TORONTO. Ontario, July 6, 2011 ( – Leanne Iskander, a 16-year-old student at a Catholic high school, has been made the poster-teen for gay-straight alliances in the province’s Catholic schools.  Writing in a Toronto paper Iskander says she was encouraged in her pursuit by the Ontario bishops’ decision in April to allow homosexual “anti-bullying” clubs.

“The bishops’ decision to allow LGBT-specific anti-bullying groups was a huge step that I really wasn’t expecting,” 16-year-old Leanne Iskander wrote in the Torontoist on Saturday.  “I think it has encouraged me to keep fighting for a GSA. I’m pretty optimistic that we will eventually get there.”

“I think the most surprising thing I’ve learned from the experience was that even a system as strong as the Catholic school system will eventually bend to meet the needs of the students if there’s enough pressure,” she added.

Iskander has become the newest face of youth activism for Canada’s homosexual lobby in recent months, with her campaign getting backed by leading groups such as Egale, Pride Toronto, Queer Ontario, and Xtra.

Her group, ‘Catholic Students for GSAs’, marched Sunday in Toronto’s Gay Pride parade to raise awareness in the hopes of launching a broader coalition.

Iskander had been named as one of the parade’s two “grand marshals” and was awarded Pride Toronto’s ‘LGBTQ Youth of the Year’ award last month for her efforts.

She is also the head of a homosexual club at St. Joseph Catholic Secondary School in Mississauga, dubbed by members an “unofficial” gay-straight alliance, which has managed to retain support from the Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board by operating under the less-controversial name “Open Arms.”

Ontario’s bishops had first suggested comprehensive anti-bullying clubs in schools which would discourage bullying based on any criteria such as race and gender sand ‘sexual orientation’.  However, after pressure from the Ontario government, they announced in April that they are encouraging the province’s Catholic schools to set up a network of clubs with the “primary goal” of combating “bullying related to sexual orientation.”

The Ontario government has forbidden such groups from helping students to “reform their sexuality,” and Nancy Kirby, head of the Ontario Catholic School Trustees Association, has insisted they will not be used to “cure” students struggling with same-sex attractions.  As a result, critics have identified the clubs as a clear affront to Catholic teaching. 

A recent publication of the Catholic Bishops of Canada warns educators that misrepresentation and silence about the Church’s teaching that homosexual acts are immoral has grave consequences for youth experiencing same-sex attraction.  “Avoidance of difficult questions or watering down the Church’s teaching is always a disservice,” it says. “Such attitudes could lead young people into grave moral danger.” 

Contact Information:

Bishop Gerard Bergie, Chair of Ontario Bishops’ Education Commission
Tel: (905) 684-0154
Fax: (905) 684-7551
Email: [email protected]