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‘A painful step backwards’: Calls for appeal of intoxication ruling in Ontario echo throughout Canada

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TORONTO —
The provincial and federal New Democrats are calling for an appeal of a recent Ontario court ruling allowing people accused of sexual assault or other violent crimes to argue they were so intoxicated they did not know what they were doing, calling the law “a painful step backwards.”

“It is already incredibly difficult for survivors of sexual assault to come forward, and to get the justice they deserve for the heinous crimes committed against them,” NDP MPP Jill Andrew said in a statement.

“Anything that makes it even more difficult for survivors of sexual assault and violent crimes to get that justice is a painful step backwards.”

In her call for an appeal, the Official Opposition Women’s Issues critic stated her desire for a higher court to weigh in on “the impact this decision may have on the lives of women, trans women and sex workers, their bodies, and the justice they deserve after surviving sexual assault or violence.”

Andrew also created an online petition calling for support on the appeal, which has more than 165,000 signatures as of Friday afternoon.

NDP MP Lindsay Mathyssen echoed Andrew’s sentiment, stating that the decision “sends an incredibly dangerous message that men can avoid accountability for their acts of violence against women and children by using intoxication as a defence.”

“Violence disproportionately impacts women and girls in Canada, particularity those who are the most marginalized, including racialized and Indigenous women, as well as those living with disabilities,” she said.

“Many barriers for women and survivors of sexual assault to come forward already exist; now there are even more blocking them from getting justice.”

A decades-old law had banned an intoxication defence, but earlier this week, the Court of Appeal for Ontario passed a ruling declaring it unconstitutional for trampling on key rights of the accused.

The law was enacted by the federal government in 1995 amid backlash over a court ruling that recognized intoxication could be raised to defend against a charge of sexual assault.

In the wake of this week’s ruling, which stated that a person must act voluntarily to commit a crime, several women’s-rights activists spoke out and criticism was shared widely on social media.

The Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund said the decision “risks sending a dangerous message that men can avoid accountability for their acts of violence against women and children through intoxication.”

In response, a director with the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, Cara Zwibel, said she sympathizes with concerns raised, but added that the decision clarifies the legal situation around use of the intoxication defence.

“I don’t see it as seriously undermining the rights of victims,” she said. “This is a rarely used provision; it’s not this widespread, systemic concern.”

The law still leaves the onus on an accused to come up with expert and other evidence to provide they were in a state of automatism in order to raise the intoxication defence successfully, Zwibel said.

Mathyssen also stated that the NDPs are “exploring changes to the law that may be necessary to ensure that extreme intoxication not be used as a legitimate defence for harassment and assault.”

In an email response to CTV News Toronto, a spokesperson for the Ontario Ministry of the Attorney General said the decision is being “carefully reviewed.”

“As the matter is within the appeal period it would be inappropriate to comment,” Brian Gray said.

With files from The Canadian Press



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Salmon and smiles: 30,000 pounds of fish distributed in Whitehorse

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There were a lot of smiles and salmon in Whitehorse this week, as the Yukon First Nations Education Directorate gave away 30,000 pounds of free fish.

“We are very proud to give our First Nation families this donation,” said Kim Harper, an advocate with the Yukon First Nations Education Directorate, which is a body announced in April to exert unified control over First Nation education.

Volunteers are distributing 10,000 pounds of frozen wild chum salmon and 20,000 pounds of B.C. canned salmon as part of the organization’s rural nutrition program. The salmon is scheduled to be distributed all week at Takhini Arena until supplies run out.

People were particularly happy to receive the donation because salmon numbers on the Yukon River are well below historical average this year.

Volunteers are distributing 10,000 pounds of frozen wild chum salmon and 20,000 pounds of B.C. canned salmon. (Mike Rudyk/CBC)

Harper and her co-worker bagged some very large 15 to 20 pound whole frozen chum salmon.

“Some of them are really big,” said Harper. “It is a lot of work but we are loving every minute of it.”

The free fish brought a lot of excitement from appreciative parents and elders.

“‘I’m going to dig right into it right away … I just love salmon,” said Darlene Scurvey, who was picking up the free fish.

‘I’m going to dig right into it right away … I just love salmon,’ said Darlene Scurvey, picking up fish on Monday. (Mike Rudyk/CBC)

Yukon First Nations Education Directorate partnered with Second Harvest and Agriculture Canada Surplus Food Rescue Program to acquire the salmon.

It also worked with the Council of Yukon First Nations over the past year to create the Rural Nutritional Service Program through Jordan’s Principle, which provides nutritional food programs as well as many other programs for First Nation children across Canada.

Melanie Bennett, executive director of the Yukon First Nation Education Directorate, says the program provides food for schools, as well.

“With our children if they are coming to school and they are well fed, their family is healthy and happy, then we are going to be producing successful learners,” said Bennett.

All Whitehorse-based First Nation families with children are eligible to participate.

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Toronto school board hires 350 teachers in rush to meet demand for online classes

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TORONTO —
The Toronto District School Board has hired 350 new teachers as it scrambles to meet a rising demand for online learning that has resulted in some students being left without a classroom.

The TDSB had previously pushed back the start of online learning on two separate occasions due to higher than expected demand.

On Tuesday, virtual school finally began for many students, one week after those who opted for in-person instruction began to return to classrooms.

However, an unspecified number of elementary students logged on to the board’s online learning platform to find that they have not yet been assigned a teacher and will be expected to learn independently for the time being.

In an interview with CP24, TDSB spokesperson Ryan Bird said that the board has seen the enrollment for its online learning program balloon from 56,000 students just a few weeks ago to about 78,000 today.

He said that as a result the board has identified a need for 500 additional teachers.

Over the last 24 hours it has hired about 350 teachers off its supply list but more will have to be brought on board in the coming days in order to assign classrooms to the thousands of students that have not yet been assigned one.

“We need these teachers hired as soon as possible. I anticipate we will be able to whittle that number down even further today,” Bird told CP24. “We should have a better idea in a day or so as far as a more concrete timeline. We are aiming and hoping that we can get all our virtual classrooms up for this week but really we will have a better idea once we get those staffing numbers updated later on today and tomorrow.”

All parents that enrolled their child in the TDSB’s online learning program were asked to log into the remote learning platform Brightspace on Tuesday morning as scheduled but those students who have not yet been assigned a teacher were then redirected to some independent learning resources on the board’s website.

Bird said that while the board had hoped to have its virtual classrooms “fully up and running” in time for today, the sheer scale of the undertaking made that impossible.

“We have never done anything like this on this scale and I would argue probably haven’t done it in public education across Ontario or Canada to this level,” he said. “It takes some time and we understand that parents, staff and students are frustrated. We get that. But for the majority of students, they are learning today. Whether it is in person or online, a majority of students are learning today and we are aiming to get everyone else up and running by the end of the week as best as we can.”

The TDSB has said that a total of 60,000 students have been signed up for its online learning program at the elementary level and 18,000 at the secondary level.

A total of 2,200 teachers are required to fill all of the needed virtual classrooms at the elementary level.

With files from The Canadian Press

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Seneca joins collaborative national network supporting student mobility

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Toronto, Sept. 22, 2020 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Seneca has taken the next steps in its digital adoption strategy by joining Canada’s official credential wallet and national network led by the Association of Registrars of the Universities and Colleges of Canada (ARUCC). Called the ARUCC National Network, it provides students with the ability to access and share official, digitized transcripts, credentials, badges and microcredentials — anytime and anywhere.

Pioneered by ARUCC and powered by Digitary’s global digital credentials platform, the Network is unique in scope and moves Canadian higher education to the forefront of innovation by providing a trusted credential engine built for learners. By joining, Seneca will unite with other Canadian colleges and universities that have collaborated to create this national credential wallet and trusted, online document exchange platform.

The Network is the first of its kind in Canada and will provide three million learners nationwide with a secure, permission-based platform for accessing and sharing their official documents and credentials. The initiative supports student mobility as they transition into, between and beyond postsecondary institutions in Canada on their educational journey into the workplace. The Network also protects them, institutions and government from increasing document fraud. 

Other key features of the ARUCC National Network include:

  • 24-7 access for learners
  • bilingual service and support in French and English
  • ability for learners to access, view and share their verified and official transcripts, credentials, badges, microcredentials and documents in a digitized format
  • ability for Canadian postsecondary institutions and higher education partners to work together with the network to exchange official documents — with permission of the learner

“Providing secure, verified digital credentials to our students is incredibly important and hugely valuable in supporting them as they embark on their future employment,” said Sharon Kinasz, Seneca’s Registrar. “We are delighted to join the ARUCC National Network powered by Digitary as we embrace digital adoption and enhance our sustainability practices at Seneca. Our enhancing supports for our students, graduates and alumni demonstrate Seneca’s dedication to supporting the learner’s experience through innovative digitization.”

“We are thrilled to collaborate with Seneca and extend the benefits of trusted digital credentials through a secure, national platform — the very first of its kind for Canada,” said Joanne Duklas, ARUCC’s Executive Lead. “Our ultimate mission for the ARUCC National Network is to deliver a portable credential wallet to the three million postsecondary learners across Canada. Powered by Digitary technology, we are supported by global digital credentials experts who are skilled at implementing scalable, national solutions that make sense for students.”

“Digitary has always been learner-focused in everything that we do, and we strongly relate to ARUCC and Seneca’s mission to enhance the experience and digital capabilities offered to students. In providing effective digital solutions and verified academic credentials, we can support learners’ global mobility and their journey through employment,” said James Murray-Beckman, Digitary’s Chief Operating Officer. “We’re delighted to welcome Seneca to the ARUCC National Network powered by Digitary and will continue to support ARUCC and its partners to extend the digital capabilities to all learners across Canada.” 

About Seneca

Combining career and professional skills training with theoretical knowledge, Seneca provides a polytechnic education to 30,000 full-time and 60,000 part-time students. With campuses in Toronto, York Region and Peterborough and education partners around the world, Seneca offers degrees, graduate certificates, diplomas and certificates in more than 300 full-time, part-time and online programs, now most of them virtually. Seneca’s credentials are renowned for their quality and respected by employers. Co-op and work placements, applied research projects, entrepreneurial opportunities and the latest technology ensure that Seneca graduates are highly skilled and ready to work. Learn more about Seneca.

About the Association of Registrars of the Universities and Colleges of Canada (ARUCC)

ARUCC provides leadership in the post-secondary education field and service to its member institutions nationally and internationally, helping foster the advancement of registrarial practices and learner focused service delivery in Canada. Learn more about ARUCC.

About Digitary

Digitary was launched in Dublin, Ireland in 2005, and has grown to become a leading online platform for certifying, sharing, and verifying academic credentials. Learner-centric since the very start, Digitary enables millions of learners to share their verified academic achievements online, securely, quickly and easily. Digitary is now used by organizations in over 135 countries. Learn more about Digitary.

Caroline Grech
Seneca
media.relations@senecacollege.ca

Joanne Duklas
Association of Registrars of the Universities and Colleges of Canada (ARUCC)
info@aruccnationalnetwork.ca

Catherine Stanley
Digitary
catherine.stanley@digitary.net

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