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Toronto Catholic school board tries to put religion above human rights


Toronto Catholic school board tries to put religion above human rights

Patrick Keyes, superintendent of education for the TCDSB, explains the policy in April. IMAGE 1 OF 1
There's a real fear children will become part of this 'gay agenda': superintendent
The Toronto Catholic District School Board (TCDSB) may soon try to pass amendments to its equity policy that allow religious doctrine to trump the Ontario Human Rights Code.

Among the eight amendments, only two passed at the last board meeting, on May 16. The meeting came to an end before trustees had time to vote on six other proposed amendments that appear to directly target queer students. One proposed amendment states that the Catholic board’s denominational rights “take precedence over human rights protections.”

Another takes aim at gay-straight alliances (GSAs): “The board will approve only clubs which [sic] have goals that are not inconsistent with Catholic faith and the Catholic Church’s moral and doctrinal teachings.”

Patrick Keyes, superintendent of education for the TCDSB, says many parents have a “real fear” that the Ministry of Education’s equity and inclusive education policy is “eroding Catholic values and traditions.”

“There’s some pretty polarizing views that are emerging, and that’s unfortunate,” Keyes says. “There’s a real fear, a fear their children will become part of this ‘gay agenda.’”

Keyes says the remaining six amendments will be debated and voted on in August.

Although the TCDSB’s equity policy passed May 16, the board is now trying to make changes that make it easier for schools to continue to discriminate against queer students.

One amendment that died before it reached the boardroom states that whenever homosexuality is discussed in class, the teacher must reinforce the Catholic Catechism, which says that gay people are “intrinsically disordered.”

“Yes, that was proposed,” Keyes tells Xtra. “It stated that every time a teacher spoke about homosexuality they had to also say to students, ‘By the way, you’re intrinsically disordered.’”

Keyes says the board is under increasing pressure from parents to tighten up the equity policy or reject it entirely.

“For some people, [homosexuality] represents some sort of hedonism, a terrible hedonistic view of life. That’s what the opposition is to this,” he says.

But Keyes says he takes a different view than most of the Catholic parents inundating his office with angry phone calls.

“Not all gay people are the same. That’s like imagining Paris Hilton is the poster child for heterosexualism,” he says. “There’s great diversity among all of us… I’m listening to some people and I’m thinking, ‘How can you believe God is love if that’s what they’re saying to other people?’ Some people really feel the souls of their children will be in danger.”

Since 2009, school boards across Ontario have been reviewing and passing equity policies. Catholic schools adopt a “Catholic template," a version of Ontario’s equity policy that’s written specifically for English Catholic boards by the Ontario Education Services Corporation.

The TCDSB was the last school board in Ontario to pass its equity policy.

The amendments make subtle tweaks to the language of the policy that could have big changes in the classroom. For example, amendment number four states that "every person within the Catholic school community is entitled to a respectful, positive and Christ-centred school climate where the learning and working environment is free from all forms of discrimination and harassment."

That may change to "the board has an obligation to ensure an individual's freedom to express Catholic moral principles regarding sexuality and marriage without fear of recrimination."

At an April 27 TCDSB meeting at Our Lady of Lourdes Public School on Sherbourne St, parents told the board that GSAs “indoctrinate” and “confuse” youth by “normalizing” a “dangerous lifestyle.” Many others demanded that any reference to “sexual orientation” be removed from the equity policy. Some argued that allowing a GSA would open the door to “sexual promiscuity and disease.”

In January, the Halton Catholic District School Board passed its policy only after “sexual orientation” was removed as something that shouldn’t be discriminated against, like race, disability or religion. Trustees also slapped on a blanket ban on GSAs, Xtra revealed. That ban was later lifted in the face of international outrage.

Then, in March, Xtra told the story of a group of students at St Joseph Catholic Secondary School in Mississauga who were rejected in their bid for a GSA. Since going public, the students have faced vicious bullying in class and online. Led by 16-year-old Leanne Iskander, the group is now galvanizing support across the province, inviting other students to join them in the Pride parade under the banner of the newly formed Catholic Students for GSAs.

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To "radical atheist prosletyzer"
OK, I don't usually post replies to ignorant people, but your comment just pissed me off. You know, not all religious people are homophobic. Even though a lot of them are, that doesn't mean that atheists OR homosexual people have the right to be a prick to everyone who's religious. Would you like it if I said that all atheistic beliefs are total bulls***? Or how about if I said taht homosexuality was "an unhealthy socially parasitic sub-group?" (and to be clear, I'm not saying that, I'm just giving an example.) No, you wouldn't. But you're saying things like that about religious people, so you're no better than the homophobic s***s out there. And until people like you start to be less asinine about other people's beliefs, I'll be as much of an asshole as I want. Also, IMO, atheists are no less "socially parasitic" as Catholics or any other religion. The lesson here? Don't be a prick. Same goes to the people mentioned in the article. Don't be assholes. End of my 1000 letter rant. Goodbye.
P.S. Don't blame me if this comment makes no sense, I'm writing it at 1:17 AM.
god is dead, get used to it
Truthman -- ironic name since you are neither. You are correct. As a homosexual I view you and other Catholics (and all religionists) as a midguided chosen lifestyle. An unhealthy socially parasitic, violent and obnoxiously entitled sub-group whose insistence on their chosen perversion creates societal havoc for those of us atheists and sexual freedomites and anti-infantilism adult humans. You can get help and come out of your liefstyle of death and whips and nails and burning at the stake as can your brainwashed children. All you have to do is give up your crutches and your hatred of humanity. It's that easy. And once you do, we may think about allowing you to exist in civilized society -- perhaps. Or perhaps we will teach our children the truth about you Truthman and your perverse lifestyle of Jesus and God and all those antisocial drugs of choice.
Religious Freedom is a superior human right
You are all anti-Catholic bigots. Religous Freedom is actually listed in human rights documents worldwide. Also parental right to decide on how to have their children educated is also a human right actually written into most human rights documents. There is no right to teach any certain viewpoint about homosexuality in any rights document in existence. Get your heads out of the sand. Your "rights" argument is false, but your ignorant bigotry is absolutely certain.
Equal Rights, NOT Special Rights
Of course religious rights and freedom are important, but they do not trump other human and equality rights. If a religious teaching or doctrine interferes with the equality rights of other groups, then that teaching or doctrine must be set aside.

People are certainly free to practice their own religious beliefs and follow the teachings of their church, but they are not free to force those beliefs on others.
Fire with Fire
The homophobic catholics seem to ignore common sense so it's time to get serious. First, get rid of public funding of catholic schools, including a constitutional amendment if required. If they still don't listen to reason, de-certify ALL catholic school programs from kindergarten through college (ditto any other wingnut schools who don't believe in the powers of government). Let them teach exorcism and faith-healing on their own dime, on their own time, and give kids a proper education.
Bullying and Harassment
I was bullied and harassed all through school. What disturbs me is that nothing that is being discussed here would have made one bit of difference in my case. I do not belong to an identifiable group. Unfortunately that makes little difference when someone sucker punches you in a stairwell, leaving you gasping for breath crumpled against a wall. Oddly enough this did not happen in my first four years of Catholic school but began in earnest when I had to transfer to a public school. The clear implication I see here is that bullying is quite acceptable so long as it is not a hate crime?? This is very disturbing.
human rights must top religious rights
I find it hard to believe, well not that hard really, that the Toronto Catholic school board would actually set out in its documents that as far as they're concerned human rights come second to religious rights. I hate to break it to them but they aren't the ones who get to decide whether or not human rights should be ignored in favour of religious rights, that's up to the courts to decide, not the school board. I'm all for defunding the Catholic school system in Ontario, other provinces have done it so there's no reason why Ontario shouldn't. However the human rights code still needs to be applied to private religious schools just as much as to public schools whether they be religious or secular. Reading this column has once again convinced me of the massive amount of work left to be done in ensuring equality for LGBT people of whatever age and that there is no way to work with the Catholic schools in ensuring protection of the rights of their LGBT students let alone protecting them for harassment and bullying because of their sexual orientation and teaching their students that its more than okay to be homophobic/heterosexist. Reading this column took me back to my experiences growing up in a toxic anti-gay environment where it seemed that LGBT people would never stand a chance or be accepted by most of society. Definitely not a happy memory, but today at least we have more tools to fight back. I hope that issues such as this make those who believe we've arrived and have nothing left to fight for open their eyes to see the massive hatred for LGBT people that still exists in large segments of society.
Give back the cash
It's been clear for a long time that the Catholic school boards and system are not dealing in good faith (ironically) with the province of Ontario. It's time for the province to get our money back from them.
Fucking Catholics
That is all.
Isn't it interesting...?
Isn't it interesting that those who oppose the alleged "gay agenda" whose substance appears to be ensuring that the province's human rights agenda is enforced across the board for *all* citizens of the province is criticized as an attempt at "special consideration" while at the same time, Catholic authorities are insisting that their denominational rights must take precedence over the human rights code?

WHO, exactly, is looking for "special consideration"?
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