Bullying | Education | Gay-Straight Alliances | News

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.

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  1. 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.

    Posted by: intristin | May 26, 2012 2:37:58 AM

  2. 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!

    Posted by: Randal Oulton | May 26, 2012 3:03:05 AM

  3. "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.

    Posted by: Randy McDonald | May 26, 2012 6:00:49 AM

  4. 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.

    Posted by: Jerry Pritikin aka The Bleacher Preacher | May 26, 2012 8:04:19 AM

  5. 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.

    Posted by: LittleKiwi | May 26, 2012 11:52:58 AM

  6. 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.

    Posted by: DiCKster | May 26, 2012 8:04:34 PM


    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).

    Posted by: DiCKster | May 26, 2012 8:13:31 PM

  8. "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.

    Posted by: Craig S | May 28, 2012 9:59:06 AM

  9. @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.

    Posted by: Gregv | May 28, 2012 10:48:42 AM

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