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Politicians stay silent on Catholic school GSAs

Politicians stay silent on Catholic school GSAs

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'Time to talk about defunding Catholic schools': Hawkes
The minister of education tops a list of politicians, of every political stripe, who refuse to speak to Xtra on the record about our investigation into gay-straight alliances (GSA) in Ontario Catholic school boards.

Progressive conservative education critic Elizabeth Witmer has joined the NDP's Rosario Marchese and Education Minister Leona Dombrowsky in not speaking with Xtra.

The Green Party of Ontario’s education critic, Matt Richter, also an elementary school teacher, did speak to Xtra. He says his party’s position is that Ontario should work toward one public school system. “We’re really concerned that the Assembly of Catholic Bishops of Ontario are heavily influencing the curriculum and policies that receive public funding,” he says. “In essence they are discriminating.”


On Feb 11, Xtra revealed that gay clubs are prohibited at all Ontario Catholic schools, by decree of the bishop. Catholic bishops are the final authority for all policy and curriculum used in the publicly funded Catholic school system. Much of the discrimination comes from the Pastoral Guidelines to Assist Students of Same-Sex Orientation, the primary document instructing schools on homosexuality. It teaches that "gay" is not an identity, gay sex is “immoral” and gays must live a life of “chastity.”

In a time when gay students are committing suicide because of anti-gay bullying, Richter says, the Catholic schools are taking a “dangerous and scary” position. “For a school board to send the message that gay youth are not included is simply ridiculous,” he says.

Since breaking the news in January that the Halton Catholic District School Board (HCDSB) banned GSAs, Xtra has called Dombrowsky for comment several times. Ministry of education spokesperson Gary Wheeler insists he is passing on Xtra’s messages.

So why the silence from Dombrowsky, a former Catholic school trustee? “I did point out that this is a rather important issue,” Wheeler tells Xtra. “I always pass on your messages.”

Xtra also tried to get in touch with former education minister Kathleen Wynne, who is openly gay. But she has not called back, either.

Linda Williamson, director of communications for the Ontario ombudsman, tells Xtra that her office doesn’t handle education issues.

But while politicians are staying silent, the issue has the public and mainstream media talking. Some religious leaders are even speaking out against funding for Catholic schools.

Metropolitan Community Church pastor Brent Hawkes told Xtra that it’s time to seriously talk about defunding Catholic schools. Hawkes admits the constitutional right to freedom of religion continuously comes in conflict with human rights laws. “When freedom of religion conflicts with equality rights, equality rights must win,” he says.


The addition of freedom of religion into the Human Rights Code was intended to ensure there was “freedom of worship,” Hawkes says. “It was a means to protect groups from having the state interfere with their right to worship.”

“It was never intended to move beyond that,” he says. “It was never intended to be used as a way to deny rights to others or to demand things from others.”

Hawkes says Catholic schools are twisting the constitutional guarantee for a different purpose. “Some folks feel the whole ‘freedom of religion thing’ has gradually expanded way beyond its original intent. It was not meant to be used as a tool to go out into society and demand all these other accommodations.”

“Now we see the religious right trying to use freedom of religion to deny equality rights to gays and lesbians. We have to be very vigilant to be back in the courts, in ways that we haven’t been for a while, to ensure our rights we have are protected because they can be so easily undermined under the guise of freedom of religion.”

Hawkes says that publicly funded agencies, such as Ontario Catholic school boards, must obey public policy. “If you receive public funds, you must abide by public policy. The public gets this. I think this issue of Catholic school boards and GSAs is raising an important point. It’s really time that this province looked at [the problems with] having a religious-based school system. It’s really time to rethink that. New Brunswick has changed it. Newfoundland has changed it, even Quebec.”

Hawkes notes the United Nations has already found Canada in violation of human rights laws by allowing Catholic faith-based schools but not other faiths. “It’s a very dangerous precedent for the gay and lesbian community, and particularly women, to allow faith-based schools. When people are raised in the public system they are exposed to other views and sexual orientations. The Catholic system in general does a good job teaching tolerance, but I’m not sure other faith-based schools would do that.”

“As a society we need to decide what the boundaries on freedom of religion are,” Hawkes adds.

Comments

to james chamberlain
As a student in a catholic high school in southern ontario I know a fair bit about the schools stance on equality and fairness. The schools teach that everyone is equal and that everyone is loved equally by god. They're teaching of this is not restricted by whether you're gay or lesbian. on top of that if you were to make fun of a gay student then you'd probably be punished severely by a suspension. Now, having a group at catholic high schools for gays probably wouldn't be a bad idea, on the other hand the abolition of the catholic school board is a bad idea. Catholic schools aren't just for catholics, many non-catholics attend the high school I go to. (theres more non-catholics than catholics at my school I believe). You get a real sense of community at the high school when you're there and that's why our schools growing by a couple students every year and the other 2 public high schools in the area are losing students. On top of that I've heard from students that have transferred to our high school that the teachers and students are easier to approach and the teachers are more willing to give extra assistance to students who need it. Now, this is how things are at my high school and i'd imagine that the other catholic high schools operate on the same principles of equality and fairness,now why would you shut down schools that openly preach this and don't exclude non-catholics from attending ? It doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me, not to mention that our catholic school board is usually has money left over from our budget while the public school board is usually in the red with their spending...so I can see why they'd be anxious to absorb us into their school system to get more money...
A piece of Jewish advice
Note to Rev. Hawkes and Xtra. One, your claims to same-sex equality rely on the religious freedoms you now seek to deny to others and which are protected under s. 2 of the Charter. Two, the Education Act mandates that religious schools have FREEDOM in teaching on morality and must protect student health and safety. Three, Adler v. Ontario failed at the Supreme Court to gain equal tax funding for other religious schools (which might have included the Pink Triangle Program at MCC Toronto), but feel free to reopen this. Four, John Tory lost an Ontario election supporting equal funding for Jewish schools. Five, why don't you take your fight to the Ontario Human Rights Commission and tell the Catholics they have no right to teach an objection to homosexuality or ban GSAs. Have Doug Elliott represent you if you like - OHRC complaints are cheaper. Good luck, and call us when you're done.
Jane Catholic is now busy bashing Jews
Just as update, your fugugly bully NDP darling Jane of Challenge the Church is busy bashing Jews and Isarel with the Pride Coalition for Free Speech, but feel free to enlist her in offending and ambushing Catholics for a change, not that we like the idea, but the Jews could use a break from your tyrannical lefty bullies and hypocrites. We're busy enjoying religious freedoms and same sex equality and flourishing diverse and democratic communities without you. Including in Israel, that non-apartheid state. Be sure to ask Jane to ambush you at your next LGBT event and and scream at you and accuse you if you're Jewish of offending against her free speech to bash Jews and Israel while she enables hate crimes and gets ready to offend against the religious freedoms of her fellow Catholics.
Brent Hawkes knows nothing about law
Yay, Glenn, and notice the fawning portrait of Rev. Hawkes by your same crusading reporter Andrea Houston. Is it any wonder most city councillors won't talk to her either? Really, get a constitutional lawyer to explain to Rev. Hawkes that funding of Catholic schools was a necessary tool to bring Quebec into confederation, and it's here to stay. If he has a spare million or so to launch his own constitutional challenge, I'll buy popcorn. Cause the Court Challenges Fund is gone now. Also, the jurisprudence on same-sex rights and equality rights vs. religious freedoms has shown consistently that that these rights must be balanced, and so his claim that 'equality rights must win' is a no-brainer. Of course, he's still busy alienating Jews who pay for their own religious schools, and which understand the distinction between religious and secular law, and balance same sex equality with religious freedoms, including the freedoms of those who disagree with homosexuality but protect our civil rights. Brent should read the Education Act, which allows religious schools to teach as they like on moral issues, including homosexuality, and when he claims 'equality rights must win' you should be very afraid. Whose equality? I guess those of Brent and his friends. I don't like Catholic teachings on homosexuality, but the secret of our success at the Supreme Court and Parliament with civil same sex marriage was protecting the freedoms of even those with whom we disagree. Brent has yet to demonstrate this ability, and his willingness to attack the civil equalities of Catholics, the largest Christian denomination in Canada, should be very much of concern, and are a potential liability to our LGBT community as a whole, as is Xtra, and Andrea Houston.
Xtra's Houston reason for Political Silence
Is it any wonder why Minister of Education, Leona Dombrowsky won't talk to the likes of Andrea Houston? Combative, tricky, aggressive and you just know that the article has been written before the interview has began. This is a "reporter" who extoles all the virtues we have come to despise in modern fundamentalists. I for one don't believe in any sort of fundamentalism, be it religious, cultural, or our very own LGBTQ fundamentalists. People like Houston exhibit the same narrow-minded, unbending, and entitled cynicism that they claim to be fighting against. While the players might be different, it is this kind of fundamentalism that nobody has any tolerance or appetite for. It's a turn off! If Houston could find an ounce of objectivity in her writing, then perhaps the Minister would speak on the issue, but when you know that you are going to get crucified before you even sit down...well then what's the point? Houston and reporters like her refuse to talk about all of the proactive things that have happened in ON and that is not fair when you consider all of the postive things that the Ontario Liberals have accomplished. Houston and other right wing extremists would rather stay hung up on issues that polarize us all even further. A little objectivity never hurt a reporter get their story, but somehow I doubt Houston will ever be able to step down from her right-wing fundamentalist LGBT soap box. Most of my friends are apathetic about the issue and feel Canada should become a champion of human rights (including LGBT)in countries where gay people are still imprisoned or sentenced to death . Who cares if the Catholics call their groups "inclusion groups" vs. GSA's? They serve the same purpose and many progressive teachers understand and give those kids all the support they need. In this model, any kid who feels discriminated/bullied due to sexual orientation, disability, race, etc, has a safe place to go. So in
Yank funding or teach acceptance
Private schools that do not abide by the Canadian Charter and teach equality of every student and family should not be funded by the government. The public school system is currently underfunded and the money could be better spent there. If you want to send your child to a private faith-based school you should have to pay for 100% of the costs. Those schools should be teaching about acceptance of LGBTQ students and families. If they aren't following the provincial curriculum set by the Ministry of Education then there should be some accountability for this and their funds should be yanked.
Freedom of religion in Canada is a constitutionall
The constitutionally provided mandate of Halton separate (Catholic) schools is to provide education in a school setting that is reflective of Roman Catholic theology, doctrine, and practices. This mandate can manifest itself in the Program of Studies and the curriculum, exercises and practices, and staffing. The limits of this mandate are determined by the application of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and judicial decisions. The Charter does not prohibit discrimination by churches, associations and businesses. Section 2 of the Charter protects freedom of religion and section 93 of the Constitution recognizes the right to denominational schools.
Catholics will provide for their students in their
The debate surrounding Homosexual/Straight Alliances (GSAs) in Catholic high schools is being complicated by the fact that people are not distinguishing between an objective and a strategy. GSAs are a strategy that some people propose to achieve an objective with which the Bishops of Ontario are in agreement: that all students in schools feel safe and respected. The Catholic objective is that each student be treated with dignity, for each is a child of God. It is not right or fair to suggest that one particular strategy is the only way to achieve a given goal. Catholics seek to achieve the goal of a safe and loving environment for all students in a way that is in harmony with their Christian faith.
catholic church lost its way, and gays
the catholic church was supposed to be about social justice for all, in the Name of Jesus and God. But with the German born pope, it has become a den of evil. At every turn, despite what comes out of one side of the church's mouth, the hierarchy demonizes and deny's equality to gay people. Here in the USA, it is perhaps the worst of the worst, in preventing gay marriage or destroying it, violating our laws about separation of church and state. In addition, while there are many good and great priests, the church holds an axe over their heads. Go against church teaching and you can go find another job, and kiss your pension goodbye. 30 million of USA catholics are now "Lapsed" catholics who no longer go to church or contribute. 95% of American Catholics use artificial birth control despite the church. And the Pope told Africans, where AIDS is rampart among str8 people, that using condoms increases the chance of AIDs. The church is both living in the 10th century of the dark ages, and there is no fixing it. For the sake of Equality, gay and lesbian citizens and all of your countries freedoms and diversity I implore all of you to simply leave this church. It is beyond hope or redemption. Read a couple of websites which may well sicken you as they give the truth about the Catholic church. www.catholicarrogance.org www.nobeliefs.com/nazis.htm And remember that the church has been not only molesting children from time immemorial, but also hid these vile crimes. Often simply moving offending priests to new locations where they were not known. So they could continue to accost children. Not just in the USA, but Brazil, Ireland, England, Switzerland, Germany etc etc. Almost everywhere this "anything but" christian church operates.
@John:
Thanks for your kind words. And thanks for sharing your story about school in Manitoba. Manitoba, as you probably already very well know, removed its public funding for Catholic schools in the late 1800's. It's just Ontario and Alberta now.

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