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LGBTQ students allege mistreatment, want change at Saskatchewan Bible college

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REGINA — Jordan McGillicky says she was devoted to sports and her studies at a private Saskatchewan college but eventually felt driven away from the school because of her sexuality.

She enrolled two years ago at Briercrest College and Seminary, an evangelical Bible college in Caronport, an hour east of her hometown of Regina. The college grew in prominence in 2013 after former Saskatchewan premier Brad Wall, who has spoken at the school’s chapel, gave it the right to grant university degrees, helping it attract students from across the country.

McGillicky didn’t grow up in a religious home, but Briercrest was running sports programs during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I was not expecting what happened to me next, because it’s advertised as such an open place,” she said, noting the school’s student code of conduct asks students to show respect for homosexuals.

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“It’s not.”

McGillicky was hired as a resident adviser at the school, but said she was fired earlier this year after peers dug up photos of her and her then-girlfriend on social media and outed McGillicky as bisexual.

McGillicky said she has no documents showing why she was fired and the school did not respond to a question about the reason she lost the job.

“I was told either choose between $500 a semester (as a resident adviser) or … your potential soulmate, your potential wife,” said McGillicky.

“I said no, because I didn’t see it as fair.”

The Canadian Press interviewed eight former LGBTQ students from across Canada who attended the college over the last two decades. They said they experienced homophobia, abuse and discrimination that left them fearful and vulnerable.

They said they are speaking out because they’re concerned for current students at the college and want changes or the school defunded. Briercrest receives funding from the province and was given $250,000 for this school year.

One student said she was struggling with her sexuality and feeling suicidal and that a counsellor told her to pray it away. Another said a professor wrote a derogatory word on a white board in class to describe homosexuals. Others said speakers were brought in to teach them how to deny their sexuality, and they were encouraged to marry a person of their opposite sex.

Details of the allegations were put to Michael Pawelke, president of Briercrest. He declined to address thembecause of privacy reasons and because The Canadian Press did not provide in advance the names of the former students interviewed.

Pawelke also did not respond to a question about a 2019 school address in which he compared sex outside of heterosexual marriage to intercourse with animals, robots and corpses.

“It’s a departure of the ideal. It’s the truth we need to embrace,” Pawelke said in a video of the address posted on the school’s YouTube channel.

Pawelke said in an email to The Canadian Press that the school has clear statements on its stance on sexuality and does not promote sexual activities outside monogamous, heterosexual marriage.

The student conduct code also references a Bible verse saying those who practise homosexuality will never inherit the kingdom of God.

“By law, we have the freedom of religion. We are transparent about who we are and what we believe. Students attend voluntarily,” Pawelke said in the email.

Like McGillicky, several students said they were outed after peers or faculty disclosed their sexual orientation to others without permission, resulting in bullying and alienation from their religion, family and friends.

Some students said they were invited to professors’ homes for dinner, where the conversation topic was their sexuality. Others said they experienced or witnessed conversion therapy under the description of “counselling.”

Conversion therapy attempts to change a person’s sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression. Pawelke said Briercrest offers voluntary counselling anddoes not practice conversion therapy.

Ben Ross, who attended Briercrest between 2006 and 2010, said he was outed as gay at the town’s post office, then assigned a paper at school.

“I had to write an essay on why I don’t believe being gay is right, how I denounce all of it. And basically if I didn’t do that, I wouldn’t (be able to) graduate,” Ross said from his home in Nova Scotia. He said he threw out the essay years ago, but his account was corroborated by a friend.

Some of the former students, including Ross, said they are now getting therapyfor religious trauma.

Lauren Jordan, who attended the school between 2013 and 2015, came out to one of her professors. She was told she couldn’t graduate if she was gay and was encouraged to seek therapy, she said.

Jordan left the college instead.

“The fear still stays with me. The loss of relationships really stays with me. That trauma is not going to go away, but I certainly have come to terms with who I am and I am proud of who I am,” Jordan said from her home in Barrie, Ont.

Documents and emails obtained by The Canadian Press show the Saskatchewan Party government was aware of alleged discrimination at the school after former student Jodi Hartung of Saskatoon raised concerns in 2015 with Pawelke and other officials.

In a letter to the government, Hartung said she was concerned and that some LGBTQ students were self-harming and had tried to commit suicide. She said she sent the letter after she was contacted “at an alarming rate” by students who felt unsafe on campus.

“I didn’t have an inkling that I was gay until I was 20 years old,” Hartung said in an interview. “And at that point, I’m already halfway through my degree, heavily involved in the community and loved it there.

“You can’t just say, ‘Hey, if you’re queer, don’t go there.’ Because you’re undermining the experience of figuring out your sexuality and the journey that a lot of queer people are going on.”

Her complaints landed on the desk of Premier Scott Moe, who was advanced education minister at the time. He asked an independent provincial college oversight board to investigate.

The board recommended institutions have policies and practices to ensure they meet obligations under the Saskatchewan Human Rights Code and the Saskatchewan Employment Act. It also recommended institutions be required to ensure students are informed of their rights and responsibilities.

In 2019, several advanced education ministers after Moe, the government rejected those recommendations.

“It wasn’t felt at the time we needed to do anything, given (post-secondary schools’) requirement to comply with provincial legislation, particularly the human rights code,” Minister of Advanced Education Gord Wyant saidin an interview.

The government said it did adopt a recommendation that it write a letter to Briercrest and the complainant outlining the board’s investigation.

Moe was not made available for an interview.

Pawelkesaid Briercrest has policies that address harassment, sexual misconduct, sexual assault and complaints.

“We have been following our policies and keeping them current … we have and will continue to co-operate with our accreditors and external partners.”

Hartung said she tried to get help years ago from the college, but no changes were made.

She is still hoping that can happen.

“You either have to hate yourself or know that everybody around you hates you,” Hartung said. “Often it’s a combination of both. That’s obviously horrific to your formation as a human.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 8, 2022.

 

Mickey Djuric, The Canadian Press

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Canadian team discovers power-draining flaw in most laptop and phone batteries – CBC.ca

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The phone, tablet or laptop you’re reading this on is likely having its battery slowly drained because of a surprising and widespread manufacturing flaw, according to researchers in Halifax.

“This is something that is totally unexpected and something that probably no one thought of,” said Michael Metzger, an assistant professor at Dalhousie University. 

The problem? Tiny pieces of tape that hold the battery components together are made from the wrong type of plastic.

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Batteries release power because of a chemical reaction. Inside each battery cell, there are two types of metal. One acts as a positive electrode and one as a negative electrode. 

These electrodes are held in an electrolyte fluid or paste that is often a form of lithium. 

When you connect cables to each end of the battery, electrons flow through the cables — providing power to light bulbs, laptops, or whatever else is on the circuit — and return to the battery. 

Trouble starts if those electrons don’t follow the cables.

When electrons move from one charged side of the battery to the other through the electrolyte fluid, it’s called self-discharge. The battery is being depleted internally without sending out electrical current.

This is the reason why devices that are fully charged can slowly lose their charge while they’re turned off.

“These days, batteries are very good,” Metzger said. “But, like with any product, you want it perfected. And you want to eliminate even small rates of self-discharge.”

Stress-testing batteries

In the search for the perfect battery, researchers have to watch how each one performs over its full lifespan.

“We do a lot of our tests at elevated temperatures these days. We want to be able to do testing in reasonable time frames,” Metzger said. Heat makes a battery degrade more quickly, he explained.

Different number readings are seen on a battery testing device that's a black box with six dials.
Some of the testing equipment used to regulate the temperature of each experiment. The coloured numbers indicate the temperature of each heated compartment in which battery cells are being tested. (Brett Ruskin/CBC)

At Dalhousie University’s battery lab, dozens of experimental battery cells are being charged and discharged again and again, in environments as hot as 85 C. 

For comparison, eggs fry at around 70 C. 

If researchers can learn why a battery eventually fails, they can tweak the positive electrode, negative electrode, or electrolyte fluid.

Seeing red

During one of these tests, the clear electrolyte fluid turned bright red. The team was puzzled.

It isn’t supposed to do that, according to Metzger. “A battery’s a closed system,” he said.

Something new had been created inside the battery.

They did a chemical analysis of the red substance and found it was dimethyl terephthalate (DMT). It’s a substance that shuttles electrons within the battery, rather than having them flow outside through cables and generate electricity. 

Shuttling electrons internally depletes the battery’s charge, even if it isn’t connected to a circuit or electrical device.

But if a battery is sealed by the manufacturer, where did the DMT come from?

Through the chemical analysis, the team realized that DMT has a similar structure to another molecule: polyethylene terephthalate (PET). 

PET is a type of plastic used in household items like water bottles, food containers and synthetic carpets. But what was plastic doing inside the battery? 

Tale of the tape 

Piece by piece, the team analyzed the battery components. They realized that the thin strips of metal and insulation coiled tightly inside the casing were held together with tape.

Those small segments of tape were made of PET — the type of plastic that had been causing the electrolyte fluid to turn red, and self-discharge the battery. 

A piece of metallic tape sits on a wooden table.
One of the metallic sheets removed from a coil inside a cylindrical battery. Each layer of the coil is held in place by plastic tape, shown here as the greenish strips. (Brett Ruskin/CBC)

“A lot of companies use PET tape,” said Metzger. “That’s why it was a quite important discovery, this realization that this tape is actually not inert.”

Tech industry takes notice

Metzger and the team began sharing their discovery publicly in November 2022, in publications and at seminars.

Some of the world’s largest computer-hardware companies and electric-vehicle manufacturers were very interested.

“A lot of the companies made clear that this is very relevant to them,” Metzger said. “They want to make changes to these components in their battery cells because, of course, they want to avoid self-discharge.”

The team even proposed a solution to the problem: use a slightly more expensive, but also more stable, plastic compound.

A man in a plaid shirt walks through a room full of battery technology.
Metzger walks through one of the battery-testing laboratories at Dalhousie University. (Brett Ruskin/CBC)

One option is polypropylene, which is typically used to make more durable plastic items like outdoor furniture or reusable water bottles. 

“We realized that it [polypropylene] doesn’t easily decompose like PET, and doesn’t form these unwanted molecules,” Metzger said. “So currently, we have very encouraging results that the self-discharges are truly eliminated by moving away from this PET tape.”

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U.S. escalates trade concerns over Canada's online news and streaming bills – The Globe and Mail

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U.S. President Joe Biden and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau arrive for a joint news conference at the conclusion of the North American Leaders’ Summit in Mexico City, Mexico on Jan. 10.KEVIN LAMARQUE/Reuters

Washington has escalated its concerns about the trade implications of Ottawa’s online streaming and online news bills, prompting a legal expert to predict the issue will be raised during President Joe Biden’s planned visit to Canada in March.

Deputy United States trade representative Jayme White stressed “ongoing concerns” about the two Canadian bills at a meeting last week with Rob Stewart, Canada’s deputy minister for international trade.

Senior Democrat and Republican senators on the influential U.S. Senate finance committee also weighed in last week, writing a letter to U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai about Canada’s “troubling policies,” which they said target U.S technology companies.

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Both bills are making their way through Canada’s Parliament. Bill C-11 reached a third-reading debate in the Senate on Tuesday.

The U.S. is concerned that the two bills unfairly single out American firms, including Google, Facebook and Netflix.

Bill C-11 would update Canada’s broadcast laws, giving the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) the power to regulate streaming platforms such as Netflix, YouTube, Amazon Prime and Spotify.

The streaming platforms would have to promote Canadian content – including films, TV shows, music and music videos – and fund its creation.

Bill C-18 would force Google and Facebook to strike deals with news organizations, including broadcasters, to compensate them for using their work. The CRTC would have a role in overseeing the process.

Two sources told The Globe and Mail that the CRTC’s lack of experience regulating print media and digital platforms was raised by Ms. Tai and her team in previous talks with Canada’s Trade Minister, Mary Ng. The Globe is not naming the sources because they were not authorized to speak publicly on the issue.

A U.S. readout of Mr. White’s meeting with Mr. Stewart said the American official had “expressed the United States’ ongoing concerns with … pending legislation in the Canadian Parliament that could impact digital streaming services and online news sharing and discriminate against U.S. businesses.”

Shanti Cosentino, a spokeswoman for Ms. Ng, said the Minister “has reiterated to Ambassador Tai that both Bill C-11 and C-18 are in line with our trade obligations and do not discriminate against U.S. businesses.”

Last week, Democrat Ron Wyden, chairman of the U.S. Senate committee on finance, and Republican Michael Crapo, a senior member of the committee, raised concerns in a letter to Ms. Tai that the bills could breach the terms of the United-States-Mexico-Canada Trade Agreement (USMCA).

Michael Geist, the University of Ottawa’s Canada Research Chair in internet law, said the intervention from both parties means it is now likely the issue will be on the agenda when Mr. Biden visits Canada.

“To see this raised in a bipartisan manner by two U.S. Senators from the powerful finance committee suggests that the issue is gaining traction in Congress,” he said.

The senators urged Ms. Tai to take enforcement action if Canada fails to meet its trade obligations.

Their letter said the online streaming bill would “mandate preferential treatment for Canadian content and deprive U.S. creatives of the North American market, access they were promised under USMCA.”

It added that Bill C-18 “targets U.S. companies for the benefit of Canadian news producers and raises national treatment concerns under USMCA.”

But Toronto-based trade lawyer and former diplomat Lawrence Herman, founder of Herman and Associates, said the U.S. politicians’ intervention is “a reflection of a well-orchestrated lobbying effort by the major digital platforms.”

He said there is no evidence that either bill discriminates against American companies.

“Canada is well armed to defend any trade complaint,” he said.

On Thursday, as Canada’s Senate debated Bill C-11 at third reading, Senator Dennis Dawson, sponsor of the bill in the Senate, said the legislation has been thoroughly scrutinized and should now be passed.

The Senate was due to begin debating C-18 this week. But that could now be delayed because of an error in the printed text of the bill sent over from the Commons, the Speaker of the Senate said.

The incorrect text included a sub-amendment that had not actually passed in a Commons committee. It will now have to be pulped and reprinted.

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Racism: Examining Injustices of Canadian Society

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Racism Can be Prevented in Canada

As the Canadian government works to create a more inclusive and just society, racism remains an issue that needs to be addressed. Racial discrimination, both conscious and unconscious, continues to be a problem throughout the country, resulting in the exclusion and marginalization of certain groups. Let’s look at why racism is still prevalent in Canada and what can be done to combat it.

 

The Root Causes of Racism in Canada

Racism is a systemic and deeply rooted problem in Canada that has been perpetuated through laws, policies, and practices for centuries. Every day, Canadians are confronted with the effects of racism in their lives, whether it’s seen in the workplace, at school, or even within our own homes. In order to understand how racism has become so pervasive in our society and what we can do to combat it, we must first examine its root causes.

Racism is embedded into Canadian society largely due to the historical legacy of colonialism. Through colonization, Europeans sought power and control over other nations while systematically stripping them of their culture and identity.

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This resulted in a system of dominance and privilege that was heavily skewed toward white people while creating oppressive conditions for Indigenous peoples and people of colour.

As a result, many societal systems have been built on this foundation of inequality—from education to employment to housing—which has only served to further entrench racism into our society.

Discrimination is another major factor that contributes to racism in Canada. Systemic discrimination occurs when certain groups are disproportionately denied access to resources or opportunities because of their identity or perceived differences.

For example, people who are racialized often face systemic discrimination when it comes to employment; according to Statistics Canada, unemployment rates for racialized individuals were more than double those for non-racialized individuals as recently as 2018.

Similarly, Indigenous women experience higher levels of poverty than any other group in Canada due to systemic discrimination that prevents them from accessing education and employment opportunities.

Finally, institutional prejudice plays a significant role in perpetuating racism in Canada. Institutional prejudice refers to the biases that exist within institutions such as schools or workplaces which favour certain groups over others based on race or ethnicity.

These biases may be subtle or overt, but they have powerful consequences; research shows that students who identified as visible minorities are more likely to get suspended from their school than their white peers due to implicit biases held by teachers and administrators against these students’ racial backgrounds.

Similarly, workers who are racialized may be passed over for promotions despite being better qualified than their white counterparts due to underlying prejudices against them.

 

How Racism Impacts People

Racism can have significant impacts on individuals’ mental health, education outcomes, employment opportunities, access to resources such as healthcare services, and overall quality of life.

For example, studies have found that racial bias affects hiring decisions even when employers are unaware of their own biases. Additionally, people from minority backgrounds often experience discrimination when trying to access housing or healthcare services due to implicit biases held by service providers or institutions.

These experiences of exclusion can lead to feelings of frustration and helplessness among those impacted by racism.

 

What Can Be Done?

In order for us as a society to address the impacts of racism on individuals and communities across Canada, there must be an acknowledgement that racism exists and an openness towards taking actionable steps towards addressing it.

To do so effectively requires collaboration between different levels of government as well as with organizations advocating for social justice initiatives such as anti-racism campaigns.

Efforts should also include educational initiatives aimed at increasing awareness about systemic forms of racism as well as providing tools for individuals looking to challenge discriminatory behaviour within their own circles or workplaces.

 

Summary

Racism is still pervasive in Canada despite the efforts taken by many individuals and organizations towards creating a more equitable society free from discrimination based on race or ethnicity.

In order to address this issue effectively, we need widespread collaboration between different levels of government along with education initiatives aimed at increasing awareness around systemic forms of racism while also providing individuals with tools necessary for challenging discrimination where they see it occurring.

With everyone working together, we can create a brighter future free from bigotry and prejudice for all Canadians, regardless of their background or identity.

 

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