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Teen’s family sues school board, alleges it failed to address racist attacks


The family of a black Ontario teen is suing a Toronto-area school board, alleging officials at his high school failed to properly investigate and prevent months of racist bullying and attacks by white students.

In a statement of claim filed last week, the family says the teen, identified only as E.H., was the target of racist verbal and physical attacks as well as threats from September through last month.

They allege the incidents were repeatedly reported to officials at his Newmarket, Ont., high school, but the complaints were not properly investigated.

The family further alleges administrators responded by suspending the teen multiple times along with his harassers, who are not identified in the document.

The statement of claim says that as a result of the violent bullying, E.H. suffered several injuries — including a concussion — and became anxious, fearful and at times suicidal.

The allegations have not been tested in court and the York Region District School Board has not yet filed a statement of defence. But its director of education issued a statement denouncing racism and violence.

“It is heartbreaking to see anti-black racism manifest itself in any form, particularly through violence. Such actions are not acceptable in our schools or communities,” Louise Sirisko said in the statement.

“We take anti-black racism extremely seriously and put in place supports for those affected, however, this is not the experience we want for any of our students. We are sorry for the hurt this experience is causing.”

The teen’s family alleges the board was negligent in addressing what was happening to E.H. and failed in its duty to ensure a safe environment for him. It is seeking $1 million in damages as well as the reimbursement for the costs of the legal action.

“In spite of a safe schools policy, a zero-tolerance policy on bullying and physical aggression, and an anti-racism policy, no one at the YRDSB took action to protect E.H. In fact, YRDSB’s actions in suspending E.H., added insult to injury,” the statement of claim says.

“Due to a combination of the continued harassment, bullying and assaults, of which YRDSB was aware, E.H’s grades and school performance began to drop. The pain, anxiety, stress, feelings of insecurity, and lack of safety at school made it difficult for E.H. to stay focused and attend school.”

The statement of claim says the incidents began at the start of the school year, when a group of Grade 11 and 12 students hurled racist insults and threats at E.H., including telling him to “go and kill himself.”

The document alleges the harassment was reported to school officials and both the perpetrators and E.H. were suspended.

The following month, E.H. was suspended again for being in a fight, when in fact he was defending himself from his attackers, the document alleges. The school would not confirm whether the other students were disciplined, the family claims. The same thing happened again a few weeks later, it says.

On several occasions, E.H.’s mother asked that he be transferred to another school, but that request was denied, the document says. Administrators also made repeated promises to keep the teen safe and look into the bullying, the claim says.

The harassment continued in person and on social media over the next few months, it says. In February, E.H.’s harassers pushed him down the school’s main staircase, the document alleges.

Later that month, the teen’s head was slammed into a porcelain water fountain, an attack that was recorded and distributed on social media, it alleges. There were other incidents in the following weeks that resulted in suspensions, it says.

The statement of claim says that when E.H. returned to the school in April to pick up his belongings, he was arrested by police because someone made a false report that he had brought weapons to school.

The teen’s mother then contacted police to report the April incidents, which led officers to charge two of the other students with assault, the statement alleges. 

The lawsuit alleges the school should have reported the incidents to police, the students’ parents and the Children’s Aid Society.

Paola Loriggio, The Canadian Press

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Seamus O’Regan faces calls to visit Attawapiskat during state of emergency



Dwelling in Attawapiskat

OTTAWA — Indigenous Services Minister Seamus O’Regan is facing calls from the federal NDP to visit the northern Ontario community of Attawapiskat First Nation.

Earlier this month, the community declared a state of emergency over concerns about chemical levels in tap water.

NDP MP Charlie Angus, who represents the federal riding encompassing the reserve, is meeting with the community today and says O’Regan needs to see the impacts of the issue first-hand, including that community members are worried about being able to safety bathe their children.

Attawapiskat has drawn national attention for its 2012 housing crisis and it has also faced issues with youth suicide.

Former chief Theresa Spence, who launched a high-profile protest over the housing situation, has also started a hunger strike over water concerns.

O’Regan’s office says that addressing the water issue in full partnership with the First Nation is a top priority, adding it knows recent test results have raised concerns.



The Canadian Press

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Trudeau to push trade pact in EU leaders’ summit as France moves ahead on CETA



Trudeau to push trade pact with EU

MONTREAL — Lawmakers in France have begun their ratification of the comprehensive trade agreement between the European Union and Canada as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau welcomes the leaders of the 28-country bloc to Montreal on Wednesday.

Trudeau has been pushing hard for a win on trade and foreign policy after two difficult years marked by a rough renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement with the Trump administration and the deterioration of political and trade relations with China.

Trudeau will talk up the merits of the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, or CETA, with European Council President Donald Tusk and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker in a series of events in Montreal over the next two days.

The group is to visit a pier in the bustling Port of Montreal, the gateway for European sea shipments into Canada.

International trade lawyer Lawrence Herman said that’s a welcome break from the resort-style backdrops that Trudeau and other prime ministers have preferred when they host international visitors.

“Appearing at the Port of Montreal in this era is much better than appearing at Lake Louise or Banff. The message we want to give is Canada is a leading economic force in the world,” said Herman.

“Meeting in Montreal or in any major urban centre gives that message much better than the typical image of Canada being a wilderness country full of mountains and streams.”

Wednesday’s legal development, the French National Assembly’s consideration of France’s CETA ratification bill, is also a prime focus for Canada’s Liberal prime minister, who will be fighting a federal election this fall.

Sources in France and Canada, who were not authorized to speak publicly about the talks, say Trudeau lobbied French President Emmanuel Macron for more than a year to introduce the bill, and that those efforts finally paid off last month in Paris during their most recent face-to-face meeting.

Almost all of CETA — in excess of 90 per cent — went into force in September 2017 under what is known as provisional application, but individual ratifications by EU member countries will bring it fully into effect.

That would mean a win for the international trading order that has been under assault by U.S. President Donald Trump.

“It’s an essential step. We’re very pleased with our co-operation with the French government,” International Trade Minister Jim Carr said in an interview.

Carr will be meeting his EU counterpart Cecilia Malmstrom in Montreal. He said the French move towards ratification is a significant step in Canada’s broader goal of diversifying Canada’s export markets.

Trudeau was in Paris in early June after attending the 75th anniversary commemorations of D-Day in France and Britain, and he and Macron emerged with news that France would move forward with CETA’s ratification. The introduction of the bill in the National Assembly is a first step in a process that the French government hopes will lead to full ratification by the end of 2019.

Macron and Trudeau have talked about the agreement repeatedly — in Paris in April 2018, in a telephone conversation a year later, and other face-to-face meetings. Macron is a staunch Europhile and open supporter of CETA, but he has had to tread cautiously because of populist opposition to trade deals in France and across Europe.

Canada has lobbied French lawmakers, businesspeople and farmers, an effort that included more than two dozen visits to various regions of France by Isabelle Hudon, the Canadian ambassador.

Trudeau also made a direct appeal to French lawmakers in an April 2018 speech to the National Assembly, the first time a Canadian prime minister addressed that body.

Earlier this week, Trump signed an executive order strengthening his protectionist Buy American Act, which requires federal agencies to increase their use of American-made products from 50 to 75 per cent.

Herman said Canadian companies need to be more aggressive in taking advantage of the new opportunities now open to them in Europe, especially its new “privileged” access to national and sub national government contracts in a sector valued at $3.3 trillion annually.

“As the U.S. turns inward and as protectionism raises its ugly face in the U.S. we have to look at other opportunities. And I think procurement is one of the areas where we have great possibility in Europe.”

CETA gives Canadian businesses preferred access to 500 million European consumers, and a $24-trillion market. In 2018, Canada’s exports to the EU increased by seven per cent to more than $44 billion.

But the Canadian Agri-Food Trade Alliance offered mixed reviews on the deal, saying EU agri-food exports to Canada jumped 10 per cent in 2018, compared with the previous year, which increased Canada’s trade deficit with the EU to $3.5 billion.

Meanwhile, Canadian agri-food exports to the EU have dropped 10 per cent since CETA’s 2017 entry into force, the alliance said.

Mike Blanchfield, The Canadian Press

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july, 2019

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