5 Myths and Facts about Ontario’s Sex Ed Curriculum. Again.

It’s three years later, and here we go again with the Ontario sex ed curriculum. I’m getting too old for this….stuff. Thanks, Doug Ford.

Full disclosure: I’m kind of a curriculum geek. And a raging feminist. So naturally, the day the 2015 Ontario Health and Physical Education Curriculum (Elementary) was released, I spent hours going over it with a fine-toothed comb to generate a comprehensive précis made up of every single quote that had anything to do with the “sex ed” parts. If you want, you can read that here.

The next day, since misconceptions and misinformation about the curriculum were already flying around the internet, I wrote this article, which got a fair amount of play on The Huffington Post.

My goal was to address the main myths that were being put out and on which many people were basing their opinions. I disregarded my own rule and read the comments (and boy, did I feel disgusting afterwards), listed the 5 most common myths that were being shared and referenced, and discussed them. Read on….

Blurry images of the Ontario Health & PE curriculum document in the background. Text overlay reads "The sky is [not] falling! The 2015 Ontario Sex ed curriculum myths and facts."

The sky is [not] falling! Ontario Sex Ed Curriculum Myths and Facts

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This is what white privilege looks like.

So…this happened. The following video shows an altercation on a TTC subway train in which a middle aged white woman sits on the feet of a young black man. The man is listening to earphones and looking at his phone. At first it’s hard to see but it becomes apparent that he had been sitting with the balls of his feet braced against the seat in front of him when she sat on top of his forefeet, physically preventing him from moving them.

This video made me feel physically ill. You can hear his anger turn to fear when he finally pushes her off and realizes how this is going to play out, a black man versus a white woman. “I shouldn’t be having to touch a lady.” And her smugness in her privilege is utterly revolting. She SAT ON A STRANGER. She PUT her body ON TOP of his body and refused to move it. Justifying her actions as a lesson in manners. WHO DOES THAT?? WHO FUCKING DOES THAT?? The answer, of course is: Someone with the confidence borne of a lifetime of privilege and the sense of entitlement that goes along with does.

The feet on the seat isn’t the issue here. The issue is that the woman appointed herself the manners police and instigated a physical altercation, something she was confident she could do without suffering any consequences because her white privilege meant she had never experienced systemic racism – the kind of racism that sees black boys shot to death for walking at night in a hoodie while white boys can commit mass murder and be arrested unharmed. The black man on the other hand endured this humiliation for almost a minute before finally resorting to physical aggression – knowing, because the knowledge is drilled into black boys starting in early childhood, that if things got out of hand, HE would at best be the one held responsible; at worst, arrested or attacked. We have no way of knowing if she chose him for her “lesson” because of his race, but we do know from experience that because of his race the situation was far more dangerous for him than for her.

Screengrab from the video posted by Jay Shylo with the words "This is what White Privilege looks like" overlaid.

(Image description: Screengrab from the video posted by Jay Shylo with the words “This is what White Privilege looks like” overlaid by PicklesINK.)

Then there’s the reporting. Every news report about this incident has focused on the feet on the seat and his language. Apparently there’s a bylaw; This young man could have been fined $235 for putting his feet on an empty seat. Perhaps he would have preferred that to being physically and verbally scolded by some stranger on the subway. According to the headlines like those in The Toronto Star, GlobalTV, and CityNews, this was an “etiquette lesson gone awry,” although I probably would have gone with, “physical assault on a stranger.” And every article quotes the part where he finally pours out his righteous anger as expletives; not the first half where he calmly and repeatedly asks her to “get off me, please,” and she smugly replies, “No.”

According to TTC officials, the woman was correct to hit the emergency stop after he pushed her off, because *that’s* when it turned into a physical altercation. Newsflash, friends: It became a physical altercation when she EFFING SAT ON HIM. TTC spokesperson also said passengers should use the alarm when they feel their safety is at risk, which was clearly not the case here, as the women who instigated the assault followed her victim in an attempt to continue her harassment as he left. And yes, I said assault, referring to HERS on HIM. Of course, if it had even occurred to him to hit the panic strip initially, I sincerely doubt officials or popular opinion would have been quite so understanding of his reasons. As activist and blogger Tasheka Lavann asks, “Are we saying that if I decide to put my feet on a seat…another passenger has the right to enter my personal space, sit on my feet and refuse to move…that’s the justification I am seeing across social media for this latest RACIST act right here in Canada — the notion that, somehow, this young man deserved to be harassed and assaulted.”

Jay Shylo, who recorded the assault, said that most of the passengers on the train agreed the woman seemed to have instigated the situation, targeting this man when there were many empty seats as well as another passenger with his feet up (no report on his race or ethnicity, but I’d be willing to hazard a guess). Shylo said, “I think what ignited her was that (the male passenger) was answering back.” How dare he! A black man getting lippy with her when all she did was deliberately cross a half-empty subway car to SIT ON HIM. “Both were verbally abusing each other. It got petty.” Oh. *THAT’S* when it got petty. At least Shylo recorded the disturbing incident and posted it online so everyone could see what really happened; with the caption “Ride the Rocket it’s entertaining *shrugging and smiling emojis* I’m not surprised at all that this happened on public transit.” Because LOLZ!!

Whoops. Slipped into angry sarcasm mode for a minute. I’m back now.

Make no mistake: Everything about this encounter was influenced by race. And the other passengers just passively sat and watched. I’m hearing from a lot of my (white) friends that they didn’t see race in this encounter, and that’s understandable. We don’t have to pay attention to race because our white privilege affords us the comfort of being colourblind. Read Unpacking the Invisible Backpack by Peggy McIntosh for a really excellent primer on how white privilege affects you every day. But I assure you that for any person of colour, and especially for the young man in the video, it is at the top of their minds, especially when the woman pushed the panic strip, because for a young black man any interaction with the authorities can potentially be life or death.

So here’s my call to action: White folks, we’ve got a shit ton of privilege, and with that privilege comes awesome responsibility. When you see something like this happening, for gods’ sake, call it out. Press the effing emergency stop YOURSELF and then stick around to tell the truth. Don’t just sit there. Act. Tell the world this is NOT OKAY. Because that is what white privilege should look like.

~ karyn

This post has been edited on February 25, 2017 to add further discussion of the ways that systemic racism and white privilege contributed to the situation. No text was deleted.

Coffee – How Great Thou Art!!

In celebration of National Coffee Day (Who even knew that was a thing? Is it even a thing? Do I care whether or not it’s actually a thing? Let’s make it a thing, anyway!) I present my long-awaited (mostly by Ben) first post in forever:

O coffee beans, when I in awesome wonder consider all the works thy grounds hath made.

How Great Thou Art! #coffeehymn


Text reads:

O coffee beans, when I in awesome wonder
consider all the works thy grounds hath made.
I see the stars, I hear the mighty thunder,
thy power throughout the universe displayed.

Then sings my soul, my coffee beans, to thee,
How great thou art! How great thou art!
Then sings my soul, my coffee beans, to thee,
How great thou art! How great thou art!


Enjoy your coffee today, friends!! Unless you don’t like coffee in which case we can still be friends even though you confuse me.


~ karyn

The Raw Carrot is a Social Enterprise with a-Peel!

A carrot seed is a nondescript brown thing the size of the head of a pin; not something you would take a second look at. But plant it, give it some sun and water, and it will grow into a lush, feathery green plant hiding a thick orange root ready to nourish an animal or person.

carrot seed pack

PHOTO VIA THE COMMONS ON FLICKR HTTP://FLICKR.COM/COMMONS Image from page 81 of “H.W. Buckbee seed and plant guide : 1905” (1905)

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What Remembrance Day Meant to a WWII Veteran

I can think of no better way to commemorate this Remembrance Day than by giving you my late grandfather, William Guy Brissenden’s own words in a speech delivered to my cousin’s high school a number of years ago.

In his own words - What Remembrance Day Meant to a WWII Veteran www.picklesINK.com

Bill, in naval uniform, and Jean on their wedding day. ©Brissenden Family 2012

Good morning and thank you for your kind invitation to share with you this Remembrance Day, my 61st since the end of World War II.

What this day means to me, I will leave until later because first I want to share my World War II experiences with you.  I just hope that these experiences may help motivate each and every one of you towards getting the best possible education that you can, because only by doing so will you be able to make, in civilian life or in military life, should that regretfully ever become necessary again, your maximum contribution to society and your country.

When World War II started in the fall of 1939, I was 24 years old and had graduated from university a year earlier with my Masters Degree in Engineering.  I joined the Royal Canadian Navy in October 1940 as a Sub Lieutenant.  By this time in the war, the navy had found itself entering fields that were largely or totally unfamiliar.  The navy was compelled to employ specialists in many fields that were not immediately related to seamanship.  Most of these specialists were entered into a special branch as I was.

One of the critical challenges facing the Canadian, British and later American navies was to keep the sea lanes open from North America to England.  With out the men and material that were sent by ship from North America to England and Europe, it is very possible that the Allied nations would not have won the war against Nazi Germany.  In order for the supply ships to make it to England, the Allied navies had to defeat the threat of German submarines or U-Boats as they were known.  This battle against the German U-Boats became known as the Battle of the Atlantic.

Early in the war, the tactics and technology that eventually defeated the German U-Boats was in its infancy.  After my initial training at the Anti Submarine Warfare School, I was assigned to devise and build the Anti Submarine Fixed Defenses at the entrance to Halifax Harbour.  There were virtually no textbooks to learn from, most of the technology was unfamiliar to the navy and the project had to be completed as soon as possible.  It was to become a colossal undertaking.  As a boy living in Halifax during World War I, I lived through the famous Halifax Explosion, so I knew full well what a catastrophe it would be if a U-Boat managed to get into the harbour and attack the shipping there.

I was very fortunate to have a good team working with me and the system that we designed and built was fully operational by November 1941.  As a result, the Port of Halifax became the safe haven it was meant to be for transatlantic shipping.  Convoys on their way to and from Great Britain regularly formed in its inner harbour with supplies of all kinds, such as food, munitions and other Canadian and American material and of course troops.  Halifax also became the major repair base for Canadian warships.

During the rest of the war, I continued to help develop and build anti submarine defenses for other harbours in Canada and England and after transfer to Naval Service Headquarters helped co-ordinate the development of advanced anti submarine detection devices.  As the war continued we were able to improve our anti submarine tactics and technology to a point that the submarine threat was significantly reduced and ultimately the Battle of the Atlantic was won.

On a more personal level, Remembrance Day brings back memories of loved ones.  I like most Canadians at that time faced the loss of family members and close friends.  One of my brothers and one of my wife’s brothers did not return from the war.  Friends with whom I had worked before the war also made the ultimate sacrifice.   Over the past 61 years I look at what a wonderful country Canada has become and often think of the debt of honour all of us owe to these heroes that never returned home.

I retired from the navy at the end of the war as a Lieutenant Commander.  It was a privilege serving my country and I was glad I did, but I was thankful that it was over.  I was very proud that my education allowed me the opportunity to serve with so many special people and to make a significant contribution to the war effort.  I hope that my experience will encourage you to pursue your education, not only for your own benefit, but also for the benefit of our society and our country.

Thank you.

William Guy Brissenden, 1915-2012


How to talk to kids about the Syrian refugee crisis

Although the crisis in Syria has been building for a long time, it is the poignant and tragic photographs of children and families suffering and dying while fleeing from the danger in their home country that have finally brought the issue to the forefront of our public consciousness.

Images that some people find distasteful and others argue the world needs to see have scrolled across our computer screens and stared out of our newspaper boxes, presented without warning to adults and children alike: The photographs of tiny Alan Kurdi, drowned along with his mother and older brother, washed up on the shore of a Turkish beach resort, his limp body tenderly cradled in the arms of a Turkish soldier; the combined despair and relief etched on the face of a father cradling his children as he finally reaches shore in a slowly deflating boat; the shocking footage of a TV cameraperson deliberately tripping a refugee father and child as they flee, and the confusion and anger on the father’s face as he stares up her, wondering why.

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You’re never too young to be ashamed of your body – if you’re a girl!

Another day, another story about the sexualization of little girls…

You're never too young to be body-shamed if you're a girl - Another day, another story about the sexualization and body-shaming of young girls. www.picklesINK.com

You’re never too young to be body-shamed – if you’re a girl.

An impromptu family visit to a wading pool in a public park in Guelph, Ontario left an 8 year-old girl embarrassed and her parents angry when staff told her that, unlike her brothers, she could not be in the wading pool without a top.

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The (True) Tale of Peter Rabbit

The (True) Tale of Peter Rabbit


Who’s the Real Victim Here, Anyway?

There's nothing like a bunny in your vegetable garden to make you see the TRUTH in a classic children's story.

The (True) Tale of Peter Rabbit or Who’s the REAL Victim Here?

Once upon a time, there was a hard-working family man doing his best to make ends meet. Past what we now think of as retirement age, he nevertheless continued to work as hard as ever, cultivating vegetables to feed his family and supplementing his income with odd jobs here and there. His four children (two more died in infancy, as was common at the time) were grown and flown with families of their own, but gathered back at the homestead most Sundays after church for a family meal.

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I’ve got a new pronoun for you…

So…How ’bout that Caitlyn Jenner, eh?


She broke the internet by doing nothing more than being completely classy. Love it.

And yet there are people out there up in arms about pronouns. Teensy little bits of speech that can mean so much or so little, depending on what importance you and your society attach to them. Jeepers. What a thing to be on about!

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7 Things I Learned From Giving Team Sports Another Chance

So….this happened. Yesterday I played my first team sport in more than 20 years. The last time I took part in any sort of team sport was softball, age 13. My dad signed me up. I hated every minute of it and ended the season with the final strike-out of the final game (which my team lost).

Other significant sports-related memories in my life are:

  • in Grade 7 I made the soccer team! (because they didn’t cut anyone who tried out)
  • in Grade 5-6 I swam competitively, coming in dead last in every race ever except one. On that one occasion, I came first in my heat in the 50m breaststroke (in the only meet I can remember where they only awarded ribbons to the overall winners)
  • when I was 7, I got a BRONZE MEDAL in a ski race! (I “tied” for third. Out of four.)

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