April 2020 Newsletter
Upcoming HAAM Events
Like so many other organizations, HAAM’s upcoming events have been dramatically impacted by COVID-19.
With the health and safety of our members in mind, and following the recommendations of public health authorities, we have decided to cancel both our regular meeting and our HAAM and Eggs brunch in April due to the public health risks associated with COVID-19.
Our March meeting, which was to have featured Dr Simon Potter discussing Identity Politics, had to be canceled at the last minute because it fell during the week in which COVID-19 reached Manitoba. We would like to publicly acknowledge Canad Inns Polo Park for not charging us when we called off the March meeting on short notice. We appreciate their support! We will attempt to reschedule that topic once our meetings resume – either in May or sometime next season.
HAAM will continue to rely on evidence-based information and follow the recommendations made by Shared Health Manitoba before deciding when to resume in-person meetings and events. We encourage you to visit our Home page (haam.ca), our Facebook page, or Meetup for information and updates.
After taking a couple of years off, HAAM is again planning to enter a walking group in the Winnipeg Pride Parade, on May 31st. We are looking forward to the celebration as we show our support for Winnipeg’s GSRD (Gender, Sexual, and Relationship Diverse) community. Everyone is welcome to join us.
Our Summer Solstice party was booked for the large picnic shelter at Kildonan Park; however, events are now being canceled by the city. But by mid-June, hopefully we will be on the downside of this health crisis, and it will be safe to go ahead with it. The picnic site is large and open, with plenty of space for us to spread out.
These are the dates to save
Monthly Meeting – Saturday, May 23rd (tentative)
HAAM and Eggs Brunch – TBA (when safe to resume)
Winnipeg Pride Parade – Sunday, May 31st (hopefully)
Summer Solstice Party – Sat, June 20th (fingers crossed)
Check our Events calendar for the latest information on all upcoming HAAM events.
Charity of the Month
Because our March meeting had to be canceled, we did not collect charity donations as expected. If anyone made an online donation intended for Sunshine House, our treasurer will hang on to it until we resume our monthly meetings. We will then add your online donations to what we collect at our next meeting – whenever that is.
In the meantime, look on our Charity page for a list of the charities we have supported over the past several years. There is a lot of need right now in the city due to job losses and business closures, so please consider helping any of these worthy organizations if you are able.
As of mid-March, our new HAAM librarians are David and Karen Donald, who have taken over from Laura Stephens and Adriana Sedlak. Thanks to Laura and Adriana for taking good care of our library over the last couple of years!
David and Karen attend most of our regular meetings, so they will be able to bring a few books to each meeting for members to peruse (once we resume meetings).
We have well over 200 books and a few DVD’s in the library, so it’s a good idea to search the catalog on our website and find something you’re interested in. On the Library page, you can search by Title (use the ‘Book Table’), Author, or Subject. Once you find something you’d like to borrow, click the ‘Borrow Book’ button (on the Book Table), or the ‘Click here’ button on the Library page, to request the item.
During this period of quarantine, the public libraries are all closed – but our HAAM Library is still OPEN! If you now have time to read (or watch a video), go ahead and send us your request. Pick-up or drop-off can be arranged within the Winnipeg area.
All our library books and DVD’s are free to borrow for paid HAAM members.
Call to Action
As Humanists, we need to support and speak up about what matters to us.
The Federal government recently introduced amendments to Canada’s law on medical assistance in dying (MAID). The proposed amendments include permitting assisted dying for those whose death is not reasonably foreseeable, and waiving the requirement for final consent for those already approved (Audrey’s Amendment). However, patients with irremediable mental illness will still be excluded, as will mature minors and those who wish to make advance requests.
Dying With Dignity Canada is committed to ensuring that Canadians have the right to make their own choices about how they end their lives.
Please tell your Member of Parliament (MP) and your provincial Senators that you support giving Canadians access to their constitutional right to make informed end-of-life choices.
To make your voice heard, visit DyingWithDignity.ca. On that page, you’ll find more information and a link to Take Action. Just open it, add your name and address, and click ‘send’.
Cooped up in quarantine? Stressed out? Laid off? Working from home? Bored already? There’s enough about coronavirus already in the news, and the facts change from day to day, so we won’t try to duplicate what you’ve already heard. But we have a few suggestions that might help you pass the time and get through the crisis.
We all know what won’t help – thoughts and prayers. So try some of these ideas instead.
1 Fight misinformation
If you’re on social media these days, there are probably times that you wish you weren’t. The posts and comments can make you feel that there is no hope for humanity. But if no one challenges ridiculous, hateful, and harmful ideas, just imagine how much worse things could become.
Report and/or refute insane ideas from the truly deluded
Here are just couple of examples of bizarre posts shared to social media in March. (Click images to enlarge)
Thanks to our own president Pat Morrow for taking on the ‘alternative therapy’ guy.
Fundamentalists are convinced that COVID-19 means the End Times and Rapture are near. Yes, they sincerely believe this.
There are lots more posts like this out there. The Guardian recently profiled the reaction of America’s “religious right” to the coronavirus – and it’s downright scary.
Hemant Mehta and his team at Friendly Atheist report all kinds of news of interest to non-believers. Some of the stories they have been covering lately regarding COVID-19 would give the old National Inquirer a run for its money. Think that touching the hand of an evangelist will cure coronavirus? Or that it can be caused by people eating Biblically unclean food? How about the pastor who invited infected people to his church to be healed through prayer? There are new stories like these every day. Check out the Friendly Atheist blog for the latest.
Get the facts – and share them
Besides the truly bizarre, there is a lot of well-intended and plausible but incorrect information and speculation out there. Is the virus killed or cured by heat or cold? What about teas or essential oils? 5G technology? If you have a runny nose, does that mean it’s only a common cold? All of these claims can be fact-checked – so do it. Respond with the correct information when you see someone sharing sketchy advice or memes with no source attached. Share information only from evidence-based sources.
In March, Buzz-Feed put together a pretty good list of common rumors and hoaxes. So did FactCheck.org and Snopes. CBC News summarized what will – and will not – protect you from the virus. The US Center for Inquiry now has a Coronavirus Resource page. And the World Health Organization is keeping their Advice for Public page up to date with a list of ‘myth busters’. Of course, there will always be new rumors, so check back to keep up as the situation evolves.
Watch out for your loved ones
It never fails that there are some people in this world who will take advantage in any situation. Scammers have already started to prey on the vulnerable during the pandemic. If you have anyone among your friends or family who is in the early stages of dementia, cognitively impaired in any way, elderly and not computer-savvy, is relatively new to Canada, or who has limited English, please keep an eye on them to ensure that they don’t become a victim.
2 Look after yourself and your family
If you’re stuck at home, either by yourself, or with family and/or kids, it’s important to keep busy. Take advantage of some of the special offers and free resources available during this pandemic. Here are a few:
- Use educational opportunities from Great Courses Plus (1-month free trial), Scholastic Canada (free 21-day ‘learn at home’ package for kids), Audible (free children’s audiobooks), and Curio.ca (teaching materials).
- Hold virtual visits with family and friends by using services like Face Time, WhatsApp, Skype, or Zoom.
- Try to have some fun, to ward off cabin fever. Get outside for a walk and some fresh air. Dig out a puzzle or some board games. If you’re looking for more ideas, USA Today has 100 suggestions.
Talk to your kids
Our children certainly are hearing about coronavirus, either from us or somewhere else. Sometimes it’s difficult to know what to tell them about it. There’s certainly no shortage of free advice out there – some of it better than others. Here are some of the more reliable sources:
Take “Humanism 101”
Catch some of the great articles, blogs, debates, and videos produced by atheists and Humanists that you’ve never had time for. We had some great speakers at our Reasonfest conference in 2015, and they’re still up on our YouTube channel, along with a few videos of other meetings and events.
We also have compiled a list of great videos and reads on our Exploring Nonbelief page – Opinions and blogs; Information on specific topics like the Bible, apologetics, evolution, and morality; Perspectives from people who have left religion; Classic debates; and Inspirational videos. Check it out! You’ll find it educational and stimulating, it will help you to feel less alone, and it should keep you busy for a good while.
Keep in touch with your HAAMster friends
You are not alone! We’re still all here – online! Follow us on Facebook and Twitter, check our website for news and updates, and follow us on Meetup so you’ll be notified when events resume. We also have a private Facebook group that is not generally advertised publicly. It’s a place for Humanists in Manitoba to exchange ideas, discuss issues, explore challenges, make friends, and have some laughs. It’s a proselytizing, preaching, and troll-free zone. If you are interested in joining it, please contact us for the information.
3 Help others in your community
Even though many businesses are closed, it’s business as usual at Canadian Blood Services. Sick or injured people still need blood, and shortages loom as more people cancel donation appointments and stay home. The CBS website has updates and answers if you have questions or concerns about donating blood during this crisis. In general, it IS safe to donate, and your blood is needed. So if you have a bit of extra time on your hands, and you’re healthy, please make an appointment to donate.
HAAM is part of the Partners for Life program, so if you do donate blood, make sure to become part of that. Our goal is for our members to donate at least 25 units of blood this year, and so far we have 7. Everything you need to know about joining our Partners for Life group is on our website.
Support local charities that are feeling the pinch
Food banks, resource centers, and other organizations that serve the needs of disadvantaged people in our communities are seeing donations drop even as people are panic-buying and stocking up necessities for themselves.
Donations at Winnipeg Harvest are down, which has never happened before. While most of us are stockpiling toilet paper and canned goods, these charities serve vulnerable people who do not have enough resources to meet their own needs on a regular basis, let alone to purchase extra for a crisis.
HAAM has featured a number of very worthwhile organizations as our Charity of the Month over the past several years. Any or all of these could use your help now. Check the list on our Charities page and please contribute if you are able.
Assist your neighbors
Do you have everything you need? Do your neighbors? Some of them may be quarantined, or afraid to go out because of pre-existing health issues. Give them a call and see if they need anything. If you’re on social media, ask in your local community group to see if anyone needs someone to run an errand. Or join Help Next Door Manitoba.
Support local businesses and community groups
Small businesses and local arts/music groups are really hurting right now, both financially and emotionally. Many are closing, cutting hours, canceling shows, and laying off staff. As much as possible (especially considering your own circumstances), try to help them. Patronize shops in your area if you can, while maintaining social distance. And if you have purchased tickets to an event that has been canceled, donate the cost of the tickets back to the group for a tax receipt, rather than requesting a refund. Small efforts and gestures like this just might enable some of them to survive.
Update on Manitoba MP’s religious privilege
In our March newsletter, we reported that Provencher MP Ted Falk sent a religious card of condolence to a family in his constituency. HAAM exec member Arthur Prystenski wrote to Mr Falk, using HAAM letterhead, on behalf of the recipient, who feared personal reprisals for sending a personal complaint. Arthur included his own Winnipeg address on the letter, since HAAM does not have a physical mailing address.
Update – Mr Falk (or someone in his office) used the lack of a mailing address within Provencher as an excuse to ignore the point made by the letter. Their response included the following: “Mr. Falk’s constituents are his first priority. While he receives thousands of emails from people across Canada each year, he is focused on serving residents of Provencher. If Mr. Falk is your Member of Parliament, please ensure you provide your full name and home address in your message. Emails without this information, or emails which Mr. Falk is copied on, will be treated as an FYI unless otherwise specified.”
Of course, this completely misses the point, which was that people living within the constituency of Provencher are so surrounded by Christian privilege that they are afraid to speak up for themselves. And so it continues…
If there is any further response, we will continue to provide updates.