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Rick Mercer 'appalled' that Catholic schools deny gay-straight alliances

Rick Mercer 'appalled' that Catholic schools deny gay-straight alliances

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Educators should not 'ignore' student needs
Canadian comedian Rick Mercer is throwing his star power and support behind a rally in support of gay-straight alliances (GSAs) on Sept 18 at Queen's Park.

Mercer says his blood is boiling because Catholic schools continue to deny student requests to start the support groups. 

“[Gay, lesbian, bisexual and trans] kids are most at risk, and gay-straight alliances create a safe place and a more tolerant atmosphere at school,” Mercer, who is gay, told Xtra. “Any school board that will not allow them to start GSAs is completely ridiculous and absurd in a country like ours.

“God forbid any of these Catholic school board people responsible for trying to stop gay-straight alliances ever have to deal with one of their own children who is at risk and doesn’t have the support they need. Kids just have to get through this rough time.”


The Sept 18 rally — dubbed Keep the Faith But Not in Our Schools — has been organized by the Canadian Secular Alliance to demand support and protection for students of all sexual orientations in all publicly funded schools. The event is set to begin at 1:30pm and will call for an end to public funding for Roman Catholic separate schools in Ontario.

Although Mercer is travelling and unable to attend in person, he plans to write a letter of solidarity that will be read aloud.

But organizer Kevin Smith warns there is a chance the rally will be “hijacked” by hostile counter-protesters with “an agenda of hate.”

“This rally of ours could turn into a shit show,” he says.

Canadian Hindu Advocacy's Ron Banerjee told CTV News on Sept 12 that his group plans to attend specifically to protest against Islamic prayer services at Valley Park Middle School.

Valley Park has been holding Friday afternoon student prayer services for the past three years. The sessions were initiated after staff noticed that students were skipping class to attend services outside the school. Banerjee told CTV he opposes any form of religious prayer in secular schools.

“We told Banerjee he’s not allowed to speak. He says some awful things about Muslims,” Smith says. “Today he threatened us, saying, ‘If you don’t let me speak, I will bring all my people with our signs and have a counter-protest in front of your rally.’"

Originally the rally also took aim at Valley Park, calling for an end to the prayer sessions, but Smith says organizers decided to keep the focus on GSAs and faith-based schools. “The students are the most important part in this story. We can’t lose sight of that.”

In the weeks leading up to Toronto's 2011 Pride festival, Banerjee joined the Jewish Defense League (JDL) to protest outside the Pride Toronto (PT) office. At the time, the two groups joined forces to demand that PT “denounce” Queers Against Israeli Apartheid (QuAIA). 

Smith says Queen’s Park security has been notified about the event. “This rally is about supporting the students and supporting GSAs. Yes, we will also talk about funding, but it’s not the focus.

“We have a provincial election coming up, and this is our one chance to make GSAs an issue,” he adds. “The public awareness is definitely on our side, but we have to keep pushing.”

GSAs and Catholic schools have been in national headlines since January, when the Halton Catholic District School Board banned GSAs. In a separate incident, activist Leanne Iskander, founder of Catholic Students for GSAs (CS4GSA), has been blocked from starting a GSA at Mississauga’s St Joseph’s Catholic Secondary School. 

At this, Mercer didn’t mince words. “Anyone who walks around saying there’s no need for GSAs shouldn’t accept tax dollars.”

“As a society we have to take care of people who are at risk. GLBT kids are at risk,” Mercer says. “To not provide [GSAs] is to ignore the needs of these kids. We already know about the suicide rates. We know about the self-esteem issues.”

Catholic schools have told students they are permitted only to start “general equity groups with Catholic names,” maintaining a ban on the word gay. Mercer says this sends the absolute wrong message. “It says you should function in society without identifying as gay. It makes my blood boil. It just makes me shake my head in the morning.”

Mercer remembers when Newfoundland got rid of Catholic schools after it held a referendum in 1997. “I grew up under a denominational education. It was a system I never thought would ever end. It was so ingrained in the society no one from my generation, or the previous generation, could believe it would cease to exist. When there was a referendum in Newfoundland, I voted to end denominational education."
 
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Comments

When is Ontario's referendum?
When will Ontario finally say goodbye to this antiquated system of education, where religion and indoctrination is taught in schools funded by tax-payers? That is the real problem here and until Ontario gets rid of the Catholic school system we will continue we will continue to butt up against their archaic values.

I'm glad Rick Mercer is speaking out on this issue and I want to thank all the protesters there. This issue is vitally important to our kids. They must be treated equally, no matter what group they identify with.

I do wish Bannerjee and his ridiculous protests would go away but that's probably not going to happen anytime soon.
Re: Banerjee video
Just saw this new vid of our friend Banerjee. This time he doesn't shy away from annotations and takes on a group of Muslim women and children calling them pitiful and oppressed by Islam (no radical or fundamentalist or anything). Then he calls on them to convert to Christianity, Hinduism and Judaism. And to join him because he is the "Best friend" to Muslim women and children.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OWW4YOACBBU

also here is a gem of him flipping out at some middle school kids
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cgIkj26-LNk

I understand the Muslim prayer issue is a hot button topic. BUT bringing in unrelated issues or hate will not resolve anything. People can disagree on a topic and have a civil discussion. Yelling at kids, spreading conspiracy theories or discussing unrelated issues is not the way to go about doing it.
Rick Q mercer
Rick Q Mercer might be a tad biased in this debate.
RE: I watched Banerjee video
He did not refer to Muslim immigrants as rats and cockroaches, he referred to fundamentalist Muslims as rats and cockroaches.

Let's not underestimate the intelligence of this Ron Banerjee.. that's how he has avoided human rights/ hate charges so far, he always couches his speech with little annotations that allow him to plead innocence.

Underestimating an opponent is the surest way to lose.
re: xox
There's a huge difference between the tax payer supported Catholic school system which is legally allowed to discriminate against non-Catholics and non-practicing Catholics in their hiring practices and which uses our tax money to violate the Charter rights of its students and an optional Muslim prayer session in a public school on Fridays. The TDSB also makes accommodations for other religious students, in some schools Jewish prayers are said in class time during Jewish holy days. As well other religions including Christians of various sects are also accommodated on their holy days as well. Its not just religious Muslim students who are being accommodated by the TDSB contrary to the claims of many. In fact the JDL is only opposed to Muslims being allowed the option to pray in public schools but supports Jews, Christians and other religions being allowed the option to pray in public schools. See the JDLs website if you don't believe me. As well xox if you can't see the difference between publicly funded religious indoctrination, discrimination and the violation of their students' Charter rights by the Catholic school boards who only take direction from unelected bishops and not democratically elected officials and the TDSB allowing religious Muslim students, as well as religious students from all other religions, the option of praying in public schools on their holy days then you are truly ideologically blinded. The TDSB does not discriminate, the publicly funded Catholic school system does. That makes all the difference.
re: Banerjee on Immigrants
It played okay for me. It shows a good example why the Canadian Secular Alliance doesn't want him at their rally, he refers to Muslim immigrants to Canada as "rats and cockroaches".
Kathleen Wynne and Islamic schools
So, here's a question for Kathleen Wynne who supports Islamic prayers in public schools (see Toronto Sun for the article).

So, Kathleen, you're saying that Islamic prayer sessions which put girls behind the boys to pray and don't allow women to speak is something that doesn't concern you in public schools because "people are entitled to practice their faith they way they see fit...."

But you're also prepared to tell Catholics they can NOT practice their religion "the way they see fit" in public schools because of how they discriminate against gays....

So, which is it, Kathleen? Which is it? Why does religion trump human rights in one scenario but not the other?

How naive can one be???
To: Banerjee on immigrants
That youtube video stops playing haflway thru the clip, so I really couldnt tell what he said.
Banerjee on Immigrants
If what banerjee said on coren upsets you, you should see what he said about immigrants at his protest.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lgvtGmEDlHI
QuAIA are no longer an issue
QuAIA is now irrelevant and finished. It was always a fringe group and nothing else. Please stop mentioning them. FYI - QuAIA did NOT support Hammas, did NOT support any Muslim Government, did NOT support anything Muslim in any of their writings. It only advocated equality for average Palestinian people and their children as human beings, to have a country of their own, free from military occupation. The occupation has been costly to both Israelis and Palestinians financially and in human lives and stress -both sides have legitimate grievances and faults. QuAIA is not against Israel as a country, as many QuAIA are Jewish, some Israeli citizens. They only object to Israeli military occupation of Palestinians, as do many other Israeli citizens who live in Israel, do object to the occupation. (It should never have been brought to Toronto Pride!) Many Israeli citizens advocate that the UN recognize a separate Palestinian State. This is a very current issue. Read the Israeli newspapers: _____ http://www.haaretz.com/print-edition/opinion/israel-does-not-want-a-palestinian-state-period-1.384559 ______ http://www.haaretz.com/print-edition/opinion/israel-must-act-against-jewish-terrorists-1.384328

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