Rick Mercer on Students, the Election, and why you should vote

Great rant from Rick Mercer on why politicians ignore students, and/or make it seem more confusing for voting if you're away from home.


Ceremony of Commemoration & Solidarity with People of Japan & Pacific Rim, March 29 · 12:00- 1:00pm

Students, Staff, and Faculty are invited to join President Naylor
in a Ceremony of Commemoration and Solidarity with the People of Japan and the Pacific Rim
Tues March 29, 2011
U of T Multi-Faith Centre
569 Spadina Ave

Please join the University community in a brief time of reflection through word and music as we remember those that have died in the recent earthquake and tsunami and stand in solidarity with the people of Japan and the Pacific Rim as they continue to heroically address the ongoing challenges.

Petition: Tell Ontario's Ministry of Education: Taxpayers Should Not Be Funding Homophobic Schools | Change.org

Petition: Tell Ontario's Ministry of Education: Taxpayers Should Not Be Funding Homophobic Schools .

The gay news source Xtra! reports that all 29 Catholic School Boards in Ontario effectively ban the forming of Gay-Straight Alliances (GSAs). Some may claim this is just religious freedom, but in Ontario, Catholic schools are funded by taxpayer dollars. So LGBT people and straight allies are paying to teach kids that being gay is shameful, sinful, and something that can be avoided if swept under the rug.

Xtra! contacted the 29 Catholic school boards in the province. None of them reported having a GSA, which is contrary to what activists and politicians have been reporting.

"We support student clubs that support inclusiveness, especially for students who might otherwise feel marginalized. But all our clubs must, however, adhere to the Catholic teachings and values," Gerald Casey, Superintendent of Education for the Bruce-Grey Catholic District School Board, said to Xtra!. Casey then he told the reporter that, if a student asked to start a gay-straight alliance, the answer would be no.

Ontario Catholic School curriculum comes from the Institute for Catholic Education, and the Assembly of Catholic Bishops of Ontario (ACBO) is the final authority on what is and is not "Catholic" in the province. A report published by the ACBO promotes the idea that students who have same-sex attraction are not homosexual. They just need to avoid sex. That is not a reasonable option, nor something wise to be teaching students.

This needs to stop. Either Catholic Schools need to reverse their policies on gay-straight spaces in high schools, or Ontario taxpayers need to stop being forced to contribute to the promotion of intolerance and oppression. The petition below targets the latter matter. Tell the Ontario Ministry of Education that citizens should not have to contribute to schools with hateful and damaging policies that are just about as un-Canadian as you can get.
End taxpayer funding for Ontario Catholic Schools
Dear Minister Dombrowsky and Ms. Moroz,

I am writing to ask you to put an end to taxpayer funding for Ontario Catholic school boards.

As I am sure you are aware, there has been outrage recently over the fact that Ontario's Catholic School Boards do not allow gay-straight alliances in their schools. Telling children that they can form equity groups, and yet not use the word gay, is both intolerant and oppressive. In fact, it goes against everything that makes Canada such a wonderful, inclusive and diverse country.

The fact that these schools operate under policies that do not even allow kids to be openly homosexual is problematic. Telling a youth that acting on their natural feelings and desires is a "mortal sin" only contributes to poor mental health, low self-esteem and overall unhappiness. Kids should not be told that they need to live a life of celibacy to be worthy. And, since this is in fact what they are being told, taxpayers should not be funding this hatred.

I urge you to put a stop to public funding of Catholic school boards in Ontario, at least until their policies start to align with the Ontario Human Rights Code and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.


UTSSA: Debate: Living Without the Sacred: Should John Lennon's "Imagine" Become Our Reality?

Living Without the Sacred: Should John Lennon's "Imagine" Become Our Reality?

On Tuesday April 5th TVO’s BIG IDEAS, in conjunction with Centre For Inquiry Ontario (CFI) will be co-sponsoring a debate hosted by University of Toronto Secular Alliance, between Canadian philosopher Ronald de Sousa and clinical psychologist Jordan B. Peterson.

The question is whether it is possible and/or desirable to imagine a culture which is not bas...ed on any conceptions of the sacred. Dr. de Sousa will speak in support of relegating all notions of the sacred to the ash heap of history as irrational and potentially harmful, and in favour of a conception of life open to critical thinking in the light of reason. On the other hand, Dr. Peterson will defend the sacred as a necessary expression of human struggle with inscrutable complexity and suffering. The debate will be moderated by UTSA's Matthew Gayford.

The event is being held at O.I.S.E. auditorium, 252 Bloor Street West. Admission is $5 general, cash at the door only, FREE for students and CFI members. Debate starts at 7 p.m. Seating begins at 6 p.m. Come early; seating will be on a first-come basis and is expected to be sold out.

Stephen Fry accepts Humanist of the Year from Harvard

Clip of the Acceptance Speech HERE
"I will be shown, I will be inspired, I will be led, but I won’t be told!" Stephen Fry accepts the 2011 lifetime achievement award from the Humanists at Harvard University, on what it means to be educated and distinguishing between “revealed” knowledge (whether religious or even secular) and discovered knowledge.


OXFAM Hunger Banquet, March 19, HartHouse

The 2011 edition of the Hunger Banquet is Oxfam University of Toronto's 2nd annual talk and dramatic presentation on the food and inequality issues in our world! This unique fundraising event brings together the issues of food security, climate change, and women's rights, as well as presents distinguished speakers on these topics.

- MARK KINGWELL is a philosopher and noted author. He specialises in theories of politics and culture. He is a contributing editor for Harper's Magazine, and the Globe and Mail book section. Kingwell has published fifteen books including "A Civil Tongue: Justice, Dialogue, and the Politics of Pluralism", which was awarded the Spitz Prize for Political Theory.
- HARRIET FRIEDMANN has published and lectured widely on the politics of food and agriculture, most recently focusing on social justice and sustainability of farming systems and regional agrifood planning. She is co-originator of the influential perspective of “international food regimes,” which has inspired interdisciplinary research into historical origins of food systems and potential directions for the future of food.
- PEGGY NASH was an MP from 2006 to 2008 and was elected President of the NDP in August 2009. Nash was a founding member of Equal Voice, an all-party organization which advocates for the election of more women in Canada, and was also the recipient of two environmental awards from the Sierra Club of Canada.
- BEATRIZ GONZALEZ has worked on international development and human rights since 1996 and joined Oxfam in 2003. She can speak about Oxfam and partners' work on women's rights and gender equality in Central America and Cuba. Gonzalez is currently the co-chair of the Americas Policy Group of the Canadian Council for International Cooperation.
Artist Performance:
- AMAI KUDA (singer / songwriter)

Tickets are $15 (with the proceeds going to Oxfam Canada)
- At the UTSU office (12 Hart House Circle)
- by e-mailing oxfam.ut@utoronto.ca


GTA EVENT: ROM lecture, Life on Earth, the next 100,000 years, Mar 24

ROM LECTURE: Life on Earth: The Next 100,000 Years
Royal Ontario Museum, Auditorium, Thursday, March 24, 7:00 - 8:00 pm, Public $15.00, Member $12.00
Tel.: 416.586.5797
E-mail: programs@rom.on.ca

Most debates over global warming looks only as far ahead as 2100 AD, but what happens after that? As Curt Stager, author of Deep Future: The Next 100,000 Years of Life on Earth, argues, our fossil fuel emissions will interfere with climates for much longer than most of us, scientists included, yet realize. Even in the best-case scenario, the world won't fully recover for tens of thousands of years, and possibly much longer. What will life in that shockingly deep future be like? Some will win and some will lose. On the bright side, we've already prevented the next nation-crushing ice age. But as the Earth finally starts to cool down again, "climate whiplash" will force people, animals, and plants to reverse their adaptive strategies. Losers may then become winners - but exactly how the future plays out is ultimately up to us as we search for a sane, sustainable path forward in this new geologic epoch, the "Age of Humans."

Curt Stager is an ecologist, paleoclimatologist and science writer. He teaches at Paul Smith’s College and holds a research associate post at the University of Maine’s Climate Change Institute where he investigates the long-term history of climate in Africa, South American and the polar regions. Mr. Stager will be signing copies of his new book, Deep Future: The Next 100,000 Years of Life on Earth, after his talk


To refute or promote? Atheism/Humanism approaches to religion

To refute or promote? | Machines Like Us
by Michael De Dora
This debate has frustratingly continued since at least early 2009, when I joined the Center for Inquiry, and has no apparent end in sight. While I do not propose to have a solution, I do feel the need to offer a few observations that could help clarify this dispute.
Broadly speaking, the debate features two camps. The first camp believes a robust public discourse includes a good deal of critical discussion on religious belief, considering that faith and dogma so negatively shape social and political life. The second camp thinks that the first focuses too much on disparaging religious belief, and presses for more attention to the advancement of positive values. But, for several reasons, there is no real conflict between the two, even if one is perceived.
It seems to me that a person cannot be against an idea without being for something. When arguing against an idea, one is surely tearing something down. But one is also doing so because he or she values things like science, reason, and secular thinking. Moreover, one can only critique an idea if he or she has a methodology by which to judge that idea. And a critical methodology is meant precisely to help people discard old, untrue ideas and keep building upon the better ones.
It is often difficult, or even impossible, to present an absolutely comprehensive case against someone's position and in favor of your own method and position in the same forum. Billboards, books, blog posts and public events only allow so many words. One does not always get the chance or have the time to fully outline their reasons for critique. But this does not imply that one does not hold good reasons, or thinks that reasons are unimportant. It only suggests a different approach.
For example, Christopher Hitchens is a proud secular humanist. But he spends more time writing and speaking about religious belief than he does clarifying his moral worldview. Is there any reason to doubt his secular humanist credentials because of this? Is his critique of religious belief not helping foster a secular humanist society? Is he really doing harm by increasing the amount of public discourse on religion?
In fact, refuting and promoting are sometimes two different but complementary discussions. This is because refuting religious belief might be about evaluating truth claims while promoting values might be about moral claims. This was the topic of another recent debate in the secular blogosphere, over the claims made by Sam Harris in his book The Moral Landscape: How Science Can Determine Human Values. I do not claim to be a philosopher, but my position is that discussions about facts (truth and untruth) are different in nature than those about moral values (right and wrong). This means that concerns about the veracity of religious beliefs are different from concerns about constructing a positive moral framework.* Both are important, but they are distinct.
In the end, I believe this is a mistaken debate between people with slightly differing interests. Slightly is the operative word here, for both groups would certainly be considered members of the same team. Many of them even work together at the same secular organization. The critic of religious faith and dogma is on the same side as the promoter of secular moral values. To squabble about whose interests are more important is to lose sight of the underlying problem: the staggering amount of uncritical thinking that is putting society to ruin.
* However, conversations about fact and value can be approached in a similar manner, and are sometimes inextricably tied.


EVENT: IWD rally, March 12, 11am OISE and RYERSON


International Women’s Day 2011
"Our City, Our Services, Our Future! Women Take On The Fight!"
International Women’s Day (IWD) has been celebrated for more than 100 years. In Toronto, IWD has traditionally been a rally and march as well as a lot of other political and cultural events.
Rally - 11AM, OISE Auditorium, 252 Bloor St West March - 1PM
Fair - 1:30PM, Ryerson Student Centre, 55 Gould St. Toronto Organisations: IWD Committee: The Toronto IWD Committee consists of women's groups, immigrant women's centres, labour, student and other equality and equity and human rights organizations.


REMINDER: HAT Monthly Meeting March 12, Queer Muslim Community of Toronto

Saturday, March 12  1:30 – 3
OISE, 252 Bloor west, Room 5-160
Speaker: El-Farouk Khaki

The Humanist Association of Toronto presents a free lecture by El-Farouk  Khaki, founder and board member of Salaam, the Queer Muslim Community of Toronto. This organization is dedicated to Muslims who are lesbian, gay,  bisexual, and transsexual and/or transgender, as well as those questioning their  sexual orientation or gender identity, and their friends. El-Farouk will speak  about the organization, how it came to be, what its goals are; also what it is  like to be a gay Muslim – is it any different from being gay (lesbian, bisexual,  transgendered) in any other ethnic or religious community.

Admission is free, all are welcome.

Munk: Food Scarcity and Global Security conference, March 24

Food Scarcity and Global Security Conference
Munk School of Global Affairs Graduate Student Conference 2011
Empty Stomachs; Loaded Rifles: Food Scarcity and Global Security: the link between food shortage and conflict
March 24, 25. Student tickets $10.
A conference hosted by the World Bank & the Munk School of Global Affairs. The conference will draw on multidisciplinary scholars, World Bank experts and professionals in both government and NGO development sectors. Keynote on Friday nite by Jeffrey Sachs and Peter Gill. Compare and contrast to Noam Chomsky, upcoming in April.

Noam Chomsky on the State-Corporate Complex. (overflow tkts only left)

Noam Chomsky on the State-Corporate Complex: A Threat to Freedom and Survival  
Hart House April 7, 1pm - Presented by the Hart House Debates Committee, Science for Peace and Near East Cultural and Educational Foundation (NECEF)
Details: The Hart House Debates Committee, Science for Peace, and Near East Cultural and Educational Foundation (NECEF) present The State-Corporate Complex: A Threat to Freedom and Survival, a talk by academic, author and political activist Noam Chomsky. Chomsky will be introduced by Toronto Star columnist and best-selling author Linda McQuaig. A Q&A session will follow the talk.
Thursday, April 7, 2011 at 1:00 pm. Doors open at 12:30 pm. Please come early to ensure the best seating within your seating area.
(NOTE: all live tickets are sold. A few are left for the overflow room, HH TICKETS: 416.978.8849).

Hart House: International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, March 21

You Have Influence - Use It! International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination
Presented by Hart House and the University of Toronto Anti-Racism and Cultural Diversity Office, Multi-Faith Centre and Status of Women Office
Details: Faculty, staff and students unite to acknowledge the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. Join our guest speakers, Prof Arnold Itwaru, Sylvie, Avi  Ishraq  and Louise Cowin as they share how they have utilized their spheres of influence as faculty, staff, students, athletes, artists and more.
Where: East Common Room, Hart House, 7 Hart House Circle, University of Toronto
When: Monday, March 21, 12:00-2:00 pm   Cost: Free
Sam Saad, Programme Coordinator, Education and Training
E-mail: samy.saad@utoronto.ca
Tel: 416-993-3435

Fair Trade Fair | Hart House March 8

Fair Trade Fair | Hart House - University of Toronto
Presented by Hart House Social Justice Committee
When: Tuesday, Mar. 8 from 12:00 - 3:00 p.m. Where: Hart House Great Hall, 7 Hart House Circle Cost: Free
An open fair for students to come in and learn about fair trade companies and organizations in the Toronto area, as well as view and sample different products. Including:

  • Me 2 We Style
  • Ten Thousand Villages
  • Chocosol
  • Delight Chocolates
  • WUSC
  • Caffiends
  • The Underwear Club
  • Oxfam U of T
  • Free the Children U of T
  • Education and Equity Committee
  • Engineers without Borders
  • MSF U of T
  • Hot Yam

Make World Change | Hart House - University of Toronto March 2-April 13

Make World Change | Hart House
Discover How You Can Impact Global Challenges Through Mentorship, March 2 - April 13
Details: Make World Change is led by the Graduate Student Alliance for Global Health (GSAGH), a student initiative guided by the Centre for International Health. GSAGH provides opportunities for graduate students to advance in developing communication, presentation and coordination skills through our skill building workshops and mentoring opportunities especially with undergraduate students from across University of Toronto.
Make World Change sessions provide opportunity for undergraduate students to discuss and debate urgent global challenges: the environment, human rights, housing, health, peace and conflict. Students will be mentored on opportunities (via UofT student groups, community engagement) to determine how they each can contribute to making changes in the world.
Where: Hart House, 7 Hart House Circle
Session 1: Wednesday, March 2
Introduction to Make World Change
GSAGH session leads will give overview of themes to be discussed through March 2011