Showdown: Ontario gvmt tells Catholic schools gay clubs policy is non-negotiable
TORONTO, Ontario, January 31, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) – After Ontario’s Catholic trustees took a strong stand against homosexual activism in a new anti-bullying plan last week, Ontario’s government has slammed the plan for failing to allow for single-issue clubs for homosexual students.
“We’ve been absolutely crystal clear that we expect students to participate in groups and have the issues important to them talked about,” Education Minister Laurel Broten told the Catholic Register’s Deborah Gyapong on Monday.
In a Jan. 25th document titled Respecting Differences, the Ontario Catholic School Trustees Association (OCSTA) established a framework for student-led clubs to combat bullying related to racism, gender, disability, and sexual orientation.
The document insists the clubs remain faithful to Catholic teaching, be overseen by a staff advisor who knows and believes the Church’s teaching, and cannot engage in activism against Catholic teaching.
It comes in response to Broten’s Bill 13 (the Accepting Schools Act), which would require schools to allow students to “establish and lead … organizations with the name gay-straight alliance or another name.”
Broten and Premier Dalton McGuinty have both insisted the bill would require schools to establish GSAs, and Broten has labeled opponents of the bill as “homophobic.”
OCSTA’s document states, however, that GSAs are “not acceptable in Catholic schools.”
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Broten told Xtra Jan. 24th that offering broad anti-bullying clubs instead of a single-issue group for homosexuals is “inconsistent with the legislation.” “If students ask for the support, every school in the province will have to allow for a single-issue club. That is the end of it,” she stated. “We are watching closely what is happening in communities across the province.”
But OCSTA president Nancy Kirby told Gyapong, “I don’t think taking away somebody’s religious rights is going to eradicate bullying.”
“The bottom line is there are too many kids being bullied,” she said. “Our struggle was we felt that all kids who are bullied deserve to have the support. That’s why our push back is against highlighting one group as opposed to all of the kids who are being bullied.”
Kirby said that they expected a legal challenge from an activist group, but had not anticipated strong objections from the government. OCSTA has supported Bill 13, which is being criticized by numerous religious and pro-family groups, but Kirby told Gyapong they are hoping for some changes and will participate in public hearings on the legislation.
While Bill 13 allows for clubs by names other than “gay-straight alliance,” Broten agreed with Xtra reporter Andrea Houston that the clause should be interpreted to allow students to name the groups as they choose.
“We need to have students work with their teachers, their advisors, so that they can determine what name is right for their school,” Broten said. “That’s part of having an accepting climate in the school, is to allow students to have those open conversations and that’s what our government expects.”
“Clubs must be clearly identified of what they are about,” she added.
View OCSTA’s Respecting Differences document here.