Ontario Government says No to Queer Catholic Students

For some time now we have been waiting for the Ontario Government to enforce the law in Ontario schools.  The law in question is with respect to Gay Straight Alliances or GSAs.  The Ministry of Education requires that all schools adhere to Policy/Program Memorandum (PPM) No. 145, which explicitly mandates the support of Gay-Straight Alliances.  The memorandum states:
'...Boards must also help school staff to give support to students who wish to participate in gay–straight alliances and in other student-led activities that promote understanding and development of healthy relationships. Schools must also engage their school councils and student councils to support these student-led activities. ...' (emphasis is mine)
The Catholic School Boards are simply ignoring this direction.  They are not helping students form GSAs and in fact are denying the creation of such groups, banning the words gay and efforts of students to raise awareness around the issue of homophobia in schools and our society.

The Catholic School Boards are funded to the tune of 500 million dollars from taxpayers each year. They are not exempt from providing support for GSAs.  They are not permitted in the school act to discriminate against queer students or their allies.

This is 2011, not the 1950's.  Its time the McGuinty Government, that purports to be progressive did the right thing and directed the Catholic School Boards to follow the law as public school boards are compelled to.

Here is an exchange from the Ontario Legislature earlier this year between Ontario NDP MPP Rosario Marchese and Premier McGuinty.

Mr. Rosario Marchese:
My question is to the Premier. Last week, more highschool students were prevented from forming a gay-straight alliance, this time at St.Joseph Secondary School in Mississauga. Ministry of Education policy programmemorandum 145 states that boards and schools must, and I quote, “give support tostudents who wish to participate in gay-straight alliances.” Why is the governmentrefusing to enforce this policy?
Hon. Dalton McGuinty:
Let me say that we’re very proud to have put into placeOntario’s first-ever equity policy for Ontario schools. We require that every singleOntario school board have in place an equity policy. Our policies say it is notacceptable to discriminate based on race, gender, religion and sexual orientation.In grade 5, students are taught that homophobic and racist remarks are wrongand hurtful. In grade 7, students are taught the importance of challenging otherswhose actions or words could be interpreted as being racist or homophobic. That’s allpart of our equity policy which, as I say, we require every single school board inOntario to adhere to.
Mr. Rosario Marchese:
I agree with everything the Premier said, but he didn’tanswer my question.Students in Ontario schools continue to face harassment and violence becauseof their sexual orientation. That’s unacceptable, and I know it’s unacceptable to thePremier. Gay-straight alliances can help prevent this abuse. If the Premier, as he justsaid, and the minister are— L094-1110-21 follows[Mr. Rosario Marchese]... and that’s unacceptable, and I know it’s unacceptable to the Premier. Gay-straight alliances can help prevent this abuse.
If the Premier, as he just said, and the minister are serious about inclusion,equity and the welfare of students, when will the government ensure that the studentsbe allowed to form these alliances where and when they want to?
Hon. Dalton McGuinty:
Again, we’re very proud of our equity policy. To repeat,we are making it perfectly clear to all our school boards, all our schools, all ourprincipals, all our teachers and all our students that it is unacceptable in Ontario todiscriminate based on race, gender, religion or sexual orientation. We have also saidthat boards can find different ways to ensure that they adhere to those policies.We, again, are sending the message loudly and clearly to all boards that they must adhere to our equity policy.

Its clear that the Ontario Liberal party want nothing to do with this issue.  The Premier fails to answer the question and resorts to 'mudification'.

The Government of Ontario pays the Catholic school board $500 million in tax dollars to provide education in this province.  The government then has a responsibility to ensure that the money is being spent for purposes it is given for and that the recipient of that large amount of tax dollars is following the direction of the Ministry of Education.

Read more at Xtra.ca

QueerOntario has been doing a lot of work on GSAs. Check out their site here.


janfromthebruce said...

there's nothing there but I sure wanted to see that exchange. That said, I so wish the NDP would do the right thing and advocate for one school system in both our official languages.

I mean religious instruction outside of class times could be provided for those who want to take part but this way all schools would follow progressive policy around equity issues.

Anonymous said...

Why wait for politics to save you? Can the students go to court and have the court apply financial penalties/liens against the school boards or the trustees that are failing in their legally mandated duties?

Rick Barnes said...

Legal action may be possible but won't be cheap. They need a sponsor of some kind to do it.