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.
Conservative Party of Canada MPs continue to scold the Trudeau Liberals over the government’s shoddy Phoenix pay system during Monday’s question period in Ottawa, the first in 2020.
More than 98,000 civil servants still owe sums of money to the federal government after being overpaid by the abysmal system that has costed the government hundreds of millions. The Liberals, who could not answer how much money was owed, revealed the report Monday.
The Phoenix system was so broken that tens of thousands of federal workers were either underpaid, overpaid, or not paid at all—financially ruining some civil servants.
These sweeping problems have still remained unresolved by both civil servants and the Trudeau government.
Conservative MP (Edmonton-Griesbach) Kerry Diotte told the house of commons that 98,249 workers owed the government money. As well as this, the total median overpayment was around $1,383.
Canada’s Minister of Middle Class Prosperity, Mona Fortier says that Canada has no official way of defining its middle class.
During the House of Commons question period on Monday, Fortier was asked several times about Canada’s middle class and struggled to answer.
When asked by Conservative MP Pat Kelly about the percentage of Canadians in the middle class, she could not properly answer the question.
Kelly asked, “With regard to the Minister of Middle Class Prosperity: broken down by riding, what is the number and percentage of individuals whom the minister considers to belong to the middle class?”
Fortier responded, “Mr. Speaker, the government’s focus on middle-class prosperity reflects its priority on policies that grow the economy and benefit a very broad group of Canadians.”
“The income required to attain a middle-class lifestyle can vary greatly based on Canadians’ specific situations: e.g., what their family situation is, whether they face child care expenses or whether they live in large cities where housing tends to be more expensive. Canada has no official statistical measure of what constitutes the middle class.”
MP Rachael Harder asked Fortier the same question and received the same response.
When asked by Manitoba MP Candice Bergan to give her own definition of the middle class, Fortier gave the same answer she gave to MP Pat Kelly and MP Rachael Harder.
She would go on to repeat the response again later in question period.
In a mandate letter, Fortier wrote that she would “Work with the Minister of Finance to ensure that the Department of Finance has the analytical and advisory capabilities that it needs to support and measure the impact of an economic agenda focused on growing the middle class and those people working hard to join it.”
Fortier was sworn in as the Minister of Middle Class Prosperity and Associate Minister of Finance on Nov. 20, 2019. It is not clear how her ministry plans to gather information about the middle class or provide any benefit without any official way of measuring the group.
What’s the first thing you do after your activist colleagues pull out all the stops to get you your job back? Try to cancel your boss for suspending you in the first place, of course.
Mere hours after being reinstated from a suspension by the Washington Post, Felicia Sonmez took to Twitter to start another mob. The reporter, who thought it was prudent to tweet out Kobe Bryant’s 2003 rape allegation on the day he and his daughter died tragically, attempted to launch a new cancel campaign—this time her quarry is her boss, Marty Baron.
It’s a bold move to try to get the internet to attack your boss for suspending you after you’ve been reinstated. Basically she wants to blame him for her own bad judgement. This was immediately applauded by disgraced defamation artist Talia Lavin—a person whose major accomplishments in media include lying about a military veteran’s tattoo in an attempt to get him fired, and lying about being “chased out” of a free-speech conference. (We were there, this didn’t happen.)
On Tuesday, in The Post Millennial, we noted how Sonmez’s saga was a cautionary tale showing just how toxic cancel culture truly is. We pointed out that she smeared Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, Atlantic writer Caitlin Flanagan, Reason contributor Emily Yoffe, and her former colleague Jon Kaiman.
While we hoped that she might have learned the lesson that participating in witch hunts and online mobs never ends well; we were, predictably, wrong. A mere 24 hours later, here she is, trying to ruin another career. The truly depressing thing is, she might just be successful yet again.
In the end, we’re not defending Marty Baron. It’s the tactics being used that are in question. We are advocating for a better way to handle this kind of conflict. If the only culture you know is cancel culture, then you will wind up tragically cancelled and pathetically uncultured.
Controversial CBC journalist Rosemary Barton has been criticized for writing an opinion piece when the former host is mandated to remain impartial and maintains she is above reproach in giving fair political coverage.
The article’s headline read, “Yes, prime ministers should be fluently bilingual”—which is quite clearly a statement of political opinion. Barton, however, defended her position, stating, “It’s not an opinion piece. It’s an analysis piece based on facts. There’s a difference.”
Despite this pronouncement, Barton did accept that the original headline was a statement of opinion: “The headline has been changed because it declared an opinion.”
A question to consider would be whether Barton originally wrote that headline herself, thereby declaring to Canada her thoughts on the necessity of bilingualism in the PMO. If this is indeed the case, then Barton has made clear her preference for Justin Trudeau over other Conservative leaders— who, according to Baron “are all able to speak French … but we’d be hard-pressed to call any of them fluent.”
Rosemary’s op-ed received immediate criticism from journalism experts. Carleton University professor Paul Adams, for instance, stated “the CBC’s Chief Political Correspondent writing an opinion piece … I wonder what the thinking is behind that.”
After Barton defended her article as cold-hard analysis, Adams again pointed out that “the piece did not note any views to the contrary: e.g., the exclusion of most Canadians and many federal politicians from eligibility, and the loss of potential talent that entails.”
Publisher and former chief editor of the National Post and Maclean’s Ken Whyte also took Barton to task for claiming her opinion Canadian prime ministers much speak French was not fact-based but her own tautological, circular reasoning.
Whyte recently wrote an opinion piece–correctly labeled such–in The Globe and Mail that referenced history, pointing out that both Stephen Harper and John Diefenbaker won power without needing Quebec, proving Barton’s “analysis” completely faulty.
Barton was recently dropped from CBC’s flagship show The National after the four-anchor program consistently lost viewership. She was instead given the position as CBC’s chief political correspondent.
Barton has a long pattern of anti-Conservative partisanship, including being named as a plaintiff on a lawsuit against the Conservative Party of Canada during the last election. Barton’s name would eventually be removed, but she never addressed