May 2020 Newsletter
Like so many other organizations, HAAM’s activities have been dramatically disrupted by COVID-19. We 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 check this website (haam.ca), our Facebook page, or Meetup for information and updates.
There will be no in-person meeting in May. However, we can continue to interact, support each other, and maintain friendships online. If you are not a member of our private Facebook group, and would like to join it, contact us. It is open to anyone in Manitoba who identifies as a Humanist/atheist (i.e. you do not need to be a paid member of HAAM).
Summer Solstice party
This is/was scheduled for Saturday, June 20th. The City of Winnipeg has notified us that all group bookings at city parks are canceled up til the end of June, so we do not expect to go ahead with the picnic unless the health situation improves significantly between now and then. If distancing recommendations are relaxed, it may still be possible to have our party, or it may be rescheduled for later in the summer. Watch for further updates.
Morden Corn and Apple Festival
HAAM has held an Outreach booth at the Morden Corn and Apple Festival every summer since 2013. But sadly, this year’s festival has been canceled. We will miss it; both the fair and the Outreach booth are a lot of fun! … and it looks like there will be no Outreach events this year.
Winnipeg Pride Parade
This has been rescheduled for September 13th. We are looking forward to the celebration and showing our support for Winnipeg’s GSRD (Gender, Sexual, and Relationship Diverse) community. HAAM is entered as a walking group, and everyone is welcome to join us – so cross your fingers that by September things will be better.
HAAM and Eggs Brunches
We will resume our regularly monthly brunches only when it is safe to do so.
Check our Events calendar for the latest information on all upcoming HAAM events.
Check out these online events from CFI Canada’s ‘virtual chapter’.
The Centre for Inquiry (Canada) is holding several online presentations in May. These are free but registration is required to participate (via Zoom).
Thursday, May 7th – Discussion: Living without religion (social support)
Saturday, May 9th – Presentation: Conscientious objection in health professionals (i.e. refusing to do one’s job for religious reasons)
Sunday, May 17th – Presentation: Critical thinking about COVID-19
For more information about all these online events, and links to register, visit CFI’s MeetUp page.
Charity of the Month
Our Charity of the Month program will not resume until we are able to hold physical meetings again.
In the meantime, however, if you are able, consider supporting any of the many worthwhile local charities and community organizations that are struggling due to the pandemic. Many of them are being caught short because fundraising events have had to be canceled.
On our Charities page there is a list of charities that HAAM has supported over the past several years. Almost all of them desperately need assistance right now.
Words of encouragement from members of our executive
We are all enduring difficult times. COVID-19 has changed our lives, our jobs, our financial stability, our health, our social activities, our relationships, and many other things. We are struggling. As an atheist, I am extremely thankful to my religious/non-religious friends and family members who have reached out to me to support me in these difficult times. I have tried to reciprocate as best that I can.
I believe that we as atheists and Humanists must step up and extend a hand of friendship to people who are different from us. When we are faced with a common enemy, we should set aside out differences. Religion, politics, and other things that separate us must be put aside. As atheists, let us promote the oneness of humanity and our interdependency.
– Arthur Prystenski
Most of us have been fortunate to have lived in this stable, peaceful country our entire lives. So our current circumstances are essentially uncharted territory. I’ve noticed that this pandemic is bringing out both the worst in people, and the best. With that in mind, these times are showing us peoples’ true colors.
We’ve heard a lot about the worst. Stories about fundamentalist preachers who claimed that their god would protect them, but they still died from the virus. Protestors who wanted to end their state lockdowns because their “freedoms” were being attacked. People who hoarded toilet paper and hand sanitizer specifically to sell at a profit. Even people who don’t believe that COVID-19 is a real virus, but some Chinese conspiracy transmitted by 5G towers (!)
While these attitudes are indeed appalling, I’m happy to say that they don’t appear to represent the majority of people. Many more people are thinking about the impact of their actions on others. For example, the superintendent of the Dallas Independent School District stated emphatically that they won’t re-open schools just because of a government order; their first concern is the welfare of the children in their district.
Closer to home, the Canadian Mint is now making hand sanitizer, which is being distributed to the health care system. Other businesses have answered the call to make PPE such as gowns and masks. Our federal government has made it fairly easy for those who have been laid off to access emergency funding. (And our Prime Minister even took the time to reassure us that the Easter Bunny was still going to visit.) Locally, there are many stories about neighbours helping neighbours. Volunteer groups are forming to lend a hand wherever they’re needed. More people in my neighbourhood smile and say Hello during our regular walks. In our local Safeway, we’re beginning to laugh and joke at missing the one-way floor arrows, rather than frowning glumly and giving the other person the stink eye.
In the end, there is much to be thankful for, even now. The technology that lets us communicate instantly (internet, phones, etc.) has really been a lifesaver (with no divine intervention required, may I add). The advanced medical care that is available for those who need it. The scientists who are now working non-stop to develop a vaccine. And no matter what their original intent, most of these actions are pure Humanist. People are caring about the other people around them. Doing their part – their best – to help in any way that they can. Emphatically declaring that money is not their main concern (as opposed to certain politicians). Economy be damned – we’re going to look after everyone around us – especially the poorest and most vulnerable.
We don’t know what the future will be like, post-COVID 19, but it will hopefully result in our society being just a bit better. More people will realize the importance of science in our lives, and that the advice of experts is worth listening to. Perhaps some religious believers will wonder – just a little – why their god let so many good people die, and start to question their beliefs. Some anti-vaxxers may finally recognize the importance of a vaccine against our most deadly diseases. Our governments will give more importance to improving health care funding – in all areas.
I’m very happy to see the outpouring of appreciation for our unsung heroes of all stripes and industries, because we need each other to get by, and everybody’s contribution matters. And really, the only way we’re going to get through this is by helping each other.
– Donna Harris
Interested in being part of reconciliation?
Circles For Reconciliation is a local, grass-roots initiative started by U of M Dean Emeritus, Dr. Raymond Currie. Its aim is to establish trusting, meaningful relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples as part of the 94 Calls to Action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
Dr. Currie worked with local Indigenous contributors to develop a 10-week sharing circle. Each Circle is made up of 10 (or so) participants, half Indigenous, half non-Indigenous. Each session consists of an opening, the reading of a different theme each week, then a discussion of the topic, followed by a closing protocol. You can read more about the structure of the circles at www.circlesforreconcilation.ca.
Usually, these circles happen face to face – all participants sitting in a group (a circle). However, with the current situation, Circles has gone high-tech! They are now offering several Circles using Zoom meetings. They are particularly looking for Indigenous participants, in part because the Indigenous community only makes up 5% of the Canadian population. If you’re interested at all, just check out their web page for more information.
Anxious about the pandemic?
If the constant news about COVID-19 has you worried, or if being quarantined is causing you stress, and you’re looking for ways to cope that don’t involve talking to an invisible friend in the sky, then psychologist Dr. Darrel Ray, president of Recovering from Religion, may be able help. Dr. Ray recently recorded a 40-minute video with some ‘words of wisdom’. These include advice about constructive ways to deal with the stress, reassurance that you’re not alone, and pointers about future issues to watch for. The video, called Corona Virus Pub, is on YouTube.
Do you have a plan in case of serious illness?
If you’ve never thought too much about preparing an Health Care Directive (HCD), or if you’ve thought about it but procrastinated, the current COVID-19 pandemic may have spurred you to think again and wish you had done it. One feature of this disease is that people can become very ill, very quickly – too quickly to allow time for discussion before a sedative is given and a tube is stuck down their throat. So right now, everyone should have a HCD – or at the very least, have thought about it and discussed their wishes with those close to them. Don’t leave your fate to chance!
The Winnipeg chapter of Dying With Dignity holds workshops to help people learn what they need to know in order to prepare an effective HCD – but of course, those workshops are all on hold due to the pandemic. Fortunately, there are online resources that can help. So now, while a lot of other events are canceled, is a good time to consider your wishes and let your family know what you would want, so they can make decisions for you if you become seriously ill.
Dying With Dignity Canada has a COVID-19 Updates web page. It contains links to important information about the disease itself, how this pandemic is impacting health care decision-making and end-of-life choices, and suggestions for conversations to have about these decisions. DWD also has all their Advance Care Planning (ACP) information available to read and download (free). In addition to the regular ACP booklet for Manitoba, there is a special COVID-19 edition. The special edition is an abbreviated version that allows people to create a simple HCD that can be used in all provinces. It covers the most important issues relevant to the coronavirus (breathing difficulties and ventilators), and covers the basic requirements of a Health Care Directive. If you use the COVID-19 edition to prepare your HCD, it is recommended that you update that later with the full version.
You may also want to check out a new advance care planning guide called Plan Well, created by a physician in Ontario. It has loads of information that can help you to decide what type and level of care is appropriate to your medical condition and personal values – like explanations of what goes on in an ICU, the survival rates of CPR in various circumstances, etc. It’s a great resource, so check it out! Keep in mind, though, that it is not specific to Manitoba.
If you have concerns about what care decisions or requests are appropriate for your circumstances, call your physician’s office to discuss them. Most clinics are doing telephone or virtual appointments. If you have questions about Health Care Directives, contact the Winnipeg chapter of Dying With Dignity.
Abortion Caravan anniversary celebrations
Like just about everything else this spring, the festivities that were being planned to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the abortion caravan to Parliament Hill have been disrupted due to the pandemic. Most of the physical events that were scheduled in cities across Canada have been canceled. However, you can still expect to see and hear news about this game-changing event in Canadian history, when a group of young women from Vancouver drove to Ottawa, gathering support along the way to protest the restrictive law.
Any time is a good time to stand up and voice your support for the right of a woman to control her own body, but this year, in the first two weeks of May, expect to see it in the news and on social media. Here is the Facebook event page.
Don’t forget about our library
HAAM’s 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 in the Winnipeg area.
On our 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.
All our library books and DVD’s are free to borrow for paid HAAM members.
Seen around town
Donna Harris took this photo of the window at her local Safeway store because she appreciated the happy sentiment.
We’re all in this mess together, so it’s nice to see our neighbors sharing messages of hope and support. In the words of Dr. Bonnie Henry, BC’s provincial health officer: “This is our time to be kind, to be calm, and to be safe.”