Details of Peel Region Board legal threat against LifeSite
June 19, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) - On June 4 LifeSite was delivered a complaint letter from the law firm Keel Cottrelle, acting on behalf of Ontario’s Peel District School Board, threatening legal action regarding two April news reports by LSN journalist Peter Baklinski. See a copy of the full complaint here.
The reports regarding one particular workshop given by two lesbian teachers that were cited, “Lesbian: I use math class to teach young kids about homosexuality so I can ‘hide’ it from parents” and “Lesbian teacher: How I convince kids to accept gay ‘marriage’, starting at 4 years old” are claimed to “have included inappropriate, aggressive and hateful comments regarding Board representatives,” among other claims.
LifeSite rejects all of the claims and has responded with demands that the Peel board immediately either withdraw in writing the allegations or immediately provide adequate particulars supporting them.
We have also challenged the notion that the School Board has any legal interest or claim in this matter since, for one thing, the workshop leader began the presentation on which LifeSiteNews reported with the following statement:
My name is Hiren Mistry. I am from the Peel District School Board, but I, along with the team we're with today, are not representing the board. We're representing ourselves as individuals who are committed to equity and inclusive work.
LifeSite did not specifically say in its reports that the two named teachers were employees of the school board.
As well, there does not appear to have been any evidence that the school board had any connection with the event sponsored by the pro-LGBT group Jer’s Vision, held in a public venue at Toronto City Hall.
LifeSite reporter Peter Baklinski registered to attend the conference and was soon called by the founder of Jer’s Vision, Jeremy Dias, who stated he was an “avid reader” of LifeSite, which he considered to be “good work” and that he was “thrilled” that Baklinski was coming to his conference on implementing an agenda promoting same-sex “marriage,” gender fluidity and other controversial issues.
Dias stated he was “super happy to comment or share, or anything like that,” and said he would help the LifeSite reporter, “if you need, like, an interview for anything.” Therefore, it was expected that Baklinski would naturally be attending the open-to-the-public conference as a LifeSite news reporter.
The complaint also demanded that LifeSite remove from its reports the images in the reports that included primary grade children as well as a video of Alicia Gunn instructing young students on homosexuality.
LifeSite notes all such images were re-publications of images previously published on the Internet by other parties.
One of the disputed images originated from the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO) website, which is accessible to the general public. As well, that image does not show the faces of the children.
LSN made use of the image of Pam Strong reading to students at Ellengale Public School without any knowledge of opposition by the School Board to its prior publication by ETFO. LSN has demanded answers to five questions from the School Board regarding this image.
The embedded video clip in one of the stories, LifeSite notes, was produced by TVO in 2008, and is featured on the Ontario Teachers Insurance Plan (OTIP) website, which is accessible to the general public. LSN linked to the video without knowledge of any opposition by the School Board to is prior publication by TVO and OTIP.
LifeSite has demanded answers from the School Board to five questions concerning the video.
Baklinski attended the conference with his video and audio equipment so that his reports would be entirely factual and 100 percent accurate.
LSN has denied the allegation that LSN was requested to cease recording at the workshop.
There were no rules or conditions communicated by the organizers prior to the event regarding recording by this known journalist who was registered to attend. One organizer did raise an objection, but this objection was not raised before the proceedings had ended. In any event, none of the video recording by Baklinski was incorporated in the reports.
LSN also denies the allegations that the two LSN reports have “incited hateful responses which call the safety of the individuals into question.”
Both reports simply relate the content of a public workshop in the presenters’ own words. At no point did the reporter engage in mere speculation, opinion or innuendo. Strong and Gunn are solely responsible for the consequences of their public comments.
LifeSite emphasizes that there are legal and constitutional issues raised by the workshop which are matters of public interest, and that the members of the public rely upon a free press to bring these issues to their attention.
LifeSite demands that the PSB retract its threat of legal action and stop wasting taxpayer dollars on a frivolous lawsuit that will only result in public embarrassment.
LifeSite instead urges the Board to investigate, as part of its obligations to the parents of the Peel School Board, and others, the substance of the candid admissions made by two of its employees that they are trying to change the belief systems of the students who were entrusted to them by their parents.
Related article: LifeSite threatened with a lawsuit over sex-ed exposé