Andy Lehrer: Shepherd’s Grandaughter – new update

Back in March and again in April and June, I reported on efforts by Brian Henry, the B’nai Brith and Trustee Sheila Ward to have the Toronto District School Board ban the acclaimed children’s book’ The Shepherd’s Granddaughter because it tells the story of a Palestinian girl who suffers at the hands of Israeli settlers in the West Bank.

Officials of the TDSB reviewed the book and in April ruled that:

the Shepherd’s Granddaughter does not cross the line into literature promoting hate or animosity towards others. On the other hand, it has the potential to engage our Grade 7 and 8 students (a critical age for the development of social consciousness about human society) in understanding the complex issues of their world. The Shepherd’s Granddaughter contains several themes for creative discussions in our classrooms, such as multigenerational families and relationships, aging; experiencing loss; influences of religion and faith; gender roles, and gender stereotypes, effects of family separation through emigration, the value of education… As well, this book can certainly be used to explore issues of bias and prejudice, and that students can learn from such exploration… Having said that, we acknowledge that guidance from the teachers and teacher librarians is important in producing the desired outcomes described above.

 That decision was appealed and an 11 member committee reviewed the book and advised TDSB Director Chris Spence that the book met the Board’s criteria for approval.

Spence issued his decision last week and informed the complainant, Brian Henry, that after reviewing the committee’s report and reading the book himself (something Trustee Ward failed to do before vowing to “move heaven and earth” to ban the book) he agrees with the committee that the book “has the potential to engage our Grade 7 and 8 students . . . in understanding the complex issues of their world.”

You’d think that would be the end of it but school trustee James Pasternak is urging Henry to appeal to trustees to overturn Spence’s decision claiming that the book “has no place in our schools.” Pasternak asserts that “we’ll have enough votes to overturn the decision.”

This should be an election issue. Contact the school trustees at the email addresses below and tell them what you think. You can find out who your trustee is here or you can write all the trustees using the email addresses below:,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

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Taxes: Why so complicated?

Don’t get me wrong, I know we need to pay taxes. I’m not even going to suggest that we get rid of taxes, because I know they are necessary in our society. What I am saying is that he taxation system has gotten way too complex!

I am a university studen…

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Liberal Political Musings: Harper’s Conservatives = Soft on Crime

Stephen Harper’s Conservatives have prided themselves on being a party that is tough on crime, pushing for certain minimum sentences and announcing plans to build new prisons in order to convey that image. However, they are now coming into conflict with their partners in the war against crime, the police. If this isn’t a signal of being soft on crime, then what is?

The Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police (CACP) approved a resolution at its meeting earlier today that asserted the importance of the long form to police work. It reads that “ police agencies throughout Canada depend on reliable, comprehensive demographic statistical information provided by Statistics Canada to establish policing priorities and to determine policing services for their communities” and that “the long form census used by Statistics Canada is the basic tool for gathering the necessary statistical information while protecting the confidentiality of such information.”

In other words, the Harper government, by rendering the long form census impotent, are crippling the efforts of the police to reduce and stop crime. The police will no longer possess this crucial information, a tool they used to stop the crime Harper claims to want to stop also.

Perhaps more indicative is the further stance the CACP adopted on the long gun registry. They unanimously adopted a resolution calling on police leaders and officers to explain to the public and politicians the value and importance of the long gun registry.

Police across the country consult the database 11000 times per day. It is according to Chief Blair, the head of the CACP, “a tool that we need, that we use every day. And if you take it away from us, you are diminishing our capacity to keep our communities safe.”

Harper maintained today that “Canadians have been very clear they want us to spend our time and our money focusing on the criminal misuse of firearms and not going after law abiding duck hunters and farmers.” The CACP, who should know about this area after all, are telling him loud and clear that if he wants to focus on public safety, he should not abolish the long gun registry. The two aren’t irreconcilable. After all, the police are not putting duck hunters and farmers in prison.

Maybe Harper should listen to his partners in the war on crime. Maybe he should listen to those who actually are tough on crime, rather than to those that are blinded by ideology.

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