dying with dignity
Upcoming HAAM Events
Sunday, April 8th, King’s Head Pub, 120 King Street, 6 PM
Will you be attending Matt Dillahunty’s Magic and Skepticism show that evening? (details for that are on our ‘Community Events’ page).
If so, meet us for drinks first! Details here.
Monthly Meeting – What’s Wrong with Private Schools?
Saturday, April 14th, Canad Inns Polo Park, 5:30 – 8:30 PM
Guest speaker Steve Lecce, from the Centre for Professional and Applied Ethics at the U of M, will address the issue of public funding for private schools in Manitoba.
HAAM and Eggs Brunch
Sunday, April 29th, Original Pancake House at the Forks, 1 Forks Market Road, 9:30 AM
Our monthly casual get-together. Details here.
Save the Dates
May 12th (Monthly Meeting) – Stealing Reason: Christianity’s Theft of Human Values
June 23rd – Summer Solstice Party
Mark your calendars now so you won’t miss anything!
Details for all upcoming HAAM events are on our Events page.
Upcoming Community (Non-HAAM) Events
Matt Dillahunty’s Magic and Skepticism World Tour 2018
Sunday, 8 April 2018, Burton Cummings Theatre, 364 Smith St
Event information and link to get tickets is here.
Debate: Morality – How Should We Live Our Lives?
Saturday, 21 April 2018, New Life Sanctuary Church, 618 Muriel Street
Dig Deep Fundraiser Gala for the Canadian Fossil Discovery Centre
Saturday, 28 April 2018, Morden Manitoba
More information on these and more upcoming non-HAAM events is on our Community Events page.
Charity of the Month – Pathways to Education
Pathways to Education is an innovative program that partners with governments, communities, schools, and volunteers to help youth from low-income communities stay in school, graduate, and achieve their full potential.
In Winnipeg, Pathways to Education operates in the North Point Douglas, Lord Selkirk Park, and William Whyte neighbourhoods (see map), where people of Aboriginal descent make up over 70 per cent of high school families. All students in this catchment area are eligible to participate in the program from grades 9 through 12, regardless of their academic performance or economic circumstance. There is no cost to participants.
Many kids in this area have the potential to succeed but face barriers to education created by poverty. These include insufficient financial means, lack of positive role models in the community, absence of parental support, or integration into a new country and culture.
The Pathways program includes financial support (transit and meal vouchers, scholarships and internships); academic support (tutoring and assistance transitioning to post-secondary education); social support (group mentoring and career exploration); and personal support and advocacy.
An evaluation of the program by an independent consulting firm estimated that society’s return on Pathways is about $24 for every $1 invested, and a total benefit of about $600,000 for every graduate – in addition to the obvious personal and social benefits of breaking the cycle of poverty. So let’s help make this happen!
Donations for the Charity of the Month will be collected at the meeting. Tax receipts are available for donations over $10. If you would like to donate but cannot attend the meeting, you can do so via the ‘Donate’ button. Just include a note letting us know that the money is for the charity.
Understanding Evolution from Animal Limbs
On our recent visit to Grunthal to address students at Green Valley High, one of the young men stated (paraphrasing slightly) “you say we share like 99.8% of our DNA with monkeys. Well, I’m not a banana. We share 50% of our DNA with bananas. I’m not a banana”.
I’m glad to report that most of the other students found his statement thoroughly amusing. But really, I don’t truly know how much science these young people are learning in school. I don’t think I learned very much science from school. I know I did learn some from pop culture, because I really liked animals. I always watched Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom, and I never missed Joan Embery from the San Diego Zoo when she appeared on The Tonight Show.
I distinctly remember a diagram of the history of equine evolution, right from Eohippus (shown) to modern horses. I remember the toe patterns. It always made sense to me. I never questioned that life develops over time; it seemed so… obvious. And I’ve always appreciated the diagrams of arm/limb structure. The number and arrangement of bones is a pattern that runs through all tetrapods – animals with four limbs.
There are obviously variations, but the same pattern is visible in diverse animal species, including humans (top left), whales (top right), lizards (bottom left), and birds (bottom right). Learn more about these limbs here.
But nowhere did I see that demonstrated more clearly to me than a recent Facebook post with a simple image of a cross-section of an elephant’s foot. I was shocked at how that looked exactly like a human foot, on tiptoe, encased in a “boot” of flesh. To me, the links between living things are patently obvious. I don’t know about you, but I’m quite happy knowing that I share 50% of my DNA with a banana. – Donna Harris
Sending Our Get Well Wishes
One of our founding members has been in hospital recently. Olga Nahirniak has been a HAAM member ‘from the beginning’ (in the mid-1990’s). At that time, the group was named just HAM (Humanist Association of Manitoba).
Now in her 90’s, Olga continues to receive and read our newsletter every month, although she has not been able to make it out to an event for the last couple of years.
Helen and John Friesen went to visit her in hospital in early March. Olga was very appreciative of their visit and thanked them several times for coming. They passed on greetings from all our members, and Olga asked them to return the greetings saying she thought about all of us often. She’s such a sweet lady and a remarkable person!
Olga is back home now. Members who attended the March meeting signed a get-well card to let her know we’re thinking about her.
Olga is in this photo, taken at the 2013 Summer Solstice party (it’s also in the slide show on the home page with the caption ‘Humanism is Inclusive’). She’s in the front row, at right, seated on her walker, wearing dark pants and a red jacket. We miss you Olga!
Understanding and Completing an Advance Care Plan
The Winnipeg chapter of Dying with Dignity has a 2-hour workshop on how to fill out your ACP (aka a health care directive or living will). An effective ACP indicates your wishes about your care should something bad happen and you can’t speak for yourself. Many people arrive at hospitals with either no instructions in writing, or with a paragraph written in language too vague for doctors to act upon. Don’t assume that just because your spouse knows your wishes that that’s what will happen in an emergency. Dying With Dignity Canada has many years of experience in helping people express their wishes clearly in an Advance Care Plan.
The complete DWD Advance Care Plan kit and information booklet is available to anyone to download free. However, based on past presentations and reports from patients, families, and health care professionals, there are lots of questions and many issues that need further elaboration and interpretation – hence the need for this workshop. Topics addressed in the presentation include:
- Legal issues around ACP’s, including the difference between an ACP and a Power of Attorney
- Patient rights including right to refuse treatment
- How to choose a proxy decision maker
- How to ensure that your wishes are carried out
- Comparing a Living Will prepared by a lawyer to a standard hospital form, and the Manitoba government form
- Discussing common but imprecise phrases such as “heroic measures” and “artificial means”
- Walking through the ACP kit and the Health Care Directive form in detail
- How to complete the form / how to make copies
- What to do (and what NOT to do) with your HCD after it’s completed
- Resources for those who want further information or guidance
The next class will be offered once there is sufficient interest expressed. Please RSVP to the Winnipeg Chapter of Dying With Dignity to indicate your interest. You will be contacted later to arrange a suitable date and time.
Book of the Month – Not the Impossible Faith
Historian Richard Carrier offers a point-by-point rebuttal of the frequent assertions by apologists that Christianity could not have taken hold in the ancient world unless its claims were true, and that theirs is not just another man-made religion.
Carrier examines the sociology of the ancient world and demonstrates that Christianity did not require miracles to succeed. The book explains that Christianity’s early converts were the poor and outcast, but that its adaptability allowed it to grow and eventually reach the upper classes.
Each chapter addresses a different question, such as: who would believe in a crucified god, who would join an intolerant cult, and who would follow an executed criminal?
This is a fascinating book for those interested in the origins of Christianity.
All our library books and DVD’s are free to borrow for paid HAAM members.
Visit our library page if you would like to borrow this book.
Stephen Hawking 1942-2018
Farewell to a “brilliant and extraordinary mind”. (Theresa May)
“Have fun out there among the stars.” (Barack Obama)
Upcoming HAAM Events
Monthly Meeting – Animal Attraction
Saturday, February 10th, Canad Inns Polo Park, 5:30 – 8:30 PM
February 12th is International Darwin Day, so we focus on science and nature at our February meetings.
This year’s meeting will be about sex. Click here for details and more information.
HAAM and Eggs Brunch
Sunday, February 25th, Original Pancake House (Polo Park), 1445 Portage Avenue, 9:30 AM
Join us for our regular Sunday morning brunch. Details here.
See complete event listings and details for all upcoming HAAM events on our Events page.
Upcoming Community (Non-HAAM) Events
Matt Dillahunty’s Magic and Skepticism World Tour 2018
Sunday, 8 April 2018, Burton Cummings Theatre, 364 Smith St
For details on this and all upcoming non-HAAM events, visit our Community Events page.
Charity of the Month – CARE Cat Community Outreach Program
C.A.R.E. (Cat Advocacy Rescue & Education) is a non-profit organization made up of concerned animal lovers and veterinary professionals who work to alleviate the serious cat overpopulation by spaying and neutering cats. The program was founded in 2011 in response to the overwhelming number of stray and feral cats in the North End of Winnipeg. Since then, CARE has spayed/neutered more than 900 feral, stray, and low-income owned cats; over 700 at Machray Animal Hospital and the rest through the Winnipeg Humane Society’s SNAP (Subsidized Spay and Neuter Program).
In partnership with The Winnipeg Humane Society and Winnipeg Animal Services, CARE helps people get their cats fixed year-round. The funding for these surgeries comes from the FixIt Grant; money raised directly from cat licensing.
Winnipeg residents are essentially paying for these cats’ surgeries, so only cats within city limits qualify for the program. Through CARE, low-income families can get their kitty spayed or neutered, tattooed, licensed and vaccinated for only $5!!!!
HAAM member Heather McDonell is one of the veterinarians who works with CARE, and it was our Charity of the Month once before, way back in Sept 2013, so we’re happy to help them again. The group is always looking for additional donations, as well as volunteers to transport cats to and from the clinics, since most of the people the program serves can’t afford vehicles or taxis. CARE has no website, just social media, as this is a grassroots effort. Visit their Facebook page or call the office at 204-421-7297 to make an appointment or obtain more information.
Donations for the Charity of the Month will be collected at the meeting. Tax receipts are available for donations over $10. If you would like to donate but cannot attend the meeting, you can do so via the PayPal button. Just include a note letting us know that the money is for the charity.
Film Fest Ideas Wanted
Our annual Film Fest will take place at the March 10th meeting, and we’re currently looking for films. Suggestions are welcome.
If you know of a film that your fellow Humanists might like (something funny, provocative, inspirational, or educational), let us know. Length can be anything from a couple of minutes to a full movie (but not a really long movie).
More details to follow in the March newsletter.
Seeking Secular Therapists
We have again had a request from someone seeking a counsellor or psychologist who does not invoke religion or suggest prayer during treatment. A while back, we started a list with the names of a few such professionals for future referrals – but we currently only have 3 names on it. There must be way more than 3 mental health professionals in Manitoba who don’t include religion as part of their practice.
There is no requirement that therapists be non-believers; only that they use evidence-based, secular treatment methods in their professional practice. We do not post their names publicly due to professional regulations and ethics.
If you are aware of a secular therapist whose name we can add to our list, please Contact Us. All correspondence will be kept strictly confidential. Note that providing a referral cannot be construed as an endorsement by HAAM.
Our past-president Jeff Olsson has again been busy cleaning off shelves, and he’s made another large donation to the HAAM library – books, this time. Jeff is well-read and has eclectic taste in subject matter. There’s something here for everyone – ethics and philosophy, astronomy and climate science, atheist humor, psychology and psychoanalysis, skepticism and counter-apologetics (defending non-belief), history and archaeology. Here are just a few of the books he donated:
-The Caged Virgin: An Emancipation Proclamation for Women and Islam (Ayaan Hirsi Ali)
-Cool It: The Skeptical Environmentalist’s Guide to Global Warming
-Everything You Know About God Is Wrong: The Disinformation Guide to Religion
-God, No!: Signs You May Already Be an Atheist and Other Magical Tales (Penn Jillette)
-God’s Problem: How the Bible Fails to Answer Our Most Important Question–Why We Suffer (Bart Ehrman)
-In Search of Time: Journeys Along a Curious Dimension
-Lucifer Principle: A Scientific Expedition into the Forces of History
-The Psychopathology of Everyday Life (Freud)
-Right to Die: A Neurosurgeon Speaks of Death with Candor
-Universe: A Journey from Earth to the Edge of the Cosmos
-Why I Am Not a Christian: Four Conclusive Reasons to Reject the Faith (Richard Carrier)
-Why People Believe Weird Things: Pseudoscience, Superstition, and Other Confusions of Our Time
Check out the complete list on our Library page. Thank you again, Jeff!
All our library books and DVD’s are free to borrow for paid HAAM members.
Call to Action – No Funding for Anti-choice, Anti-LGBTQ2+ Groups
Please add your voice in support of human rights
The BC Humanist Association has launched a petition in support of new application requirements for the Government of Canada’s Canada Summer Jobs program.
The program provides wage subsidies to employers to hire high school and post-secondary students. The new policy requires applicants to attest that neither the job nor the employer’s “core mandate” are contrary to human rights, including reproductive rights and the rights of transgender Canadians.
Until now, many churches, bible camps and other faith-based organizations could apply for funding under the program, some received tens of thousands of dollars in support to hire summer staff. Religious organizations are still eligible for the funding, but those groups must now affirm their support for safe access to abortion and LGBTQ2+ rights.
Unhappy with the change, some conservative faith groups are suing the government claiming religious discrimination.
While we’d hope to see an end to public funding going to religious organizations entirely, ensuring that public funds aren’t given to groups that work to undermine fundamental human rights is a positive step.
It’s important for the government to hear from Canadians who support these actions, not just the small but vocal lobby for the religious right.
Sign the petition: No funding for anti-choice, anti-LGBTQ2+ groups
We’ll submit the petition to the government by February 2, 2018, when applications close for the Canada Summer Jobs program.
In Humanism, Ian Bushfield
Executive Director BC Humanist Association
And while we’re on the subject…
Publicly Funded Groups Must Respect Human Rights
You won’t want to miss Pat Morrow’s analysis of the ‘kerfuffle’ that has developed as conservative religious groups protest their loss of permission to use public money to undermine the rights of others.
Click here to read Pat’s article.
Being an Ethical Omnivore
Those not in attendance for our January presentation missed out on a remarkable speaker, Dr. Charlene Berkvens, who singlehandedly runs her 80-acre farm in addition to working a full-time job as a veterinarian. An engaging and interesting guest speaker, the considerable amount of Q and A and group participation throughout attested both to the quality of her presentation and devotion to her life’s work.
Dr. Berkvens’ accomplishments and dedication to her passions of animal welfare and environmentally sustainable farming practices are truly inspiring, and take their mandate from the principles of permaculture (sustainable agriculture that renews natural resources and enriches local ecosystems) and the 5 Freedoms of Animal Welfare, which are:
1) Freedom from hunger and thirst
2) Freedom from discomfort
3) Freedom from pain, injury and disease
4) Freedom to behave normally (according to their species)
5) Freedom from fear and distress
By the end of Dr. Berkvens’ presentation, there was no room left for ambiguity. Animal welfare and sustainable farming practices are inextricably tied to human interests, in terms of both our health and that of the land. It will take the willingness of ethical consumers, who critically examine their choices, to drive change. In the end, cheap food is not really cheap. — Rob Daly
Learn more about Charlene’s farm – the Fostering Change Farm, by visiting its website or Facebook page. For those interested in supporting sustainable farms with their grocery dollars, Dr. Berkvens provided us with the following list of local food sources in Manitoba, along with links to some of the topics covered, after her presentation:
Direct Farm Manitoba – list of many local, direct marketing farmers in Manitoba as well as farmers’ markets, etc.
Harvest Moon Local Food Marketplace – sustainably produced, fair local foods directly from local farms
Bouchee Boucher – restaurant and butcher supporting local farmers
Feast Cafe Bistro – restaurant that supports local farmers and features local and First Nations foods
Stella’s – restaurant with some dishes using local food
Prairie 360 – restaurant with some dishes using local food
Prairie Box – business that delivers weekly fresh meals with local food
For more information on some of the ideas / concepts we discussed:
Polyface Farms (Joel Salatin)
I would also encourage folks to check out and support:
Fort Whyte Centre, Oak Hammock Marsh, The Forks, and Assiniboine Park are great places to enjoy wildlife and the environment in the Winnipeg area.
A few others to consider checking out include:
As well as the many, many beautiful provincial parks and of course, Riding Mountain National Park.
A Primer on Assisted Dying in Manitoba
Medical Assistance In Dying (MAID) has been legal in Canada for 18 months now, but the process and guidelines are poorly understood. Here’s what people need to know:
* Manitoba has one centralized MAID team that serves the entire province. Other provinces require that your doctor initiate the evaluation and application process. Here, if you have a terminal diagnosis or a disease that causes you enduring and increasing suffering, you are free to contact the MAID team yourself to discuss whether you might qualify and find out what the next steps are.
* MAID is not part of the palliative care program in Manitoba. If you are receiving palliative care and you mention that you might be interested in MAID, it doesn’t mean they’ll start the inquiry for you; it’s best to contact the MAID team yourself or to ask a friend or family member to help you make contact.
* You do NOT (and should not) have to wait until your body begins to fail before you apply. The application process takes a minimum of 2 weeks, and some patients wait so long that they end up missing the window of opportunity and suffering needlessly in death.
* After you make initial contact with the MAID team and they agree you might qualify, they arrange for your first assessment. The assessment team usually consists of a doctor, a nurse, and a social worker. The team interviews you and reviews your medical records. One part of that interview involves speaking with you alone to be sure you’re not being coerced into applying.
* An appointment is then arranged with the second assessment team, composed of a different doctor, nurse, and social worker. The two teams don’t communicate with each other about you (the patient) until after both assessments are finished.
* After both assessments are complete, the two assessment teams meet and compare notes. If they agree that you qualify, then they recommend that you fill in an application form for medical assistance in dying.
* The application form must be signed by the patient (or a proxy, if the patient is physically incapable of signing) in the presence of two independent witnesses. An independent witness is defined as someone who is over the age of 18, a Canadian citizen, not a beneficiary of the patient’s will, and not involved in the patient’s health care. These are the same requirements for serving as a proxy.
* Once the application form is filled out, a mandatory waiting period of 10 days begins. You are eligible to receive the service on day 11 after the application form was signed, assuming that in the meantime, the assessment teams have approved you for the service. Note that these 10 days must be “clear” days, meaning that you are mentally coherent; these ‘clear’ days do not have to be consecutive, however.
* A significant proportion of MAID applicants do not know two people who are not named in their will, not involved in their health care, and/or who would be appropriate for other reasons to serve as witnesses. Members of Humanist groups across Canada (including many members of HAAM), have been serving as witnesses. Most of these volunteer witnesses also belong to their local chapter of Dying with Dignity.
* On the day that you choose to die, you must be mentally coherent and capable of giving consent. Nobody else can give this consent on your behalf, and you cannot consent in advance.
* The process of assisting someone to die involves having the MAID provider insert two intravenous lines (one as backup), and deliver 4 drugs through those lines. In Manitoba, this is the only approved method used. The drugs put the patient into a deep sleep and then into a coma, and then cause the heart to stop.
* Most insurance companies accept the cause of death as being the underlying medical condition, but you should check with your insurance provider to be sure, since those who list the cause of death as suicide can withhold life insurance payments for 2 years after death.
For links to the MAID team, related legal information, and more, visit the Dying With Dignity Winnipeg Chapter’s website at https://dwdwinnipeg.weebly.com. —
— Cheri Frazer is co-coordinator of the Winnipeg Chapter of Dying with Dignity
2018 HAAM Executive
The following members were elected at our January AGM.
President: Donna Harris Vice President: Pat Morrow
Secretary: Name Withheld* Treasurer: Henry Kreindler
Members at Large: Tammy Blanchette, Rob Daly, Norm Goertzen, Tony Governo, Sherry Lyn Marginet, and Dorothy Stephens.
Welcome Rob Daly to the team!
For future reference, the list of executive members can always be found here.
Thanks to all who attended the AGM.
*Sadly, not everyone can safely identify publicly as non-religious.
Don’t forget to renew your membership! (click here)
Upcoming HAAM Events
Winter Solstice Party
December 23rd at the Belgian Club, 407 Provencher Blvd, 5:30 PM
Please bring an item for the potluck supper.
Optional – bring your favorite board game.
See complete event listings and details for all upcoming HAAM events on our Events page.
Charity of the Month – Koats for Kids
Koats for Kids is a United Way program that collects and distributes winter outerwear to needy families. They collect new or gently used winter jackets (clean with working zippers), ski pants, boots, hats, scarves, and mittens. All sizes are needed – from infant to toddler to youth.
Please bring your donations to our Winter Solstice Party! We’ll collect them up and drop them off at the depot.
Call to Action – Register Your Intent to be an Organ Donor
The Organ Donor Registry is now online!
Organ and tissue donation in Manitoba have gone high-tech. Paper ‘organ donor’ wallet cards are no longer considered adequate, because they are not recorded in any database and may not be available when needed. Instead, Manitoba Health now recommends that you register your wishes online to ensure that they will be known – if and when you ever qualify to donate.
Register your consent to donate at Sign Up for Life.ca. Your information will be recorded and stored in the secure Manitoba eHealth database. In the event of your death or imminent death, your decision will be shared with your family so that they can honor your wishes. Donation will not take place without your family’s consent.
How does it work?
You can register if you are 18 years of age or older and have a valid Manitoba Health Card. You can donate organs and tissues (heart, liver, kidneys, pancreas, lungs, small bowel, stomach, corneas, heart valves, pericardium, bone, cartilage, tendons, ligaments and skin) for transplant. You can also indicate whether or not you would want your organs or tissues to be used for medical education or scientific research purposes.
Everyone can register to be a donor regardless of age, medical condition or sexual orientation. Your decision to register should not be based on whether YOU think you would be eligible or not. Eligibility is determined by the health care team after a patient’s death.
Thanks to Karen Donald for the tip!
Bill Favors Religion over Patient Rights
Having sat through a community hearing at the Manitoba Legislature on the issue of Bill 34, The Medical Assistance in Dying (Protection for Health Professionals and Others) Act on the evening of November 6th, I’d like to share some observations, comments, and take-away points from what was said. It should be noted that I learned about this hearing at the very last possible minute, and I’m uncertain as to whether the speakers were there by invitation or whether there had been an option for the public to sign up ahead of time to speak. As such, I can’t account for the small number of speakers calling for amendments, vs. the majority, who called for keeping the bill as is. Of the 16 speakers, only 3 (Dr. Alewyn Vorster, representing the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Manitoba; Mary J. Shariff, from the Faculty of Law, University of Manitoba; and Cory Ruf of Dying with Dignity Canada), advocated for amending the bill with clearer language that removes ambiguity, out of concern that a broad interpretation of the bill could result in denial of MAID information, referrals, and services to Manitoba patients.
Of the 13 speakers in favor of the bill as presented (two representatives from Catholic organizations, 10 doctors, and a private citizen), all cited personal religious beliefs as part of their presentations, in addition to many other arguments. Their most common arguments and concerns centered on personal religious conviction/conscience, the Hippocratic Oath, fear of health care professionals being required to make MAID referrals, reprisal should they refuse to do so, patient abandonment, assertions that medication is adequate to maintain comfort until “natural” death occurs, and the belief that “there is no crisis of access”. Most maintained that they wouldn’t do anything to block access to MAID services, and while all stated that they wouldn’t make a direct referral to the MAID team, most (with a couple of exceptions) were willing to refer patients to a third party who would.
Since When Do Institutions have Rights?
From what I learned during a previous conversation with my MLA, Andrew Micklefield (who was in attendance), and certainly from what was shared at this hearing, it’s clear that there is a disconnect between Health Minister Kelvin Goertzen’s statement, “We will protect the rights of institutions”, and the real-life ramifications of that statement for patients who are now forced into a potentially agonizing, painful, and certainly undignified transfer of service to another hospital if they opt for MAID while in a faith-based facility in Manitoba. As an example, to quote one speaker, Dr. Albert Chudley (a Professor of Pediatrics and Child Health, as well as Biochemistry and Medical Genetics, at the University of Manitoba, and who ironically professed to have taught clinical ethics), the bill “doesn’t diminish patient rights”, “transfer remains an option”, and “patients are not in pain”. Dr. Ann McKenzie, amidst stories of personal tragedy and appeals to the Hippocratic Oath, is of the opinion that vulnerable patients who choose MAID as an end of life option “lose time with family” and create trauma for those who remain.
Is there a duty to refer?
In conclusion, when asked by Andrew Swan, an opposition MLA who supports the bill, if the Health Minister would require health professionals to provide MAID referrals, Goertzen stated that he doesn’t believe health professionals (including nurses, pharmacists etc.) should be required to make referrals. The Minister said the government would “support the rights of institutions… not at the expense of access”; however, he did not acknowledge that failing to provide information and referral directly impacts that access. The provincial government is siding with publicly-funded, faith-based hospitals that are denying on-site access to MAID services, which is a violation of the Charter Rights of Manitobans. This bill sets the rights of religious institutions above patient dignity and humane end-of-life care.
All clauses of Bill 34 were passed, unamended. – Rob Daly
Is Christmas really a Christian Holiday?
If you celebrate and enjoy Christmas, don’t feel guilty about it. There’s no need to give it up just because you no longer view it as a religious holiday. Some of the following details may be disputable, because sources vary, and it’s difficult to pinpoint the exact origins of customs and rituals that date back to antiquity and cross cultures. But this much is clear – Most of the traditions we associate with Christmas either originated in pre-Christian myths or have absolutely NOTHING to do with Christianity.
It’s all about the solstice
Winter Solstice is the longest night of the year. Ancient astronomers were able to detect that after the solstice, the days became longer and the noonday sun rose higher in the sky. This was interpreted as a promise that warmth would return once more to the Earth. Numerous pre-Christian cultures and Pagan religions celebrated the return of the Sun and honored a birth or rebirth of one of their gods or goddesses on or near the solstice. These included Attis (Roman), Dionysus (Greek), Osiris (Egyptian), and Mithra (Persian). Saturnalia (the Festival of Saturn) was celebrated from December 17 to 23 throughout the Roman Empire. Many of these celebrations included fertility rituals and symbols intended to encourage Mother Earth to begin reproducing again.
In the late 3rd century the Roman Emperor Aurelian blended Saturnalia with the birth celebrations of savior gods from other religions into a single holy day (December 25th), so it was relatively easy to incorporate the celebration of Jesus’ birth.
These are Pagan? Really?
It’s no surprise, then, that quite a few of our modern Christmas traditions have Pagan roots. Here are a few examples:
Feasting and partying – Saturnalia was the liveliest of the ancient Roman festivals. The celebration included days off work, street parties, candles, gifts, and greenery. Saturn was the god of agriculture, so feasting was an appropriate way to celebrate the fruits of the harvest.
Mistletoe and Holly – Mistletoe was considered a magical plant and a fertility symbol by many ancient cultures, so people used to practice ‘fertility rituals’ underneath it; nowadays we usually just kiss. The complimentary colors of red and green represent male and female, and we still see them in the holly leaves with their red berries used in Christmas wreaths.
Santa Claus is partly based on myths that predate St Nicholas. The Norse god Odin is often pictured as an old man with a white beard and long cloak. Odin led a hunting party through the skies, riding an eight-legged horse. In winter, children would leave their boots near the chimney, filled with carrots or straw for the horse, and in return, Odin would leave a little gift in the boot. In Celtic Neopaganism, the Holly King and the Oak King fight a battle each summer and winter solstice, with each reigning half the year. Depictions of the Holly King often look remarkably like a sort of woodsy Santa Claus.
Caroling originated with the practice of wassailing – traveling through fields and orchards in the middle of winter, singing and shouting to drive away any spirits that might inhibit the growth of future crops.
Gift-giving – During Saturnalia, it was tradition to give children gifts of wax figures that represented the sacrifices made to Saturn to wish for a bountiful harvest.
Evergreens – Romans decorated their homes with bits of greenery during Saturnalia. Pines and firs were cherished as a symbol of life and rebirth in the depth of winter, and were traditionally hung around doorways and windows. Egyptians used palm fronds instead.
Fruitcake comes from Egypt. Once baked, it lasts a looooong time without going bad, so it was often placed as an offering on the tomb of a loved one.
The Yule log originates in Norway. The Norse believed that the sun was a giant wheel of fire which rolled away from the earth, and then began rolling back again on the winter solstice. To celebrate the return of the sun each year, they would light a Yule log and let it burn all night long. Once the log was burned in the hearth, the ashes were scattered about the house to protect the family within from hostile spirits.
Decorated trees – During Saturnalia, on the eve of the Midwinter Solstice, Roman priests would cut down a pine tree, decorate it, and carry it ceremonially to the temple celebrations. Pagan families would bring a live tree into the home so the wood spirits would have a place to keep warm in the cold winter months; food and treats were hung on the branches for the spirits to eat.
Most Humanists enjoy the various celebrations and traditions around the Winter Solstice, regardless of their origins. So
from all of us at HAAM – whatever you celebrate!
Countdown to 2018
Please support HAAM with your Membership
Membership renewal for 2018 is now open. Please note that HAAM operates on a calendar year, meaning that membership fees are due in January. First time members who join between October and December pay the full fee but their membership includes the upcoming year. If you are one of those brand new members, this notice does not apply to you. Everyone else needs to become a member or renew.
We count on membership revenues to support HAAM’s continuing work in creating community and providing a voice for non-believers. Fees are affordable and include a ‘limited income’ option if applicable. Please support the group that supports you! Memberships are payable anytime by credit card using the PayPal link on our website, by cheque in the mail, or by cash or cheque at any event. More information about membership and renewal is on our website.
If you plan to attend our AGM in January, dues MUST be paid in order to vote.
Get to know your fellow Humanists and help us develop a supportive community. Do you have a suggestion for a meeting topic or social event? An issue you’d like to discuss? A charity you think we should support? Do you have a talent to share? Can you help out with a specific task, project, or event? To keep our group active and interesting, we need YOUR input and help.
Watch for our New Ads
On Saturday, December 7th, HAAM will be running a seasonal ad in the local Steinbach newspaper, The Carillon. It will appear in both the print edition (on the front page of Section C), and in the online edition. We will also be running an ad on Facebook in December.
If you want a sneak preview, check out the banner image on our Facebook page.
Watch for our ads – and when you see them, please share them to spread the word!
Stressed Out About the Upcoming Holidays?
Do you live in a religious community, or with religious family members? Is the holiday season stressful for you because of it? Are family get-togethers uncomfortable? A little guide called Being Openly Secular During the Holidays might be helpful. Topics include managing stress, adhering to holiday traditions, and dealing with religious family. It also contains a secular grace and some links to further resources.
We also covered this topic in last year’s December newsletter.
Book of the Month – Salt Sugar Fat
Here’s a book that might give you pause before you dig into too much holiday party food – Salt Sugar Fat, by Michael Moss. After reading it, you probably won’t want to dig into quite so much holiday party food.
How much of our food comes from cardboard boxes, plastic packaging, fast food restaurants, take out, microwaves, lunch meats, processed cheese, cookies, candy bars, etc.? If you don’t know, or feel uneasy about the answer, you may not want to know.
Moss looks into labs where scientists calculate the “bliss point” of sugary beverages, unearths marketing techniques taken straight from tobacco company playbooks, and talks to concerned insiders who make startling confessions. Just as millions of “heavy users” are addicted to salt, sugar, and fat, so too are the companies that peddle them. You will never look at a nutrition label the same way again.
Get a head start on your New Year’s resolutions! If you read this book now, guaranteed you’ll be making different (and better) choices in 2018.
Visit our library page if you would like to borrow this book.
Is There a Right to be an A**hole?
At our (packed) November meeting, U of M professor Steve Lecce spoke about free speech. His awesome presentation was followed by a lively Q and A. If you couldn’t attend, you can now catch it on our YouTube channel.
September HAAM Events
Monthly Meeting – A History of Atheism in Canada
Saturday September 9th, Canad Inns Polo Park, 1405 St Matthews Ave, 5:30 PM
Complete event listings and details for all this and all upcoming HAAM events are on our Events page.
You can find past events by using the ‘Search this Site’ tool, also in the right sidebar.
Upcoming Community (Non-HAAM) Events
Advance Care Planning
Thursday September 21st, The Reh-Fit Centre, 1390 Taylor Avenue, 1:00 – 3:30 PM
Who will speak for you if you can’t speak for yourself? Advance registration is required.
Public Lecture – Refugees and Immigrants
Wednesday, Sept 27th, Canadian Fossil Discovery Centre, Morden, 7 – 9 PM
For details on these and more upcoming non-HAAM events, visit our Community Events page.
Solar Eclipse 2017 – A traumatic event for some of our members
Sometimes HAAM members get asked why we publicly challenge religion and why we are so angry about it. The following Facebook status, posted on the day of the recent solar eclipse, perfectly illustrates the answer. We fight because, unfortunately, the type of anguish expressed in this post is common among survivors of childhood religious indoctrination (brainwashing). Instilling this level of fear in children whose minds have not yet developed the ability to think critically about what they are being taught is psychological abuse. We frequently hear similar stories in person from many of our members. Decades later, the PTSD remains.
The post is copied and pasted to protect the privacy of the HAAM member who shared it. The event described occurred almost 30 years ago.
I vividly remember seeing a partial eclipse as a child (not sure when?) and the terror I felt because we were reading the Bible and singing, “When the skies of heaven shall fall and the moon shall be turned into blood, the sons of God shall arise, Zion awake.”
I’m sitting here remembering and feeling how terrified I was as a child because it could have been the end of the world, as we were told, and I was told that meant that I would be tortured for my faith. I can still see the pictures of people being tortured, and being told that would happen to me to try to get me to deny Christ – stretching, ripping off nails, gouging out eyes and ripping out intestines. I saw these AS A CHILD. Was told it would happen to me AS A CHILD.
I’m feeling sick and I’m shaking with the memory, and how it makes me feel today. It is irrational to feel fear as what I really feel is amazement at seeing a partial eclipse. But brainwashing goes deep, and this is the first time I’m thinking about this and feeling it as an adult. I’m feeling the lasting trauma of emotional abuse and how it shaped my mind. This is so sick. *tears*
A google search for the quoted line (“when the skies of heaven shall fall…”) turned up several hymns containing those or similar lyrics. One version is this (not the exact hymn that our HAAM member sang as a child):
Awake Zion, awake
Awake and trim your lamps
For the stars of heaven shall fall
And the moon shall turn into blood
And the son of man shall appear
As to which Bible verse these lyrics are based on, there are over a dozen verses that refer to the darkening of the sun, moon, stars, or some combination of these. Three specifically mention the moon turning blood red – an obvious reference to an eclipse.
- Joel 2:31 The sun will be turned to darkness, and the moon to blood, before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord.
- Acts 2:20 The sun will be turned to darkness, and the moon to blood, before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord.
- Revelation 6:12-13 The sun turned black like sackcloth made of goat hair, the whole moon turned blood red, and the stars in the sky fell to earth.
Seriously, there are only two conclusions we can draw from these verses.
1 The writer of Acts (ostensibly Luke, but in fact, scholars don’t really know who wrote Luke and Acts, although they know the same person wrote both books) plagiarized the book of Joel.
2 People living 2,000 years ago didn’t understand what an eclipse was.
Are apologists still peddling this fear and nonsense today? You betcha! (see book cover, right) And as long as they do, Humanists will continue to promote science, reason, and critical thinking as the best ways to understand the world. This is the only way we can ever hope to diminish the kind of fear and ignorance that leads to otherwise loving families scaring innocent children out of their wits and traumatizing them for life.
Calls to Action
End Violence Against Apostates in Malaysia
Members of an atheist group in Malaysia are facing death threats and government-sponsored “re-education” after their photos were seen in a Facebook post. Click here for the story, and a sample letter that you can write to urge an end to the intolerance of apostasy.
‘Voice Your Choice’ on Assisted Dying
The federal government is studying the possible impacts of allowing medical assistance in dying (MAID) for three groups of Canadians who don’t currently qualify:
- Those who will be excluded unless the law is changed to allow for advance requests;
- Individuals whose primary medical condition is a mental illness; and
- Mature minors.
Dying With Dignity is seeking submissions from Canadians who have personal concerns or stories to tell about how the current restrictions on MAID have already unfairly restricted (or may, in future, restrict) choices in dying for themselves or someone they know.
Click here for more information about this campaign. Deadline for submissions is September 15th.
If you don’t have a personal story to tell right now, but still want to add your voice to those of others who support advance requests for assisted dying, click here.
Charity of the Month – Island Lake Relief Fund
Once again, wildfires in northern Manitoba have forced the evacuation of several communities in the Island Lake area (northeast). As many as 5,000 people have been flown out of the Wasagamack, St. Theresa Point, and Garden Hill First Nations. They are staying in temporary accommodations and emergency shelters in Winnipeg, Brandon, and Portage. Many left home with little or no possessions, and are relying on charities for assistance while they are away.
CBC news posted images of the devastation, like the scene shown here. Click for more photos.
Here’s how HAAM members can help:
If you have needed items to donate, you can take them directly to one of the following locations. (Please do not bring them to the HAAM meeting.)
- The Island Lake Tribal Council, at 338 Broadway, is accepting diapers, water, baby formula, condensed milk and other toiletries. They don’t need any more clothes or blankets.
- The Ma Mawi Chi Itata Centre, at 445 King St., is accepting donations of clean clothing (especially men’s clothing), non-perishable food, diapers, kids’ toys, and hygiene products.
If you are able to make a financial contribution:
The Me-Dian Credit Union (formerly the Metis Credit Union of Manitoba) has started an Island Lake Relief Fund. It’s accepting donations to help with short-term costs for the evacuees. We will be collecting donations at our September 9th HAAM meeting and forwarding them to this fund.
Tax receipts are available for donations over $10. If you would like to donate but cannot attend the meeting, you can do so via the Paypal button on this page. Just include a note letting us know that the money is for the charity.
The Jesus Stick
Sanded wood with tapered ends, and a small leather lace with five plastic beads tied onto it. That’s the Jesus Stick that was handed out by the hundreds at the Morden Corn and Apple Festival this year. These walking sticks are supposed to symbolize your walk with Jesus. Now normally I wouldn’t bother with booths like this; it’s not my habit to visit Christian booths just to annoy people. However, we had several Christians come by our HAAM booth and mention that we really need to hear their message. So myself and fellow Humanist Laura Stephens, not wanting to decline the invite, decided we’d go over and get ourselves a Jesus stick.
They’re not completely free. When you get to the booth, you stand in line with others until you hear their message, and only after you listen to the message, do they cough up a stick. So with that in mind, I thought when I got to the front of the line “maybe I’ll make this guy work for it a little”. Both Laura and I offered full disclosure when we walked up – we told the fella were Humanists and atheists, and had been encouraged by Christians with sticks to hear their message. So here is the message about the five beads on the stick (click to enlarge photo):
The first bead is gold and symbolizes heaven and God’s plan for you. After the fellow explained the first bead, and how heaven is a paradise, I asked him “suppose I accept all this and get saved, how am I supposed to enjoy paradise when my kids are burning in hell because they’re atheists too?” All the fellow could do was to quote some scripture that, to me, seemed to indicate that everybody gets in to heaven. Then he moved on to the next bead.
Black symbolizes the sin of man in the world, our fall from grace, and how the wages of sin is death… but that you could be saved from this because God sent his son, the “sinless Jesus”, to pay our debt. So I asked the fella “if Jesus was completely sinless, how come the New Testament said ‘slaves obey your earthly masters’? It seems to me that the Bible was endorsing slavery and the ownership of other people, and that would, in my books, be a sin.” His answer was a Bible story from Philemon, where Paul sends a runaway slave back to his master. This was somehow supposed to demonstrate that Jesus didn’t support slavery. So I asked “how on earth does sending a slave back to his master demonstrate that anything has changed?” His answer – “because the slave had turned into a Christian” – was even more baffling. And he was on to the next bead.
Red symbolizes the blood of Jesus and his death on the cross, his resurrection, and his payment for our sins. Later Laura mentioned to me that at this part of his spiel she really wanted to say “resurrected? So he really only gave up a long weekend?”… I wish she had, as I’m sure the fella’s reaction would’ve been priceless. I took a pause in his speech to ask him why he would think that human sacrifice could pay for someone else’s crimes (that they didn’t actually commit), and why anyone would think a human sacrifice is good. Any good and moral person who was alive at the time would have done everything in their power to stop the slow torture of another human being. His comeback for that was a nervous (or possibly uncomfortable) smile, and he replied “it was a different time and Jesus was the perfect sacrifice. He gave his life for you”.
The white bead symbolizes purity and the need to repent and ask for forgiveness. I mentioned to him that this is one of the big differences for us as Humanists. When we do wrong, we try to right those wrongs ourselves and ask for forgiveness from those we have wronged. It seems to me that asking for forgiveness from a supernatural God is the easy way out. To which our Christian potential stick-giver could only a muster a somewhat subdued “ahuh”.
Green symbolizes growing in Christ. I let him have this one; after all it was his booth and he had suffered enough. It didn’t escape Laura’s attention that the fella gave us our sticks and let us go before getting to the second card. The second card (shown at right, click to enlarge) is where he explains how and what to pray to ask Jesus to come into our hearts. This was a bummer, ‘cause I had all kinds of questions about prayer.
Maybe next year. – Pat Morrow
Check out our Gallery for photos of the Morden Outreach.
Book of the Month – The New Atheism: Taking a Stand for Science and Reason
Victor J. Stenger grew up in a Catholic working-class neighborhood in New Jersey. He earned a PhD in physics in 1963 and enjoyed a long and successful career in particle physics. He was also a long-time and well-known advocate of skepticism, philosophical naturalism, and atheism; a fierce critic of intelligent design and pseudoscience (even being once sued by Uri Geller for questioning Geller’s psychic powers); and a public speaker and debater, taking on apologists like John Lennox and William Lane Craig.
Stenger didn’t mince words in his criticism of religion. His statement about religion flying people into buildings is often quoted online. He argued that absence of evidence for God is, indeed, evidence of absence, when the evidence should be there and is not.
Stenger’s 2009 book The New Atheism is a well-argued defense of non-belief. He summarizes the main points made by the New Atheists (Dawkins, Harris, Hitchens, and Dennett), and offers up a few more arguments of his own. Along the way, Stenger also discusses his critics’ arguments — and offers excellent rebuttals to them. This book is an great primer for godless newbies; it’s not overly philosophical, and it provides easy-to-understand arguments to use if you’re ever in a religious debate.
Stenger died in 2014 at the age of 79. His soul doesn’t live on, but his written works continue to encourage others to take a stand for science and reason. The 2009 lecture based on this book at the time of its release is on YouTube.
Visit our library page if you would like to borrow this book.
Our informal weekend brunches are a great way to get to know your fellow Humanists. Here’s a photo of our September brunch in the cafe at Assiniboine Park.
Our next brunch will be on Sunday, October 22nd, but we haven’t chosen a location yet. We’ve been rotating locations around the city for variety, and so that the same people don’t always have to drive across town. Do you have a favorite place to suggest for a future brunch? Let us know.
Did You Miss the Evening with Richard Carrier?
We had a packed – almost ‘standing room only’ room for Dr. Carrier’s speech on the historicity of Jesus and the origins of Christianity. If you were unable to attend, you can now catch it on our YouTube channel.
Why is Religion Controlling Access to Medical Care?
You’ve probably heard and read about the situation at St Boniface Hospital in Winnipeg, where a Catholic-controlled board of directors was ‘stacked’ in order to vote down a proposal to allow Medical Assistance in Dying (MAID) on the premises. This is a serious concern, especially since St Boniface Hospital is only one of a number of ‘faith-based’ health care facilities in Manitoba and across Canada that are restricting access to legal services. So far, the provincial government has shown no inclination to step in. It’s time for the majority of Canadians who support MAID to speak up and demand that something change.
Important points about MAID
No health care worker is required to participate
In Manitoba, MAID is the responsibility of a specialized team of physicians, nurses, pharmacists, and social workers who travel from site to site carrying out interviews and examinations with patients who request an assisted death. They subsequently carry out the procedure on site. Health care workers in those facilities are not expected to participate in the assisted death of patients in their care. Indeed, they specifically have the right remove themselves from the area based on conscientious objection to the procedure. Individual people have rights – but buildings don’t. What faith-based institutions are doing is refusing to allow the procedure to take place on their premises – even if their own staff are not involved.
Patients cannot choose their hospital
In our publicly-funded health care system, patients frequently do not have the opportunity to choose the hospital in which they are treated. Many services are consolidated at certain sites and not offered at others – so even if a patient presents to the emergency room at the hospital of their choice, they could end up being transferred to another. Ambulances are directed to hospitals according to both service and bed availability, so in an emergency, the patient has no say whatsoever. This means that all publicly-funded hospitals must be able and willing to accommodate all patients.
This is not a criticism of the hospital or its staff
Neither HAAM nor anyone in the media is criticizing the staff or the care provided at St Boniface Hospital. The staff there are dedicated professionals who provide excellent care, and the majority of them support their patients’ right to make their own health care decisions. Indeed, several staff members have bravely spoken out publicly to advocate for their patients’ comfort and autonomy. The issue at stake is the control of hospital policy by a religious board of directors. There is no place for that in a public hospital, and the board should be removed.
Not happy with the current situation?
Speak up about it! Here’s a sample letter that you can use to make your views known. Copy and send as is, or edit and personalize it. Or phone instead if you wish, and use this letter for talking points.
Contact information follows at the end.
I’m writing you today as a concerned citizen regarding the issue of publicly-funded, faith-based hospitals denying tax-paying Canadians the right to Medical Assistance in Dying (MAID). I’m sure you agree that Canada has, is, and will continue to be defined as a Cultural Mosaic. This term represents what is at the very strength and heart of our nation – namely our diversity represented by people of many cultures and faiths, and increasingly those who choose no faith at all.
I am asking that you take action to ensure that this defining characteristic is not rendered meaningless and continually violated by the partisan agreement signed by the Manitoba government in 1996 allowing faith-based facilities to “maintain their respective mission, vision and culture” to the detriment of patient care. In this agreement, our government showed deference to one faith over others, and empowered the Catholic Health Corporation to supersede the right of choice for dying patients of all or no faiths, in clear violation of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
- Section 2(a) of the Charter grants: freedom of conscience and religion.
- Section 7 of the Charter grants: Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of the person and the right not to be deprived thereof except in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice.
- Section 12 of the Charter grants: Everyone has the right not to be subjected to any cruel and unusual treatment or punishment.
While the Charter guarantees the rights of individuals to religious freedom, it does not guarantee that right to publicly-funded institutions. By continuing to honor this agreement, the Manitoba government is allowing publicly-funded faith-based hospitals to violate the rights and freedoms of every qualifying patient who would choose to receive MAID, by denying them the liberty to make this end-of-life choice, and subjecting them to cruelty via prolonged suffering. I see nothing in the Charter, and quite the opposite, that gives the Catholic Health Corporation the right or authority to impose its religious views on Canadians, or to withhold services on that basis as a public entity, and in so doing, deny freedom of conscience to its patients.
I am asking that steps be taken by this government to enforce our Charter rights and revoke this agreement on those grounds. Further, I ask that steps be taken to make the regional health authorities responsible for the oversight of health care in the province so that all Manitobans have equal access to all health care options, regardless of their own religious or cultural affiliation or that espoused by the health care facility, in keeping with the non-partisan spirit of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. I am asking you to support the individual’s right of conscience in making end-of-life decisions that will preserve their dignity and prevent the cruelty of unnecessary suffering.
I look forward to hearing what you and your government are prepared to do to resolve what is an unconscionable state of affairs in our hospitals.
Manitoba premier Brian Pallister: email@example.com or 204-945-3714
Minister of Health, Kevin Goertzen: firstname.lastname@example.org or 204-945-3731
Since assisted dying falls under federal jurisdiction, contact the federal government as well.
Minister of Health Jane Philpott: Jane.Philpott@parl.gc.ca or 613-992-3640
Send a copy to your own MP: Find your MP here
St Boniface Hospital
And of course, don’t forget to tell St Boniface Hospital exactly what you think of their board’s shenanigans.
email@example.com or 204-237-2067
Atheist Comedy Night
Saturday, March 11th, Canad Inns Polo Park, 5:30 – 8:30 PM
HAAM and Eggs Brunch
Sunday, March 19th, 10:00 AM at the Perkins restaurant in Madison Square (305 Madison at Ness, just west of Polo Park).
2017 Atheist Film Festival
Saturday, April 1st, Millennium Library (Carol Shields Auditorium, 2nd floor)
Doors open 2:45 pm. Films start at 3 pm.
For more information on these and future events, check out our Events page or click on the event name in the right sidebar.
You can find past events by using the ‘Search this Site’ tool, also in the right sidebar.
Meet our new family members!
Following the presentation by Maysoun Darweesh of the Manitoba Interfaith Immigration Council (MIIC) at our meeting in November, my wife Carmen and I have become hosts for a family of new Canadians. They are from the city of Idlib (in red on map), in the Idlib Governorate in Syria, located just 59 km southwest of Aleppo. They arrived in Canada on January 1, 2016.
We applied to and were accepted for the MIIC’s “Host Matching Program”. We will be their newest and, as it turns out, their first Canadian friends! Khaled and Asmahan are parents to three lovely young children ranging in age from 18 months to 8 years old. Khaled was most recently a truck driver at home, but considers himself a construction worker. Asmahan is mainly a stay-at-home mother, but she has some serious bead working, knitting, and crocheting skills that we will be able to tell you more about after we get to know them better.
Their area in Syria and their city saw some of the earliest fighting in the Syrian Civil War. Much of their town has been destroyed in the conflict, including ruins dating from thousands of years ago. My heart goes out to them, already, just for this. Their eldest, a daughter, is in grade 3 at her local school. She wants to be a doctor, a teacher or a paleontologist (she is in her dinosaur phase!). She is very bright and her English is already surprisingly good. The middle child, a boy, attends kindergarten, is shy, and we only saw him get animated after we had been together for about an hour and a half. Their youngest child, another girl, slept most of the time we were together, but we saw her playing with her siblings as well.
Both parents come from large families. Khaled is the youngest of ten, while Asmahan is third youngest of 12. While their surviving parents seem to be still residing in Idlib, their siblings are dispersed across the region, Europe, and now, North America. Their story is not unusual in this respect. They are able to maintain some contact by phone and over the Internet.
During the thirteen months they have been in Canada, they have had no sustained contact with anyone here. We will become their family, since it seems they have none left in Syria, either. I am expecting many people to be called upon to help as needs become apparent. Khaled has applied for a special program at RRC that will give him special instruction in both English and in construction. It will also place him afterward! If he can get into that program, it will be a big step to making this family self-sufficient. Asmahan could sell some of her crafts. I am hoping to help her make those connections. Both parents are studying English at the Seven Oaks Adult ESL school. They have a vehicle, which they do not use very much, and Asmahan is learning to drive.
Our discussions led to us to understand that they already appreciate the secular nature of life in Canada. They were subjected to various kinds of discrimination in their homeland and in Lebanon. They also saw its effects on others. While they are nominally Muslim, I expect the Humanist aspect of our world view will appeal to them as they come to understand how we come to be so accepting of our differences.
We expect to get the family out to do some normal family things, like tobogganing and skating. Other ideas will come as we get to know them better. As far as we can tell, they have never even been to the zoo! It takes a village to support a family, and I know HAAM members are already stepping up to help. I would like to hear from anyone reading this article who would like to be included in the work required to acclimate this young family to their new permanent home.
P.S., They all love cats! That means our Ringo will have more family to contend with now.
Please let us know if you are interested in helping this family. – Rick Dondo
Does Your Advance Care Plan Include Spiritual Care?
With the recent legalization of assisted dying (now commonly known as MAID – medical aid in dying), you may have seen in the news lately that some publicly-funded health care facilities are refusing to allow MAID on their premises because of their religious affiliation. This has led to questions from our members about the influence of religion in public hospitals. Most of us don’t get to choose which hospital we are taken to when we are ill – so how do you feel about being admitted to a faith-based facility?
Just as an ACP (Advance Care Plan) provides for your wishes to be respected in regards to medical care and treatment, perhaps it’s also worthwhile to make your wishes regarding ‘spiritual care’ clearly known if you feel strongly about that. It’s pretty simple to do this. Your Manitoba Health card must be presented whenever you require medical treatment. So if you have an ACP, or any other wishes or requests, just note that in writing and keep it with your Manitoba Health card.
A sample card is shown here (click images to enlarge).
Dying With Dignity used to mail out these cards out with ACP packages. They don’t mail cards anymore, but you can easily make a similar one yourself and include the same information – the names of people to call in an emergency to make medical decisions for you, the name and phone number of your family physician, your signature, and the location of your ACP if you have one. On the back of this one it says “I am an atheist. If I am hospitalized, I do not want any clergy or chaplain visits”, followed by initials.
Making sure your wishes are known and clearly stated can save a lot of grief and hassle later.
We have written about spiritual care in hospitals before – check the October 2016 newsletter if you missed the articles.
Charity of the Month
It’s been several years since the Rainbow Resource Centre was our Charity of the Month, so it’s overdue – and their current need couldn’t be greater. Recent and ongoing political upheaval in the USA is leading members of the LGBTTQ community there to seek asylum in Canada, and as a result, RRC is overwhelmed with calls for information and counselling.
RRC was busy enough even before this latest crisis. Since its inception as the ‘Campus Gay Club’ at the U of M in the early 1970’s, it has been a leader and important resource for the gay and lesbian community, providing community services, education, outreach and political awareness, and activism.
RRC offers support to the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Two-Spirit, Intersex, Queer, Questioning and Ally (LGBTTQ*) population of Manitoba and North Western Ontario through counselling and peer support groups; provides education and training for schools, school divisions, and GSA’s (gay-straight alliances); hosts events, workshops, and social activities for clients of all ages; and houses and coordinates a wealth of resources, including a library, a toll-free phone line, and links to LGBTTQ-friendly crisis centres, legal aid, peer support groups, health care, and more.
RRC depends on donations to help keep all these operations going for the long haul, and now to assist refugees as well. Please lend your support to this worthy cause!
Tax receipts are available for donations over $10. If you would like to donate but cannot attend the meeting, you can do so via the PayPal link on the right sidebar. Just include a note letting us know that the money is for the charity.
Partners for Life Update
Have you donated blood yet this year? Canadian Blood Services’ Partners for Life program is a friendly competition among organizations, schools, and businesses to encourage their members to donate blood. We just got our participation report for 2016, and HAAM did really well, especially since we didn’t even promote it until mid-summer. Fourteen HAAM members have enrolled in the program, and those members gave a total of 19 units of blood, or 76% of our goal of 25 units.
Can we reach that goal this year? There have been 3 donations already in 2017, so we should easily be able to get to 25, if
- Those 14 members each donate twice, and/or
- A few more HAAM members sign up.
By donating blood, you can not only save someone’s life (enough reward in itself, right?), but show the world that Humanists are good people (who donate blood).
Upcoming clinics: You can donate at the main clinic on William Ave (across from HSC) during their regular hours (Mon 10-2 and 3:30-7:30; Tues 1:30-7; and Wed-Sat 8-2). Or check the list of mobile clinics at the top of any page on the CBS website.
Video Links from our Darwin Day meeting
If you weren’t at our February meeting, you missed a great presentation by Pat Morrow about how the advancement of science contributes to a Humanistic worldview. At the end, several people in the audience asked for links to the short videos he showed about evolution. Here they are:
The first three are from a video series called Genetics and Evolution, by Stated Clearly.
The last video was a clip of a speech by Richard Dawkins comparing the worldview of someone whose religious belief prevents him from accepting reality to someone whose commitment to truth requires him to reject a long-held belief when new evidence against it is presented.
If you are interested in learning more, there are links to additional videos and other resources, including the complete Genetics and Evolution video series, on our Exploring Nonbelief web page. Check it out!
P.S. If you weren’t at the meeting to get a piece of Darwin’s birthday cake, you can at least see a photo of it in our Gallery.
Book of the Month
It’s comedy month, so here’s something fun. Not all of the books in our library are serious and educational; we also have a few about popular culture, including Me of Little Faith by comedian Lewis Black. Raised as a non-practicing Jew, Black noticed unsettling parallels between religious rapture and drug-induced visions while attending college in the 1960’s, and since then has turned an increasingly skeptical eye toward the politicians and televangelists who don the cloak of religious rectitude to mask their own moral hypocrisy. The more than two dozen short essays in this book include hilarious experiences with rabbis, Mormons, gurus, and psychics. Black pokes fun at every religious figure and issue he can – the Catholic Church, Mormons, people who commit suicide in the name of faith, Jews, and of course Jesus and God. Find it in our Library.
Outreach Report from Houston Atheists
I worked on this newsletter while on vacation in Roatan, Honduras. Here’s a little personal note about that trip.
We booked our flights, via Chicago and Houston, long before we had any inkling of Trump becoming president, so we experienced a lot of anxiety about traveling to the US when the time finally came. I spent an hour before we left deleting all the memes, news articles, and videos I had shared on Facebook mocking Trump and criticizing the US government – just in case my phone or laptop was searched. But we passed through airport security without a hitch, except for my husband being asked for his Social Insurance Number. He did remember most of it, after a couple of attempts; what might the customs officer have asked or done if he had not? I felt guilty, in solidarity with everyone who is not white, about not being stopped and searched.
We spent our layover day in Houston at the Museum of Natural Sciences, figuring that if we were going to spend any tourist dollars in Texas, they might as well be directed toward science and education. The museum’s paleontology exhibit is comprehensive and about the size of a football field. I saw Tiktaalik! (in photo) There were references to evolution in almost every display, and the museum was packed with school children on tours. I heard a guide state that they get 600,000 kids a year through there on school field trips. That just doesn’t jive with what we hear about scientific ignorance and rampant creationism.
In the evening we joined a group of people from the Houston Atheists at a pub. There were about a dozen attendees, so we spent an interesting couple of hours comparing notes about our groups’ activities and ideas. They are a loosely-knit organization that mainly uses Meet-Up to advertise small social gatherings at various venues around the city. Not surprisingly, their main focus right now is political activism and separation of church and state issues. One of their members is a high school teacher, so he was able to shed some light on the religion-in-schools issues we read so much about in the media. He said there’s a huge urban-rural split (sound familiar?) in worldviews, with most of the anti-science attitude and push for creationism coming from outside the major cities. He also explained that there is a huge discrepancy in the quality of the education among public schools, depending mainly on the socio-economic level and ethnicity of the communities they serve; but that generally, what we read about represents the egregious infractions of a small minority.
Overall, we experienced no trouble on our one day in Texas; but like several members of the Houston Atheists warned – venture outside the city limits and it’ll be a different story. Not one I’m particularly yearning to read.
One final note – I was asked to toss in a fish picture, so here’s a photo of a seahorse from Roatan. They’re a rare and special sight, and we saw several. Fun fact – when seahorses mate, the female deposits the eggs into a pouch on the male’s abdomen. His body swells and he incubates the eggs until they hatch. Now doesn’t that sound like ‘intelligent design’? – Dorothy Stephens
HAAM Takes On Apologetics – Part 2
Two of our members were recently interviewed by a pastor for a church conference designed to teach Christians how to defend their faith to non-believers.
- Medical aid in dying becomes legal
- Perspective on the Canadian Museum for Human Rights
- New Outreach plans
- Summer reading suggestions
- and more…
In this issue:
- A Life Membership Presentation
- Conversations with Believers
- Outreach reports
- Update on medically assisted dying
- and more….
- Our Atheist Bible Study wraps up
- We Stand With Planned Parenthood
- Reactions to the Refugee Crisis
- and more…
- Updates on the stories we’ve been following on religion in our public institutions,
- Details about all our upcoming events (including speakers who will be appearing at our River City Reasonfest conference in September), and
- A link to view the presentation on the Ethics of Religion if you missed it at our May meeting.
April can bring daffodils or blizzards and just about everything in between! But don`t miss out on the latest news. In this month`s newsletter we get details on our April meeting, learn about a call to action here in Winnipeg regarding the Child Evangelism Fellowship in local schools, and learn which book we`re recommending this month.
We’re busier than a hive of bees this March. We’re got a book club, our regular monthly meeting, and a secular parenting group meeting.
So, don’t miss out on a single word!
- Our October meeting was chilling and spooky. (Member Heather M. in the picture to the right)
- What is the Faith response to Dying with Dignity? Find out in this month’s issue.
- Allan Gregg talks religion and reason at the U of W.
- Our November meeting focus is all about YOU!
- Find out what atheists do at book clubs and round tables…
Click below and read the November newsletter!
- Our buses are still roaming the city streets, but they won’t be around much longer! Find out who won a prize for the first picture submitted.
- A.C. Grayling was a hit with HAAM. Find out about his visit to Winnipeg.
- Learn more about what Arthur Schafer has to say on the topic of dying with dignity.
- And much more…
Go ahead! Click and read the October newsletter!
- Canadian Blood Services is on high alert – and donations are urgently needed. HAAM is part of the Partners for Life program. Find out how you can make your blood donation count.
- We’re doing it! Making our dream of a Winnipeg Atheist bus advertising campaign a reality!
- In September, Dying With Dignity is holding a special presentation.
Find out more in the August newsletter