Kenney’s office faces a serious lawsuit containing sexual harassment allegations

Politics Insider for Oct. 28, 2021: Jason Kenney's office faces a serious lawsuit; a possible Papal apology; and a COVID miss The post Kenney’s office faces a serious lawsuit containing sexual harassment allegations appeared first on Macleans.ca.

Kenney’s office faces a serious lawsuit containing sexual harassment allegations

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CBC’s Elise von Scheel reported Wednesday that former senior staffer Ariella Kimmel is suing Jason Kenney’s government, and legal documents contain disturbing allegations of sexual harassment and heavy drinking in the senior ranks of Kenney’s team. The legal documents raise questions not just about the conduct of some of Kenney’s top people, but also how others handled complaints once they learned of them.

After a senior advisor is alleged to have made a sexually inappropriate comment to a member of Kimmel’s staff, she informed several officials.

The next day, Kimmel reported the exchange to Chris Thresher, the chief of staff in health, and Matt Wolf, the premier’s director of issues management.  She heard nothing for almost a month.

UCP MLA Leela Aheer called on Kenney to resign after the story broke.

Pressure to drop case:  The new Trudeau cabinet is under pressure, again, to stop fighting a court order ordering it to compensate and provide services to Indigenous children, Global reports.

While federal ministers responsible say they’re weighing the “complex” decision, Indigenous advocates continue to push the government to drop the litigation. “The government is at a crossroads and so is the country,” said the Child and Family Caring Society’s Cindy Blackstock in an emailed statement.

The government has until Friday to make up its mind.

Papal apology? The Vatican announced Wednesday that Pope Francis would visit Canada, at some unknown time, to seek “reconciliation with Indigenous peoples.” That will have to mean an apology for the church’s role in residential schools, Indigenous leaders told CP.

No secret: Steven Guilbeault sought to calm roiled western waters on Wednesday after his appointment as environment minister sent shockwaves through the oil patch. Guilbeault, a former Greenpeace activist, told reporters he has no “secret agenda,” CBC reports.

Guilbeault said the government’s plan to fight climate change is “very clear” and most of it — such as carbon pricing and the push for more public transit and cleaner energy sources — is “already known.” The Trudeau government has committed to cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 40 to 45 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030.

Flooding the zone: In Maclean’s, Andrew MacDougall tries to makes sense of a shuffle full of messages. One of them, according to MacDougall, is the Trudeau doesn’t care about foreign affairs.

In the last Parliament, our new chief diplomat couldn’t be trusted with any heavy machinery, but in this Parliament she is just the person to get our rusty relationship with the United States back on track. Nor is it likely that Joly is the right person to devise a strategy to neuter China. Oh right, we’re China’s friends. Maybe it does make sense, after all. Whatever the case, Joly informs us she will be moving forward with ‘humility’ and ‘audacity’. So take that out of Joly’s pipe and smoke it.

Feckless: In the Toronto Sun, Brian Lilley makes a similar point, with more vinegar, as does Terry Glavin, in the National Post.

Small teams: In the Star, Susan Delacourt reports on ministerial post-shuffle drinks at the Met, and takes note that Trudeau’s new cabinet appears to be a collection of little teams.

In short, there isn’t much room for lone wolves in the government Trudeau has reconstructed for his third term. And that even goes for the prime minister himself, who appears to have traded his old solo act for frequent double bills with Freeland. If the six years of Trudeau government was a TV series, critics might be saying that it has gone from a one-man show to an ensemble cast — kind of like the difference between seasons one and two in the Emmy-award winning show “Ted Lasso.” It’s a long way from 2015, when all the parts of the Trudeau cabinet revolved around one man and his celebrity power. After six years at the helm, Trudeau appears to like the team approach so much that he’s created many of them within one cabinet.

Straddling a fence: Erin O’Toole said Wednesday that his MPs will “respect and abide by” a Hill vaccine mandate but challenge it at the “earliest opportunity,”  CTV reports.

“A question of privilege will be raised in the House of Commons to challenge the improper conduct and precedent set,” O’Toole said. “Only the House of Commons itself can determine its composition and its conduct. Both before the Speaker or House rules, and after they rule, the entire Conservative caucus will respect and abide by all the rules and all health guidance,” O’Toole said.

Foolish, weak: In the Globe, Andrew Coyne ponders the Conservatives’ resistance to the vaccine mandate, and concludes that they seem to have a death wish.

One way or another, then, members of Parliament will be required to get vaccinated as a condition of entry – if not by last week’s vote of the Board of Internal Economy, then by a vote of the whole House. The Tories cannot stop it. All they can do is make themselves look foolish and their leader weak.

Hybrid House: Jagmeet Singh, on the other hand, says Canada should consider having a permanent hybrid Parliament, saying it would be better for women and parents, CP reports.

Singh said a hybrid parliament has been shown to work well during the pandemic and he thinks continuing it after the public health crisis subsides should be explored. “I think the hybrid parliament has opened up a door to more participation and allows for members of Parliament with young families and other obligations to participate and still fulfil those obligations and so I think it has opened up a new opportunity and I want to see it continue,” he told a news conference.

Inflation warning: Bank of Canada governor Tiff Macklem issued an inflation warning Wednesday and signalled that the bank may raise rates, CP reports.

We understand what our job is. Our job is to make sure that the price increases we’ve seen in many globally traded goods don’t feed through and translate into ongoing inflation and we’re going to do our job,” he told reporters at a late-morning press conference. “If there are new developments, we start to see that feed through, we will accelerate our actions to bring inflation back to target.”

Poor intelligence: In the Post, University of Ottawa Professor Wesley Wark reveals documents that show the Department of National Defence intelligence analysts were slow to warn political leaders of the threat of COVID-19.

Defence intelligence came to a series of wrong assessments about the threat posed by the outbreak in China. On the eve of the minister’s first briefing, a regular reporting product called the “Defence Intelligence Daily” concluded that the outbreak had been contained and that “significant disease spread outside China is unlikely.” The Chinese government was credited later in the month with being “open and transparent” in communicating information about the disease.

Enough, Jean: In the Post, Chris Selley takes Jean Chretien to task for his comments minimizing the harm done at residential schools.

Yet as of this week, it’s not even clear that Chrétien understands what the residential schools were. It’s difficult to pick the most calamitous moment in Chrétien’s Tout le monde en parle appearance, but it might have been when he likened his own boarding school experiences to those of Indigenous children. “In Shawinigan, we didn’t have a college. We had to go to Trois-Rivières or to Joliette,” he said. “We had no choice. … I ate baked beans and oatmeal. And to be sure, it was hard living in a boarding school, extremely hard.”

Conspiratorial news: A Leger poll conducted for Elections Canada finds most Canadians trust the elections agency but a surprisingly large number harbour conspiracy theories, Global reports.

The polling company found that two in five Canadians (40 per cent) considered it “definitely” or “probably true” that “certain significant events have been the result of the activity of a small group that secretly manipulates world events.”

Maclean’s live! Join Paul Wells TONIGHT at the NAC in Ottawa when he sits down with Anne McLellan and Lisa Raitt, who will be fresh from co-chairing their two-day summit, Coalition for a Better Future. If you’d like to attend in person (proof of vaccination required) register here. Tickets are free but limited!

— Stephen Maher

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What does artificial intelligence mean for our world?

A new course at McMaster University is diving into the societal implications of artificial intelligence The post What does artificial intelligence mean for our world? appeared first on Macleans.ca.

What does artificial intelligence mean for our world?

While studying cancer biology as a health sciences student at McMaster University in 2016, Andrew Leber started to wonder how artificial intelligence might help diagnose and improve cancer treatments. He brought together 10 friends, also science students, for a reading group focused on technical concepts in machine learning.

But it turned out many more students were interested. Leber and friends opened the reading group to a wider audience, and within a month it had 50 members. A few months later, Leber launched the McMaster AI Society, which blossomed into one of McMaster University’s largest student-run clubs. The group received a sponsorship from Microsoft and has since grown to more than 1,000 members, many of whom are from faculties such as business, the humanities and social sciences.

One of them is Sarah Bowron, a third-year sociology student, who was concerned about the legal landscape and privacy implications of AI: “What are the privacy boundaries? How is [AI] impacting people in ways that we really don’t know about?”

READ: The multiverse theory, explained 

Early on, the club’s popularity caught the attention of an engineering faculty member, who floated the idea of creating a new undergraduate course. Leber led the committee to develop the course, and Innovate 1Z03 is now offered through the university’s innovation minor program, a collaboration between the faculty of engineering and the DeGroote School of Business. It’s a bit of a departure from typical AI courses that are available through computer science and engineering departments in Canadian universities, which tend to teach algorithmic techniques to program and analyze AI rather than the societal implications. Instead, Innovate 1Z03, and other new interdisciplinary courses at the University of Toronto, are teaching AI as both an art and a science.

“Students are going into a world where they hear about AI all the time,” says Matthew Jordan, the professor who teaches Innovate 1Z03. “This new technology is going to be a fixture of their life, and it’s over-hyped and misunderstood.” Throughout the semester, Jordan’s students reflect on how AI is presented in news headlines and wrestle with questions such as: how close is AI to reaching human-level intelligence? Is AI replacing the need for human labour? Is AI in fact a new technology? (Spoiler alert: the field has existed for 75 years.)

For one assignment, students assume the role of a CEO of a global AI company and work in teams on a roadmap for the AI industry or to develop a new AI application. Akil Hamilton, a fourth-year software engineering student, designed a virtual assistant for physicians to offer customized treatment recommendations based on a patient’s experience. Hamilton says a problem emerges when AI algorithms are shown or “trained on” data from an overrepresented demographic group. For example, if an image recognition algorithm is trained on more light-skinned faces than dark-skinned faces, the AI would be better at detecting light-skinned faces. “If we are looking to give an accurate health-based recommendation, [this kind of algorithmic bias] is something we will need to overcome,” Hamilton says.

RELATED: Using traditional Inuit knowledge and Western science to study Arctic marine life 

At the University of Toronto, Karina Vold teaches two courses that encourage students to think about AI like philosophers. In The Limits of Machine Intelligence, students unpack hidden assumptions about the concept of “intelligence,” stepping back to reflect on what it means to consider something “conscious” or “intelligent” in the first place. “In some ways, it’s a dream-shattering course,” says Vold, because there’s an idea that AI has the potential to exhibit human-level thinking or self-awareness. But in Vold’s course, the takeaway is often, “Hey, AI is not there yet. But here’s why,” she says.

In many ways, these new interdisciplinary AI courses are both sobering and illuminating, putting in the foreground the importance of deep, critical thinking, a long-valued skill in the liberal arts. “It would be a harm for us as a society to let a technology be built that has such a widespread impact without having some critical reflection on what that impact is, and without trying to really understand it,” Vold says.


This article appears in print in the 2022 University Rankings issue of Maclean’s magazine with the headline, “Machines are us?”

The post What does artificial intelligence mean for our world? appeared first on Macleans.ca.

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