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Politicians silent on students' GSA bid

Politicians silent on students' GSA bid

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Liberals afraid of issue, says NDP education critic
UPDATE - MARCH 20 - Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board chair Anna Abbruscato refused an interview when Xtra called at home.
Sounding annoyed, Abbruscato rushed off the phone. "You really caught me in the middle of Sunday dinner. This is family time," she says firmly at about 2 pm. "Could you call back tonight or tomorrow?"
Asked if she could spare five minutes for a short chat about the St. Joes GSA, she refused. "At a Sunday afternoon during dinner, no I don't have time," she says.
Told to call back at 6 pm, Xtra did, but got voicemail.


UPDATE - MARCH 18 - Dan O'Brien, director of operations for Ontario's NDP, told Xtra education critic Rosario Marchese will raise the GSA issue Monday morning during Question Period at Queens Park. Xtra will be watching from the gallery.

MARCH 17 - Ontario Minister of Education Leona Dombrowsky is staying mum after school administrators denied 32 students of St Joseph’s Catholic Secondary School in Mississauga the chance to form a gay-straight alliance (GSA) at their school.

Ministry of Education spokesperson Gary Wheeler did not provide a reason for Dombrowsky's silence, saying simply “the minister will not comment.”

Amrit Mangat, the MPP for Mississauga-Brampton South, the riding that includes the school, didn't respond to Xtra's request for an interview, either. Nor did Ontario PC Leader Tim Hudak, Ontario English Catholic Teachers' Association (OECTA) president James Ryan, MPP Glen Murray, Egale Canada executive director Helen Kennedy, Ontario NDP leader Andrea Horwath or St Joe’s education director John Kostoff.

In fact, the only politician willing to talk about the matter with Xtra on March 17 was Ontario NDP education critic Rosario Marchese. It is Marchese's responsibility to lead opposition to the provincial government’s education policy.

Asked if he plans to raise the issue, Marchese says Dombrowsky doesn’t listen to him either.

“The questions we ask don’t get answered, and sometimes they don’t even get covered [in media],” he says. “If the students want a club with the title "gay-straight alliance," then that’s what it should be.”

Marchese says Dombrowsky and the provincial Liberals are “afraid” of the issue because public opinion is so divided across Ontario.

“It raises concerns for many of them, especially in areas where this could become an issue, and they’d rather not talk about it,” he says. “I don’t think anyone will make this an election issue.”

Marchese says no Liberal will stand up and hold Catholic school boards' feet to the fire. “This is not one of their bread-and-butter issues. This is a human rights issue.”

All publicly funded school boards in Ontario are required to follow the government’s equity and inclusive education policy.

“One way to achieve equity and inclusivity is to create these alliances," says Marchese. "Where students want them, they should have them, and because it’s a guideline written by the ministry, the minister should be defending it.

“The minister should be taking a much more active position to ensure these things happen. There’s no point in having a policy if you don’t do anything to defend it… Having a gay-straight alliance is something that students have a right to do, and that’s what we should insist on.”

When asked what should happen if Catholic school boards refuse to bring their policies in line with the Ministry of Education, Marchese stopped short.

“I’m not going to be put in a position where I’m questioning the funding of Catholic schools,” he says. “I think it’s interesting that not many provincial Liberals are stating their views publicly on this. We have to make everybody accountable.”

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Comments

NDP record
Hey Andrea you might want to check a few facts on who expanded funding to Catholic Schools under the Bob Rae NDP government. There isn't enough energy to take funding from the Catholic Board. And a few petitions and FB groups are not going to do much. I can't believe the Catholic Board is so stupid. Let queer students have their groups for Christs sake!!!
Go, go Rosario!
I am now aware of exactly one MPP who is will to speak out on this issue! Rosario, please know that most of Ontario--and Canada--stands firmly behind you on this one! Let's see Leona Dombrowsky and Dalton McGuinty (and Tim Hudack and Andrea Horwath?) try to defend the indefensible tomorrow at Queen's Park! Silence is no longer an option. Thank you, Mr. Marchese!
Mr. Marchese is bold, but not quite bold enough
My hat's off to the NDP education critic. He's got more backbone than Glen Murray, and much more backbone than any party leader. He still falls short of the obvious: The Catholic system must conform to basic human rights principles, or it must be denied public funding. How do we interpret the silence of Ontario's politicians on this important issue? Most of them are willing to scream bloody murder for issues far less egregious than this, yet on this expensive and discriminatory issue, none will speak. Something is going on, and it has nothing to do with democracy. Somehow the bishops have convinced the politicians that Catholics vote as a bloc according to whatever the bishops tell them, and no party is willing to risk alienating 30% of the electorate. This must be it. But this is incorrect. Catholics don't vote as a bloc. Many, if not most, agree with the formation of GSAs in Catholic schools. Even the Catholic teachers union (OECTA) sided with Marc Hall in his "prom date" case some years ago. The issue of public funding for Catholic schools has *never* gone before the electorate, so how can every politician be so sure that it's a losing battle? Have the bishops played their "firestorm" card again? In any case, the cowardice of our politicians will be rendered moot if--no, *when*--this becomes a Supreme Court challenge, with international attention. And international mockery. Let Canada show its true colours on the *international* stage. And then, when the tide turns so visibly, watch with bemusement at how *every* MPP magically discovers their courage overnight and says, "Oh, I've been fighting this fight--behind the scenes of course--for years! I am so on-side! Three cheers for one public system!" Pathetic. Even more pathetic that they believe we're stupid enough to let them get away with it.
A beautiful equality comment all MPPs should read
"[E]quality isn't just about being treated the same, and it isn't a mathematical equation waiting to be solved. Rather, it is about equal human dignity, and full membership in society. It is about promoting an equal sense of self-worth. It is about treating people with equal concern, equal respect, and equal consideration. These are the values that underlie equality. These are the values that are offended when we discriminate, consciously or not."
- Canadian Supreme Court Justice The Honourable Madam Justice Claire L'Heureux-Dubé, "A Conversation about Equality" (2000) Denver Journal of International Law and Policy.
They know Catholic school funding is indefensible.
Of course Education Ministry Dombrowsky, PC leader Hudak, and other Ontario politicians are silent on this issue. They know their party and personal positions in favour of religious school funding for Catholic schools and Catholic schools alone are immoral, unprincipled, unfair, and discriminatory. There is nothing more uncomfortable than a bigot in the spotlight. The last thing these politicians want to do is "come out" as such, they'd rather stay in the closet and plausibly deny their orientation.

If they tried to defend the status quo, they would inevitably put their feet in their mouths and look like intolerant bigots (which most Ontario MPPs are, by the way, in their refusal to grant equal consideration to people of other faiths by funding all religious schools or by funding none). If they attack the status quo, they risk the ire of the 34% of Ontarians who are Catholic (though half reportedly support one school system), few of whom actually go to Church, but many of whom enjoy the segregation, appreciate the homophobia, or perceive the separate school in their area to be superior (Catholic schools frequently have slightly higher standardized test scores, but this is often explained by the much smaller burden they bear in integrating new Canadians facing linguistic and cultural difficulties).

Marchese has the same lack of courage and conviction of other MPPs who know what is right and refuses to do it, but at least he acknowledges all MPPs have to be held accountable. Come out of the closet as the bigots you are -- or prove to everyone that you are not.

Let's shine the spotlight on them, shall we? Help us: www.OneSchoolSystem.org.
Shameful
It is shameful that even an opposition critic won't call for ending the biased funding of Catholic schools with public money. If other provinces can end it, so can we. Further, any Catholic schools that were built with public money should be returned to the public school system so they can be open to all, following the same curriculum as every other public school.
The little-known loophole for Catholic schools
It is not surprising that Minister Dombrowsky is refusing to comment on the matter since she has had to be corrected on her misunderstanding of special concessions that are made for Catholic school boards in Ontario. Speaking to a reporter from the Ottawa citizen in 2010, Dombrowsky went on public record saying, "This is the Ontario curriculum, and it's the curriculum for all schools and all students." However, there is a long-standing tradition in Ontario of allowing Catholic school boards to develop their own versions of provincial curriculum and educational policies. On the matter of implementing the Ontario Ministry of Education's Equity and Inclusive Education Strategy, a Catholic consortium of education leaders worked closely with members of the Ontario Education Services Corporation to design what is known as a "Catholic template" of the ministry's equity policy. The Catholic version is similar in content to the original provincial ministry's equity policy, but it reserves a perceived right to implement the policy in a manner consistent with the board's denominational rights. This is an example of the special concessions in place for Catholic schools in Ontario. No one wants to own up to this little-known loophole for Catholic schools that allows them to continue to discriminate against sexual minority groups in their midst.
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