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.

Wednesday

Supreme Court of Canada rules Saguenay council must drop prayers | Toronto Star

Supreme Court of Canada rules Saguenay council must drop prayers | Toronto Star

OTTAWA — The Supreme Court of Canada has ruled the municipal council in the Quebec town of Saguenay cannot open its meetings with a prayer.
In a unanimous decision today, the country’s top court said reciting a Catholic prayer at council meetings infringeson freedom of conscience and religion.
The ruling puts an end to a nine-year legal battle that began with a complaint filed by atheist Alain Simoneau and a secular-rights organization against Saguenay Mayor Jean Tremblay.
In 2011, Quebec’s human rights tribunal ordered an end to the prayers, demanded that a crucifix in the city council chamber be removed and awarded damages to Simoneau.
But the outspoken mayor fought back, raising money from supporters through the city’s website. Tremblay said it was abattle for Quebec’s Roman Catholic heritage.
The Quebec Court of Appeal overturned the tribunal in 2013

Monday

Corporate Accountability International - Divestment from Veolia

Corporate Accountability International

Tell the World Bank: Divest from water privatizers!

After months of mounting pressure around the world, the World Bank has divested from global water privatization giant Veolia! This is a huge victory for everyone who believes water is a human right -- and not a commodity to be bought and sold by corporations.

Our team is on the ground in D.C. at the annual World Bank meetings right now to ramp up pressure and ensure the World Bank cuts ties with ALL water privatizers. Join this call and tell World Bank officials: Water is a human right. Divest from ALL water privatizers.

Friday

Take Action: Show your support for open science communication! | Evidence for Democracy

Take Action: Show your support for open science communication! | Evidence for Democracy

A recent survey by Environics Research Group and the Professional
Institute of the Public Service of Canada (PIPSC) finds similar
sentiments among the scientists themselves, showing that 90% of federal
scientists feel they are not able to speak freely about their research...

Federal government scientists play an important role in keeping
Canadians safe and healthy by providing their expertise to both the
public and decision-makers. When scientists communicate directly with
the media, we all gain a better understanding of how science is being
used for government decision-making, and are better able to hold our
government accountable.

Informed public debate is the foundation of democracy. This means
having the scientific information that we have paid for through our tax
dollars available for discussion and allowing our publicly-funded
scientists - whose salaries and research costs we pay - to communicate
freely.

Over the past several years, Canadian scientists working in the
federal government have experienced a substantial shift in the way they
can communicate their research to the public and the media. Reports of
widespread muzzling and delayed access to Canadian government scientists
have been covered in prominent national and international media.
Extensive coverage and concern prompted the Information Commissioner of
Canada to pursue an investigation, currently ongoing, into the alleged
muzzling of scientists.

If you think that scientists should be able to speak freely, add your
name to our petition calling for new government communication policies
that promote openness and transparency - similar to policies that have
been adopted in the United States and Britain.

You can find a timeline of the censorship of government science here.

Monday

Quaker, adopt a responsible palm oil policy | SumOfUs

Quaker, adopt a responsible palm oil policy | SumOfUs

PepsiCo uses the honest-looking “Quaker man" image to sell breakfast cereals and snacks around the world. But some Quaker products contain palm oil, and the company's safeguards are simply not good enough to ensure that the palm oil it buys isn't contributing to deforestation and human rights abuses.

Quaker is the world's oldest cereal brand, and one of PepsiCo's prized possessions. Quaker products are marketed particularly to families and conscientious consumers, competing with Kellogg's and other brands which have adopted responsible palm oil commitments.

PepsiCo is a $77 billion company, and could be a powerful ally in the struggle to stop deforestation and human rights abuses. Rainforests across Southeast Asia are being destroyed every day to make way for massive palm oil plantations, where workers, even children, are trapped in modern slavery to cultivate the vegetable oil.

MSF and the TPP: Tell Stephen Harper: Medicines shouldn't be a luxury

Tell Stephen Harper: Medicines shouldn't be a luxury

FROM MSF:

Canada is participating in international trade talks that could jeopardize what has already been achieved, and put the lives of millions of patients at risk.

On November 13, WikiLeaks released the draft Intellectual Property Chapter of the TPP. Since negotiations began in 2010, they have been shrouded in secrecy. This is the first leak of text from the proposed agreement in more than two years.

The leak of the secret text confirms that the U.S. government is continuing to steamroll its trading partners in the face of steadfast opposition over terms that will severely restrict access to affordable medicines for millions of people. The U.S. is refusing to back down from dangerous provisions that will impede timely access to affordable medicines.

It's encouraging to see that some governments, including Canada, Chile, New Zealand, Malaysia and Singapore, are pushing back against some aspects of the U.S. position with their own proposal that better protects access to medicines. What is troubling is that the text also shows that some countries are willing to give in to the U.S. government's damaging demands. MSF urges countries to stand strong to ensure that the harmful terms are removed before this deal is finalized

Many countries and treatment providers like Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF) rely on affordable quality generic medicines to treat life-threatening diseases like HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis. We need to keep prices low so our patients — and millions of others still waiting for treatment in the developing world — can get the medicines they need.

Sign the petition to tell Prime Minister Harper to stand firm against the U.S. position on the TPP, and reject damaging provisions that could make this agreement the most harmful trade pact ever foraccess to medicines.

Saturday

European Humanist Federation - European Parliament commits to gender equality and women sexual and reproductive rights

European Humanist Federation - European Parliament commits to gender equality and women sexual and reproductive rights

Civil society and human rights organisations welcome the adoption of the Report on Equality between women and men in the EU (2013) authored by MEP Marc Tarabella.
Despite numerous falsehoods and emotional manipulation spread by anti-human-rights organisations about the Report, the European Parliament has clearly affirmed its will to combat gender-discrimination in Europe.
Adopted with a comfortable majority of 441 votes in favour and 205 votes against, this report addresses persistent and increasing deadlocks on gender equality and proposes actions on a wide range of issues: developing childcare facilities; combating stereotypes against female employment; reducing gender pay and pension gaps; establishing paid paternity leave to enable men and fathers to achieve a better work-life balance and raising awareness on violence against women with a European year dedicated to this issue.

Importantly also, MEPs have clearly agreed that women must have control over their sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR), including access to contraception, legal abortion and sexuality  education - although the EU can only encourage Member States’ policies  on this issue and not initiate policies on its own.

International Women's Day - Womens Rights and Local Journalism

http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/03/the-15-journalists-putting-womens-rights-on-the-front-page/

NEW YORK, Mar 6 2015 (IPS) - Media coverage of maternal, sexual and reproductive health rights is crucial to achieving international development goals, yet journalists covering these issues often face significant challenges.

“When I was a baby, I got sick and some of my family members decided  that I should die because I was not a boy. Decades later, I’m inspired  by the courage of my mother - and countless other women – to expose and  end gender-based violence and inequality.”
-- IPS correspondent Stella  Paul
Recognising the contributions these journalists make to advancing women and girls’ rights, international advocacy organisation Women Deliver have named 15 journalists for their dedication to gender issues ahead of International Women’s Day 2015.Among the journalists Women Deliver
recognised for their work is IPS correspondent Stella Paul from India. Paul was honoured for her reporting on women’s rights abuses through articles on such issues as India’s ‘temple slaves’ and bonded labourers.

Paul’s dedication to women’s rights is not only shown through her journalism. When she interviews communities, she also teaches them how to report abuses to the authorities and hold them accountable for breaking the cycle of violence....

Another journalist honoured was Mae Azango from Liberia. Women Deliver CEO Katja Iversen told IPS, “Mae Azango deserves a Pulitzer. She went undercover to investigate female genital mutilation in Liberia.

“After her story was published she received death threats and [she] and her daughter were forced into hiding. Mae’s bravery paid off though, as her story garnered international attention and encouraged the Liberian government to ban the licensing of institutions where this horrific practice is performed,” Iversen added.

Azango told Women Deliver, “Speaking the truth about female genital cutting in my country has long been a dangerous thing to do. But I thought it was worth risking my life because cutting has claimed the lives of so many women and girls, some as young as two.”

Iversen said that many of the honourees had shown incredible dedication, through their work. “For some of our journalists, simply covering topics deemed culturally taboo – like reproductive rights, domestic violence or sexual assault – can be enough to put them in danger,” she said.

However despite their dedication, journalists still also face obstacles in the newsroom. “One of the questions we asked the journalists was: what will it take to move girls’ and women’s health issues to the front pages?” Iversen said.

“Almost all of them said: we need more female journalists in leadership and decision-making positions in our newsrooms. Journalism, like many other industries, remains a male dominated field, which can be a major obstacle to publishing stories on women’s health and rights.”

But the issue also runs deeper. There is also a lack of recognition that women and girls’ health rights abuses and neglect are also abuses of human rights, and combatting these issues is essential to achieving development for everyone, not just women and girls.

This means that women’s health is often seen as ‘soft news’ not political or economic news worthy of a front-page headline. “Unfortunately women’s health and wellbeing is still, for the most part, treated as ‘soft’ news, despite the fact that when women struggle to survive, so do their families, communities and nations,” Iversen said.

“Every day, an estimated 800 women die in pregnancy or childbirth, 31 million girls are not enrolled in primary school and early marriage remains a pervasive problem in many countries. These are not just women’s issues, these are everyone’s issues – and our honorees are helping readers understand this link.”

As journalist Catherine Mwesigwa from Uganda told Women Deliver, “Women’s health issues will make it to the front pages when political leaders and the media make the connection between girls’ and women’s health and socio-economic development and productivity, children’s education outcomes and nations’ political stability.”

Male journalists also have a role to play and two of the fifteen journalists honoured for their contribution to raising awareness on these crucial rights were men. Besides India and Liberia, other honorees hailed from Argentina, Cameroon, Bangladesh, Kenya, Pakistan, the Philippines, Senegal, Tanzania, Uganda, and the United States.

Wednesday

Tell Stephen Harper: Medicines shouldn't be a luxury - MSF

Tell Stephen Harper: Medicines shouldn't be a luxury

Competition from generic drug companies has reduced the price of HIV drugs by a staggering 99 per cent to less than $140 per patient per year. This has given more HIV patients in the developing world a chance not only to survive, but to lead meaningful lives.

But Canada is participating in international trade talks that could jeopardize what has already been achieved, and put the lives of millions of patients at risk.

Damaging intellectual property rules in the U.S.-led Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) would give pharmaceutical companies longer monopolies over brand name drugs. Companies would be
able to charge high prices for longer periods of time. And it would be much harder for generic companies to produce cheaper drugs that are vital to people’s health.

On November 13, WikiLeaks released the draft Intellectual Property Chapter of the TPP. Since negotiations began in 2010, they have been shrouded in secrecy. This is the first leak of text from the proposed agreement in more than two years.

The leak of the secret text confirms that the U.S. government is continuing to steamroll its trading partners in the face of steadfast opposition over terms that will severely restrict access to affordable medicines for millions of people. The U.S. is refusing to back down from dangerous provisions that will impede timely access to affordable medicines.

It's encouraging to see that some governments, including Canada, Chile, New Zealand, Malaysia and Singapore, are pushing back against some aspects of the U.S. position with their own proposal that better protects access to medicines. What is troubling is that the text  also shows that some countries are willing to give in to the U.S.  government's damaging demands. MSF urges countries to stand strong to ensure that the harmful terms are removed before this deal is finalized.

Sign the petition to tell Prime Minister Harper to stand firm against the U.S. position on the TPP, and reject damaging provisions that could make this agreement the most harmful trade pact ever for access to medicines.

Monday

Industry Lobby gears up. Tell Ontario to stand strong on bee-killing pesticides... | Sierra Club Canada

(Reminder) Please tell Ontario to stand strong on bee-killing pesticides... | Sierra Club Canada

As you know, Ontario plans to restrict the use of bee- killing pesticides. In 2014, the Ontario government announced it intended to restrict the use of neonicotinoid pesticides. In order to develop the plan and regulations, the province began conducting consultations and invited the public to comment.

A number of these public consultations took place this past December and the majority went very well, with farmers and other stakeholders able to give input on the new rules. A meeting on December 19th, however, was very different.

INDUSTRY PUSH-BACK


The head of the Ontario Grain Growers (OGG), accompanied by (former MP) Ted Menzies, the new CEO of industry lobby group CropLife, stood up at the beginning of the meeting, condemned the government, and then (took their toys) and stomped out.

DIVIDE & CONQUER

The OGG and CropLife intend to undermine the consultations and are already preparing a pre-federal election ground offensive, and the battlefield is Ontario’s urban/rural divide. You may remember CropLife is in the midst of a major lobbying and public relations campaign to prevent Canada from adopting a ban on bee-killing neonicotinoid pesticides (an action the European Union took more than a year ago). They know they have to defeat any regulatory action in Ontario or risk seeing it spread across the country.

GOOD FIRST STEP

The Ontario government’s plan applies only to corn and soybean crops in the province and does not prohibit other uses of neonicotinoid pesticides. The new plan will require farmers to demonstrate a need for them, replacing the present practice of spraying all seeds before delivering them to the farmer.

The province confidently states that it can eliminate neonicotinoid use by 80% on these crops without a significant impact on production. New rules are expected to be in place by July 2015 (and apply to the2016 crop growing year).

Sierra Club Canada Foundation is supportive of the plan because it will be the first action by any jurisdiction in North America (the European Union acted in 2013). It should be viewed, however, as only a first step because it applies strictly to soybean and corn seed treatment and not other crops. As a precautionary measure to protect pollinators, we’re calling for restrictions on all uses of neonicotinoid pesticides. We see no logical reason to treat other uses of the bee-killing chemicals differently.

BEE HEARD TODAY

We hear from our sources that CropLife and OGG’s lobbying of late against restricting bee-killing neonicotinoid pesticides has been fierce
So let’s make sure Ontario stays strong. One way of
doing that is submitting comments, and we have until January 25th. We’ve provided a draft letter here

Sunday

Invitation to Carbon Tax forum, Jan 27, Victoria College

For everyone who wants to learn more about how we can stop subsidizing fossil fuels and can really speed up the transition to renewables - please help spread the word - so there can be more public understanding of these options.  - Lyn
Great news!    Citizens' Climate Lobby (CCL)  is co-sponsoring a Carbon Price Forum moderated by Stephen Lewis. The forum will take place on Tuesday, January 27 from 7:30 to 9:00 pm.
Isabel Bader Auditorium,
93 Charles Street West,
Victoria College University of Toronto

What’s the best way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions while stimulating the economy? Join Stephen Lewis and an expert panel on how to effectively put a price on carbon in Canada.
Two methods are frequently proposed – Cap and Trade and a Carbon Tax. Our Forum Panelists will present the case for each of these methods.
Moderator
Stephen Lewis, Distinguished Visiting Professor, Ryerson University
Panelists
  • Nicholas Rivers, Chairholder, Canada Research Chair in Climate and Energy, University of Ottawa
  • David Robinson, Associate Professor of Economics, Laurentian University
  • Katie Sullivan, Director, North America and Climate Finance, IETA
  • Gray Taylor, a leading climate change lawyer working in Toronto
Commentators
  • Kristyn Annis, President, Canadians for Clean Prosperity
  • Lynn McDonald, former Federal Member of Parliament and co-founder of JustEarth

Wednesday

Much of world's fossil fuel reserve must stay buried to prevent climate change, study says | Environment | The Guardian

Much of world's fossil fuel reserve must stay buried to prevent climate change, study says | Environment | The Guardian

It shows trillions of dollars of known and extractable coal, oil and gas, including most Canadian tar sands, all Arctic oil and gas and much potential shale gas, cannot be exploited if the global temperature rise is to be kept under the 2C safety limit agreed by the world’s nations.
Currently, the world is heading for a catastrophic 5C of warming and the deadline to seal a global climate deal comes in December at a crunch UN summit in Paris.

“We’ve now got tangible figures of the quantities and locations of fossil fuels that should remain unused in trying to keep within the 2C temperature limit,” said Christophe McGlade, at University College
London (UCL), and who led the new research published in the journal Nature. The work, using detailed data and well-established economic models, assumed cost effective climate policies would use the cheapest fossil fuels first, with more expensive fuels priced out of a world in which carbon emissions were strictly limited. For example, the model predicts that significant cheap-to-produce conventional oil would be burned butthat the carbon limit would be reached before more expensive tar sands
 oil could be used.
The new analysis calls into question the gigantic sums of private and government investment being ploughed into exploration for new fossil fuel reserves, according to UCL’s Professor Paul Ekins, who conducted the research with McGlade. “In 2013, fossil fuel companies spent some $670bn (£443bn) on exploring for new oil and gas resources. One might ask why they are doing this when there is more in the ground than we can afford to burn,” he said.
“The investors in those companies might feel that money is better spent either developing low-carbon energy sources or being returned to investors as dividends,” said Ekins.
“One lesson of this work is unmistakably obvious: when you’re in a hole, stop digging,” said Bill McKibben, co-founder of 350.org which is campaigning to get investors to dump their fossil fuel stocks. “These numbers show that unconventional and ‘extreme’ fossil fuel – Canada’s tar sands, for instance – simply have to stay in the ground.”

President Obama: It's Time to Reject Keystone XL. - 350

President Obama: It's Time to Reject Keystone XL. - 350

From Bill McKibben.
President Obama has threatened to veto legislation to approve the Keystone XL pipeline.

With the President's veto threat, he has shown that he's willing to take some heat for standing up to the industry. In fact, when he's talked about Keystone XL lately, he's started to sound a little like we did way back when we began this fight.

President Obama has the support he needs -- from science, and from the people -- to reject the pipeline. An 830,000 barrel per day pipeline of the world's dirtiest oil will obviously contribute to climate
change, failing his climate test.

Send a message to President Obama to stop Keystone XL now!