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National

Maxime Bernier tells party faithful he will make it into the leaders’ debates

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OTTAWA — Maxime Bernier argued to a crowd of flag-waving, cheering candidates and supporters that not inviting him to take part in the official election debates means excluding the only political party leader who has anything different to say.

“It won’t be a real debate if I’m not there,” Bernier, the leader of the People’s Party of Canada, said in his closing speech to his first national convention in Gatineau, Que., on Sunday, where candidates and campaign teams spent three days learning how to attract and motivate voters.

“It will be a phoney discussion where they attack each other on their superficial differences.”

The Quebec MP, who represented the Conservatives for a dozen years and placed second in its 2017 leadership race, said the Liberals, NDP, Greens, Bloc Quebecois and his former party all share similar views on things like immigration, climate change and supply management in the dairy sector.

He also dismissed those political rivals as espousing varying degrees of left-leaning views.

“While the other parties look at polls and focus groups to decide what they stand for, and pander to every special interest group, we follow our principles,” said Bernier, adding that his party does not do any polling.

Those other parties have all qualified for the debates, to be held Oct. 7 and Oct. 10, under criteria established by the federal government.

Any party wishing to participate had to meet two of three conditions, which include having one sitting MP elected under the party banner, as well as candidates running in 90 per cent of the 338 federal ridings in the Oct. 21 election.

The PPC plans to run a full slate, but Bernier was elected as a Conservative.

The third condition requires a party to have earned either 4 per cent of the vote in the 2015 election, or have candidates with a “legitimate chance” of being elected this fall.

David Johntson, the former governor general who is now heading up the Leaders’ Debates Commission, said the PPC did not, at that time, meet the threshold, but would give the party until Sept. 9 to argue its case.

Bernier said he is confident Johnston will change his mind and allow him to join the others onstage.

He also said he plans to win the election and form government, but suggested he would be satisfied with having enough seats to give him leverage over whichever party forms the government.

“I think if we are not winning, and that is the goal, the worst-case scenario is to have the balance of power,” said Bernier, who ruled out a merger with the Conservative party but otherwise said he did not want to talk about what would happen to his party if he does not win.

Benjamin Dichter, who ran for the Conservatives in downtown Toronto in 2015, pumped up the crowd earlier on Sunday by arguing that Canada is heading in the wrong direction when it comes to how it is dealing with Islamic extremism.

“Canada is ill and suffering and it is suffering from the stench of cultural relativism and political Islam,” said Dichter, a founding member of the group LGBTory.ca, the Rainbow Conservatives of Canada.

He went on to accuse both the Conservatives and Liberals of getting too close to those elements.

When asked whether he agrees with that assessment, Bernier said he is glad Dichter was raising the question.

“I think it’s important to have this debate and have this question,” Bernier told reporters.

He said it connects to his policy on immigration, which would require everyone wishing to immigrate to Canada to undergo an in-person interview about whether their views align with Canadian “societal norms.”

The convention also saw the party unveil another portion of its campaign platform, this time aimed at veterans.

The policy proposal, which was announced with 44 veterans associated with the party on stage, would include reinstating the long-standing disability pension that was replaced with the current system in 2006.

— Follow @smithjoanna on Twitter

Joanna Smith, The Canadian Press


Education

School board defends book pictured on principal’s desk after online uproar

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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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Health

Ottawa paid $75M for veterans’ cannabis last year, could pay $100M this year

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OTTAWA — The federal government shelled out a record $75 million to cover the cost of medical marijuana for veterans in the last fiscal year — and it is on track to spend nearly $100 million this year.

The figures from Veterans Affairs Canada come despite the government having cited rising costs and a lack of scientific evidence about the drug’s medical benefits for cutting how much cannabis it would cover for veterans.

Unless a veteran gets a special medical exemption, the government will reimburse veterans for a maximum three grams of medical marijuana per day, which is down from a previous maximum of 10 grams.

While the change in November 2016 reduced the government’s costs the following year, those savings were shortlived as more and more veterans turned to the government to pay for their medical marijuana.

Yet even as more veterans are using medical marijuana, Jason Busse of the Michael G. DeGroote Centre for Medical Cannabis Research at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ont., says its medical benefits remain unclear.

The federal government is putting money into more research, but Busse says it is concerning that more and more veterans and non-veterans are turning to the drug when there are so many unanswered questions about it.

The Canadian Press

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