Toronto Zoo closed ‘until further notice’ as unionized staff go on strike

The Toronto Zoo has closed to visitors after the union for Toronto Zoo workers announced its 362 members are going on strike.

CUPE Local 1600, which represents zookeepers, horticulturists, concession and ride operators, trades and maintenance workers, public relations and administrative staff, was in a legal strike position as of Thursday.

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“We are incredibly disappointed to have to take strike action, but the Toronto Zoo’s refusal to move on job security left us with no alternative,” Local 1600 president Christine McKenzie said in a news release early Thursday morning.

“No one on this bargaining committee wanted a strike, but you cannot have a world-leading research, conservation and education facility by consigning hundreds of workers to precarious, insecure jobs that don’t support communities.”

READ MORE: Baby animal boom, good weather increases attendance at Toronto Zoo

Picket lines were established at the zoo’s entrances Thursday morning and workers have been asked to report for picket duty during their regularly scheduled shifts.

Jennifer Tracey, senior director of marketing and communications for the zoo, told The Morning Show on AM640 Thursday that zoo management was “taken aback” by the news that workers would be going on strike.

“We had been presenting them with a series of proposals to address the number one issue that they identified, which was job security,” she said.

LISTEN: Jennifer Tracey of the Toronto Zoo joins The Morning Show 

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McKenzie said union bargaining committee members are ready to resume negotiations and called for increased negotiating flexibility by the Toronto Zoo Board of Management.

“We have numerous animals on the verge of giving birth, a new health centre supposed to open, and thousands of animals that won’t be getting the level of care they should be getting,” McKenzie said.

Tracey said the zoo’s priority Thursday morning is implementing its contingency plan to care for the animals. She said “highly qualified” non-union staff remain on the job, including vets, wildlife care personnel and nutritionists.

Tracey said union employees are already well compensated, with a pension plan and benefits, weeks of vacation and more than 100 sick days per year.

“The union’s demands were simply unaffordable, and they don’t reflect the financial realities facing the zoo or other settlements that were reached within the City of Toronto,” she said.

With files from Marianne Dimain and Neil Kumar

Saskatoon teacher facing child porn charges headed to preliminary hearing

A preliminary hearing has been scheduled for suspended Saskatoon teacher Rhett Lundgren, 40, who is facing child pornography and sexual exploitation charges.

The hearing is scheduled to begin Oct. 11 in Saskatoon when a judge will begin determining whether enough evidence exists to proceed to trial.

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  • New details emerge in child pornography charges against Rhett Lundgren

  • Saskatoon Public Schools suspends teacher facing child pornography charges

    READ MORE: Saskatoon teacher charged with child porn released on $2,000 bail

    Lundgren was arrested in December 2016 and charged with one count of attempting to access child pornography and two counts of arranging to commit a sexual offence against a child.

    A sergeant with the Saskatchewan Internet Child Exploitation (ICE) unit confirmed the alleged target was a child aged eight to 10 years old.

    Lundgren was granted $2,000 bail under strict conditions, only to be arrested again on Jan. 17.

    His new charges included:

    Possession of child pornography;Two counts of breaching conditions;Sexual exploitation; andLuring.

    READ MORE: More child pornography charges for Saskatoon teacher Rhett Lundgren

    The second arrest followed a report given to Red Deer RCMP, regarding an alleged incident in 2009, involving a student at a school where Lundgren taught.

    She’s believed to have been 17 years old at the time.

    Lundgren is scheduled to appear in an Alberta courtroom on the sexual exploitation and luring charges on May 24.

Edmonton school’s pyjama project brings comfort to sick babies and their parents

When Ashley Goldsack and Manahil Athar enrolled in their Grade 10 fashion program, they didn’t expect to be sewing baby sleepers. But after a few days on the assignment, it all made sense.

“It’s stuff we have to learn already,” Goldsack said, “so if we can help people and help families while doing that, I think that’s really nice.”

“I can connect with people and just know I’m doing something to help them out,” Athar added.

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    The project was borne thanks to the birth of Frazer MacDairmid, the son of W.P. Wagner High School science teacher, Allan MacDairmid.

    “The day after (Frazer) was born, he was listed for a heart transplant,” MacDairmid said.

    The baby had a congenital heart defect. In May of 2011, he was hooked to various intravenous and monitoring lines in the hospital, which made dressing him difficult.

    Since seeing Frazer in cute sleepers gave the family comfort, MacDairmid’s mother added snaps to the pyjama sleeves to fit around the cords.

    “You can kind of cover up all the lines and medical stuff and just see your child there,” MacDairmid said.

    When the school’s fashion teacher – Courtney Smith – heard about the alteration, she enlisted her students to modify more sleepers for more tiny patients. So far, they’ve done about 100, which they’ve donated to Edmonton’s Stollery Children’s Hospital.

    “It honestly breaks my heart,” Smith said. “But it also makes me just so happy that I can be a part of it and my kids can help out.”

    MacDairmid explains when kids are in the hospital, parents often struggle to keep their family life as normal as possible.

    Baby Frazer lived for six weeks. Shortly before he passed away, his parents were able to bring him outside for the first and last time. MacDairmid said it felt like a regular family moment – the kind they hope the sleepers can create for others.

    “So that kids that otherwise would just be wearing diapers all day can actually have a bit of normalcy.”

    The students need new sleepers to alter – with tags still on – in infant and toddler sizes. Please drop off donations to W.P. Wagner High School or the Stollery’s family room. This is their GoFundMe page. 

    COURTESY: Allan MacDairmid

    Global News

    COURTESY: Allan MacDairmid

    Global News

A ‘fabricated’ racist note triggered a college protest big enough to cancel classes

The president of St. Olaf College in southern Minnesota says a note left on a black student’s car with racist content was fabricated and not a genuine threat.

In emails to students Wednesday, David R. Anderson said it was apparently meant “to draw attentions to concern about the campus climate.”

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Citing student privacy laws, his emails did not name the author who confessed or say whether the person is a student or otherwise affiliated with the private Lutheran college. The student body is 74 per cent white and 2 per cent black.

The April 29 incident prompted a rally that night and a bigger protest May 1 that led administrators to cancel classes for the day.

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Shutting down the caf during dinner to packing the Commons with thousands of students, faculty, staff, and allies. The St. Olaf students of color are some of the most courageous, powerful, and incredible people I’ve ever experienced. Think racists can get away with hate crime and any slurs here? Ask the students: think again.

A post shared by Annna Wolle (@annalillian15) on Apr 29, 2017 at 9:57pm PDT

Anderson says the college continues to investigate other reports of racist messages since last fall.

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Regina high school teaching students about residential schools through art

For the past year students and teachers at Balfour Collegiate have been working on art pieces to represent the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s 94 calls to action.

READ MORE: Saskatoon residents react to TRC recommendations

It’s part of the Ribbon Project, a school wide initiative to recognize Canada’s colonial past.

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Over 400 students and teachers worked with educator and designer, Tracey George Heese from Ochapowace First Nation.

Heese shared stories of her grandmother and mother’s experiences in residential schools. The artist had her own painful memories, as she was taken away from her family as part of the 60’s scoop.

READ MORE: Balfour Collegiate asking for new team name submissions

Students also spent time with life speaker Noel Starblanket in the school’s tipi to discuss reconciliation and to smudge their art materials.

Students returned to the classroom to complete their creative piece.

“They were able to create something that they were thinking about, and a lot of them you can look at and know what call to action they were working on, and some of them you might not, but that student knows,” teacher Rhonda Stevenson said.

It’s hoped the art, which is displayed throughout the school, will have a lasting impact on students.

“For some, it’s brand new information and for some we’re living this, and I think there is all kinds of conversations going on.” Stevenson said.

Leanndra Davidson and her sisters were the first members of her family to be spared from going to residential schools. That’s why the Grade 12 student found it so important to participate in the project.

“I did it to represent me, I have a lot of family that [have gone] to residential schools and I’ve been bullied for being Metis,” Davidson said.

Davidson’s big picture goal is to keep the conversation alive. On a personal note, this is all about honouring her mother, a residential school survivor.

“When these things come up she does get upset. I tell her that, you know, it’s okay. It’s in the past, and we’re here now and we talk about it so we don’t forget what happened back then,” Davidson said.