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Discrimination in Ontario Catholic schools


Discrimination in Ontario Catholic schools

A constitutional relic vs a modern reality
Discrimination extends beyond the treatment of queer youth in Ontario Catholic schools, in both the silencing of students with alternative views and in rules governing hiring practices.

Gay teachers at these schools, terrified of losing their jobs, don’t open up about their personal lives and avoid topics in the classroom that could raise eyebrows. Non-Catholics and atheists are forced to lie in order to land coveted teaching jobs.

One GTA Catholic teacher, who is gay and asked that his identity be concealed to protect his job, says gay teachers constantly feel scrutinized. The job market is bleak. “What do you do when 35 percent of the jobs are not open to gay people?” he asks.

“The reality is you have to be firmly in the closet while you’re at work. I can’t be open to the principal or the vice-principals or administration. I always have to consider who is safe. It’s a daily problem.”

Patrick Keyes, superintendent of education for the Toronto Catholic District School Board, tells Xtra the hiring practices at Catholic schools can be perceived as discriminatory.

“At a Catholic school we have the right to hire people who hold a baptismal certificate,” Keyes says. “So we can justly discriminate in who we hire. You must be a baptized Catholic.

“If you’re going to have a Catholic school board, you need to populate the board with faithful and believing Catholics. On the other hand, we have to be open to the world.”

Section 93 of the Constitution Act outlines special protections for “denominational,” or Roman Catholic, schools.

In 1985, when then-premier Bill Davis extended public funding to Ontario Catholic schools for grades 11 to 13, secondary schools became open access, meaning students needn’t prove they are Catholic to attend. To attend a Catholic elementary school, on the other hand, a child needs a baptismal certificate from the Catholic Church, or one parent must hold a baptismal certificate.

A lot has changed since confederation, and Catholics no longer face the same level of discrimination they did a century and a half ago. In fact, the tables have turned, and Catholic school boards now use a privileged constitutional position to discriminate against other minorities.

Constitutional lawyer Douglas Elliott says there are many problems associated with Catholic education because in many cases school boards answer to the Vatican, not the Ontario Ministry of Education.

“The Catholic school system is an extension of the public school system. But from the Catholic Church’s perspective, it’s not part of the public school system at all. It’s part of the Catholic Church,” he says.

Gay teachers, and those with religions other than Catholicism, get the message that they can apply only to jobs in the public school board.

A landmark Canadian case involved Delwin Vriend, a teacher dismissed in 1991 from King’s University College, a private religious school in Edmonton, because of his sexual orientation.

Vriend filed a complaint with the Alberta Human Rights Commission but was refused protection against discrimination because sexual orientation was not included in the province’s human rights code. The case made its way to the Supreme Court of Canada, which ruled in 1998 that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation violates section 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Closer to home, Barbara Santamaria, a teacher on the Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board in 1983, was pressured to quit when the board found out she was Jewish. “I went for my interview knowing that I was going to be asked for a reference from my parish priest, which I don’t have because I am Jewish.”

During the job interview, Santamaria says she was told it was important that all teachers are Catholic so students can constantly be immersed in Catholic doctrine.

Although no official challenge was taken up against the board, Santamaria tells Xtra the experience led her to advocate for a single secular school system.

Another recent case in Edmonton involves Jan Buterman, a trans teacher who was fired by the Greater St Albert Catholic Schools district. CTV Edmonton reported that Buterman was commended for his abilities as a teacher but was told his “values were not in line with the Catholic Church.”

Buterman told the Edmonton Sun the district has since offered him $78,000 so long as he keeps quiet. Buterman turned down the offer and is instead proceeding with a human rights complaint against the district.

Meanwhile, trustees in the Edmonton secular system recently passed a motion to develop a policy to prevent harassment of and discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans students and staff.

Catholic schools have also marginalized students who openly express pro-choice views. Often they are silenced, and in some cases, punished.

Every year students are bused by the thousands to Parliament Hill for the annual anti-choice March for Life.

Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board student Ryan Wijetunga, 17, is pro-choice and says students attend the Ottawa rally for different reasons, some just to get a day off school. “I went because I wanted to understand other people’s views.”

Amid the frenzy and inflammatory rhetoric about teenage sex and unborn babies, rational discussion is impossible, he says. “Students are being used as pawns.

“They make people who are pro-choice look like monsters,” says Wijetunga. “It was really biased. It felt like a cult. They just tell us that abortion is wrong… It feels like they are just brainwashing these kids.”

More than 20,000 students and teachers from numerous Ontario Catholic schools attend the March for Life, which is promoted by school chaplains, their attendance paid for by parents and student fundraising. Students are encouraged to participate alongside evangelicals and extreme rightwing politicians. The pilgrimage is voluntary.

Campaign Life Coalition (CLC) youth coordinator Alissa Golob, 24, dismisses students who challenge the Catholic Church’s staunchly conservative position. “Why go to a Catholic school if you’re not pro-life? Catholics are pro-life, and we always will be. If you hold a contradictory view, go to a public school.”

Golob regularly speaks to students in Ontario Catholic schools about the CLC and being “pro-life.”

“Maybe there are a few students who attend [the March for Life] just for a day off school, but after hearing the speakers and going to the conference, kids are completely inspired and completely pro-life afterward,” she says. “It really helps shape their view.”

In March, Grade 10 student Alexandria Szeglet was sent home from her Thunder Bay Catholic school for wearing a green strip of tape with the word “Choice” on her uniform. That day, the school hosted a pro-life event at which some students wore red pieces of tape with the word “Life.” When Szeglet passed out her green strips to fellow students, she was told to remove the tape or go home. She went home.

Golob says, “We have a constitutional right to teach Catholicism in our schools and uphold it.”

But students shouldn’t have to leave school, Queer Ontario’s Casey Oraa argues. Parents decide which school to send their children to, and those students may decide later not to be Catholic. It’s unfair to expect them to drop out of school, disrupt their education, leave their friends and teachers and commute across town to enroll at another school, he says. “Queer students, pro-choice students, students with different religions are all being singled out and told to leave because they don’t fit into this narrow definition of what it is to be Catholic.”

Read Part One and Part Three of Xtra's investigation into Ontario's Catholic schools.
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Sept 29th meeting.
People of different orientation need to take heed that the climate is changing in Canada. "All that is needed for evil to prevail is for good people to do nothing". Do not let our youth down by allowing the religious right to continue to promote their bigotry.

Markham, ON Sept. 29, 2011
Multi-faith &multi-ethnic press conference - Vote for Parents' Rights

Protect All Rights
The reason separate public Catholic schools were created has been forgotten. They were created at a time when religion was taught in schools, but it was very anti-Catholic and yes, often very hateful statements against Catholics were made under pretenses of "true Christianity". This divide between Catholics and Protestants has largely been broken down now so the reason for creating Catholic schools has disappeared.

Yes, religious rights MUST be protected, but religious rights must be considered as equal to other rights, not superior.

Yes, I believe that religious rights and values should be taught, but at the place of worship and in the home. Having taught in religious schools for many years,, I can testify that trying to teach religious beliefs in schools is waste of time, when these things are not considered important in the home.
open you eyes

oh please don't start on this lady. For centuries your religion have discriminate against gay and other minorities and now that AT LAST we are kicking out the remaining of your dark heritage back to where it belong you come crying that anti-Catholicism is a prejudice? I'll tell you what a prejudice is. It's a prejudice when taxes are going to a system (catholic schools) that attack a part of the society that is financing it. It's a prejudice when catholic try to attack the liberty and equality for which generations fought for. Your catholic dogma are the remains of a stone-age ideology. The simple fact that you Catholics think your religion liberty should prevailed against sexual liberty, free speech and others is a proof of your craziness. I can be who i want and like who ever i want as long has they are consenting and you don't have a word to say.Women have the right to choose to abort or not, children studying in catholic school have the right to express their belief in equality for all. Also it ain't cool to trash catholics, but it sure is to trash people who want to impose their religious belief on a society that have clearly showed it didn't want anything to do with it's narrow minded dogma. and perhaps catholics wouldn't be shamed if they preached love and justice like they are supposed and didn't try to intimidate Lgbt children and lgbt-straight alliance to hide or shut-up. If you want free speech, start by allowing member under your influence to exercise the same right you are asking for. Also free speech isn't there for what most of you catholic think it is, i mean you know, to thrash against everything and everybody and incited to hatred and violence.
Catholics face huge societal prejudices
"Catholics no longer face the same level of discrimination they did a century." Are you kidding me??? Anti-catholicism is the last acceptable prejudice.It's considered a badge of coolness for Strombo, Maher, Hitchens or Dawkins to publically trash Catholics. That would NEVER happen to "gay" persons I know teachers in the Catholic system and it is practicing Catholic teachers who actually live their beliefs that are shunned by other teachers and their union to the point where we need a Church/teacher alliance to defend them. More Catholics were martyred in the 20th century than in all the previous centuries combined.
quote---The TDSB will protect its students and staff from any sort of bullying as they make clear in the FAQ.---Tell that to the parent of the 11yr old boy who just committed suicide because of bullying. The TDSB like ALL School Boards are infested with a culture of inaction in regards to gay bullying, unless it becomes a media story. I can only assume by your statement that you are woefully ignorant, willfully ignorant, Homophobic, Religious Zealot, come from a culture that supports hatred/violence towards Gays, or generally just mentally ill suffering from delusional sociopath disorder. Just because you SAY the world is full of rainbows doesn't mean it's true. The FACTS do not support your ridiculous statement.
Islamification Continues in Ontario
It seems McGuinty not only plans to Islamify the public school system in Ontario, but all parts of the Ontario government as well. http://www.torontosun.com/2011/09/25/ramadan-memo-creates-controversy
Hmmm.....how long will it be until gays can no longer talk about their spouses at work because it offends someone's religion?
Have you followed what happened at Valley Park, rich? Did you hear what the director of the TDSB said? For him, religious rights trumps all other rights. The TDSB has already violated students charter rights in the name of religion.

As someone who works in education, I can all tell you that teachers have gotten the message from that board and the Liberal ministry of education.....don't do anything that trumps a person's religion....so have the parents. There will be no GSA's or talk of gay rights in Muslim dominated schools. That's a practical reality. And that reality will also come to pass in other schools with vocal religious groups.
A superb summary of our sad province
It's profoundly sad that these kinds of things go on every day in a supposedly free country in the 21st century. It's unthinkinkable that anywhere in the free world one would have to hide their sexual orientation in order to keep a PUBLIC SECTOR job. It's even more unthinkinkable that not one of our 107 MPPs understands that this is a serious problem. What kind of powerful dark forces are at work behind the scenes? Is this what Ontario voters want? Every poll says no. And not only are there some serious MORAL problems with our government's support of one religion -- there are financial problems as well. Ontario pumping an EXTRA billion dollars a year into the tastelessly tattooed arm of one religion to pay for a parallel -- and proudly discriminatory -- school system. 35% of our multi-billion dollar public education system is under the thumb of Catholic bishops. Unf*cking believable.
re: Religion Accommodation Not Good for Gays
xox I would encourage you to go to the TDSB website and enter the term "religious accommodation" into their search feature, one of the documents you'll find there outlines the many dozens of different religions they accommodate according to the needs of religious students. Another document you'll find, I believe a FAQ, clearly outlines that religious students or their religious parents will not be allowed to skip any class on any human rights issue, including classes that discuss LGBTQ people or being LGBTQ. I just looked up the links for you, the main point on this issue from the FAQ document is "For example, if a parent/guardian/ caregiver asks for his or her child to be exempt from any discussion of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, or same-sex-family issue, the request cannot be granted because it violates the TDSB Human Rights Policy." Here are the links, http://www.tdsb.on.ca/_site/ViewItem.asp?siteid=15&menuid=13976&pageid=12353 and http://www.tdsb.on.ca/wwwdocuments/programs/Equity_in_Education/docs/Guidelines%20and%20Procedures.pdf Its very clear that the TDSB would never permit religious rights to over ride the human rights of its LGBTQ students and staff like the Catholic schools do. Like they say there are limits to religious accommodation in schools, they also mention that the parents who request exemptions from topics on LGBTQ people should be told that there's a big difference between learning about something, which they must do, and accepting the values associated with it, which they don't have to. LGBTQ people are protected by our Charter of Rights and our various human rights codes which forms the basis of the TDSB's equity policies. So long as those laws continue to exist, the Charter and human rights acts, LGBTQ people will have nothing to worry about in TDSB schools. The TDSB will protect its students and staff from any sort of bullying as they make clear in the FAQ.
Religion Accommodation Not Good for Gays
If religious accommodation goes through the way the Liberals intend it, all public schools will take on the religious character of their most dominant parent community or the most vocal in their community. I don't see a lot of positives for gays in that milieu either.

BTW, I have believed for some time that gay rights for students will ultimately bring the downfall of the tax-funded Catholic school system. I hope that day comes in my life time.
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