bekzhanov to Uzbekistan. He was detained by security forces and tortured with beatings, suffocation and electric shocks. During his trial, he and his co-defendants described how they were forced to confess to fabricated charges of a bombing. The judge ignored the torture complaints and sentenced him to 15 years based entirely on the confession. Days before Muhammad Bekzhanov was due to be released, his sentence was increased by over four more years for allegedly breaking prison rules. His family are concerned about his declining health. There has been no effective investigation into the allegations of torture. Repeated calls for a fair trial have been ignored.

The international press freedom organization Reporters Sans Frontieres (Reporters Without Borders) awarded Muhammad Bekzhanov the International Press Freedom Prize in 2013. The award “salute[s] the exemplary courage of men and women for whom reporting the news is a daily battle.”

Call for the release of Muhammad Bekzhanov.

Friday

Nestle seeks 10-year water-taking permit in Aberfoyle | The Council of Canadians

Nestle seeks 10-year water-taking permit in Aberfoyle | The Council of Canadians

The Council of Canadians is opposed to Nestle securing a ten-year water-taking permit in Aberfoyle, Ontario.

CTV reports, "Within the next few months, Nestle’s permit to take water from the Aberfoyle area will expire. The bottled water giant is seeking a 10-year renewal of that permit, which currently allows them to take about 2,500 litres of water per minute from the Grand River watershed."

The article adds, "Nestle filed its application to renew its water-taking permit earlier this week."
Nestle's current water taking permit in Aberfoyle is set to expire July 31, 2016.

The Council of Canadians has previously raised concerns about Nestle's water-taking business in Aberfoyle. In 2008, the Council of Canadians Guelph chapter and Wellington Water Watchers campaigned against Nestle and succeeded in at least reducing Nestle's requested permit (from 5 years to 2 years) and requiring the company to do extensive monitoring on the impact of their water takings. In 2013, the two groups, with legal representation from Ecojustice, successfully fought against an Ontario Ministry of Environment decision to remove conditions that made it mandatory for Nestle to reduce its water takings in Hillsburgh during droughts.

Vancouver-based Council of Canadians water campaigner Emma Lui has written, "Nestlé also withdraws 265 million litres every year in Hope. The BC government kicked off a firestorm of opposition when it released new water rates that would have Nestlé paying only $2.25 per million litres starting in January 2016 when the new Water Sustainability Act comes into force."

The Council of Canadians defends the United Nations-recognized human right to water and opposes the commodification of water, including the sale of bottled water.

Wellington Water Watchers is a key ally in this fight in Ontario. They are dedicated to the protection, restoration and conservation of drinking water in Guelph and Wellington County. To learn more about them, please click here.

Thursday

URGENT: Email Minister of Immigration McCallum to stop next week's litigation 

URGENT: Email Minister of Immigration McCallum to stop next week's litigation 

Despite our best efforts, the Canadian government is going ahead with  litigation that was initiated by the Harper government against U.S. Iraq War resisters. The Federal Court hearings are scheduled for April 5 and 6.
  • We are asking every supporter to immediately email Minister of Immigration John McCallum,  at minister@cic.gc.ca and john.mccallum@parl.gc.ca (model message below)
  • Under your name, please include city and province
  • Please cc Prime Minister Justin Trudeau: justin.trudeau@parl.gc.ca
  • Please also bcc the War Resisters Support Campaign at wrsctoronto@gmail.com
Here is a model email message you can copy and paste into your message (or feel free to personalize it) --

SUBJECT: U.S. Iraq War resisters – Stop litigation initiated by Harper government
Honourable John McCallum
Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship
Dear Minister McCallum,
I am writing to ask that you immediately cease the litigation initiated  by the former Conservative government against U.S. Iraq War resisters. Our new government should not defend decisions made under the previous  government and re-litigate matters the Court has already found on in  favour of these conscientious objectors. As you know, Canadians  overwhelmingly opposed the Iraq War and the Liberal government under Jean Chrétien made a decision not to participate in it.

The cases to be heard by the Federal Court on April 5 and 6 should be settled, and the matters sent back to be re-determined by new  immigration officers.

I thank you for your consideration and look forward to your response.

Sincerely,
cc: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau

Friday

CSW: World leaders accused of backtracking on gender equality commitments |

World leaders accused of backtracking on gender equality commitments

Claims that world leaders are backtracking on their commitment to end gender inequality have emerged on the final day of negotiations at the Commission on the Status of Women.

Several countries are reportedly trying to water down the progressive language on financing for gender equality and sexual and reproductive health rights contained in the draft text of the outcome document.

Governments are understood to be unwilling to agree commitments on targeted funding for gender equality, getting corporations to pay their fair share of tax, and creating a better environment for women’s rights organisations to operate, which would include more funding.


The work of local women’s groups is regarded as the most likely to bring long-term change in their communities and nationally.

This year’s CSW was seen as the first major barometer of leaders’ appetite to implement the sustainable development goals, adopted by the UN general assembly in September. The SDGs are regarded as the roadmap for ending poverty and inequality, and conserving the environment over the next 15 years.

Goal five commits governments to achieve gender equality and empower women and girls, with specific targets to end violence and harmful practices, recognise the unpaid care work that falls disproportionately on women, get more women into leadership positions, and ensure women can uphold their reproductive rights.

Campaigners went into the two-week annual meeting, which began on 14 March, demanding that governments demonstrate their commitment to the new 2030 agenda by agreeing an outcome document that showed how they plan to implement and finance the goals.

But Shannon Kowalski, director of advocacy and policy at the International Women’s Health Coalition, and a partner of the Women’s Major Group, which represents the views of women in UN processes, said governments “seem to be having second thoughts” on the 17 goals and 169 targets they signed up to last year.

The language surrounding sexual and reproductive health and rights – always a contentious area, particularly for more conservative governments and the Holy See – is being unpicked, with Russia and the African bloc of countries purportedly leading the push back.

Kowalski said the EU, negotiating as a group this year, has been “paralysed by internal politics” as Poland and Hungary seek to water down language on these issues. In the past, the EU has opted not to negotiate as a group because of the diverse nature of its member governments.

“We are extremely disappointed. Countries coming to these negotiations are not even willing to negotiate,” added Kowalski.

“There are a huge number of issues the Africa group and Russia are saying they are not going go discuss here. It makes it almost impossible to make progress.”

On Wednesday, the Coalition of African Lesbians, a pan-African feminist organisation, said it was “deeply disturbed” by the positions being taken by the Africa group in regard to sexual and reproductive rights.

It said: “States are seeking to weaken or delete references to sexual and reproductive health and rights. Twenty years’ worth of agreements are at risk because of the Africa Group’s refusal to accept the word ‘sexuality’ in the agreed conclusions.”

The coalition called on South Africa to break ranks with the Africa group if its members continued to take this stance. The coalition said the text was inconsistent with South Africa’s constitution.

The CSW is due to end on Thursday, but negotiations are expected to continue into the early hours of Friday.


Medically Assisted Dying Panel Tickets, Sat, 14 May 2016 at 1:30 PM

Medically Assisted Dying Panel Tickets, Sat, 14 May 2016 at 1:30 PM | Eventbrite

Medically Assisted Dying - Where Do We Go From Here?

The Supreme Court has ruled. Polls indicate 4 out of 5 Canadians support physician-assisted dying. Parliament has the directive to produce simple and straightforward legislation. Our distinguished panel will speak to many of the questions that arise as we consider where we go from here.
Panel Members:
  • Shanaaz Gokool, CEO, Dying with Dignity
  • Dr. Isser Dubinsky, Physicians’ Advisory Council, DWD
  • Blair Henry, Ph.D (pending) Clinical Bioethicist Sunnybrook Hospital
When:
Where:
Koffler House - 569 Spadina Crescent Room 108, Toronto, ON M5S 2J7, Canada - View Map

Tuesday

Global Actions Demand Fast Food Giants Get Antibiotics 'Off the Menu'

Global Actions Demand Fast Food Giants Get Antibiotics 'Off the Menu' |

In light of the public health risks associated with increasing antibiotic resistance, activists in 60 countries are celebrating World Consumer Rights Day by calling on fast-food companies to get antibiotics "off the menu."

The worldwide actions, organized by the London-headquartered Consumers International (CI), call specifically on McDonald's, Subway, and KFC to make "global, time bound commitments to stop serving meat from animals routinely given antibiotics that are classed as important for human medicine by the World Health Organization."

As CI director general Amanda Long wrote Monday at the Huffington Post:
McDonald's has made such a commitment on chicken in USA
and Canada. The commitment does not extend to other types of meat
however, nor to other countries outside of North America. Subway has
committed to stop serving meat from any animal given antibiotics in the
USA. KFC has made no meaningful commitments anywhere.

Of course we would like to see other restaurant chains, as well as
meat suppliers and retailers, make global time bound commitments to stop
selling meat from animals routinely given antibiotics important for
human medicine. We are focusing on these three chains because they have
over 100,000 restaurants between them. It is about more than simple
buying power however, these are global household names with the ability
to influence markets even where they have fewer outlets.
In February, a coalition of more than 50 public health, environmental, and consumer rights groups issued a similar demand to In-N-Out Burger, California's hamburger restaurant chain.

A report (pdf) issued late last month by CI stated that: "Despite worldwide concern about the overuse of antibiotics, their use in agriculture is due to increase by two thirds by 2030: from 63,200 tons in 2010, to 105,600 tons in 2030."

This is cause for alarm because antibiotic resistant bacteria spreads from farms to people through air, soil, water, manure, and theconsumption of medicine-treated meat and animal products

Top Pakistani religious body rules women's protection law 'un-Islamic' | Reuters

Top Pakistani religious body rules women's protection law 'un-Islamic' | Reuters

"This Law makes a Man insecure".  sometimes you don't even have to write the analysis...

(note: the law was supported by  AURAT, the women's rights group ...very interesting work)

A powerful Pakistani religious body that advises the government on the compatibility of laws with Islam on Thursday declared a new law that criminalizes violence against women to be "un-Islamic."

The Women's Protection Act, passed by Pakistan's largest province of Punjab last week, gives unprecedented legal protection to women from domestic, psychological and sexual violence. It also calls for the creation of a toll-free abuse reporting hot line and the establishment of women's shelters.

But since its passage in the Punjab assembly, many conservative clerics and religious leaders have denounced the new law as being in conflict with the Muslim holy book, the Koran, as well as Pakistan's constitution. "The whole law is wrong," Muhammad Khan Sherani, the head of the Council of Islamic Ideology said at a news conference, citing verses from the Koran to point out that the law was "un-Islamic."

The 54-year-old council is known for its controversial decisions. In the past it has ruled that DNA cannot be used as primary evidence in rape cases, and it supported a law that requires women alleging rape to get four male witnesses to testify in court before a case is heard.

The council's decision this January to block a bill to impose harsher penalties for marrying off girls as young as eight or nine has angered human rights activists.

The new law establishes district-level panels to investigate reports of abuse, and mandates the use of GPS bracelets to keep track of offenders.It also sets punishments of up to a year in jail for violators of court orders related to domestic violence, with that period rising to two years for repeat offenders.

Fazlur Rehman, the chief of one of Pakistan's largest religious parties, the Jamiat-i-Ulema Islam, said the law was in conflict with both Islam and the constitution of Pakistan.

"This law makes a man insecure," he told journalists. "This law is an attempt to make Pakistan a Western colony again."

In 2013, more than 5,800 cases of violence against women were reported in Punjab alone, the province where Wednesday's law was passed, according to the Aurat Foundation, a women's rights advocacy group.   

Wednesday

Female farmers in 90 nations face discriminatory land laws

Female farmers in 90 nations face discriminatory land laws

A woman picks coffee berries while holding a child at the Paradise Lost coffee farm in Kiambu, outside Kenya's capital Nairobi, November 10, 2015. REUTERS/Siegfried
TORONTO, March 8 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Women in more than 90 countries still lack equal rights to own land, hurting food production and efforts to tackle poverty, Rwanda's former agriculture minister said. Nations in eastern and southern Africa have considerably improved their laws to grant land ownership rights to female farmers, Agnes Kalibata said.

But many states in North Africa and South Asia continue to treat women as second class citizens when it comes to land ownership, "In Africa, six out of 10 women depend on the land for their livelihoods," Kalibata told the Thomson Reuters Foundation "They must have access to the means of production - the land itself. If we are going to have development across the globe, women need equal access to the land." Up to 30 percent of women have land access in eastern and southern Africa, compared to less than 10 percent in northern and central Africa, she said.

Without formal land titles, women have a harder time feeding and educating their children.
Agricultural productivity also suffers as female farmers are less likely to invest in improving the land without formal ownership, making it harder to feed the 795 million hungry people worldwide.

During her tenure as Rwanda's agriculture minister which ended in 2014, Kalibata helped enact legal changes that give a woman ownership of half the land her family owns. In many other developing countries, land titles are kept in the husband's name. She also made it easier for widows to inherit family plots when their husbands died.

"Incredible things are going on in Rwanda when it comes to women's land rights," said Rena Singer, spokeswoman for the Washington-based rights group Landesa.

"If women can't inherit land, we see the continuation of inequality between genders. The only way most poor people get resources in their lifetime is to inherit - they don't have the money to purchase land."

Even in countries like Rwanda with good land laws, lax enforcement and patriarchal customs can make it harder for femalefarmers to control their incomes, Kalibata said.

Tuesday

International Women's Day - Canadian Nurses, MSF, and Gender Violence

International Women's Day

Today is International Women's Day, and Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is using this opportunity to highlight sexual violence as an urgent health and medical issue. Here, two Canadian MSF nurses discuss how we can make a difference in the lives of women affected by sexual and gender-based violence.
Learn more about their work, and how MSF helps the survivors of sexual and gender-based violence in more than 90 projects in nearly 30 countries around the world.

Thursday

Dewar: Ditch the communism memorial and honour aboriginals instead | Ottawa Citizen

Dewar: Ditch the communism memorial and honour aboriginals instead | Ottawa Citizen

Let’s stop quibbling about the monument to victims of communism and ask the real question: Should we have such a monument in our capital? I think not.

At a time when our country must focus on reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples, why not invest instead in the long-proposed National Aboriginal Centre on Victoria Island?

The Liberal government recently announced it will consult Canadians on the design of the controversial National Memorial to the Victims of Communism, now that it has changed the project’s location. But the government has yet to consult Canadians on a much more basic question. Should we even have this monument at all? I studied the file for the past few years and deeply believe the whole idea should be shelved.

At the beginning, the proponents of this memorial pitched a monument to commemorate the victims of totalitarianism and extremism. Then, under the Conservatives, that idea morphed into a commemoration to the victims of communism. During the planning, there was little to no public consultation on the idea, let alone on the location or the design.

As Ottawa Centre’s former MP, I had to file an access to information request to learn that the depth and breadth of consultation conducted by the former Conservative government. The process to change the original location involved then-ministers Jason Kenny and John Baird writing to their colleague Rona Ambrose, at the time minister of Public Works.

If you don’t feel yourself represented in a consultation composed of three Conservatives sending notes to each other, you’re not alone. After all, they missed the point.

Why do we build national monuments anyway? To cite The Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada, “any aspect of Canada’s human history may be considered for ministerial designation of national historic significance. To be considered for designation, a place, person or event must have had a nationally significant impact on Canadian history, or must illustrate a nationally important aspect of Canadian history.”

Recent examples are the plaque beside the Château Laurier dedicated to workers who built the Rideau Canal, or the Famous Five statute on Parliament Hill celebrating woman’s fight for equality in Canada.

The proposed victims of communism memorial does not reflect the basic criteria nor is it inclusive of those victims who suffered under other brutal dictators or extremists. After all, communism is an idea, not an event or a person. We should stay true to the criteria of commemorating events and people.

In Regina, there is a statue memorializing the victims of the Holodomor, the famine imposed by Soviet dictator Josef Stalin during the 1930s. That tragic event cost many innocent lives and triggered the migration of tens if thousands of Ukrainians, who found refuge in Canada. In Ottawa, we have a proposal for a Boat Peoples Museum to commemorate the refugees who fled to freedom from Southeast Asia. That event is deeply engrained in the fabric of Canada today.

It’s not like we’ve run out of events and people to memorialize. Look around our capital and ask yourself honestly if official Ottawa reflects the original people whose unceded territory we occupy.

Decades ago, we made a solemn commitment to build a National Aboriginal Centre on Victoria Island. This was Algonquin Elder William Commanda’s vision. The last time I spoke to him, he described his vision for a place where commitments to reconciliation are brought to life. A peace centre on a sacred traditional land for people around the world to come to and resolve their conflicts. A place for the preservation and rejuvenation of indigenous languages, knowledge and traditions. A living monument worthy of the capital of a G7 country that’s serious about its commitment to reconciliation.

How about it Ottawa? Instead of thinking small about a monument we don’t want, let’s finally deliver on a National Aboriginal Centre we absolutely need.

Paul Dewar was NDP MP for Ottawa Centre for nine years and is currently a Fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute.

Tuesday

Philosophy Student Arrested in Turkey

Philosophy Student Arrested in Turkey (updated) - Daily Nous

Jülide Yazıcı, a student in the Philosophy Department in Boğaziçi University who was active on social media supporting academics threatened by the Turkish government, was arrested two days ago.
According to one source, she was charged with “being a member of an armed terrorist organisation” and “spreading terrorist propaganda.” The specifics of the accusations are unknown to her because the details of “terror cases” are kept secret. She is currently in jail and is expected to be so until her trial.
Two other students and one recent graduate from the university were also arrested.
A petition calling for her release is here (in Turkish and English). Please consider signing.

Monday

Humanist Refugee Resettlement Project - Donations

Dear HAT members and supporters, Letter from Moses Klein:  (THIS IS A STICKY POST)

I am writing this as we are all coming to grips with the horror, the tragedy and the senselessness of the Paris attacks. Beyond the shock of November 13th, I have been struck with the vast range of responses, from the inspiring example of the Parisians who opened their doors to strangers, to the disturbing hate crimes committed in many countries around the world, including at least one instance in Toronto.  Many of the victims of these hate crimes are themselves refugees fleeing ISIS. As humanists, I hope you agree it is the hospitable Parisians who ought to be emulated.
With that in mind, I am inviting you to support the Humanist Association of Toronto in its latest project. We are working in partnership with Oraynu (the Jewish secular humanist organization) and possibly other allied organizations seeking to sponsor a Syrian refugee family to come to Canada. This was a plan we were already discussing before this month’s attacks, but it seems ever more important now to demonstrate that our society is a generous and welcoming one. The success of this project depends on your help, in two important ways.
Financial assistance: Sponsoring organizations need to raise the equivalent of one year of welfare before the sponsorship can proceed. At our October 2015 steering committee meeting, HAT committed to raise $9000, which would be 1/3 of the required amount for a family of four.
Settlement assistance: After our refugee family has arrived, they may still need assistance in other forms. Can you volunteer to help find an apartment, take them on errands, translate for them (if their English is inadequate), etc.? Would you have old clothes or furniture to donate? This is in the future, but we would like to compile a list of people to call on.
If you would like to help this effort in any way, please fill out the form on the next page and mail it to
Humanist Association of Toronto
PO Box 68559
360A Bloor St. W.
Toronto, ON   M5S 1X1
You can also reply through email.
Thanks for your support,
Moses Klein (for the HAT steering committee


I want to help HAT settle a refugee family in Toronto
[  ]          I am helping out financially. Here is my tax-deductible cheque for ____________ payable to Humanist Association of Toronto. (Please write “refugee” on the memo line.) You can also send an Interac transfer to HATTreasurer@gmail.com, or by Paypal at  http://tinyurl.com/oys5vgg .
[  ]          I can help with settlement by ______________________________________________________.
(Please describe what you can offer.) You can also reply by email to mosesklein@gmail.com
[  ]          I would like to help with the committee coordinating the refugee project. You can also reply by email to mosesklein@gmail.com
Name: ________________________________
Address: ___________________________________________
               ____________________________________________
Phone: _____________________
Email: ______________________