By Mike Mastromatteo
The Interim

Traditional family supporters, including thousands from Toronto’s Islamic community, are not giving up in their opposition to the Toronto District School Board’s equity policy, which lends legitimacy to the homosexual lifestyle.

More than 300 people took part in a Sept. 27 rally and march at Queen’s Park to draw attention to the policy and to voice their objection to the lack of meaningful consultation in its development. The rally was organized by Ontarians for Traditional Family Values (OTFV) and the Toronto District Muslim Education Assembly. Protesters circled Queen’s Park with placards denouncing what they claim is homosexual indoctrination in Toronto public school classrooms. They later marched past Toronto District School Board headquarters to register their protest with board officials.

A group of 10 gay rights supporters staged a small counter-demonstration in support of the school board’s policy.

The Toronto District School Board’s equity policy, which was implemented in January 2000, calls for “anti-homophobia” teaching to “permeate all subject areas.” During consultations with parents’ groups, the school board rejected a call to have the policy accommodate the views of parents whose religious faith is at odds with the homosexual lifestyle.

Jann Flury, an official with the Ontarians for Traditional Family Values group, told The Interim that the purpose of the rally was speak up for tolerance and inclusion. “We’re not here to lambaste the homosexual community,” Flury said. “We’re here to stand up for real choice in our public schools.”

Mubarak Ali, a spokesman for the Toronto District Muslim Education Assembly, said the rally was the culmination of two years of frustration in Toronto’s Islamic community. He said the Toronto school board made no meaningful efforts to address their concerns that sexual orientation should not be a subject for discussion among pre-teen students.

“It is vital for us to stand up against these practices that are directly contrary to our traditions,” Ali said. “The homosexual lifestyle is being boldly promoted wholesale in our schools and there has been no balance in drawing up the equity policy.”

Ali said the Toronto school board sought to exclude the objections of the Muslim community in drafting its equity policy. He said minority interests, including gay activists, held undue influence over the consultation process. He also said the equality program ignores the wishes of Toronto’s Muslim families, who comprise some 25 per cent of the total enrolment in the Toronto school board.

Ontarians for Traditional Family Values issued a statement at the rally, calling on the provincial government and school boards to rethink equity programs as they pertain to sexuality. “These policies and programs, by design or otherwise, lead to the moral corruption of our youth through the normalization of casual sex, promiscuity, and the promotion of homosexual behaviour as a natural, normal and acceptable alternative lifestyle,” the statement reads. The group also said the policy ignores parents’ rights to instill moral values in their children, and serves to “proselytize” students in an immoral lifestyle.

Toronto school board chair Gail Nyberg told reporters earlier this year that the board’s equity program was consulted “to death” for 18 months, prior to its implementation in January. She said the board is not attempting to change anyone’s beliefs about homosexuality, but is only seeking to ensure equity and tolerance. “The Muslim community can continue to believe what they like, but everyone must be treated in a equitable manner,” Nyberg said.

Organizers claimed support for the rally from a number of groups and individuals, including MPP Bob Wood (PC, London West), the Family Coalition Party of Ontario, and REAL Women of Canada.