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Jason Kenney and the Conservative Party of Alberta #fundie #sexist huffingtonpost.ca

EDMONTON — A bill that many worry will restrict Albertans’ access to abortion, LGBTQ health care and contraception passed the first reading in the province’s legislature Thursday.

United Conservative MLA Dan Williams, who represents Peace River, introduced the Conscience Rights (Health Care Providers) Protection Act, which aims to assert freedom of conscience and religion for health providers.

“Health care providers should never have to choose between their most deeply held beliefs and their job,” said Williams in a written statement released after the vote.

The private member’s bill would amend the Alberta Human Rights Act to include “conscientious beliefs” as a basis for protection from discrimination, or refusal of employment. Basically, doctors would be able to refuse treatments or referring patients for treatments they are “morally” opposed to. These could include things like abortions, gender-affirming surgery or even contraception.

It passed first reading with support along party lines, with 36 UCP MLAs in attendance in favour and all 15 NDP MLAs opposed. Now it will move to a standing committee.

Critics of the bill, including the opposition NDP, worry it’s a roundabout way of reopening the abortion debate, something UCP Premier Jason Kenney said he wouldn’t do.

“I can’t see this being anything other than another backdoor attempt to bring forward legislation specifically looking at abortion, reproductive services, perhaps questions around gender and diverse communities that are seeking treatment from medical doctors,” said NDP health critic David Shepherd Wednesday.

Doctors and nurses from across the province have also taken to social media to speak out against the bill.

In February, ahead of the provincial election, Kenney, a catholic, said his party “would not engage” in a debate around abortion.

“I’ve been clear about that,” the now-premier said at the time. “A United Conservative government will not address this issue, will not engage in this debate, will not initiate legislation.”

Despite this, Kenney’s UCP were heralded by anti-abortion advocates as potentially being one of the province’s “most pro-life” governments in history. As a Conservative MP under Stephen Harper, Kenney had a history of voting in favour of pro-life legislation and a motion in 2012 to explore whether a fetus was a human being before birth. That motion was defeated in the house.

Kenney has not commented publicly on Williams’s bill. Williams denies the private members’ bill is intended to curtail abortion and other services, but rather that it’s in response to an Appeal Court of Ontario ruling this spring.

Ontario’s high court found physicians who object on moral grounds to contentious issues like abortion must still offer patients an “effective referral” to another health provider.

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David Swinyar #racist huffingtonpost.ca

A Florida middle school teacher will keep his job after an investigation found he used a racial slur in front of students more than once and told them not to date black boys.

David Swinyar, a 48-year-old math teacher at Kernan Middle School in Duval County, has also been accused by students of belittling them, confronting them in a “physically aggressive manner” and yelling at them, according to an investigation conducted by the Duval County School District.

He will face a 10-day unpaid suspension after the investigation found merit to all the complaints.

In October of last year, while teaching his math class, Swinyar had a conversation with students about the word “fuck” after he overheard it in his classroom.

“If my daughter was dating someone who used the ‘f’ word, I wouldn’t have any respect for that n****r,” Swinyar said, according to the report.

In the same conversation about dating, Swinyar used the slur again.

“If your boyfriend says bad things to you and/or treats you wrong, that means that he’s acting like a n****r,” he said, per the report. “You all should not be dating all these different African Americans [sic] boys because they are not worth it.”

Two dozen students in his class acted as witnesses for the report, and most agreed they clearly heard Swinyar say the word. Students said they were shocked, with one saying he wanted to “go on a rampage” after hearing the epithet. Black students called out Swinyar’s behavior.

“I never said that, but if I did, I am sorry,” he allegedly told students.

Swinyar defended himself further by saying he attends a black church, but then laughed and began mocking black preachers, students said.

“He loves to talk about politics and Donald Trump,” one student told the investigator.

Students said Swinyar regularly berated them, yelling and calling them “idiots.”

“You are only enrolled in my class because you performed poorly on the standardized testing (FSA),” he allegedly told his class at one time.

One female student said she felt uncomfortable because the teacher allegedly “makes female students uncomfortable by staring at their breasts and other parts,” the report says.

After Swinyar used the racial slur during the October incident, a student in his class went to the school’s office to call his mother and tell her about what happened.

“Mr. Swinyar yelled at the student and called the student a liar,” the school’s office assistant told investigators. “He also snatched the phone away from the student.”

On Tuesday night, the Duval County School Board agreed to Swinyar’s 10-day suspension. Because of the “severity” of the incident, customary steps of issuing the teacher verbal and written reprimands were “skipped” in favor of the suspension, a spokesperson for Duval County Schools told HuffPost.

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Paula White #fundie huffingtonpost.ca

Paula White, a prosperity gospel preacher with close ties to President Donald Trump, is calling on followers to send her donations of up to one month’s salary. Those who don’t pay up could face “consequences” from God as he demands the dough as a “first fruits” offering.

“The reason is God lays claim to all firsts,” White wrote on her website. “So when you keep for yourself something that belongs to God you are desecrating what is to be consecrated to God.”

In this case, the “firsts” are money, which “supernaturally unlocks amazing opportunity, blessing, favor and divine order for your life.”

White, who is chairwoman of Trump’s evangelical advisory committee, claims she contributes a month’s pay every year as a “seed,” which according to prosperity gospel is supposed to grow into riches and other blessings. She’s also calling on others to contribute their own firsts, in the form of wages for a day, week or entire month:

When you honor this principle it provides the foundation and structure for God’s blessings and promises in your life, it unlocks deep dimensions of spiritual truths that literally transform your life! When you apply this everything comes in divine alignment for His plan and promises for you. When you don’t honor it, whether through ignorance or direct disobedience there are consequences.

While White said these firsts “belong to God and God alone,” she wants them sent to her in the form of offerings to her ministries.

White delivered a prayer at Trump’s inauguration, where she called on God to give the president “the confidence to lead us in justice and righteousness, and the compassion to yield to our better angels.”

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Aeman Ansari #racist huffingtonpost.ca

Last week The Ryersonian reported on an incident that involved two first-year journalism students who were turned away from an event organized by Racialized Students' Collective because they are white. Since then there has been a lot of commentary on the piece and a lot of debate -- a lot of the criticism is valid.

There are two sides to the story: 1) the media has a right to attend public events and report on matters that are in the public interest. The student media needs to cover initiatives that are happening on campus so that we draw attention to them and in turn create awareness (The Ryersonian reported that one student said he was covering the meeting for an assignment). 2) Marginalized groups have a right to claim spaces in the public realm where they can share stories about the discrimination they have faced without judgment and intrusion from anyone else.

I am a person of colour and a journalist and so there are two conflicting voices inside my head. But in this case one voice, that of a person of colour, is louder and my conscience does not allow me to be impartial. I have to take a side.

The organizers of the event, the Racialized Students' Collective, should have done a better job of labelling this event as a safe space on the Ryerson Students' Union online calendar. They should label safe spaces clearly and maybe even host events that educate the public on what they mean. Doing so will help the public and the media have a better understanding of the purpose and value of these spaces.

However, the point to note is not that two white students were asked to leave the event, but rather that this was a safe space and that we as a newsroom, as a campus and as a society are not as knowledgeable as we should be about what these spaces mean.

It's not just important, but it's essential, for marginalized groups to have safe spaces on campus to engage with people who understand what they go through. Though this group is funded by Ryerson's student union, it works to serve a particular group and a particular purpose. Many students at Ryerson have encountered racism in their life that is impossible to forget and many are exposed to discrimination on a daily basis. This group and these sort of events allow people of colour to lay bare their experiences and to collectively combat this societal ailment. These spaces are rare places in the world not controlled by individuals who have power, who have privilege.

These spaces, which are forums where minority groups are protected from mainstream stereotypes and marginalization, are crucial to resistance of oppression and we, as a school and as a society, need to respect them.

Earlier in the week a newsroom colleague and I went to an ad-hoc committee meeting on sexual assault policy. When we arrived we were told it was a safe space, and that we would not be able to report on anything that would be discussed in the meeting.

We understood the value of these sorts of events, where people can share their common struggles. Our understanding let us attend and contribute to the conversation, even if we couldn't report about it.
We understood the people there had a right to privacy. They had a right to collectively work through the challenges society had imposed on them. They had a right to claim parts of the campus, parts of the world, for a few hours in hopes of creating broader social change.

The two students who tried to enter the RSC meeting said that they were embarrassed when they were asked to leave and that the group was being counterproductive in sectioning themselves off. Similarly, some of the comments on the piece written about these students speaks to the idea that excluding certain people from these events, this dialogue, is encouraging racial tension. Their embarrassment isn't as important as the other issues involved here.

Segregation was imposed on people of colour by people of privilege, not the other way around. The very fact that individuals organizing to help each other get through social barriers and injustices are being attacked and questioned for their peaceful assembly is proof that they were right to exclude those students.

Racialized people experience systemic discrimination on a daily basis, on many levels, and in ways that white people may never encounter. The whole point of these safe spaces is to remove that power dynamic. That's partly what makes them spaces for healing.

The presence of any kind of privilege puts unnecessary pressure on the people of colour to defend any anger or frustrations they have, to fear the outcome of sharing their stories. The attendees are trying to move forward by supporting each other and they should not have to defend themselves, they should not fear the consequences of raising their voices.

Instead of focusing on why those students were asked to leave, we should be thinking about the history of oppression that makes these kinds of groups and these kinds of places so very important. We should be focusing on how to be aware and respectful of the rights of both the press and marginalized groups. We have to find a way to coexist peacefully.

The West has a history of oppressing people of colour: from Africans who were enslaved and brought to the New World, to native people whose land was stolen by Europeans. This kind of oppression is still witnessed today, in the way the black community is treated in the United States, in the state of African nations trying to recover from the collapse of the previous colonial rule, and in the continuing struggles of indigenous peoples.

White people may experience occasional and unacceptable prejudice, but not racism. They do not experience the systemic racism that makes it hard for them to find jobs, housing, health care and justice in the legal system.

Racism is not personal, it is structural. Unlike the arena of mainstream media, the educational system, religious institutions and judicial systems that reinforce hurtful stereotypes, these spaces remind the oppressed that they are human, that they deserve respect.

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Christopher J. Mills #fundie huffingtonpost.ca

[In the comments section to an article about Phil “Duck Dynasty” Robertson insulting atheists:]

While I strongly disagree with his example, his point is that God is the foundation of morality. You can say all you want "I don't need God to have morals", but the fact is any sense of moral right you have has its roots in God's standard of morality. Without God, there is no morality. Why is murder wrong? Because GOD has placed value on human life and declared it to be wrong. Without God, murder cannot be wrong.