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2 groups are taking action.
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As the former director of education for the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, I have had to stand up for the rights of people I don't like very much, people who say and write things that I had hoped never to hear or read. But I have also taken the opportunity to let them know that, just because I will fight for their right to free expression, I have no intention of respecting what it is they say or represent. I am going to use MY free speech to let the ugly, abusive, and racist people out there know that they are wrong.
Like it or not, Canada is a country that celebrates freedom of expression. Section 2(b) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms states that "Everyone has freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication." That "Everyone" includes people who say objectionable, false, foolish, misguided, or even ugly things.
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The assertion led one defender of civil liberties to ask whether there is evidence to support it.
While we may find that there are some dangerous strangers, to decide that we should make negative assumptions about everyone we do not know is downright foolish. It is time to go back to celebrating the fact that our Canada is a welcoming and tolerant country in which we raise our children to respect and include all of us.
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Take Taber, Alberta. They have just consolidated a few bylaws that will make gathering in groups of three or more a potentially punishable offence. They will also give people who swear, scream or shout in public a ticket. And please don't even think about spitting in Taber. A fine will await you. I can just see the next picnic in Taber.
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Our classes often look at cases and circumstances where a decision must be made about what happens to people's bodies, and indeed, to their lives. Do students who do not yet have the right to vote care about such issues? My experience is that they care deeply and passionately. They are profoundly interested in fairness and justice -- and they are waiting for us to listen.
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Schools have traditionally emphasized conformity as a way to encourage fitting in. Those who do not conform can find themselves facing discipline for infractions that, in other circumstances, would draw little if any attention. How well can rules to create conformity work for a transgendered teenager? Not well at all.
Recently, the principal of a large high school in Toronto announced, with the approval of the parent council, that all students attending this year's prom would be subject to a breathalyzer test. The belief that we set everything else aside when safety is our concern, means that we could find ourselves subject to the most egregious measures, so long as we believe that the intention of such measures is safety. A school prom is not just another party. It is a special rite of passage, like a graduation ceremony. What students wear, who they go with, what music they will dance to are all planned even years in advance. So telling students that if they don't want to be searched, they can just stay home is deeply unfair.
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Some schools and school boards have recently decided that, in order to protect children, everyone who is to spend any time with students must first have a police records check. On its face, this may sound like a good idea. In practice, it is fraught with many problems.
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Has your child ever seen a picket line? If you plan to shop at a Walmart in the U.S. you and your child may well see one this weekend. If your children ask what is happening, how will you explain it? The Canadian Civil Liberties Education Trust and TVO Parents can help you make the most of that "teachable moment" with a discussion about rights and freedoms.
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