Education minister says ‘nothing decided’ on class sizes or kindergarten

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Ontario’s education minister says no decisions have been made on class sizes, full-day kindergarten or teacher hiring rules.

But the government’s recent move to hold consultations with education unions and trustee associations specifically on those issues has raised concerns that class sizes will grow, and that full-day kindergarten — and its teacher-early childhood educator model — will be changed.

Charles Pascal, an education professor and the architect of Ontario’s full-day kindergarten program, says research has shown gains in social, emotional and cognitive development for children in the program.
Charles Pascal, an education professor and the architect of Ontario’s full-day kindergarten program, says research has shown gains in social, emotional and cognitive development for children in the program.  (Andrew Francis Wallace / Toronto Star file photo)

“Here’s the deal: when we brought our education partners in to speak to them last week, we needed to be very clear. What we’re looking at is (hiring) Regulation 274 and there’s been absolutely no decision on anything because we want to hear from them,” said Lisa Thompson, speaking to reporters at the Rural Ontario Municipalities Association conference in Toronto on Monday.

When asked if it would save a lot of money to use early childhood educators (ECEs) instead of teachers to cover full-day kindergarten, the minister replied, “Again, I’m not landing anywhere until we fully hear from our education partners.”

Thompson also could not say whether there would be any changes to the caps on class sizes in the primary grades.

Last week, the education ministry began discussions with teacher and support staff unions, with Thompson saying she wants “the best learning environment” but that the government must be mindful of a deficit it estimates to be $14.5 billion.

On full-day kindergarten, the ministry has asked about class size and the staffing model. Currently, such classes average 26 students with both a teacher and an early childhood educator; classes with fewer than 16 students can be taught by teacher only.

A ministry consultation document asks about the two-educator model and how well it serves students, what that workload is like, and whether “there other models the ministry should consider.”

Experts have questioned why the government would make changes at this point, given the success of the program and upset it might cause for families with younger children.

Before it was implemented, early suggestions for full-day kindergarten proposed maintaining a half-day program with a teacher, with early childhood educators covering the rest at a cost of $1 billion a year.

However the Liberal government under Dalton McGuinty decided on an all-day teacher and ECE model, adding half a billion dollars annually.

In his 2012 report to the Liberal government, economist Don Drummond said the $1.5 billion full-day kindergarten program should be scrapped or revamped to help wrestle down the province’s deficit.

And during the 2014 election, then-Progressive Conservative leader Tim Hudak proposed a teacher-only model — and dropping class sizes to 20 children — to save $200 million.

Charles Pascal, an education professor and the architect of Ontario’s full-day kindergarten program, said “tampering with a model that’s working, and working really well, would be a terrible assault on our collective future.”

Research has shown gains in social, emotional and cognitive development for children in Ontario’s full-day program, and that it helps catch and treat problems early on, Pascal said.

The best investment with the greatest payoff is in the early years, he said, adding “we are already saving tax dollars on this.”

Kristin Rushowy is a Toronto-based reporter covering Ontario politics. Follow her on Twitter: @krushowy

Robert Benzie is the Star’s Queen’s Park bureau chief and a reporter covering Ontario politics. Follow him on Twitter: @robertbenzie

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Kingston high school students create their own instruments in guitar-building class – Kingston

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Rocking out on their very own handcrafted guitars is music to the ears of several students at Kingston Collegiate and Vocational Institute (KCVI), who created the instruments from scratch as part of a guitar-building focus program at the school.

Rebecca Amell is one of the students taking the course. Amell can’t believe she is finally strumming along on her new custom-made instrument.

“It’s honestly amazing because you just hold it and you’re like, ‘Wow, I made this,’” said Amell. “It just warms my heart.”

It took several months for these guitar builders to get everything right, from brainstorming an idea to building practice stencils to putting together the finished product.

String by string, students poured their blood, sweat and tears into what are now recognizable styles of the musical instrument.


READ MORE:
Kingston’s ‘Visual Paradise’ showcases high school students’ fine art, design

“It was a really fun build. It was time-consuming and stuff, and it costs a lot to do,” said Danny Vaughan, a student in the class. “It’s a fun program.”

Building guitars isn’t new for KCVI students. Pat Tanden has been teaching the class for a number of years now, and it has evolved from building acoustic guitars to electric ones. He says when students realize what they’ve made, it’s a satisfying feeling.

“When they plug in and realize that this instrument plays as good as any in a store, it creates that specialness that we have within us,” said Tanden.


READ MORE:
High School coaches headed to the Kingston Sports Hall of Fame

A total of 17 electric guitars were made in the class. Several models of guitars were designed and built, including Gibson SGs, Explorer Gibsons and Fender Telecasters. Some of them are quite unique, including a guitar made with wood and a blue resin that gives the instrument a glow as if a light is shining behind it.

If any of these instruments were sold in a store, they could be priced at hundreds or even thousands of dollars. When asked if he would trade in his hard work for cash, Vaughan said not a chance.

“It’s just my guitar I built myself. I couldn’t put a price on it,” he said.

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

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Class size, teacher hiring part of new education consultations, leaving one teachers union wary

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Class sizes and hiring rules could be in for changes under the Ford government, which has just launched consultations with education unions and trustee associations.

However, the head of Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario called the talks “concerning and disturbing.”

Sam Hammond, president of the Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario.
Sam Hammond, president of the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario.  (Jim Rankin / Toronto Star)

The government began discussions with teacher unions on Wednesday by “highlighting the $15-billion deficit, the need to reduce that deficit and … leading to potential cuts in education,” said ETFO president Sam Hammond.

“Make no mistake, they are talking about removing” class-size caps in elementary school and especially for full-day kindergarten.

Education Minister Lisa Thompson said in a statement that the government is “modernizing the way we fund education in a responsible manner and we are eager to hear the innovative ideas of educators and sector partners.”

Read more:

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

Sex-ed rollback, launch of snitch line, created ‘chill’ among teachers, court hears

Violence in Ontario schools prompts call for more front-line staff

Also up for discussion is the rule known as “Regulation 274” — the bane of principals and school boards that argue they can’t hire the best fit for any position because the rules force them to choose supply teachers with the most seniority for long-term and permanent positions.

Put in place to curb nepotism and liked by the unions, it has nonetheless caused troubles for members who lose seniority as they move from board to board.

Minister of Education Lisa Thompson during question period in the Ontario Legislature, July 18, 2018.
Minister of Education Lisa Thompson during question period in the Ontario Legislature, July 18, 2018.  (Andrew Francis Wallace/Toronto Star)

Harvey Bischof, president of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation, struck a more conciliatory tone than his elementary counterpart, saying “We are absolutely prepared to engage in consultation with this government and can offer, as we have in the past, solutions to some outstanding problems with the hiring regulation.

“Understandably, we remain committed to protecting locally negotiated class size limits that respond to local circumstances and support student achievement as well as the staff complement that provides for excellent and unique programming around the province.”

Kristin Rushowy is a Toronto-based reporter covering Ontario politics. Follow her on Twitter: @krushowy

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Feeling fidgety in class? Go stomp, jump or hop down this school’s sensory hallway

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In many Canadian schools, recess and phys-ed class may be the only activity students get in their day, but a school in rural Manitoba is trying to change that.

« This is our Sensory Path, » says Roland School principal Brandy Chevalier, as she points to a colourful activity map on the floor of the school’s main corridor.

« We are very focused on making sure our kids are learning both numeracy and literacy but also being mindful of their whole bodies and wellness, and wellness as a whole being. »

The path instructs them to hop, squat, do pushups and crawl.

They follow the path every morning and after lunch, on their way to class in this community about 100 kilometres southwest of Winnipeg.

Kindergarten student Elizah Wall likes stomping on the bugs. Classmate Everly Semograd likes crawling on the flowers.

« Some parts are challenging, some parts are easy, » says 11-year-old Addison Elias.

If teachers notice students fidgeting, they will send them to the path for a couple of rounds.

Students Ethan Dyck and Caleb Mitchell say it’s making a difference.

 « Really helps me calm down when I’m in a very active position … It’s just helps me burn some energy, » Caleb says, adding his favourite activity is the frog jump.

« Helps me focus, » Ethan ​adds.

Principal Brandy Chevalier and her staff created a Sensory Path for students in the main hallway. She says more schools are developing a strong physical literacy focus. (Trevor Brine/CBC)

Roland School’s Sensory Path is the first of its kind in Manitoba, Chevalier says. It was inspired by an Alberta initiative called Don’t Walk in the Hallway, launched in 2015.

Chevalier says she’s been approached by schools across Canada since her school installed the path in November.

Her students’ comments are music to her ears. 

She explains how this helps the students. « They feel like they burned some energy. They feel ready to sit down and to get down to work. They can focus a little bit better. »

She hopes such exercise can become « a preventative measure for some behaviour issues that might happen by a child who cannot regulate themselves to sit in class. »

The benefits aren’t just academic. Doing exercises like this every day increases physical competence, which boosts confidence, making people more likely to move and be active.

That has health, social, environmental, and economic benefits.

But Canadians are just not moving enough. We got a C– in a recent study of activity levels in 49 countries.

It’s not how much you move. It’s not whether you’re fit or not. It’s do you have the ability to move on land, air, ice, snow, water?– Dean Kriellaars , University of Manitoba

According to Health Canada

  • Just 13 per cent of preschool children and 9.5 per cent of children and teens are meeting Canada’s 24-hour Movement Guidelines.
  • Only eight per cent of Canadian adults are doing 150 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity per week.
  • Adults over 65 are doing a little better — 14 per cent of them are meeting those guidelines.

« There’s two returns on investment here, » says Dean Kriellaars, with the department of physical therapy at the University of Manitoba. He has practised, researched and taught physical literacy for more than a decade.

« First is the health-related equity that happens if you increase they physical literacy of the population. And then safety and activity levels, you then get dramatic reductions in costs. »

In 2013, the World Health Organization estimated the global cost of physical inactivity was approximately $54 billion US in direct health care, plus another $14 billion in lost productivity.

It accounts for up to three per cent of national health-care costs, and that doesn’t include mental health and disorders such as repetitive strain injury, carpal tunnel syndrome and tendinitis.

More than 40 non-communicable diseases including breast cancer, Type 2 diabetes and strokes can be related to what Kriellaars describes as a global physical inactivity epidemic.

« Our society has to change. Our valuing of movement has to change, in our workplace, in our schools, where movement will be as important as reading and writing, » he says.

« Physical literacy has a physical component, a social component and a psychological component. It’s really about creating that holistic picture of a child and saying we need all three of those working together. »

Exercise physiologist Dean Kriellaars hops in one of his movement labs at the University of Manitoba. He trains athletes of all ability levels, educates health-care professionals, coaches, trainers, and educators about physical literacy and healthy lifestyles. (Trevor Brine/CBC)

Chevalier sees a strong future for mpvement programs in schools. « I think a lot of schools are embracing opportunity for choice in seating in the classrooms, and this just directly complements that concept. »

Her advice for education profesionals?

« You need to do your homework. You need to sit down with your occupational therapist. You need to sit down with your experts in the building from phys-ed background and really chat about what your students need, » she says.

Students travel the Sensory Path at Roland School. (Brett Purdy/CBC)

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Class action lawsuit proposed on coerced sterilization in Alberta

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A proposed class action lawsuit has been filed against the Government of Alberta on behalf of Indigenous women who say they were subjected to forced sterilization.

The lawsuit seeks $500 million in damages, plus an additional $50 million in punitive damages. It has been brought on behalf of all Indigenous women sterilized in Alberta without their prior and informed consent before Dec. 14 of this year.

The statement of claim, filed on Tuesday, alleges the province — including senior officials and ministers — had specific knowledge of widespread coerced sterilizations perpetrated on Indigenous women.

It also alleges the government turned a blind eye to that conduct and breached its fiduciary responsibilities.

Nothing in the claim has been tested in court.

« As a result of the defendant’s acts and omissions, Indigenous women suffered … physically, emotionally, spiritually, mentally and psychologically, » the statement of claim says. « Coerced sterilization has been destructive to their health, family, relationships and culture. »

‘No valid medical reason’

The statement of claim also refers to the proposed representative plaintiff May Sarah Cardinal, and a sterilization procedure she allegedly underwent in a northern Alberta hospital in December 1977.

It says Cardinal was 20 years old and married when she went to the hospital to give birth to her second child, and she and her husband wanted to have more. It says the people treating her told her a doctor had decided she should be sterilized so as not to have more children.

« She did not consent to this surgery, » the statement of claim says. « There was no valid medical reason for the surgery. »

‘Another dark chapter’

Celeste Poltak, a lawyer with the Toronto-based firm Koskie Minsky LLP, said coerced sterilization of Indigenous women is « yet another dark chapter » in the relationship between governments and Indigenous Peoples.

« This court action is a powerful and practical means for finally achieving access to justice for the victims, » she said in a statement. « The litigation of this claim will afford the government an opportunity to both examine the failings that permitted this situation and provide meaningful compensation to the victims. »

Poltak’s firm, which is working alongside Edmonton-based firm Cooper Regel, notes Alberta’s Sexual Sterilization Act explicitly authorized forced sterilizations in the province until 1972.

After it was repealed, doctors and nurses in Alberta continued to perform coerced sterilizations, the firm said, alleging these actions were a product of systemic and institutional racism.

This court action is a powerful and practical means for finally achieving access to justice for the victims.-Celeste Poltak ,  lawyer

A proposed class action is also underway in Saskatchewan by Indigenous-owned firm Maurice Law. It names the Saskatoon Health Authority, the Saskatchewan government, the federal government and a handful of medical professionals as defendants.

It was launched in 2017 by two women, each claiming $7 million in damages.

Earlier this month, Canada was ordered by the United Nations Committee Against Torture to stop the « extensive forced or coerced sterilization » of Indigenous women and girls — a finding that prompted calls for additional federal action by human-rights groups and the federal NDP.

The committee said all allegations, including recent ones made in Saskatchewan, must be investigated impartially, and those responsible held to account. The state needs to take legislative and policy measures to stop women from being sterilized against their will, the committee said.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has defended his government’s response.

During a roundtable interview with The Canadian Press on Friday, Trudeau called the practice « heinous » while he stressed the importance of a working group of senior officials to oversee measures to improve cultural safety in health systems.

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Class action over video lottery terminals gets green light in Newfoundland

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An intriguing court case that alleges Crown-owned video lottery terminals are inherently deceptive and violate the Criminal Code has reached a critical milestone in Newfoundland and Labrador.

And the outcome of the case could have implications for VLT gaming across Canada.

The Newfoundland and Labrador Court of Appeal has cleared the way for a class-action lawsuit to go ahead, rejecting arguments for dismissal from the Atlantic Lottery Corp., which operates in all four Atlantic provinces.

READ: Nova Scotia in tax fight with federal government over lottery terminals on reserves

“VLTs are inherently deceptive, inherently addictive and inherently dangerous when used as intended,” says a statement of claim filed in 2012. The lawsuit was certified as a class action in early 2017.

Among other things, it alleges VLTs should be considered illegal because they don’t fit the Criminal Code definitions for slot machines, fair games of chance or lottery schemes.

More importantly, the plaintiffs allege VLTs more closely resemble a gambling card game known as three-card monte, which at first glance appears to be a straight-forward test of tracking one of three cards as they are moved about.

The lawsuit argues the sleight-of-hand tricks used in this con game are not unlike the manipulative electronic programming VLTs use to create “cognitive distortions” about the perception of winning.

Toronto-based lawyer Kirk Baert, who represents plaintiffs Douglas Babstock and Fred Small, said the appeal court accepted that as a potential legal argument.

“The point of having this provision in the Criminal Code … was to prevent people from being deceived by charlatans and tricksters who use sleight-of-hand to make people lose their money,” Baert said in an interview.

“Our point is that technology has evolved, and this is just the same thing – but it’s being done through a machine instead of a human being at a table or at a carnival.”

WATCH: AG report puts spotlight on gambling awareness agency






None of the allegations has been proven in court.

The Atlantic Lottery Corp. has insisted the highly regulated electronic games are decided only by chance.

In its ruling last week, the appeal court effectively rejected the plaintiffs’ claims that the use of VLTs violate the federal Competition Act and a British law from 1710 known as the Statute of Anne, which was aimed at preventing deceitful gaming but fell into disuse.

The corporation has yet to say whether it will seek an appeal before the Supreme Court of Canada.

Aside from Babstock and Small, who are both retirees, those included in the class action are as many as 30,000 people in Newfoundland and Labrador who paid the lottery corporation to gamble on VLT games any time after April 2006.

The lawsuit is seeking damages equal to the alleged unlawful gain obtained by the corporation through VLT revenue.

As well, the plaintiffs are seeking an injunction that would bar the corporation from using VLTs, based on the assertion that the terminals do not constitute a permitted lottery under federal law.

If the lawsuit is successful, similar claims could be filed across Canada.

READ MORE: NS gambling revenues jump 2 years after prevention program cancelled

Citing a third-party study, the lawsuit says the odds of winning the $500 maximum prize from a VLT in Newfoundland and Labrador are roughly 270,000 to 1, which would mean a long-term player would likely lose about $30,000 before hitting the jackpot.

The statement of claim goes on to allege VLTs employ what is called “subliminal priming” to induce players to hyper-focus “and to create a dangerous dissociative mental state, wherein players cannot make rational decisions to continue to play or not.”

The goal is to leave players “mesmerized,” in the same way those duped by the three-card monte ruse can hardly believe their eyes, Baert said.

“It’s predetermined that you will lose,” he said. “The more you play, the more you lose.”

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I loved being class president at St. Mike’s. Here’s what it is getting wrong

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Liam Mather is a former class president at St. Michael’s College School who graduated in 2013. He holds a B.A. in History from McGill University. Mather is now based in Beijing where he manages a high school debate league. This piece is adapted from a posting he originally wrote on Facebook.

After much painful reflection about the recent sexual assault at St. Michael’s College School, I have a few thoughts that I want to share.

Liam Mather seen in Beijing this year. He is wearing a St. Mike's sweater.
Liam Mather seen in Beijing this year. He is wearing a St. Mike’s sweater.  (Courtesy Liam Mather)

I am deeply saddened for the victim. The assault was unspeakably violent. I am disturbed that he was repeatedly victimized as images of the assault were shared across social media, and I am upset by the school administration’s initial response. I pray that this boy is receiving support.

There is a powerful stigma against victims of sexual violence. Our conversations must be focused on caring for this boy and other victims that are coming forward. We must talk about how the school can prevent and respond to future assaults, or this story will repeat itself.

Personally, I have been struggling to reconcile my overwhelmingly positive experience at St. Mike’s with this horrific assault. I cherished my time at the school. Serving as the student government president made me proud. I wasn’t an athlete, but I benefited from the school’s academic rigour and rich extracurricular programming. I had wonderful mentors, such as Father Malo, who taught me values like compassion, personal discipline, and love of scholarship. I became politically conscious through the fine teaching of Paul Barry, Norah Higgins-Burnham, and too many others to name. My parents made sacrifices to send me and my brother, Thomas, to St. Mike’s — and we worked hard to make those sacrifices worthwhile. I had great friendships that transcended social cliques. I felt safe, happy, and supported.

Read more:

Rosie DiManno: Media are not the enemy in the St. Michael’s sex assault scandal

St. Michael’s College School president and principal resign in wake of sexual assault scandal

What we know and don’t know about the scandal at St. Michael’s College School — and what we can’t report

Since news of the sexual assault broke, I’ve felt a range of emotions: depression, anger, humiliation, confusion, even guilt. I felt devastated that such a violent assault occurred on campus. I also felt discomfort watching national and international media outlets attack the sanctity of my positive memories of the school. Were they wrong? Or had I overlooked something as a student?

But let’s be clear about the main issue. The school is not a victim. The alumni who feel defensive are not victims. A student was sexually assaulted within the school. He is the victim. The ones who perpetrated the assault, the ones who filmed and posted it on social media, and the ones who stood by and said nothing as the assault happened, they were also students. What compelled them to commit or enable this terrible crime?

It is morally imperative and prudent that graduates critically reflect on the school’s culture. It is convenient, dishonest and dangerous for graduates to frame the assault as the independent behaviour of a few exceptionally bad students. The school needs to assess the factors that contributed to these students’ destructive behaviour — and prevent this story from happening again. As alumni, if any harmful values were cultivated during our time at the school, we need to identify those values and discard them. That is the courageous way to move forward.

Liam Mather, right, with his younger brother, Thomas, at Thomas's graduation from St. Mike's in 2017.
Liam Mather, right, with his younger brother, Thomas, at Thomas’s graduation from St. Mike’s in 2017.

My personal reflections and my discussions with some alumni have led me to the following conclusions.

First, the assault absolutely reflects a cultural failure of the school. The notions that define manhood are changing. Society used to demand that men be physically strong, emotionless and chauvinistic. But increasingly, empathy and intelligence are valued. What version of manhood is St. Mike’s imparting onto its boys?

The school seemed to be grappling with this question when I was a student. Long renowned for its athletic programs, the school also began promoting music, dance, theatre, media production and visual arts. It built a multimillion dollar performance centre on campus, which opened in 2010. The space for artists, writers and dedicated students expanded; I genuinely felt that the school encouraged my intellectual curiosity. Teachers and the administration began promoting mental health awareness. The Basilians preached a liberal interpretation of doctrine. There was more collaboration with girls’ schools.

However, the school retained a hypermasculine subculture, in which conventional masculine values were incubated. When I was a student, this subculture lurked in the shadows of the locker hallways and the changing rooms. If you put teenage boys together, without adult supervision, aggressive behaviour can carry social rewards. Boys can feel an urge to act dominant; other boys will feel reluctant to challenge the alphas. This is well-established in psychology literature. When I was at St. Mike’s, hypermasculinity sometimes degenerated into bullying. I think the recent assault is a particularly heinous outgrowth of hypermasculinity. This subculture might not be unique to St. Mike’s, and might not define St. Mike’s, but it is there.

The St. Mike’s administration has a responsibility to correct the perverse psychological incentives of its students. It must establish a zero-tolerance policy for “boys being boys” behaviour. It needs to delineate the spaces where controlled aggression is acceptable (on the football field) and where it is not (in the locker room, everywhere else). It needs to reaffirm to all of its boys that it is OK to be gentle, caring and artistic. While there is obviously a significant difference between a dust-up in the hallway and sexual assault, the line is finer than people think. I don’t say this to be glib, but consider Piggy’s death in Lord of the Flies. The dominant tendencies of young boys, when unchecked, can have catastrophic consequences. St. Mike’s never fully focused its efforts on stamping out these tendencies.

A second and related problem is that St. Mike’s, overall, was not a nurturing place for gay students. I am straight, and I do not wish to speak on behalf of all gay former students. I have reached this conclusion after speaking with many of my close friends at St. Mike’s who were gay, as well as through personal retrospection about the culture. Many gay students thrived at the school. However, they did not receive outward institutional support and faced widespread homophobic attitudes from students — and even from a few teachers. It was common for boys to use homophobic language in an effort to emasculate and assert dominance over their peers. Many gay students were not comfortable coming out at St. Mike’s. I do not think this has changed since I graduated in 2013. This is unacceptable.

I want to echo the call of my courageous friend and former class vice-president, Jonah Macan, for the school to found a gay-straight alliance to fight homophobia and promote inclusiveness.

The third problem is also related to hypermasculinity. It is an issue that I have been reflecting on since Dr. Christine Blasey Ford bravely went public with her sexual assault allegation against Brett Kavanaugh. I was troubled by the media’s portrayal of Kavanaugh’s high school, an all-boys Catholic private school where gross sexism was ingrained into the student body. It haunted me because Kavanaugh’s school reminded me of St. Mike’s.

When I was a student, many of my classmates had a hyper-sexualized view of women. This toxic attitude went mostly unchallenged by the school, except by a few teachers and staff. The school did not actively promote positive relationships with women. It did not rigorously teach feminism or consent. For the students who tried to resist sexist social currents, many still did not a develop a deep understanding of women’s health, social or political issues. Everyone has some personal responsibility for their attitudes and behaviours; I also call on my classmates to reflect on how they treat the women in their lives. But St. Mike’s should impart on its students a positive understanding of what it means to respect women. A new program, aimed at teaching Grade 11 and 12 students about consent, is a step in the right direction.

Some of you might still insist on disconnecting the assault from the school’s culture. To you, I say the following. Even if you think the assault is an outlier, society does not tolerate the male behaviours and attitudes that I have described. We can use recent events as an opportunity for critical self-reflection and growth. For the interests of the school as an institution — not to mention for the well-being of future students, women and everyone else — St. Mike’s needs to confront the negative parts of its culture.

The final point I would like to make concerns the response to the assault by the school and the broader community. First, the administration’s initial response was wrong. The administration should have reported the assault to the police immediately. After all, private institutions have powerful incentives (their reputation, money) to cover up sexual assaults.

Maybe we can give the previous administration the benefit of the doubt regarding its intentions. However, the optics are still damaging to all victims within the school, who might lose trust in the administration and authority figures more broadly. The response is especially unacceptable given the recent history of the Catholic Church covering up sexual assault. As members of a Catholic community, we must hold the school to a high standard.

Gregory Reeves, the St. Michael's College School principal when the scandal about alleged school sexual assaults broke. Reeves resigned just over a week ago.
Gregory Reeves, the St. Michael’s College School principal when the scandal about alleged school sexual assaults broke. Reeves resigned just over a week ago.  (Christopher Katsarov)

With the resignations of Principal Greg Reeves and President Father Jefferson Thompson, the incoming administration must undergo training on how to respond to sexual assault in a manner that is consistent with victims’ interests.

Second, I am disappointed that so many former students have blindly defended the school, without also acknowledging the suffering of the victim. One implication of some graduates’ nostalgic Facebook posts is that they stand in solidarity with the school as its reputation tanks, and not in solidarity with the victim. This is probably unintentional, but it is inexcusable. We should focus our energies on supporting the victim and asking hard questions about the school’s culture.

These posts have another negative implication. They might deter other victims in the St. Mike’s community from speaking out, because they will feel uneasy about further tarnishing the school’s reputation. There are almost certainly other victims of sexual assault or bullying in the community who have been suffering in silence. I urge alumni to express support for all victims of sexual assault and severe bullying. You might not have been a bully. You might have not been bullied. You might have enjoyed your time at the school, as I did. But evidently, it was not a safe place for every student. We must validate the experiences of victims, rather than stifle their voices.

I am also a little embarrassed by the parents and alumni who have criticized the media. Again, the school is not the victim. The victim is the victim. The assault was a brutal crime and is a matter of public interest. The media uncovered this story; they have been hawkish because the school was not immediately transparent; they have kept the story in the news cycle because more assaults came to light. The broader public is judging our community’s capacity to respond with empathy. If you pretend the school is the primary victim, you are not only being insensitive to real victims, you are actively reinforcing negative tropes about the community.

At the end of the culture review, the leadership of St. Michael’s must make a decision. It can pretend nothing is wrong. In doing so, it will edge out a new niche in the Toronto private school market as the bastion of male chauvinism. Maybe this version of the school can still win football championships. But I will not want anything to do with it.

Alternatively, after a long and difficult introspection, the school can make the difficult choice. It can build out progressive programming that confronts its cultural problems and prevents future assaults. There is going to be resistance to these changes, because our beloved school is old, and old places are bad at changing.

But hopefully, over time, the phrase “St. Michael’s Man” can acquire a new, robust meaning: a man that excels in the classroom, on the field, on the stage and in the debating hall. A man who treats women with respect. A man who has the space to explore alternative sexualities. A man who respects his peers. A man who will still win a Metro Bowl ring. I have faith that the good people at St. Michael’s will make this choice. The right choice.

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French immersion class hasn’t had a French teacher for 3 weeks

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An Abbotsford, B.C., mother says her daughter’s French immersion class has been without a teacher for three weeks.

Jolene Hill says her daughter, who is in a Grade 4 class at École Sandy Hill Elementary, told her during the second week of term that her teacher was moving away.

She hasn’t been taught any French since, Hill says.

« We were told that they were working on the situation, and I honestly thought it would just be a few days, » she said.

« Unless you are in it, you really have no idea of the gravity of the situation, » she added, speaking to the provincewide shortage of French teachers.

The B.C. government has acknowledged the shortage, and reiterated that they are addressing the issue.

« It’s an issue the previous government failed to address, » a statement from the B.C. Ministry of Education said.

« We are working with school districts to fix the problem and recruit more French-speaking teachers. »

Recruitment efforts

In April, the ministry sent a delegation to Europe in the hopes of signing government-to-government agreements with France, Belgium and the Netherlands to promote teacher mobility and exchanges.

The province says that effort yielded 14 French teachers who are currently certified and an additional 13 applications for certification that are currently being processed.

The province has also begun investing directly in universities to create an additional 74 seats for French teacher education programs across B.C.​

But at this point, Hill says families and students are frustrated.

« The children are confused. They’re nine and 10 years old. They keep being told there’ll be a teacher soon but I think they’re starting to get discouraged, » she said.

With files from The Early Edition

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Thalidomide class action in Canada to proceed as Federal Court overturns ruling

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Thalidomide survivors have won the go-ahead in Canada to challenge a compensation program. 

The Federal Court of Appeal ruled Thursday that a lower court judge was wrong to deny class-action certification, and appointed Bruce Wenham as representative plaintiff.

Toronto-born Wenham, 60, says he was born with deformed arms because his mother took thalidomide during pregnancy.

However, the government turned him and 167 others down for compensation because they had no proof of the link to the now-defunct drug.

Wenham argued the documentary proof requirements were unreasonable, and the Federal Court said the Appeal Court erred by citing a specific section of the Federal Courts Act to reject Wenham’s position.

The Federal Court of Appeal said Wenham’s case meets the criteria for a class action to proceed, though it stressed it was not an assessment of how likely it is that the plaintiffs’ claims would ultimately be successful.

In the 1990s, the federal government distributed lump-sum payments of between $52,000 and $82,000 to 109 people affected by thalidomide. 

In 2014, finding that compensation insufficient to cover their medical needs, the Thalidomide Victims Association of Canada, then representing about 120 survivors, requested that the federal government provide an additional lump sum of $250,000 person and annual payments of $75,000 to $150,000 each. 

In 2015, the federal government announced a $125,000 lump-sum payment to each thalidomide survivor and an annual pension from the government of up to $100,000.

To qualify, one had to have received payments under the 1990 plan or apply before the end of May 2016, provided they satisfied a number of documentary proof requirements that they had been affected.

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Trump, Trudeau praise USMCA trade deal they say will ‘grow middle class’

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and U.S. President Donald Trump are both talking up the benefits of a new trilateral trade pact between Canada, the U.S. and Mexico, saying it will grow the middle class and boost all three countries’ economies.

Trudeau said the successor to NAFTA — the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) — will modernize and stabilize the economy for the 21st century, guaranteeing a higher standard of living for Canadians for the long term.

The prime minister said striking the deal was « no easy feat » and Canada got there by maintaining its focus and collective resolve. He defended Canada’s concessions on the dairy sector, promising to address the « anxiety » with adequate compensation for affected farmers and to protect the supply management system.

Warning that the agreement must still be ratified by all three countries, Trudeau said the tentative deal means economic stability for the continent.

« We now have a path forward, » he said.

Trudeau and Trump spoke by phone earlier in the day, with the PMO issuing a statement extolling the benefits of the « new and modern trade agreement » reached last night.

« The prime minister and president stressed that the agreement would bring the countries closer together, create jobs and grow the middle class, enhance North American competitiveness and provide stability, predictability and prosperity to the region, » the statement reads.

The leaders agreed to keep in close touch to move the agreement forward. Trudeau also spoke with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto about the deal; both leaders said it will strengthen their countries’ close partnership and create good, well-paying jobs.

During a news conference in Washington, Trump called the agreement « truly historic news » for the U.S. and the world, replacing the « worst trade deal ever made » (NAFTA) with one based on fairness and reciprocity that closes what he called « terrible loopholes. »

Trump confirmed that hefty tariffs the U.S. imposed on steel and aluminum will remain intact until there is a new system in place, such as a import quota.

« We are not going to allow our steel industry to disappear, » he said.

Trump said the agreement will transform North America back into a manufacturing powerhouse.

The president said he and Trudeau butted heads over several issues, but in the end agreed to a deal that benefits both countries, as well as Mexico.

« This is a terrific deal for all of us, » he said.

Trump praised Trudeau, despite what he called the « strong tensions » between the two leaders during the trade talks.

« He’s a good man and he’s done a good job, and he loves the people of Canada, » he said.

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland said negotiators will continue to fight to lift the lingering tariffs on aluminum and steel, insisting the integrated industry is « balanced and mutually beneficial. » She said her team will build on the momentum and intensify discussions on the tariffs.

Freeland highlighted the benefits of the agreement, including the fact it fends off auto tariffs Trump had threatened to impose. It also improves labour and environmental standards while protecting cultural industries, she said.

« This is a victory for all Canadians, » she said.

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer is expected to react to the deal later today after getting a briefing. Former Conservative prime minister Brian Mulroney issued a statement calling the agreement « a highly significant achievement for Canada » that will benefit all three countries.

« I have not yet had the opportunity to study the full text – and frequently the devil is in the details – but Canada appears to have achieved most if not all of its important objectives in this lengthy and challenging set of negotiations, » he said.

« I said at the beginning that there is no Conservative or Liberal way to negotiate a free trade agreement — there is only a Canadian way. This has been the government’s approach as well and I commend all — from the prime minister down — who contributed to writing this vital new chapter in the ongoing drive for greater Canadian strength and prosperity. »

The new trade deal Canada has agreed to sign with the U.S. and Mexico is being applauded for including measures that will protect jobs and preserve cultural industries — and panned for concessions that could harm the dairy sector.

Calling it a « great day for Canadians, » the head of the country’s largest private sector union said the USMCA will stem the flow of jobs to Mexico, protect cultural identity and preserve a formal process for settling trade disputes.

Jerry Dias, national president of Unifor, conceded the deal isn’t good for dairy, but said overall the USMCA will yield benefits for Canadian workers and the economy.

« There are some incredible victories in this deal, things we’ve been arguing and fighting for for the last 24 years, » he said.

Dias said another downside to the deal is a change to intellectual property rules that will extend the patent on biologic drugs to 10 years from eight. But he expects a national pharmacare plan will buffer Canadians from escalating medical costs.

« Am I comfortable? The answer is yes. Is it a perfect deal? The answer is no. But are we better off today than we have been over the last 24 years? I’ll say emphatically, the answer is yes, » he said.

Steel tariffs intact

Dias said he is pleased the deal fends off the threat from President Trump to slap 25 per cent tariffs on Canadian automobiles. While the reformulated deal does not lift the existing tariffs on steel and aluminum, Dias said he believes it’s better to find a permanent solution through the dispute process than to have a quota that could lead to a « generational » problem.

Unifor national president Jerry Dias says the USMCA is a good deal for Canadian workers. (CBC)

Jean Simard, president of the Aluminum Association of Canada, said he was disappointed that the tariffs weren’t addressed in the new deal.

« We are certainly glad to see that the three countries have reached an agreement. We are very disappointed that section 232 (tariffs on national security grounds) on aluminum and steel have not been dealt with, and we are strongly urging Minister Freeland and Prime Minister Trudeau, who has spent lots of time in our plants recently, to remember our thousands of workers and ensure that Canada’s world class aluminum industry can grow free of tariffs and quota. »

Impact on dairy sector

Ontario Premier Doug Ford expressed concern about the impact of the deal on his province’s agriculture sector.

« While I’m optimistic that the USMCA announced today will create continued opportunities, I remain concerned about the impact of Canada’s reported concessions on Class 7 milk and access to Ontario’s dairy market could have on our agriculture sector. We also remain concerned about the remaining steel and aluminum tariffs, » he said.

« Our government will be speaking directly with industry representatives from Ontario’s steel, aluminum, auto and agriculture sectors to determine the impacts of this deal. »

The Dairy Farmers of Canada (DFC) said they have paid the price to conclude the trade agreement.

« The announced concessions on dairy in the new USMCA deal demonstrates once again that the Canadian government is willing to sacrifice our domestic dairy production when it comes time to make a deal, » said DFC President Pierre Lampron in a statement.

« The government has said repeatedly that it values a strong and vibrant dairy sector — they have once again put that in jeopardy by giving away more concessions. »

Dennis Darby, president of Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters, called the agreement a « significant step » that preserves integrated manufacturing supply chains and will help create certainty for business.

« The manufacturing sector is the cornerstone of the North American economic relationship and the reason this trade agreement is so critical, » he said in a statement.

« We worked closely with the government throughout the negotiation to ensure the integrated manufacturing sector would remain unharmed and strengthened where possible. We believe the USMCA has accomplished this objective. »

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