Remembrance Day Event: Matthew Bin on Canadian Peacekeeping

OHS Member Event: Matthew Bin on Canadian Peacekeeping
On Saturday, November 12, author Matthew Bin will be presenting a talk on “Peace and Canadian Peacekeeping from a Humanist Perspective”. The talk is hosted by the Humanist Association of Toronto at OISE, 252 Bloor St. West, Toronto.

Matthew Bin is President of the Canadian Authors Association, also a writer, a Humanist Officiant, and author of a number of books, including On Guard for Thee: Canada Peacekeeping Missions, an oral history of modern Canadian peacekeeping.

He will talk to HAT about the humanist aspects of the international work that Canada is, could, and should be doing, as well as the very human cost that we bear as a society when we undertake these missions. He will select excerpts from his book to support these ideas, as well as discuss them.

Iran called to account on LGBT repression at UN

Iran called to account on LGBT repression at UN
I would like to offer the government of Iran to give account and explanation for violations of LGBT human rights. Or, to replace the primitive penal code of Shari’a law with constitutions based on 21st century human rights. Or if either is not doable, I would like to suggest that Mr. Ahmadinejad, the head of state of Iran, in his trips to the UN, travel to the USA on the back of a camel. After all, we, the LGBT of Iran shouldn’t be only ones treated with the mind-set of the dark-ages of 1400 years back in history.

Iran called to account on LGBT repression at UN
For the first time, Iran has been called to account for its repression of LGBT people at the United Nations.

In the Concluding Observations [PDF] on November 3 from its 3rd periodic review of the Islamic Republic of Iran, the United Nations Human Rights Committee (UNHRC) has made clear that the government’s conduct amounts to a violation of the international laws that it has agreed to uphold.

“As a state that prides itself in tradition and morality, Iran must now take immediate action to ensure its definitions of tradition and morality are in accordance with the fundamental principles of international human rights law,” UNHRC said.

“For years, Iranian authorities have committed atrocities against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, incited violence by others, and refused to admit that LGBT Iranians exist,” said Hossein Alizadeh, Regional Coordinator for the Middle East and North Africa at the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC).

The UNHRC meets three times a year for four week sessions to consider the five-yearly reports submitted by 162 UN member states on their compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, (ICCPR).

The Committee has asked the Iranian government to widely circulate their Concluding Observations to the Iranian judiciary, government and civil society. After consulting with civil society, the government must submit a progress report about the implementation of the recommendations included in the Committee’s Concluding Observations. The Committee has specifically asked the Iranian government to include detailed information on the enjoyment of Covenant rights by members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community in its next periodic review.

The Committee urged the government of Iran to repeal or amend legislation that “could result in the discrimination, prosecution and punishment of people because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.” There is a range of discriminatory laws in Iran, among them laws criminalizing homosexual sex and punishing it with death.

The number of executions of gay people in Iran is opaque because trials on moral charges are usually held on camera, so it is difficult to determine, Human Rights Watch said in a report last December, what proportion of those charged and executed for same-sex conduct are LGBT and in what proportion the alleged offense was consensual. The Iranian government maintains that “most of these individuals have been charged for forcible sodomy or rape.” However, in just one report, by Doug Ireland in December 2009, twelve men were facing execution for sodomy and a joint appeal had been made for them by the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC), the Iranian Queer Organization (IRQO), and COC of the Netherlands. Iranian media reported the execution of three men for sodomy in September.

The Human Rights Committee said, however, that:

“Even one person incarcerated [on account of freely and mutually agreed sexual activities or sexual orientation] constitutes a violation of fundamental rights to privacy and non-discrimination.”

The questioning of whether LGBT people actually are executed — or even persecuted at all — has led those judging Iranian LGBTs seeking refuge in Western countries to argue that it is possible to ‘live discreetly’ there without suffering consequences. IGLHRC and the Iranian Queer Organization (IRQO) submitted a joint Shadow Report to the UNHRC entitled Human Rights Violations on the Basis of Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity, and Homosexuality in the Islamic Republic of Iran and testified before the Committee.

In September, Saghi Ghahraman of IRQO wrote:

Right after the revolution, execution of Gay and Transsexuals began, by the ruling clergies, illegally; it was legalized in 1995 – two decades after the revolution – when Shari’a law, Islam’s Code of Conduct, legally replaced Iran’s penal code.

Article 110 – executions based on sodomy; Article 130 – executions based on lesbianism; Article 220 – granting fathers the right to kill their children, recognizing fathers as blood-owners of their own children, turned State and Society, equally, into executioners of gays, lesbians, bi, and transsexual population, and also the heterosexuals; clergies have used sodomy laws against those prisoners who couldn’t be executed or persecuted otherwise.

Shari’a law is not only responsible for killing of LGBT members of society in Iran, it is also the basis of generations of LGBT’s lack of parenting, education, carrier, housing, and overall security and safety. The fact that no LGBT Iranian dares to introduce themselves as L, G, B or T by their own voice, face, name is because of the fear-mongering articles of Shari’s sodomy law.

Living as a Queer woman over 50 years, a Queer poet over 20 years, directing a LGBT advocacy organization over five years, I have been witness to the horror the community in Iran goes through, everyday, not only by way of murders and executions but in everyday life of Not Living a simple, decent, dignified life human beings deserve in the realm in the Age of Democracy and Human Rights. And I am not talking only about those of our children who are disadvantaged and deprived, but also about gay professors, TS engineers, lesbian and gay specialist medical doctors, gay and lesbian poets, writers, artists, journalists and more, of highly accomplished status, all working inside Iran, who are victims in the hand of a hostile set of laws, and are most vulnerable.


ROM EVENT: Stephen Lewis and Romeo Dallaire on Child Soldiers

They Fight Like Soldiers, They Die Like Children with Romeo Dallaire and Stephen Lewis
Friday, November 25, 7:00 - 9:00 pm ,

Romeo Dallaire and Stephen Lewis discuss the eradication of the use of children as weapons of war.
Moderator: Anna Maria Tremonti

Speaker: Senator Romeo Dallaire is the winner of the Pearson Peace Medal, author of the award-winning book Shake Hands with the Devil: The Failure of Humanity in Rwanda and recently They Fight Like Soldiers, They Die Like Children and an Officer of the Order of Canada.

Speaker: Stephen Lewis is a Distinguished Visiting Professor at Ryerson University in Toronto, board chair of the Stephen Lewis Foundation, and co-director of AIDS-Free World. Mr. Lewis was the UN Secretary-General's Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa from June 2001 until the end of 2006. He is author of the best-selling Race Against Time and a Companion of the Order of Canada.
Cost: YPC Members $40.00, Public $40.00, Member $40.00, RPC Members $40.00


IHEU eulogy for Rob Buckman

When Rob BuckmanHumanist, oncologist, and TV personality – realized he was dying from an autoimmune disease, he thought it would be useful to make a film to help others learn from his death. He was right about the value of the film: Your Own Worst Enemy was a great critical success and helped countless people address a topic that is taboo and yet unavoidable. But Rob was wrong about the subject of the film: thanks to a new treatment he survived another three decades after the 1981 movie. And those three decades were filled with the love, learning and laughter that made him a hugely popular figure on both sides of the Atlantic. Rob BuckmanIt was somewhere over the Atlantic that death finally caught up with Rob Buckman on October 9, 2011. He died in his sleep while flying back to Toronto after filming some health shows in London. He was 63. He is survived by his first wife, Joan van den Ende, and their two daughters, Joanna and Susie, and by his second wife, Pat Shaw, and their two sons, James and Matthew.
The attitude that led Rob to make Your Own Worst Enemy was typical of his life. He used his remarkable communication skills to share his medical expertise with the widest possible audience. But he was so much more than just an expert communicator: he laid bare his essential humanity, right down to the details of his own mortality, in order to help others find understanding and comfort. And these rare talents can be found throughout his life, intertwined in his vocations as physician, communicator and Humanist.
The 1994 Canadian Humanist of the Year, Rob was always eager to help the Humanist movement. For more than a decade, starting in 1999, he was a hands-on president of the Humanist Association of Canada. He also worked with the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU) serving as Chairman of the Advisory Board for IHEU’s bio-ethics center at the United Nations. He made frequent trips from Toronto to New York City to help the bio-ethics center, speaking at the center's conferences and contributing to UN briefings. Rob grew up in London, and then went to St John's College, Cambridge, where he graduated in medicine in 1972. At Cambridge he was a star in the famous Footlights troupe, which has featured so many of Britain's leading comedians. As a junior doctor at University College Hospital, London, he met Chris Beetles, and they teamed up as "Beetles and Buckman" to perform live comedy and revue. Rob wrote for the long-running satirical BBC Radio 4 show Week Ending, and for a TV sitcom, Doctor On the Go, based on Richard Gordon's Doctor in the House books. In the 1980s, Rob went on to front a long-running TV medical series with Miriam Stoppard, Where There's Life. In 1985 Rob emigrated to Canada, working as an oncologist at Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto, before moving to Toronto’s Princess Margaret Hospital. He also became a full professor in the Department of Medicine at the University of Toronto and adjunct professor at the M. D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas. He specialized in breast cancer and also in teaching communication skills in oncology to physicians and nurses. In Canada, Rob continue his career presenting television science-and-medicine programmes. Magic or Medicine? his series on ‘alternative medicine’, won him a Gemini award (the Canadian TV Industry equivalent of an Emmy). As well as writing a weekly column for the Toronto Globe and Mail, Rob wrote 15 books. Many of these aimed to help people deal with death and dying, including: How To Break Bad News: A Guide for Healthcare Professionals; What You Really Need To Know About Cancer: A Comprehensive Guide for Patients and their Families; Cancer is a Word, Not a Sentence: A Practical Guide to Help You Through the First Few Weeks; and I Don't Know What To Say - How To Help And Support Someone Who Is Dying. His autobiography was titled Not Dead Yet. He also wrote a national best-seller exploring his Humanist philosophy: Can We Be Good Without God? Biology, Behavior and the Need to Believe. In Twice Around the World and Still Stupid, Rob Buckman wrote, "To me, Humanism is what you are left with if you strip away what doesn’t make sense. I was always attracted by science, and the more I learned, the more I found that many established world-philosophies (particularly among some of the organized religions) didn’t make any form of intuitive sense. Undoubtedly they bring great comfort to their believers, but I found that I was unable to sincerely believe in any divine architecture to the cosmos, or in any predetermined destiny for any race or creed or even for any individual. From my teenage years onwards, I basically came to think that we humans are a most peculiar species huddled together in a rather uneven and random way on a rather pleasant planet, and it’s up to us to do our best. I have never felt that we can look for assistance elsewhere. What we see around us is what we’ve got. Now that might sound as if I am some sort of unemotional reductionist - a B. F. Skinner playing the role of doctor – but I know that I am not. Accepting a Humanist view of our world does not mean that you don’t feel love, anger, fright, tenderness – or even humour. A Humanist basis simply allows you to spend less of your time twisting what you see and contorting it to fit somebody else’s idea of what ought to be. Of course I could be wrong: but if I am I don’t think I shall have done all that much damage on the way – on average, Humanists don’t." --Matt Cherry