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Published: Wed, 22 Nov 2017 00:00:00 -0500

Last Build Date: Wed, 22 Nov 2017 17:35:32 -0500


Graduate Instructor Who Showed Gendered-Pronoun Debate to Class Is Basically Hitler, Says School

Wed, 22 Nov 2017 14:30:00 -0500

As Lindsey Shepherd was pleading her case before Wilfrid Laurier University faculty and staff, the 22-year-old Canadian grad student and teaching assistant seemed caught off guard by their demands. Her superiors weren't saying she couldn't show a televised debate over gender-neutral pronouns in the context of a classroom discussion on language—they just needed her to condemn one side of the debate first. To do otherwise, they said, was "like neutrally playing a speech by Hitler, or Milo Yiannopoulos." Shepherd neither endorsed nor decried either side of the TV Ontario showdown between controversial University of Toronto psychology professor Jordan B. Peterson and Nicholas Matte, a professor in the Waterloo University women's studies department. In the clip that Shepherd played for first-year communications students, Matte and Peterson argue over whether it's appropriate for professors to address students by pronouns other than "he" and "she"—something Peterson refuses to do. The clip was shown in the context of a class discussion on how language shapes culture and how gender-specific pronouns have caused controversy. "I was not taking sides," Shepherd—who does not agree with Peterson's position—would later tell school authorities. "I was presenting both arguments." After an anonymous student complaint was filed, Shepherd was called into a meeting with her supervising professor Nathan Rambukkana, another communications school professor, and the university's manager of gendered violence prevention and support. They claimed that Shepherd was "transphobic" and that she needed to keep her "problematic" views out of the classroom. Shepherd pushed back, insisting that she didn't share in Peterson's pronoun point-of-view but thought it was important not to bring her own views into the discussion. "This is basically like playing—not to do the thing where everything is compared to Hitler—but this is like neutrally playing a speech by Hitler, or Milo Yiannopoulos from Gamergate," Rambukkana said in the meeting. "This is the kind of thing that, departmentally, in terms of critical communications studies, and in terms of the course, of what we're trying to do, is diametrically opposed to everything we've been talking about in the lectures." In a Monday interview with CTV News, Shepherd said she was told "that you can't debate something like this because it causes an unsafe or toxic learning environment. I ended up being called transphobic and someone who causes harm and violence." Going forward, she would have to file all lesson plans in advance and expect random drop-in reviews, the tribunal told her. Shepherd said she was speaking out because situations and attitudes like these hurt the core mission of college education. "I think it's dangerous to say that a topic is off the table just because it might be a little bit controversial," she told CTV. When Shepherd first went public with her story in early November, the Ontario-based university was both dismissive and defensive. In an initial statement, Wilfrid Laurier President Deborah MacLatchy said that "as a responsible employer," the university is "obligated to abide by government regulations, human rights legislation and our own university policies"; "to this end," it had hired a third party "to gather the facts of the situation and assess them in a deliberate, fair and respectful manner." The bizarre statement went on to suggest there are some ideas that may be worth discussing, but can't because of bureaucracy. "I believe that as a university community we need to have more conversations about how academic expression happens throughout our institution," wrote MacLatchy. But "to be focused and constructive, these conversations should take place outside of the specific contexts that, for good reason, are often constrained by privacy legislation, employer regulations, and other legal requirements." Shepherd was not impressed. "This was an opportunity for the university to be like 'it's true, we should be able to have a debate, we're sorry it became an issue and we're ha[...]

Brickbat: Take a Number

Wed, 08 Nov 2017 04:00:00 -0500

(image) Dr. Joy Hataley, an Ontario physician, says she was stunned when she referred one of her patients to a neurologist at Kingston General Hospital and was told it would be 4.5 years before the patient could get an appointment. She was told if that was unacceptable she could send the patient to a neurologist in another city.

North America's First 'Burqa Ban' Passed by Quebec Liberals in Name of 'Religious Neutrality'

Thu, 19 Oct 2017 12:13:00 -0400

(image) This week, Quebec banned people working in public service or using public services from wearing veils or any sort of facial covering, the first such ban in North America, one echoing "burqa ban" policies passed across Europe.

Ushered in by Quebec's Liberal Party as a way to "foster social cohesion" and "religious neutrality," and to combat Islamophobia, the law largely takes aim at Muslim women who veil their faces in public. The Canadian Broadcasting Corp. explains that under the new "religious neutrality legislation" women can apply for exemptions—essentially a special license to wear a burqa or niqab that they would have to display to public officials.

Critics, like Shaheen Ashraf of the Canadian Council of Muslim Women, question the religious neutrality narrative. "I define neutrality as being able to do what I choose and you are able to do what you choose and everyone else is able to do what they choose and that's neutral. Accepting each other as we are," Ashraf told CTV Montreal.

Ihsaan Gardee, executive director of the National Council of Canadian Muslims, called it "an unnecessary law with a made-up solution to an invented problem. We don't have hordes of women in niqabs trying to access or work in public services."

Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre and others have questioned how the law would actually work in practice. "So what does it mean now? Niqab police as bus drivers?" Coderre told CTV. "What are we going to do in libraries? And refuse to provide them with services? If [a woman is] freezing with children, say no? You have to pull that out. I don't think the doability is there."

"Bus drivers are now being empowered to decide who gets a ride based on their understanding of the nuances of Muslim head scarves," pointed out Allison Hanes in the Montreal Gazette. "Are they going to get training on the difference between a hijab and a niqab? This law could not be worse for civil rights or social cohesion."

"Telling a woman how to dress—whether she's wearing a bikini or a burqa—is the opposite of feminism," continued Hanes. "And using the full weight of the state to marginalize one particular group, no matter how much thou doth protest that a law applies to everyone equally, is reprehensible."

Although Quebec politicians pushed the new policy as a feminist one, Canadian feminists commenting on it are largely unimpressed. "A bill that legislates clothing ends up linking emancipation of women to how little or how much they wear," wrote Shree Paradkar in The Star. "In doing so, it works against choice" and "should have been rejected."

Brickbat: The Chief Problem

Tue, 17 Oct 2017 04:00:00 -0400

(image) The Toronto school board has voted to abolish job titles such as chief financial officer and chief administrative officer out of concern the word "chief" in job titles could be offensive to Indians. A spokesman for the school system admits that no one has actually complained about the word.

Brickbat: Indian Givers

Thu, 12 Oct 2017 04:00:00 -0400

(image) Forty-four years ago, students at Summitview Public School in Ontario made a totem pole. It stood at the school long after they left. But officials recently took it down after discovering it was made without indigenous input.

Brickbat: No Good Deed

Mon, 02 Oct 2017 04:00:00 -0400

(image) Police in Halifax say that after an investigation that have determined that a man reported by a woman for suspicious behavior as actually a good Samaritan. The woman reported she was putting her groceries in her car when she turned around and saw a man holding her two-year-old son. He handed the boy to her and left. Police say the boy was standing in the cart's seat. The man feared he might fall, so he grabbed him and handed him to the mother.

Brickbat: Stifling Intellectual Competition

Fri, 22 Sep 2017 04:00:00 -0400

(image) Following a 14-month investigation, Canada's Competition Bureau has closed a probe of three groups accused by environmentalists of making misleading claims about global warming. But the bureau says it may reopen the investigation if it receives new information.

Canadian Cops Claim They Won't Be Ready for Marijuana Legalization by 2018

Wed, 13 Sep 2017 15:55:00 -0400

(image) The Canadian government plans to legalize marijuana by July 2018, fulfilling a pledge made by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau before he was elected prime minister. But police are urging Parliament to delay the legalization effort, insisting they need more time to learn how to enforce the new laws.

"We are asking that the government consider giving us more time to have all the legislation fully in place which will allow us to properly train, prepare for implementation on Day 1," Mike Serr of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police told a parliamentary health committee this week.

This request was reinforced by testimony from Kevin Sabet, a longtime drug warrior who runs a major anti-legalization organization in the U.S. Sabet insisted that only those looking to go into business in the marijuana industry want the process to go quickly.

Tell it to the 160 people a day arrested in Canada for pot possession.

Serr's argument is similarly silly. His group brings up the role of "organized crime" in the marijuana trade, as if not understanding how criminalizing a product criminalizes those trading in it.

Nevertheless, Canadian officials—like their counterparts in Colorado and Washington—intend to institute strict "security screenings" for those looking to enter the marketplace, making it harder for black-market entrepreneurs to go legit. They also want tight regulations of the industry, including sales taxes, licensing fees, and packaging requirements.

The parliamentary committee also heard testimony from the director of Washington's state liquor and cannabis board, Rick Garza, who said legal marijuana businesses were able to compete with the black market once legal prices fell to $10 per gram. According to Garza, legal prices in his state are down to about $7.50 a gram. The clear lesson: Canada should let black marketeers come in from the shadows, not create a heavily regulated parallel industry.

Canada's public safety minister, Ralph Goodale, says the government plans to stick to its 2018 timetable for legalization.

Brickbat: Let's Go Fly a Kite

Mon, 11 Sep 2017 04:00:00 -0400

(image) Steve Polansky has been flying kites on Toronto's Woodbine Beach for more than 20 years. But he says a city worker recently told him flying kits at the beach is against the rules and threatened him with a $300 fine if he kept it up.

Brickbat: Nobody's Talking

Wed, 23 Aug 2017 04:00:00 -0400

(image) Ryerson University in Toronto, Canada, canceled a panel discussion on "The Stifling of Free Speech on University Campuses" following protests. Officials said they did not think they could protect public safety if the discussion took place.

Five Cities That Got F*cked by Hosting the Olympics

Mon, 21 Aug 2017 12:30:00 -0400

Every four years with the Olympics, municipalities compete to host the winter and summer games and virtually always plunge their cities and sometimes even their home countries into massive debt and insolvency. Why? Because host cities inevitably spend double or more over initial estimates, fewer people show up than expected, and the International Olympic Committee, or IOC, takes bigger and bigger cuts of TV and other revenue streams. Sports economist Andrew Zimbalist says that a typical Summer Olympics generates up to $6 billion in revenue, at least half of which goes to the IOC. Winter Games generate even less money despite often being more expensive to host than Summer Games. Cities routinely claim that whatever money they spend on new facilities will stimulate the local economy for decades to come. With the recent announcement that Paris will host the 2024 Summer Games and Los Angeles will host the 2028 Summer Games, here are five cities that got fucked by hosting the Olympics. Athens, Greece, 2004. Athens is the birthplace of the ancient games that inspired today's modern municipal money pits. Its 2004, Games cost $16 billion, or 10 times the original estimate. By 2010, more than half the venues built for the event were underused, completely empty, or literally falling apart. Sochi, Russia, 2014. At $50 billion, the Sochi Winter Games cost more than all previous Winter Olympics combined, paid for by a dwindling supply of Russian petro dollars and gold bullion. Boris Nemtsov documented that $21 billion went to "embezzlement and kickbacks" for businessmen friends of Vladimir Putin. Nemtsov was later assassinated. Rio de Janiero, Brazil, 2016. Plagued by low ticket sales partly due to the outbreak of the Zika virus, the Rio games ended up costing $20 billion rather than the $13 billion backers claimed. The Olympics were hosted on the heels of the 2014 World Cup, which also cost a ton of loot, and the showplace Maracana stadium, which got a $500 million makeover, was "largely abandoned" soon after the games and had thousands of seats ripped out by vandals. Beijing, China, 2008. The Beijing Games cost $42 billion, a record at the time, even though Amnesty International charged that the Chinese government used forced labor to build many of the venues. The IOC didn't mind the stratospheric costs or crackdowns on dissent, though: It awarded Beijing the 2022 Winter Games. Montreal, Canada, 1976. The mayor of Montreal declared that the Olympics "can no more have a deficit than a man can have a baby." Unfortunately, it took Montreal 30 years to pay off its debt just for the main stadium built for the 1976 Summer Games. If there's good news here, it's that cities seem to be wising up: Paris and Los Angeles were the only two cities to bid on the 2024 Olympic Games and IOC was so anxious that there wouldn't be enough applications for 2028, that it pre-emptively awarded it to LA. But just like with professional sports teams that extort tax dollars and subsidies for stadiums that never pay back their inflated costs, it's likely the Olympics will keep finding new suckers for one of the oldest scams in sports. Produced by Todd Krainin. Written and narrated by Nick Gillespie, and based on an article by Ed Krayewski. Camera by Jim Epstein. Subscribe to our YouTube channel. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter. Subscribe to our podcast at iTunes.[...]

NAFTA Must Include Gender Justice Among Goals, Says Canada

Tue, 15 Aug 2017 11:59:00 -0400

"Canada's idea of a fair trade deal seems very different from President Trump's," observed The New York Times on Monday. That's quite an understatement. Canada's idea seems very different from what most Americans think of when they hear "free trade" or "free markets." As Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland explained yesterday, the country wants to "modernize" the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) to include "progressive elements." As it stands, the 23-year-old trade treaty between Canada, Mexico, and the United States—enacted to eliminate barriers to open economic exchange, such as steep—already comes with conditions that go beyond reducing trade barriers. NAFTA lays down rules regarding the three countries' labor standards, agricultural sanitation measures, agricultural production practices, intellectual property rights, and other trade-adjacent issues. But as we head into NAFTA renegotiations this week, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his administration want to expand the rules to include sections on gender issues, climate change, and indigenous rights. Freeland said such changes would move NAFTA from a "free trade" deal to a "fair trade" one. While she didn't get into specifics, we can look to a recently renegotiated trade deal between Canada and Chile for guidance. The new pact includes a chapter "acknowledg[ing] the importance of applying gender perspective to economic and trade issues" and confirming "the intention of both parties to enforce their respective international agreements on gender from a rights perspective," according to a press release from the Canadian government. It also "provides a framework for Canada and Chile to cooperate on issues related to trade and gender, including women's entrepreneurship and the development of gender-focused indicators," and it "commits both sides to the creation of a trade and gender committee that will oversee cooperation and share experiences in designing programs to encourage women's participation in national and international economies." At best, it's a toothless public relations move that will only serve as a boon to bureaucrats. At worst, it's a dealbreaker for Donald Trump, who has already threatened to withdraw the U.S. from NAFTA. And if that's the outcome, it's terrible news for the U.S. employment rate and for the economy overall. (Canada, meanwhile, has threatened to withdraw from NAFTA if Trump insists on scrapping a dispute-settlement section of the deal.) Regardless of what ultimately comes to pass, Canada's plans highlight the creeping imposition of "social justice" goals into all facets of politics and economics. That's a troubling development, especially for supporters of small government, no matter how much one might supports those social aims more broadly. For a full list of Canada's recently-released NAFTA wants—including some proposals that really are related to freeing trade, such as a measure to kill "Buy American" rules for construction projects and a call to ease work visa requirements—see the Toronto Sun.[...]

Brickbat: Better Offer

Mon, 31 Jul 2017 04:00:00 -0400

(image) Adi Astl just wanted some stairs on a steep hill in Toronto's Tom Riley Park. City officials told him it would cost $65,000 to $150,000 to build stairs there. So he went in and built his own for $550. Officials then declared those stairs a hazard and tore them down. They now promise to build a set of stairs there, and they say it will only cost $10,000.

Amazon Prime vs. Government: The Private Sector Does It Better

Thu, 20 Jul 2017 14:00:00 -0400

In the U.S., Amazon Prime is just another convenience of modern life. But for many residents of Nunavut, Canada's northernmost territory, it's a lifesaver. Nunavut is roughly the size of Western Europe, yet it has a population of only 37,462. Iqaluit, the territory's capital and largest city, has just 7,740 residents. Nunavut isn't connected to the nation's highway system, so fresh food must be flown in daily at a very high cost. Ships can move larger amounts of freight to the region, but only during the warmest months of the year, when ice does not block ports. Prices in local stores reflect this reality. A liter of Coke can cost CA$10, equivalent to $7.90 in the U.S. A pack of diapers can cost CA$70. But those willing to pay CA$80 a year for an Amazon Prime membership can find items for far cheaper than they would in local stores. That same pack of diapers, for instance, can be found at around half price. Some of Nunavut's smaller settlements are no longer eligible for Prime's free shipping because their remoteness makes shipping there unprofitable, but in larger settlements, such as Iqaluit, Prime is a welcome alternative to the highly expensive goods found in local shops. The Canadian government has for decades tried to mitigate high prices through subsidy schemes that cover "nutritious food" and basic necessities. The first scheme, called the Food Mail Program, subsidized Canada Post's shipping operations in northern regions. This was replaced a few years ago with Nutrition North, a program that directly funded certain retailers. Both programs have been criticized for their cost and inefficiency, yet many worry that without the subsidies, prices would be even more exorbitant. The region's unaffordability rests on decades of discriminatory policies and government regulations. The native Inuit people used to live a nomadic, subsistence lifestyle that was well-suited to the harsh environment. Since agricultural development wasn't possible, mobility was key to finding food. Over 60 years ago, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) began to kill off thousands of Inuit sled dogs under the guise of animal control, claiming that many of the dogs were diseased or dangerous. In 2010, an Inuit-led truth commission, while critical of the RCMP's actions, stopped short of saying that this was a deliberate effort to "urbanize" the Inuit by taking away their main mode of transportation. But that, nonetheless, was the effect. No longer able to maintain their nomadic lifestyles, those who lost their dogs became "dependent on welfare and store-bought food," according to the commission report. In places like Iqaluit, many residents feel a constant tension between the desires to preserve tradition and to forge a modern Inuit identity. Many of them did not ask to live in these planned communities, but now they must find a way to make it work. One way to make it work was the sealskin industry. Hunting seals has long been part of the Inuit way of life, but it took on renewed importance in the wake of the forced urbanization. The money made from sealskin helped offset the high cost of living in Nunavut and gave people the opportunity to continue their hunting traditions. Unfortunately, this economic boon was short-lived. Environmental activists successfully lobbied the U.S. and Europe to ban the sealskin trade, using disturbing imagery of hunting practices to rally the public behind their efforts. Some exemptions were enacted for the Inuit, but the bans decimated the industry. Unemployment, poverty, hunger, and high rates of suicide are now the norm in Nunavut. Perhaps this is why many residents are skeptical that Amazon Prime's free shipping will last forever. It just seems too good to [...]

Canada Claims Authority to Censor Your Internet Searches

Wed, 28 Jun 2017 16:15:00 -0400

The Canadian Supreme Court today ruled the country has the authority to demand Google censor and remove links to certain web pages or online content. The idea that governments can force Google to deindex links to pages is unfortunately not new (see the European Union's "right to be forgotten"). What matters internationally in this case is the government is forcing Google to remove links from searches regardless of where the Internet user is. That is to say: Canada is demanding the authority to censor the internet outside of its physical borders and control what people who are not Canadian citizens can find online. Today's court ruling declares that because the Internet doesn't have any borders, when Canada decides Google has to censor content it should be a global order: "The Internet has no borders — its natural habitat is global. The only way to ensure that the interlocutory injunction attained its objective was to have it apply where Google operates — globally." The case involves copyright and intellectual property claims. A tech firm was accusing another firm of stealing and duplicating one of its products and selling it online. Google was asked to deindex the links to the firm accused of stealing so that it wouldn't show up in search results. Google complied with court orders, but only for searches from within Canada. Canada's Supreme Court sees geographical limits (even virtual ones) on its ability to censor speech as "facilitating" illegal commerce rather than a speech issue. Here's a paragraph from the ruling that should give folks pause: This is not an order to remove speech that, on its face, engages freedom of expression values, it is an order to de-index websites that are in violation of several court orders. We have not, to date, accepted that freedom of expression requires the facilitation of the unlawful sale of goods. Canada has hate speech laws. Does it follow that Canada should require Google to deindex pages containing what it deems "hate speech" in the United States? If Canada does not because it acknowledges limits to its reach as a nation is it "facilitating" something unlawful? The court notes Google removes links due to court orders based on content and still doesn't seem to see an issue in a country's boundary of authority: [Google] acknowledges, fairly, that it can, and often does, exactly what is being asked of it in this case, that is, alter search results. It does so to avoid generating links to child pornography and websites containing "hate speech". It also complies with notices it receives under the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act, Pub. L. No. 105-304, 112 Stat. 2680 (1998) to de-index content from its search results that allegedly infringes copyright, and removes websites that are subject to court orders. The court, in justifying its ruling, is unwittingly bringing up problems with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). The DMCA is intended as a tool for fight online piracy and intellectual property theft by making it easier to remove copyrighted material through an ownership claim process. It is also prone to abuse. People abuse the DMCA's "take down" process in order to try to censor speech, critiques or commentary, they find objectionable. It can be as minor as trying to censor critical video game reviews, or extend as far as criticizing another country's leaders. Ecuadorian officials once attempted to use the DMCA to censor criticism of government actions. Google itself has stepped in to try to help users fend off abusive DMCA take-down requests. Invoking other forms of legally recognized internet censorship is not, perhaps, the defense Canada's Supreme Court is looking for. A closer examina[...]