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Newsstand: January 9, 2014

How about that weather, huh? It's so cold all my good jokes froze and I had to trot out this hackneyed bit! Now that's cold. In the news this morning: city council backs a 2.25 per cent property tax increase, more Project Traveller information will make its way into the media's hands, a York University student who refused to participate in a group project with women has led to a discussion about religious freedom versus gender equality, and a health-care-dealing bus is stalking the Toronto streets.

matt newsstand bikelane

City council’s budget committee approved a property tax increase of 2.25 per cent on Wednesday, flying in the face of Mayor Rob Ford’s vocal desire to keep the tax increase as low as possible—Ford advocated an increase of 1.75 per cent. While the budget committee has approved the capital and operating budgets for the coming year, both the executive committee and city council at large still have to approve them, and Ford told the CBC he “absolutely” hopes council will support his plan for a smaller tax increase. The 2.25 per cent increase would cost the average homeowner an extra $55 per year.

Crown attorneys have been ordered to provide to media outlets information gathered by police as part of Project Traveller, the year-long investigation that netted about 60 arrests last year and led to confirmation that Rob Ford has smoked crack. The documents must be released to the media by February 19; there is no guarantee the information will immediately make its way to the public, however, as that will have to await a ruling on whether or not the information should be made public.

After being told by higher-ups at York University to accept a student’s request not to work with female students, Professor Paul Grayson has taken the situation public. Grayson says a student in an online course emailed him saying, “It will not be possible for me to meet in public with a group of women (the majority of my group) to complete some of these tasks.” When Grayson asked for direction from his supervisors, he was told that he must respect the student’s religious freedom. Grayson responded that York is a secular university, and that the school is ostensibly dedicated “to the secular idea that all should be treated equally, independent of, for example, their religion or sex or race.” Grayson went over his dean’s head to get approval from his department, and while he may face disciplinary action, he says he is skeptical of the university taking him on.

Medical services like the Sherbourne Health Centre bus are desperately needed by the city’s poor, especially during the cold winter months. The bus takes volunteer nurses to shelters, warming centres, and other places where poorly served demographics are likely to be found, dispenses realistic medical advice and materials, and recommends a doctor’s visit for some people. There have been seven extreme cold weather warnings this winter, and one effect of people seeking refuge in shelters is that it makes the bus’s work harder: with people driven indoors, many of them are out of reach of the nurses.


  • andrew97

    About that York U student: the prof undermined himself by giving an exemption to another student who was out of the country. By law, since reasonable accommodation of the student’s beliefs was possible (the evidence being that it was granted to someone else), it must be granted to the student as a matter of non-discrimination — regardless of how weird or offensive the prof finds his religious beliefs. It’s worth pointing out that the York U human rights center found in favor of the student.

    And just one other note, the department reports to the dean, so the prof didn’t actually go over the dean’s head.

    • HotDang

      But doing schoolwork from out of the country doesn’t harm other students, while refusing to work in the same room as them does.

    • HotDang

      But working on school from another country doesn’t harm other students, refusing to work in the same room as them does. You can’t just consider the individual. It’s no longer right to make accommodations for beliefs once they start doing harm to others.

      • andrew97

        I’m not saying it’s right, I’m saying what the law is.

        • HotDang

          If you use a broad enough interpretation of harm, I agree. Freedom of expression isn’t worth anything if you can’t offend.

          But I was meaning harm in a more narrow sense. By refusing to work near someone you are denying their equality. That’s a lot worse than causing a traffic jam.

          • andrew97

            Given the choice between sharing a class with a religious asshole who refuses to interact with you, or waiting an extra 30 minutes for an ambulance while you’re suffering an active heart attack, would you choose the latter?

          • HotDang


          • andrew97

            OK … if we’re ever both waiting for an ambulance, I call dibs on the first one.

    • dsmithhfx

      Some freedoms trump others, for example freedom against medieval bigotry (of whatever religion; they all seem to have their adherents).

      There are places for the truly devout. Not in Canada.

      • andrew97

        That one’s not in the charter.

  • KRoberts

    So what job options are available to someone who refuses to work with women in Canada these days?

    • Casey Boudreau

      The Maple Leafs. Can you skate?