OTTAWA — People’s Party Leader Maxime Bernier says his party’s policies will not include anything to do with abortion or gender identity, despite the fact its first candidate besides him is a vocal social conservative.
Bernier is defending the appointment of former Christian talk-show host Laura-Lynn Tyler Thompson to be the Burnaby South byelection candidate for the party he founded after parting ways with the Conservative party in August.
In an interview, Tyler Thompson said her foray into politics began in 2017 when she learned about a B.C. government policy to teach sexual orientation and gender identity in elementary schools. She campaigned hard against the policy, running for the local school board in Burnaby last fall with that as her main issue.
She finished 11th out of 13 candidates but said she got enough votes to convince her she was speaking for a “silent majority” who stay quiet so they aren’t called bigots but feel the way she does about not exposing children to an ideology at school.
“I got 15,622 votes,” she said. “The other side was extremely surprised.”
Bernier said any of his candidates is free to speak out against abortion or gender identity but their views will not be the party’s policy.
“That’s all personal belief but it is not part of our campaign,” he said. “She understands that she will fight for our platform and being sure we will be able to implement our bold reform.”
That platform is the same one he used to campaign for the Conservative leadership in 2017, including phasing out supply management for food products, reducing the number of immigrants Canada accepts and stopping all government subsidies and handouts to businesses in favour of cutting their taxes.
Bernier has marched in pride parades and is also known to be pro-choice. In 2016 he voted in favour of Bill C-16, which added gender identity and expression to be protected under the Canadian Human Rights Act.
Thursday, he would not say where he stands on the issue of teaching gender identity in schools because that is a provincial issue.
“I don’t have to have a stance on that,” he said.
Tyler Thompson said she isn’t against anybody who says they are transgender or gay or lesbian but she feels strongly that nothing on those subjects should be taught in schools. When she said so publicly, she said, she was attacked and that is what motivates her now to campaign for the freedom to express her beliefs.
“I was having a good life and having a lot of lattes and living the dream and then I became the target,” she said. “But I’m not a bigot. I’m not a homophobe. I’m not a transphobe.”
Tyler Thompson herself has called fighting the curriculum her “hill to die on” but said she doesn’t feel she has to bring that fight to the federal party because there are others who are now taking up that cause, including in Alberta and Ontario.
Bernier’s new political adventure ramped up quickly, going from an idea in August to an officially registered party with Elections Canada in November to having riding associations in all 338 federal electoral districts by the end of December.
Bernier said the next goal is to find candidates in at least 90 per cent of those ridings, which will make him eligible to participate in leaders’ debates.
The party’s candidates for other February byelections in Ontario and Quebec are likely to be named next week. A fourth candidate, Jennifer Clarke, is named to run in Nanaimo-Ladysmith, recently vacated by NDP MP Sheila Malcolmson, but there is no byelection there yet.
Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press
151st Cowichan Exhibition includes new category: best home-grown pot
VICTORIA — One of Canada’s oldest fall fairs is putting a new twist on its annual showcase of local livestock, produce and fruit by adding a new category for best home-grown marijuana.
The Cowichan Exhibition in Duncan, B.C., which dates back to 1868, has created a best cannabis category to embrace legalization and celebrate local pot growers, said exhibition vice-president Bud James.
The fair starts Friday and the cannabis entries will be on display in the main hall at the Cowichan Exhibition Grounds along with the region’s top vegetables, fruits and baked goods. First prize is $5, second is $3 and third place gets a ribbon.
“We just decided this year, because it’s an agricultural product, and it’s been grown in the valley for years, and now that it’s finally legally grown, we would allow people to win a ribbon for the best,” said James.
He said fair officials believe the Cowichan cannabis category is the first of its kind in Canada.
An official at the Canadian Association of Fairs and Exhibitions, a non-profit organization representing rural and urban fairs, said she had not heard of any other cannabis judging contests prior to the Cowichan Exhibition, but couldn’t confirm it was the first.
A fall fair in Grand Forks, B.C., is also judging local cannabis, but the event starts Saturday, one day after Cowichan’s fair. Those who enter the competition in Grand Forks can compete for best indoor- and outdoor-grown cannabis.
James said fair organizers contacted the local council and RCMP prior to adding the cannabis category. The mayor and council did not oppose the contest and the RCMP referred organizers to B.C.’s Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch, the agency monitoring retail sales of non-medical cannabis, he said.
Organizers decided to go ahead with the event after its plans were not rejected, James said.
“Our interpretation of the rules are you can’t make it attractive to people under 19 years and we are not making it attractive,” he said.
James said the cannabis entries will be placed in a glass display case and the individual entries will be sealed in clear zip lock plastic bags.
“It’s being judged to the same standard of judging garden and field produce,” he said. “It’s done by uniformity. You want all three buds to be the same size, same shape, same colour. It’s also the dryness, texture and smell. It’s exactly the same way you would judge apples or carrots or hay bales. It’s all done the same way.”
James said the contest doesn’t involve sampling the product.
Bree Tweet, the manager of a medical cannabis dispensary in nearby Ladysmith, will judge the marijuana entries, said James.
The exhibition received 18 cannabis entries and James said the contest created a buzz at the fair.
“The enthusiasm of the entrants, the people bringing their entry forms, they are so enthusiastic it’s unbelievable,” he said. “They are so thrilled that it’s happening, that we’re doing it because they’ve been waiting for years for legalization and now, they finally got it and now they have a chance to show what they can do.”
James, who has entered his prized Dahlia flowers at past fairs, said the addition of the cannabis category has exceeded expectations with the 18 entries.
Dirk Meissner, The Canadian Press
School board defends book pictured on principal’s desk after online uproar
A Toronto-area Catholic school board says an online firestorm that erupted after a book on how to teach black students was photographed on a principal’s desk stems from a misunderstanding over the book’s contents.
The Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board says the book, titled “The Guide for White Women Who Teach Black Boys,” has a provocative title but is actually a helpful resource on tackling racial and cultural oppression in education.
Michelle Coutinho, the board’s principal of equity and inclusive education, says such materials are a particularly useful reference given how diverse the student population is in the district and at that specific school.
The controversy emerged this week after a Brampton, Ont., high school, Cardinal Ambrozic Catholic Secondary School, posted a photo of its new principal on Twitter.
The photo, which shows the book on her desk, set off heated debate, with some suggesting it was a sign of racism or incompetence, or a prop meant to bolster the school’s image.
The image was also shared on instagram by 6ixBuzzTV, a popular account with roughly 1.2 million followers.
“LOOOOL. No principal should make it this far while subsequently needing a book like this,” one person wrote on Twitter. “She a bad principal,” wrote another.
Some defended the book, however, and the principal’s efforts to educate herself. “She’s making an effort to connect with her students, it’s more than most principals do,” another tweet read.
The board said it was surprised by the uproar and hoped people would look up the book before jumping to conclusions based on its title.
The principal intends to address the photo in a public announcement and invite any students with lingering questions to see her, said Bruce Campbell, the board’s spokesman.
The book, written by three researchers and published in 2017, aims to improve outcomes for black students by helping teachers create learning environments in which they feel nurtured and engaged. The title references the fact that white women make up the bulk of the teaching force in the U.S.
Coutinho said the book asks educators to challenge the biases they may bring into the classroom.
“We know that we’re steeped in a colonized kind of world view and how do we break out of that in our everyday practices?” she said, noting it has been used in the board’s anti-oppression training in the past.
Cardinal Ambrozic’s new principal was involved in a book study at several schools that delved deeply into the text last year, Coutinho said.
“If we’re going to make any changes to the education system, we have to start talking about these things and talking about them openly and honestly without shame or blame.”
Paola Loriggio, The Canadian Press
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