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Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario loses sex-ed court challenge

THE CANADIAN PRESS AND NEWS STAFF | posted Friday, Mar 1st, 2019

An Ontario court has dismissed a legal challenge from elementary teachers and a civil liberties group over the province’s sex-ed curriculum.

The challenge from the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario and the Canadian Civil Liberties Association argued that changes made by the Progressive Conservative government infringed teachers’ freedom of expression and put students at risk by failing to be inclusive.

The Tories repealed a 2015 curriculum from the previous Liberal government that included lessons warning about online bullying and sexting, as well as parts addressing same-sex relationships and gender identity.

Instead, elementary teachers were directed to teach the previous 2010 curriculum, which ETFO argued hampered teachers’ ability to teach in a way “that is positive, inclusive, and respectful of diversity.”

A Divisional Court ruling released today notes that government lawyers said teachers were allowed to go beyond what is in the new curriculum, and there was no evidence of a teacher being disciplined for doing that.

“Nothing in the 2010 curriculum prohibits a teacher from teaching any of the topics in question, which include: consent, use of proper names to describe body parts, gender identity and sexual orientation, online behaviour and cyberbullying, sexually transmitted diseases and infections,” the ruling stated.

ETFO’s lawyer had said there might not have been a legal challenge if Premier Doug Ford hadn’t also issued a warning to teachers who said they would continue to use the now-scrapped version of the curriculum.

The court said some of the public statements made were “ill-considered,” but did not constitute an infringement of the charter.

“Finally, we note that it is the role of legislators as elected officials, not the court, to enact legislation and make policy decisions,” the court ruled.

“Courts should not interfere with the exercise of a discretion by a statutory authority simply because the court might have acted differently or finds that a decision may be ill-advised.”

The court also found that objections to the use of the term “sexually transmitted disease” in the 2010 curriculum weren’t enough to warrant the court’s intervention, arguing that the term is widely used.

“While the applicants and interveners object to the use of the “outdated” term “sexually transmitted disease” (STD) in the 2010 curriculum and prefer the words “sexually transmitted infection” STD is the term used by the U.S. Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, Planned Parenthood, and is the title of the International Journal of STD and AIDS that ETFO’s expert, Dr. Logie, published in May 2018.”

The court also noted that STD is the term used in elementary schools in many other provinces and territories.

Education Minister Lisa Thompson said after getting feedback from public consultations on the health and physical education curriculum, a new one will be ready for the fall.

“I think it’s going to be safe to say that there were opportunities to introduce even more realities in terms of what students face today,” Thompson said. “Cyberbullying, consent, human trafficking – those are all issues that we have heard through our consultation that parents want to be addressed.”

The Liberal curriculum included lessons on cyberbulling and consent.

Thompson would not say specifically if gender identity would be part of the new curriculum.

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association called it “a crummy day for equality” and said they intend to appeal.

YouTube suspends comments on videos of kids

RACHEL LERMAN, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS | posted Friday, Mar 1st, 2019

YouTube said Thursday it will turn off comments on nearly all videos featuring kids – potentially affecting millions of posts on the site – after reports last week that pedophiles were leaving inappropriate comments on innocuous videos of children.

The change comes as YouTube grapples with moderating content across its platform as concerns about hate speech, violence and conspiracy theories continue to plague it.

It will take YouTube several months to disable comments on all videos featuring minors, the company said. It already started the process last week when it turned off comments from tens of millions of videos.

Advertisers including Nestle, AT&T and Fortnite-maker Epic Games pulled ads from YouTube last week after the inappropriate comments about children were unearthed by a popular YouTuber and media reports. At least one company, Nestle, was satisfied with YouTube’s response and reinstated ads late last week.

A small number of channels which have videos featuring kids will be allowed to keep comments turned on. But they must be known to YouTube and must actively monitor the comments beyond the standard monitoring tools YouTube provides.

Turning off comments on such a large number of videos seems an “extreme reaction,” said eMarketer analyst Paul Verna. But the issue involves the safety of children, so it makes sense YouTube would want to act quickly, he said.

Comments aren’t the main focus of the video-publishing site, but turning them off will likely diminish the experience for many users and video creators, he said.

YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki acknowledged the concerns Thursday, tweeting, “Nothing is more important to us than ensuring the safety of young people on the platform.”

The company said it has also released an updated version of its automated moderating system that it expects will identify and delete two times as many inappropriate comments.

YouTube, like Facebook, Twitter and other sites that allow user publishing, have faced increasing calls to monitor what appears on their sites and get rid of unsuitable content. The companies all say they have taken action to protect users. But issues keep popping up.

Concerns about YouTube comments weren’t even a top priority for advertisers and viewers a couple weeks ago, Verna said.

“It just makes you wonder, what’s the next thing that going to happen?”

First weekend of March comes marching in with fun

CHRISTINE CHUBB AND PATRICIA D'CUNHA | posted Friday, Mar 1st, 2019

The arrival of March means that St. Patrick’s Day and spring are just around the corner! As you await for their arrival, below are some events to enjoy right now in the city. Just because it is winter that doesn’t mean you can’t have fun. Have a great weekend.

Toronto Winter Brewfest
Warm up in more ways than one this weekend, while enjoying a local libation at Toronto Winter Brewfest. Sample more than 150 beers from across Ontario and Quebec while indulging in gourmet food from Toronto’s best food trucks at the Evergreen Brickworks. The festival is marked off in three different sessions — Friday evening, Saturday afternoon and Saturday evening. Click here for ticket availability. And if you’re wondering, why would I drink cold beer on a cold day? As the great Cliff Clavin would say, “it actually results in a more comfortable body temperature.”

Toronto Marlies ’90s Night!
Dust off your Doc Martens and grow out that mullet cause it’s a ’90s throwback at Coca-Cola Coliseum this Saturday. The Toronto Marlies will celebrate their first ever ’90s night with rad music and dope activities for the whole family! The first 3,500 fans through the gates will get a totally awesome Marlies fanny pack — what’s more ’90s than that??? Click here for tickets. It’s sure to be all that and a bag of chips!

Antique market and vintage clothing shows
If you are looking for antique and vintage finds, head down to the Toronto Antique & Vintage Market and the Toronto Vintage Clothing Show this weekend. Browse the various vendors selling antique furniture and textiles, architectural salvage, vinyl records, vintage clothing from the 1920s and antique jewelry. Admission to the clothing show is included with admission to the vintage market.

Toronto Zoo Polar Dip
Polar bears need your help, and this weekend, some people are doing their part to raise awareness for polar bear conservation by taking the plunge. On Saturday, the Toronto Zoo will be holding its Polar Dip where several brave souls will be taking a dip into icy-cold waters. Afterwards, a post-splash party will be held for those who took the plunge and others visiting the Zoo. Those taking part in the dip need to register, but the fundraising efforts will continue once the event is done.

Trudeau shuffles cabinet after Wilson-Raybould’s resignation

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Friday, Mar 1st, 2019

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is making longtime MP Lawrence MacAulay his new veterans-affairs minister to fill the void left by the resignation of Jody Wilson-Raybould as part of a minor cabinet shuffle this morning.

Two other ministers already in cabinet are taking on new responsibilities: Marie-Claude Bibeau replaces MacAulay as agriculture minister and Gender Equality Minister Maryam Monsef takes on the additional portfolio of international development.

Wilson-Raybould, who was moved from the justice portfolio to veterans affairs in the last federal cabinet shuffle in mid-January, resigned her post Feb. 12.

On Wednesday, Wilson-Raybould testified to the House of Commons justice committee that she was pressured by Trudeau, his senior staff and others to halt a criminal prosecution of Montreal engineering giant SNC-Lavalin.

She said she believed she was shuffled out as attorney general and justice minister because she didn’t give in to the political arm-twisting.

Trudeau has denied the SNC-Lavalin affair had anything to do with Wilson-Raybould’s move, saying she would still be justice minister had former Treasury Board president Scott Brison not suddenly decided to leave politics.

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