Ontario family files human rights complaint after six-year-old girl upset by gender theory in school
The following story has its source in an application filed before the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario by Jason and Pamela Buffone, on behalf of their daughter “N,” against the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board for discrimination on the basis of gender and gender identity in contravention of the Human Rights Code.
In January of 2018, in a Grade One class at Devonshire Community Public School, part of the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board network, six-year-old N watched a YouTube video as part of her teacher’s lesson plan on gender.
N is the kind of child, her mother Pamela told me in a telephone interview, that adores school—or did until the particular morning that prompted this column. The video was entitled, “He, She and They?!?—Gender: Queer Kid Stuff #2.” The video contained statements such as, “some people aren’t boys or girls,” and that there are people who do not “feel like a ‘she’ or a ‘he,’” and therefore might not have a gender. The young teacher, whom I will refer to by her initials, JB, continued to teach gender theory throughout the semester. According to N’s feedback to her mother, JB told the children that “there is no such thing as girls and boys,” and “girls are not real and boys are not real.”
By mid-March, N’s parents could see the lessons were having an impact on their daughter, as she began spontaneously and repeatedly asking them why her identity as a girl was “not real.” She asked if she could “go to a doctor” about the fact that she was a girl. She said she was “not sure if she wanted to be a mommy.” (Ms Buffone explained to N that grown-up women had a choice, but was concerned that the subject was coming up in Grade One gender lessons.)
The Buffones were naturally alarmed by their daughter’s persisting signs of confusion, as she had never previously shown a single sign of discontent regarding her biological reality. Ms Buffone therefore met with JB in March to discuss the impact of the gender discussions on her daughter.
JB, they could see, was very committed to the teaching of gender fluidity as a reflection of “a change within society.” She told Ms Buffone that gender fluidity was the School Board policy, that some children are struggling with the idea that gender is binary and confirmed that the topic of sex change had come up for discussion. She did not appear unduly concerned about N’s personal distress, and did nothing to affirm N’s female identity.
The Buffones then contacted the school principal, Julie Derbyshire.
In a telephone call, Ms Buffone says, Ms Derbyshire explained that JB had initiated the lessons to accommodate a child in the class who had expressed interest in self-expression as the opposite sex. (There was in fact a child exhibiting symptoms of gender dysphoria in Grade One of that school, who was being teased on that account. But, according to Ms Buffone, as she later learned, the parents of the child did not want the issue to be addressed by lessons on gender; they merely wanted the other children to be taught to act respectfully and not to bully their child.) Ms Derbyshire did not offer to consult with the school’s “gender specialist” about affirmation of non-questioning students like N.
Determined to elicit a response that addressed the issue substantively, the Buffones pressed on, eventually meeting with the Superintendent of the School Board and the Curriculum Superintendent. According to the complaint, “The School Board did not agree to communicate with parents when sensitive discussions took place, nor did they agree to issue any directive or take corrective action in order to ensure that children of female gender identity were positively affirmed.”
At this point, feeling stonewalled at every step of the hierarchical ladder from bottom to top, the Buffones made the decision to enrol N at another school where, Ms Buffone tells me, she is doing well and where, she has told her family, she is happy she will not have a teacher who says that “girls are not real.” Last October, N reportedly told her mother, “This table is real, and this fan is real, and even if the fan was made out of cardboard, it’s still real.”
Stories related to gender identity in childhood usually have for their protagonist a child who is distressed over the disparity between her or his biological reality and their perceived gender. The scenario often presents educators as enlightened, affirming allies of the child, while the parents, behind the times, so to speak, resist affirmation and cause the child further anxiety. In these cases the injustice to the child seems pretty clear cut to many rights-attuned Canadians. The child’s right to express his or her gender identity trumps the parents’ right to oppose it.
Here we have the opposite case. N’s gender identity is—or was—seamless comfort in her biological skin. She had never questioned that comfort. Suddenly she was told to believe that at any moment, what she believes to be real—that she is a girl—may not be true. How very frightening that thought must be to a child who is not old enough to grasp the abstract concept of gender fluidity. Her parents are the allies here, and her educational environment is where she fails to find affirmation. Why could she not be accommodated as well as the questioning child? Why did this situation have to end up at a human rights tribunal?
It wasn’t, after all, an either-or choice, and a little compromise on the part of JB and her superiors would easily have defused the situation, and alleviated the Buffones’ concern. Why couldn’t JB have explained that discomfort with one’s gender identity does occur, but rarely (fact); that it is often a passing phase (fact); that non-conforming dress and play preferences in childhood are normal and only infrequently indicative of deep or lasting dissatisfaction with one’s biological sex (fact); that most children stop having these doubts when they are teenagers (fact); most important, that almost all children are perfectly happy being exactly what they are (fact) and those children should not worry that they are not “real” boys or girls. Where was the difficulty in saying these things? N would have been reassured, and the one child in the class who was experiencing gender confusion would not have been adversely affected.
The Buffones’ HRTO application concludes that JB “subjected N to ongoing discrimination on the basis of gender and gender identity, by a series of lessons that denied the existence of the female gender and biological sex and undermined the value of identifying as a female.”; ii) “The Principal and School Board perpetuated and reinforced the discrimination that N experienced in her Grade One classroom, as neither Ms. Derbyshire nor any school board official took any corrective action to remedy it.”
Their requested remedy is that the Tribunal order the Board i) to ensure that classroom instruction “not devalue, deny, or undermine in any way the female gender identity”; ii) to mandate teachers to “inform parents when lessons on gender identity will take place or have taken place, including the teaching objectives and the materials that will be or have been used for such lessons”; and iii) to pay the Buffones $5,000.00 in general damages “to compensate for injury to dignity, feelings and self-respect caused by the discrimination.”
The School Board’s lawyer responded to the application with a request that the application be dismissed “on the basis that the Application has no reasonable prospect for success,” denying the allegations and promising to provide a “fulsome Response should the Tribunal not dismiss this matter by way of Summary Hearing.”
Citing another complaint against the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario, the response pointed to the Tribunal’s finding that the Tribunal did “not have the power to deal with general allegations of unfairness,” and that the facts, even if true, “do not engage any prohibit (sic) ground of discrimination as set out in the [Human Rights] Code.” Also noted was the fact that teachers’ right to teach gender identity is endorsed by the Minister of Education, and that “[t]he age-appropriateness of a classroom discussion does not engage a Code-protected prohibited ground.” In short, even if N was adversely affected by the teacher’s lessons, she has no grounds for redress according to the Human Rights Code.
How will this play out?
The School Board is taking a “letter of the law” approach. They are basically stipulating that the Buffones’ account of N’s experience is factual, but irrelevant. In other words, they don’t deny the lessons had an adverse effect on the child’s psychological well-being. They are simply saying that whether or not she has been adversely affected is not, legally speaking, grounds for a human rights complaint.
But the Ontario Human Rights Commission defines “discrimination” pretty broadly. In our interview Ms Buffone told me: “The Ontario Human rights Code states that a poisoned environment is a form of discrimination. We’re going to provide evidence that the manner in which [JB] was teaching the concept of gender identity resulted in a poisoned environment. The principal further exacerbated the situation in that the only option provided to us was to remove our daughter from the classroom for these lessons, which is exclusionary treatment.”
Will this be as persuasive an argument for the HRTO as it seems to me?
“This is an important case,” says Ms Buffone. “Our government seems to have given teachers carte blanche in terms of how they teach this concept [of gender identity]. If this is an example of how it can be taught, I think it’s in the public interest for the HRTO to weigh in on it. Teachers are providing a public service and have a duty of care to all of their students, just as the HRTO has a responsibility to all of Ontarians. I think this case is a good example of why we need to set ideology aside when dealing with human rights.”
If the Buffones win their case, it will set a precedent that may have far-reaching consequences for the teaching of gender issues in Ontario’s elementary schools. The HRTO will be very conscious of the potential fallout from their decision. For that reason, the cynic in me fears the dice are loaded against the Buffones. I very much hope to be proven wrong.
Roughly 3,200 Canadian National Railway workers, including conductors, yard workers, and trainpersons could go on strike just after midnight Wednesday, in an aggressive move that hopes to aid in finalizing a deal with the company.
Passenger rail services across Canada’s three largest cities would not be affected, though the job action that would affect freight services across the rest of the nation, according to the union.
Teamsters Canadian Rail Conference, which represents CN’s employees, submitted the required 72-hour strike notice over the weekend.
The union went on to say they hope to reach an agreement before the deadline, in order to address “safety and scheduling issues,” though workers are prepared to start the strike if expectations aren’t met.
“Our problem is not with the people in general, but with CN,” union spokesman Christopher Monette told CTV on Monday.
CN went on to say negotiations were still under way, and “has been offering binding arbitration to ensure train services aren’t disrupted,” reports CTV.
“We are disappointed that the [union] has initiated strike action, which will result in a significant disruption to service,” said CN’s vice-president of financial planning Janet Drysdale to The Globe. “We apologize to our customers and appreciate their understanding that safety is always our first priority.”
CN and the same group of CN employees were able to reach an agreement in the union’s previous strike negotiation back in 2015.
Workers for CN say they’re asking for more regulation around their long working hours, dangerous working conditions, as well as a fight against a lifetime cap on prescription drug coverage.
The dispute was partially sparked by CN’s announcement Friday that they would be laying off roughly 1,600 management and union positions, as the company faces future declining freight volumes and global trade tensions.
Swedish prosecutors have dropped an investigation into a rape allegation against Julian Assange, the infamous co-founder of the popular document-leaking Wikileaks.
The Australian native has avoided extradition to Sweden for close to eight years, having stayed in refuge at an Ecuadorean embassy in London in 2012.
Assange, who denies the allegations, was evicted from the embassy and has been sentenced to 50 weeks of jail time for breaching bail conditions, is being held at Belmarsh prison in London.
Swedish prosecutors originally intended to drop the rape investigation nearly two years ago, stating that they did not have the means to move forward with the investigation while Assange stayed in the Ecuadorian embassy, according to the BBC.
In May of 2019, Eva-Marie Persson, Sweden’s deputy director of public prosecutions, publicly announced the reopening of the case, due to their being “probable cause to suspect” that Assange had committed the alleged rape.
The alleged rape case against Assange was from a woman who claimed to have been sexually assaulted at a Wikileaks conference in Stockholm in 2010. Assange has vehemently denied all allegations against him, saying the sex was consensual.
In June of 2019, though, UK Home Secretary Sajid Javed approved the U.S.’ extradition request against Assange, where he is wanted on 18 counts of leaking American secrets, including the famous Podesta emails. Those leaks led Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton to say Assange must “answer for what he has done.”
Now, though, that same Director of Public Prosecutions, Eva-Marie Persson says they will no longer be moving forward with the investigation.
“The reason for this decision is that the evidence has weakened considerably due to the long period of time that has elapsed since the events in question.”
He also previously faced investigations for accusations of molestation and unlawful coercion. These cases were dropped in 2015 due to statute of limitations laws.
A group of vegans are suing Burger King, and it’s all because of their “meatless” Impossible Burger.
While the burger itself is meatless, there lies a bigger issue that Burger King may not have disclosed to their faithful vegan customers: the Impossible burgers are cooked on the same grill as their meaty counterparts, meaning residue could contaminate the vegan patties.
Phillip Williams of Atlanta filed a class-action lawsuit, claiming that the Burger King did not disclose that the vegan alternative could potentially be at risk of having meat residue, and thus would not have paid a premium price for the specialty sandwich.
The lawsuit claims that Burger King doesn’t specifically disclose that its vegan burgers could be cross-contaminated with animal by-products, something that has left vegan groups furious.
Williams also points to several complaints made on social media that also point to the same issue. Williams is seeking to be compensated from Burger King, and will also seek to end the same-grill cooking of the two burgers in all restaurants.
Burger King, owned by the Brazilian Restaurant Brands International Inc, declined to comment to Reuters, saying it does not discuss pending litigation.
Burger King’s website points out that the Impossible Burger is “100% Whopper, 0% Beef,” but further states that “guests looking for a meat-free option, a non-broiler method of preparation is available upon request.”
Impossible Foods Inc, the company responsible for the vast majority of the meatless-burger craze, said in a recent interview that their products were designed for “meat eaters” who were looking for ways to reduce their animal-based food consumption, and not necessarily for vegans and vegetarians.
“For people who are strictly vegan, there is a microwave prep procedure that they’re welcome to ask for in any store,” said Dana Worth, Impossible Foods’ head of sales.
Restaurant Brands International has its headquarters in Toronto, and also owns popular donut and coffee chain Tim Hortons.
Indigenous TMX interests sidelined as premiers, opposition leaders posture in minority government lead-up
As opposition leaders and provincial premiers postured last week over meetings with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, lost in the chatter was the power indigenous people wield–arguably quite a bit in this minority government the Liberals find themselves attempting to manage.
Like Parliament, and the rest of our divided country–Wexiteers, Quebec separatists and everyone else somewhere in between–indigenous interests are a scatter-shot amalgam of pro- and anti-development camps, or like Assembly of First Nations Grand Chief Perry Bellegarde, who plays it right down the middle on matters like Trans Mountain.
And the elephant in the room is TMX, a twinning of an existing bitumen pipeline from Edmonton to Vancouver; a project that Trudeau nationalized in 2018, then earlier this year offered to sell lock-stock-and-barrel to indigenous people.
Since Trudeau’s offer, three buyers have emerged: Western Indigenous Pipeline Group, Project Reconciliation and Alberta Iron Coalition. As well, a fourth Métis concern from provincial settlements in Alberta who are already affected by the oil patch and say they are being left out of future development decisions.
Given this overlooked dynamic, it’s rich to hear Bloc Quebecois leader Yves-Blanchet stridently remark that he would love to help Alberta, just not its “petrol-state” ambitions, while his province aims to use and export Alberta’s cleanest “petrol-product” (i.e. natural gas).
This of course, while the province’s biggest liquid natural gas pipeline and along with Énergie Saguenay’s export terminal, will run Environment Minister Catherine McKenna’s all new, C-69 regulatory gauntlet.
New Democrat leader Jagmeet Singh’s threat of voting no-confidence his first crack after the Throne speech–in early December after the House of Commons reconvenes December 5 and a Speaker is elected–is as unlikely as it is dubious.
The NDP began #elxn43 with a significantly smaller campaign war chest than its frontline competition, and would putter on fumes through a winter, snap election that most everyone in Canada would resent.
But Trudeau only needs one of the runner-ups to keep his minority government alive, and could end up leaning on Blanchet as much or more than Singh.
And this Wednesday, Trudeau will unveil his new cabinet that speculative coverage indicates could be larger than his previous gender-balanced executive.
With finishing TMX an apparent priority, according to Trudeau and Finance Minister Bill Morneau, Amerjeet Sohi’s now-vacant Industry portfolio, will be one appointment to watch.
And without any Grit MPs in Saskatchewan or Alberta there has been much speculation about who Trudeau could tap for cabinet representation for either province, whose premiers have serious issues with Trudeau.
Alberta Premier Jason Kenney continues to use TMX in limbo as a cudgel, while Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe, whose province is challenging the federal carbon tax’s constitutionality, said Trudeau was uncompromising on the tax.
Moe had asked for a pause on the carbon levy and told reporters he wanted more pipelines to tidewater than just TMX–following the meeting, Moe more or less described a recalcitrant Trudeau and said that Canada could “expect more of the same”.
Which makes TMX so vital for Trudeau and the Liberals. It’s supposed to be their grand compromise with the oil patch and western tidewater shots, even grandfathered past C-69, sweeping new environmental legislation that Kenney and other detractors call the “no more pipelines bill”.
Gazoduc, which includes a 782 km pipeline, is but one of several projects undergoing C-69’s new assessment process and will test Kenney’s and other bill detractors’ no-pipeline claims.
But TMX is far from a done deal and short of building it by fiat; an option available but never wielded by Trudeau or his predecessor Stephen Harper, during an era of indigenous reconciliation, a pending Federal Court of Appeal’s decision hangs over the entire affair.
Six First Nations were granted leave to appeal cabinet’s second approval of the project–one these groups successfully made against National Energy Board’s first permitting–and their latest case remains before the court.
On the other side of this indigenous TMX equation are literally dozens of groups looking to a buy a stake in the project with the possibility to create division within the pro-development indigenous set.