Celebrating Inclusive Education

Yes I canOn Thursday, February 19th, 7 pm at the Victoria Inn in Winnipeg  Manitoba Council for Exceptional Children celebrates students, families, educators and community at the Yes I Can!! awards.

The Yes I Can Awards celebrates those individuals who are making a difference in the education of students and children but more importantly recognizes the accomplishments of the students themselves and the incredible differences they have made in their own lives and often in the lives of others.

Manitoba Minister of Education, Peter Bjornson has proclaimed the month of February as ‘Inclusive Education Month.‘ Minister Bjornson has been and continues to be a committed supporter of creating Inclusive classrooms, schools and of celebrating the successes of students at the ‘Yes I Can Awards’.

Yes I Can Awards 2014

Yes I Can Awards 2014

In 2014 over 500 people attended the Yes I Can Awards with many students receiving International Yes I Can Awards nominations.

This year marks the 25th Anniversary of the Yes I Can Awards. The awards ceremony will once again be hosted by the always humourous Glen Cassie. This years ceremony will be opened by a girl’s drumming group from Knowles Centre called ‘Four Direction Singers’.

The 2015 Yes I Can Awards will celebrate the achievement of students and educators from across Manitoba.

The MCEC Yes I Can! Awards are presented to exceptional children and/or youth to recognize their achievements in the following categories:

Academics; Arts; Athletics; School and Community Activities; Self-Advocacy; Technology; and Transition.

The MCEC Yes I Can! Awards also recognize the achievements of those that assist in making Inclusion possible. The areas recognized are:

Teaching, Leadership, Certificate’s of Recognition, Outstanding Achievement, Outstanding Educator, Teacher of the Year and Educator of the Year.

The MCEC Yes I Can! Awards also provides scholarships:

MCEC awards Transition Scholarships to encourage life-long learning of individuals with exceptionalities and Academic Scholarships to encourage and support the future of education for students working with exceptionalities. Scholarships are funded by MCEC from proceeds from the annual conference and through donations to the Winnipeg Foundation. The Winnipeg Foundation manages the Morris and Yale Hirsch Memorial Scholarship fund and the Winn Thompson Fund, both of which assist MCEC in funding these scholarships.

Please mark your calendars and attend the 25th Annual Yes I Can Awards at 7:00 pm at the Victoria Inn in Winnipeg Manitoba. The Yes I Can Awards will be an evening that will touch your heart and provide inspiration that anything is possible if you put your mind to it.




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Jane Jacobs: How not to wreck cities


Interesting Article about cities and ideas how to make them better as well as what doesn’t work

Originally posted on Christopher Leo:

My favourite writer about cities, and a favourite of generations of my students, is Jane Jacobs, a sharp-tongued critic whose polemics were grounded in a strongly positive view of cities. She wrote her best-known book, The death and life of great American cities, when she was a New Yorker, but within a few years she had moved to Toronto, where she spent the rest of her life.

She loved cities and thought that the preservation of their livability and attractiveness was a key to the well-being of society as a whole. It’s central to Jacobs’s concept of cities that they are natural, that they grow organically out of the ways people choose to interact with each other.

As a result, in Death and life, she was scornful of the visions of planners and architects who wanted to create buildings, neighbourhoods, and parks in response to their ideas of…

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Blog: Saturday night in Paris

This gallery contains 9 photos.

Originally posted on Global News:
PARIS — It’s Saturday night in Paris. The city, as always, is elegant. But this weekend the mood is quiet and reflective. The streets are somber and glisten with headlights in the drizzle. For the…

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childrenIn Manitoba as teachers we stand for Inclusion. A place where not only children can be safe, valued and accepted, but everyone. As a teacher that is what we are supposed to stand for when we are at school. We have an obligation as teachers to work towards creating learning environments where every child can be successful. With the diverse needs in our classrooms, in our schools that is certainly a daunting task and standard to be held accountable to. It is however one of the standards a successful school is held to.

Do we stand for the same things 24/7?

Are we role models inside and outside of our classrooms?

Manitoba Teacher’s Society President was quoted recently as saying “Teachers are Teachers 24 Hours a Day.” He went on to talk about how as professionals we are held up to a higher standard when it comes to what we do and say at school as well as after school. Manitoba Teacher’s Society President went on to say that ‘Teaching is not what I do, but who I am.

If we are teachers 24/7 what does that require our societal role to be outside of our classrooms?

I agree with our MTS President that we are teachers 24/7. This means as ‘Teachers’ as well as an effective Manitoba Teacher’s Society we then have an obligation to advocate for the rights of children whose voices are either not heard or ignored. Every day we as teachers work closely with children, families and communities and get to witness first hand their struggles as poverty amongst children and families continues to grow. Child Poverty is having a devastating effect that is impacting children in and outside our classrooms. We also witness first hand children and youth and the negative effects of many aspects of social media from cyber-bullying to the exploitation of children through child pornography. We also recognize that even though the policy of ‘Corporal Punishment’ was banned in Manitoba in 2004; in practice uncommon long before that; we still have a society where too many people believe it is okay, it is their right to use physical means to punish children. This despite all the evidence to the contrary and that it harms rather than helps.


We as teachers need to have a voice that supports children and families 24/7. We as teachers need to promote a society where every person is safe, valued and accepted. We need to advocate for the human rights of all people. We need to help create societies that strive to be inclusive of every individual not only in school, but in our communities.

We shouldn’t be afraid to have our voices heard but rather make sure our words and actions support our belief of building inclusive classrooms, schools and communities. We need to advocate for a society built on human rights as the cornerstone for all government policies. It is one of the reasons I am proud of the fact as teachers as the Manitoba Teacher’s Society we so actively supported the building of the Canadian Human Rights Museum as it put our words into action.

Being a teacher 24/7 can at times seem like a tremendous responsibility and it is. However, there never has been a time in my career as an educator where children and families needed our voices more.


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Calling all Fathers: Taking Action in 2015

sitting bullIf the events of 2014 have taught us anything it is that our children are in need of our help to keep them safe, valued and accepted. It doesn’t matter where you live, the news in 2014 have been inundated with previously unthinkable crimes against children.

The year 2014 marked the 25th Anniversary of Canada’s commitment to end child poverty. However rather than see the end of child poverty we have seen unprecedented numbers of children and families living in poverty. Here in Manitoba the numbers are twice the national average. It is time we gave a voice to the voiceless.

Gandhi called poverty “the worst form of violence.”  Indeed, it is not uncommon to hear how poverty beats people up, beats them down, oppresses, enslaves, poisons, erodes self-worth, defeats.

We need to call on fathers, mothers, grandfathers, grandmothers, brothers, sisters on all our voices to demand a commitment from everyone to at long last put an end to child poverty. Demand that we as a society and governments at all levels meet our responsibilities to provide children access to shelter, food, freedom from violence, health and education.

stopThe year 2014 also saw headlines locally and globally of children being victimized through Cyberbullying and Child Pornography. Many of the perpetrators of this crimes are in positions of influence or in charge of protecting children. It has become harder to keep our children safe from those individuals who target and take advantage of our most vulnerable citizens. We as a society must come to terms with our desire for individual freedoms at the expense of protecting our children against unspeakable crimes. These crimes against children are preventable. We have the technology to protect our children. The question is: Do we have the will? The political will? We need all our voices to have lawmakers and society create an environment where reporting these crimes is viewed as positive. Where we are no longer bystanders to the violence against children but take an active role in creating an Internet free of violence and exploitation against children and woman.

help meThe year 2014 also saw a Ferry Captain abandon his ship but more importantly his passengers (mostly children). The Captain and his crew left those in their care to perish off the coast of South Korea. We were witness to the more than 200 Nigerian Girls kidnapped and brought into slavery. The #Bring Back our Girls campaign brought our voices to this tragedy but the girls still remain captive. In November CBS News reported, “Imagine the worst and it has happened.” A new report by the United Nations Children Fund estimate that over 15 million children are caught up in armed conflicts. A December article in the editorial section of the Register-Guard called “2014: A bad year for kids” discusses the numerous conflicts world-wide affecting children. We often do our best to ignore or think these atrocities as we say to ourselves they are not close to home or it couldn’t happen here but it is time we call for action not only locally but globally.

The face of war has also seemed to change. There has always been a risk that children would fall victim to the violence of war. The term used to be referred to as collateral damage. However recent incidents indicate that children and schools are being targeted by terrorists. In Pakistan an attack on a school by the Taliban resulted in 141 people dead with 132 of them being children. The Taliban indicate this was in retaliation to bombings earlier in the year that killed innocent children in their communities. It is hard to imagine at any time for any reason, any society or individual committing acts of violence against children.

‘The images are absolutely gut-wrenching: young children carried away in ambulances, a teacher burned alive in front of the students, a house of learning turned into a house of unspeakable horror.’

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry

The Pakistani Taliban killed 141 people, including 132 children, in an attack on an army run school in Peshawar, a city in the country’s north-west. The attack was the deadliest in Pakistan’s history.

It would be easy for us to ignore the data that indicates there are currently almost 30 million people living in slavery, many of them children. When we think about data like this we often think this is a third world problem. It is not happening here. In the report it indicates that there are over 60, 000 people in the United States living in slavery. This does not include those people who suffer in poverty which in its own way enslaves people. In an article in the Washington Post:

We think of slavery as a practice of the past, an image from Roman colonies or 18th-century American plantations, but the practice of enslaving human beings as property still exists. There are 29.8 million people living as slaves right now, according to a comprehensive new report  issued by the Australia-based Walk Free Foundation.

Closer to Canada we have recently had an RCMP report about “Missing and Murdered Aboriginal Woman” that not only points out the high number of missing and murdered aboriginal woman but of woman generally. We have unspeakable acts of violence be committed against the mothers of our children and we can not remain silent in protecting all women.

In one of my previous blogs called “Bystanders to Violence and Neglect” I discuss the still unsolved murder of Tina Fontaine that brought outrage to all of Winnipeg. The murder of this young fifteen year-old girl brought light to the often poor services provided to our most vulnerable citizens, be it through Child and Family Services, the Police or in our local communities. Then of course yesterday in Edmonton we have two more children murdered as part of eight people murdered in what is initially reported as a domestic dispute. 2014 has been certainly a difficult year for children.


Let us do more however than just remember these tragedies, make them a part of our history or an archive to the year of 2014. Let them serve as a call to action. A call to fathers, mothers, grandfathers, grandmothers, brothers, sisters, to everyone in fact to give a voice to the voiceless and the vulnerable. To speak loudly and often to our communities, our governments, our police, to each other about the need to create policies that create safe, respectful communities that provide all our children with the basic human rights that should be afforded every citizen. Let us each remember that alone we are one voice, but together we can be a powerful voice that can change the world we live in. Let us remember that each of us can make a resolution to take care of each other, but to most of all take care of our children.

History will remember us not for what we have but for what we’ve done – James W. Hoddinott

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A Time for Family

educationIt is often said ‘This is the time for Family’. Thinking back to the Christmas’s of the past it is the memories  with my friends and family that I remember. I would be hard pressed to remember any gifts I have received except perhaps as a young boy of ten when my brother and I got a road race set for Christmas. I don’t remember the race set but I do remember my Uncles on their hands and knees racing the cheap plastic cars on a figure eight plastic track and them always failing to slow down to a crawl at the turns. I am sure the cars spent more time on the bare concrete basement floor than on the race track. The job my brother and I were delegated to was fetching the cars and putting them back on the track. Needless to say we were busy. Not even sure we played with the race set after that day, but I can still see my Uncles’ smiling faces like it was yesterday.

So yes this is a time to put family and especially children first, but not just in the month of December but year round. If we want a strong country, strong communities, it will start with families, youth and children. It will start by allowing everyone to sit at the big person’s table and be included in the family. It will start by all of us understanding our role as grandparents, parents or community members is to create a better, healthier world for the future. Are we doing that? Are we having our voices heard in support of the future, in support of people?

childrenPutting families and children first doesn’t just mean filling their stockings once a year. It means committing to creating long-term jobs. It means making families and young workers strong. It means creating the healthy society where we transition from being in charge of making the ‘Christmas Dinner’ to going to our children’s or grandchildren’s house for our family meal. It means us understanding the world isn’t always about what I want. It means at this time a year where we want to make sure everyone is fed and has a gift, needs to be how we think all year.

WebpageIn my novel ‘The Fates’ I write about what a future would look like if we just took care of that top 1%. A future without family, a future without children, a different kind of immortality. A world where all that mattered was ‘the one or the few’. It is less science fiction than one would think as our society in one way or another puts the needs of a few ahead of the needs of the many. Wealth without responsibility or purpose is in reality greed and is certainly not sustainable. Yet our culture seems to not only teach this as the way of life but makes the Scrooges of the world the heroes of today.

cree proverbIf we remember the story of ‘Scrooge’ we recognize it is about a business that does well but pays his workers poorly. Scrooge’s wealth grows but his life is empty. It is the vision of his Christmas past, present and future that changes what Scrooge does and brings him back to who he was before greed took him over.

It is the story of George Bailey in ‘It’s a Wonderful Life,’ where no one would ever want to be Mr. Potter. Yet we have a world full of Potters where we now live in a time where we need a world full of heroes like George Bailey who focus on building communities and recognizing that people need to work and have a decent place to live even if it means you have to sacrifice your trips around the world or the big house and being the highest paid person in Bedford Falls. Remember George Bailey turned down that job because he knew life was more than just money. He refused to sacrifice who he was and the quality of life of others, just so he could have more. In the end George Bailey understood life is about family, is about friends, is about community.

These days I find myself wanting less but wanting to do more. I find myself thinking more about the families and children in my school and the struggle many of them are having to make ends meet. I find myself thinking not only about the poor but the working poor. I find myself wondering how we have let ourselves stray so far from the values that make us Canadian. I find myself knowing we need to put families, children and our young people first. I find myself knowing that if we all stopped and thought about those things that are truly the most important, we would worry less about things we had and put more into the people in our life.

legacyThis time of year and all year it must be about putting people first. It must be about each of us doing even the smallest action to help each other. It can be as small as a smile, or shovelling the neighbours walk, to coaching a team, to hiring new workers, to investing in your local community, to volunteering or babysitting a friend’s children so they get that needed respite to stay strong for their children. It is about remembering our parents and our grandparents as we create a strong world for all of us to live.

It is about visiting our Christmas past, thinking about not only our present but how other people are living today and then thinking about the future and knowing what we do now will and can change the future. It will be our actions or inactions that will determine what that future will be like.

So let this holiday be a time we spend with families. Let us then make 2015 the time we focus on families, children and our youth. Let’s make putting an end to poverty our top priority by creating jobs that give everyone the chance to build strong, healthy families and children.

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Crazy Economic Policy

trickle downThis week our Prime Minister was quoted as saying ‘That would be crazy economic policy’ when discussing the issues in regards to Carbon Taxes on oil at this specific time. I have never been a big fan of old adages as they tend to generalize rather than look at specifics but in this case it is clear this is ‘The Pot Calling the Kettle Black’. If we are to look at the data; at the evidence; this would certainly be a case of one individual responsible for a litany of crazy economic policies calling another economic policy, crazy.

kettleOur Prime Minister seems stuck on economic policies that he insists are creating jobs and are better for Canada. What is missing from his statements is the evidence to back his claims and the constant rhetoric used to try to bring truth to untruths. There is however a mountain of evidence from a variety of sources inside and outside Canada to support the fact that his economic strategies are not working and in fact could be called ‘Crazy.’ Our Federal Governments commitment to as another old adage ‘Putting all your eggs in one basket’ has put in Canada in a very dangerous fiscal position both now and as we move into the future. Diversification has always been a key component to any long-term sustainable economic policy. A balanced approach.

Eggs in a basket

Our current Federal Government’s economic policy of supporting oil has been at the expense of the majority of Canadians as has been the results of another of their tax policies which lowered taxes for Corporate Canada in hope of creating jobs.

The goal of creating jobs is certainly the correct one, it is how it is being accomplished that is the problem. If we just take a look at one of the tax issues ignored by our current Federal Government we can see how ‘Crazy’ this economic and tax approach is.

According to an article by the Canadian Press on May 2, 2014 called Canadians’ use of tax havens grows to $170B. Other countries globally  are working hard to reduce this loop-hole but not in Canada. According to Canadians for Tax Fairness this costs our government 8 billion dollars annually in revenue. If our goal is to create jobs let’s just do a quick calculation of what this means. First of all it doesn’t matter if the jobs are created by the corporations or government. It is only important we take that 8 billion figure as an example and use it to create jobs.

Question: How many jobs paying $50 000 a year would be created?

Answer: If all the money was used to pay salary

8B divided by 50, 000 dollars is:

160 thousand jobs

That means 160 000 people with full-time jobs making 50 000 dollars a year. That means 160 000 new jobs. That means if we took all that money and invested in youth and young adults between 20 and 30 it would be a substantial reduction in youth unemployment and child poverty. It would help children, families and the economy and here is why.

Question: How much tax would the government get from those 160 000 new workers?

Answer: If we use the tax rate of 20% it means 1.6 billion dollars of tax dollars to spend on health, education, investments, pensions basically whatever we need.

Question: Are there other benefits?

Answer: Yes. Take away the amount the 160 000 new workers paid in taxes you are left with another 6.4 billion dollars that will be spent on food, shelter, clothing and so on. That is an additional 6.4 billion dollars working for Canadians. We also often choose to forget the other side of the equation. We now have 160 000 people not unemployed and becoming self-sufficient. We will have healthy and happy Canadians which helps reduce health care costs. In the end our expense side of the ledger benefits. We also have more people contributing to all our social programs as well as the economy in general which is good for business.

This of course is just looking at one tax issue of how current tax policies are hurting Canada not only now but in the future. Prime Minister Harper is right about a healthy economy means jobs. It means good paying jobs. Where he is wrong is in everything he is doing. Nothing he is doing is helping achieve the goal of creating jobs. Most would also argue especially in regards to ‘oil’ current policies are also hurting the environment. Our deficit is growing, our economy is less diversified, we have increased child poverty, larger gap between the rich and poor and an environment at risk. Despite what some would claim, Canada survived the last global recession not because of policies of our current government but as a result of banking regulations by previous governments. We need to ask ourselves when was the last time we didn’t have a deficit budget? It certainly doesn’t have this current administration attached to the budget.

Call me crazy but if you stop listening to the words, the rhetoric, the untruths and look at the evidence it is easy to say our Government’s current Economic and Tax Policies are ‘Crazy’.

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