Archive | May, 2016

Facebook Is Changing The Way It Decides What ‘Trending’ Content To Post

Posted on 27 May 2016 by admin

Facebook says it is dropping its reliance on news outlets to help determine what gets posted as a “trending topic” on the giant social network, a move adopted after a backlash over a report saying it suppressed conservative views.

Facebook’s General Counsel Colin Stretch outlined the change in a 12-page letter sent Monday to Republican Sen. John Thune, chairman of the commerce committee, which oversees the Internet and consumer protections.

The move comes less than a week after Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg met with Glenn Beck and more than a dozen other conservative commentators to address concerns stemming from a report in the tech blog Gizmodo. The Gizmodo report, which relied on a single anonymous former Facebook worker with self-described conservative leanings, claimed that Facebook downplays conservative news subjects on its trending feature.

As part of the changes outlined Monday, Facebook will stop looking to news outlets like The Wall Street Journal, Huffington Post and Drudge Report to automatically nominate topics for its trending feature. It also automatically nominates topics based on a spike in user posts about a subject.

“In our meetings last week, we received feedback that any list — even a good one — inherently raises questions of which publications are included versus which are not,” said Facebook spokeswoman Jodi Seth. “Based on this feedback, we felt that the best approach would be to clear up this issue by removing these lists entirely and focus on surfacing the conversation on Facebook.”

Trending topics are seen on the right side of the screen on computers, or after tapping on the search bar in a mobile app.

As part of its review, Facebook found that members of the team working on trending topics could temporarily suppress topics if news outlets weren’t reporting on them enough.

But said it found no evidence of systemic political bias, though it couldn’t discount that a lone wolf might be able to game its system.

“It is impossible to fully exclude the possibility that, over the years of the feature’s existence, a specific reviewer took isolated actions with an improper motive,” it said.

Thune said in a statement he found Facebook’s response “encouraging” though it revealed that its trending topics feature “relied on human judgment, and not just an automated process, more than previously acknowledged.”

Brent Bozell, the president of the conservative Media Research Center and who attended last week’s meeting, applauded the change.

“Facebook was relying on a preponderance of liberal and leftist ‘news’ organs. By not relying on any specific news outlets, Facebook returns to its neutral roots,” he said in a statement.

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Varun Dhawan teases Dishoom trailer

Posted on 27 May 2016 by admin

Bollywood actor Varun Dhawan announced on Twitter yesterday that the trailer for his upcoming film Dishoom, directed by his brother Rohit Dhawan, will be out soon.

He posted a photo of himself beside a microphone in a recording studio with the words: “Dubbing for the #DishoomTrailer out soon.”

According to The Deccan Chronicle newspaper, the trailer for the much-awaited action-adventure film, which was partly filmed in Abu Dhabi, will be released on June 1.

The film co-stars John Abraham and Jacqueline Fernandez, with Nargis Fakhri in a cameo.

Dhawan, who plays Junaid, a rookie Emirati-Indian cop, has started dubbing for the movie. Abraham, who stars as Kabir, a seasoned special officer from Mumbai, is still filming scenes.

The movie revolves around the relationship between the two cops and has plenty of stunts and thrills involving speedboats, exploding cars, helicopters and superyachts. The Dishoom team filmed at locations in Abu Dhabi for six weeks in February and March this year. Emirates Palace, Reem Island, Musaffah, Nurai Island, Liwa Desert, Yas Waterworld and Ferrari World will feature prominently in the film, which is scheduled to be released in the UAE on July 28.

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Why is Sunny Leone unhappy?

Posted on 27 May 2016 by admin

While audience may be enamoured by stars and their perfect images, it is not always the case. Take for instance, Sunny Leone . Even as people may envy Sunny’s curves, she isn’t too flattered with her body. The actress, who was last seen in ‘One Night Stand’, is currently working on her arms, which she feels are fat. She has asked her trainer to focus more on making her arms leaner. According to reports in a leading publication, her trainer, Prashant Sawant has been asked to pay more attention to her arms.

Sunny Leone to turn producer?

Prashant, who is a personal trainer to Shah Rukh Khan , Ajay Devgn, Varun Dhawan and Abhishek Bachchan among others, is making Sunny do a mix of weights, functional training and TRX to make her leaner.

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Shawn Xaviour brings fresh vision to 21st century learning as Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board trustee

Posted on 18 May 2016 by admin

Shawn Xaviour represents constituents of Brampton Wards 7-10 as Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board trustee. He is quite young to hold this position and has been told as much. However Shawn clearly has a passion that related to people who elected him to represent them as a school board trustee.

Shawn is a student of criminology and politics at University of Toronto. Shawn understands issues and tries to resolves them zealously utilizing his youthful passion and knowledge.

Here’s Generation Next’s interview with this young man:

Please tell us about your family and academic background?

My parents are from Kerala, India. They came to Canada in 1990 to start a new life. Since then, my parents have created a strong career foundation for themselves. I completed K-12 through Catholic Education. Currently, I am completing a double major in criminology and politics at the University of Toronto- Mississauga Campus.

You’re quite young to be a trustee. Tell us why you wanted to be a catholic school board trustee?

I use my youth and my recent experience in school to help students. Since I am more aware of what it is like to be a student these days, I am able to cater to their needs. A trustee is the connection between the students/parents/stakeholders and the board. The main reason why I wanted to become a trustee is to make a difference and bring forward a fresh vision to implement 21st century learning within our schools.

Is it mostly about community service or about politics?

For me, it’s more about community service. Of course, politics is involved but the most important aspect of this job is to serve the needs of my constituents. The role of trustee is not something I would classify as a job, it is more of something I do while also having fun while networking and socializing with my constituents making sure their concerns are always heard.

What are trustees really supposed to do?

As a trustee, my role is to ensure there is a focus on student well-being and achievement. Trustees also participate in making decisions that will benefit both the school board and the constituents. Trustees must have excellent communication skills because, he or she communicates the views and decisions of the board back to their constituents. Trustees also have the responsibility to contribute to Education policy creation, strategic planning for staffing, confidential student issues and district-wide protocols and initiatives.

How do you help parents and kids?

I ensure that I am actively available through social media, phone and email. This way, all the concerns are being brought up to me in one way or another. To ensure these concerns are being resolved, I bring it to the board staff. I ensure their voices are being heard at a board level. I also participate in school events to stay connected to parents and kids.

In South Asian community, do you feel there is enough awareness about what’s going on in school?

I feel as if there is not enough awareness in the South Asian community. To be specific, these individuals are not aware of issues and events. This is because of the generation gap. Many of these South Asian individuals that migrated to Canada had different educational standards back home causing a lack of awareness of what is happening in their child’s school. This leads to the next question because I strongly feel that parents should be more involved in their child’s Education.

 Are parents involved and engaged enough?

I feel as if parents are not engaged enough due to time constraints such as jobs, family life and so on. What I always recommend to parents is to become involved in their child’s school whether it be through volunteering on a field trip or being a part of the school’s parent council.

Other than being a trustee, what else do you do?

Other than being a School Board Trustee, I am currently a student at UTM completing my undergraduate degree. I also volunteer at my church and an organization known as Canadian Malayalee Association.

What are some of the other things you are passionate about?

I am passionate about staying active. I am apart of both soccer and dance teams. I have grown up loving both these sports and it truly has shaped the person I’ve become today. As a student myself, I think it’s important to remain healthy and stay active.

 Talk to us about issues of young people such as yourself choice? finding the right job, dating etc?

The issues of today are always tough on the youth. My advice is to work hard for what you want. Whether it is a job, a grade or a potential partner. Hard work and effort never goes unnoticed.To be specific, when applying for jobs, it is important to realize that a lack of experience can be compensate using volunteer experience that contributes to the employer. Do not be discouraged about age because it is just a number. An interview with excellent communication skills and a killer resume often does the trick.

What do you wish to be once you’re education is complete?

Once I complete my undergraduate degree, I would like to go on to law school to pursue as my future career as a lawyer. Once I become a lawyer I would like to also like to stay as either a trustee to represent my constituents of the Catholic community or even go beyond my horizons and represent a region in provincial politics as a MPP.

What kind of activities are you involved in at university?

Within my university I am involved with volunteering with the Students Union and also was the past President of the South Asian Alliance(SAA) Club at University of Toronto. I was also a dance coordinator of the SAA Dance Team, which included teachingbollywood, bhangra, classical and hip-hop. My involvement at university has allowed me to create life-long friendships and various networking opportunities.

Where do you see yourself in next ten years?

 In the next ten years, I look forward in completing my Education, having a successful law career, having a family of my own and continuing to be apart of the community in one way or another.

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Parents should learn about vaccines

Posted on 18 May 2016 by admin

There’s good reason to require parents who irrationally opt not to immunize their kids to listen as a public health expert explains the dangers they’re running. Understanding the benefits of vaccination can help ward off a world of pain and save lives.

To promote these highly desirable goals, Ontario parents will need to complete an “education session,” delivered by their local public health unit, before they can skip routine immunization of their children on grounds of conscience or religious belief.

The welcome new rule is included in amendments to the Immunization of School Pupils Act introduced in the legislature this past week. Details on the information sessions are to be determined through consultations with Ontario’s public health units. So time is of the essence if the new system is to be ready by September.

Action is required to counteract a flood of misinformation by alternative medicine quacks and misguided celebrities, such as the notorious Jenny McCarthy, who are urging people to avoid vaccinating their kids. Too many parents are listening to their bogus claims of harm — ironically, putting youngsters at increased risk by failing to shield them from contagious disease.

Dangers posed by diphtheria, tetanus, polio, measles, rubella and other illnesses can be greatly reduced or eliminated through comprehensive vaccination. The consequences of failing to act can be severe. Complications from measles alone include ear infections, deafness, pneumonia, brain damage and even death.

Despite such risks, Ontario’s overall immunization rate is less than ideal, and a Star investigation last fall found some Toronto schools had shockingly low vaccination levels. Fewer than half of kids attending ALPHA Alternative Junior School, for example, were protected. Given what’s at stake, it’s reasonable to require parents considering the option of rejecting vaccination to at least listen as a public health expert explains the potential harm they could be doing to their child.

Several U.S. jurisdictions have imposed this requirement and there’s good evidence that it results in more kids being protected. Since the beginning of last year, for example, parents in Michigan have had to attend an information session at their local health department to obtain a non-medical immunization “waiver.”

In these sessions, lasting 15 to 30 minutes, parents and guardians were given the facts about vaccines and an opportunity to ask questions. The result was an impressive 39-per-cent drop in kids opting out of vaccination. According to Michigan health officials, almost 8,000 fewer such waivers were issued for children entering school, as of November last year.

The benefits are obvious. And it doesn’t just protect the children getting their shots. By reducing the likelihood of society-wide outbreaks, it also shields people with cancer, impaired immune systems and other conditions that make them unable to receive vaccination.

In short, a great deal of good can result from sharing expert knowledge with parents who haven’t quite grasped the benefits of immunization. The province is right to make that happen.

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Hard talk coming for City of Toronto’s bleak finances

Posted on 18 May 2016 by admin

Mayor John Tory is preparing Torontonians for new taxes or fees to pay for transit and social housing as well as a public debate about selling city assets.

Tory made the case Monday after city manager Peter Wallace released a report urging council to address a bleak long-term fiscal outlook that includes a growing gap between spending and revenues.

Wallace will soon release a report on possible “revenue tools” — new taxes or levies on parking spaces, alcohol, gasoline, road tolls or more — to help Toronto pay for transit expansion and Toronto Community Housing repairs.

“Once that report is received,” Tory told reporters in his office, “we will move ensure that the city has a sustainable source of revenue to finance the building and operation of transit in Toronto and the supply and repair of housing.”

Tory refused to pick preferred new taxes or fees, and vowed he won’t renege on his 2014 campaign pledge to limit property tax hikes to at, or around, the rate of inflation.

Despite the fact that Toronto homeowners pay the lowest property taxes in the GTA, Tory said taxpayers are “stretched to the limit and they can’t sustain more.”

The mayor agreed with Wallace that Toronto council also needs to take a hard look at “monetizing” some city assets to free up money to pay for capital expenses including transit expansion.

The Star reported in January that behind-the-scenes work has happened at Toronto Hydro to set the stage for a possible partial sale of the publicly owned utility.

Tory said tax implications may render that idea not “viable” but council has to “at least discuss the better use of the money that is tied up in some of those assets, to build transit and housing.”

Tory also called for greater spending accountability from Toronto’s arms’-length agencies, including the Toronto Community Housing Corporation, the TTC and Toronto police, which together comprise a huge and growing chunk of the city budget.

He said he was flabbergasted to recently learn the TCHC board approved long-term debt — $250 million in May 2007 and $200 million in February 2010 — for Regent Park redevelopment and other capital costs without seeking city council approval and with no plan to repay the debentures that cost $23 million a year in interest.

TCHC said the first debenture has a fixed interest rate of 4.877 per cent, with principle to be fully paid in May 2037, and the second at 5.395 per cent due in February 2040.

“I can’t speak to decisions made in 2007 and 2010, but today this type of decision would not be made (today) without full knowledge of the city . . . Robust communications channels have been put in place within the past two years,” TCHC spokeswoman Lisa Murray said in an email.

Tory also took aim at his predecessor Rob Ford, without naming him, over an unfunded capital account that has swelled to almost $1 billion.

The city manager’s report says council has in recent years papered over a dangerously widening gap between spending and revenues.

Spending has actually decreased in recent years, when you account for inflation and population growth, but council has approved city-building initiatives including transit expansion and poverty-reduction efforts with no clear plan to pay for them, Wallace said.

He wants Tory’s executive committee, which meets next week, to have him report back in the fall with detailed options, including revenue tools and contracting out of more city services, to put the city on a potentially painful track to long-term fiscal stability.

Councillor Gord Perks criticized Tory’s property tax vow, saying Wallace’s report shows spending has dropped in real terms in recent years. Meanwhile, transit, housing and inflationary costs continue to grow.

“If (Tory) is not prepared to say what services he cuts in order to keep property taxes low, then he’s doing exactly what he’s blamed previous administrations for, which is not being honest with the citizens of Toronto,” Perks said.

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Liberals Talk Up Unusual Funding Model For Infrastructure

Posted on 18 May 2016 by admin

The Trudeau government’s newfound enthusiasm about a big Montreal transit proposal has given Canadians a glimpse at one way Ottawa could fund billions in public infrastructure, like roads, bridges and rail, over the long haul.

In recent days, senior Liberals have been talking up an unusual funding model for the $5.5-billion light-rail plan for Montreal, calling for a partnership that includes Ottawa and a public pension fund.

The idea was put forward by Quebec’s massive public pension fund manager, which recently announced its proposal to build a large electric rail network connecting Montreal to its suburbs.

The fund, the Caisse de depot et placement du Quebec, is prepared to pump $3 billion into the project — and it wants the provincial and federal governments to kick in the rest.

A subsidiary of the Caisse would operate the rail network and gradually recoup the pension plan’s investment through user fees. Eventual profits would be funnelled into Quebecers’ public nest egg — the Quebec Pension Plan — which is managed by the Caisse.

The idea was made public after the Liberal government signalled in its March budget that it would like to engage deep-pocketed pension funds and other “innovative sources of funding” to help raise much-needed cash for long-term infrastructure projects — when it’s in the public interest.

So far, this first example of a potential federal partnership with a major pension plan appears to have stoked excitement among senior Liberal cabinet ministers.

“I salute the innovative efforts of the Caisse de depot et placement du Quebec, which, through its metropolitan electric network, is proposing a new business model to implement major infrastructure projects,” Finance Minister Bill Morneau told a business crowd late last week in Montreal.

“We have the chance in Canada to count on pension funds that have developed an expertise in infrastructure that is recognized around the world.”

Morneau added that Ottawa is studying the Caisse’s plan with “lots of interest.”

His inaugural budget followed through on a Liberal election pledge to double infrastructure spending over the next 10 years, raising the overall federal investment to $120 billion.

The party has argued boosting infrastructure spending will increase productivity, generate more long-term growth and create jobs.

Infrastructure spending is expected to contribute to a string of five-straight budgetary deficits that could add more than $110 billion to Canada’s public debt.

Seeking out other sources of cash for infrastructure could increase the number of new investments while helping prevent the country from sliding even deeper into the red.

The first phase of the Liberal plan calls for $11.9 billion of spending over five years. It’s focused on projects such as repairing aging water and public transit infrastructure as well as providing cash for smaller projects that can be completed by 2019.

There’s also money available for planning larger, more-ambitious projects that would be part of the program’s second phase, the details of which have yet to be unveiled.

That’s where the Caisse’s light-rail plan comes in — it features a type of funding model the government could increasingly tap into.

Infrastructure Minister AmarjeetSohi told the Senate’s question period last week that the timing of the government’s second phase aligns with the Montreal proposal. He added that the government is working “very closely” with the Caisse.

“This is one of the most innovative and creative projects that I have seen in my short while in this portfolio, and it will be transformative for the region of Montreal,” Sohi said.

“I see this as a great opportunity for us to support innovation in delivery of infrastructure, because we do need to engage public sector pension funds, as well as private sector funds, to make sure the amount of infrastructure that we build across the country engages other stakeholders and partners.”

In their remarks last week, both Sohi and Morneau complimented Caisse CEO Michael Sabia, whom Morneau has named to his economic advisory council.

The council, tasked with helping the government map out a long-term growth plan, also features another head of a powerful public pension plan: Mark Wiseman, president and CEO of the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board.

Large Canadian pension plans, such as the Caisse and CPPIB, have invested billions in infrastructure projects abroad. Funds like these covet access to the reliable, predictable returns that infrastructure offers through revenue streams such as user fees, like tolls.

In its budget, the Liberals also mentioned something called “asset recycling,” a system that could see governments in Canada lease or sell stakes in existing major public assets such as highways, rail lines, and ports.

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Ontario Introduces Reloadable Payment Card for Social Assistance

Posted on 18 May 2016 by admin

Ontario is making it safer and easier for people to receive and use their social assistance benefits. Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) clients who do not have a bank account will be able to receive their benefits on a reloadable payment card rather than receiving a paper cheque.

The card, provided by the Royal Bank of Canada, works in the same way as a debit card but does not require a bank account. Each month that a client is eligible for ODSP benefits, funds are loaded onto the card and clients can then use their card to make ATM cash withdrawals, as well as in-store or online purchases or payments. To ensure client privacy and safety, the cards are not monitored and they do not identify the cardholder as a social assistance client or a recipient of government services.

For individuals without bank accounts, reloadable payment cards offer many benefits, including:

  • § Not having to use expensive cheque-cashing services and avoiding the risk of carrying large amounts of cash
  • § Four no-fee ATM withdrawals per month and unlimited in-store or online payments and purchases
  • § Enhanced security with PIN and chip technology.

 The province will phase the new cards into use. In the first phase that is already underway, clients can volunteer to test the reloadable payment card and will provide feedback on the kinds of supports, information and processes needed to benefit fully from the card. This summer in a second phase, the card will be issued to all ODSP clients who are unable to open or maintain a bank account – with some exceptions, such as those who have limited access to a bank machine.

The reloadable payment card is part of the government’s plan to enhance social assistance, improve customer service, and make programs work better for clients.Providing vulnerable Ontarians with the support they need to realize their potential is part of the government’s economic plan for Ontario. The four-part plan is building Ontario up by investing in people’s talents and skills, making the largest investment in public infrastructure in Ontario’s history, creating a dynamic, supportive environment where business thrives and building a secure savings plan.

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Posted on 18 May 2016 by admin

Dr. Hasan Askari

 It is almost two months since the first report of the leak of the Panama Document was published in the international media. Not many thought at that time that this would cause a political earthquake in Pakistan. The federal government attempted to set aside the issue by asking the Chief Justice of Pakistan’s Supreme Court to set up an inquiry commission to investigate not only the money involved in the Panama leaks but also investigate all other cases of money laundering and the loan default or writ-off. These expanded and open-ended terms of reference for investigation led the Chief Justice to refuse to establish such a commission. He sought more precise agenda that is also acceptable to the opposition.

 There are little chances of the ruling PMLN and the opposition agreeing to shared terms of reference and making it possible for some judicial commission to meaningfully investigate the money trail of the offshore companies and investment. The government is determined to ensure that the Prime Minister’s family does not face any investigation. Neither the Prime Minister himself nor the PMLN leadership are willing to put the facts on the table about how his family managed such massive business-money transaction. The opposition parties, especially the Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaf, want to focus first on the financial activities of the Prime Minister’s family and then look into the affairs of others named in the Panama Leaks.

 The federal government’s strategy of going slow on the Panama Leaks and pursuing tough confrontation towards the opposition is based on three assumption. First, the diversified opposition will find it difficult to sustain their unity over an extended period, especially if the PMLN circles are able to exploit their mutual jealousies and leadership conflicts. The PMLN operational strategy is to let the controversy drag on rather than wind it up by opting for a quick solution. This delaying tactics is accompanied by a sharp criticism of what is described as the misdeeds of the opposition and how their leadership engaged in corruption in the past. This approach has intensified conflict between the two sides.

 Second, the government is hoping that the opposition activism will fizzle out in the month of Ramzan. By the time the month of Ramzan is over, the Panama Leaks would become part of history. The government therefore wants the three week of the month of Shabaan to pass without a major political incident. Third, a section of the PMLN is convinced the Army top brass do not have any pragmatic choice except raising the Panama issue with the Prime Minister whose support base in the Punjab limits the Army’s political clout to pressure the civilian government. If next two months are managed by the PMLN, the Army will enter the process of leadership transition.

 These are questionable assumptions. The issues raised in the communication of the Chief justice have restricted the options available to the Prime Minister. He cannot unilaterally establish a commission of inquiry on the basis of his terms of reference. He would have to bring the opposition on board. It seems that the inquiry will have to be limited to the Panama Leaks and the names of the people to be investigated will have to be listed. The federal government will find it difficult to put the names of the family of the prime minister in this list.

 The unnecessary delay in settling the Panama Leaks issue or killing time by engaging in fruitless polemics in the media would not help the PMLN. This strategy would hurt the government more than the opposition. It is the government that has to perform in governance and political management. The on-going controversies will adversely affect the civilian backup activities for the Zarb-e-Azb and the implementation of the National Action Plan. This will have negative implication for civilian-military relations. The military as a whole assigns the highest priority to countering terrorism, ending corruption and checking criminality. All this will be neglected if the Panama Leaks issue drags-on. There is another contentious issue for civilian-military relations. This pertains to the role of the Army and the paramilitary forces in the Punjab for dealing with the above issues.

 Instead of waiting for terms and conditions to come from the government, the Supreme Court should exercise its power to take up any matter on its own and examine the Panama Leaks and ask the political leaders to present information on the trail of their funding used in this process. They may be given one time immunity provided they disclose information voluntarily and pay the tax at a fixed rate for regularization of their funding. This would be a one-time special arrangement.

If there is no voluntary disclosure and the investigation proves the illegal money trail, the culprit needs to be treated in accordance with the existing laws or some new legislation. All this may require new legislation that can be done in consultation with the PMLN and other political parties.

 It will be advisable that the Prime Minister steps down from his office at the beginning of the inquiry and appoint some other person from his party to serve as the Prime Minister as a temporary arrangement.

 Such an investigation can be completed by the end of year. Early next year, 2017, new general elections should be held so that the new civilian government has a fresh mandate.

 The immunity can be questioned on ethical grounds. However, in order to settle this matter at the earliest and return Pakistani politics and governance to its normal routine such an action will be helpful. Otherwise the current crisis can persist for an indefinite period.

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Sorry, no sex-ed, please — we’re Canadians: Cohn

Posted on 18 May 2016 by admin

Straddling the divide between public policy and private parts, a Toronto school has found the middle way.

We take you now to Thorncliffe Park School — Ground Zero for the parental protests that erupted last year over modernization of a curriculum two decades out of date. Keen to ward off yet more class boycotts, the school’s principal has come up with a classic Canadian compromise: Sanitized sex education that covers up the explicit bits.

The school opted to excise any reference to penis and vagina for Grade 1 students whose parents couldn’t countenance such words.

Is this yet another example of “reasonable accommodation” gone awry, further evidence ofculture wars erupting around us? Or did an elementary school do the right thing for wrongheaded parents?

Let’s consider the first rule of sex education: Slow down, because in a world of relentless sexting and texting, we need more contexting.

All the evidence from other jurisdictions shows this curriculum was carefully thought through, not least the discussion of body parts for first graders. Teaching students anatomically correct terms — enabling them to accurately describe any inappropriate touching or sexual abuse by adults — benefits police and other investigating authorities trying to combat the scourge of child abuse.

Explicit references to body parts help students protect themselves from unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted illnesses. It’s important to explain human rights and homosexuality at the appropriate age, and for teachers to have answers when students ask about touchy matters like masturbation.

Persuading some parents of these facts is easier said than done. But even if you can’t win them over, finding a way to reach — and teach — students is the ultimate goal.

The most maddening and exasperating aspect of last year’s protests was the attempt by a minority of people — motivated by religion, culture or ideology — to impose their views on the vast majority of parents who support modern sex education for their children. The protesters argued, absurdly and selfishly, that if they disliked the sex-ed curriculum, everyone else’s children should also be deprived of that education.

It was an utterly anti-democratic example of the intolerance (and tyranny) of the minority imposing its unsupported views on everyone else — aided by some opposition Progressive Conservative MPPs and abetted by their current leader, Patrick Brown. What made their anti-sex-ed campaign even more objectionable was that their protests were so pointless — for the simple reason that anyone with a religious objection could easily opt out, taking their child out of class.

Don’t like it, don’t take it. But don’t take away my child’s right to a modern education.

Despite that opt-out option, hundreds of parents escalated their protests by withdrawing their children from all classes last spring (not just sex-ed instruction). Many of them also delayed enrolment in the public school system last September to ratchet up the pressure.

Against that backdrop of disruptive protests, Thorncliffe Park principal Jeff Crane undertook extensive consultations. He proposed an alternative class for those first graders whose parents refused to let them see or hear any explicit references to their anatomy — exposing them, at least, to the rest of the health and physical education curriculum.

Did he go too far in acquiescing to unreasonable demands?

In sex-ed, as in sex itself, the perfect is the enemy of the good. Compromise can be a good thing if it minimizes the harm that might come from depriving first graders of any sex-ed at all should their parents persist with boycotts.

The religious objectors had the right, under our existing system, to deprive their children of essential learning. Now, these students will at least benefit from the rest of the curriculum, notwithstanding their parents’ obstinacy.

That’s better than the alternative of an outright boycott. The key point is that all other students, in this school and across the province, will still get unexpurgated sex-ed classes that don’t dilute the overall curriculum.

A child’s interests should always come first. In this case, a principled principal at Thorncliffe Park has shown us that “reasonable accommodation” with unreasonable parents can produce a rational compromise that serves society.

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