U.N. chief to visit Japan in May for G-7 summit-related talks




U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon is likely to travel to Japan in May for talks on issues of global concern to be held as part of a Group of Seven summit, U.N. officials said.

Ban plans to seize on the visit to confer with G-7 leaders on climate change and other issues associated with the environment and energy, among other topics, the officials told Kyodo News.

This year’s summit of the G-7 states—Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, host Japan and the United States—is due to take place in the central Japan prefecture of Mie on May 26-27.

During his stay in Japan, the U.N. chief could arrange meetings with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and other top government leaders, the officials said.

Ban is expected to relay his gratitude to Japan for its contribution to the United Nations since its accession to the world body in 1956 and compare notes on North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs.

The Japanese side is believed to be seeking Ban’s help in pushing for U.N. reforms, particularly expansion of the powerful Security Council that Tokyo wants to join as a permanent member. The current permanent members are Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States.

If realized, Ban’s trip to Japan will be his first since last March, when he participated in a U.N. conference on disaster risk reduction in Sendai in the northeast.

Ban, whose second five-year term as U.N. secretary general ends this year, has at times attended talks related to annual major countries’ summits, including a session of the summit in Hokkaido, northern Japan, in 2008.

On climate change, Ban is likely to request G-7 nations to take a leadership role in steadily carrying out the Paris Agreement adopted at U.N. climate talks last December, the officials said.

The accord sets out a long-term global goal of reaching a peaking of heat-trapping gas emissions as soon as possible, and effectively reducing them to zero in the second half of this century.

Ban is also looking to call for actions from G-7 states to resolve the civil war in Syria, the refugee crisis in Europe and the ongoing unrest in Ukraine to help improve the deteriorating humanitarian situation, they said.

He is also likely to urge steady implementation of the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals adopted last September, they added. The set of 17 goals is intended to lift millions more people out of poverty and enrich their lives through 2030.


Gender segregation at a Muslim-sponsored university event in Canada




Reader Darryl Gwynne described an incident he experienced at his university in Canada, and I asked him to write a brief account of it for me. So here it is. I’ve added a photo to supplement the one Darryl links to below.

Segregation by gender at a University of Toronto event

Darryl Gwynne

So it’s 2016 in Canada. Several students and I turn up at a public ‘science’ seminar where we are astonished to see that men and women are being seated on opposite sides of our campus lecture hall. Segregation began at the entrance when ticket-takers directed the women from our group through a separate door, but was further enforced inside; after we had taken seats with the ‘sisters,’ the males in our group were twice asked to move over with the ‘brothers’ (the second time by the speaker himself). We refused. The January 8th eventGod Is Not Dead: Science and Atheism in Islam – was co-hosted by our (University of Toronto-Mississauga) Muslim Students Association and Ilmster Seminars.

We were not the only ones objecting to the segregation that day; a hijab-wearing student quietly thanked us for not moving, stating that dividing the audience by gender was wrong. Our subsequent discussions with her and other women were very interesting (and revealed that they were far better than the speaker, Abdul Malik, in articulating some of the key lecture points).

I complained about the segregation to our campus equity officer, the campus Vice-President, and the University’s Vice President of Human Resources & Equity, and they all indicated that gender segregation should not occur in lectures and seminars. However, there appears to be no policy and very little effort at our university to prevent such segregation. Although our equity officer informed me that, in response to my complaint, she is having an ongoing dialogue with our Muslim Students Association, segregation appears to continue at this group’s recent campus workshops and seminars:



When I contacted the Ontario Human Rights Commission they refused to give me an opinion on whether gender segregation at a public university event violated Ontario’s Human Rights Code, and simply informed me that any person who believed their rights had been infringed can submit a claim. Importantly, there appears to be no “legal standing” here in Canada on the issue of audience gender segregation at universities. This is in direct contrast with other countries such as the UK where “Gender segregation is not permitted in any academic meetings or at events, lectures or meetings.

When it comes to prayer, however, our university does allow religion to overcome the right of women to sit where they wish in a student audience.  In order to accommodate religious ceremony our campus has a Muslim group prayer room where (to quote one official) “gender segregation during worship services that the Muslim Students Association practices is in accordance with their religious beliefs which is permissible at the University of Toronto”.

Finally, Ilmster Seminars have done the God-Is-Not-Dead thing at several Ontario universities. There will likely be others, and the coordinators of the event will no doubt continue to separate men from women in modern university classrooms.