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.
Western Canada has a new group dedicated to helping founders with disruptive ideas go big without leaving the area.
That group’s name? Harvest.
Set up by SkipTheDishes co-founder and former CEO Chris Simair, Harvest has received initial investment capital from Western Economic Diversification Canada, to set up a large venture builder project.
Venture building firms are similar to incubators or accelerators in that multiple ideas are supported by one group, but also quite different in that normally no demo days are run. Instead, venture builders use internal resources to grow companies from within the organization. In effect, a venture builder is a start-up that builds startups.
Currently, Harvest also plans to leverage the unique infrastructure that built SkipTheDishes, in order to support its projects and is looking to set up offices across the Prairies. Possible cities for the company’s headquarters include Calgary, Saskatoon and Winnipeg.
According to CEO Chris Simair, the first company in Harvest’s portfolio, Neo Financial, has already grown to over “20 employees with plans to go to market next year.”
The inclusion of a firm dedicated to disruption could also greatly help the economy out west, which according to the Canadian government, has continuously lagged behind provinces such as Quebec and Ontario when it comes to venture capital funding.
WATCH: Trump calls Trudeau 'two-faced' in response to PM caught talking about POTUS to world leaders
At the second day at the NATO anniversary gathering US President Donald Trump called Justin Trudeau “two-faced” when asked by a reporter if he saw the video of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau caught on a hot mic talking to other world leaders about him behind his back.
“Well, he’s two-faced… And honestly with Trudeau he’s a nice guy, I find him to be a very nice guy. You know the truth is, I called him out that he’s not paying two percent [GDP on military] and I guess he’s not very happy about it,” Trump said at a press conference Wednesday.
“He’s not paying two percent and he should be paying two percent. It’s Canada, they have money.”
During the NATO anniversary celebration at Buckingham Palace, Trudeau was caught on a hot mic talking to other world leaders about Trump.
“He was late because he took a 40 minute press conference off the top,” Trudeau says in response to another world leader asking why he was late. Although Trump’s name is not included in the conversation, it’s a pretty clear reference to the US President’s press conference with the media earlier on Tuesday.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, President of France Emmanuel Macron, Prime Minister Mark Rutte of the Netherlands and Princess Anne are all in the conversation, but mostly Trudeau can be heard talking.
“Oh yeah, yeah, yeah. He announced…” Trudeau followed up, with audio not catching the rest of his statement.
“You just watch his team’s jaws drop to the floor,” Trudeau says in another part of the conversation. Johnson and Macron appear fairly animated in their talk with Trudeau, too.
The video was released by the CBC Tuesday night and has spread far and wide through social and traditional media (the CBC video has over 6 million views on Twitter alone and the New York Times picked up the story).
CBC journalist Katie Simpson pointed out that the exchange would like hurt the Trudeau’s administration’s attempts to not upset Trump. Trudeau’s staff have even set up a “friendship room” focused on Canada-US relations, with the main goal of figuring out how to get along with a mercurial and unpredictable US president.
The video captured the tail end of the first of a two-day NATO gathering.
Earlier on Tuesday Trump confronted Trudeau in front of reporters on how much Canada is spending on its military.
Trump called Canada “slightly delinquent” in its military spending, while Trudeau claimed, after getting help from aide during the press conference, Canada is spending 1.4 percent of GDP on military and that his government has increased spending by 70 percent. Many analysts disputed Trudeau’s figures, saying they do not reflect the actual amount of money the Canadian government is currently spending on defence. NATO itself estimates Canada is now spending 1.3 percent of GDP.
On Wednesday morning Trump made UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson wait several minutes for another meeting in front of cameras. Late Tuesday night Trump said he “enjoyed” his meeting with Johnson earlier in the day. The New York Times reported he also had a brief, reportedly friendly, exchange with Trudeau as well.
Last year Trump blasted Trudeau on Twitter after leaving a G7 summit held in Quebec, calling the prime minister “meek and mild”. Those comments were in response to a press conference in which Trudeau said it was insulting the US had put tariffs on Canadian steel and aluminum.
Five students are still in critical condition following a collision between a crane and a school bus in Smoky Lake, Alberta Monday morning.
The crash happened around 8:30 am on Monday near Range Road 180 along the highway according to the Edmonton Journal. The bus was attempting to cross the highway when the collision took place.
The bus was en route to H.A. Kostash, a K-12 school and confirmed to be carrying 14 students by Aspen View Public Schools.
A total of 16 patients had to be assessed by emergency services and or are currently in hospital.
Three of the students had to be airlifted to hospital by STARS and Alberta Health Services said they’re in critical condition. Two more students also had to be transported by ground ambulance in critical condition as well.
A man and a child were also taken in by ground ambulance to Edmonton, both of whom are in stable condition although they have both sustained serious injuries.
One additional patient in stable condition had to be transported to the hospital.
The driver of the crane was also brought to the hospital with minor injuries and the crane’s sole passenger was luckily not injured.
Locals in Smoky Lake have shown a great sense of community by starting a Gofundme page in an attempt to raise funds for the victims and their families. Already, more than $3600 has been raised of the set $10,000 total goal.
Canada 'slightly delinquent' on alliance military spend, cracks 'payment plan' joke: Trump-Trudeau at NATO talks London
Canada is “slightly delinquent” when it comes to defence spending, said United States President Donald Trump during a face-to-face meeting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau ahead of NATO talks in London Tuesday.
According to NATO figures, vis-a-vis individual members’ benchmark defence spending at two-percent of their Gross Domestic Product, Canada rang in below that level for 2019 at approximately 1.3 percent.
“But Canada, they’ll be ok. I have confidence. (They’re) Just slightly delinquent. Some are major delinquents, some are way below one percent and that’s unacceptable,” said Trump, who hinted at leveraging trade to get members to pony up.
This ‘two percent of GDP’ obligation of NATO alliance members, or what became an “aspirational goal”, was a watered down demand by U.S. President Barack Obama and Britain in 2014; then they wanted Canada to double its expenditure on defence.
Trump made the remarks when pressed to categorize Canada’s current military spending as it stacks up against others.
“We are talking to Germany tomorrow and they’re starting to come along. They have to. They have to. Otherwise if they don’t want to, I’ll have to do something with respect to trade. And with trade I have all the cards.”
Germany’s defence spending as percentage of its GDP is slightly higher than Canada, while Spain, Luxembourg and Belgium are below one percent.
“And that’s unacceptable and then if something happens, we’re supposed to protect them,” Trump continued. “It’s not really fair and it never has been fair.”
Trump rounded off the comments by quipping that “well, we’ll put Canada on a payment plan, I’m sure the prime minister would love that” in answer to a question about whether Canada “should have a plan to meet the two percent standard.”
“Where are you at? What is your number?” Trump asked regarding the NATO benchmark.
This caused Trudeau to repeat what he noted earlier in the press scrum: that Canada’s military spending would increase by 70 percent through the coming decade.
“Over these past years, including for the coming years including significant investments in our fighter jets, significant investments in our naval fleets,” Trudeau said.
“We are increasing significantly our defence spending from previous governments that cut it.”
While the Twitter universe lit up with conjecture, in the moment Trump was not interested in the minutiae of Canada’s incremental budgetary increases over the next 10 years and pressed Trudeau.
“Ok, where are you now?” Trump asked again.
Trudeau: “We’re at one-point-three-five.”
“One-point-three?” asked Trump.
“One-point-four, and continuing to move forward,” replied Trudeau who later reiterated Canada’s leading role in military operations in Latvia and Baghdad during the half-hour media confab.
“United States and all NATO allies know that Canada is a reliable partner. We’ll continue to defend NATO, and our interests.”
In addition to Trump’s expression of confidence in Canada, he added that “two percent is very low. It should be four percent.”
For the 2019-20 fiscal year, Department of National Defence budget allocation was $21.9 billion. In terms of “significant investments” Trudeau noted in Canadian air and sea power, two years ago Canada bypassed Boeing for interim CF-18s and instead paid $90 million for 25 Royal Australian Air Force F/A-18s. Retrofitting them is expected to run another three or four-hundred million dollars.
This was after Trudeau scrapped the former Conservative government’s sole-sourced contract to buy Lookheed Martin’s next-gen F35 fighter after defeating Stephen Harper in the 2015 election.
In July of this year, the federal government reopened the project and invited multiple companies, including Airbus, Boeing, Lockheed Martin (F-35) and Saab to bid on a $22 billion contract to supply the Royal Canadian Airforce with 88 new fighter jets.
The Royal Canadian Navy is also in the throes of a major $4.3 billion rebuild, having already retrofitted several interim vessels and constructing four of six scheduled Arctic and offshore patrol ships.
A further 15 larger, surface combatant vessels based on “type 26 BAE warships” are also in the design phase, according Public Services Canada. The department estimates that construction could begin as early as 2020 with a $60 billion budget.