A big thank you to Ruth Henrich for her presentation.  There are several petitions that are taking on these issues in law.  In December 2015, The Centre For Inquiry launched a petition to end blasphemy being a criminal offence (Section 296 of the Criminal Code). This petition was sponsored by Ali Ehsassi, MP for Willowdale. It has received 3rd reading and is now before the Senate for review. It is part of Bill C-51.

The following is a synopsis of some of the material Ruth, and the group, covered: What is blasphemy and should it be removed from the criminal code (we agreed- yes!)  What IS blasphemy? Ruth distributed a map, created by the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU) MAP which demonstrated how only a small number of countries in the world have eliminated blasphemy from their statutes. Here is the LINK to CFI’s information and further resources on this topic.

Secular Connexion Séculierè began a petition to repeal of all Canadian laws and regulations that discriminate against the systemic discrimination against non-believers in Canadian laws and regulations, specifically, but not limited to: (a) the National Anthems Act, 1980; (b) the Criminal Code of Canada, section 319 3(b); and (c) Regulations for registered charities under the Income Tax Act. This petition has now received over the number of required signatures and will go to Committee for further research and consideration. It may be years before we see anything on this, but it is now being considered in Parliament. Marwan Tabbara, MP for Kitchener South-Hespler was the sponsor for this petition.

The 3rd petition that was presented comes out of Quebec and is still open for signature. It was brought by David Rand, President of Atheist Freethinkers Solidarity, Montreal.  This petition asks for the removal of the religious exemption in Section 319(3)(b) and affects women, the LGBTQ community, non-believers and other ethnic and racial groups. Here is the link.  Please consider signing this petition.

The group discussed when a comment (consider the right to free speech) becomes a hate crime which must be stopped? In other words, how do we differentiate between a stated opinion, and a remark that could be construed as inciting hate? Ruth quoted a theologian who made it clear that in a real democracy there must be a separation of church and state. We do not currently honour this in Canada. Here is the quote.

Theologian William Klassen has said:

“to mention God with a capital letter in the preamble to the Charter and then go on to say that the Charter provides a fundamental freedom of conscience and religion, is a contradiction which even a theologian, to say nothing of all the lawyers, must surely recognize… The cause of religion is never advanced by putting God’s name on a document, in a national anthem, on coins, or generally in the public sphere.”

Thankfully we can now ‘affirm’ in a court of law, instead of placing our hand on a Bible. Should an organization which cannot meet the standards of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms be eligible for federal funding?  When is this ok? When not?

Prayers in Council, free parking for church attendees on Sunday, honouring cultural values vs. expressing blatant discrimination; these were a few more of the issues which were questioned, challenged and discussed.

Once again, thank you Ruth for this well researched and important presentation!


February 7, 2018 – THE RISE OF THE FAR RIGHT

What’s driving the growth of the alt-right and the extreme-right movements in North America, Britain, and elsewhere? Is it simply a backlash against politically correct language demands, minority groups requesting special privileges, jobs going to foreign workers, etc., or is there something darker at play? Should we be worried?

Oh well, talking about the rise of the far right did not leave any of us feeling joyful and full of optimism, but it was another thought-provoking, in depth discussion. Thanks Andre Pettijean for starting it all off…

Some salient comments:

The US needs a more robust left, with new leadership as well as clear aims and focuses.

Extremism is counter-productive, both on the right and left.

We must avoid a feeling of resignation, and focus on some hopeful signs that things are changing (300,000 people at the recent march on Washington , non- election of Roy Moore, etc.)

An organization people may wish to check out: Centre for Policy Alternatives



First huge thanks to Joan Beecroft for her thought provoking presentation. There were ongoing questions and comments which Joan’s talk stimulated. Also many thanks to Tom and Edna Burri for warmly hosting the event at their home.

LGBTQ2 refers to Lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transsexuals, queers and 2 spirited people.

PFLAG? Recently the understanding has been expanded from Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays to welcoming all those who are, or have associations with, those in the LGBTQ2 community, and/or questions around gender identity.

Joan explained that whereas those who identify as queer (an often used umbrella term) are at a higher risk for suicide, it doesn’t have to be that way. Parents who talk to their children, and demonstrate their compassionate and inclusive values (not only in relation to LGBT issues), can and do grow up secure and strong. If however, the family is supportive but attends a church that is homophobic, the child will inevitably be more confused and therefore more at risk. Several United Churches are making strides in being more inclusive however their numbers are dwindling. The non-accepting Pentecostal and Evangelical churches are growing.

In the last years, Joan has identified two organizations which appear on the surface to be supportive but who actually carry the mandate of  “converting or straightening out” the student or adult. (Still Waters and Generous Spaces) Joan wasn’t sure if these organizations are still active.

Because of the huge harm that has been done by religion to members of the LGBTQ2 community, Joan will not use church spaces for meetings.

The group discussed bullying. Enormous strides have been made in the curriculum, bullying assemblies, presentations by Sheatre, open discussion in classrooms, etc. however unfortunately there’s still bullying going on in the schools. It’s an ongoing struggle.

How can ‘straight’ folks show their support? Go to the Grey Bruce Pride website, ‘like them’ and attend the events that indicate that ‘friends’ are welcome.

Other conversations and questions focused on the church, dying with dignity, same sex marriage, and more.

Books that were mentioned and recommended:

Nearly Normal

Conclave by Robert Harris

Origins by Dan Brown

Queering the Bible

Ruth Henrich updated us on the petition (1264) from humanists that has now been delivered to the House of Commons. This petition asks that people with no religious beliefs be protected from discrimination under the many laws that cover other identified groups.



True it was a difficult topic, but we managed to have some laughs while taking the subject quite seriously.

Ruth reviewed the importance of having a Power of Attorney (POA), for both financial affairs and personal care. Having a lawyer and family members who understand and accept our wishes is essential. It is even useful to include clauses that are not currently legal (ex. Advanced Directive for Medical Assistance in Dying (MAID) in cases of future dementia). It may very well be legal at the time of your death.

Ruth stressed that it is best to have several copies of all documents, EACH HAND SIGNED , and distributed to your chosen POA’s , lawyer, Doctor, etc.

Terri reviewed the questions Humanists often receive.

If there is no afterlife, what happens after death? (Long answer, perhaps part of another discussion)

What do you say to someone who offers to pray for you even though you don’t see the benefit of prayer? (Answer: Offer a sincere thank you)

The funeral- it’s about how you wish to be remembered (write your obit now, and continue to live that way)

Then Ruth and Terri ‘role played’, first a Humanist officiant and a dying person, and second a religious adult child whose dying mother is a Humanist.

Throughout the presentations and role playing there were tons of questions and heartfelt personal stories.

Here’s a quote Terri offered if someone tells you that humanism is “just another religion”.

“Humanism is a religion like abstinence is a sexual position “.


June 6, 2018POPULISM

Last night’s discussion of Populism was engaging but disturbing. We human beings are quite vulnerable to ‘showmanship’, grandiose language and glorious promises. If a populace is kept largely uninformed, poorly educated, prevented from developing critical thinking, and without much hope for the future, it is easily tricked into voting for the ‘alpha male’ who is making promises without substance. Add to that the uber-wealthy who wish to protect their privilege, and you can elect a Trump.

June 10, 2018 – Keith Martin, “my journey from fundamentalist religion to spiritual humanism

Sunday we had the opportunity to learn of another member’s transition from deeply traditional religious faith to a non-religious set of beliefs. Looks like the Rwanda massacre was the ‘straw that broke the camel’s back’ for Keith, compelling him to face this new reality. Thank you Keith Martin for your penetrating presentation. Members may learn more about Keith and his work by emailing him at martinke@uoguelph.ca or the Facebook Page. His new book is entitled Seismic Shift. Some of Keith’s other influences were: Sam Harris, Waking Up, J. Peterson’s 12 Rules for Life, and IGEN, by Jean Twange.


July 8, 2018 – THE LEGALIZATION OF MARIJUANA presented by Owen Sound Police Service

It was impossible to keep up with the amount of fascinating information and experiences presented by our presenter in July. Constable Craig Peddle is a certified instructor, trained presenter, and is a court qualified expert on criminal street gangs. He is quite knowledgeable regarding narcotics, firearms and organized crime.

Equally as important, he is open-minded, friendly, approachable, a great speaker and good listener. Needless to say, our group had a lot of questions and comments. We are lucky to have him here in Owen Sound.

PC Peddle’s primary aim was to discuss the upcoming legalization of cannabis, and what that will mean for the public and for the police. Unfortunately, although some of the details will be clear to us by the date of legalization, October 18, there will still be many unknowns. What constitutes ‘inebriation’, i.e.: being stoned? When should someone avoid driving? What age would be most appropriate to permit purchase of cannabis, considering the adolescent’s still-developing brain?

Officer Peddle is fully in favour of legalizing the adult use of marijuana. It will reduce the number of people having a record- those arrested and incarcerated for possession. Although there is no empirical evidence that cannabis is addictive, there are particular personalities which are more vulnerable to its’ influence than others (as with alcohol).

He is also concerned that if people buy from private dealers rather than the government source (the LCBO will sell it), it could be laced with nicotine or other drugs which ARE addictive. (Best way to keep customers.) He advised that it’s best to stay away from buying cannabis, if you don’t know where it came from.

A huge thank you to Craig Peddle for his provocative and informative presentation!!!  We learned a lot.


Sept 16, 2018PATRIARCHY

Joachim Ostertag is returning ‘by popular demand’, to continue his talk and discussion of Patriarchy.

Another excellent meeting. …Thank you Joachim Ostertag for your stimulating, informative and provocative presentation (Patriarchy II), and to Ruth and Gord Henrich for hosting us so beautifully. And a big welcome to our new members.

Patriarchy is ever-present, pervasive, and embedded in our culture. Therefore, our first task in dealing with it, is noticing it. It effects both men and women, and places requirements and restraints on all of our systems – legal, educational , religious, economic and more.

Patriarchy effects relationships; because everyone needs to feel both physically and emotionally safe, we adhere to rules we may not even recognize. In order to challenge it, we must ‘name’ it, whether in individual encounters, in media, relationships, or institutions. Patriarchy is ancient. Perhaps early women acquiesced, needing to be ‘protected’ during their months of relative disability during pregnancy. Perhaps not. Perhaps it related to the male’s superior upper body strength, and having the role of warrior or hunter. Maybe not. We don’t really know, but the question is important to ask.

Since the Montreal Massacre of 1989, women and men have been paying more attention than ever to these issues. We now have the National Day of Remembrance, Dad’s Groups, studies of violence, and the Me Too Movement. Then there’s the strange and disturbing questions which arise from the popularity (especially among women) of the book Fifty Shades of Grey.  What is that all about? Whatever the reasons,  how do we acquire the knowledge that we can ‘say our truth and be heard’?

Alas, we didn’t remove the patriarchy from our society during this meeting , nor even the patriarchal princes Trump and Ford, but we have identified important first steps: Notice it and Talk about it! One member suggested “unplug the TV’. (a huge carrier of partriarchal culture)  Interesting….



Here are some of the salient comments and points of discussion:

“Rights are contractual obligations”

Even if one is motivated by costs, it is a benefit to society to offer housing and food to those in need. For those who value the expense of feeding and housing the poor, it is actually cheaper to have a healthier population. This reality is easier to accomplish and foster in a society with socialized medicine.

Rights are legislated. Freedoms are not.

Let’s not call this housing, but instead ‘shelter’. We are not talking about offering detached homes on the water. We are assuring that no one is left outside, or sleeping in their car with their children. Shelters are about basic safety, but must be offered in conjunction with other services.

A humanist believes that we offer those basics out of compassion, fairness, basic ethics, and a desire to use critical thinking to solve problems.

We talked about the importance of education. Courses in civic responsibility, the importance of voting, and critical thinking are offered in the schools.Children tend to be inherently fair. When they go home however, they are influenced by parents who may be making decisions based on other experiences and influences.

How interesting it is that after a disaster, compassionate human nature kicks in.

This topic also led us to discuss local politics, nutrition, food politics, etc. The ‘economics of food distribution and production’ may be a topic for a future meeting.

Some related books and resources to consider:

Paradise Built in Hell- Rebecca Solnit (communities that arise in disaster)

The New Human Rights Movement, Peter Joseph

Ayn Rand (Capitalism) – stressed the need for a defined ‘principle’

House Arrest  Francis Mont (one of our new members)

Proposals for a new social contract- an essay by Francis Mont (see Goodreads.com)


November 11, 2018 – TRUST

Braving the first snow of the year, 14 of us met at the home of Corrie and Andrew Baines to think more about the definitions and effects of ‘trust’.

Trust in an individual or institution takes time to develop, but can be eroded quickly. We assume we can trust what our political or religious leaders, doctors, teachers tell us. People trust what they read in newspapers and hear on TV. Unfortunately that trust is not always merited. Corrie pointed to a very serious conflict of interest existing in the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Institute, between members of the board and highly placed employees of ‘big pharma’. These conflicts were not declared which resulted in a serious breach of ethics (and Corrie’s trust).

People increase their trust when an organization or individual can arouse fear. For example in a notable percentage of cases, ‘expiry dates’ are irrelevant and incorrect. With breast screening, widely encouraged in the 70’ and 80’s, women learned to fear breast cancer, and were easily convinced to undergo screening

‘Belief’ gets in the way of how we trust. If we hate and fear ‘the other’, we have been brought to the will of our political and religious leaders. But a refusal to hate has allowed Izzeldin Abuelaish to survive the murder of his daughters and niece at the hands of Israelis. His book I Shall Not Hate is well worth reading. Izzeldin believes that ‘hate is a communicable disease’.

There’s a wonderful song in the show South Pacific that suggests “You’ve Got to Be Carefully Taught”. Another song related to our discussion is Barbra Streisand’s new song “Don’t Lie to me”.

A member asked why it is so easy to believe the unbelievable. One suggested answer was the fact that most of us were brought up in a religious faith. If you have learned to trust the mythologies of religion, accepting them as truth, you can learn to trust any powerful, figure. If you’re offfered something you already want to believe, it will not be difficult to sustain the belief.

Should we trust our hospitals? Doctors? Teachers? Political leaders? If we are already critical thinkers,  Corrie’s suggestion was “trust everything until it proves to be untrustworthy.” Trust is “the best available version of the truth”.

Suggested reading: Conspiracy of Hope, by Renee Pellerin (a thorough investigation of the history of breast screening, including much important information about Corrie’s struggles to reveal the truth)

“Imagine” by the Beatles- the closest we have to a humanist anthem

Our Nov. 7 meeting was an exceptional example.

Although we are all humanists, some believed that they could not bring themselves to vote for anyone who places their faith ahead of their objectivity, by publicly wearing a symbol of their religion (a skullcap, cross, turban, etc.) They are demonstrating that their basic thinking is irrational, and could manifest itself in their leadership. Others felt that we should never put stock in what people “wear’’; that a person who is displaying their religious faith may also be the kind, compassionate leader we seek. It is not easy to determine what underlies the outward picture, but we must never define ourselves as ‘superior’. The ‘us’ and ‘them’ attitude can become dangerous.

We ended up agreeing on many of the difficult issues, breaking down the components of the arguments by listening to the views of each person around the table. Good stuff….

A recommended reading: The New Human Rights Movement, by Peter Joseph.


Wednesday, December 5, 2018 – “THE OTHER”

Once again our discussion group spent a stimulating and enjoyable few hours in the Library board room, discussing the ‘other’, speculating on the origins of our tendency to be wary of a non-member of our ‘group’.

Tons of great questions:

Was it agriculture that introduced the need to protect our  ‘property’?  Were the early (and modern) Olympic games a way for human beings to meet and compete non-lethally? Why did we take slaves to improve our gene pool (ugh) rather than simply embrace the other?

Did adherence to a designated ‘faith’ add to the evolving problem? How did we get to the point when we felt justified in converting, abusing, or even killing someone who was not part of our group? When did we begin be in deathly fear of the ‘other’, training warriors, soldiers, armies, etc.?

Some suggestions:

There is no ‘right way’. It’s not that simple.

Humanists are good at trusting science. When something is not known, we are comfortable saying “I don’t know”.

If someone can convince you to believe what cannot be demonstrated or proven, you can be convinced of anything.

What helps? Oppose ‘behaviour’ if you must, not the group.

No one wants to talk/negotiate/listen when they are humiliated or made to feel foolish.

Happy Winter Solstice!

The winter solstice connects us to Galileo, who revealed humanity’s true relationship to the Sun, usurped our place at the center of the universe, and was among the myriad revolutionary intellects that ushered in the Enlightenment. Those rational minds set humanity on the path of scientific and cultural progress to which we owe all our technological conveniences, modern egalitarianism, and a quality of life that would appear magical to all the generations before us. Every day our news is filled with the scientific discoveries of their philosophical descendants, always further resolving our understanding of our place in the cosmos.

And so the most significant yearly event in human history, the one upon which all other major winter holidays are founded, is quintessentially humanist. Before our ancestors began seeing “fairies in the garden” and added religious layers over the solstice, they simply looked out over the dawn horizon and saw the Sun rise over a particular mountaintop or tree and knew it was going to start climbing north again. And that gave them hope.

Winter solstice connects us to our future decedents; who we will never see. Carl Sagan described these future relatives as a species “with more of our strengths and fewer of our weaknesses, more confident, far seeing, capable, and prudent.” In other words, a more humanistic species. What better time to celebrate reason, compassion, hope, and humanity than on the longest night of the year?

excerpt from Ryan Somma – The Darkest Day: A Quintessentially Humanist Celebration



January 2, 2019 “BABY IT’S COLD OUTSIDE” – What is no longer acceptable? Why? What changed?

While it is impossible to follow the full thread of our last library discussion, here are a few comments, questions and topics we debated:

“Baby it’s Cold Outside”- a perfectly fine, fun song that listeners heard as playful flirting, or an example of harassment- ‘no means yes’?

Although we have a long way to go, our culture has begun to take notice of systemic abuse, harassment, discrimination. (Me Too, Harvey Weinstein, political behaviour )

Some comments:

Me Too was long overdue

Me Too is going too far- often one is considered guilty until proven innocent

Women between 15 and 35 are different from those of us over 60.

We talked about

The organization Sheatre, and how they are working to make change male entitlement, teaching and modelling compassion to very young children, as a way to reduce bullying, racism, and homophobia.

We talked about ‘political correctness ‘. When did respecting the rights and feelings of ‘the other’ become a negative quality? But do we sometimes go too far?

When we are in the company of someone who makes a discriminatory remark, as hard as it is, we must speak up. Otherwise, they assume we agree.

Some approaches: “Well I don’t see it that way’ or “please don’t speak that way around me” or “I feel hurt by your remark.”


Sunday, February 10, 2019 – ELDER ABUSE

Members of the Grey-Bruce Humanist group met at Marg Gaviller’s house to hear about Elder Abuse and discuss it with Colleen Purdon.  Bob Garnett reported that there was $850.00  in the treasury fund and then Marg Gaviller introduced Colleen.

The term “elder abuse” (senior abuse) is what happens to older adults who are mistreated, usually by someone they know and who are often family members.  Abuse happens when a person limits or controls the behaviour of a senior.  The elder person cannot react because they are afraid of the being humiliated, hurt, or abandoned.  This abuse can be physical, verbal, emotional, financial, sexual, spiritual or neglect.

We can help by following these three steps:

See it– get to know the warning signs of abuse

Name it – talk to the victim and tell them what is worrying you

Check it – ask questions, check with professionals and safety planners.

There are many warning signs: the senior admits to being abused, physical injuries ,signs of neglect and changes in behaviour or regular activity and money situations, plus……..

Colleen said that like any domestic violence, elder abuse is very difficult and complicated to deal with.  But generally:

Be patient

Listen carefully

Ask how you can help

Respect their decisions even when you don’t agree

Learn about safety planning and find out how to get in touch with local services.  For example, Victim Services Bruce Grey 1-866-376-9852 and Senior’s Safety Line 1-866-298-1011 and , of course, 911 in a real emergency.

The facts were brought home with many personal stories that were shared.  It was a very enjoyable and informative way to spend a Sunday morning. Thanks Colleen.



Does human life begin at conception, at 4 month fetal life,  independent viability, presence of a heartbeat, etc.?

How crucial is brain function in deciding on aborting a fetus? Who decides?

Does death occur when the brain is declared ‘dead’, when the heart stops beating, etc. Who has the right to decide? (Ourselves with an advance directive, our families, doctors?)

Needless to say, it was a thought provoking discussion…..



Definition: “Capitalism is an economic and political system that depends upon private ownership and profit rather than ownership and control by the state.”

This system has worked well for many privileged people (including many of us) but can actually be contrary to many of our humanist principles. Capitalism tends to result in great inequity!

People brought up the need for better laws to control the inequities, and a far fairer distribution of wealth. A basic minimum annual income would help as would a higher minimum wage.

But with the types of leaders we currently have, how would we achieve this? It’s seems undoable. Is there a project or activity that our group can create locally to address the inequities? Although we can never expect to get rid of the selfish cruelty we are witnessing, maybe small, local, grass roots actions can be potentially successful approaches.


Wednesday, May 1st, 2019 Discussion Group – ARE WHISTLEBLOWERS HEROES OR TRAITORS?

Well, it depends! (great to be a humanist)

If a person is righting a wrong, a hurtful reality authority does not want known, then whistleblowers are heroes. They are demonstrating bravery, often risking their employment, safety, their very freedom, to let others know what a company or government would rather we didn’t know.

But if a whistleblower is exposing others to danger (legitimate National Security issues, spies, military troupes, people in witness protection, etc.) that is not heroic.

People weren’t sure that Assange was acting in good faith. Were his motivations honourable? He demonstrated poor judgement in his private life (accusations of sexual misconduct). Could that taint his judgement in general? We talked about the different traits within the same person, wise in some areas of their lives, and immoral in others.

We also talked about when a behaviour legal but unethical (the actions of some corporations.) Similarly this issue covers behaviours that are ethical but illegal. (Having signed a non-disclosure agreement and feeling morally compelled to speak out- ex. Drug testing realities, etc.)

Needless to say, this is a complicated and fascinating reality, one which is very topical.


Sunday June 9th, 2019 – ADDICTION: MEDICAL REALITY presented by Josh Richardson

Psychotherapist/ Addiction counsellor Josh Richardson, approaches the subject as a “substance use disorder ‘and he rejects the long held view of addiction as being a moral failing, or lack of will power.

To assure ‘harm reduction’, (i.e.: fewer deaths and permanent disability), we must approach the person, and the subject, with compassion rather than judgement. We discussed whether early trauma plays a role. The book In the Realm of the Hungry Ghosts, by Gabor Mate, was mentioned a number of times.

We should have safe injection sites with no question, free Naloxone, counselling, and community acceptance; all of which are essential elements of harm reduction. Is this enough to support the pain of people who are living precarious lives, perhaps homeless, in poverty, and ill? Is there a sufficient amount of time, effort and funding devoted to trying to eliminate drug dependency? A balanced approach is important.

We talked about Alcoholics Anonymous. Josh acknowledges that AA offers community, hope, structure, and other benefits. At the same time, it is still based on a religious model, and one that suggests moral failing.

Josh said: “Humans have, from very early times, had a desire to ‘get out of their heads”.  Hmmmmm.

If we had had more time this would have made another interesting area to explore. Perhaps another time…..



Some of the important topics we covered:



Some of the areas that we covered were:



Thank you Michael Craig for your research and ongoing information during the discussion. Settlers have caused hundreds of years of disruption- including genocide. It is no surprise that many Indigenous groups experience family breakdown, addictions, violence, high rates of suicide, early school dropout, poor health, poverty and more. More recently, settler attitudes linked to residential schools (“get the Indian out of the child”) have resulted in further tragic multigenerational dysfunction.

Over the centuries in every country on earth, privileged humans have felt entitled to overpower others in cruel ways. What is this about? Why do we do this? People felt that we need to focus on solutions, and that it does not help to lay blame. Others commented that in terms of ‘what we owe’ it is the primary wrong – doers who must take responsibility, from sincere apologies to financial aid.

The Indigenous communities across Canada are different, some wealthy and quite independent, and some impoverished.  There are many languages and ways of relating, celebrating, eating, praying, creating, etc. What do we owe them?

Michael suggested that we petition our leaders, both federal and provincial, to:

We owe the Indigenous communities what any Canadian is owed- respect, dignity, access to housing and health care, a listening ear, and action- for as long as any Canadian requires those benefits.


Sunday, October 13th, 2019 – Examining Natural Burial 

Bob Hope leads us in understanding what Natural Burial is and compares it with Humanist values. For the last 7 years, Bob has been promoting the idea of having Natural Burial available at Owen Sound’s Green Wood Cemetery. It could be that we are getting close to succeeding!


Wednesday, November 6, 2019 – THE MEANING OF LIFE

Another Wed. evening really well spent….. Hope those of you who couldn’t come, join us when possible.

The topic was broad and almost comical, the meaning of life. The conversation travelled from the future of AI, to the realities of aging, to climate change and the effect of religion, the fact that there is not really an inherent ‘meaning’ or purpose to any one life.

The meaning of our life is what we give it!

We ended with a fascinating introduction to, and discussion of the one celled ‘blob’ or slime mould. It has not yet given a scientific designation, being neither animal nor plant. Google ‘slime mould’ for further information.  Truly fascinating!

Some recent decisions:

We will not be participating in the Santa Claus Parade as no one came forward to march. We will however pursue participating in the One World Festival and the Pride Parade next year.




We tried something different this month, asking everyone how they saw the Grey Bruce Humanists, and to suggest what might make it even better. There were so many wonderful ideas. We really do have a creative, perceptive, and thoughtful group.

We basically brainstormed, recording everyone’s thoughts and suggestions:

  1. Open 2021 with an explanation of Humanism. What is Humanism, historically and in the present? (This will take place January 10!) What are the principles of Humanism?
  2. More on the environment- (The Victoria, BC Humanists have a committee devoted to this issue)
  3. A more formal organization? Dues, a governing board, formal membership, etc.) very few of us encouraged this idea.
  4. Liaise with, and incorporate information, from Amnesty International.
  5. Liaise more closely with our local Indigenous neighbours
  6. Continue to liaise with Dying with Dignity. Continue to focus on MAiD.
  7. Participate in the 16 days of activism, mainly aimed at violence against women.
  8. Link further to Humanist Canada, especially their newsletter
  9. Do more promotion: a new logo, t-shirts, sweatshirts; consider asking the Sun Times and Rrampt to write an article about our organization.
  10.  Encourage everyone to read Barack Obama’s book The Promised Land
  11.  Another book recommendation- Tanya Talaga’s Seven Truths
  12. Remain locally focused
  13. Consider the age of our members- should we be asking younger members to suggest topics that would attract people in their 30’s 40’s, etc.?
  14. Take a narrower focus in 2021- perhaps with a ‘theme’.
  15.  Focus on topics where religion, and religious groups, have been discriminatory (ex. Dignified Death, Abortion, Gay and Lesbian Rights
  16. Housing, homelessness, affordability, addictions – these are local realities
  17. Conduct an on-line attitude survey of the members who wish to remain on our list, but do not typically attend meetings.
  18. Ask Chris di Carlo, (Critical Thinking) Jesse Wilkinson (Rrampt Magazine) and Joachim Oestertag (Patriarchy) to speak.
  19. Liaise with other local agencies and services who already offer some of the local needs we may wish to address.

We sincerely hope that some of you will want to consider one or more of these ideas, perhaps come to a Zoom planning committee meeting, (a few meetings a year), or help arrange a great potential speaker.

Thought and Ideas from our Grey/Bruce Humanist participants.

Protective Mothers in Family Court By Esther Gieringer

The Link Between our Climate Crisis and Violence Against Women and Girls By Joachim Ostertag



On the morning of November 8, we had the privilege of viewing and participating in a presentation by Dr. Donna Stewart, on the subject of Medical Assistance in Dying (MAiD)( also referred to as doctor assisted death).The public interest and legal proceedings began in the 1990s with Sue Rodrigues, and later, Kay Carter in 2011. It was valuable to learn that 85% of Canadians are now in favour of MAiD. (If you would like a more detailed synopsis, please let me know.)

MAiD currently requires voluntary informed consent, the capacity to make decisions about MAiD, have a grievous and irremediable medical condition, have intolerable suffering, and a reasonably foreseeable natural death. One must be over 18, eligible for Canadian government health insurance and be aware of all options. There is a mandatory 10 day “reflection period” after approval, however, the 10 days can be shortened by the doctors or nurse practitioners if the person is likely to die or lose capacity before that time, or is likely to become unable to give the required consent at the time of MAiD provision in an institution or at home.

Some doctors had not been in favour of MAiD, however Donna suggested that some are beginning to change their minds. For doctors and nurse practitioners, there is a Conscientious Objection clause which states that they are not required to assess or perform MAiD if they morally object, but must refer the patient to a willing practitioner. The Ontario MAiD Care Coordination Service phone number is 1-866-286-4023 and patients may use this.

Parliament is now debating Bill C-7 which will remove the MAiD requirement for a reasonably foreseeable natural death. In 2021, the concept of mature minors, mental disorder as the sole reason for the request and Advance Directives will be reviewed in Canada. Advance Requests would allow someone who does not currently qualify for MAiD, to indicate, that given specific end of life criteria, she or he would like to have the procedure. (When I cannot speak for myself…..) If we would wish this, we should write in support of this when public comments are requested next year. However, at the present time we should inform in writing our families, doctors and power of attorney person of our preferred end-of-life wishes.

The presentation was followed by an excellent Q and A, full of personal stories of loved ones qualifying, as well as current members. We talked a fair bit about Chapman House, the hospice in Owen Sound, seen by one of our members, as a caring, competent facility that we are lucky to have here.

The problem is that they will not allow MAiD, due to religious objections of board members and some staff. If you agree, as some of us do, that this is unacceptable in a public service, please let me know. Perhaps we can form a committee to approach the board of Chapman House regarding their religious policy.

If you wish to see the letter that was sent, please con



Jeffrey Rosenthal, an award winner Professor of Mathematics and Statistics at the University of Toronto, and author of much praised books, Knock on Wood, and Struck by Lightning, will be speaking to us about “Luck, Chance, And the Meaning of Everything”!!

We had such a successful presentation and Q and A on the morning of Sunday, October 18. Thank you, Professor Jeffrey Rosenthal, for informing and entertaining us! people like me didn’t realize that statistics could be so fascinating and relevant. During these Covid days, presentations like this are SO welcome.



Our group was fortunate to welcome Jason Johnston, teacher of Indigenous culture, to a Grey Bruce Humanist Zoom, on the evening of September 9th.

Jason focused on Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK), an Indigenous approach to experiencing the world, based on direct involvement with the environment. This knowledge evolved to ensure survival, and involved the best practices of sustainable hunting, fishing and plant agriculture.

TEK is wholistic, meaning it focuses on interconnections, the ‘quality’ of the ecology, not monetary value. Indigenous people recognize that nature is inherently balanced, and seek to keep it that way. They have used ‘storytelling’ to pass the wisdom from generation to generation, over thousands of years.

Western Science is reductionist, breaking down a complex system into its individual parts. Living with, and learning from plants and the natural world over the millennia ensured survival.

Another way of explaining the difference is that the First Nations valued Experiential Learning over Experimental Learning. Unfortunately, the way we currently use our environment is unsustainable. Jason explained that the two systems can work together to create a healthy future for humans and the planet.

Big thanks to Jason for an informative, and important presentation, and for answering our many questions. Miigwuetch Jason.

Jason’s power point presentation



Jill Umbach of the United Way’s Poverty Task Force.

Canada is at a critical juncture where emergency COVID-19 benefits wind-down or reshaped into an ongoing basic income that enables everyone to be part of a better, new normal. There are a variety of briefs and community voices being presented to the government – most recently to the Senate. Some of the Canadian issues of a Universal Basic Income are:

The Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) has given some people a taste of what they could gain if a universal basic income program were implemented. CERB was designed to keep people at home. As we reopen our community and country, we need to design a system that will increase people’s ability to fully participate in our society.

Explore reading on Basic Income in Canada:

Explore reading on Basic Income and Women:



Our first discussion group on Zoom occurred on the evening of Tuesday, June 23. Our topic was racism, in particular racism aimed at our Indigenous people. Our guest was Trish Nadjiwon Meekins, counsellor at the Nikaanaganaa Counselling and Learning Centre in Owen Sound.

Trish talked about the realities of the residential schools. The RCMP at that time helped to keep the children from their parents. The Indian Act of 1876 made it illegal to practice their ceremonies. Their sacred artifacts were placed in museums, but most have now been repatriated. The goal was assimilation, a blending of First Nations people with the predominant White culture.

Originally the Indigenous community lived in what is now Brooke, and got along well with the Owen Sound community. The Saugeen and Neyaashiinigmiing from Cape Crocker were formerly one nation.

Systemic racism was ever-present. Consider something like not calling the Chiefs by their titles- They are not Tecumseh, Nawash and Pontiac. They were Chief Brant, Chief Tecumseh Chief Nawash and Chief Pontiac. There were horrific events like “Starlight Tours” where men were taken outside the city in winter by the police, and left in the freezing cold without shoes or coats. Many died from the cold as you would imagine. Some made it back. What about the recent murders of Indigenous people and the disappearances of women and girls? What can be done about all of this racism and cruelty?

Some suggestions for what can be done!!!

Actions designed to raise the standard of living.

Education: teaching young people the truths in this history. Addressing racism with age-appropriate children. [5 and up?]

Books for children which could be read at home and in schools.

Patronize Ningwakwe Books, a publisher of First Nations literature.

Books by Thomas King

So much was discussed and learned at this session. We emerged with the importance of being allies and the hope of finding ways to WORK TOGETHER.

A huge thank you to Trish for leading this discussion, a great start in working together.  If you want more information about Trish, her Learning Centre and her other services, you can reach her by email at trish@trishmeeekins.com or her website at https://trishmeekins.com/.