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Halton Catholic board passes policy, but GSAs still forbidden

Halton Catholic board passes policy, but GSAs still forbidden

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Are any gay people on the new provincial committee?: Marai
Even though the Halton Catholic District School Board passed its equity policy on May 3, gay-straight alliances (GSA) are still forbidden. Also troubling for some is that discussions about what’s best for gay, lesbian and trans youth are happening right now at the provincial level behind closed doors, one trustee warns.

Tensions were high between trustee Paul Marai and board chair Alice Anne LeMay, who once again refused to answer direct questions about whether students will be allowed to form clubs focused on gay, lesbian and trans issues in September.

In April, the board chose to hold off on making a final decision on its equity and inclusive education policy. Marai says the board was "inundated" with feedback. Letters, phone calls and emails poured in from parents, clergy and community members that spoke against the policy, demanding that "sexual orientation" be removed from the "do not discriminate against" list and GSAs be banned from all schools because they "encourage students to identify their sexuality too soon." Many others spoke in favour of the policy and GSAs, and Marai says, many others weren't included at all.

The new policy directs students to form groups called SIDE (safety, inclusivity, diversity, equity) spaces, umbrella equity groups in which students can discuss social justice issues “with a Catholic perspective.” Groups with direct references to sexual orientation in which teens can talk specifically about gay, lesbian and trans issues are still banned.


But, Marai says, the SIDE spaces could be scrapped depending on what a new provincial committee decides. On April 15, the Ontario Catholic School Trustees’ Association (OCSTA) and the Assembly of Catholic Bishops told Ontario Catholic school boards that a committee is being formed to finalize a “framework” to guide school clubs that address “bullying related to sexual orientation.”

In the meantime, Catholic schools are allowing students to form “anti-bullying clubs” only.

Nancy Kirby, president of the OCSTA, tells Xtra that GSAs remain banned at all Ontario Catholic schools because a GSA signals to students that the group is focused on activism.

“This whole process is so secretive,” Marai tells Xtra. “I’m a Catholic trustee and I can’t get an answer on this committee. There’s no application process for this, and that’s unfortunate. There’s no transparency. And it will affect the kids in the end.”

Education Minister Leona Dombrowsky declined to speak with Xtra again. It is now 120 days that Dombrowsky has been dodging Xtra’s requests.

Marai says he asked to sit on the committee but hasn’t been given an answer. He doesn’t know how the committee’s final decision will affect Catholic boards. The committee will meet throughout the summer.

“I have no idea what is going to happen,” he says. “[OCSTA and the bishops] came out with this memo on the 15th out of the blue, out of nowhere, and surprised everyone. Our equity and inclusive education policy was supposed to be passed a year ago. So to now come in at the last minute and change things, I just don’t understand. There was lots of time for public input. It’s a big question mark now. What we do know is GSAs will not be allowed.”

At the board meeting, Marai asked LeMay if any gay people will sit on the provincial committee. She referred the question to education director Michael Pautler, who didn’t have an answer.

“I think I would bring a much-needed voice, as the only gay Catholic trustee in the province,” he says. “If you are talking about setting up clubs to combat homophobia, you’d think there’s someone who is actually gay that’s on it.”

“I’ve heard no communication whatsoever back. I hope to play a constructive part of it, but as of right now I’ve been ignored.”

Both Marai and trustee Anthony Danko -- two trustees who normally don’t see eye to eye on this issue -- did agree on one point at the meeting: that the Catholic school community wants a final answer on this issue. “At the end of the day constituents want to know what the results are going to be, and we need to provide that for them,” Marai says.

Leanne Iskander, 16, founder of the unofficial St Joseph Catholic Secondary School GSA in Mississauga, also asked to be on the provincial committee. She says no one can give her a straight answer on this.

Sharon McMillan, OCSTA communications coordinator, says “There was never an open call for names to be submitted to the committee.”

Marai says he will keep trying to have his voice heard, Iskander too. “We need answers on this right away," Marai says. "Decisions are being made and students are being affected. At the end of the day we need to keep the best interest of them at heart… I’m an optimistic person, but it’s difficult to see what will be different than what we have now.”

Once again, Marai expressed concern that this issue is putting Catholic school funding in serious jeopardy.

“We keep trying to ban this word [gay], and at the same time we are a publicly funded school system,” he says. “This issue is threatening the entire system. I want to strengthen the Catholic school system, but we’re not doing ourselves any favours by going against Canadian rights and law and culture. So I am very concerned this will be a major provincial election issue. This is not doing Catholic school boards any good.”

GSAs started making headlines in January after Xtra reported a ban on the student clubs by the Halton Catholic District School Board. Board chair LeMay told Xtra then that the board “doesn’t allow Nazi groups either. Gay-straight alliances are banned because they are not within the teachings of the Catholic Church.”

Xtra revealed in February that GSAs are forbidden at all Ontario Catholic schools.

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Comments

I was gay too...
I had my first lesbian relationship when I was 17. I never "came out" in High School, but no one was stupid either, (and I think maybe, some noticed that I was same sex attracted). The funny thing is, no one said anything, no one picked on me (/us). As a matter of fact, as I recall the teenagers of my time where quite selfish and self absorbed, many engrossed in being noticed themselves and who was the "coolest".

On the other hand, I will tell you that both me and my younger brother where beaten up in school when we first came to Canada, I was 7 and my brother was 6, simply because our parents dressed us differently than the other children.

So when I think of the "liberation" you want to achieve from bullying for "gay teens", from my perspective I see this as rather self-centered and selfish if you really want to eliminate "bullying" in schools. Shouldn't fat teens be included too? Or those with glasses, or those from other countries, etc? Immigrants and black people get beaten up in this country much worse than gays do. The part of Canada where I live right now, believe it or not, has a group called the "Arian" guard. They are an "armed" group, that has it's own compound outside the city (can you believe that? In Canada?) and who target visible minorities (by this, I mean as an example, they beat up a small Japanese woman). This is something you may never experience, but that really needs addressing, since these people do not have the powerful gay lobby supporting them and that is only concerned about gay rights. And what exactly are those rights? The rights to have same-sex sexual relationships outside of God's law, and boast about it in a Catholic High School? May God have mercy on you.
Why...
do you assume that because I am queer that my objective is to 'have as much sex as I can possibly stand'?.

No, Sylvia, I do not think you understand what our young people endure. If you did, you would know what liberation I am talking about.

Anyway, this discussion is going in a direction that needs no defence...so I shake the dust off my feet...be well.
Liberation
Marie,

by "liberation" do you mean "having as much sex as you possibly can stand?"...Don't you already have this?

Further, may I ask, has anyone come into your bedroom to try and prevent you from having "all" this sex? I doubt it, very much. Yet some of you who do not understand Catholic teaching on "sobriety" and "chastity" would like to come into a holy place and bully chaste "Catholics" into your view of the world.

Sylvia

P.S. The Church has done me no harm, and I am thankful to it. They did not come to me, but I went to them. God Himself called me to pray and to a life of "chastity".

You know something, even John Paul II, our former Holy Father (Pope), before he died, and went to visit a Mosque, was courteous, and abided by certain outer practices, as per their rules; yet, same-sex attracted people, coming to a Catholic Church, or School, expect things done their way, and have their demands met. How rude!!! Don't you think?

This said, no one has ever died by not having sex, but many die or get STD's by having sex. "Chastity" is blessed.
I'm very sorry
for what the Church has done to you, us and our community. That is all I can say to this.

I hope that other faithful Catholics like Trustee Marai will continue to speak out and advance our rights so that we can all find liberation and faith beyond resentment.
Wake up Ontario
Stop funding the catholic cult's schools. The rest of the country stopped doing it years ago. What are you afraid of? These zombie jesus freaks are pussies.
Courage and Holy Family Parish
Marie, you discuss different things. For one thing "Courage", you are right, it does not either encourage or discourage Reperative Therapy. Where you considering this for yourself? Courage allows it's members to find the best therapies that they think they may require. To be honest, a very small percentage of people with SSA who return to their respective Faiths (that I know of), seek Reperative Therapy, (though I have heard it really works for some).

May I suggest the "Living Waters Program"? Have you heard of this?

http://livingwaterstoronto.org/

Also, though I do not attend your Parish, I know of two people there a man and a woman, both returned to their Catholic Faith, both are now married to someone of the opposite sex, (the man just recently), the woman, last time I heard, had just had her fifth child and was ecstatic.

Are they homophobic? Are they lying to their Creator?

In my case, I have returned to my Catholic Faith, and I am chaste, single. I am not dating anyone, and I honestly think the Lord is not calling me to marriage, though without reperative therapy, I have experience great change in regards to how I feel about the opposite sex. I now have male friends, and feel tender feelings for men that I did not have before.

I do not want to go on too much about me though, but just to say that I have found the Church a blessing. God has blessed my staying chaste, and I have learned that it is pleasing to Him and a requirement of the Church. I am concerned, that this will be trampled over by people who are ignorant about the Catholic Faith. Which is really sad and undeserved.

For me, it has been a safe place of recovery, of meeting new friends (with different backgrounds, AA members, NA, SA, and same sex attracted people or former same sex attracted people, on the same journey of Faith to wholeness in Christ). To chastity.

Please see www.chastity.org
Courage does not discourage reparative therapy
I know this as a parishoner of Holy Family, legionary, cantor, lector, etc.
I am devoted to traditional devotions and have much respect for the Oratorian Fathers. This issue however is completely different ad let's be real - internalized homophobia is not and will never be a virtue. Catholics are called to charity in truth, and lying to
The Creator about who you are is blasphemy and an insult to God's creation! They are NOT ssa they are LGBTQ!
"Light in the Closet"
Have you heard of this book Marie? "Light in the closet" by Arthur Goldberg? You will see that Jesus did not come to change the law but to fulfill it. As the group "Jonah" which is for Jews who experience same sex attraction and are also called to abide by God's Commandments explains. Come and see:

http://www.jonahweb.org/index.php

For Catholics this is the site for materials and questions and there is a Toronto Chapter of "Courage" with good Parishes and priests:

http://couragerc.net/

There are also other ministries for Christians, Muslims, Orthodox and those who are searching for God (but have never belonged to a Faith) and are same sex attracted. The "Courage" chaplain may be of help.
Cont. Chastity
In the above comment, it seems I ran out of characters, so I will continue here: "chastity" is a requirement of every Catholic whether that person is same-sex attracted or not.

Blessings,

Sylvia
Chastity
Marie,

where do I mention reparative-therapy in my post or that this is what the Catholic Church teaches? Being authentically Catholic is being chaste (and a call to a chaste/sober life)whether one is single (abstaining from sexual relations completely) or married (faithful to one's spouse). This is authentically Catholic and if you do not believe me, you may want to check with a priest who is known to be faithful to the teaching of the Catholic Church, not one that is on their bad list (unfortunately, among thousands of good priests, there are some bad apples. In this regard, in Toronto, may I recommend "Holy Family Church"). Ask them what is required or/ the state a person needs to be in order to receive Holy Communion.

The Courage format by the way, is more along the lines of a 12 Step Program, not unlike Sexaholics Anonymous. There are levels of participation as well, with one choosing one's path in the various programs. For example, someone may simply want to join a listserve, or one may want to join a weekly or monthly group not unlike (AA, or SA). One may also attend annual retreats (all without obligation and as one discerns this need in prayer or through the advice of others). One may also feel they need more in-depth help, and seek counselling. In this regard, some priests at Courage were/are also psychiatrists, and can refer people to appropriate help as one requires it. As most people in the gay community are more than well aware, some have been sexually abused, there are incest survivors, and others with problems that do require more help than an AA group at one point or another.

In regards to reparative therapy, though I have not personally sought this out, I am open to the idea of exploring this, since I have heard from reliable sources in the U.S. that it has been very helpful for some. In the end, we all just need to find our niche. This may not be your need, but it is also not a requirement of every Catholic, chas

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