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Canada Revenue Agency loses 7-year-long battle over employee‚??s day off

Thu, 28 May 2015 20:34:45 EDT


After seven years, a labour grievance and a court battle that went up to the Federal Court of Appeal, a Canada Revenue Agency employee has finally won her bid for a paid day of personal leave.

The appeal court ruled earlier this month in favour of auditor Stephanie Delios and her union’s interpretation of a provision in its collective agreement with the CRA.

The case began when Delios took a day of paid leave in January 2008 while a member of one union. A few months later, after the revenue agency promoted her to a new job, she sought another leave day as a member of the different union she was switched to.

The two unions are the 170,000-member Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC), and the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada, (PIPSC), which has over 57,000 members.

Each has separate labour contracts with the revenue agency, and each contract allows for one personal leave day per fiscal year — a total of 7.5 hours in addition to regular vacation and sick time.

Delios and her new union PIPSC took the position that as soon as a worker changes unions and, therefore, contracts they’re entitled to a leave day again.

The CRA disagreed, arguing the leave was CRA-wide, and one-time only per year per employee — not per contract.

Delios’ manager refused the leave request. Delios later grieved that refusal.

The matter landed before labour adjudicator David P. Olsen, who in his Nov. 1, 2013 decision upheld Delios’ grievance, accepted her interpretation of the leave day provision and awarded her a day’s pay.

Olsen said the provision applies to all employees covered by the contract, and the fact Delios benefited from a similar type of leave under another collective agreement was of no material relevance.

Olsen said accepting the CRA’s position in the matter amounted to “reading in’’ restrictions to the contract’s personal leave rules.

Any perceived unfairness or inequity resulting from the way the provision is applied should be resolved at the bargaining table, the adjudicator found.

The Attorney General of Canada applied to the Federal Court for a judicial review of that ruling. And in a Nov. 5, 2014 judgment Justice Henry Brown found the adjudicator’s decision unreasonable because it would bring significant additional costs for the government.

Brown quashed Olsen’s ruling and remitted the case for another adjudicator to hear.

Brown found among other things that the adjudicator “failed to apply the plain and obvious meaning’’ of the leave provision in the contract.

Also as part of its submissions to the Federal Court, Ottawa provided fresh new details arguing “financial hardship’’ — an impact analysis that said the consequences of Olsen’s ruling would be about $1 million a year, evidence that Brown allowed in and later relied on in his decision.

Every year the CRA experiences about 5,000 temporary and permanent staff movements in either direction between the PSAC and PIPSC unions. The average salary for PIPSC employees is $327.71 a day, and $262.54 a day for PSAC employees, Brown noted in his ruling.

But in a unanimous decision that also sends a signal about how decisions of expert panels such as labour adjudicators should be weighed, Federal Court of Appeal Justices David Stratas, Andre Scott and Richard Boivin restored Olsen’s order, finding it, “acceptable,’’ “defensible’’ and “reasonable.’’

In its 3-0 ruling written by Stratas, the appeal court found that as reviewing judges, their job is not to develop their own view of the case, but apply legal standards.

And the appeal court agreed it’s not for the adjudicator to modify the text of collective agreements to deal with matters that seem unfair or inequitable to either side — that’s for subsequent rounds of collective bargaining.

The appeal panel found the PIPSC agreement doesn’t explicitly address the situation of employees who transfer from union one to another.

As for the fresh evidence regarding the $1 million financial impact study, the appeal court ruled the details inadmissible because they weren’t presented to the adjudicator, and aren’t “general background’’ details permitted in the court’s review process.

Patrizia Campanella, the lawyer representing PIPSC at the Federal Court hearings, (she wasn’t counsel at the appeal) said Thursday the leave day issue is an ongoing one at the CRA, adding a few grievances were on hold pending the outcome of Delios’ case.

For entitlements such as leave to get married, there’s specific language in the contract saying it’s one-time, company-wide, per employee.

But not so with the leave day, Campanella said.

“It’s important to protect the gains we made in our collective agreements. I would say that public servants have been under attack, especially with the current government. We need to stand strong by gains we’ve made over the years, and can’t let that go,’’ the lawyer added.

“A judicial review isn’t an appeal, not rehearing a case the way you want. If a tribunal decision was acceptable and defensible based on the facts, it shouldn’t be tampered with,’’ Campanella said.

Delios did not reply to the newspaper’s request for a reaction to the appeal court ruling, and her reasons for seeking the leave days.

It’s unclear if Ottawa will appeal.

Treasury Board of Canada spokesperson Lisa Murphy said it’s premature to comment at this time on the appeal court ruling, adding “we are reviewing the decision carefully with the Canada Revenue Agency to determine our next steps.”


Justice Minister Peter MacKay, 49 quitting politics

Fri, 29 May 2015 08:50:57 EDT


Peter MacKay, the Progressive Conservative who joined ranks with Reformer and Canadian Alliance leader Stephen Harper to unite the right and form the modern Conservative Party of Canada, is quitting politics.

The Star has confirmed that later this afternoon MacKay — with Harper by his side at an event in Nova Scotia — will announce he will not run again in the federal election five months from now.

Two party sources confirm that MacKay is stepping aside for family reasons, and will likely join the private sector, but has accepted no formal job offer.

It is a decision Harper is said to have accepted with a certain regret, with one source saying the two have a good relationship stemming from the fact that they gave birth to the modern, merged Conservative party together.

“Without Peter MacKay, it wouldn't have happened,” said one.

MacKay's reasons for leaving now, citing the needs of a young growing family, are “not changeable, though understandable.”

The 49-year-old married Iranian-Canadian Nazanin Afshin-Jam, a former Miss World Canada runner-up, public speaker and human rights activist, in 2012.

They have a young son, Kian Alexander MacKay, and are expecting their second child.

Another Conservative source said the offers will probably start coming fast and furious for a man who is a former foreign affairs, national defence and now justice minister, although his tenure in those jobs was occasionally marked by controversies over the Afghan detainee files, the use of a military helicopter to leave a holiday for a political announcement, remarks about why women don't apply to be judges, and last year a high-profile spat with the country's top judge on the Supreme Court of Canada.

But his currency remains high in the Conservative party.

And MacKay's decision to step down after 18 years in politics is a blow for the party's hopes in a tough Atlantic region where the Liberals are on the rise.

It is also a symbolic loss on the national scene of a key figure who represents the former Progressive Conservative wing of the party.

He is believed by many who know him to have held on to a longtime ambition to one day contest the leadership once Harper leaves the helm.

A former Crown prosecutor when he was first elected to Parliament in 1997, MacKay, the son of former Nova Scotia cabinet minister Elmer MacKay, won the Nova Scotia riding back from the Liberals, and was re-elected five times. However he too is believed to have faced a tougher fight in the riding this time around. His decision to go likely makes the Conservatives competitive in just two ridings in Nova Scotia.

MacKay won the federal PC leadership in 2003 after cutting a deal with party activist David Orchard never to merge with the more right-wing Canadian Alliance. But within weeks, he agreed to talks with Stephen Harper's emissaries, setting the party on a path to merging after a post-Meech Lake Accord split into Reform, Progressive Conservative and Bloc Québécois elements.

MacKay did not contest Harper for the leadership of the merged party, but fought often to retain PC values, such as equal weight given in leadership contests to all ridings across the country.

The merged Conservatives lost the 2004 election but quickly gained power in 2006 after the Liberals under Paul Martin stumbled through the sponsorship scandal.


‚??Density creep‚?? crusaders hit back at developers for bending rules

Thu, 28 May 2015 15:01:53 EDT


Campaigners fighting “density creep” hit back on Thursday at developers they say are bending the rules, days after suffering a severe social media backlash that called them NIMBYs.

Marcia Visser, the Density Creep Neighborhood Alliance (DCNA) group spokesperson, apologized for the original comments and stressed their campaign is against the developers, not the potential new neighbours on Keewatin Ave. in midtown Toronto.

“Developers shouldn’t be allowed to throw away the rule book. It’s not the neighbours who are the elitists,” Visser said.

All 80 units of the Trolleybus Urban Developments proposal would stand 14.6 metres tall. The maximum height permitted under zoning laws in the area is nine metres. Developers propose setbacks of between 6.5 and 7.5 metres from the street. The minimum required by law is nine metres.

Trolleybus still requires city approval. However, the homes are already listed for sale.

The Keewatin Ave. site is part of the city’s Neighbourhoods Action plan, which requires developments to “respect and reinforce the existing physical character of the neighbourhoods” including: the height and dwelling type, the size and configuration of lots and setbacks of buildings from the street.

Visser was adamant that this is not an isolated issue that only affects Keewatin Ave.

“If this proposal is approved, it sets a precedent that developers can throw out the rule book, and this will start happening in neighbourhoods across the city.”

Online ridicule of the DCNA’s Save Our Streets campaign began after group member Lisa Goodwin was quoted in Monday’s Star as “really concerned” that her property value would fall thanks to the influx of houses valued at “only” $500,000 in an 80-unit, four storey townhouse development that would replace eight properties at 200-214 Keewatin Ave. in near Mt. Pleasant Rd. north of Eglinton Ave. E.

Goodwin and Visser were branded prime examples of Nimbyism (Not In My Backyard) for opposing a new development simply because it was nearby. The address Densitycreep.com was even purchased and redirected to the Nimby Wikipedia page.

“I started this initiative because I felt people were not having a voice and there was no local input into this development,” Visser said. “The developers proposals are egregious, overzealous and outside of the official plans.”

She said the group is not trying to prevent development, especially affordable units that could help cure Toronto’s well-documented housing problems. Waiting lists for affordable housing have risen for the past 10 years to a high of 168,000 people waiting four years on average in 2014.

“We want a voice that ensures neighbourhood values of safety and community are maintained,” Visser added. “This is not about property values.”

The lowest priced one-bedroom apartments in Trolleybus’s proposal costs at least $369,000. The majority of condominiums are priced well above the city average of $407,612, and some at more than $1.5 million.

“The developers have been going door-to-door telling people the application has been approved, it is going to happen, and do you want to sell your homes? Every piece of information they were telling residents is untrue.”

Trolleybus say their Keewatin Ave. proposal “provides much needed housing options in Sherwood Park that would otherwise be unattainable for today’s homebuyer.”

A public consultation for the project will be held on June 2.

Of the social media reaction, Visser said, “It was unfortunate. I don’t understand some of the personal, vindictive comments. If you know me and what this community is, the reaction doesn’t reflect that.”

For her part, Goodwin said her concerns were not about property values and she “didn’t even realize I’d said that. It certainly wasn’t my thought.”

Trolleybus has several other projects in the works, including a 10-storey development in Davenport, a luxury townhouse at Bayview Ave. and McKee Ave., a 50-unit project at Old Harwood Ave. in Ajax, multi-unit development at Queen St. E. and Leslie St., 16-storey tower at Eglinton Ave. W., a 25 store, 255-unit property at Church St. and Colborne Lane and 34-storey, 438-unit tower at 155 Redpath Ave.


FIFA voting on Sepp Blatter as president amid corruption scandal

Fri, 29 May 2015 06:36:36 EDT


ZURICH—The worst corruption crisis in soccer history stems from the governing body’s decision to award Russia and Qatar the next two World Cup tournaments, FIFA President Sepp Blatter said Friday.

Blatter spoke at the FIFA congress hours before the presidential election in which he is a seeking a fifth term. He has refused calls to resign after FIFA was targeted by U.S. and Swiss authorities in separate corruption investigations.

In 2010, Russia was chosen to host the 2018 World Cup and Qatar was awarded the 2022 tournament amid widespread allegations of wrongdoing.

“If two other countries had emerged from the envelope, I think we would not have these problems today,” Blatter said. “But we can’t go back in time. We are not prophets. We can’t say what would have happened.”

The United States was one of the losing bidders for the 2022 World Cup. On Wednesday, U.S. authorities indicted 14 people on bribery, racketeering, fraud and money-laundering charges going back to the 1990s.

Seven of the officials — including two serving FIFA vice-presidents — were arrested in Zurich on Wednesday ahead of the congress.

The two criminal investigations have cast a new shadow on Blatter’s 17-year reign as president of FIFA. The 209 FIFA member nations will decide later Friday whether to stick with the 79-year-old Blatter or vote for Prince Ali bin al-Hussein of Jordan.

Canada and the U.S. announced support for Prince Ali.

Amid the dramatic build up to the election, UEFA president Michel Platini appealed to Blatter to immediately step down — calls the president has rejected.

“I am willing to accept the president of FIFA is responsible for everything but I would at least like to share that responsibility with everyone,” Blatter said in a presidential address on Friday morning. “We cannot constantly supervise everyone in football ... you cannot ask everyone to behave ethically.”

Blatter also cautioned that “it will take some time” to rebuild FIFA’s reputation.

“The events of Wednesday have unleashed a storm and there was even questioned whether this congress would be organized or change the agenda,” Blatter said. “Today I am appealing to unity and team spirit so we can move forward together. That may not always be easy but it is for this reason that we are here together today.”

A two-thirds majority would be enough for Blatter or Prince Ali to win the secret presidential vote, or a simple majority in a second round of voting. Just forcing the ballot to a second round could represent a victory of sorts for Blatter’s critics, denying the incumbent president an emphatic mandate in his next term.

Blatter’s opening address to the congress was briefly disrupted by a pro-Palestinian activist, who held up a red card and shouted “Red card to racism.” The protest was to draw attention to a campaign that aims to stop Palestinian players from being detained by Israeli security forces.

After calling for security, Blatter announced: “I would ask you to please check the access points of this room.”

With files from other Star wire services


New Ontario law bans breeding and sale of orcas

Thu, 28 May 2015 20:53:00 EDT


Ontario has become the first province in Canada to make it illegal to buy, sell or breed orcas.

There was widespread praise Thursday for the Liberal government’s ban on orcas, or killer whales, which passed at Queen’s Park and received royal assent to become law.

The new law is part of a government plan for better protection of marine mammals that followed a lengthy Star investigation into conditions at Marineland. The Niagara Falls marine park is the only Canadian facility to keep a lone orca, called Kiska, in captivity.

The Star was unable to contact Marineland Thursday but the park has maintained it followed existing regulations in the treatment of its marine mammals and other animals, and has been involved in working out new provincial standards of care.

“PETA commends Ontario for ensuring today that future generations of orcas will not be stolen from their families and sentenced to life in a marine animal prison,” said Jared Goodman, director of animal law for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

Goodman said orcas must be retired to coastal sanctuaries, adding: “Marine animal parks in Canada and the U.S. can no longer stall the inevitable.”

The law isn’t good enough, according to the Ontario Captive Animal Watch. The watchdog group criticized the government for not including Kiska in the ban. Estimated to be 40, she swims alone in her concrete tank at Marineland.

“She may spend the rest of her life in isolation,” said Cary Nice, the group’s director of investigations. She pointed out in an email the law doesn’t ban the capture and breeding of beluga whales and said: “This is not what Premier Kathleen Wynne and (Community Safety Minister) Yasir Naqvi promised.”

The orca ban is the highlight of the new Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Amendment Act, which also allows for the strengthening of standards for the care for other marine mammals through new regulations. Once enacted, they will include penalties of up to a $60,000 fine and/or two years in prison for a first conviction of breaching the act.

In an interview late Thursday, Naqvi, whose responsibility includes marine parks and zoos, said he expects these new regulations to be enacted by fall. They will affect standards of care for all marine mammals, including Kiska.

He said the public will be invited for further input through public consultation, likely over the summer.

“We are very proud of the law that passed today,” said Naqvi, calling it the first part of an action plan to strengthen standards of care.

Asked why the law didn’t prohibit Marineland from continuing to keep Kiska, he said: “Kiska is owned by Marineland. She is their possession and they have the right to decide what to do.”

But he added that his ministry is concerned about her welfare, and if Marineland decides to transport her to another location the government will ensure it’s done properly.

Marineland has argued that Kiska is 80 or 90 years old in human terms and too old to be transported, including to a sea pen.

Marine mammal scientist Naomi Rose disagrees with such estimates.

“Certainly 40 years is not ancient for female orcas. It’s middle age,” said Rose, of the Animal Welfare Institute, from Washington, D.C. She has spent her career studying orcas and said: “Kiska is a member of a highly social species. . . . Her complete solitary state is unimaginable.”

Rose pointed out that researchers believe that Granny, or J2, from a West Coast pod is over 80; while local activists believe she is over 100. Individual orcas are identified and tracked through their distinct white on black markings.

Linda Diebel can be reached at ldiebel@thestar.ca


Black teachers still face racism on the job in Ontario

Fri, 29 May 2015 05:00:00 EDT


Many black teachers across Ontario still face racism on the job, according to a new study of educators, half of whom said they believe being black has hurt their chance of promotion. Some told of hearing the ‘N’ word used in the staff room and being mistaken for a trespasser.

“I had a supply teacher tell me I am not allowed to park my car in staff parking,” said one of the 148 black educators across 12 Ontario school boards surveyed for a report to be released Friday. “The ‘N’ word was used in casual conversation in our staff room,” said another. “I was introduced as ‘home girl’ to a student teacher.”

The 63-page report, The Voices of Ontario Black Educators, prepared for the Ontario Alliance of Black School Educators (ONABSE), calls for Ontario to enact tough employment equity legislation, provide training against anti-black bias, set targets for promoting teachers of colour and cluster black teachers in particular in schools where there are high numbers of black students.

“We’re disappointed, but not surprised at the findings — racism is still deeply ingrained in society,” said Warren Salmon, interim president of ONABSE, which commissioned the report because of concerns expressed by its members.

Of the black teachers, principals and vice-principals surveyed, one-third said they believe they have been passed over for advancement because they are black. Some 27 per cent said racial discrimination by colleagues affects their day-to-day work life and 51 per cent said they believe anti-black bias at their school board affects who gets promoted.

Equity consultant Tana Turner of Turner Consultants conducted the survey, and called for school boards to “set equity goals and timetables — not just have an employment equity office which merely measures the numbers of employees …

“If the government wants to close the gap in racial diversity between students and those at the front of the classroom,” she said, “legislation and other government interventions may be needed.”

Toronto vice-principal Darlene Jones said she has not experienced racism either as a teacher or as vice-principal of Beverley Heights Middle School — “not at all; but I’m not alarmed that it exists. It’s our world; you just have to hope that by changing mindsets, things will change.”

Jones was a teacher at Brookview Middle School at Jane and Finch, where she said the staff by design reflects the diversity of the student body. “But any race of teacher can teach a black child if they have the passion, skill and desire — still, it’s good to see a black teacher as a role model.”

The report included numerous anecdotes of “micro-aggressions … the everyday slights, insults and indignities” that imply black teachers don’t belong:

  • One was “asked by a principal if I would ever consider straightening my hair.”
  • Another was “told I should steer away from too much black history in the class as black history is not important when no black students are present.”
  • On arriving at a new job assignment, “colleagues asked if I am a new caretaker.”
  • “A colleague was shocked that I was raised by both parents — and expressed it in the staff room.”
  • Turner noted that in 2011, 26 per cent of Ontarians were “racialized” (visible minorities) — a figure that soars to 72 per cent in Markham, 66 per cent in Brampton, 54 per cent in Mississauga and 49 per cent in Toronto. However, she said the percentage of teachers of colour lags behind the population.

    Some 31 per cent of the Toronto District School Board’s staff self-identified as visible minorities in 2012. At the University of Toronto’s faculty of education, 46 per cent of current students self-identified as being part of a visible minority.

    The ONABSE report calls for more rigorous tracking of the diversity of teachers in Ontario schools.


    Teachers condemn Ontario‚??s back-to-work legislation

    Thu, 28 May 2015 14:53:21 EDT


    The Ontario government passed back-to-work legislation on Thursday as the high school teachers’ union condemned the action and others warned of labour unrest continuing into the fall.

    “We are now ensured the students in those three boards, who have been out of school for far too long, are back in class and they’re learning and they will be able to complete their school year,” Education Minister Liz Sandals said after voting on Bill 103, which prohibits strikes in Durham, Peel and Sudbury until the end of the school year.

    The Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation condemned the move, with president Paul Elliott saying the legislation “accomplishes nothing more than to inflame a situation that’s already rife with animosity and distrust.”

    The bill passed with the support of Liberal and Progressive Conservative MPPs.

    Sandals said the NDP, which voted against the bill, essentially voted “in favour of students in those three boards being back out on the street on June the 10th, and I just think that’s appalling.”

    However, NDP leader Andrea Horwath said the bill solves none of the “underlying problems. They’re simply using a heavy-handed, ham-fisted approach that is only going to bring parties further apart.”

    She said she doubts, as Sandals said, that the issues can be solved over the summer to prevent turmoil continuing in the new school year.

    “I find it unacceptable that she could say that in the next couple of months she can solve something that she refused to solve in the last couple of months,” added Horwath.

    Earlier in the day, Sandals had said a “cooling off period” might be needed before bargaining resumes because “the union executive is probably upset.”

    Janet McDougald, chair of the Peel public board, said she hopes the legislation — approved two days after a surprise ruling from the Ontario Labour Relations Board deemed the strikes illegal and forced teachers back to work on Wednesday — doesn’t further sour relations with the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation.

    “On a local level, I hope not,” McDougald said. “I am hoping that the relationships that Peel has with its different staff groups, like teachers, will in fact help us through all of this.”

    Opposition parties have warned the government is taking a hard stance with all teacher unions that will result in system-wide strikes in the fall.

    “There’s three months before the next school year starts . . . that’s getting way ahead of ourselves,” said Sandals.

    The Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario has announced it will escalate its work-to-rule campaign starting Monday.

    Meanwhile, the Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association has sent out a bargaining memo warning of labour disruption in schools in September — likely work-to-rule — and advising members to talk to their banks with regards to mortgage and loan payments should a strike be called.

    Negotiations have been underway for months with no deals either locally or provincially under a new two-tiered bargaining system, and this does not bode well for the future, said PC MPP Garfield Dunlop, his party’s education critic.

    “It could possibly create enough chaos in the education system that we would see 2 million students impacted” on Sept. 8, he said.


    Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin argues tolerance, within limits, ‚??is the only way forward‚??

    Wed, 27 May 2015 19:30:00 EDT


    OTTAWA—Canada’s top judge decried the legacy of “assimilation” policies on aboriginal people in a speech on the public value of diversity, and called for “inclusive” leaders in “all our institutions, religious and secular” to promote tolerance.

    Beverley McLachlin, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, delivered the wide-ranging keynote speech Thursday at the Global Centre for Pluralism, a non-profit centre founded by the Aga Khan and the Canadian government.

    It comes on the eve of a historic report into Canada’s relationship with aboriginal people.

    It also comes as the limits of public tolerance are tested by national security threats made by Islamist fundamentalists, and political vows of “zero-tolerance” toward perceived threats.

    McLachlin argued tolerance, within limits, “is the only way forward,” saying the Canadian government’s 19th century assimilation policies toward aboriginal people would today be called “cultural genocide.”

    Democratic societies succeed when they tolerate and embrace religious and cultural differences but McLachlin said there will always be limits to that. She suggested indirectly “21st century jihadists” will not be shielded by guarantees of free speech or religion.

    The speech canvassed past examples of cultural and religious intolerance in Canada, and said “the most glaring blemish on the Canadian historic record” is “our treatment of the First Nations that lived here at the time of colonization.”

    Canadians now understand the policy of assimilation “was wrong,” she said, noting Prime Minister Stephen Harper formally apologized for the abuses at “a moving ceremony” in 2008 and will receive the report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission due next week.

    “Yet the legacy of intolerance lives on in the lives of First Nation people and their children — a legacy of too much poverty, too little education, and over-representation of aboriginal people in our courts,” she said.

    “Absolute tolerance is not possible,” McLachlin said. Parliament and the courts draw the line on practices that “harm others,” such as hate speech. She said “religious zealots throughout history” have claimed to be acting for the benefit of their victims and she went on to compare the “priests of the Inquisition” to “21st century jihadists (who) claim their elimination of the infidel purges their sin and purifies the state.”

    “No one in Canada would accept these arguments,” she said, “but that is not the point.” Rather, she said it was to underline the difficulty of deciding what “constitutes harm.”

    McLachlin did not tip her hand on where lawmakers or judges should draw the line in specific disputes such as speech that advocates pro-“jihadist” views, or the wearing of a niqab at citizenship ceremonies. But she did say the high court recently backed a court’s power to order a witness to remove a niqab where an accused’s right to a full defence to criminal charges is at stake.

    She also referred to Quebec’s recent debate over the former proposed Charter of Values and “what limits the state could impose on religious practices of people engaged in the provision of public services,” saying it illustrates such decisions are “neither clear nor easy to decide.”

    McLachlin outlined three principles she said are ultimately “essential” to maintain a tolerant society: “acceptance of the inherent human dignity of every person; inclusive institutions and cultural attitudes in civil society; and the rule of law.”

    The focus must be on “bridging divides instead of deepening them,” she said. “Above all, we need, in all our institutions, religious and secular, leaders who understand pluralism and the basic ethic of tolerance that it requires.”


    Fired JP wants public to pay $616K legal bill

    Thu, 28 May 2015 18:01:31 EDT


    Former justice of the peace Errol Massiah, who was fired earlier this month after a disciplinary panel found he sexually harassed several women at the Whitby courthouse between 2007 and 2010, is asking the public to pay his full legal costs to the tune of about $616,000.

    The Justices of the Peace Review Council, an independent body that investigates complaints into JPs, is poring over submissions from lawyers from both sides to decide whether it should recommend that the Attorney General pay none, part, or all of Massiah’s costs from his disciplinary hearing.

    That probe dealt with comments he made to female staff, including “Oooh, lady in red” and “Looking gooood.”

    Massiah had not been presiding since 2010, but continued to collect his $122,000-a-year salary.

    “We don’t need to study this, we don’t need to think about this,” Progressive Conservative justice critic Sylvia Jones told the Star. “He was clearly wrong. It’s time for this guy to be shown the door and no more cheques.”

    A different disciplinary panel suspended Massiah for 10 days and ordered him to take gender sensitivity training in 2012 over comments he made to women at the Oshawa courthouse, including: “Damn girl, where did that figure come from?”

    That panel recommended that the government pay his full costs, totaling about $123,000.

    That was one reason the council should recommend paying Massiah’s full legal costs from the second disciplinary hearing as well, his lawyers argue in submissions recently filed with the council and obtained by the Star.

    They also argue that the “financial security component” of judicial independence means that the Attorney General must cover the defence costs in judicial misconduct proceedings.

    “The practice of (judicial officers) defending themselves is in essence defending the right of the public to an independent and impartial judiciary,” one of Massiah’s lawyers, Ernest Guiste, told the Star. “And in accordance with the practice and tradition of cases cited, the Attorney General should indemnify.”

    His other lawyer, Jeffry House, told the Star that “it would be unfair to isolate the defence cost,” adding: “What the public should be looking at is the overall cost of having two hearings, rather than one.”

    Since 2009, six Ontario justices of the peace have had part or all of their legal fees paid by taxpayers, totalling more than $230,000. Four were found guilty of judicial misconduct, while two others retired before a hearing took place.

    “Recognizing the nature of judicial independence, higher courts have held that judicial officers should be entitled to receive reimbursement of costs for legal representation where the allegations are dismissed, and in some circumstances where there is a finding of judicial misconduct,” council registrar Marilyn King told the Star last year.

    Presenting counsel Marie Henein and Matthew Gourlay, who were retained to prepare and present the case against Massiah, argue in their submissions that the $616,000 is “staggering” and “exorbitant,” and that the council should not recommend paying Massiah’s legal bill.

    They also wrote of Guiste bogging down the process with mostly “frivolous” pre-hearing motions. Guiste told the Star that his motions were not frivolous, but raised serious issues in a case he described as novel and that were examined by the panel.

    “In these circumstances, considering the misconduct committed by the applicant and the manner in which this case has proceeded, a reasonable member of the public would not consider it just for the applicant’s legal bill to be paid by the public,” Henein and Gourlay wrote.

    “Still less would a reasonable member of the public contemplate compensation in the breathtaking amount claimed by the applicant.”

    Guiste had requested that he have a right to file a reply to Henein and Gourlay’s submissions, but the request was denied by the panel.

    With files from Olivia Carville


    Sentencing today for Benjamin Levin on child porn charges

    Fri, 29 May 2015 07:45:44 EDT


    A former deputy education minister will be sentenced in a Toronto court Friday after being convicted of child pornography charges.

    Benjamin Levin pleaded guilty to three of seven child exploitation charges earlier this year. He had been on $100,000 bail since his arrest in July 2013.

    The Harvard-educated Levin ceased research and teaching duties at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education after he was charged with offences including possessing, distributing and making child pornography, as well as agreeing to or arranging for a sexual offence against a child under 16.

    Levin had a “pedophilic interest” in adolescents and travelled to Amsterdam to meet a British father with whom he had previously exchanged photos and sexual descriptions of children, his sentencing hearing heard last month.

    Crown co-counsel Patricia Garcia argued that the meeting and discussions of oral, vaginal, anal and sadomasochist acts demonstrated fantasy transcending into reality, but Levin’s lawyer, Clayton Ruby, argued it was only fantasy.

    Ruby distributed a statement at the hearing saying Levin was “deeply ashamed” of his actions. He noted that of the roughly 2,000 pornographic images found on Levin’s computer, only 14 images and two videos were considered child pornography.

    Levin served as deputy education minister in both Manitoba and Ontario, and was part of Premier Kathleen Wynne’s transition team after Dalton McGuinty stepped down in early 2013.

    With files from Star staff


    Police dog helps girl testify at sex assault trial in B.C. legal first

    Fri, 29 May 2015 08:07:01 EDT


    VANCOUVER — A police dog has helped a 10-year-old girl endure the pain of testifying about an alleged sexual assault, and has become the first canine to assist a child during a trial in British Columbia.

    Caber, a yellow Labrador retriever, rested peacefully in a bed and at the girl’s feet, as she spoke in the witness box, while shielded by a screen in Surrey provincial court Tuesday.

    The dog soothed the girl so she could provide a full and candid account of the alleged incident the previous year, said Crown lawyer Winston Sayson.

    “When the child was testifying, she would reach down to just pet or rub the dog. When she broke down during the testimony, we had to stand down,” said Sayson.

    “She basically lay down beside the dog. They lay down together and it really helped her calm down and she was able to return to court and complete her testimony.”

    Crown and a victims’ support worker said the successful integration of a dog in the courtroom should be viewed as baby steps toward expanded use of canines at trial.

    Among the six dogs believed to be accredited to assist victims in Canada, a canine named Hawk supported a victim in Calgary in December 2014, and another dog was permitted in an Edmonton courtroom in March.

    The Criminal Code includes provisions allowing special accommodation for vulnerable witnesses — usually children.

    A judge ruled Caber could attend the trial to supplement a support worker who is permitted to accompany any witness under age 18. The defence lawyer took no position on the matter, Sayson said.

    The dog was not present to help make the Crown’s case but simply aid the witness to give evidence, added Sayson.

    He said the girl testified for about 90 minutes but he declined to provide further details for her protection.

    Kim Gramlich, Caber’s handler and the victim services co-ordinator for the Delta Police Department, said the dog seemed to ground and focus the girl when she was upset.

    “Dogs provide unconditional support,” she said. “They don’t care about the colour of your skin, how much money you make, what you look like. They don’t care about any of that. They just provide affection.”

    She said research shows a dog’s presence can help lower blood pressure.

    Gramlich said she got the idea from the United States where more than 70 dogs do similar work.

    The Pacific Assistance Dogs Society, which trained Caber for two years, provided the animal at no cost to the Crown as part of its mandate.

    Winston said the door has opened for the Crown to provide more options for victims of crime but stressed only accredited dogs will be welcome.

    “We do not want everybody coming with their pet parakeet or pet boa constrictor,” he said. “There has to be some dignity in the courtroom.”


    How Riverdale became the Hatfields vs the McCoys

    Thu, 28 May 2015 20:51:59 EDT


    The tree-lined streets of Riverdale have become an unlikely battleground.

    A war over traffic has polarized the Toronto neighbourhood, residents say, pitting north against south.

    Conspiracy theories about a “self-serving” community group hell-bent on driving traffic into the north end of the neighbourhood recently spread like wildfire in the area, which lies east of the downtown core.

    “Pitchforks were sharpened and torches were lit,” Riverdale resident Michael Hainsworth said of the fight, which included leaflets dropped anonymously into mailboxes, viral hate emails, and a local meeting that turned into a red-faced “fiasco” last month.

    Most of the anger has been directed at the Riverdale Traffic Group (RTG), a community-led organization that developed several traffic-calming proposals to boost pedestrian safety, including a controversial bid to flip the direction of two one-way streets.

    The group was not expecting the brutal backlash, RTG chair Stephen Davies told the Star. Members were publicly “vilified” and the group’s email account was inundated with aggressive “hate mail,” he said.

    “There was one period of time that it was so intense and so ugly I couldn’t answer the emails because there were too many of them and I was going into shock over it,” Davies said.

    “Where we are standing right now, we have certainly failed. We are in a situation where we have a polarized community and no effective solution on the table.”

    Some residents blame inaction by local councillor Paula Fletcher (open Paula Fletcher's policard) for “tearing the community apart.”

    Fletcher in turn is pointing the finger at the city’s transportation services division, claiming there is a significant “gap” in support for community groups.

    And transportation services director Kyp Perikleous says it’s all a big misunderstanding and the Riverdale traffic war was just a “one-off.”

    “I don’t know at what point it went off the rails to create such hostility amongst them all,” Perikleous told the Star. “This is not the norm. This is not what usually happens.”

    So, what really went down in Riverdale?

    It all began in late 2012 when a few residents from Langley St. became concerned about the high volume of cars travelling down their street, which has a pedestrian crossing many children use to get to school.

    Fletcher told the residents to establish a working group to identify solutions, and transportation services said it was available only as an advisory body.

    The group suggested installing speed humps and stop signs and lowering the overall speed limit to 30 km/h — recommendations that were all approved or are being implemented.

    But a proposal to switch the direction of two one-way streets touched a neighbourhood nerve, as some believed it would benefit the group’s members at the expense of the rest of the community.

    The drama came to a head during a heated community consultation on May 13, where the group planned to announce that its bid to redirect the streets was being scrapped based on engineering advice.

    Andrea Kellner-Bock, a mother who has lived in the area for 10 years, said the meeting was an “awful fiasco” where people actually spat at one another.

    The community became “completely radical” in the belief they were being blind-sided by a group pushing its own agenda, she said.

    Kellner-Bock, who called the direction-switching proposal “ludicrous,” started an online petition against the idea six weeks ago, collecting 340 signatures to date.

    The traffic war could have been avoided if city authorities had taken a more active role, she said.

    Because the group was expected to create its own solutions, there were soon whispers and innuendo about their motives, said Hainsworth, a CTV reporter. He quit the RTG on Monday, he said.

    “The group by and large wandered in the woods until residents in the north got wind of what was going on in the south. It was like the Hatfields vs. the McCoys,” he said.

    “Neighbours should never have been asked to come up with a solution to this problem … The failure of the RTG rests at the feet of city hall.”

    Fletcher blames transportation services for the whole saga. “What has become very clear to me is that our traffic people are focused on development applications and big roads,” she told the Star. “What’s missing are those people that can sit down and help neighbourhoods with community traffic planning and real solutions.”

    Perikleous said communities usually present their traffic concerns and potential solutions to the city before officials even get involved. The Riverdale drama stems from the fact the RTG was representing only a “small subset” of the community, he said.

    Managing traffic flow in residential areas is like pouring water on a maze, Perikleous explained. The water filters through, and if you start blocking certain points, it ends up all flowing in one direction, which can become contentious.

    Transportation services has committed to playing a more “upfront role” with the Riverdale community, and Perikleous said he plans to attend a working group with the residents next month.

    For Davies and the RTG, the past few weeks have taken a personal toll.

    “Yes, there has been more drama than we had anticipated, and yes, after two years of effort we have nothing to show for it,” Davies said.

    “Sure, we made some mistakes, but this is a community-led group of volunteers. This working group was not started by a group of activist parents on Langley Ave.

    “I don’t think we were set up for success, and as a result of that I think we are seeing the consequences.”

    It’s going to take time to repair trust in the community, Davies said, adding that he hopes the Riverdale saga serves as a cautionary tale to others.


    Crop tops may be a right, but often they're wrong: DiManno

    Thu, 28 May 2015 18:22:26 EDT


    Oh for the salad days of youthful and righteous rebellion.

    I miss ’em.

    Perhaps someday, if newspapers are still around in that near-distant future, a grown-up Alexi Halket can get a job as a columnist and woman the ramparts all she likes. For now she’ll have to settle for having her views endorsed on the editorial page of this endearingly and enduringly broadminded broadsheet.

    When I was in elementary school, decades ago, girls were not allowed to wear trousers, which always struck me as grossly unfair, especially on bitterly cold mornings. That rule held through my first (and only) year in an all-girl high school class, where the (male) math teacher had a giggle-inducing habit of crumpling up bits of paper and dropping them on the floor so he could later bend down to pick them up, and sneak peeks up our skirts.

    In Grade 5, my teacher — Mr. West — was displeased about the shaggy length of my bangs and cut them off on the spot. That might be considered assault in 2015. I slapped his hand and spent the rest of that week banished to the cloakroom. And the voyeur math instructor would likely find himself, rightly, out of a job, if not charged.

    Nobody listened to our complaints back then, though I’m not sure if we ever said anything to either school administrators or our parents. Mostly we laughed and rolled our eyes and crossed our knees (though not everybody).

    Just-turned 18-year-old Etobicoke School of the Arts student Halket got her shorts (permitted) all in a knot when told by a vice-principal that her midriff-baring top was inappropriate for school and she’d best go home to change. That got up her nose because probosces are easily bent in this my-rights era and Crop Top Girl is adamant that she be granted the freedom to flash a swath of skin.

    In doing so, Halket has adopted the boilerplate language of feminism, condemning the “sexualization” of female bodies by vice-principal and the teacher who sent her there, complaining on Twitter: “That only means that it’s seen as sexual or provocative and the teachers shouldn’t be making those observations about students.”

    It’s never too early to recognize that females are commonly comodified by body parts — as, indeed, are males. Just the other day I was telling a sports writing sister that Jose Bautista has the best butt in baseball. Shall I pluck out my eyes and not notice? Should the teacher — I don’t know that person’s gender — have slid his/her eyeballs away from Halket’s midriff and just let it ride?

    I’m less concerned about a crop-top than the overtly sluttish ensembles that some girls, and women, choose to wear. Nothing against “sluts,” in the pejorative sense. Some days I’m in a slutty mood too, at least sartorially. It’s like trying on different personas or, in the case of many younger girls, emulating the pop-tart style of trampy-posturing recording artists such as Rihanna and Miley Cyrus, who enjoy pushing the soft-porn envelope in their videos.

    Language belongs to everybody so I can’t scold Halket for appropriating feminist vernacular. She seems a bright young woman and socially engaged. In time, that engagement will likely find a more worthy cause. She’s just cutting her self-expression teeth on “loving our bodies,” as were the other girls who participated in a subsequent “Stand in Solidarity” protest across GTA schools, indignant that females are unfairly targeted by school dress codes.

    But I doubt whether boys would get a pass on “wife-beaters” — you should forgive the cultural slang — worn to class, or midriff cut-off tees, or jail-house pants that reveal an expanse of underpants and bum cleavage.

    Spaghetti straps and tank-tops that reveal brassieres have also apparently drawn the ire of some school staff, even miniskirts and too-tight yoga pants. I’m of the fashion opinion that yoga pants belong in yoga class and Madonna has a lot to answer for, popularizing inside-outside undergarments.

    Off-school you can wear, or not wear, whatever you please; go topless too, a right won for females in Ontario by Gwen Jacob in 1999. Big fuss, then.

    This fuss sounds like a fart in a mitten, although — can hardly believe I’m saying this, old fart-hood looming — there is such a thing as inappropriate for school and inappropriate for work and inappropriate for the mall. Stretch-pants should be outlawed for everybody over a size 8, actually. Oh, pardon, does my arse look big in this whinge?

    Halket might be right when she insists that it’s not the girl’s fault, or problem, if boy classmates are unable to control themselves around females who are unintentionally provocative in scant clothing. But teenage boys have sex on the brain 24/7 and, in any event, I’ve not seen any evidence reported that this consideration is why Halket was told to cover up a tad.

    Really, it’s a dog-days-of-summer story in late springtime, tempest in an A-cup, with the warm weather finally here and a bunch of girls snapping their ideological bra-straps in youthful assertion. Cute but trifling.

    Now, about those cheek-baring thong panties and hip-slung jeans. Old fart-ess says: Skanky, girl. It’s your right, just way wrong.

    Rosie DiManno usually appears Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday.




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