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.
The Oakville and Milton Humane Society has rescued a coyote this weekend from a bucket that animal experts believe had been on its head for well over a week.
The humane society became aware of the bucket-headed animal sometime last Tuesday after it was spotted near Bronte Creek Provincial Park.
Members of the OMHS Animal Services team were able to track down the coyote, eventually removing the plastic object, while recording their noble actions.
The video, posted to the OMHS’ Facebook, has been viewed thousands of times since being uploaded.
The video shows staff approaching the coyote, which appeared afraid and under a tree. The team then placed a towel over the coyote, and moved it to a nearby vehicle.
Rescuers say the animal was malnourished and dehydrated.
The humane society says the object was a large potato chip or candy container, posting a full statement under the video.
“OMHS Animal Protective Services successfully rescued the coyote with a plastic container stuck to its head Monday evening near Bronte Road, north of Speers Road and south of Wyecroft Road. The animal was first reported to the Oakville & Milton Human Society last Tuesday and had been seen in Bronte Creek Provincial Park.”
The OMHS went on to thank the public for their tips that that led to the coyote’s rescue.
A former national security adviser to the prime minister told military officials that Canada’s perception of the threats posed by Russia and China need to be clearly recognized, especially as the United States shifts towards a more isolationist economy, reports the CBC.
“The risks posed by these two countries are certainly different, but they are generally based on advancing all their interests to the detriment of the West,” said Richard Fadden, former national security adviser to Prime Ministers Justin Trudeau and Stephen Harper.
“Their activities span the political, military and economic spheres.”
Fadden, who also served as head of CSIS and as deputy defence minister, made the comments at the annual Vimy Ridge Dinner in Ottawa.
Russia and China have both shown a willingness to “use virtually any means to attain their goals,” while the U.S. has shown at various instances that it’s willing to withdraw from global trade.
The rise of American isolationism, Fadden says, means Canada will need to seek new avenues in addressing global crises without the United States, and instead, with other allies.
But in order to do so, Fadden says, Canada needs to recognize drastic changes that have occurred on the world stage over the last decade.
Canada should “recognize our adversaries for what they are, recognize we have to deal with them, but draw clear limits to what we will accept,” he said.
According to Fadden, Ottawa and our federal leaders need to recognize that the post-Cold War world order “with comprehensive U.S. leadership is gone, and is not coming back in the form we knew.”
While serving as CSIS director years ago, Fadden noted the rise of Chinese influence throughout Canadian municipal and provincial politics.
“The West does not have its act together as much as it could and should,” said Fadden.
Fadden echoed similar sentiment as former U.S. national security advisor Susan Rice, who recently told the CBC that she believed Huawei phones, made by a company who American officials believe is puppeteered by the Chinese communist party, posed a major threat to national security.
“It’s hard for me to emphasize adequately, without getting into classified terrain, how serious it is, particularly for countries involved in the Five Eyes,” said Rice explaining the severity of the threat, while suggested the signals intelligence alliance (Five Eyes) between U.S., Canada, UK, New Zealand and Australia would be put into serious jeopardy if Canada went ahead with Huawei 5G.
Fadden also pointed out that radicalization was occurring beyond the confines of Islam and violent right-wing terrorism has become a growing concern.
“Right-wing terrorism is growing and, like its cousin jihadist terrorism, it is a globalized threat,” he said. “We will ignore it at our peril.”
On Remembrance Day, Don Cherry was fired from Sportsnet for a comment he made on Coach’s Corner regarding poppies. He complained that not enough immigrants were wearing them and suggested that it represented a general ingratitude by immigrants of the benefits they enjoy by living in Canada.
His comment, now dubbed the “‘you people’ comment”, caused predictable outrage. The state broadcaster pointed out that Cherry’s remarks could not possibly have merit because of the fact that there are visible minorities who fought for this country. Try not to think too hard about the fact that they conflated visible minorities with immigrants. I happen to be both, but many Canadians happen to be one or the other.
Many in the media interpreted (some in bad faith) it as an attack on all minorities through Canadian history. While there is a general stereotype that people of colour were not born in Canada, I dare claim that it is a fast disappearing one, at least from personal experience having lived most of my life in Ontario.
Unfortunately, while that stereotype is on the decline, another is on the rise. Even more unfortunately, the one that is on the rise has an uncomfortably high level of merit. After all, Don Cherry did not come up with an original idea, he merely expressed the “wrong” opinion in the “wrong” forum.
I know many fellow immigrant-minorities who find it quite puzzling that the mainstream media and a large section of society simply cannot fathom why racist attitudes are apparently becoming more prevalent and acceptable by progressives who hurl racist abuse against anyone who does not accept the “woke” dogma of the day and by the sentiment sometimes called “whitelash”. Did the white people of Canada spontaneously develop previously a non-existent or hidden collective race consciousness?
On the contrary, I cautiously claim that as each generation in society has its own cultural features, so do successive waves of immigrants. This is true regardless of the predominant country of origin or religion of any given wave of immigration. Not that immigrants are the same regardless of their origin, but that immigrants of the same origin will still tend to behave differently depending on when they came to Canada, and this is likely true even correcting for the amount of time spent in Canada.
In other words, an immigrant of “minority x” in 1990 who immigrated in 1975 will be systematically different from an immigrant of the same “minority x” in 2015 who immigrated in 2000. This is despite the fact that they are from essentially the same origin and have spent the same amount of time in Canada. This should not be a controversial statement.
This is because of two changing variables: the state of society in the country of origin, and the state of society in the destination country. Our society has definitely been changing, so it should not be a surprise if the way we integrate immigrants into our society changes as well. In fact, there may be a very strong case that our “immigration culture” has been changing mostly not because of changes in where our immigrants come from or their culture, but because of changes in our own culture and championing the “cultural mosaic”.
Not many people would argue with the fact that our society has become much more accommodating of social minorities, such as people in the LGBTQ community or people living with disabilities. Hopefully, not many people would argue with the claim that this is largely a positive thing for society as a whole.
Under Canadian Human Rights Law, individuals must be accommodated by society, including the government, employers, service providers, and other individuals. This accommodation must seek to prevent discrimination based on a “prohibited ground” to the point of “undue hardship”. Setting aside whether we as a society have enumerated the proper “prohibited grounds”, whether “undue hardship” is an appropriate threshold, or whether that threshold is interpreted as it should be, it is definitely reasonable for individuals to expect at least some accommodation from society because we do not all share the same characteristics, disadvantages, and capabilities, and a blanket allowance for all forms of discrimination will create discontent and will exclude too many people for society to function well.
For much of history, this accommodation was arguably too little, and we had been moving in the right direction for a long time. However, somewhere along the way, it became inappropriate to consider the extent to which individuals can be expected to accommodate society. Society is made up of individuals, and it is impossible for millions of idiosyncrasies to be accommodated perfectly. One individual’s right is necessarily another individual’s duty not to infringe upon that right. Where we create more rights, we create more duties for others.
I am not trying to argue that the poor white people of Canada are being victimized because they now have more duties not to infringe upon others’ rights not to be unfairly discriminated against. Rather, it is that rights must have a limit, or we create unlimited duties that can have negative consequences or even become impractical.
The phrase “Islam is right about women” is one illustration of this conflict. The phrase was coined to point out a popular contradiction in our modern outrage culture. The idea is that you can either be offended because you think the statement is discriminatory against either muslims or women, but thinking that it is discriminatory against muslims is sexist and thinking that it is discriminatory against women is Islamophobic. The phrase does not claim that Islam is worse for women than any other religion, and there is a good case that Christianity, as with most other religions, are sexist as well, at least by modern western standards. However, the illustration only works because muslims are considered, rightfully in my opinion, to face disproportionately high levels of unfair discrimination.
Other examples include: lessons promoting LGBTQ equality being pulled from classrooms because of complaints by immigrants that such ideas infringe upon freedom of thought or religion, claims by trans activists that lesbians are transphobic for refusing to sleep with people with penises, or labelling the term “bisexual” as exclusionary of non-binary individuals.
Excuse the cliche, but the point is this: we can’t only keep asking what our country can do for us, and not what we can do for our country. The country is nothing more than a collection of us, and we can’t expect all of us to do everything for each individual while making no attempt to fit into our society.
Canadians are bound together by what we have in common, but without the effort of individuals, the few remaining values that hold us together will only continue to weaken and we will become ever more divided into factions competing to score the biggest take for their particular team. Soon, there could be nothing we have in common with each other, other than our shared struggle to compete with each other for resources.
Diversity does not make balkanization inevitable, but our current societal trajectory probably does when “diversity is our strength” is zealously pushed without expecting some common values and customs to be upheld to keep us all together.
Don Cherry was merely pointing out one aspect of that fact.
While landlocked, Alberta could be seeing interest from as far as Spain.
According to a recent report by Bloomberg News, the Spanish oil company Repsol is considering purchasing as much as half-a-million barrels of heavy crude a month from the western province, and in turn, transporting it to Europe through rail and shipping through Montreal’s ports.
The company is currently considering multiple locations including New Jersey, as it struggles to make up the production lost in Venezuela and Mexico.
If a deal is made, it could be seen as a boon to the Kenney government in Alberta, as European deals involving Canadian oil are rare. For example, only 400,000 barrels of Alberta oil was sent in the last year to the U.K, one of Canada’s largest European trading partners.
The shipment could also revive moral in the overall industry which has recently seen former giants such as Encana move south, where the regulatory environment, as well as access to capital, is seen as more favourable.