Sunday, February 8, 2015

And, Cue the Moral Outrage -- Part 3 of 3

Back in April 2010, most Ontarians probably didn't know the name Benjamin Levin, who had been the Provincial Deputy Minister of Education during the development of the 2010 Health curriculum. Before that, Dr Levin served as Deputy Minister of Advanced Education and also of Education, Training and Youth from 1999 through 2002 in Manitoba. The OISE -- University of Toronto professor would go on to work on Kathleen Wynne's transition team when she became Premier.

That changed in July of 2013, when Levin was arrested by Toronto Police Services, following investigations in London, Ontario and New Zealand. All tolled, Mr Levin was finally charged with seven counts of child exploitation, including charges of possessing and accessing child pornography.

Before I proceed, let's be clear. There is indeed a place for moral outrage in this story, and that has to do with Ben Levin's conduct. The charges against Mr Levin are serious and disturbing to anyone with a grain of decency. Notwithstanding those small groups of individuals who advocate for adults having sex with children, in no corner of humanity -- whether it be the LGBTQI community, educators, parents, people of faith -- is his alleged conduct is acceptable. This entry is about how his conduct has been construed in service of another agenda.

The Levin story was a bombshell for the beleaguered Liberal government of Ontario. Following the resignation of Premier Dalton McGuinty, Kathleen Wynne was voted leader of the Liberal Party and took office. She had plenty on her plate: the government was reeling from internal scandals including ORNGE, EHealth, gas plant cancellations. The new Premier was also tasked with restoring peace to the education sector following fractious labour disputes

Then there were these and other photographs, published by media outlets following the arrest. They were taken Sunday, June 30th, 2013, at Toronto's annual Pride Parade

L-R. Benjamin Levin, Liberal Party of Canada Leader Justin Trudeau, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne, former Ontario Premier and federal Liberal Member of Parliament Bob Rae.
Prior to Mr Levin's arrest, this was the way some photographs were framed, showing Mr Trudeau, Ms Wynne and Mr Rae. The non-descript and largely unknown Levin was not shown.
L-R. Trudeau, Wynne, Rae.
After allegations became known, it was understandable that media would publish a recent picture of Mr Levin with the Premier.
L-R. Benjamin Levin, Liberal Party of Canada Leader Justin Trudeau, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne.
This third picture, however, of an alleged child pornographer sitting alongside the federal Liberals' best hope for the Prime Minister's office and Canada's openly gay Premier started a feeding frenzy. As an added bonus, the trio was photographed at Pride, and Trudeau -- whose father famously got government 'out of the bedrooms of the nation' -- was holding a rainbow flag.

Sun News was quick out of the gate with various journalists from their newspaper and television operations sounding the alarm. With little more to go on that charges released to the press, Sun's personalities would use the allegations against Levin to hint that something might be terribly untoward about the health curriculum. In one report, Faith Goldy cuts away to then PCPO Leader Tim Hudak who still had his sights on toppling the fragile Wynne government. Mr Hudak wanted to know if the Premier was "cooperating" with investigators, implying somehow that was not. 

Faith Goldy unearthed the following 2009 quotation from Mr Levin, as if it were a bombshell that the Minister and Deputy-Minister of Education regarded the updating of an eleven-year-old curriculum document for Province-wide use in schools as a priority.

Of course it was a priority.

After Ms Goldy had said her piece, there was a cutaway to a Sun Poll asking viewers to chime in on whether the Premier Kathleen Wynne should "break her silence" on allegations that had just become public amidst an active police investigation. Such a lack of information has never prevented Sun reporters, viewers or readers from polling and opining.

Contrastingly, outlets that didn't partake of the frenzy of fear-mongering and speculation were soft on Wynne, so it was alleged the liberal media was deliberately ignoring the story. Which doesn't explain the absence of the Globe and Mail or National Post newspapers.

The perverse sideshow continued, with bloggers and conservative religionist groups -- not just implying -- actually saying that the Health curriculum might be a device to groom children for sex.

Any suggestion that the curriculum is a tool to teach children to consent to sex is some out-of-the park conspiracy theorizing. Hundreds of people, not just Mr Levin, had their fingerprints on that document, and once released, it will pass through thousands of hands: directors of education, superintendents, instructional leaders teachers, and parents. That's a helluva conspiracy, with remarkably few able to see through it.

Campaign Life Coalition unleashed a series of dire warnings about the subliminally harmful nature of the curriculum. The Interim, which bills itself as Canada's Life and Family Newspaper, has published multiple articles on Wynne, Levin and the curriculum, including this one, warning of a campaign to 'normalize homosexuality': 
“This is about normalizing homosexuality by indoctrinating the next generation,” said Jack Fonseca, project manager of Campaign Life Coalition, to LifeSiteNews. “In other words, propaganda to further a new sexual revolution.” Fonseca added: “Kids are already over-sexualized in school. We need to reduce the already extreme sexualization of the classroom, not increase it.”
As I've said before, the Provincial government is reaping what it sewed when it failed to promote and publicize the 2010 curriculum way back in, well, 2010. More recently Education Minister Liz Sandals has promised a parent-friendly brochure will be sent home, explaining the nuts and bolds of the sexual health units. Presumably, this was the purpose of an online questionnaire that was available to one parent in each Ontario school, seeking feedback on health curricula. This too was the source of some controversy.

While I agree with the general sentiment of many activists and that consultation has been lacking, I suspect we disagree on the meaning. 

Now we turn to a more recent story of two Ontario teens who launched an online campaign to have the topic of consent introduced into the new curriculum, and the how the grooming conspiracy is reignited. Grade eight students Tessa Hill and Lia Valente began their petition in January of 2015, recently passing 40,000 signatures in less than a month.

Multiple outlets picked up on the story and before long, the teens were speaking to Premier Wynne, who had just announced the topic of consent would be included in the 2015 curriculum. The ugly accusations continue.

LifeSiteNews, with US and Canadian editions online, is the HuffPo of repressive fundamentalism. Same sex attraction, gender variance, and abortion have all been folded into what they and other groups term, "the culture of death." Their headline about the young students meeting with Premier Wynne: Lesbian premier orders Ontario’s sex-ed update to teach kids about giving sexual ‘consent’ from ‘the very earliest stages.’ Above the headline -- you guessed it -- there's that photo of Ben Levin, Justin Trudeau, Kathleen Wynn and Bob Rae again. The free-spending liberal monsters are coming for your kids. Think I'm making this up? From the article:
Gwen Landolt, national vice-president of REAL Women of Canada, told LifeSiteNews that teaching children about giving consent “presupposes that sexual activity even at the ‘earliest ages’ is alright, providing that you consent.”
Landolt called the sex-ed 'consent' add-on “very worrisome” since it could eventually lead to adults having “access to children, providing the children give their consent.”
“You have the question about the exploitation of adults and young children. You also have the question about homosexuals, namely will this allow them to have access to children, providing the children give their consent?” she said. Note: Emphasis mine.
So now we get to the heart of the matter -- at the core of the concern of some parents and activists decrying the 2010 and 2015 curriculum documents is the vile conflation of homosexuality and pedophilia. From REAL Women of Canada, Ms Landolt, quoted above, has more to say in an article on the group's website:
This program was devised previously by Ms. Wynne when she was the Minister of Education together with her Deputy Minister of Education, Benjamin Levin.  The latter has subsequently been charged with the offences of making and distributing child pornography and sex exploitation.  Ms. Wynne, known publicly as a lesbian, together with the above-mentioned former Deputy Minister of Education, have developed this sex-ed program for vulnerable children as perceived through their own personal distorted lenses. Note: Emphasis mine.
Similar sentiments can be found on various blogs. At left is a graphic from an article appearing in the blog BlazingCatFur entitled, Kathleen Wynne Kiddie Diddler Adviser “Bad Touch” Ben Levin To Plead Guilty To Child Porn Charges.

NAMBLA refers to the North American Man/Boy Love Association.

This time, the blatant conflation of pedophilia with same-sex attraction is compounded by the imagery of Communist China. I guess the Liberal Party of Ontario is analogous to Red China.

Or something.

This line of reasoning is not limited to extreme right-wing activists and their blogs. Toronto Sun columnist Joe Warmington, covered Premier Wynne's presser with Tessa Hill and Lia Valente. "What the heck were they doing there?" Warmington asks. "Imagine if Prime Minister Stephen Harper pulled something like that?" 

The same Stephen Harper who said that hundreds of missing or murdered aboriginal women were not 'on our radar'? No, Joe, I just can't imagine him next to women or girls advocating for progressive change.

Mr Warmington quotes Charles McVety:
“Teaching six-year-old children to consent to sex is abhorrent,” he said. “The Institute for Canadian Values has fought Premier Wynne’s radical sex education initiative for years. On behalf of the 105,000 members and parents across Ontario who defeated this in 2010, the president speaks out against the latest announcement to start teaching Grade 1 children how to give sexual consent.”
And OPCP leadership hopeful Monte McNaughton had this to say:
“I believe this thing is signed, sealed and just isn’t delivered yet and a lot of people feel there is a hidden agenda” and “the parents should be the first educators.”
If the phrase, "first educators," sounds familiar, it's the name of the organization, Parents As First Educators, which introduced a petition against the sex ed curriculum. McNaughton has positioned himself as the faith candidate for Tory leader in Ontario, having held forth on the curriculum on the religious television program 100 Huntley Street.

Finally, Mr Warmington quotes a political science professor on the optics of introducing controversial legislation early in government's mandate, suggesting it will likely be off the electoral radar when the polls open. Nowhere in the article on a key change in the sex education curriculum does he attempt to quote and expert on sex or education.

There are more, cringe-worthy examples out there, but you get the picture. There's a really good argument to be made for better consultation and communication about curriculum. As  much as I like some of Wynne's education policy, I really don't like the idea of important decisions about Ontario's schooling swinging back and forth -- left and right -- in the winds of power and approval. There are decisions that need to be made by educational leaders, teachers, parents, and even students.

Alas, that's not the conversation taking place at the moment.

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