In 2010, the Ontario Ministry of Education foisted an equity and inclusivity education policy (EIE) which seeks to eliminate racism, sexism, and other forms of bigotry from schools, including so-called homophobia. Religious leaders are concerned that implementation of EIE policies could be a Trojan horse by which gay activists normalize the homosexual lifestyle in the eyes of students, including through Gay-Straight Alliances where homosexual students could feel welcome in coming out with their sexuality.
Campaign Life Catholics has worked with numerous school boards to lessen the damage these policies could cause by insisting on language that asserted the denominational rights of Catholic schools and privileged Catholic moral teaching over the politically correct dictates of the province. The Toronto Catholic District School Board was the last one to pass its EIE implementation policy and CL Catholics has worked with trustees on both sides of the issue in recent months in an attempt to pass amendments to what it labelled an unsatisfactory policy. Trustees John Del Grange and Angela Kennedy put forward numerous amendments to protect the distinctly Catholic nature of the separate schools, but school administration and several trustees opposed their efforts.
It was not only Catholic groups that wanted the school system to remain faithful to the magisterium. Days before the vote, Don Hutchinson, vice president and general legal counsel for the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, wrote an open letter to the trustees urging them to consider “the raison d’être for the existence of the TCDSB and not to allow the unique nature and character of a Catholic education to be infringed upon by the actions of the Government of Ontario.” He said that the schools should not be “required to compromise the principles” upon which they were established. He implored the trustees to retain the separate school system’s “identity founded in the character and principles of your creed.”
After passing a set of less controversial amendments in May, only one of the five remaining amendments was passed at an Aug. 30 meeting. Approximately 250 concerned parents attended the meeting and nearly 40 per cent of them walked out when it became obvious that the board leadership was actively undermining the amendments. Seven of the eight speaking delegations supported the amendments, but they were not voted on until after weakly worded proposals put forth by director of education Ann Perron and the board’s legal counsel were passed. Suresh Dominic of Campaign Life Catholic complained that some had used “dirty tricks and sabotage” to prevent a vote on Del Grande’s and Kennedy’s amendments. Dominic said, “it is unconscionable that after months of being promised a fair up or down vote on the Del Grande/Kennedy amendments, those amendments were pre-empted by neutered useless staff recommendations.”
In the Spring, board chair Ann Andrachuk and vice chair Jo-Ann Davis expressed concern with the amendments’ wording, but met twice with CL Catholics to work on a compromise. Dominic noted that even the compromise wording was never brought forth for a vote. They were, however, brought on board for an amendment that they expressed some concern.
CL Catholics praised the trustees for unanimously passing an amendment asserting that in cases of apparent conflict between Catholic denominational rights and ministry of education policy, “the protection of the denominational aspect takes precedence.” Dominic said, “this sends a strong message that the Catholic mission is not to be sacrificed or compromised by any claims from gay activists.”
Among the amendments rejected were those stipulating that clubs only be approved if they “have goals that are not inconsistent with … the Catholic Church’s moral and doctrinal teachings.” Instead the board passed a watered down version merely requiring that student groups “adhere to the Ontario Catholic Graduate Expectations.” The trustees also rejected amendments specifying that teachers should “promote personal conduct or a lifestyle that is consistent with the teachings of the Catholic Church.”
Teresa Pierre of the Ontario Catholic Parents Association expressed concern that the board ignored the wishes of parents. “I was extremely disappointed in the inability of most Trustees to listen, once again, to input from their taxpayer base.” She vowed, “this is not over” because “parents wanted policies put in place to ensure that our children absorb Catholic teachings in the schools.”
Dominic made the same point: “The fight’s not over. We encourage parents to continue pushing back and demand that the Catholic faith of their children be protected in the policy.”
A group of volunteers have set up the Parental Rights in Education Defense Fund (PREDF) to help defray the legal costs of parents willing to launch lawsuits to defend their parental rights as primary moral educators of their children. Lou Iacobelli, a member of PREDF’s board, said, “recognizing that average families don’t have $100,000 sitting around to pay for lawsuits, we’ve started this defense fund to provide financial assistance to families whose parental rights have been violated.” The group’s website said it will help parents fight back against a “belligerent government ideology” bent on “indoctrinating children in the classroom with philosophies that undermine the religious beliefs of their parents.”