Bathrooms, Identity, Rights, and Wisdom: Helping All Students in the Light of Trans* Issues

[The following is a re-posting from my weblog “On Second Thought” published weekly at]

Two years ago, the Vancouver School Board (VSB) was asked to accommodate students with varying sexual identities. More and more jurisdictions across the country are dealing with these issues, as has been noisily and spectacularly true south of our border as well.

I am firmly on the side of caring for kids who are wrestling with any sexual issues—and how many kids, in this sex-saturated culture, are not? That’s why I advocated to the VSB two years ago, and why I suggest now, that we proceed more slowly than many activists want us to do.

First, let’s let teachers teach. Teachers already have more than enough to do without asking them to take sides in complex and unresolved social and medical questions such as this one. Let them teach their subjects well, and refer seriously troubled children to appropriate mental health resources.

The issues are, indeed, complex and unresolved. Gender dysphoria in particular, and the wider range of trans* issues, are matters disputed at the highest levels of psychological and psychiatric expertise. The most recent edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-V) only begins to reflect the deep differences among the top experts in this field. For school boards and companies and legislatures to run ahead of the experts here would be both dangerous and arrogant.

Read the rest of this entry »

How to End “Working Poverty” in Canada

[The following is a re-posting from my weblog “On Second Thought” posted weekly on]

There should be no such category as “working poor” in Canada. As many economists have shown, if we paid people who work full-time for a full year a minimum wage of $15 an hour, we would have no working poor in this country.

I’m not an economist. And let me anticipate the usual reaction when a professor tells business owners and politicians what to do: No, I have not had to make a payroll, nor get elected.

So I’ll stick to what I do know.

As a historian, I recall the gross mistreatment of workers during the industrial revolution in Britain. Institutionalized poverty, seen in filthy, tiny row house upon row house—really, slum upon slum—was justified by owners as simply the best they could do…until reformist governments made them treat their workers better.

Startlingly, those mills didn’t all go out of business. The owners’ bluff was called, and England’s economy flourished.

Read the rest of this entry »

The Dangers of Forgiveness

[This is another reposting from the blog I have over at “Context with Lorna Dueck“]


Forgiveness is one of the greatest gifts we can give another person—or to ourselves. But it is surrounded by dangers.

One danger is that we feel we cannot forgive until the offender repents. But if that is so, then the victim is still subject to the offender’s power. That can’t be right.

Consider this passage from Luke’s Gospel: “Then Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing’” (23:34). Jesus is asking God to forgive the soldiers as they are crucifying him. It’s impossible to imagine less repentant people whom Jesus nonetheless wants forgiven right then and there.

So we are free to forgive unilaterally. And that is soul-freeing news.

A second danger is that we might feel that we have to “forgive and forget.”

Read the rest of this entry »