I host a nightly television show on Crossroads Television (CTS) entitled Michael Coren Live. My research team books up to 20 guests a week, who are then watched by hundreds of thousands of people. Indeed, we are averaging at 112,000 people a night in Greater Toronto alone! Sometimes there are cancellations, usually because of emergencies or illness.
But only once has someone called to explain they had been told not to come, that they had been silenced. I refer to a citizen member of the Toronto District School Board’s Equity Advisory Committee.
She had contacted us to complain about how she had been treated after making some comments on the committee’s “anti-homophobia draft policy.” She told us that when she raised even minor objections to this document at a committee meeting, she was shouted at and labelled a homophobe.
The show was already arranged, but suddenly she telephoned to cancel. “It was as though the wind had been knocked out of her and something terrible had happened,” said a researcher. The woman in question explained she had “thought about it over the weekend and people have spoken to me. I don’t think it would be in my best interests to appear at this time, and I’m worried that my husband, in teaching, might be at risk.”
When we contacted the Equity Advisory Committee, we were told that the woman “is only a parent, she doesn’t represent anyone and she is singularly destructive.”
The Equity Advisory Committee has around 30 members, consisting not of a true cross-section of society but of invited representatives of specific “equity-seeking” organizations.
Only one representative of a faith group is present and there is only one delegate from a black organization. But at the last meeting, there were six different representatives of the homosexual community. All of them are teachers, none of them is a parent. They and their allies were anxious for this policy document to be pushed through, even though reports on race, faith and disability have been waiting for consideration for an extremely long time.
So eager were some members of the committee for the anti-homophobia paper to be approved, in fact, that they suggested community consultation would not be necessary.
It seems, by sheer coincidence, I am sure, the committee has changed its attitude on this since we at Michael Coren Live have made our inquiries. A glance at the paper explains the rush. Consider the following:
“Identifying and eliminating homophobic and heterosexist bias in board policies, guidelines, day-to-day operations, protocols and practices.
“Ensuring that educational practices in all grades are inclusive and reflect the contributions of the diverse lesbian and gay communities, and other communities of people who identify themselves on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, and that all forms of stereotyping, prejudice and discrimination against these communities are challenged and removed.
“Ensuring that principles of anti-homophobia and sexual orientation equity permeate the curriculum in all subject areas and all grade levels” and the “removal” of all materials, that exhibit traces of the terrible sin of “heterosexism.”
Critics fear this policy would mean that as early as junior kindergarten all children would have to be taught that it’s entirely natural for Jimmy or Sally to have two mums or two dads.
“It means,” explained our citizen member before the gag order, “that even if tiny children are hearing a story, if mum and dad are mentioned, mum and mum and dad and dad have to be mentioned as well.”
What is so disturbing about all this is that opponents of the policy seem intimidated and frightened of speaking out.
One person who requested anonymity compared the equity committee to “a secret society.” She explained that at one meeting a member stated: “We should think less about freedom of religion and more about freedom from religion in schools. Most of the students have no religion at all.”
The last statement is, of course, untrue, but it does reveal a worrying agenda – an apparent lack of democracy, lack of accountability and lack of balance.
Obviously, some teachers and board members are frightened of speaking their minds because of what might happen. Indeed, one teacher left his school because of harassment.
His crime? He thought it was wrong for children to be taken to a play with a one-sided political position without their parents being informed.