MISSISSAUGA, Ontario, March 18, 2011 ( – A student at an Ontario Catholic high school whose bid to launch a “gay-straight alliance” was denied and subsequently made national media, had refused the school’s offer to start a support group for homosexuals that’s in line with Catholic teaching.

Bruce Campbell, spokesman for the Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board, told the Globe and Mail Thursday that 16-year-old Leanne Iskander was advised to connect with the organization Courage Toronto.

This Catholic ministry, which is supported by the Archdiocese of Toronto, offers a spiritual support system to men and women struggling with same-sex attractions, promoting chastity and the development of an integrated sexuality.

“The student indicated that she was not interested in faith-based resources,” Campbell told the paper.  “The principal indicated that, as a Catholic school, however, it is from a faith-based perspective that we would approach discussions if this is to move forward, just as a faith perspective is part of any club or activity at a Catholic school.”

Iskander, who attends St. Joseph Catholic Secondary School, was also advised by principal Frances Jacques that the students could have discussions with the school’s chaplain and social worker or connect with existing equity groups at the school, said Campbell.

“The board wholeheartedly supports” the principal’s decision, he added.

But Iskander told the homosexual news agency Xtra! on Wednesday that she and other students are “not going to give up.”  “We’re going to keep trying to get a GSA. This is very important,” she said.  “Gay kids feel alienated and need a place with a sense of community.”

She launched a ‘St. Joes Gay-Straight Alliance’ Facebook group, and they held their first meeting at a local mall Wednesday.  In a letter to the principal posted on the Facebook page, Iskander threatens to involve the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, which has joined the Facebook page, and claims the club’s rejection constitutes “grounds for a human rights complaint.”

She says there are 30 students interested in the group, and that they have support from about seven teachers.

One anonymous teacher told Xtra that the principal had insisted in a March 7 staff meeting that “GSAs are in conflict with Catholic views on chastity.”  The teacher says Jacques distributed pamphlets from Courage International.

The Vatican-endorsed international apostolate, which includes Courage Toronto, was founded by the late Fr. John Harvey in 1980 and now boasts chapters in over 100 countries.

On the Facebook page, Iskander wrote that they will likely need to change the group’s name in order to get accepted – a tactic promoted by Helen Kennedy, executive director of the homosexual lobby group Egale, when she spoke at the Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association annual general meeting in March 2010.

“We will probably need a new name for the group,” wrote Iskander.  “Of course we can call it whatever we want amongst ourselves, but the official name has to be in line with board policy, so there shouldn’t be anything in the title that has anything to do with sex. Any ideas?”

The media attention on Iskander’s efforts is the latest in a coordinated media campaign spearheaded against Ontario’s publicly-funded Catholic schools by Xtra.  The news agency began a long series of articles on the Catholic boards’ approach to “gay-straight alliances” in January when they were alerted to a strong pro-family equity policy at the Halton Catholic District School Board.  The board scrapped the policy in January.

To express your views:

Brampton – Wards 1, 3 & 4 
Trustee: Anna da Silva
Tel: 416-706-5679
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Brampton – Wards 2, 5 & 6
Trustee: Linda Zanella
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Brampton Wards 7-10
Trustee: Scott McLauchlan
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Trustee: Frank Di Cosola   Tel: 905-951-8898   [email protected] 
Mississauga Wards 1 & 3 
Trustee: Mario Pascucci 
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Mississauga Wards 2 & 8 
Vice Chair/Trustee: Sharon Hobin   
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Mississauga Ward 4
 Chair/Trustee: Anna Abbruscato 
Tel: 905-890-1221   
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Mississauga Ward 5 
Trustee: Thomas Thomas
Tel: 416-845-8225   
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Mississauga Wards 6 & 11
 Trustee: Peter Ferreira
Tel: (416) 805-7110  
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Mississauga Ward 7
 Trustee: Bruno Iannicca 
Tel: 905-270-0536     
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Mississauga Wards 9 & 10 
Trustee: Esther O’Toole 
Tel: 905-812-5163   
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