The Constitution of the Humanist Association of Toronto, Inc.

 

Preamble

Humanism is a rational philosophy informed by science, inspired by art and motivated by compassion. We seek to understand and improve the human condition through the development of secular ethics, for the benefit of all.

 

Section 1  Name

This organization will be known as the Humanist Association of Toronto, Inc. or by the acronym HAT.

 

Section 2  Type of Organization

  1. HAT is a democratically governed membership organization.
  2. HAT shall operate without purpose of gain for its members, and any profits or other accretions to the organization shall be used solely to promote its objectives. HAT shall not make any payment to its members except as reimbursement for HAT expenses or fair compensation for goods or services provided to HAT.
  3. HAT shall not support any political party though it may support or oppose public policies.

Section 3  Declaration of Principles

  1. Freedom of Inquiry: Every individual should be free to inquire into any and all areas of thought, to explore, to challenge, question or doubt. Without freedom of inquiry, we lose the ability to improve the human condition.
  2. The Use of Reason: Reason provides a common standard against which we can test our perceptions. Without reason there is no valid tool for making judgements.
  3. Knowledge: The only thing that can be called knowledge is that which is firmly grounded in human understanding and empirical verification. Without human comprehension and verification we lose our connection with the natural world around us.
  4. Creativity: Human creativity is essential to the ability to solve problems, expand knowledge, and fulfill our cultural needs.
  5. Fallibility: Human knowledge and human ethics have changed over time and will continue to change. Without acknowledging fallibility we risk descent into dogma.
  6. The Natural World: The physical world is the world in which our ethics must operate, rather than in any imagined Utopian societies or afterlife. Because the physical world is the only one of which we have empirical knowledge, it is irrational to sacrifice benefits in this world for supposed gains in imaginary ones.
  7. Human Ethics: Ethical decisions should be made in the context of real people, real situations, real human needs and aspirations and the consideration of real consequences. Humanism combines personal liberty with social responsibility. It affirms the dignity of every person, the right of the individual to the greatest possible freedom compatible with the rights of others, and the need for community. Without this context we risk the worst excesses of ideology.

 

Section 4  Objectives

  1. To foster the development and understanding of Humanist principles;
  2. To promote the principles, ideals and philosophy of Humanism by all available means including education and communication;
  3. To provide opportunities for Humanistic service, study and community life;
  4. To cooperate with and provide mutual support to other charitable organizations registered under the Income Tax Act (Canada) which have similar objectives;
  5. To offer and provide meaningful and dignified Humanist ceremonies at significant times such as name giving, marriage and death.

Section 5  Rights and Requirements of Membership

  1. HAT bylaws will establish the terms and conditions of membership.
  2. Members will be informed of all HAT events.
  3. Members will be informed of potential changes to the Constitution or increases in the amount of dues and have the right to participate in the decision. The method of decision-making is described in Section 7.
  4. Members do not have the right to speak for HAT, unless so authorized by the steering committee or the general membership.
  5. New members must have been members for at least 3 months in order to vote at a Business Meeting.

Section 6  The Steering Committee

(i)    The Steering Committee will manage the operations of the organisation, and will hold a minimum of five regular meetings per year, the dates of which shall be established at the first meeting in each year. The date of each regular meeting shall be established at least one month in advance. The Steering Committee may also convene extra meetings as needed.
(ii)    The Steering Committee will act in accordance with the wishes of the entire membership, as stated in this document and as expressed at general business meetings.
(iii)    The Steering Committee will consist of the following posts:
     a)    Coordinator: The Coordinator will prepare the agenda for, and chair, the Steering Committee meetings. The Coordinator is responsible for ensuring the coordination of the work of all other members of the Steering Committee. The Coordinator will ensure that contact is maintained with other like-minded organizations. The coordinator is ex-officio member of every committee. For the purposes of the Ontario Corporations Act, the Coordinator shall be named as President.
     b)    Membership Secretary: The Membership Secretary will keep a membership list and a list of persons who have expressed interest in the organization. The Membership Secretary generates mailing lists as required from time to time. The Membership Secretary is responsible for responding to requests for membership information. The Membership Secretary will maintain membership data including dues and donations, will liaise with the Treasurer and will issue charitable receipts.
     c)    Librarian: The Librarian will collect any outside news of interest to Humanists. The Librarian will also collect any books and/or other media of interest to the group, and make the collection available to the membership. The Librarian will maintain a list of holdings.
     d)    Treasurer: The Treasurer will prepare an annual budget for approval at a Steering Committee meeting. The approved budget will be distributed to all HAT members. HAT funds will be kept in a chequing account in the name of HAT. The Treasurer and two other members of the Steering Committee will have signing authority. The Treasurer will receive all monies due, and be responsible for payment of expenses. The treasurer will maintain financial records and provide an annual report of our finances at the AGM. The treasurer will prepare an annual statement of HAT finances, submit it to an auditor approved by the general membership, and present the audited statement at the Annual General Meeting.
     e)    Recording Secretary: The Recording Secretary shall maintain the minute book of the corporation including the constitution, the list of steering committee members, the minutes of steering committee and business meetings and a separate list of resolutions. The Recording Secretary will meet all filing requirements under the Corporations Information Act of Ontario and the Income Tax Act of Canada. The Recording Secretary shall also prepare an agenda for each business meeting. Upon receiving a written request as per Section 7(ii) the Recording Secretary will call a business meeting. A copy of the list of resolutions shall be sent to any member on request.
     f)    Spokesperson: The Spokesperson shall have knowledge of Humanist philosophy and of the official positions of HAT. The Spokesperson shall represent HAT to the general public and the media. When speaking in the name of HAT the Spokesperson shall adhere to official positions of HAT. All prepared public statements of HAT policy must be cleared with two other members of the Steering Committee before being made. The Spokesperson will be an ex officio member of any policy committee.
     g)    Newsletter Editor: The Newsletter Editor will publish a Newsletter at least four times a year. The Newsletter will inform each member and any other organization or person chosen by the Steering Committee of all scheduled activities. The Newsletter Editor will also be responsible for informing the membership of the agenda of business meetings. The Newsletter Editor will follow Publications Policy as approved by the HAT general membership and/or Steering Committee.
     h)    Program Coordinator: The Program Coordinator is responsible for arranging meeting venues, recruiting guest speakers and organizing special events.
     i)    Web Administrator: The Web Administrator is responsible for maintaining the HAT website and listserver, and receiving and redirecting e-mail. The purpose of the website is to inform members and the general public about HAT and Humanism.
     j)    External Representative: The External Representative will be a liaison between HAT and allied organizations.
    k)    Public Relations Officer: The Public Relations Officer will maintain contact with the media. The Public Relations Officer is responsible for preparing informational material about HAT.
    l)    Members-at-Large: There can be up to three Members-at-Large on the Steering Committee. The duties of the Members-at-Large shall be as determined from time to time by the Steering Committee.

(iv)    Elections to the posts will be made at the AGM by vote of the membership.
(v)    Fifty percent (50%) of the Steering Committee members will constitute a quorum. Decisions will be made by simple majority.
(vi)    If a member of the Steering Committee (SC) fails to attend three consecutive meetings of the SC and does not provide a reason satisfactory to the SC, the member may at the discretion of the SC be deemed to have resigned from the post and shall be so notified by mail.
(vii)    If a post on the Steering Committee becomes vacant during the business year, the remaining Steering Committee members may appoint a person to that post to serve until the next annual election.
(viii)    Meetings of the Steering Committee shall be open to members, who may participate in discussion at the discretion of the SC but may not vote.
(ix)    For all purposes under the Ontario Corporations Act, the members of the Steering Committee shall constitute the Board of Directors.

Section 7  Business Meetings of the General Membership

(i)    All decisions that will create a major change in direction shall be made by the general membership at a business meeting. These will include but not be limited to: amendments to the Constitution or increases in membership dues.
(ii)    There will be a business meeting, designated the Annual General Meeting (AGM), each year within four months of the fiscal year end. At this meeting reports will be presented by each post, the auditor(s) will be elected, elections will be held for the following year’s Steering Committee, and other matters raised, subject to paragraph Section 7 (v) and (vi). Additional business meetings can be called by vote of the Steering Committee or by submitting to the Recording Secretary a written request signed by 10% of the members or 10 members, whichever is less.
(iii)    At the start of a business meeting, one member who is not on the Steering Committee must be elected to chair the meeting.
(iv)    To be adopted, any proposal that would create a major change in direction must be approved by two-thirds of those present either in person or by proxy. All other decisions require a simple majority. The decision whether a particular proposal constitutes a major change in direction will be made by the Chair but can be overridden by a simple majority of those present.
(v)    HAT bylaws may be passed by a simple majority at a business meeting or by the Steering Committee. A bylaw passed at a business meeting can be amended or repealed only at a business meeting unless the membership authorizes the Steering Committee to make amendments.
(vi)    Notice of a business meeting and the questions before the membership, will be sent to all members, in writing, at least two weeks before the meeting date.
(vii)    Items will be include on the agenda of a business meeting if
(a)    the Steering Committee votes to include them, or
(b)    a written request for inclusion is submitted to the Recording Secretary signed by 10% of the members or 10 members, whichever is less, at least four weeks before the meeting date.
(viii)    In order to expedite the conduct of business at a business meeting, Robert's Rules of Order shall be deemed to apply in all matters of procedure.
(ix)    Business meetings will not be held unless a quorum is present in person or by proxy. A quorum consists of 20% of paid up members or 50 members, whichever is less.
(x)    Members may be represented at meetings by proxy. The proxyholder must be a member of HAT. No member present may be proxy for more than 5 members.

Section 8  Resolution of disputes

(i)    HAT bylaws shall establish the procedure for resolving disputes among members.
(ii)    Penalties

(a) A member of HAT who is found by the dispute resolution process to have violated the Constitution to the clear detriment of the Association or any of its members, may be censured, suspended or expelled. No member shall be censured, suspended or expelled except by a simple majority vote of members at a Business Meeting.

(b) A member of HAT who is elected to a post and is found by the dispute resolution process to have violated the constitution, or abused the powers of his or her office to the clear detriment of the Association or any of its members, may be censured or removed from office. No member shall be removed from office except by a simple majority vote of members at a Business Meeting or by a two-thirds supermajority of the Steering Committee.
(iii)    The Constitution shall restrict the rights of members only to the extent necessary for the legitimate goals of HAT and the fair and orderly conduct of its affairs.
(iv)    Any party to a dispute under the Constitution must seek settlement through the dispute resolution process before taking recourse to any external body.
(v)    Any party accused of a violation must be treated as innocent until found guilty by the dispute resolution process.
(vi)    Any party to a dispute has the right to consult, be assisted or represented by a lawyer or other person(s) of their choice at their own expense.
(vii))    Members will in no way be restricted or penalized for actions committed when not a member of HAT.

Bylaws

1.  Financial Year End

    The financial year end will be December 31st.

2. Financial Control

    Any expenditure of over $200.00, which is not budgeted, must be approved by vote of the steering committee at a Steering Committee meeting.

3. HAT Publication Policy

(i)    The Association shall publish a Newsletter. Magazines, leaflets or other materials may be published as resources permit. The Editors of HAT publications shall be answerable to the Steering Committee for ensuring that publications uphold journalistic standards. Readers have the right to have complaints in this matter heard by the steering committee. At such hearings, the Editors shall not sit as Steering Committee members.
(ii)    Editorial decisions shall be based primarily on the merits of the work submitted and on the availability of space. If the Editor deems it suitable, he or she may designate specific issues of publications to concentrate upon specified topics. Paid advertising may be accepted on the understanding that no material which is clearly unacceptable to Humanists will be accepted and that at all times the interests of readers must take priority over those of advertisers. Prospective advertisers must be informed of this policy. 
(iii)    Opinions expressed in HAT publications, including editorials, do not represent official HAT policy unless specified. Mention of organizations, events, or of other publications does not signify official support by HAT unless so specified. 

4. Membership Policy

(i)    Members must subscribe in general to the principles as outlined in Section 3 of the Constitution of HAT.
(ii)    All members pay annual membership dues, except as stated in (iii). Any member in arrears for more than 3 months in the current year can be removed from membership and will no longer be entitled to membership privileges, until reinstated by payment of the membership dues for the current year.
(iii)    Members may be excused from payment of dues as provided below:
a)    Life Members:Upon contribution to HAT of $200 or more, a member in good standing may become a Life Member and remain a member in good standing without further payment of dues subject to observance of other provisions of this Constitution and By-Laws.
b)    Honourary Life Members: Any person who has performed distinguished service for HAT, or any member of HAT who has performed distinguished service for the cause of Humanism, may be nominated an Honourary Life Member of HAT by a member of the Steering Committee, subject to ratification by the membership at a Business Meeting. Such nomination shall not be based solely on the financial contribution, but for activities which call for personal struggle, risk, or sacrifice.
c)    At the discretion of the Steering Committee, any member may be excused from paying dues if the payment of dues represents a financial hardship.

5. Resolution of Disputes

(i)    Preamble

If the organization is to progress towards its legitimate goals, proper and reasonable obligations must be observed by the Association, its officers, and members, as set out in the constitution. This section provides for the fair, orderly and timely resolution of any disputes regarding the alleged violation of the constitution.
(ii)    Procedure

Any party alleging a violation of the constitution must first seek by reasoned discussion to reach an informal settlement of the matter with the party allegedly responsible. If this is not possible, the party alleging a violation may have recourse to the following dispute resolution procedure, by submitting a written complaint to the Membership Secretary, who upon receiving a complaint, must notify the accused party of the complaint with the least possible delay, and send a legible and up-to-date copy of the constitution to the parties concerned. The Membership Secretary shall call a business meeting in accordance with Section 7.

At the business meeting the complaining party may present arguments and evidence, and a motion of remedy requested. Any other party may present arguments and evidence. Any party may question witnesses. The matter shall be settled by a vote of the members present.

Failure by a party to appear at the meeting without good reason shall be deemed an abandonment of interest in the matter.

A decision of a meeting regarding a dispute may be appealed by written application to the Membership Secretary within one month of the decision. The procedure shall be as above, but with no right of further appeal within the association.

No party to a dispute shall vote on the matter or preside over proceedings called for its settlement. In the event of the Membership Secretary being party to a dispute, the Recording Secretary shall replace him (her), in proceedings under this section.