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.


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.


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.


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, or by Paypal at .
[  ]          I can help with settlement by ______________________________________________________.
(Please describe what you can offer.) You can also reply by email to
[  ]          I would like to help with the committee coordinating the refugee project. You can also reply by email to
Name: ________________________________
Address: ___________________________________________
Phone: _____________________
Email: ______________________