Quebec’s proposed religious symbol ban prompts concerns from EMSB community – Montreal


Montreal parents and teachers are voicing a growing chorus of concerns as the Coalition Avenir Québec government prepares to move forward with its contentious proposal on religious neutrality.

READ MORE: Quebec’s Education Ministry says school surveys on religious symbols began months ago

The English Montreal School Board (EMSB) opened its doors to the public on Wednesday for an emergency meeting on the province’s plan to bar civil servants in positions of authority  —including teachers, police officers and judges — from wearing religious symbols in the workplace.

“Our teachers are wearing religious symbols — it has had no effect on students’ success,” said EMSB chairperson Angela Mancini, adding the school board wants to teach its students about diversity.

The proposed legislation was a key election promise made by Quebec Premier François Legault, who maintains it has widespread support from across the province. It has also sparked protests in Montreal and accusations from teachers that the CAQ is trying to create a problem where none exists.

READ MORE: Quebec’s proposed religious symbol ban for public workers fuelled by specific symbols: study

The meeting drew parents, retired educators, teacher’s associations and residents, who showed up to offer their opinions over the proposed ban. The EMSB, which has strongly opposed similar plans from other governments, will use the feedback to formulate its own decision and develop an eventual action plan.

For Saba Ansari, a mother of Muslim faith whose children used to attend an EMSB school, the province’s plan is disappointing.

“Why are we focusing on these kinds of issues?” she said. “This is personal freedom, actually, and it should be given to us.”

If the Legault government’s plan becomes law, Ansari said she fears her children will face hardships due to their religious beliefs.

“How will they feel? They will feel like second-class citizens.”

WATCH: Religious symbols debate turns another corner

The Montreal Teachers’ Association called the government’s decision “regrettable,” adding it would vigorously defend the rights of educators if they are barred from exercising religious freedom.

“Targeting individuals based on what they wear and their personal religious beliefs feeds intolerance,” said MTA president Peter Sutherland, “and is in complete opposition to the very values of tolerance and inclusion that teachers promote in their classrooms every day.”

Last week, the provincial government approached Quebec school boards to ask if they know how many teachers and staff wear religious symbols at work.

READ MORE: Quebec status of women minister calls Muslim head scarf a symbol of oppression

The education ministry then admitted Tuesday it began those surveys in 2018, when the Liberals were in office. Education Minister Jean-François Roberge then denounced the criticism the CAQ government faced from school boards and the opposition over the issue.

Legault, for his part, said earlier this week it doesn’t matter how few teachers in Quebec wear religious symbols at work. He said governments need to have a “vision” and recognize that the practice will become more prevalent.

“We know there will be more and more in our society, and in other societies, and we should have legislated on this issue years ago,” he said on Monday.

READ MORE: Quebec asking school boards how many employees wear religious symbols

The bill on religious neutrality is expected to be tabled sometime in the spring.

— With files from Global’s Brayden Jagger Haines and The Canadian Press

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.


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Pride Parade police ban is a self-crippling move


Cops: Gay Pride is just not that into you.

The rainbow flag doesn’t include a swath of blue — or black and white actually, which are the colours of the Toronto Police Service uniform. These are uniforms-non-grata for the Pride Parade, as determined by a razor thin 163-161 Pride Toronto membership vote on Tuesday.

Police Chief Mark Saunders talks to other parade participants during Toronto’s annual Pride Parade in 2016. Members who voted to exclude police from this year’s parade may well be contributing to Pride Toronto’s financial crisis, Rosie DiManno writes.
Police Chief Mark Saunders talks to other parade participants during Toronto’s annual Pride Parade in 2016. Members who voted to exclude police from this year’s parade may well be contributing to Pride Toronto’s financial crisis, Rosie DiManno writes.  (Steve Russell / Toronto Star)

No uniforms for the parade, certainly no cop float or cruisers, thus no inclusive police presence at this summer’s 39th annual parade, so three annual parades in a row excluding officers — gay or straight or whatever — unless they participate in civvies. The moratorium is binding for two years, according to a pre-vote email circulated by Pride Toronto.

Controversy swirled around the vote, with allegations that 244 names were added to the membership roll within 48 hours preceding the special general meeting, almost doubling the numbers. As well, some expressed concern about the transparency, for those unable to attend, of an online voting format that had never been used before.

All of this in advance of next Tuesday’s annual general meeting to elect three new board members and closed to the media.

Going on three years now — since Black Lives Matter halted the 2016 parade — that a celebratory event which brings immense prestige to the city has been embroiled in divisive politics and flaring emotion.

I am sympathetic to members of the LGBTQ community who don’t want their space invaded by cops. There are compelling historical reasons for distrust. And, in more recent history, apprehensions were further entrenched by a shambolic investigation of serial murderer preying on men in the Gay Village, alarm bells raised that rang and rang and rang, from within the neighbourhood, before police doubled down on their probe of men who had gone missing and an arrest was finally made, mere weeks after Chief Mark Saunders assured there was no serial killer out there.

If I was gay and I had a vote, it would be: No. A purely gut response.

But I am straight and my non-vote would be: Yes.

Because the parade is in financial peril. Because the parade, hosted by the Gay Village, is an otherwise open invitation to the city. Because attendance was so obviously in decline in 2018, doubtless in part because the gay community was still grieving over its losses, but also, I would argue, due to a public backlash against Pride Toronto. The organization’s audit for 2018 claims attendance for Pride Festival events was up, to 2.6 million. My eyes do not believe it.

Nor, for one moment, do I believe that any gay individual would feel “unsafe” in the parade presence of uniformed officers, particularly since officers will be there anyway on professional duty. It’s what the uniform represents that raises hackles. A contact flinch. An undercurrent of bitterness. A toxic dislike that may be justifiable and certainly not exclusive to the gay community.

It seemed, as recently as October, that the wrangle had been resolved or was at least headed toward peacemaking. Olivia Nuameh, Pride’s executive director, hit all the conciliatory grace notes in announcing, with Saunders at her side, that the board would welcome an application from Toronto police to march in 2019.

What was the purpose of that announcement, widely well-received, when the board apparently misread the tenor of its membership? Nuameh — who didn’t return a call from the Star on Friday — had been made to look inept and Saunders a supplicating fool.

Behind-the-scenes outreach between police liaison officers, the mayor’s office and Pride Toronto have been wrecked by what is essentially a small rump of the gay dissident faction with no explanation for why Pride even held a narrow one-question vote with so small a pivotal forum: “Should the Toronto Police Service be permitted to participate in Pride Toronto’s Festival Weekend, Parade and Streetfair, to include their uniforms and vehicles?”

Not that Pride Toronto was necessary driven by reconciliatory motivation. The organization is tangled up in debt, $700,00 in the red, with an operating deficit of $250,000 last year, its temporary lifeline a $300,000 line of credit.

Even with a drop in sponsorship revenue, this is difficult to reckon for an event that pours revenue into the city’s coffers: As per the economic impact section of the auditor’s report, posted online, the Pride Festival contributed an estimated $681 million to Ontario’s GDP, supported 5,000 direct jobs, and generated $270 million in combined federal, provincial and municipal tax revenues. Attendees spent $305 million in Pride-related purchases over Parade weekend alone and $379 million during Pride Month.

The imbalance is puzzling, as are the stark financial projections for 2019, despite cost-cutting undertakings that will see the number of stages reduced from 14 to three and ticketed events increased from four to 10.

"The festival this year is going to be very much slimmed down," Pride's executive director Olivia Nuamah told the Star, a day after the organization's members narrowly voted against allowing uniformed police officers to march in this year's parade.
« The festival this year is going to be very much slimmed down, » Pride’s executive director Olivia Nuamah told the Star, a day after the organization’s members narrowly voted against allowing uniformed police officers to march in this year’s parade.  (Rene Johnston / Toronto Star)

A confidential backgrounder to Tuesday’s vote, sent to members and obtained by NOW Magazine, observes that the police disinvitation — coupled with a “significant internal reorganization” — accounted for a gap in corporate and public funding that “has had long term impacts on the financial health of our organization, the main one being mounting debt.”

Minutes of Pride Toronto’s Oct. 15, 2018 board meeting, also obtained via NOW digging, suggest funding problems faced by the organization prompted the decision to beckon police back into the Pride fold. The minutes state that Pride is at risk of becoming intolerably insolvent and the organization was relying on “funding focused on facilitating ongoing dialogue to try to ease tensions between the LGBTQ2+ community and police” to stay afloat.

Some, fed up with the whole shemozzle, have been advocating for all levels of government to pull Pride funding should the police ban not be reversed. This would be as wrong-headed as the ban itself.

About five per cent of Canadians identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. That’s some 140,000 in Toronto, although obviously the numbers would skew higher for an urban metropolis with such a vivid gay community.

The city is blessed by Gay Pride cha-ching. I see no point in exacting vengeance from the community — and Toronto — by crippling the event fiscally.

But the anti-popo gospel, invoked by an antagonistic wee minority, is misanthropic and mutilating for a grand event beloved by all.

Rosie DiManno is a columnist based in Toronto covering sports and current affairs. Follow her on Twitter: @rdimanno


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Ban All Shared Plates! And Other Strong Opinions from the ‘Marvelous Mrs. Maisel’ Co-Creators


Toddlers running around and screaming. Parents drunk on mimosas at 11 a.m. A shared plate with four crostini set down at a table of three. This is what hell looks like for Amy Sherman-Palladino and Dan Palladino, the award-winning writer-director-producers behind The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Gilmore Girls, and Bunheads. The pair eats out a lot, and they have plenty to say about what drives them insane—including small plates, molecular gastronomy, and the general lack of a decent salad. The two are about as fast-talking, quick witted, and animated as any one of their characters, trading punches (and punchlines) while the other holds. Here, in between bites of corned beef and turkey “Midge” sandwiches at the recent Marvelous Mrs. Maisel Carnegie Deli popup in New York, they kvetch about their most profound dining nightmares, and offer up one very simple suggestion to any chef who’ll listen.

Dan Palladino: I have not adjusted to the shared plate thing at all. It’s always awkward for me. Let’s say there’s four things on there and there’s three people—no one will take the fourth one because everyone’s too afraid to overstep the bounds. I never know what to eat, I’m always so nervous about sharing. I just always want my own thing.

Amy Sherman-Palladino: Your issue with that is because food was very competitive in your family. If you didn’t get to that thing that you liked quickly, it wasn’t going to be there and you were going to be stuck with the thing you didn’t like. Your brother and sister were hungry, and they would always come and take your food.

Dan: It was a little competitive. My mother wasn’t Italian, so she didn’t make an abundance of food. She made servings, so there were specific servings.

Amy: Yeah, I had friends like that. You’d go to their house and there’d be four people and there’d be four pork chops, and four perfect portions of peas.

When I make Thanksgiving dinner, I always make two turkeys in case I fuck up one. I believe in over-serving, in having an overabundance of food when people come over. Nobody should ever feel like they’re going to go home hungry or there’s not enough of the thing that they like.

By the way, shared plates are not my favorite thing either, because I’m an only child and I like my stuff. We try not to go to those restaurants.

Dan: It’s when other couples say, « Hey, let’s go to so-and-so, » and I don’t want to be a party pooper, so we do it. I’m very, very nervous. I try to make sure that the stuff ordered is what I will eat. That’s the other thing: Because I’m not a foodie, I’m very picky. I’m just always nervous about how to pick, when to pick, what to leave. It’s just nerve racking.

Amy: But we do tell people that we don’t do brunch. We hate brunch, we hate the concept of it.

Dan: It’s not a real meal.

Amy: It’s not a real meal! There’s either breakfast or lunch. It’s an excuse for people to get drunk at 11 o’clock in the morning, and assume that everyone’s going to be fine with their children screaming and running around a restaurant. That’s the only reason that brunch exists. So that is the one thing. When people are like, « Let’s do brunch. » We’re like, « We can’t, we don’t. We’ll have dinner with you, we’ll have drinks with you, we’ll have any legitimate meal that wasn’t made up, but we will not do brunch. »

Dan: Anthony Bourdain, I think, was the one who pointed out in his book [Kitchen Confidential], that it’s the “F You” meal—that’s the one that none of the chefs want to prepare, none of the waiters want to work at. It’s a room full of unhappy workers making food.

Amy: Just have a nice breakfast. Have some eggs and bacon.

Dan: Diners. We like diners. But any restaurant that tells you, “Order whatever you want, but it’s going to come out when we think it’s ready—”

Amy: I am paying for this. I should get the salad before the hamburger if I want the salad before the hamburger. We don’t do omakase or prix fixe. I don’t want them to tell me what I’m going to have. I don’t want one quail egg with a sprig in the middle of it. I don’t want anything that came out of a science lab. I don’t want things that smoke, or a strawberry that’s not really a strawberry. Just put a damn salad on the menu. It doesn’t need 15 different ingredients in it, it doesn’t need nuts and twigs and fruit, and flowers… just some nice lettuce, maybe a radish and a light dressing. Just have one damn salad on the menu that’s not terrifying. That’s it.

Dan: Yeah, because we often have to order them off the menu. Just put it on the menu.

Amy: Everybody likes a nice, small salad. And they feel like a schmuck asking for it. Oh, and I don’t understand the no bread thing, that you have to order bread or pay for a bread basket. Just give me the bread!


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Ottawa considers gun control options with a handgun ban seen as costly and possibly ineffective


OTTAWA—The federal government is considering further restrictions on handguns but will stop short of an absolute ban, as the cost to buy back legally owned handguns is pegged as high as $2 billion, the Star has learned.

Escalating gun violence across the country, including Toronto, spurred calls for the federal Liberals to act. After public consultations, deliberations are now underway with a proposal being readied to take to cabinet early next year.

Among options under consideration are the imposition of tougher legal obligations on gun owners such as mandatory storage in secured lockers at a shooting range, not at home, and wider powers for police to preventively suspend a gun owner’s licence where there is a risk someone may be harmed. For instance if a health professional raises an alarm about an individual’s mental health, police would be able to act to suspend a licence in absence of a criminal charge or the registration of a criminal conviction.

A senior government official who was granted anonymity in order to discuss the debate underway within government, said no final decisions have been made about whether to propose a ban on handguns and assault weapons.

In the case of the latter, there is no precise definition in law of just what an assault weapon is, but the government wants stricter controls on “assault-style” firearms, said the source.

Overall, the Liberal government is looking to package a combination of measures that will be effective at addressing gun violence and at curbing the diversion of legal guns into illegal hands; and there are doubts that a ban will have the desired effect, according to the insider with knowledge of the file.

It appears, however, there is public support for a handgun and assault weapon ban in most parts of the country, with the source citing internal polling that indicates 70 per cent of Canadians would support a ban. The numbers vary across regions, the source said, with the highest support in Quebec at 76 per cent, roughly 73 per cent in Atlantic region, 70 per cent in the Greater Toronto Area and support dropping to as low as 50 per cent in western Canada.

(That overall number — 70 per cent — appears slightly higher than a recent opinion survey by Nanos Research conducted for CTV News, published in September, which said 48 per cent support a ban, while 19 per cent “somewhat support” a ban.)

After the tragic Danforth shooting last summer, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau appointed Scarborough Southwest MP Bill Blair as minister of border security and organized crime reduction, and instructed Blair, a former Toronto police chief, to work with Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale to examine “a full ban on handguns and assault weapons in Canada, while not impeding the lawful use of firearms by Canadians.” Blair has said he wants to complete his examination by the end of this year.

On Thursday in Montreal — where the 29th anniversary of the École Polytechnique massacre was marked — Trudeau pointed to Bill C-71 which his government has already introduced in the Commons that tightens some aspects of current gun laws, but said “we are very open to doing more.”

“Certainly there is the problem of criminals’ access to assault weapons and handguns and we will be looking at measures to continue to keep our communities safe.”

Subscribe to the Star to support political reporting and analysis from our award-winning journalists in Ottawa

The mayors of Toronto and Montreal have urged Ottawa to adopt an absolute ban on handgun sales. Toronto Mayor John Tory also wants the Liberal government to enact tougher penalties for gun traffickers, tougher bail controls on accused persons with a track record of gun crimes, along with stricter gun storage laws.

The deadline for online consultations has passed, and Blair completed stakeholder consultations last week.

The source said the federal Liberal cabinet is not expected to deal with whatever recommendations arise from Blair’s examination until the New Year.

A second Liberal source suggested it is more likely that the government would look at enacting stricter storage, transportation and transfer regulations than an outright ban.

There are 1,400 shooting ranges across Canada where restricted and prohibited gun owners could be required to safely store their guns. Gun laws already require secure storage and handling of firearms and ammunition.

Yet advocates of stricter gun laws like Wendy Cukier, a co-founder of the Coalition for Gun Control formed nearly 30 years ago in the wake of the 1989 Montreal massacre at École Polytechnique, say a ban on handguns and assault-style weapons is crucial.

In an interview, Cukier said “an integrated approach” to gun violence is needed, including better screening of licence applicants, support for victims, and more resources for intelligence-led policing to counter smuggling, and she added a ban is key to that.

“Whatever the measures are, they have to reduce access and reduce the risk that people who shouldn’t get those guns will get them,” said Cukier in an interview. “And I don’t know what besides a ban could achieve that result.”

She added had governments acted sooner, the number of restricted and prohibited weapons would not have already ballooned from about 350,000 in 2004, to about 1 million, according to the annual reports of the commissioner of firearms.

The notion of banning certain firearms raises questions such as whether Ottawa would “grandfather” those owners who already have legally registered handguns and allow them to keep their weapons, or whether the government would buy back their weapons.

The source said the $1.5 billion to $2 billion estimate for a handgun buyback was based on a loose estimate of 1 million handguns registered in Canada. The source added there are “probably” twice that number in illegal, unregistered handguns in circulation.

In fact, the RCMP-led Canadian Firearms Program says 861,850 handguns were registered to individuals in Canada as of Sept. 30, 2018. The Mounties say those handguns are registered to 292,701 licensed gun owners. On top of that, according to the federal government, there are about 100,000 other non-handgun firearms — usually rifles and shotguns — legally owned and registered in Canada.

The federal government’s consultation document published to inform public debate on a handgun ban says in most cases, individuals own handguns for sport shooting or as part of a collection and it acknowledges “most gun crimes are not committed with legally-owned firearms.”

But the same document outlines a big concern for Blair and the government: that thefts from legal owners represent a growing source of illegally-acquired domestic handguns and other firearms, citing a 70-per-cent increase in break-ins to steal a firearm between 2010 and 2017 (from 673 to 1,175 incidents, according to Statistics Canada). It says there is no information about whether the thefts were from individuals or businesses, or whether they were related to improper storage or transportation of firearms.

It acknowledged any ban of handguns or assault weapons “would primarily affect legal firearms owners, while the illicit market would be indirectly affected as there would be fewer available to potentially divert.”

Federal Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer says if he formed government he would review laws and repeal any regulations or policies that unnecessarily target law-abiding gun owners. He says he would ensure Parliament, not the RCMP, has sole authority to reclassify guns, and he would provide more money for police to target gangs, to support programs for youth, and to conduct rigorous background checks on would-be gun owners.

Tonda MacCharles is an Ottawa-based reporter covering federal politics. Follow her on Twitter: @tondamacc


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OSPCA to no longer euthanize dogs involved in attacks, enforce pit bull ban


Ontario’s animal welfare agency has told its frontline officers it will no longer euthanize dogs involved in attacks as required by law.

In an internal memo obtained by The Canadian Press, the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals says inspectors and agents should hand off to police all cases in which courts have ordered the destruction of animals, including pit bulls, which are banned in the province.

The document, dated Oct. 9, 2018, says euthanizing dogs would violate the agency’s mission, which is to provide “province-wide leadership on matters relating to the prevention of cruelty to animals and the promotion of animal welfare.”

Concerns raised over OSPCA proposal to pull out of livestock cruelty investigations

“Where legislation conflicts with the mission of the charity, the Ontario SPCA declines to enforce such legislation,” the order reads.

The only exception will be cases when the euthanization is ordered by a veterinarian and is “the most humane course of action for the animal,” says the order, which was handed over to enforcement officers at two meetings held in late October at the agency’s headquarters in Stouffville, Ont., north of Toronto.

In cases involving pit bulls that do not have behavioural issues, the animals will be moved out of province where it’s legal to own them, rather than destroyed.

A spokeswoman for the OSPCA confirmed the policy change, saying the agency’s role was to protect animals’ well-being.

“If it conflicts with our mission, we’ll hand it to another agency to address,” Alison Cross said in an interview.

The OSPCA has also ordered its officers to defy a Criminal Code law that states birds found in a cockfighting ring shall be destroyed on order from a judge. That, too, will be passed off to police, the agency said.

READ MORE: OSPCA wants out of cruelty probes on horses, livestock due to funding shortage

Those changes were news to the provincial government, which pays the charity $5.75 million each year for enforcing cruelty laws.

“The laws of Ontario and Canada provide that in certain circumstances a court may order that an animal be euthanized,” said Brent Ross, a spokesman for the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services, which is responsible for the OSPCA.

Ross said the ministry expects the OSPCA to comply with a court order that requires an animal be euthanized, adding that the agency had the right to defer to police in potentially criminal matters.

The orders to defy the provincial laws have made some of the OSPCA frontline inspectors uneasy, given that they are peace officers sworn to uphold the law.

“We have to choose between doing our jobs or following management orders,” said a frontline officer who attended the October meetings.

The officer, who did not want his name used for fear of retribution, said the agency leaders have also ordered all cases of “blood sports” be handed over to police.

“We are not to deal with it, we would only go in a supporting role. That’s what we were told.”

READ MORE: Ontario SPCA lays 14 animal cruelty charges against mink farm

The latest changes, including a decision to pull back from investigating cruelty cases involving livestock and horses, are part of what the OSPCA calls a restructuring effort to deal with years-long funding shortage. The policy changes, however, have received rebuke from both the province and animal activists.

Insiders say part of the reason for the latest move is the bad publicity the agency received for its handling of a notorious dogfighting case in southwestern Ontario.

The OSPCA, along with Chatham-Kent police, raided a compound in Tilbury, Ont., in the fall of 2015. During that raid, officials seized 31 pit bulls, dogfighting paraphernalia including “rape stands” that are used in breeding, fighting records, guns, knives, ammunition and about a kilogram of marijuana, according to court documents. Inspectors also found anabolic steroids on site and dogfighting contracts.

The case triggered an international outcry, including harsh words from hockey personality and animal rights activist Don Cherry, after the OSPCA applied to the courts, as is it required by law, to euthanize 21 of the seized pit bulls that were deemed a menace to society and could not be rehabilitated.

The case fell apart because it took too long to get to trial, with the judge staying charges against the accused. After a second behavioural evaluation, 18 of the 21 pit bulls were sent to Florida for rehabilitation.

Insiders said the case hurt donations to the charity.


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Quebec’s proposed religious symbol ban for public workers fuelled by specific symbols: study – Montreal


The Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ)’s proposed ban on religious symbols for public servants seems to be widely supported by Quebecers — but only when it comes to certain symbols.

According to findings by the Angus Reid Institute, about 65 per cent of Quebecers and 41 per cent of Canadians in the rest of the country say they support the Quebec government’s overall proposal.

READ MORE: EMSB commissioners unite to fight pending legislation on religious neutrality

If passed, the ban would affect public employees in positions of authority, including police, judges and teachers.

Respondents answered whether or not they support a ban on religious symbols for public servants.

Angus Reid Institute

“The issue has been particularly salient in Quebec, some argue, because the province has long functioned as a distinct society, itself a minority within Canada,” the study states.

READ MORE: François Legault stands firm on religious symbol ban, eliminating school boards in inaugural address

It points out that Quebec governments have grappled for over a decade with questions of reasonable accommodation for religious minorities.

“[Premier François] Legault is the fourth Quebec premier — and the CAQ the third different governing party — to attempt to address these issues through legislation.”

“Like the proposals of his immediate predecessors, Legault’s plan has been met with harsh criticism, even as a majority of Quebecers voice support for it.”

READ MORE: François Legault doubles down on religious symbol ban after meeting with Justin Trudeau

According to the poll, 79 per cent of people surveyed in Quebec and across Canada, say wearing a crucifix is acceptable.

Seventy-eight per cent of Canadians say they also approve of the Star of David.

This is a striking difference to the 17 per cent and 15 per cent who say they are comfortable with the niqab and the burka, respectively.

Should public employees be allowed to wear religious symbols?

Angus Reid Institute

“Out of nine religious symbols asked about in this survey, only three (the aforementioned crucifix, star of David and nun’s habit) are acceptable to more than half of Quebecers,” the study states.

“Elsewhere in Canada, majorities see six of the nine symbols as acceptable.”

Critics of the CAQ government argue the planned legislation discriminates against non-Christians and, in particular, Muslim women.

WATCH BELOW: Quebec Premier François Legault speaks directly to English-speaking Quebecers in his inaugural speech.

“Symbols from Sikhism and Islam are less favourably viewed, particularly if they cover the face (such as a niqab or burka) or, as some argue, could be considered a weapon (as in the case of the kirpan),” the institute found.

READ MORE: Quebec group says cuts to Ontario francophones touch all linguistic minorities

Turbans and hijabs are acceptable to about 60 per cent of Canadians outside Quebec. Within the province, the majority of respondents are opposed to public employees wearing head coverings.

Percentage by province of people who think public servants should not be allowed to wear religious symbols at work.

Angus Reid Institute

Across the country, the institute found young people under the age of 35 to be less supportive of a potential ban on public employees wearing religious symbols.

READ MORE: National Assembly crucifix representing Quebec ‘heritage’ only 36 years old

This was not the case for older demographics.

WATCH BELOW: François Legault stands firm on proposed religious symbol ban

“Political partisanship is also a key driver of views, with past Conservative voters mostly supporting a religious symbols ban in their province,” the study states.

“While [the] majority of past Liberal and New Democratic Party voters are opposed.”

Percentage of Quebecers who think public employees should not be allowed to wear religious symbols.

Angus Reid Institute

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.


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NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh calls for ban on “bearer shares” that hide stock ownership


OTTAWA—With the Toronto Stock Exchange as his backdrop, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh will trumpet a suite of proposals Friday to crack down on tax dodgers and stop the rich from hiding their money.

In an interview with the Star, Singh said an NDP government would do what the Liberal government hasn’t: ban the controversial “bearer shares” singled out in the massive Panama Papers leak as a way to hide stock ownership and obscure the movement of wealth.

Jagmeet Singh says said an NDP government would ban the controversial “bearer shares” singled out in the massive Panama Papers leak as a way to hide stock ownership and obscure the movement of wealth.
Jagmeet Singh says said an NDP government would ban the controversial “bearer shares” singled out in the massive Panama Papers leak as a way to hide stock ownership and obscure the movement of wealth.  (DARRYL DYCK / THE CANADIAN PRESS FILE PHOTO)

Singh also underscored his commitment to close the stock option “loophole,” which allows corporate executives to avoid income taxes by receiving portions of their compensation in company shares instead of through their regular paycheques. The NDP is also promoting a bill in Parliament, sponsored by Victoria MP Murray Rankin, that strives to prevent companies from transferring money to other countries to avoid paying corporate taxes in Canada.

“Why is it that the ultra wealthy and the rich have access all these loopholes that mean they’re not actually paying their fair share? That’s a problem,” Singh said.

“Liberals maybe don’t have the conviction to follow through on these ideas because they might upset their friends,” he added, suggesting the Trudeau government is “too closely aligned with those folks who are the elite” to take action after three years in power.

“It’s definitely past due that we do something about it,” he said.

Singh’s proposal to ban bearer shares comes after years of international pressure to restrict their use as a shadowy instrument of global finance. Bearer shares are anonymous certificates of ownership. Just like cash, whoever holds the physical certificate owns the stock or share of a company it represents.

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) has pressured governments around the world to eliminate bearer shares, arguing the anonymity they afford “makes them vulnerable to misuse.”

In May, the Trudeau government passed Bill C-25, a new law that banned the issuance of new bearer shares. That followed a statement from Finance Minister Bill Morneau in December 2017, in which Morneau and his provincial counterparts agreed “to pursue” amendments to laws and regulations that would eliminate bearer shares in Canada and replace them with more transparent alternatives. This is part of an effort to crack down on “money laundering, corruption and the financing of terrorist activities,” the joint statement said.

Morneau’s office directed queries about bearer shares to Industry Minister Navdeep Bains, whose spokespeople did not answer questions about the 2017 commitment on Thursday.

Singh, meanwhile, pointed to other countries like the Netherlands, where a deadline was imposed to switch bearer shares into more transparent forms of ownership. According to the OECD, dozens tax havens have done away with bearer shares since 2009, while financial accountability advocates like Publish What You Pay Canada and Transparency International have also called on Ottawa to restrict their use.

The NDP leader said Canada needs to eliminate them because of their attractiveness to criminals, as well as their potential as a means to hide money from the taxman.

“These are untraceable, they are unregistered. They are a massive problem, because we can’t actually then ensure there is proper taxation that applies from their use,” he said.

“(They’re) something that criminals will find useful, money launderers will find useful, and folks like the bad guys from action movies. You might recall Die Hard, where it was used — the bearer bonds. But it’s certainly not in the best interests of people, so we’re asking that to end once and for all.”

The use of bearer shares was also highlighted in the Panama Papers, a trove of leaked documents that cast a spotlight on tools used by the super-wealthy to dodge taxes and hide money. Former British prime minister David Cameron’s father, for example, started a fund for investors that kept 2 million bearer shares in a bank safe, with no record of who owned them. The papers also showed a Panamanian company owned by anonymous holders of bearer shares bought a condo from a Donald Trump-branded skyscraper in 1991.

The Canada Revenue Agency estimates Canadians with hidden offshore accounts evade up to $3 billion per year in taxes by hiding between $75.9 billion and $240.5 billion in tax havens.

With files from Marco Chown Oved

Alex Ballingall is an Ottawa-based reporter covering national politics. Follow him on Twitter: @aballinga


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To Kill a Mockingbird ban exposes culture of fear at Peel school board


Snap quiz, teachers. Put your hands up.

Which book was just voted America’s best-loved novel?

Answer: To Kill a Mockingbird.

To be clear: The results arose from a PBS documentary series, organized around a Top 100 finalists list – chosen through a “demographically diverse’’ national poll – with 4.3 million votes cast.

Nice sideways smackdown, I’d say, of the Peel District School Board.

Oh, they were in a social media huff last week, the pedants, pedagogues and polemicists, following media reveal of a four-page memo sent to teachers which slammed Harper Lee’s seminal Pulitzer Prize novel for its purported “racist text,” “white supremacist framework,” “white savior trope” – that would be small-town Alabama lawyer Atticus Finch – and the potential harm to racialized students. Because apparently teachers in 2018 can’t be trusted to discuss the novel sensitively, within a modern context, alive to the feelings of racialized students.

One board member told me all literature should be assessed through an “anti-oppression” lens. I countered that the only lens which ought to be pointed should be clear-eyed, rather than distorting, under the guise of identity ideology.

Read more:

Peel school board urges teachers to take ‘anti-oppression lens’ to teaching To Kill a Mockingbird

To Kill a Mockingbird chosen as America’s best-loved novel on The Great American Read

Peel isn’t paying any mind to parents or students – never mind teachers – who disagree with this premise of presumptive and privileged white bias. Into my mailbox was forwarded a memo from Peel’s director of education, Peter Joshua.

To Kill a Mockingbird may only be taught in Peel secondary schools, beginning this school year, if instruction occurs through a critical, anti-oppression lens.

“When To Kill a Mockingbird is taught outside of this context, the novel has the potential to cause hurt and harm. As educators, we have an obligation to provide learning environments that are safe and inclusive – that honour staff and students’ identities, cultures and lived experiences, including those of the Black community. Of this, there can be no debate.”

Well actually yeah, there is debate, plenty of it, certainly about the means by which this diktat is being applied.

Note, by the way, there’s nothing in that fiat about opening young minds, fostering critical thinking, or merely appreciating the literary qualities of a novel that shone a splendid light on bigotry, inequality and injustice. These are attributes which have been widely applauded by numerous contemporary Black authors.

In practice, what the directive means – many worried Peel educators contacted me about this – is that teachers will be audited in class, will need to have their instruction plans pre-cleared by their principals, and can expect little support should a complaint be lodged.

For the purposes of this column, these teachers asked not to be identified by name or any other particulars that might expose them to professional backlash. That’s the culture of fear that has been engendered in Peel where, I’m told, only seven schools have decided to keep teaching the novel, primarily because they have principals with principles and a backbone.

“John” is a middle school teacher of two decades classroom experience who has regretfully chosen not to fight the jackboots.

“We knew something was up because they’d conducted surveys, at first anonymously, of who was teaching the book. They were trolling. Then they did another survey and many of us were concerned that our names would be put on a list. Part of the deal was that they would provide new culturally appropriate texts to replace To Kill A Mockingbird.

“In my department, we discussed among ourselves, how could we manage to teach it within the guidelines we were given. The book has so many rich teaching aspects to it. But suddenly all the focus was on the N-word and Atticus Finch as this white knight figure. Those who wanted to teach the novel were told that the classes would be monitored, there would be a formal written evaluation, and if we didn’t ‘pass’, it would go to a superintendent.

“There’s a significant amount of pressure to eradicate To Kill a Mockingbird from the curriculum. No one in my English department was willing to teach it under those terms. I wasn’t prepared to do it on my own. Any teacher who would purposely teach it is rolling the dice on their career. This is unprecedented. What next, The Merchant of Venice because Shylock is a Jewish moneylender without remorse. Maybe they’ll decide Shakespeare isn’t appropriate for this age. Is this the first shot across the bow to see how much pushback they get?’’

“Elizabeth” has taught the novel for a dozen years. But no more.

She attended a recent professional development day where the author of that aforementioned memo – Poleen Grewal, associate director of instructional and equity support services – justified her position and complained about the media’s attention.

“We were told that if we speak to the media about this, that would be quite problematic.’’

Elizabeth has no problem with the “canon” of texts being continually assessed as more contemporary authors are included and some of the classics are dropped. “But the text of To Kill a Mockingbird is so rich. It opens up class discussions to issue of class, prejudice, feminism, justice.

“I have a very diverse group of students. Not one Black student in all these years has objected to the book or said they were hurt by the language. Not one parent has ever approached me. We’ve had fabulously intellectually discussions in class.

“This memo implies that all white writers are white supremacists. That’s what we were told at the PD. I don’t like anybody calling me that. I think someone has a bee in their bonnet about To Kill a Mockingbird and they want to get it out of the schools.”

“Margaret” is new-ish to the teaching profession. She adores To Kill a Mockingbird, enjoys rediscovering it with students, seeing the novel through fresh eyes and teaching it through the prism of current sensibilities and race and inclusion.

“The book is about a specific time and place but its themes are timeless and very much relevant to the world we live in right now. If Harper Lee were to write it today, of course it would read differently. Maybe it wouldn’t be told through the eyes of a white lawyer and his tomboy daughter. But that would make it a different book. And we do teach other books with other voices. It’s not as if students are getting just one viewpoint. But the board doesn’t trust us to do our jobs properly.”

I won’t cite here the tweets and emails from righteous educators who have distilled all the ills of these toxic times into the text of a beloved novel.

But a word to the un-wise: You are what you profess to loathe – blinkered, doctrinaire, devoid of discernment and consumed with racial bigotry.

A mind is a terrible thing to waste by banning books.

Rosie DiManno is a columnist based in Toronto covering sports and current affairs. Follow her on Twitter: @rdimanno


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Calgary Police Association files grievance over cannabis ban for officers


The union representing Calgary police has filed a grievance over a blanket ban on officers using cannabis.

Current rules prohibit officers from consuming marijuana, even when they’re not on duty.

Calgary Police Association president Les Kaminski says the ban goes too far, now that recreational pot is legal.

He says officers know they must show up to work fit for duty.

Kaminski expects to meet with police brass about the issue as early as next week.

It’s an issue policing agencies across the country have been dealing with since the federal government announced it was moving forward with plans to legalize recreational cannabis.

The Canadian military has not banned recreational marijuana usage by its members but instead placed restrictions on consumption. Those regulations state military members cannot consume cannabis within eight hours of going on duty, and are not allowed to smoke or ingest it during the work day.

Police officers in Vancouver, Ottawa and Montreal are allowed to consume while off duty.


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‘I believed something was wrong with me’: Edmonton man calls for conversion therapy ban – Edmonton


Kevin Schultz voluntarily spent four years in conversion therapy, a program that claims to change an individual’s sexuality from gay to straight.

Schultz said he entered the program because he believed something was wrong with him.

“I am from a very religious background. There was no room for gay people within the church,” Schultz said. “This homophobia that was all around me was internalized as well.”

LISTEN BELOW: Conversation therapy survivor Kevin Schultz speaks with the 630 CHED Afternoon News

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Speaking on the 630 CHED Afternoon News, Schultz said the underlying assumption of conversion therapy is that no one is born gay.

“Everyone is born straight, something has happened that made us gay,” said Schultz. “So if you could find what the cause was, you could fix it… (as if) you’re broken.”

Schultz said he tried to ignore his feelings, getting married to a woman and having three kids.

“I didn’t really accept that I was gay until I left conversion therapy. I thought that I was just struggling with same-sex attraction,” Schultz said. “I (had) to find a way to be normal. I saw myself as sick, and here was a solution.”

Schultz said he tried very hard to convince himself conversion therapy was working.

“I had a family dependent on me. I didn’t want to put them through what I knew would happen if I came out. I wanted to find a way to be a straight man,” said Schultz. “When I look back on my life before I came out, (what I remember most) is being very lonely.”

An online petition is calling on the Trudeau government to implement a nationwide ban on conversion therapy.

Since its launch in September, the petition has garnered more than 3,000 signatures and is set to be presented in the House of Commons in January.

Petition to ban conversion therapy across Canada gains steam, survivor says it’s ‘long overdue’

Edmonton-Castle Downs MLA Nicole Goehring is working on a private member’s bill to institute a ban in Alberta.

“We support the request that the feds ban this, but we’re looking at an Alberta perspective. We know that (conversion therapy) is discriminatory and causes harm,” Goehring told 630 CHED.

Alberta NDP to introduce bill banning gay conversion therapy

“We’ve heard loud and clear from the LGBTQ+ community that this is a ban that is long overdue and absolutely needs to happen now,” said Goehring. “We’re still in the process of working on the language (of the bill) because we want to get it right.”

Schultz recalls the night he left conversion therapy as the “happiest and scariest moment of (his) life.”

“There was someone in the group that said he was hallucinating and hearing voices. (To me), it felt like he needed to be in an emergency room. But instead, the leader of the group said: ‘You’re being plagued by a demon, and we need to pray this out of you.’”

Schultz walked out the door and drove home. He recalls it as the moment he knew he had to come out.

“It felt like this huge burden had been lifted. But I was also terrified,” he said.

It’s now been 10 years since Schultz left conversion therapy. He has been married to his husband for seven years.

He said he is hopeful legislation will move forward.

“I just want (LGBTQ) people to know you are not alone. There is a whole community waiting for you. We know how good it is on this side.”

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.


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