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Ontario education minister warned of ‘impacts’ of sex-ed rollback, human rights tribunal told

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Senior ministry staff warned the education minister that rolling back the sex-ed curriculum could be perceived as “outdated” and “not serving the needs of today’s students,” an Ontario human rights tribunal heard Thursday.

That’s according to a document introduced as part of a human rights challenge launched by an 11-year-old transgender child who contends the province’s repeal of the 2015 Health and Physical Education (HPE) curriculum discriminates against LGBTQ students.

A memo from senior ministry staff to Education Minister Lisa Thompson flagged concerns about rolling back the sex-ed curriculum because it would mean the exclusion of such topics as consent and sexting, among other things, a human rights tribunal was told Thursday.
A memo from senior ministry staff to Education Minister Lisa Thompson flagged concerns about rolling back the sex-ed curriculum because it would mean the exclusion of such topics as consent and sexting, among other things, a human rights tribunal was told Thursday.  (Andrew Francis Wallace / Toronto Star File Photo)

In a memo to Education Minister Lisa Thompson, dated July 25, 2018, assistant deputy ministers Martyn Beckett and Denys Giguère wrote about the “impacts” of quashing the 2015 HPE curriculum for elementary students, and replacing it with an interim one that included sex-ed material from 1998.

“There would be no mandatory learning of the following topics: consent, sexting, homophobia, sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression,” wrote Beckett and Giguère.

They also pointed out that such a move “could be perceived by the public as outdated and not serving the needs of today’s students.” And, they noted, “some school boards have voiced their concern with utilizing sexual-health expectations from 1998.”

Nonetheless, in late August, Premier Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservative government moved ahead with an election promise and repealed the modernized HPE curriculum, which some social conservatives felt was not age appropriate. It was replaced with an interim document from 2010, which includes sex-ed material from 1998.

Read more:

Consent big concern during sex-ed consultations, Minister Lisa Thompson says

Sex-ed curriculum ‘doesn’t talk about consent enough,’ Education Minister Lisa Thompson says

Transgender girl says sex-ed repeal made her nervous about returning to school

The government also launched an extensive public consultation process on a range of education issues and received about 72,000 submissions between September and December.

Beckett, who testified Thursday, said he and Giguère “wanted to be clear and transparent” with the minister about how the curriculum change would impact mandatory teaching expectations.

But, he added that just because topics are no longer deemed mandatory doesn’t mean teachers can’t teach them. He said “teachers have the ability to use their professional judgment … in how they wish to develop their lesson” and are free to teach about issues, such as gender identity, stereotypes and LGBTQ issues.

Teachers have a responsibility to ensure that all students feel “welcomed, included and celebrated,” he told the tribunal.

When asked why the province did not keep the 2015 curriculum in place while undertaking its consultation process, Beckett said the government was committed to giving Ontarians a voice.

The applicant in this human rights case is an 11-year-old identified only as AB. Last week, AB testified that the government’s rollback of the curriculum puts trans youth in the shadows.

Students at Western Technical Commercial School joined a province-wide protest against the Ford government's rollback of the sex-ed curriculum in September.
Students at Western Technical Commercial School joined a province-wide protest against the Ford government’s rollback of the sex-ed curriculum in September.  (Steve Russell / Toronto Star File Photo)

AB’s lawyers Mika Imai and Marcus McCann argue that revoking an LGBTQ-inclusive curriculum and replacing it with a noninclusive one violates the human rights of LGBTQ students.

“We think this puts trans and queer youth at risk of being bullied and being harassed,” Imai told the Star, during a break in proceedings.

The Ontario Human Rights Commission has intervened seeking to protect the rights of girls and LGBTQ+ students, which it says are among the province’s most vulnerable and at-risk people. It also believes the interim curriculum does not properly address consent, putting students at greater risk of sexual violence.

The Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario and Justice for Children and Youth are intervenors in this case.

Lawyers for the government argue teachers have substantial discretion when it comes to delivering the interim curriculum and are allowed to use any resource they choose to help them design their lesson plans. Beckett said teachers can still use the 2015 curriculum as a resource — that document, however, is no longer available on the ministry website.

“Teachers are required to teach in an inclusive way,” said Beckett. “Teachers are to be mindful and inclusive of children in the community and in the province of Ontario.”

Although curriculum development typically takes about two years, Beckett said the province is committed to delivering a new HPE curriculum by September.

The matter is being adjudicated by Jennifer Scott and Brenda Bowlby.

Proceedings will resume Friday and closing arguments are scheduled for next week

The province is also facing a separate human rights challenge launched by two transgender teens, and legal challenges by the Canadian Civil Liberties Association and the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario.

Isabel Teotonio is a Toronto-based reporter covering education. Follow her on Twitter: @Izzy74



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Anglais

A stunning Water Lantern Festival is coming to Montreal

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What might just be the most magical night ever is coming up for Montreal this year.

The Water Lantern Festival has announced that it will be gracing Mississauga with thousands of floating lanterns later this year, as part of a celebration that spans the entire world.

According to the festival’s official website, the event is a celebration of life with proceeds going towards charities and non-profit organizations within the area.

“Water Lantern Festival brings together individuals from all ages, backgrounds, and walks of life to join in one emotional and memorable night. At the Water Lantern Festival, we cherish these moments and will do our best to help you have a memorable experience that you’ll never forget as you witness the beauty of thousands of lanterns reflecting upon the water,” the website states.

The festival takes place throughout multiple cities around the world, with the Canadian cities of Quebec, Regina, Vancouver, Hamilton, Calgary, Ottawa, Mississauga, and, of course, Montreal taking part.

For the Calgary event, a date has been confirmed and tickets are already rolling out. Montreal shan’t be far behind, and you can click the Notify Me tab on the event’s site to be kept in the loop.

Expect an evening filled with food trucks, music, lantern designing and finally, a magical launch of the lanterns into the water as the sun goes down.

For our pals over in Calgary, their event includes a floating lantern, a commemorative drawstring bag, a marker, and a wristband. Expect something similar, if not the same, when more details float through about Montreal’s event.

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Anglais

Euthanasia order on hold for Montreal dog that attacked children

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A pit bull dog that attacked four children and two adults in August 2018 in Montreal North will not be euthanized in the immediate future.

The euthanasia order has been temporarily suspended pending the appeal of a Quebec Superior Court decision.

On Tuesday, Judge Lukasz Granosik rejected a request to halt the euthanasia order issued by the Montreal North borough, which declared the animal a “dangerous dog.”

The City of Montreal has not changed its mind. This is only a delay before it proceeds with euthanizing the dog, a source told the Canadian Press.

Shotta, the one-year-old dog, was in the care of its owner’s acquaintance in August 2018. The dog attacked four children and two adults, causing serious injuries in separate incidents on the same day.

After the attacks, the dog was taken from the home and entrusted to the SPCA.

WATCH: Dog found dead in Angrignon Park

The Road to Home Rescue Support, an American shelter, asked the court if it could take in the dog. Christa Frineau, the dog’s owner, had also asked that Shotta not be euthanized.

Granosik refused to grant the request.

—With files from Global’s Kalina Laframboise

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Anglais

9 Things To Do In Montreal This Friday, Saturday & Sunday

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Today’s sunny skies have me itching to make weekend plans. I absolutely cannot wait to make the most of this warmer weather. This might be the time to inflate my bike tires and dust off my running shoes…

Whether you want to brush up on your cooking skills, let loose, or fill your stomach with amazing food, there’s an event out there for you. Read on for 9 fun things you can do with friends or a fling this weekend.

TL;DR Read on for 9 fun things you can do in Montreal this weekend.

Let Yourself Go At Dress Up

Where: 185 Avenue Van Horne, Montréal.

When: Friday, March 29, 9:00 p.m.

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