Ontario Poised to Pass Bill Mandating ‘Gay-Straight Alliances’ be Allowed in All Schools, Including Catholic Ones

An amendment to an anti-bullying bill under consideration in Ontario, Canada would require all schools, including Catholic ones, to accept the name "gay-straight alliance" for anti-homophobia clubs, the Toronto Star reports:

BrotenThe change of heart on the minority Liberal government’s Accepting Schools Act — which had allowed school principals a veto on names for any student club — was announced Friday afternoon by Education Minister Laurel Broten (pictured).

“We believe it’s up to the students,” she told reporters, saying it’s “important for students to have the freedom.”

The move, which has the support of the NDP, comes as an amendment to the government’s anti-bullying bill — which Broten hopes to pass before the legislature rises for its summer break June 7.

Conservatives and right-wing religious groups argue that the new rule would give LGBT students "special status" and The Ontario Catholic School Trustees’ Association urged the school system to call clubs aimed at stopping bullying "Respecting Differences" clubs, in an advisory paper that did not mention the word gay once, the Star adds.

But proponents argue that allowing a principal, for example, to refuse to allow an anti-homophobia club to be called a “gay-straight alliance” is in itself a form of oppression that is inappropriate under the spirit of the bill. Broten has said gay students have been more prone to bullying, which is why they get specific mention in the bill.

“If we can’t name it, we can’t address it and we must address it,” she said.

The amendment was applauded by a group called the Ontario Gay-Straight Alliance Coalition as a step forward for human rights in the province.

More at CBC

NOTE: Apologies, the earlier post suggested that the law would apply to all of Canada.


  1. Matt N says

    Actually, this only applies to the province of Ontario, not all of Canada. This is a decision being made by a provincial government.

    But, definitely great news for Ontario.

  2. jaragon says

    A law the forces Catholic school to use a name they don’t agree with for a gay-straight alliance club will give them more fuel to portray themselves as victims of the gay agenda- respecting difference sounds fine as long as they serve the same anti-bullying education purpose.

  3. Jmac says

    FYI Ontario isn’t all of Canada (contrary to what they might think). An education bill passed by one province doesn’t apply to the whole country.

  4. NorthoftheBorder says

    no, Ontario isn’t representative of the entire country.. but this is exactly the same way that Gay Marriage made it in to the national context.. first it was permitted by individual provinces.. then legislated nationally. this may be the same process here.. however.. likely not under a Harper Govt.

  5. Jester says

    Completely misleading headline and article. “Canada” is not poised to pass this bill, the province of Ontario is. Kind of the equivalent of posting “U.S. pass marriage equality bill” when the State of New York did so.

  6. Swiminbuff says

    Well Mike, the US is usually not the first country to grant rights (abolition of slavery, universal sufferage, election of a female head of government/state, same sex marriage) but usually not the last either.

  7. tcw says

    Yeah, and the headline of the article linked to makes very clear that this is an “Ontario bill”, not a “Canada bill”.

  8. Swiminbuff says

    Since the Catholic School system is funded by the Ontario government they should have to abide by all provinical educational policies or else cease being publically funded.

  9. ger says

    Northoftheborder, it’s not really the same. Federal marriage legislation didn’t come because of provincial legislation, it came as a result of court rulings, including the Sopreme Court. Legislating gay-straight alliances in one province won’t necessarily lead to the same legislation in other provinces. Thankfully most other provinces don’t have publicly funded Catholic schools (I still can’t believe Ontario does that), so it’s not really a problem.

  10. Mic says

    “respecting difference sounds fine…”

    To whom? You? Sorry pal, but the very name allows others who have a DIFFERENT opinion about Equality to continue to do so. for ALL It does nothing but drive the wedge deeper.. It doesn’t bridge the horrible gap.

    Call it what it is: A gay-straight ALLIANCE which respects and celebrates our commonality as a total community.

    If the Catholics have a problem with that, they can pick up their toys and leave. They are Guests in Canada as they are in the US.

    Considering the piggish behavior of the catholic church over Prop 8 alone, and who knows what else, they are the last organization who should be dictating to people what ‘names’ should be.

    But thanks for playing.

  11. Steve says

    If anyone has special status in Canada it’s the child raping Catholics. In some areas they have completely separate school systems where they indoctrinate helpless children into their cult, but are 100% tax funded

  12. Hue-Man says

    From February, comparing Ontario to other provinces on GSAs. B.C.’s religious schools are private but receive partial provincial funding. Ontario has a taxpayer funded Catholic system in addition to the “normal” school system. “It’s only by comparison that Ontario Catholic schools’ treatment of gay students and staff can be called ‘liberal’”

  13. Marky says

    Ontario is not the whole country but has the majority of the people and really dictates the trends in the country – Toronto has more pull then the capital city – the rest will follow suit

  14. Lucas says

    I love how americans immediately jump on the headline of the article as opposed to discussing its substance. Seems to me that they’re just bitter that Canada is a more progressive country than america. We’ve had gay marriage for seven years, what about you? Oh, that’s right…

  15. Jim TO says

    OK, Ontario has about 1/3 of Canada’s population (not the majority that Marky noted). Also, Ontario has publicly funded Catholic schools due to a constitutional provision. Ontario is not the only province with this rule. Personally, I would like to see all funding of non-public schools ended, but no politician of any party would ever push for this.

  16. ratbastard says

    Catholic schools have special status in Canada and actually receive government [taxpayer] funding. But Canada does have a majority Catholic population, while the U.S. is majority Protestant. In the U.S., separation of church and state prohibits this.

  17. Jester says

    Lucas, with all due respect, you’re an idiot. Americans (spelled with a capital “A,” just like you capitalize “Canada”) did not “jump all over the headline of this article without discussing its substance.” I am Canadian and I objected to the headline, because it was grossly incorrect and poor journalism. Pointing out that this law does not apply to the entire country is not a criticism of Canada’s stance towards LGBT issues, which everybody on this board would acknowledge are more progressive than the U.S.’s.

  18. Mary says

    “If the Catholics have a problem with that, they can pick up their toys and leave. They are Guests in Canada as they are in the US.”

    I’m not quite sure what you mean by this. But I can tell you that somewhere a right-wing author is writing this headline:

    “Catholics now ‘guests’ who can leave if they won’t allow gay-themed school groups – says gay blogger on LGBT website.”

    Being seen as “guests” in the country they were born and raised in is everyone’s worst nightmare,since guests are only allowed in a location by the grace of their hosts. Please reconsider statements like this which don’t serve to promote the cause of LGBT acceptance, but only fuel paranoia.

  19. GregV says

    “Personally, I would like to see all funding of non-public schools ended, but no politician of any party would ever push for this.”

    @JimTO: The Green Party of Ontario supports the idea of ending the Catholic funding, and when John Tory (a Tory himself) ran for Premier in 2007 on a platform that supported ending it, he lost by only 2.5% of votes. A candidate who wants a single public system for everyone could easily win in another election in the future.

  20. says

    Saying this is all of Canada would be like saying the state of Washington is doing something like this for the entire US. This article is factually inaccurate.

  21. says

    Special Status? It’s just a school group. Same as the AV Club, Debate Club, Drama Club etc. They’re just like the Math-letes, except they’re gay.

  22. intristin says

    As long as religious schools aren’t taking public money, they should not be forced to except gay people. There is a separation of church and state. If they are excepting public money, then I can see forcing them to do that. Either way, the potential of backfiring on the gay community is high.

  23. Randal Oulton says

    I was in Canada once; I visited their national capital in Toronto, and saw their National Igloo there where their government meets. Good for Canada!

  24. says

    “As long as religious schools aren’t taking public money, they should not be forced to except gay people.”

    In the case of Ontario’s Catholic schools, they do accept public money.

  25. says

    Back in 1953, I quit a Chicago high school, because I had “those” tendencies and there were no support groups for queers(that’s what we were called) at school,home or work place. It was taboo just to know someone gay, let a lone be gay. I moved to San Francisco in 1960 and by osmosis found myself getting involved in the early gay rights movement.

    For most of the next 30 years our movement moved at a snails pace. I moved back to Chicago in the late 1980s, and it was nice to see the changes being made… The Gay Pride Parade gets bigger and better every year and many of the spectators bring their children who wave Rainbow Flags. The City has co- hosted the Gay Games, the Gay World Series, and we have elected several qualified openly gay Alderman, and City Hall and our mayors are Gay friendly. BUT THE BIGGEST IMPROVEMENT THAT I SEEN, I noticed several years ago. I was given a ticket to a stage play at the Walter Payton High School and in the PLAYBILL,several students listed in their “Bio’s” that they belonged to the Gay/ Straight Alliance after school club. Not all Chicago high schools have them… but it’s a great start. I have spoken at several of their
    events… including Harvey Milk day. It’s nice to know that students no longer have to quit school to be themselves. It is my hope that someday all high schools here in Chicago have access to this great support group, and hopefully every state offer this program to students. The sooner, the better. I am sure if that happened there would be less and less bullying at school and of course chances are the elimination of young kids killing themselves,too.

  26. says

    It’s looking great. The courts up in Canada have a long history of addressing factual reality when it comes to apparently-“divisive” issues like this one. In this case, some “name game argument” simply isn’t being bought – it’s not “the same thing, just with a different name” when the catholic schoolboards explicitly don’t want the word “gay” used. The Catholic board gets public funding, thus they have to adhere to “public rules” – if they want to remain free from public rules they’ll have to go private, see how well that flies.

    It’s about eliminating the baseless and nonsensical ‘arguments’ consistently being leveled against targeted minority groups, and thus getting to the core of these ‘arguments’ no dealing with irrelevancies.

    There’s much to be learned from what’s being, and has been, done Up North.

  27. DiCKster says

    Ontario courts have previously ruled against Catholic schools in a case where a graduating student wished to bring a same-sex date to the graduation formal (‘prom’ in American English).

    The courts ruled there was nothing religious or sacramental about a graduation party so there was no religious exemption from human rights obligations.

    Proponents of this bill feel strongly the courts will respect students ability to form GSAs.

    Ontario catholic schools are fully funded by the Ministry of Education. Other provinces have different funding arrangements.

  28. DiCKster says


    All schools in Ontario – public or private are subject to the provisions of The Eduction Act which is amended by the proposed bill.

    The Human Rights Act applies to the public and private sphere. Religious exemptions are narrowly cast and are restricted to doctrinal/dogmatic issues. For example, a church is not required to marry a same-sex couple, but it may not decline to rent its hall to a same-sex couple for their wedding reception (assuming the hall is customarily rented for parties).

  29. Craig S says

    “John Tory (a Tory himself) ran for Premier in 2007 on a platform that supported ending it, he lost by only 2.5% of votes”

    Gregv, just for the record, John Tory didn’t propose ending public funding for Catholic schools; rather, he proposed extending it to other religious schools (Jewish, evangelical Christian, Muslim, etc.) that don’t currently receive the same treatment. Didn’t go over well, needless to say.

    At any rate, Ontario’s Catholic school funding is a constitutional provision dating from Confederation. It has actually been challenged as discriminatory in both the Canadian court system and the United Nations, but for the moment we’re stuck with it because of Canada’s lack of political will to actually deal with constitutional issues.

  30. Gregv says

    @Craig S: Thank you for the correction. I must have confused him with the Green candidate, then. That is a HUGE difference.
    Personally, I find that Canada comes closer to equal rights for everyone than probably anywhere in the world. But thete sre two notable exceptions (one having to do with Native people and the other with Catholic schools). I think most Canadians recognize these cases as outrageous discrimination in this day and age but feel stuck with them because of a constitution that was written in the 19th century by less-enlightened people.

    It disturbs me to see any kids going to religious schools where they are “protected” from meeting anyone of any other religion or other perspectives. They often seem oblivuous not only to other people’s feelings (“How was I to know anyone would be offended by a Holocaust joke?” but also oblivious to a lot of real-world common knowledge. (How was I to know that bisexuals are different from hermaphrodites?”)
    I had many such friends in college and many of them fully recognized that they were only in college beginning to learn how to naviagate themselves in real society with all kinds of people.

    Societies that send their kids to isolated madrasas only end up with horrific problems when those insulated kids turn into insulated adults who sren’t sure how to relate to the neighbors.