Ontario school board tosses Shakespeare for indigenous writers

The headline is written for attention, the story captures the thoughtful considerations behind the change and how it fits in with the curriculum in other grades, where they do have exposure to Shakespeare and others:

When parents in Ontario’s Lambton Kent District School Board learned the mandatory Grade 11 English course was being replaced with an indigenous literature course, their responses often invoked that 500-year-old icon whose shadow still falls over all English writing.

“So my kid doesn’t have to study Shakespeare?” was the common reply, said superintendent of education Mark Sherman.

As of this September, for those in Grade 11 at least, the answer is no. Instead, they will be reading and studying novels such as Indian Horse by Richard Wagamese, Medicine River by Thomas King, My Name is Seepeetza by Shirley Sterling, or As Long as the Rivers Flow by former Ontario Lieutenant-Governor James Bartleman.

This indigenous turn of a high school curriculum is an abrupt departure from the Canadian high school standard of mainly studying literature from the two great cultures against which Canadian-ness is traditionally triangulated — Britain and America.

“Hey, I love Lord of the Flies. I love Shakespeare,” Sherman said. “But really, we’re talking about 15th century Veronese landlords (Romeo and Juliet) or something like that. Does that resonate with Canadian kids? Or the British schoolboy class structure?”

Modern plays in the high school rotation are likewise dominated by New York playwrights like Arthur Miller, to the exclusion of indigenous Canadians like Tomson Highway.

Students will still have the chance to study The Catcher in the Rye and King Lear, for example, in the other four compulsory English courses over their time in high school. “This is just taking a part of it and trying to make it more relevant to the modern Canadian student,” Sherman said.

Until now, the board has offered optional native studies courses in Grade 11, focused on history and culture more than literature. Some schools have also occasionally run native-focused Grade 11 literature courses, including several pilot programs designed to test this new curriculum shift. When it comes into effect in September, it will make an indigenous literature course a constant part of every student’s education.

“It has all the same curriculum expectations as any senior English course would have,” Sherman said. It involves writing, reading, presentation, dialogue, construction of arguments, topic choice, all set up in a way that recognizes and respects the sophistication of the curious teenage mind.

He pointed out two current failings of the traditional Shakespeare and Salinger approach in his board, which serves four First Nations communities as well as the regions of Sarnia and Chatham-Kent. Not only do indigenous students not see their culture reflected in their curriculum, and become disengaged as a result, but non-indigenous students are not made to engage scholastically with First Nations until late in the educational game. As a result, they can lack an important Canadian perspective.

“We should start building perspective earlier,” Sherman said. “In a senior level English course, they have a very high level of moral reasoning and dialogue.”

There is also a financial incentive, in that the board gets more funding for offering courses on indigenous topics, money that Sherman said has been used for professional development for teachers, many of whom are not indigenous themselves, and to hire a special projects teacher for indigenous studies.

As he describes it, parents and students could not be happier.

“It’s really taken off,” Sherman said. “Normally with any big change you expect some discontent. There has been negligible negative feedback. I think today’s students, they see things in the media, they want to know more about it, so now it’s just part of the natural course to say ‘Hey, we have some brilliant indigenous writers out there. This was created in Canada. This wasn’t written 100 years ago in Leeds.’”

Source: Ontario school board tosses Shakespeare for indigenous writers | National Post

Human rights chief praises police oversight report’s focus on race and diversity

It all starts with data:

The provincial government’s commitment Thursday to require police watchdogs to collect race-based statistics is evidence Ontario is in “a very unique moment” when it comes to recognizing the need for such data, says Ontario’s chief human rights commissioner.

One day after the release of Ontario Justice Michael Tulloch’s broad-ranging report on police oversight in Ontario, Renu Mandhane said the judge’s work provides a detailed road map to rebuild trust between community and police oversight agencies at a time of “historic levels of distrust.”

Shortly after the release of Tulloch’s 129 recommendations — many aimed at increasing transparency within the police watchdogs — Ontario Attorney General Yasir Naqvi committed to act on the key recommendation that civilian oversight bodies, including the Special Investigations Unit (SIU), begin collecting demographic data such as statistics on race, ethnicity and indigenous status.

Currently, none of Ontario’s civilian watchdogs — the SIU, the Office of the Independent Police Review Director (OIPRD) and the Ontario Civilian Police Commission (OCPC) — collect statistics on race or any demographic data on religion, age, mental health status, disability, or indigenous status of complainants and alleged victims.

That move shows “the conversation has shifted in terms of the collection of data,” Mandhane said in an interview Friday, but stressed the importance of ensuring the data is both collected and then publicly reported; Tulloch recommended an advisory board be established to develop “best practices on the collection, management, and analysis of relevant demographic data.”

“There needs to be real thought about who is going to receive the data and making sure they have the resources to effectively analyze the data,” Mandhane said.

Tulloch’s race-based statistics recommendation was one of several praised by rights groups and advocates, who appreciated the emphasis placed on diversity, cultural training and the focus on indigenous communities. The report states Ontario’s oversight bodies must be “both socially and culturally competent.”

During consultations with First Nations communities in particular, Tulloch said there was consensus that the oversight bodies “lack cultural sensitivity and often are disrespectful of Indigenous peoples.” During consultations, he was told of cases where an SIU investigator arrived in a First Nations community following an incident, spoke briefly with someone from the community, and had no further contact.

“Equally troubling, some First Nations communities in the north described having to wait days for SIU investigators to arrive on scene. In some cases, matters were closed without talking to members of the community and the leadership,” the report states.

To begin to remedy fraught relationships, Tulloch recommended mandatory social and cultural competency training for watchdog staff — developed and delivered in partnership with the communities they serve.

The report also says Ontario’s police watchdogs should reflect their diverse communities, meaning the oversight bodies must take initiatives to hire people from communities currently under-represented within the organizations.

“This includes all individuals at the oversight bodies: the directors, the investigators, the adjudicators, and the staff dedicated towards outreach, communications, administration, affected persons services, and so forth,” the report states.

The move toward greater diversity is long overdue, said Julian Falconer, a Toronto lawyer who has represented many families of people killed by police and who also practices in Thunder Bay.

In his submission to Tulloch during the review process, he says he was “quite blunt” about the lack of diversity when it comes to the director of the SIU.

Source: Human rights chief praises police oversight report’s focus on race and diversity | Toronto Star

Ontario Sunshine List sharpens call for equal pay for women

It is always easy (and valid) to focus on the people at the top as there are relatively few positions given their prominence and the relatively small numbers that one can easily analyse.

What is harder and takes more time, is to go through the entire list of some 65,000 names and do diversity analysis (based on names) to see the overall pattern.

To the Ontario government’s credit, the information is provided directly in spreadsheet form. If I get bored …

Naureen Rizvi says she was disappointed when only four women cracked the top 20 spots on Ontario’s annual Sunshine List, even as the province says it’s “on track” to close the wage gap.

“I always feel it’s not fast enough,” Rizvi told CBC Toronto at a Ryerson University event focused on women’s economic empowerment.

“I don’t accept that it takes 90 years to get to parity.”

At her job as the Ontario regional director with Unifor, Rizvi represents hundreds of thousands of unionized employees across a huge range of sectors, and she says there are wage gaps everywhere she looks.

‘We know that transparency is really important for achieving gender equity.’– Sarah Kaplan, Director at Rotman’s Institute for Gender and the Economy

A quick scan of the top of the Sunshine List merely confirms it. At universities, not one woman making a six-figure salary made as much as the top 20 men. At municipalities, only three women were among the best-paid.

Indira Naidoo-Harris, the province’s minister for the status of women, says the province is well aware there’s more work to do. Within the public service, she said, women make up some 55 per cent of the workforce, but take home about 12 per cent less money than their male counterparts.

The province has a strategy to deal with this, which includes setting targets for the number of women it wants at top levels.

“I think these are important targets because they really show that we are committed to really making sure that we’re putting those women in those positions of leadership where they belong,” Naidoo-Harris said.

“And that will absolutely open doors.”

Province setting targets to get women in top jobs

While the province is hoping to lead by example, it’s also asking companies listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange to alter their boards so they’re made up of at least 30 per cent women by 2020 (internally, the government’s target for women on boards is 40 per cent).

Naidoo-Harris also touted the government’s recently announced investments in child care, and called on women in this province to demand equality.

Sarah Kaplan, the director of Rotman’s Institute for Gender and the Economy, says the Sunshine List is a “small window” into the equity issue. But, she said, women should take advantage of any transparency when it comes to information about pay.

And Kaplan, who is on the list along with many of her colleagues, has done exactly that in the past.

“I said. ‘Here are the people that were promoted at the same time I was promoted — why are they getting paid more than me?'”.

It may not always work, Kaplan says, but it does lead to pointed questions.

“We know that transparency is really important for achieving gender equity,” she said.

Income inequality tougher for women who make less money

Sheila Block, senior economist at the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, says it’s an “excellent idea” to use the list’s information to bargain, and that people from racialized groups, or those with different levels of ability, could do the same.

Block said the information can also be revealing about the biases that exist at certain institutions — something either employees or the employers themselves can question.

While it’s far from perfect, both Block and Kaplan note the public sector tends to be a fairer place for women.

“One of the things we’re most concerned about is the income inequality at the bottom end of the income spectrum,” Block said.

The Sunshine List itself doesn’t track gender, and crunching those numbers can be difficult due to androgynous names like Erin or Kim.

Source: Ontario Sunshine List sharpens call for equal pay for women – Toronto – CBC News

Reevely: Massive collection of race-based data part of Ontario’s anti-racism strategy

It all starts with having more and better data and ensuring that the data is consistent and reliable.

While there will be differing interpretations of what the data means, without having good data, society is flying blind when dealing with complex issues. While data and evidence are never perfect, they do provide a sounder basis for policy choices and political discussion:

Ontario will start collecting masses of race-based data on the programs in its biggest ministries this year, hoping to use the information to find and help stamp out systemic racism.

That’s a big deal in the provincial government’s new anti-racism strategy, a three-year plan that took a year to create.

Much of the strategy is high-level stuff, scooping together things particular ministries were doing and calling it a plan. That includes a training program for staff in the courts system so they better understand aboriginal culture, trying to make the boards of Children’s Aid Societies more diverse and having the first black judge on the Ontario Court of Appeal assess the way police forces are overseen. All of it noble, some of it genuinely consequential, most of it already underway.

There’s also this: “To address racial inequities, we need better race-based disaggregated data — data that can be broken down so that we further understand whether specific segments of the population are experiencing adverse impacts of systemic racism,” the strategy says.

They’re going to start with health, primary and secondary education, justice and child welfare. That is, in the areas where government policy really makes and breaks lives.

The systems in those various ministries generate boatloads of data already, from wait times for surgeries to rates of readmission for patients in particular hospitals, from school occupancy numbers to results from Grade 6 math tests, from trial times to recidivism rates. “Disaggregating” that data means pulling apart the stats by race, routinely, in a way that typically raises more questions than it answers.

So if 15 per cent of the Queensway Carleton Hospital’s patients are back in hospital within 30 days of being discharged, we’ll monitor whether the stat is the same for members of different racial groups. If not, why is that?

Pulling all this together means devising a consistent approach so the information is collected, crunched and presented in a standard form, while protecting privacy. Which is hard enough, and that’s before we get to what we’ll do with the information.

This is, historically, very touchy. Systemic racism “can be unintentional, and doesn’t necessarily mean that people within an organization are racist,” the government says, but being accused of systemic racism sets off the same sorts of reactions as being accused of the traditional kind.

Here in Ottawa, the police spent two years tracking race-related data on their traffic stops, following a human rights complaint by a black teenager who said he’d been pulled over only because an officer was suspicious of him driving a Mercedes (which was his mother’s). When researchers managing the study released their findings last fall, they reported that drivers the police identified as black or Middle Eastern were stopped at rates many times their population shares.

A companion study found some officers deliberately misrecording the races of people they’d stopped, staying away from some parts of town and otherwise behaving differently to shift the stats so they’d suggest less racism. To whatever extent police officers changed their behaviour so as to actually behave less racistly when they knew their work was being measured, that’s a good thing in itself, of course.

Ontario’s chief human-rights commissioner Renu Mandhane argued the stats are consistent with racial profiling; Chief Charles Bordeleau of the police defended his officers, saying there’s nothing going on in the police force beyond what’s normal in society at large.

(Something similar happened when the Toronto police released statistics on the people they “carded” — stopped in the street to ask for their ID papers. Way more black and brown people than whites, for reasons that were argued about for years. Yasir Naqvi, the then-provincial minister responsible for policing, imposed new rules scaling the practice back.)

You can use such statistical findings in a lot of ways, including flatly racist ones. Maybe the police are irrationally suspicious of certain visible minority groups. Maybe certain visible minority groups are worse drivers. Maybe they’re more likely to be driving in areas patrolled by police — a possibility that opens whole vistas of speculation about why either of those things might happen. Maybe it’s a combination of things. Collecting the data doesn’t solve the problem.

We can argue about why people in different ethnic groups have different dealings with the authorities, and heaven knows we do. Sometimes to a fault. But at least with traffic stops and carding, nobody can say any longer that it doesn’t happen, and that’s a step forward.

Source: Reevely: Massive collection of race-based data part of Ontario’s anti-racism strategy | Ottawa Citizen

Ontario government unveils 3-year plan to battle racism

More ambitious and extensive than I had expected.

Particularly important is the emphasis on collecting race-based data as well as a race-based lens (the federal government could learn from this: Canadian Heritage, responsible for multiculturalism, to note):

The provincial government has announced a sweeping new plan for tackling systemic racism that includes Ontario’s first anti-racism legislation, $47 million for black youth, and a framework for collecting race-based data — something community activists have long demanded.

The “pan-government” strategy — developed over the last year by the province’s still-fledgling anti-racism directorate — was unveiled Tuesday at a crowded news conference attended by the Attorney General and several cabinet ministers.

In his remarks, Minister of Children and Youth Services Michael Coteau, who heads the directorate, promised “concrete steps” to end systemic racism in government institutions.

One of these steps is proposed legislation to be introduced this spring — which, if passed, will mandate the collection of race-based data across multiple sectors, including child welfare, education, health and justice. Another is a new framework to apply an anti-racism lens to future policies and programs.

The “A Better Way Forward” strategic plan highlighted specific barriers faced by black youth, who will become the beneficiaries of a four-year, $47-milllion “action plan” aimed at reducing disparities and helping them succeed. “I want black youth in this province to know that their lives matter,” Coteau said.

The plan also calls for education initiatives and public awareness campaigns — something Coteau believes is “especially needed when we talk about Islamophobia.”

“Our government is ready to take responsibility and to make change,” Coteau said. “It’s taken us decades to get to this point. And I believe that it’s never too late for us to correct our course.”

The anti-racism directorate was formed to “address racism in all its forms” in February 2016 — 10 years after the Ontario government first passed legislation that enabled them to create an office for tackling systemic racism.

The directorate fills a long-time void left by the province’s former anti-racism secretariat, which was killed in the mid-1990s by the Progressive Conservative government at the time.

In February 2016, Premier Kathleen Wynne said the need for an anti-racism directorate had “sharpened” in recent times, pointing to ongoing issues like police carding and the debate over Syrian refugees.

Arguably, the need has since become more acute. In the hours before the anti-racism strategy was unveiled, news broke of bomb threats made against Jewish community centres in Toronto and London.

Tuesday’s threats come on the heels of several other, troubling events: the Quebec City mosque shooting in January; last week’s bomb threat against Muslim students at Concordia University; and a string of racist and anti-Semitic vandalism attacks, to name a few.

The anti-racism directorate has spent the past year holding a series of emotionally-charged public meetings across Ontario, meeting with community members everywhere from Toronto to Thunder Bay.

Last July in Toronto — where the first of 10 meetings was held — a crowd of more than 1,000 people packed Daniel’s Spectrum in Regent Park. Some criticized the province for only allocating $5 million to the anti-racism directorate and the crowd periodically broke out into chants of “black lives matter.”

Attendees expressed frustration over what they described as an endless cycle of proposed — and failed — initiatives to address systemic racism in Ontario.

“There hasn’t been a time in the last 50 years when we have not marched on the streets of Toronto calling — calling out, calling out, calling out — to put an end to racism,” said Akua Benjamin, a longtime black activist and professor with Ryerson University.

“There hasn’t been a time when we have not faced (policymakers) — whether it is the Liberals, whether it is the NDP, whether it is the Conservatives — around this issue of racism. And so here we are again.”

On Tuesday, some community members again expressed skepticism of the new strategy, especially with a provincial election looming.

But the mood was markedly more optimistic. While Avvy Go was disappointed by the strategy’s lack of focus on employment inequities, she was heartened by the strategy’s embrace of race-based data collection.

“The collection of disaggregated data is foundational to the success of any anti-racism strategy,” said Go, a founding member of the Colour of Poverty campaign and director of the Metro Toronto Chinese & Southeast Asian Legal Clinic.

“Without such data, we simply cannot properly measure the progress over time of any plan that the government might choose to adopt and implement.”

Donna Harrow, executive director of the Alexander Park Community Centre, also stood up to thank Coteau for his work with the directorate.

Harrow has seen many government promises come and go in her 40-some years of black activism. But this new strategy, she believes, “is different.”

“This is the first time that they have actually named systemic racism (and committed) funds to African-Canadian young people who have not had an equitable chance in our society,” she said.

“For the first time, I can say that someone from the Ontario government has listened and has acted for a specific group of people — my specific group of people.”

Source: Ontario government unveils 3-year plan to battle racism | Toronto Star

Ottawa: Community tells Ontario government of systemic racism

The last in a series of public consultations to help inform the Ontario anti-racism directorate:

Hiwot Adhanom couldn’t believe what she was hearing from two co-workers conducting a hiring process for a public service job.

Her colleagues were attempting to determine who might meet the job criteria’s preference for Canadian citizens. “The first answer is ‘I guess we can tell by their name’,” Adhanom said she overheard them say. It wasn’t until they saw her nameplate that they stopped to think that Canadian citizenship means more than that. It was not her first experience with racism in a workplace.

At another job, a manager at a retail store who hired her nonchalantly told her how she was “not anything like all of the other black people who come in here looking for work.” “She saw nothing wrong with that, she thought she was paying me a compliment by insulting me and every other person who happens to be black,” said Adhanom, one of dozens of people who lined up behind microphones Saturday to tell their experiences to Ontario’s political leaders.

The anti-racism directorate is attempting to come up with a strategy to address systemic racism within government. The meeting is the last of 10 public consultations held across the province before it comes up with a policy, which is expected to be released in the spring of 2017.

For Adhanom, it was asking the directorate to develop tools and resources that employers are required to use to ensure fairness and equality in hiring.

It was just one of a spectrum of concerns about systemic racism and injustice that Ontario’s minister responsible for anti-racism, Michael Coteau, heard about from an audience of 200 during the two-hour meeting at the RA Centre. Others described systemic racism in the criminal justice system, health care, child welfare system, schools and the hiring process. Many called on more education as a means to combat it.

Attorney General Yasir Naqvi also attended the meeting, along with local MPPs Nathalie Des Rosiers, John Fraser and Marie-France Lalonde. Ottawa police chief Charles Bordeleau, other senior police officers and Ottawa councillors Jeff Leiper and Mark Taylor were also present.

The directorate’s goal is to eliminate systemic racism in institutions governed or regulated by the Ontario government, increase awareness and understanding of systemic racism among the public, promote fair practices and policies that lead to racial equity, and collaborate with the community, business organizations and the Ontario Human Rights Commission.

“You have to start in government. You can’t go out there preaching that change needs to happen but not take care of that change internally,” said Coteau. “What we are talking about today is not about putting in quotas or saying ‘X amount of jobs have to be this,’ it’s about removing barriers so people have the opportunity to compete on a fair basis to get the types of jobs that they are qualified to get.”

Source: Ottawa Citizen | Latest Breaking News | Business | Sports | Canada …

Facing opponents of an updated sex ed curriculum: Michael Coren

Coren on those opposed to Ontario’s updated sex-ed curriculum:

Recently I covered my second demonstration against Ontario’s new sex education curriculum. Standing outside of Queen’s Park were the usual suspects — fundamentalist Protestants speaking of “sodomites,” ultra-conservative Catholics disgusted at Pope Francis’ ostensible liberalism and various angry people holding clumsy posters. The last time I was here an Elvis Presley impersonator with a dog collar loudly condemned me from the platform. Not this day alas. Elvis had obviously left the building.

As bizarre as it may sound, this is serious stuff and has led to parents removing their children from school and even to the previous provincial government withdrawing this acutely necessary and entirely reasonable curriculum. So who are these perennially outraged men and women who think we’re all doomed and damned?

I know quite a few of them and their leaders; hardly surprising in that it’s always the same people and the same faces. One prominent regular is a leading anti-abortion campaigner who once made up and then spread the rumour that our youngest daughter, who was still at school at the time, was gay. She happens to be straight but her sexuality is irrelevant to us. Thing is, it was done to try to hurt her and by extension hurt me because I had become increasingly vocal in my support for same-sex marriage. The person in question is a devout Catholic.

Others were from a group who had worked successfully to have me fired as a columnist from a Christian newspaper because I had written that a 10-year-old Paraguayan girl raped by her stepfather had the right to an abortion. So, as I say, I know them well and they’re hardly representative of mainstream Canadian society.

Yet in spite of, or perhaps because of, their extremism these zealots do have a following. More than this, they are trying to co-opt minority communities — principally Chinese Christians and South Asian Muslims — into their coalition.

Their anchors are hysteria, paranoia, fear and ignorance. The apocryphal is wrapped up as established fact and what is gossip becomes ironclad information. At their demonstrations and in their literature they quote the curriculum severely out of context and speak of teachers — always unnamed — who are “perverting” children. There are frequent references to pedophilia and the smog of homophobia is seldom far away.

This latter point needs to be understood, because there has been a deliberate effort on the part of the antisex ed leadership to publicly, if not privately, play down or deny the anti-gay prejudice that was so prominent in earlier demonstrations and in their attitudes toward Kathleen Wynne.

While hardline evangelicals are part of the leadership, the central figures are traditionalist Roman Catholics who reject Pope Francis’ moves toward dialogue and have adopted Cardinal Robert Sarah from Guinea as their champion.

This senior cleric’s name is peppered on antisex ed websites and in their conversations. Sarah has denounced what he calls “Western homosexual and abortion ideologies” as being “demonic” and compared them to Nazism. He has described equal marriage as “part of a new ideology of evil” and supports African anti-gay laws, many of which are hideously punitive and lead to the arrest and assault of gay men and women. This is the reality of the antisex ed movement.

What the activists refuse to say is that it is not this particular curriculum they oppose but any attempt by the state to teach children realistically about sex and sexuality, and certainly any approach that embraces the full equality of the LGBTQ community. Many of them oppose birth control and virtually all of them vehemently oppose reproductive choice and premarital sex. This is not, as they claim, “ordinary parents defending their children.”

At the root of much of all this is a denial of sex as a loving, pleasurable, invariably harmless and entirely natural act. They don’t oppose sex in itself but view it primarily, if not exclusively, as a means of procreation rather than as a method of enjoyment. They also refuse to realize that children, even their children, will be and are sexually active. An acidic nostalgia for a time that never was.

Regrettably, the conversation is not over and neither is the opposition. As for the Elvis impersonator, I fear he will be back to sing again.

Source: https://www.thestar.com/opinion/commentary/2016/10/03/facing-opponents-of-an-updated-sex-ed-curriculum.html

Ontario children’s minister seeks racial data on kids in care

Always good to have better data to ensure improved analysis:

Ontario’s children’s minister says he will direct the province’s 47 children’s aid societies to collect race-based data as part of an effort to reduce the high number of black kids in care.

“I believe in data collection,” Michael Coteau told a conference on Thursday marking the beginning of a province-wide push to change the way children’s aid societies interact with black families.

“It is my intention in the very, very near future to mandate all children’s aid societies to collect race-based, disaggregated data,” he told child welfare officials and black community leaders at the gathering.

Black community leaders have long called for the collection of race-based data, arguing that tackling the overrepresentation of black kids in foster and group homes begins with knowing the extent of the problem. Coteau, who was appointed children’s minister in June, has for the first time committed the government to do so.

The conference was held to discuss a report calling for sweeping anti-racism reforms. It demands that every aspect of child protection in Ontario be transformed by “anti-black racism” structures and practices.

The two-volume report, called “One Vision One Voice: Changing the child welfare system to better serve African Canadians,” was written by a committee of the Ontario Association of Children’s Aid Societies (OACAS) and funded by the Ministry of Children and Youth Services.

It was triggered by an ongoing Star investigation, which revealed that 42 per cent of children in the care of the Children’s Aid Society of Toronto were black, in a city where only 8 per cent of children are black.

Coteau reminded the conference that in 2004 he was part of a team of trustees behind the Toronto District School Board’s decision to collect race-based data on students.

“If you have no data, there’s no problem and there’s no solution,” Coteau said, citing the board’s superintendent of education at the time.

Coteau, also responsible for anti-racism in Ontario, promised that his ministry would go much further than data collection.

“Substantial reform is on the horizon,” he said, referring to major changes expected in Ontario’s privately run child protection system.

He said the Liberal government would soon amend the Child and Family Services Act to modernize children’s aid societies, which last year received $1.5 billion in provincial funding. He promised to make them more accountable and transparent, and to improve the patchwork of services and care they now provide.

“We want high-quality services that reflect Ontario’s diversity, consistently delivered across the province,” he said.

After his speech, Coteau refused to answer questions from the Star. He would not say whether his ministry was prepared to fund recommendations in the report calling for anti-racism reforms.

The OACAS, which represents all but four of the province’s societies, fully backs the recommendations in the anti-racism report, says Mary Ballantyne, the association’s CEO. She stressed the reforms can only be implemented with extra provincial funding.

The call for implementation funds was echoed by Ontario’s human rights commissioner, Renu Mandhane, and the province’s Child Advocate, Irwin Elman.

“We will continue to push the minister,” Elman said in his speech to the conference, adding he told Coteau, “You can’t just walk away now from this report. You need to provide resources.”

Source: Ontario children’s minister seeks racial data on kids in care | Toronto Star

Ontario considering further changes to how gender is displayed on government documents

These consultations should not only be with Ontario stakeholders but the federal government also needs to be involved given the implications across a series of programs (see earlier New gender-neutral Ontario health cards make it harder to get a passport illustrating the need):

Ontario is considering more changes to the collection and display of gender information on government documents, not long after announcing gender-neutral driver’s licences and health cards.

Public consultations launched earlier this month look at how gender information is treated on government forms and identification documents, including birth and marriage certificates.

A preamble to an online survey says “people with transgender and non-binary gender identity may face barriers and other negative outcomes when trying to access services” so the government wants to ensure its policies are inclusive.

Ontario has already announced that starting in early 2017, drivers will be able to select an X instead of an M for male or F for female on their licences.

People can also now obtain health cards without sex information displayed on the front of the card.

“There’s more work to be done on this, so we’re reaching out to Ontarians to make sure we develop good policy that the government can use to make appropriate decisions about when and how to collect, retain, use and display information about persons sex and gender,” Christine Burke, a spokeswoman for the government and consumer services minister, said in a statement.

Trans advocate Susan Gapka would like to see sex and gender not displayed on birth certificates. The type of changes the government is contemplating are relatively easy and low-cost to achieve, but mean so much to the community, she said.

“I was born again, so to speak, 20 years ago,” Gapka said. “Now I have to renew my health card and having the correct or the accurate way that I feel best describes me, as female, is really, really important to me. In fact, I had to change laws. We had to change laws and change society’s opinions so I could have that.”

The consultation survey says the government is proposing to collect gender information as the default and sex information only if needed. For example, sex is necessary for the Ontario Health Insurance Program, it says.

Greater use of X as a gender identifier is also possible on other identification, such as photo ID cards for people who do not have driver’s licences. And, the consultation document says, the government wants to see a consistent process for people who identify as trans or non-binary — defined as people who don’t identify exclusively as male or female.

Source: Ontario considering further changes to how gender is displayed on government documents | National Post

New gender-neutral Ontario health cards make it harder to get a passport

Inexcusable lack of communication and due diligence by the Ontario government. While I know that OHIP cards are not intended for identification purposes, the reality suggests otherwise.

Systems are linked and it is the responsibility of officials to make the necessary checks:

Ontario’s decision to issue gender-neutral health cards is making it more difficult for some of the province’s residents to get a passport, since the federal government wasn’t consulted on the switch.

….The province announced in June that it will start issuing health cards that no longer display information about a person’s gender on the front of the card.

Changes made to be fair and equitable, province says

Beginning in early 2017, drivers will also have the option on their licences to select X, instead of an M for male or F for female.

The province’s Liberal government said it is making the changes “to ensure the fair, ethical and equitable treatment of people with trans and non-binary gender identity.”

Bestard maintains this is a positive step for non-binary people, and one that she has absolutely no problem with. “I do understand the nuances of the LGBTQ community, and the challenges they face,” she said.

The issue, she says, is the headache that has been created by the two levels of government not working together.

“The lack of communication is quite surprising,” she said.

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada spokesperson Lindsay Wemp told CBC News that “IRCC was not consulted as part of this initiative from the government of Ontario.”

Christine Burke, spokesperson for Ontario’s Ministry of Government and Consumer Services, says ServiceOntario has been working with the federal government to address this situation.

“No consultations took place with the federal government prior to the change, as we were unaware that the photo health card was being used and accepted as an identity document by Passport Canada,” she said in an email.

Kwok Wong, spokesperson for the Ministry of Transportation of Ontario, told CBC News that the ability to just mark an X for gender on an Ontario licence complies with the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) standards for machine-readable official travel documents.

“In various other countries, X is used in place of M or F when gender is not specified,” he said in an email.

“Ministry of Transportation officials discussed this proposal with the federal government counterparts including Passport Canada and Canada Border Service Agency.”

It appears that a licence marked with an X would not be able to be used to obtain a passport, as proof of gender is still one of the requirements.

Source: New gender-neutral Ontario health cards make it harder to get a passport – Hamilton – CBC News