Co-authored with John Jalsevac
TORONTO, Ontario, May 18, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) – The “anti-bullying” clubs that are being set up in Ontario Catholic schools with the encouragement of the province’s bishops are simply gay-straight alliances (GSAs) “with a Catholic name,” said the head of the Ontario English Catholic Teachers Association (OECTA) yesterday.
The candid remarks, which appear to confirm the worst fears of pro-family critics of the Ontario government’s equity policy and the bishops’ approach to handling it, came two days day before the Toronto Catholic District School Board is scheduled to vote on the board’s highly controversial equity and inclusive education policy, which is set for Thursday.
Pro-family groups have warned that the equity and inclusive education strategy, if implemented in the Catholic schools without clear safeguards, would empower board employees sympathetic to the homosexualist cause and provide a foothold for gay activists in the Catholic system.
OECTA President James Ryan addressed the controversy at a breakfast held yesterday to mark the “International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia,” which was a fundraiser for My GSA, a group that supports gay-straight alliances. Also in attendance were gay activist groups, including Egale Canada, and Ontario education Minister Leona Dombrowsky.
Prior to the event, OECTA had issued a press release encouraging others to join them in celebrating the day. The release said, “(The association) is proud to stand in solidarity with those in the lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and trans-identified community and their allies, in solid opposition to homophobia and transphobia.”
In an interview during the breakfast with Canada’s gay and lesbian news source, Xtra, Minister Dombrowsky, a self-identified Catholic and former head of two Catholic school boards, added fuel to the fire of the raging debate by suggesting that Catholic school boards do not have the right to refuse to allow GSAs in their schools.
“We’ve made it very clear that any student in any school in Ontario has the right to have that kind of support at their school,” Dombrowsky said in response to a question about GSAs specifically.
The statement spells trouble for the strategy of the Ontario Catholic bishops, who have attempted to sidestep Ontario government requirements for gay support groups in every school by putting in place a framework for clubs that they say will focus simply on “anti-bullying,” rather than the activist-oriented and gay-affirmative GSAs.
In an April 15 memo the bishops expressed the intention of establishing a committee that will “establish a framework for these groups, including a common name, to assist Catholic school boards with this anti-bullying initiative.”
Critics of this approach, however, argue that such clubs will inevitably serve as the functional equivalent of GSAs, simply under another name. Justification for these fears first came earlier this year, after a government bureaucrat expressly said that the mandated gay support groups are forbidden from helping homosexually-inclined students to reform their sexuality.
During yesterday’s breakfast OECTA President Ryan made clear that his association is fully supportive of the gay-straight alliances.
“The members that I represent are absolutely committed to all our students, including gay, lesbian, bi and trans students,” he said. “My association and our members have no problem with gay-straight alliances.”
“We are working with the Catholic community to ensure homophobic bullying doesn’t exist in schools and the committee has decided to establish (gay-straight alliances) with a Catholic name,” he said, according to the London Free Press.
Dombrowsky also made comments to Xtra which implied that the bishops’ “anti-bullying” groups would likely end up leading to outright Catholic GSAs in the future.
“I said that we’re building capacity,” Dombrowsky told Xtra, in the context of the controversy surrounding St. Joseph’s Catholic Secondary School in Mississauga, which refused to facilitate a GSA. “What I’m saying is that we’re moving in a direction. We have a lot of people at a table, with an abundance of goodwill, and there has not been an outcome from that. I remain very hopeful.”
LifeSiteNews contacted OECTA for comment, but did not hear back by press time.
Concerned Catholic parents from the Toronto Catholic District School Board have submitted petitions to each School Board Trustee with signatures of 2,418 opponents of the equity and inclusive education policy, demanding that the school board vote down the policy or amend it to incorporate explicit protections for the Catholic faith.
Presenters at Thursday’s meeting before the vote, will include many concerned parents representing others in their community and a representative from “Reclaim the Rainbow – Toronto,” a policy group founded on the principles of the Vatican-approved group “Courage,” for Catholics experiencing same-sex attraction.
The Toronto District Catholic School Board meeting will be live webcast on their website here.
Contact information for all Ontario bishops can be found here.
Contact Information for Trustees:
(416) 512-3401 [email protected]
(416) 512-3405 [email protected]
Frank D’Amico (416) 512-3406 [email protected]
John Del Grande (416) 512-3407 [email protected]
Tobias Enverga (416) 512-3408 [email protected]
Jo-Ann Davis (416) 512-3409 [email protected]
Barbara Poplawski (416) 512-3410 [email protected]
Angela Kennedy (416) 512=3411 [email protected]
Nancy Crawford (416) 512-3412 [email protected]
Natalie Rizzo (416) 512-3413 [email protected] (Student trustee)
Ontario English Catholic Teachers Association