Sudden snow days ‘little less problematic’ for some parents, challenging for others

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When the Toronto District School Board made the rare move to cancel classes across the city because of Tuesday’s winter storm, it was the first time it had done so in eight years — in part because of the impact a decision like that has on thousands of families.

As the country’s largest school board in Canada’s largest city, the TDSB represents some 246,000 children. An email sent Monday ahead of the impending storm by John Malloy, the board’s director of education, noted that closing all schools « causes significant hardship for many families, some of which have no other options readily available for their children. »

British Columbia, too, has had to deal with unlikely school closures this week. Snow forced the shutdown of almost every school district in the Lower Mainland, including Vancouver, Surrey and Abbotsford.

For some single parents, challenges persist. But technology, including social media, has made it easier for some parents to unexpectedly work from home for the day or find caregivers for their children.

‘Little less problematic’

« I think with more and more companies providing their employees with the tools to work from home, it’s a little less problematic than it might have been in years past, » said Kim Shiffman, editor-in-chief of Today’s Parent magazine.

« I know, for example, the parents on my team, everyone brought their laptops home last night in anticipation of this possibility. »

Shiffman herself has two children, aged five and 10, and said she was able to work from home on Tuesday.

« Luckily they are at an age where they don’t require constant supervision, » she said. « And I can get a pretty significant amount of work done with minimal distraction. »

Vehicles make their way along a snow-covered highway in Victoria on Tuesday. A winter storm has pounded British Columbia’s capital, as well as Vancouver and the Lower Mainland. (Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press)

There are certainly parents in jobs who cannot work from home, but Shiffman believes those parents are a little more prepared for these kind of snow-day situations, from having to deal with staying at home with a sick child.

In her community, she said she noticed some stay-at-home parents and those on maternity leave offering assistance through messages posted online. Facebook has been a boon in creating tight-knit communities that allow people to reach out to try and support other parents, she said.

« I saw home daycare providers in my neighbourhood Facebook mom group saying: ‘I usually have this many kids, but today I only have one. So I actually have room to take two kids if anyone’s desperate. »

Not everyone has flexibility

But for some single parents, friends can’t step in, and grandparents and family don’t live near enough to help, according to Marianne Sorensen, executive director of the 1Up Victoria Single Parent Resource Centre in B.C.

« There isn’t another parent who can maybe take a day off work and stay home or help figure it out, » Sorensen told CBC’s On The Island.

« Lots of the single parents we work with are relatively isolated, » Sorensen said. « They’re really busy taking care of their kids and working jobs to make ends meet, and so many of them don’t have a strong social network of support. »

Dan Kelly, president of the Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses, said hundreds of thousands of children can be at loose ends when their schools and daycare are shuttered, causing a considerable impact on parents and on the companies who employ them.

High school teacher Melissa Watson takes advantage of a snow day by cross-country skiing on the streets in Burlington, Ont., on Tuesday. (Peter Power/Canadian Press)

In some cases, kids are able to come to work with their parents. But in other cases, that’s just not possible.

« One of the things that has been helpful though over the last little while is … increasingly people are able to work remotely, where that was just not possible a decade or two ago, » he said.

« We’ve got people that are taking telephone calls, small-business owners across the country [where] that can be done using VoIP and other systems — they can pretty much be done from wherever. »

Kelly acknowledged, however, that if you’re in if you’re in bricks-and-mortar retail, a restaurant or a factory, that doesn’t give you very much flexibility — or comfort.

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Calgary lawyer challenging gay-straight alliance bill compares pride flags to swastikas

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The United Conservative Party needs to remove a member that compared rainbow pride flags to swastikas, says an LGBTQ advocate.

On Saturday, Calgary lawyer John Carpay with the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms spoke at a conference organized by Rebel Media, a far-right media organization that has been criticized for sympathetic coverage of white supremacy.

« How do we defeat today’s totalitarianism? You’ve got to think about the common characteristics. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a hammer and sickle for communism, or whether it’s the swastika for Nazi Germany or whether it’s a rainbow flag, the underlying thing is a hostility to individual freedoms, » Carpay said. 

CBC News has reached out to Carpay to ask him to clarify his comments.

Other speakers at the event included Conservative Saskatoon MP Brad Trost and People’s Party of Canada leader Maxime Bernier.

Carpay is the lawyer behind a lawsuit challenging the Alberta government’s bill that protects students from being outed by teachers if they join a gay-straight alliance.

The claim states that gay-straight alliances — peer-support groups that are meant to tackle bullying and provide supportive environments for LGBTQ students — are « ideological sexual clubs. »

« I thought the comments were absolutely offensive and require immediate action, » said Kristopher Wells, an LGBTQ advocate and associate professor at MacEwan University specializing in sexual and gender minority youth.

« The true motivations are crystal-clear now of the kind of hate and homophobia behind this kind of opposition. I think Jason Kenney needs to immediately suspend this person from the UCP party and denounce this kind of homophobic hatred. »

UCP is ‘big-tent party’: Kenney

Christine Myatt, a spokesperson for UCP leader Jason Kenney provided the following emailed statement in response to Carpay’s comments: 

« Of course we do not believe the rainbow flag has any equivalency to fascism and communism — ideologies that have been responsible for the deaths of well over 100 million people.

« The UCP is a big-tent party that supports the rule of law, equality of all before the law, and protection of the fundamental rights and freedoms of all. In that light, the UCP hosted Pride breakfasts in both Edmonton and Calgary this year. »

Carpay is a UCP member who spoke to resolutions at the party’s policy convention this spring.

In 2017, Kenney spoke at a Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms event, comparing Carpay’s work to that of civil-rights activist Rosa Parks and asking people to donate to Carpay’s organization.

Last month, Kenney disavowed a former campaign worker with ties to white supremacy and cancelled his UCP membership.

The leader said at the time he was looking to create a database to screen out extremists from seeking party memberships.

Kenney’s spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment on whether or not Carpay’s views about the LGBTQ flag would qualify him as an extremist member of the party.

« To equate the Nazis with the movement for equality for LGBTQ people is abhorrent, » said Duncan Kinney, the executive director of left-leaning advocacy group Progress Alberta.

« Jason Kenney was just in the media last week talking about how he’s going to create a database to keep extremists out of the UCP. This is an extremist in his ranks … Kenney has spoken warmly about the human rights work Carpay has done. »

Wells said he’s worried homophobia is on the rise, and called on all parties to denounce anti-LGBTQ hate speech.

« I think all parties and leaders should be denouncing this kind of homophobia, it just has no place in our society, in fact I believe the Alberta bar association should look at revoking this individual’s membership to practice law in Alberta with these kind of hateful and discriminatory attitudes, » Wells said. 

« Some of the rhetoric we’re hearing from UCP party members and candidates, it emboldens people to come out with these hateful attitudes and start to dehumanize and attack minority groups who are very vulnerable in our society. »

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