Humanist Chaplain, Counsellor and Officiant

About Gail McCabe PhD RSSW

Since my parents were freethinkers, my Humanist perspective is a ‘genetic’ inheritance. In 2001, I joined the Humanist Association of Toronto because I wanted to become more actively Humanist in the face of rising fundamentalisms and shrinking civil liberties that have an effect in the secular sphere. In consequence, I have developed Humanist connections and friendships as well as a commitment to strengthening Humanism in Canada and abroad.

In 2002, I became a Humanist Officiant because I believe that Humanist rites of passage provide alternatives to people who would otherwise have little recourse beyond religious affiliations or the sterile confines of a municipal building. By facilitating Humanist baby namings, weddings, and funerals, Humanist Officiants encourage people to ‘humanize’ their ceremonies and to become the ‘creators’ of their own rites of passage. In the process, Humanist Officiants become ‘ambassadors’ for Humanismproviding education about a Humanist worldview and a creative approach to living.

In 2008, I was nominated by the Humanist Association of Canada for appointment and accepted by the Campus Chaplains Association as the first Humanist Chaplain at the University of Toronto. In subsequent years, I asked Mary Beaty to join me and together we have developed the University of Toronto Humanist Chaplaincy.  That effort has satisfied not only my passion for Humanist social movement but also my commitment to serve students as an educator, counsellor and supporter.

In 2013, I joined the United Jewish People’s Order (UJPO), a secular Jewish Humanist Society. My mother was a member many, many years ago and I joined the organization in respect of my mother’s humanist philosophy and her affiliation with UJPO.  This was an outcome of a contact in 2012 from a UJPO board member asking if the organization would be able to refer any inquiries for secular Jewish Humanist ceremonies to me. I was pleased to say that they should refer inquirers to me.  The initial request referred to wedding ceremonies, but I also facilitate funeral and memorial services and child namings.  In 2012, I had the honour and pleasure of facilitating my first Brit Shalom naming ceremony.  And I must say that it was a joy to create that ceremony in the secular Jewish tradition because it put me in touch with my roots and my own family.

» Go to United Jewish People’s Order (UJPO) 

» Go to University of Toronto Humanist Chaplaincy

» Go to Ontario Humanist Society

» Go to Humanist Association of Toronto

Social Service Worker

In 1993, Gail graduated with a Social Service Worker’s diploma from Sheridan College. She worked with diverse populations in the Disability Sector developing programs, providing skills development and supporting them to live meaningful, active lives.  She left the field in order to continue her education with a view to contributing to social change for people like her clients on the margins.


Gail holds a doctorate in Sociology and the Graduate Diploma in Refugee and Migration Studies from York University. She taught in a number of post-secondary institutions with a long career as a Professor in Sociology and Communication Studies.  Courses she taught include Mass Communications; Media, Technology and the Internet; and Linguistic, Ethnic and Cultural Diversity in Canada.  She held teaching appointments at Glendon College and the Faculty of Arts Fundamentals of Learning Program at York University.  She also taught at Wilfrid Laurier and Brock Universities and Humber College with a three-year stint as an Instructor in the Community Services Worker program at a private career college in Mississauga.  Her most recent teaching appointment (2012) was in the Contemporary Studies Program at Laurier Brantford teaching Media and Modernity.

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Academic Advisor and Humanist Counsellor

For six years, Gail was the Academic Advisor at Calumet College at York University providing advising on academic, transitional and psychosocial issues to undergraduate students. This role involved her training in social work and counselling as well as her academic roles.  Gail has left the teaching profession behind but still maintains a teaching orientation in her roles as a Humanist Chaplain and Counsellor.  Her approach to these roles is grounded in Humanistic psychology and person-centred counselling that favours collaboration with clients for the development of psychosocial skills that will enhance their capacities to manage life transitions across the lifespan. An aspect of her practice is offering secular marriage preparation sessions to groups and couples on request.