Monday, 30 November 2015

OLP Leader Kathleen Wynne speaks to the Ontario Liberal Party Provincial...

The Premier talks about hope — the hope Ontario offers by being inclusive, by being positive and by building opportunity and security in the lives of those she serves.

Thursday, 26 November 2015

Landmark appointment by Prime Minister Trudeau

It is understandably not attracting a great deal of attention in mainstream media, but Prime Minister Trudeau’s appointment of a Minister responsible for Persons with Disabilities is garnering plenty of attention from those within the disabled community and their loved ones. And he could not have selected a better Member of Parliament than the newly elected Honorable Member from Delta (British Columbia) Carla Qualtrough; who happens to be visually impaired since birth.

Best known for her record as a three-time Paralympic Games (competing in Seoul 1988 and Barcelona 1992) medalist in swimming, Ms. Qualtrough is a lawyer with a strong background in human rights, inclusion, and sport. Her focus has been on addressing inequity and advancing social policy objectives, particularly as they relate to traditionally marginalized and disadvantaged groups.

As a parent to a child on the autism spectrum, I am excited by the potential impact of her presence at the Cabinet table. While I have only found myself part of this community for two years I have come to realize the failure of all governments to address persons with disabilities in a truly impactful way. But Minister Qualtrough can do this. Prior to her election to Canada’s Parliament she was a representative to the British Columbia Workers' Compensation Appeal Tribunal. She also worked as a mediator and arbitrator, and has taught mediation and negotiation courses around the world - skills that will prove an asset in her new role.

Working with Premier Christy Clark's BC government, Minister Qualtrough chaired the Minister’s Council on Employment and Inclusion for Persons with Disabilities.  She advised the Minister of Social Development on issues related to persons with a disability, and helped lead a province-wide consultation initiative developing a white paper on disability.

She was Director of Inclusion and Director of Sport Initiatives for the 2010 Legacies Now Society, developing a strategy to make the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Games a true celebration of diversity and inclusion. She acted as Senior Advisor to the Parliamentary Secretary (Sport) to the Prime Minister, as Senior Policy Advisor to the Secretary of State (Physical Activity and Sport), and as Special Advisor to the Director General of Sport Canada.

Suffice to say; Minister Qualtrough has a tremendous resume that has prepared her for the role she has undertaken.

With her promise of a "Canadians with Disabilities Act" I look forward to her positive impact on government policy.

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

By-election in Scarborough - Rouge River

The Toronto District School Board will hold a by-election to replace fill the seat vacated by former Chair Shaun Chen when he was elected to Parliament as a Liberal.

A by-election of this nature comes with an estimated cost of  $250,000.

The majority of Trustees did vote in favour of a by-election. However, it another former Chair Sheila Ward who opposed the expense, stating, it is "a quarter of a million dollars" on a ballot that typically draws about 11% of potential electors. And I have to agree. While some might argue this as the cost of democracy school board vacancies just to not draw the kind of attention necessary for the Torontonians to get their monies worth.

Parents - especially those with children who have special needs - have already been forced to foot the bill for various unions' extravagance throughout a log drawn out negotiation process. It is time the TDSB stopped tossing money around and started investing it in those that truly need it - our kids.

Saturday, 24 October 2015

A little left out of Trudeaumania

Whenever people ask me how I feel about this election I tell them "comfortable" or "good"; not great but "good". That is because I didn’t fall under the spell of this Trudeau. He was just another talented politician to me. As a man of 30 (well in five days anyway) I don't reminisce for the days of Pierre Trudeau. I joined a party that was led by Jean Chretien. For me he was our greatest Prime Minister. As a student of history it was the records of Sir Wilfred Laurier, Lester B. Pearson, and Pierre Trudeau’s chief rival Progressive Conservative Joe Clark that captivated me. Pierre Trudeau was just another Prime Minister. So when Justin entered the political fray in 2008 I admit that I thought he made an impressive candidate, but that was all. And when he chose to run for leadership of the party I had joined eleven years prior I was skeptical. But he had captivated the party. Even those at the party's central office (where I was employed at the time) were already referring to him as a future Prime Minister. However, I just couldn't get on board. I knew he was going to win but there just seemed to be better candidates than this man who had yet to truly be tested. I was big fan of Marc Garneau  (who should be Canada's next Minister of National Defense in my opinion), but I ultimately supported George Takach until he dropped out, spending the remainder of the race on Martha Hall Findlay's team. I marked my ranked ballot with her at the top. Justin Trudeau was second. This was familiar territory for me. I'd supported John Manley than Sheila Copps against Paul Martin..

So here we stood again. More than a decade later we had a Liberal messiah and they were not the individual I had preferred. But that was not the only issue. I watched as Justin Tudeau took the party in a direction that perhaps centralized it's command stucture more than ever before. This was not the type of renewal I had hoped for. What is more I was beginning to wonder if Justin even deserved my vote. But all around me colleagues and friends were really very passionate about this man who descended from Prime Minister to become Prime Minister. Trudeaumania is real but I have never been part of it. Instead it was policy that convinced me to leave my vote with the Liberal Party. It was still the view that the extreme centre is where this country belongs. It was that the Liberal Party was the only party to  even mention education in their platform. It was the utter failure of the Stephen Harper government. And it was Justin Trudeau's demonstration of dedication and humanity to his role. Many have criticized the younger Trudeau as growing up in a bubble; being a silver spoon baby, but there is something about him that truly seems to make him different that the majority of politicians. As a retail politician he is able to connect with Canadians in a way our country may have never seen before.Despite his wealthy upbringing Stephen Harper and Thomas Mulcair could just not connect to Canadians in the same way. People see a certain humanity in Trudeau. They see themselves. And that is what will make him a worthy Prime Minister.

Sunday, 18 October 2015

The Conservative government’s partnership with Autism Speaks Canada

Tomorrow is Election Day in Canada. We are one day away from deciding the future of our country. The truth is, on a personal level I do not believe Prime Minister Stephen Harper has been all that terrible. Further, I do not believe the other two leaders have demonstrated that they would be tremendously different. Yes. There would, of course, be tweaks to national policy here and there. Thomas Mulcair’s New Democratic Party most notably opposes free trade. This would put an end to the recently negotiated Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Justin Trudeau’s Liberal Party has promised to end Canada’s traditional attempts to balance a budget. Admittedly, while I am not a huge fan of this promise, I am a huge fan of his honesty. I find it incredibly disingenuous of the Prime Minister to pretend as though he is the steady hand at the till when his record includes over $150 billion in debt. That is a $150 billion tax increase our next generation. That is more than any other Prime Minister in Canadian history. And this all occurred after promising never to run a deficit. That is his record. So when Justin Trudeau promises to cap the deficit at $10 billion annually and only for the first three years, I appreciate his honestly.

However, this is all secondary to me personally. Is it important?

Absolutely. But as a parent to a child with special needs, particularly a child on the autism spectrum, I cannot help but recognize the government’s attempt at a plan to address both those Canadians’ on the autism spectrum and their loved ones and/or caregivers.

The plan states;

“A re-elected Conservative Government will continue to support our three-year partnership with the Canadian Association of Community Living to help connect people with developmental disabilities with jobs.

We’ll also continue our four-year partnership with the Sinneave Family Foundation and Autism Speaks Canada to expand vocational training for people with Autism Spectrum Disorder.

And we’ll continue to support the Autism Spectrum Disorder Working Group’s work to develop a Canadian Autism Partnership. We’ll be ready to support the initiative in areas of federal jurisdiction once the development work is complete.”

Initially, the attempt by the Government, as led by Member of Parliament Mike Lake, should be commended. They are trying. But here is the problem; they are going about it the wrong way. This ‘plan’ (if you can really call it that) engages only two members of a wide ranging autism community; both of whom have of a total of zero representatives on the spectrum sitting on their governing bodies. However, of greater concern is the formal partnership with Autism Speaks Canada. Autism Speaks represents a massive divide within the autism community. Having a son on the spectrum, undoubtedly Mike Lake is aware of this.

In 2007, Autism Speaks merged with Cure Autism Now. Founded is 1995, this organization raised more than $39 million for research directed at curing autism. Here is the problem; notions of a cure are both divisive and dangerous. Autism Speaks has chosen to view autism as a disease rather than a disorder. This has led to an expansion of ablest attitudes and misdirected parents’ use of methods that cross lines that would not be approved by the greater scientific community. This issue came to a head for the autism community with the 2009 film ‘I am Autism’ that personified ‘the disease of autism’ as a kind of grim reaper figure.

I do not want to come off as attacking Mr. Lake. I am certain his heart is in the right place. I am certain the Prime Minister’s is, as well. But my daughter is not ill. Neither are any of the other unique individuals on the spectrum I have had the joy of meeting as a parent in the autism community or a representative to the Toronto District School Board’s Special Education Advisory Committee. Children on the spectrum are not sick. Unfortunately, by partnering with Autism Speaks, the federal government has chosen to endorse the notion that they are.

Friends, Prime Minister Harper has been supportive of Israel and his party has made tremendous strides in the acceptance of the LGBT community; both issues of tremendous importance to me. But when you cannot accept my daughter I cannot accept you. Should the Prime Minister loose tomorrow I believe he will be forced to step down as the leader of his party. Hopefully the next leader of the Conservative Party of Canada will be more accepting of Canadians with special needs. Until then, I just cannot give this party my vote.

Monday, 12 October 2015

Why I am voting for Justin Trudeau

It should be noted that this decision was not an easy one for me. Justin Trudeau never appealed to me. When he was running for leadership I was active in the campaigns of George Takach and Martha Hall Findlay. I still believe Hall Findlay would make a far better Prime Minister. However, the time for such discussions has passed. Justin Trudeau is the Leader of the Liberal Party of Canada and the best option to lead this country.

Prior to this election, for perhaps the first time since my initial election as a voter I carefully considered the various candidates. I did sincerely weight M. Mulcair and Prime Minister Harper. But frankly, they failed mightily to convince me that either deserved my vote. There are a few key reasons for this.

The first is that the Liberal platform is the only one of the three major parties that addresses education. While the initiatives are minor and much of the available funding targeted to Aboriginal populations, at least education is on the mind of the Liberal leader. The other two platforms felt it garnered nary a mention.

The Syrian refugee crisis also represented a turning point for me. As a Jewish person I cannot help but relate these refugees to my own family that was forced back to Poland despite sitting on Canada's door step on the east coast. As Canadian Jews we have a responsibility to that legacy. That responsibility compels me to allow refugees access to Canada. However, the Prime Minister has taken the position that Canada can only afford a slow and steady approach to allowing a minimal number of refugees is the only way to ensure Canada's security. I believe that to be a wholly irresponsible way to behave if Canada is actually going to play a part in saving the lives of refugees being displaced as part of a war to which Canadian Forces are directly involved.

Also of concern has to be the decision by the federal government to sell arms to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Such an act by a government that purports to be on the side of Israel and has gained a reputation for a morality based approach to foreign affairs leaves me in a position that makes it difficult to trust really much of anything that the Prime Minister says.

But for me a make or break issue has to be the federal government's plan to create an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) action plan of sorts. I make zero secret of my daughter's ASD diagnosis. So when this government chose to draft a plan led by MP Mike Lake, who son is on the spectrum and I have no doubt has his heart in the right place, promised to "continue our four-year partnership with the Sinneave Family Foundation and Autism Speaks Canada". This haphazardly planned initiative only engages two stakeholders from the autism spectrum community; one of whom has a terrible record of promoting dangerous cure culture 'treatment' for autism as though it was more a disease than a disorder. Sorry Mr. Harper. Sorry Mr. Lake. That won't fly with me. I respect that you tried. That you are trying. But I cannot in good conscience give you me vote.

The reality is this:

None of the three men in the running for Canada's highest elected office makes me excited to vote. They are all incredibly flawed. Fortunately they have some fine candidates running that might be able to assist the next government. And it is my belief that Justin Trudeau has demonstrated that he is most likely to listen.

Monday, 28 September 2015

On the new health and physical education curriculum, including sex education

Let me be clear: I support the updated 'sex ed' curriculum. I believe after seventeen years it is impossible to deny that the world is a different place. As the father of a young girl - particularly a young girl on the autism spectrum who cannot fully comprehend when something may or may not be appropriate - I want her to be have the tools to make her own decisions without any worry of coercion or peer pressure.

I understand that much of those engaging in protests against the new curriculum are doing so either because they believe the curriculum to be an infringement of their religious freedom or in some failed attempt to protect their child's youth and innocence. And I have respect for that perspective. I firmly believe that parents must have the final say on whether or not their children are included in this lesson plan. School boards are doing no one favours by forcing aspects of the curriculum on to students; regardless if how baseless or illogical their opposition might be.

Here, however,  is the problem; while I do believe that parents should be able to remove their children for even the most frivolous of reasons there is not a single viable reason to force that perspective on additional families.

That is where the problem with large scale protests lie. The ongoing actions against the new curriculum are seemingly motivated by varying degrees of fearful ignorance and angry prejudice in an attempt to convince other parents that only this socially conservative view can be the right one.

But there is just one problem with that; they are wrong.

Many protesting parents seem to be  complaining that the curriculum teaches Grade 1 students, for instance, that the female external genital area is called a "vulva." It is hardly corrupt or vile to instruct on basic anatomy. 

Dispelling ignorance — teaching children basic facts and correct names for things — is a central mission of public schools.

Every other argument shows protesters objecting that their children are being taught to respect other people.

The whole debate about teaching “consent” centres on lessons that teach that each person is in charge of his or her own body and should not be made to tolerate other people abusing it. Objectors fear that children who learn the concept of consent are being taught that they can consent to sex while they remain small children. But this a fear not drawn on from any of the written curriculum. Moreover, as the parent to a six year old girl, it entirely misses that the purpose of the consent lesson.

Moreover there also is a great deal of opposition to teaching children in the third grade that homosexuality exists and that some children in the classroom may vary well have two mothers or two fathers. Opposition to this is absurd.  You don't have to like the world as it is, but you do have to accept it.  The fact is there will be children from families of varying make. Accept it.

As I'd previously stated,  I support parent(s)'s freedom on this matter. However, if there are any parents reading this I encourage you to allow your children to take the full curriculum. They will be better people for it.