Monday, May 18, 2015

Mayor John Tory at #IDAHOTB

John Tory isn't the first Chief Magistrate of Toronto to embrace the role of LGBTQI ally. That would be pre-amalgamation Toronto Mayor Barbara Hall, who marched in Pride as both a City Councillor and Mayor. (As a lawyer, Ms Hall had defended men arrested and charged as found-ins in the infamous 1981 bathhouse raids in Toronto.) Her successor Mel Lastman, was a reluctant participant at first, but soon got into the fun. David Miller marched with the Chief of Police.

But Mr Tory, no stranger to Pride, seems right at home at #IDAHOTB.

John Tory at IDAHOTB 2015 / Photo: Gordon Nore.
More so than his predecessor.

Rob Ford at IDAHOT 2013 / Photo: NOW Toronto
Some interesting reading in this 2012 NatPo piece -- Newsmaker: How does Rob Ford's Pride Parade attendance compare to past mayors?

Sunday, May 17, 2015

#IDAHOTB 2015 Toronto draws attention to youth

Today is The International Day Against Homphobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia. The occasion was honoured this past Friday, above Nathan Phillips Square at Toronto City Hall.

If you've never heard of IDAHOTB, don't feel too bad. The observance has only been around since 2005, after 24,000 individuals and several LGBT organizations had signed an appeal to support the "IDAHO Initiative" the year before. In 2009 IDAHO became IDAHOT, and just this year, it became IDAHOTB. So, the "B" is new, and the "O" is optional, so you can imagine the confusion some of us had hash-tagging our Tweets. 

Celebrated annually on May 17th, this year's IDAHOTB marks the twenty-fifth anniversary of the removal of homosexuality as a mental health disorder by the World Health Organization. According to the IDAHOTB central website, "May 17 is now celebrated in more than 130 countries, including 37 where same-sex acts are illegal, with 1600 events reported from 1280 organizations in 2014. These mobilisations unite millions of people in support of the recognition of human rights for all, irrespective of sexual orientation or gender identity or expression."

Unlike Pride celebrations, which take place at different times of year around the world, IDAHOTB's international organizers see it as a "moment that everyone can take advantage of to take action." 

This year in Toronto that moment belonged to youth, with speakers calling for support for NDP MPP Cheri DiNovo's private member's bill, "Bill 77, the Affirming Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Act. The Act would prohibit conversion therapy for LGBT kids, and would prohibit doctors from billing OHIP for conversion therapy conducted on any patient." 

And speakers, including Toronto Mayor John Tory and local activist King from Supporting Our Youth, also called for support for Ontario's embattled 2015 Health and Physical Education curriculum, which, sadly, has come under fire from hardline religionists -- mostly for things it doesn't actually say about sexual health.

Pflag Toronto President Anne Creighton speaking.
Background, LTR: Toronto Mayor John Tory,
City Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam, and NDP MPP Cheri DiNovo
Photo: Gordon Nore
The closing address was given by Pflag Toronto President Anne Creighton, whose organization hosts the event. Anne's speech, which she kindly shared with me:

Hello everyone and thanks for joining us here today at City Hall.  This is my first Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia as President of Toronto Pflag.  I am grateful that the international organizers chose Youth as the theme because this is one area I know well.  
I am also pleased that the international organizers are calling out biphobia from now on.  We need to bury the belief that being bi suggests a lack of courage instead of recognizing that it is a thing on its own with its own place in the spectrum.
Let me introduce myself.  
I am the proud mom of Amy, my lesbian daughter.  Because of her, I found Pflag and because of Pflag I have found a calling and a community that is loving, passionate, kind and fair.  They have opened their collective arms to Amy and to me and I couldn’t be more grateful.
I am lucky to be a Pflag mom who is free during the day to visit schools and workplaces to talk about acceptance and celebrating differences.  We speak to kids from Grades 2 to 12.  
We tell these students our own child’s story and our message is always the same:
  • Be nicer to people who are different.  It isn’t nice to call them names or hurt their feelings.
  • Be an ally and stick up for people who are different.
  • And be the best role model you can be so others can follow your example.
You would be amazed how students take these simple messages to heart.  When we ask how they would have made our child’s time at school better, they have wonderful, generous ideas.
But in these classes there are kids who already know they are different.  We know this because they tell us quietly as we are packing up.  Some are nervous and some are wide-eyed with excitement after hearing our presentation.
You might be curious then to know how much explaining we have to do.  Do we have to tell children in Grade 2 what “being gay” means?  No. 
Are they surprised that Amy took a girl to her high school prom?  NO!!!! 
Do they know what all the letters in LGBTQ stand for?  All except Q!
So it will not surprise you that I am not one of the parents upset about the new sex ed curriculum.  I think it is a very measured approach to updating the curriculum.  I am totally confident the kids are eager for the information.
And for kids who are different it legitimizes the difference and declares it to be natural.  What a gift for a child who has not yet learned how to verbalize to their parents how they feel.  How great for that child to learn they are not alone; that lots of other people feel the same way.
For sure kids have questions.  Now they will get answers.
In closing, we know that our youth sometimes face huge challenges in school, in public and at home.  But I am an optimist.  I am convinced we are making progress.  
We have eager, accepting children.
We have a new shelter.
We have a new curriculum. 
And I hope after today we will have a few more allies and activists who will make their own spaces safer for us all.
Thank you.
As a teacher, parent, activist, and proud member of the LGBTQI community, these were exactly the words I needed to hear. It's been an awful slog, these last three months, listening to the horrendous propaganda and hatred spewed at the curriculum. Seeing gatherings of hundreds, and occasionally thousands, of protestors angry about things that will not be taught, and wildly misinformed about things that will. So much energy has been expended during this time just refuting all the nonsense, we've not gotten to that place where we talk about what a tremendous step forward it is. Hearing community leaders, especially King and Anne and Mayor Tory, actually get up and talk tangibly about the good this curriculum can do was refreshing.

Some excellent coverage of the event.

HG Watson's report for Daily Xtra: Toronto raises flag for IDAHOT.

Elena Gritzan for NOW Toronto: "Unlike that guy named Ford, mayor comes out in support of LGBTQ rights – and the province's new sex-ed curriculum."

Don Peat for The Toronto Sun: Mayor Tory supports new sex-ed curriculum.

Here's Anne Creighton's guest column for the Toronto Sun, Thursday, May 14th: Help all kids to be proud of who they are.

And here's me, captured by Daily Xtra's camera, when Anne Creighton was speaking.

Screen cap from Daily Xtra video.

Why LGBTQI and allied groups should invite Michael Coren to Pride

I haven’t been asked to lead any marches at Pride this year and, frankly, I doubt that’s ever likely to happen!
Michael Coren
June 28, 2014

Toronto Pride 2013 / Photo by Gordon Nore
Across Canada many communities are preparing for Pride celebrations sometime this summer. Toronto's celebration will close on Stonewall Sunday -- the last Sunday of June, marking the riots that began in the wee hours Sunday, June 28th, 1969. 

It caps a weekend that includes the *Trans March on Friday evening, and Saturday's Dyke March, now in its twenty-first year. All of this comes at the end of a nine-day festival.

Michael Coren's I was wrong column came out on the day of the Dyke March at WorldPride Toronto, on Saturday, June 28th, 2014. This year, as it so happens, Toronto's big Sunday Pride parade comes on -- you guessed it -- June 28th.

Since the publication of that column, Michael has been vilified by some people of faith for his change of heart, and, more recently, news of his move to the Anglican Communion from the Catholic faith that he embraced in his twenties. He's defended Ontario's Health and Physical Education curriculum, notably debating Charles McVety on the subject. His family members have been stalked on social media. Speeches and writing assignments have been cancelled. 

Today, he published this in a Toronto Star newspaper guest column (emphasis mine):
I refused to base my entire world view and theology, as so many active Catholics do, around abortion, contraception and sex rather than love, justice and forgiveness. Frankly, it was tearing me apart. I wanted to extend the circle of love rather than stand at the corners of a square and repel outsiders. So I quietly and privately drifted over to an Anglican Church that while still working out its own position on many social issues, is far more progressive, open, relevant and willing to admit reality.
You see where I'm going with this.

Nobody really needs an invitation to attend Pride festivities -- that's the point of the thing. Nonetheless, for four years, activists and leaders in Toronto reached out to an obstinate Mayor Rob Ford -- olive branch in hand -- each time rudely rebuffed. 

It's time we extended this courtesy to Michael. I encourage every organization -- LGBTQI or allied -- to invite Michael Coren to attend Pride festivities. Not just in Toronto, but everywhere. LGBTQI orgs, faith groups, PFLAG chapters or labour unions, to name a few. Whether in Ontario or Newfoundland or British Columbia. In towns big or small.

Let's show some #Pride4Michael Coren.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

What we could be talking about when we talk about #FHRITP

This is about something more than #FHRITP.

Right out of the gate, I'm going to issue a trigger warning for language because I feel, as inappropriate and offensive as the language is, it is the language that was used. It is the reason City TV sports reporter Shauna Hunt fought back. While Ms Hunt was doing a remote outside BMO Field at a Toronto FC soccer game, an onlooker tilted his head towards the ear of her interview subject, and shared the following:
Why don't you fuck her right in the pussy?

Being a journalist, Ms Hunt had some questions. The man who made the comments scurried off, so she tried to speak with others who were with him; notably, Ryan Hart and Shawn Simoes. The smug little boys brushed off her questions and smirked through the interview, managing, however, to dig themselves in as deep as as their friend who started the row.

Mr Simoes was fired from a six-figure engineering job at Hydro One. As of the moment, Ryan Hart's employers are looking into the matter, and the four men involved in the exchange have been banned from Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment venues. Ms Hunt has been lauded for her composure; her station CityTV for backing her; and social media detectives for helping to round up this sorry foursome. The story's gone viral, and the event is being chalked up as a win.

Yesterday, I wondered aloud:

I peruse a number of blogs and sites dedicated to documenting Canada's moral decline; ripping public education and public educators; keeping their readers abreast of the radical homosexual agenda; and, lately, warning of the "obscenity" that is the 2015 Ontario Health & Physical Education Curriculum

Resounding silence.

Except for TheRebel. Trust Ezra Levant find a way to take this story and make it about his fight for our liberties. Apparently, something foul is afoot when an ordinary sclhlub can't call out a woman in the street.

Here's Ezra equating the firing of Shawn Simoes with Pastor Martin Neimoller's famous poem:

First they came for #FHRITP louts: Who's next on the "thought police" list? 

I don't need to parse this in any great detail. Ezra goes to pains to explain that he supports Ms Hunt's response. He also points out that this behaviour is fairly common -- it's even happened to men -- suggesting perhaps that folks need to get a thicker skin, I guess. He takes exception, however, to the fact that Mr Simoes was sacked, although he didn't actually make the offensive comments. (Note: In another segment, Rebel reporter Marissa Semkiew interviews a lawyer who says that Simoes advocacy for the remarks is sufficiently actionable. Despite Ms Semkiew's protestations, lawyer Ed Prutschi doesn't seem to be all that worked up about Mr Simoes's dismissal from Hydro One.) 

Contrary to what Ezra says, there's no "thought crime" here. First, Simoes clearly cannot be accused of thinking. Second, he said plenty.

The only reason to examine Levant's report is that he would the would have the gall suggest that taking action against a man who harasses a woman while she's going about her business is anything close to Hitler's final solution -- the internment and execution of Jews, Roma, intellectuals, non-Arians and gay men, to name a few. This reductive misappropriation of the Holocaust isn't new -- Rush Limbaugh was using the term "feminazies" when I still had a full head of hair.

In Semkiew's segment, she refers to the language used against Ms Hunt as a "gimmick." In another, Ezra calls it "schtick," and laments the "bullying" of the young men online. He admonished "social justice warriors" that these are only words, not actual assault.

"Fuck her right in the pussy."

For women covering news, and particularly sports, this is not just a prank that started a couple of years ago in the UK -- it's been around since women journalists broke through the doors to the city room. For decades women sports reporters have been taunted, abused and shamed for daring to enter the men's locker room. Consider Boston-based sports writer Lisa Olsen, who, twenty-five years ago, had to flee the United States to Australia:
Olson, who was 26 and working for the Boston Herald, described being accosted by naked football players who made vulgar comments and lewd gestures as she conducted a practice-day locker-room interview. The NFL's investigation, which resulted in a 108-page report, noted that one player, Zeke Mowatt, was seen fondling himself at an arm's length from Olson and asking her: "Is this what you want?" Others gyrated their hips behind the reporter, echoing Mowatt's comments. The reporter told how the players "positioned themselves inches away from my face and dared me to touch their private parts." She depicted the incident as "mind rape."
Olson reported receiving 100 obscene phone calls and 250 pieces of hate mail from Patriot fans after the news broke. When the tires on her car were slashed, the perpetrator left a message that threatened, "The next time it will be your neck." When her apartment was burglarized, a note ordered her to "leave Boston or die." Patriots Owner Victor Kiam publicly labeled Olson "a classic bitch."
The sportswriter fled to Australia and took a job with the Sydney Daily Telegraph Mirror. She settled a civil harassment suit against the Patriots, reportedly for $250,000, and eventually returned to the United States. Olson, who writes about sports for New York's Daily News, did not return phone calls requesting an interview.
I'm sure a lot of women in this line of work were told to suck it up and go, and still are. Boys will be boys, after all. 

What makes the Shauna Hunt story unique is that she fought back with her camera and microphone, and her employer backed her. For many, many people, to fight back -- even simply to say, "no" -- is often a prelude to violence. As Laverne Cox reminds us, the threat level goes up incrementally for LGBT people, rising sharply where trans woman, and more particularly trans women of colour, are targeted.

We've known for many years that the number one cause of death for women in the workplace -- in both Canada and the United States -- is murder. Fatalities of men at work tend to be industrial.

Ms Hunt was able to do what so many can only imagine.

That's what this is about.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Making the Case for Comprehensive Sex Education

I know. 

This was Rob Ford's last interview before going in for major surgery. 

And I'm a terrible person for posting this. 

Councillor Ford sat down for "an exclusive one-on-one" interview with TheRebel's Ezra Levant on May 7th. At the eight-minute mark, Ez asks Ford his thoughts on the 2015 Ontario Health and Physical Education Curriculum.

What could go wrong?

WARNING: Coarse language.

Ezra Levant: I'm surprised at the story of the sex ed curriculum. I read in the paper the other day that 35,000 kids stayed home in some parents-students strike in the sex ed curriculum Kathleen Wynne is putting in.
Rob Ford: It makes me sick to my stomach. It makes me absolutely sick. I have two kids -- one in grade two; one in grade four. My one in grade two and my other one in grade four should not be talking about what anal sex is or what a blowjob is. This is what they're teaching these kids. That makes me sick. I told my kids, "If they start talking like that, walk out." And you know what, it's for the parents to teach 'em at the appropriate time. And not when they're in grade two and not when they're in grade four. They should be teaching 'em how to read and write and arithmetics. It makes me sick to my stomach and that's why I supported Monte McNaughton, because Monte was the candidate who said he would get rid of it. It turns my stomach.
I don't suppose that there is any point in telling RebelMedia viewers that the word "blowjob" appears nowhere in the curriculum, and that oral and anal sex are discussed in the context of abstinence, and in the Intermediate grades. 

Or that this is the same former Mayor who told a City Hall scrum -- live on air -- that he had "enough to eat at home."

Rob Ford introduces Monte McNaughton / Photo from Blogwrath
Addendum -- May 18, 2015.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Sex Ed: A Seat at the Table

My old neighbourhood growing up, Thorncliffe Park, in the former East York, has become ground-zero in the controversy over Ontario's 2015 Health and Physical Education curriculum. The first day of a one-week strike saw 90% of some 1300 children in North America's largest K-5 school absent at the behest of their parents. Instead of being in the school, many were out front holding signs decrying "irresponsible" sex education and chanting "We Say No!" -- all of this in an effort to preserve their childhood innocence. Some children then accompanied the adults to Premier Kathleen Wynne's constituency office a few kilometres away for more of the same; while others were paraded in front of Queen's Park.

But it is the behaviour of the adults I would like to discuss today. We'll start with the organizer of the Thorncliffe Park spectacle Khalid Mahmood, head of the Thorncliffe Parents' Association. Mr Mahmood is a past chair of the school council at Thorncliffe. On the day of the strike, he sat down with CBC Radio's Matt Galloway, the host of Metro Morning:

Mr Mahmood believes the curriculum sexualizes children and will prompt them to experiment early -- despite evidence to the contrary. A fourth grade expectation, he insists, encourages children to date. It doesn't. It's a possible student response to an optional teacher prompt. Heres the expectation:

Human Development and Sexual Health
C1.5 describe the physical changes that occur in males and females at puberty (e.g., growth of body hair, breast development, changes in voice and body size, production of body odour, skin changes) and the emotional and social impacts that may result from these changes [PS]
Here's one teacher prompt and a possible response.
Teacher prompt: “What can change socially as you start to develop physically?”
Student: “Relationships with friends can change, because sometimes people start being interested in different things at different times. Some people start ‘liking’ others. They want to be more than ‘just friends’ and become interested in going out. Sometimes people treat you as if you are older than you actually are because of how you look. Sometimes classmates, friends, or family make comments or tease you about the changes.” 
And here's the reality. If children are beginning puberty, as they may well be in the fourth grade, some of them will begin to see some of their peers differently and imagine different kinds of relationships with them. It's a thing that is happening to children in the classroom and will impact upon relationships, regardless of faith or culture, or whether we as adults feel they are ready to discuss it.

So going steady might be on the minds of some children. If it comes up in classroom discussion -- and it likely will at some point -- talking about it and understanding that it is a normal part of growing up is not the same thing as sending the young couple to Tahiti for the weekend.

The other point of this is -- if a child asks as question in the classroom, an adult should make the effort to answer it. Unless, of course, we're bound and determined to return to the sperm-and-the-egg (minus-the-penis-and-vagina) lesson I sat through in the same school nearly forty-five years ago.

There's also a lengthy discussion about masturbation and the curriculum's failure to impart that Mr Mahmood objects to it.

So that's the undercard; let's get to the main event. Matt Galloway's mom raised no fools, and so the host probes for a connection between the animus for the curriculum and the sexual orientation of our Premier Kathleen Wynne:
MG: There are people who say that this is about values when it comes to the Premier, that we have an openly gay Premier, and that this is rooted in homophobia. What is your response to that?
KM: They are having their own life and they have a right to spend their life and we have respect for them. We're not asking about anything bad to them. We also want the same respect to our end as well. I mean, Canada has to proud on the diverse value. It is a beauty that we are living in a diverse society, so we believe that everyone has to be taken care and everyone has to be included. 
MG: So this doesn't have anything to do with the fact that Kathleen Wynne is a lesbian?  
KM: Kathleen Wynn, this is her agenda and now her party is paying the cost of that...
MG: So it does have something to do with the fact that she is a lesbian. 
KM: Yeah, I mean they are forcing these things, they are forcing these things, not only now but the last twenty years. And not only sex education curriculum, but telling about homosex... I mean that are having their life, and they can spend it, but they shouldn't enforce to other students, create so many activities, daily basis in the school that is really alarming situation. 
Inexplicably, Mr Mahmood went back for more the next morning on Global TV's The Morning Show. 

Liza Fromer challenges him repeatedly on his facts and stops him dead in his tracks over his explanation of how body parts will be taught in the first grade. Mr Mahmood again harps on the refrain that he and his neighbours weren't consulted. All due respect to him, neither was I -- and I've been teaching HPE, among other subjects, for thirteen years. If he wasn't consulted, then he has no clue about how it will be taught. 

Ms Fromer, pointing out that her children are the same age as Mr Mahmood's, says that she approves of the curriculum, which he says has "bad things." It gets heated, as she continues to correct his claims. In a desperate attempt to sound authoritative and relevant, Mr Mahmood calls for a referendum, and even an opt-in for the curriculum. He is, frankly, far more combative with Ms Fromer than he was with his male interviewer the day before.

Enough of Mr Mahood, for now.

Another player in the Thorncliffe Park protests is Sam Sotiropoulos, who spoke on the first day of the strike, demanding that Kathleen Wynne "come back to the table" to discuss the demands of parents he professes to represent. Today, he appeared by telephone on CBC Radio's Ontario Today with Rita Celi. If you're bound and determined to hear Mr Sotiropoulos opine, his interview is in the first segment. During the exchange, Ms Celi begins to share a personal story in which she was being chased as a seven-year-old by older boys using vulgar language. She was trying to make the point that nearly forty-five years ago, these boys already knew about sex and power.

The former trustee interjects, "Are you saying they were about to have sexual intercourse with you, maybe anal intercourse, oral intercourse?" And he talked about sexual "proclivities" of homosexuals. 

As the kids might say, @trusteesam gonna @trusteesam.

In the most eloquent of rebuttals, Ms Celi chose her Call of the Day very well:

And here's the Call of the Day: Some people are bad parents

And I have a little something to say about the behaviour of Mr Mahmood and Mr Sotiropoulos. 

Between the two of them... Pulling children out of school. Telling them not to trust their teachers. Spinning conspiratorial tales about the machinations of a lesbian premier. Jokes about sexual harassment. Insulting LGBTQI children and families.

And they want a seat at the table?

Here ya go, fellas.

The grownups are talking.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Dr Tourloukis is asking for more than an "opt out"

It was September 11, 2012, when most Ontarians first heard about Dr Steve Tourloukis and the Family Religious Values Letters. The Hamilton dentist was quoted in a Toronto Star newspaper article published that day:
“I’m not an extremist, but I must ensure that my children abstain from certain activities that may include lessons which promote views contrary to our faith,” said Tourloukis, who is supported by a group called the Parental Rights in Education Defense Fund. “We know other denominations like Jehovah’s Witnesses and Muslims are excused for certain activities. Does our being Christian disqualify us from equitable treatment?”
More specifically, Dr Tourloukis submitted a list of topics he deemed contrary to his faith, with the expectation that the school would provide him with advance notice of instruction in these topics, as well as an opportunity to view teaching materials.Based upon this, he would make the determination as to whether he would keep his children home from school on the day of those lessons.

This is where the Family Religious Values letters come in -- they're the work of retired educator and parents rights activist Phil Lees of PEACE Ontario (formerly PEACE Hamilton). PEACE stands for Parents Education Action for Christian Equity.  Mr Lees penned various versions of the letters, which can be found on his group's website:

Here's a portion of the current letter for Christian parents as it appears on the PEACE Ontario website:
A. Values/Religious Instruction
1. ____ Macro evolution – when presented as fact and not theory (i.e. as evidence of a purely materialisticuniverse and/or something that disproves the existence of God)
2. ____ Values neutral education – instruction of students in moral relativism and principles of situationalethics related to the religion of Secular Humanism
3. ____ Universe/Earth worship – worship of the cosmos, Mother earth (Gaia), plants, animals, etc.
4. ____ Occult principles and practices – witchcraft, black magic, spirit guides, Satanism, wizardry, New Age, astrology, horoscopes, psychic powers and other such practices
5. ____ Religious practices – required student participation in prayers, chants, meditations, postures, etc. closely associated with any religion

B. Family Life & Sex Education
1. ____ Instruction in sex education 
2. ____ Discussion of premarital or extramarital sexual activity as natural, healthy, or something to been encouraged 
3. ____ Instruction or activities that present abstinence/chastity as unrealistic or unachievable 
4. ____ Instruction about, or provision of, birth control drugs and devices 
5. ____ Instruction that provides a false sense of security with regard to the effectiveness of condoms inpreventing the spread of sexually transmitted diseases 
6. ____ Teaching that abortion is an acceptable method of birth control and/or that life does not begin at conception 
7. ____ Instruction or activities about sexual conduct that we do not consider to be age-appropriateinformation (i.e. anal sex, oral sex, sadism, masochism, fetishes, bondage, etc.) 
8. ____ Instruction or activities dealing with homosexual, bisexual, or transgender conduct and relationships
9. ____ Encouraging the acceptance of infanticide or euthanasia

C. ____ Other (please explain) ___________________________________________________
In addition, I am/we are requesting the following:
1. As long as I/we remain liable to provide support to my/our child, I/we request that all employees and agents of the school refrain from counseling, treating, or referring my/our child for non-emergency treatment or admission to a care facility, or providing birth control materials without my/our knowledge and prior consent.
2. My/our child not be approached for his/her consent to participate in any of the above activities, with the intent to nullify this communication.
3. This document be made available in my/our child’s permanent student record and teachers who will be incontact with my/our child be informed about this communication and will inform me/us about sensitive curriculum (DOE 2210).In the event that a controversial issue arises in class, I/we will accept responsibility to either: a. speak with my/our child to help him/her better understand how this information applies to him/her as aperson of faith, or b. work with the school to seek reasonable, relevant, and realistic accommodations
Dr Tourloukis and the folks at PEACE Ontario want schools to put these letters in the student's permanent Ontario Student Record. Dr Tourloukis' school board declined to do so -- other boards as well -- prompting the parent to launch a suit.

Fastforward to 2015 and issue of opting out of the 2015 Ontario Health and Physical Education curriculum -- or, more specifically, the sexual health components:
The Tourloukis case is being used quite disingenuously by the anti-sex-ed contingent to convince parents that the Province and the schools will not allow parents to opt out of the curriculum. In many of the news accounts of the various protests and petitions, parents are quoted demanding the right to opt out. They have that right -- contrary to the LifeSiteNews article linked in the tweet above -- to do so.

But the detractors have been persistent. Here's former TDSB Trustee Sam Sotiropoulos lecturing parents in front of Valley Park Middle School on April 11, 2015:

Mr Sotiropoulos and his GoPro address the crowd:
The Premier says we can opt out if we don't like the subject matter, but that is a bald faced lie. She is lying through her teeth.... The truth is, you can't opt your children out because the schools are already full of it -- under the guise of human rights, so called. What about our human rights? It seems there are sub-classes of human rights. Because it seems to me that some people's human rights are more important than other people's human rights. We're all equal, but some people are more equal than others. 
Then we have it from the man himself, Dr Tourloukis addressing parents at the largest anti-sex-ed protest to date at Queen's Park, in April 2015:

Dr Tourloukis: I have come to deliver a message that every Ontario parent urgently needs to hear: Promises for advance notice and opt-outs are easily made, but not necessarily followed.
Ladies and gentlemen....I hope you and I are granted the opportunity to have advance notice of lessons which deal sensitive subject matter. I also hope you and I are allowed to opt our children out of such classes if we choose, but I fear that may not happen. I have this fear because I have spent the last 2 ½ years in court trying to get advance notice and opt-outs. I asked my kids’ school for advance notification on lessons dealing with sexual orientation, abortion, birth control and a couple of other topics where a conflict with my religious beliefs could arise. I also asked my kids’ school to allow my children to opt-out if there was a conflict between teaching materials and my family’s faith. To date I have not yet been successful. Unfortunately, I have had to hire a lawyer and take the school board to court because they would not provide the advance notice and opt-outs as they had promised.
I have no idea what promises were made to Dr Tourloukis. The case is before the courts. There is a big difference between an opt out from curriculum and submitting a laundry list of topics a parent disapproves of. A parent, reading the following from the grade three health curriculum, might decide to go to the principal and ask that their child be excused from class -- with no penalty and with an alternate activity, which might be as simple as reading in the library or sitting in on another class. 

Human Development and Sexual Health
C3.3 describe how visible differences (e.g., skin, hair, and eye colour, facial features, body size and shape, physical aids or different physical abilities, clothing, possessions) and invisible differences (e.g., learning abilities, skills and talents, personal or cultural values and beliefs, gender identity, sexual orientation, family background, personal preferences, allergies and sensitivities) make each person unique, and identify ways of showing respect for differences in others [PS, IS] 
Teacher prompt: “Sometimes we are different in ways you can see. Sometimes we are different in ways you cannot see – such as how we learn, what we think, and what we are able to do. Give me some examples of things that make each person unique.” 
Student: “We all come from different families. Some students live with two parents. Some live with one parent. Some have two mothers or two fathers. Some live with grand- parents or with caregivers. We may come from different cultures. We also have different talents and abilities and different things that we find difficult to do.” 
Teacher: “How can you be a role model and show respect for differences in other people?”
Student: “I can include others in what I am doing, invite them to join a group, be willing to be a partner with anyone for an activity, and be willing to learn about others.” 
The principal talks to the teacher to determine when the item is coming up. They make arrangements and inform the parent. That is a reasonable accommodation. Let's get back to the PEACE letter -- what is being requested is not a reasonable accommodation by comparison. 

The teacher's primary role is to teach the Ontario Curriculum and to differentiate instruction in a way that meets the diverse needs of students in the classroom, taking into account learning needs and exceptionalities. The focus is supposed to be on the student as a learner -- not on the specific ideological preferences of parents and guardians. Consultation with parents focuses on the child's progress and the best ways to instruct and support them.

In contrast, following the letters, the teacher would shift focus on all long-rage planning to anticipate the specific concerns of multiple parents in the classroom. Then the teacher would have to document the lesson that hasn't happened yet, collect the supporting materials, and distribute them to parents far enough in advance that everyone can have a look-see. What if the teacher doesn't anticipate that an item that is in the curriculum runs afoul of a parent's beliefs?

Dr Tourloukis is not seeking an exemption from specific curriculum items; he's trying to order his children's education a la carte

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Toronto Star calls out leaders of anti-sex ed movement

The Toronto Star editorial of Friday, May 1st, 2015, Ontario must stay the course on sex education, marks the second time recently that a major media outlet has called out Charles McVety on his fear mongering over the 2015 Ontario Health & Physical Education curriculum. The first was when author and broadcaster Michael Coren made a hearty meal of the evangelist on CBC's Power and Politics

Here's what The Star had to say:
Meanwhile, anti-sex education monger Charles McVety, leader of the Institute of Canadian Values, is twisting the curriculum’s new focus on “consent” by saying that “teachers will be forced to teach little children how to give permission for that child to engage in sex.” The curriculum actually teaches kids how to say “no” and to understand the concept of consent before engaging in sex.
McVety is no newcomer to the anti-sex ed camp. He so successfully whipped up opposition to the curriculum when it was first proposed in 2010 that Wynne’s predecessor, Dalton McGuinty, put the course on the back burner. That left teachers to work with study materials that hadn’t been updated since 1998 — when there were no smart phones, “sexting” hadn’t been invented and the issue of consent was not raised.
Now McVety is back. He was one of the leaders of the Queen’s Park protest in April, declaring: “We don’t send our kids to school to be taught masturbation.” (The new sex ed material doesn’t teach anything like that.)
 The Star editorial concludes:
In the end, Ontario’s new sex education curriculum is well-researched, well-planned, age-appropriate and long overdue.
The government should debunk the misunderstandings and misinformation, and then carry on with its plans to introduce this important change.
Problem is, there is a contingent of people opposed to the curriculum who don't care what it really says. As long as there are folks who believe that the LGBTQ community is a recruiting machine; that the curriculum document has been carefully crafted to sexualize children; and that a lesbian has no business running the Province -- no amount of debunking will be enough.

I hope Premier shows the courage her predecessor lacked and pushes through.

Parents Strike Against Sex Ed

Some parents across Ontario will be keeping their children home from school Monday, May 4th thru Thursday, May 8th in protest of Ontario's Health and Physical Education curriculum, which is set to launch in September of 2015. Parents & Students on strike: one week no school is meant to call attention to the number of parents who oppose the curriculum -- a portent of things to come.

So, it's a boycott of something that hasn't happened yet.

The campaign has spread beyond the GTA. Following, a report from CTV Windsor.

Unlike the suggested letter to school from the website, the Windsor group is requesting assignments be sent home to facilitate home schooling. The Windsor board has officially it won't be sending work home. Nor should they; it's not the job of the taxpayer funded school to facilitate homeschooling. Teachers provide classroom education, not distance education.

School boards commenting thus far have said students will be marked absent and will be responsible for any work they miss.

A rambling editorial in Al Forqan quotes two parents participating in the strike:
Kingston resident Ghada Ismial helped organize the event. She said the curriculum, which will start in Grade 1, will be taught to students too young. “The children can’t understand everything,” said Ismial, who practices Islam. “It’s not something related to religion, or culture, because I have many friends who are Christian, and they disagree.” Ismial believes if students learn about sex early, there is a potential for more teen pregnancies. “Children are very smart, they want to test whatever they study at school,” Ismial said. “You can imagine in Grade 3 they will tell the children you can choose to marry a guy or a girl, this is legal, this is not in our community, you have to respect this, but it’s not for a child who is 7-8 years old. They can’t understand this.”
Many parents who object to the grade three health curriculum are complaining about sexual content that isn't even there, and by some leap of logic, suggesting they will imitate it. By the same logic, children will go home and experiment with having one parent, instead of the two they have. There is no sexual activity being taught here.
Human Development and Sexual Health
C3.3 describe how visible differences (e.g., skin, hair, and eye colour, facial features, body size and shape, physical aids or different physical abilities, clothing, possessions) and invisible differences (e.g., learning abilities, skills and talents, personal or cultural values and beliefs, gender identity, sexual orientation, family background, personal preferences, allergies and sensitivities) make each person unique, and identify ways of showing respect for differences in others [PS, IS]
Teacher prompt: “Sometimes we are different in ways you can see. Sometimes we are different in ways you cannot see – such as how we learn, what we think, and what we are able to do. Give me some examples of things that make each person unique.”
Student: “We all come from different families. Some students live with two parents. Some live with one parent. Some have two mothers or two fathers. Some live with grand- parents or with caregivers. We may come from different cultures. We also have different talents and abilities and different things that we find difficult to do.”
Teacher: “How can you be a role model and show respect for differences in other people?”
Student: “I can include others in what I am doing, invite them to join a group, be willing to be a partner with anyone for an activity, and be willing to learn about others.” 

I'm alway amused when detractors of the curriculum point to teachers of faith, and ask the question: "How is it fair that a Christian or Muslim teacher should have to teach this unit?" They never ask what it might feel like for a queer-identified teacher to be fearful of broaching this topic in the classroom. They never ask what it might be like for parents supporting a questioning child, or same-sex parents for that matter, to know that the mere possibility that this topic might come up is an affront to their neighbours.

More from the editorial:

Moustafa Reyad of Kingston, also an organizer, said the curriculum may contain elements that are against his religion. He’d like the opportunity to remove his three kids from the classroom during sex-ed lessons if those elements are going to be taught. “I, as a Muslim, am not against sex education to my children,” Reyad said. “But I am against the age and the content. Part of what is put under sex education does not coincide with my religious beliefs and, in Canada, I believe it is my right to raise my voice and say I am against this, in a very peaceful way. Alexander Quinn, from Kingston, said Germany sends sex education packages home to parents to teach. As a parent, he’d like Ontario to follow in the European country’s footsteps. That way parents can teach the knowledge at their child’s pace, not the curriculums. [sic]
Mr Reyad has the prerogative to withdraw his children from units of instruction to which he objects, so he's striking for a right he already has. What I underlined above from the Ministry document is a possible student response to an example of a teacher prompt. There is no way of knowing where children may take the discussion. There are no guarantees, in any classroom, that discussion and inquiry may deviate from the norms of the home.

Mr Quinn's suggestion of sending material home is an interesting one. Here's the reality though: Some children may see themselves in ways that their parents' values do not support. A child with questions about gender identity may not be supported in a household that doesn't believe in it.

Here's another reality: Some parents may not be able to read or understand the content. 

School is supposed to make the child's world bigger, not smaller. Publicly funded schools simply cannot be all things to all people. At the end of the day, the best recourse for parents who object to the curriculum is the opt out.