The Ontario government’s equity and inclusive education strategy “represents a violation of parental rights and religious freedom,” according to a trustee candidate for the York Region District School Board who is demanding the strategy be repealed. At the same time, a Catholic trustee in the Toronto Catholic District School Board says he believes the strategy is designed with the aim of “sweeping away our Christian and Catholic values of the family.”
Allan Tam, a public school board candidate from Markham running in the upcoming province-wide municipal elections on Oct. 25, came out swinging against the government’s “equity” agenda in a press release and on his website. He says the “over-reaching” Ministry of Education is “abusing its power by imposing a homosexualized curriculum in the name of equity and inclusivity.”
Tam warned, “It will lead to children being taught that homosexual unions are the moral equivalent of heterosexual marriage,” adding this “is something that the majority of parents do not want.”
The equity strategy, which was launched by Dalton McGuinty’s Liberal government in April 2009, requires every school board in the province to develop an equity policy by the beginning of the 2010-2011 school year that outlines their commitment to inclusion based on the grounds listed in the Ontario Human Rights Code, including “sexual orientation.” The boards are then expected to revise all policies and practices to align with this commitment to “equity.”
Critics point out that the Ministry’s documents recommend, for example, that schools celebrate gay pride parades, use texts by homosexual authors, and promote homosexual clubs such as gay-straight alliances.
Tam, a public school board candidate, says that the controversial new sex-ed curriculum pulled by McGuinty’s government in April, which had eight-year-olds learning about “sexual orientation” and twelve-year-olds discussing oral and anal intercourse, was simply one component of the broader equity strategy. This strategy, he says, is “aimed at promoting a new sexual revolution via the classroom.”
Tam believes that the government’s “unjust power grab” springs from a 1997 change to the school funding formula. After Mike Harris’ Progressive Conservative government passed Bill 160, schools were funded directly by the province rather than through property taxes. “This method of funding allocation has had the unfortunate consequence of making it easy for the provincial government to take into their own hands, the authority to make educational policies,” he says.
John Del Grande, a trustee for the Toronto Catholic board running for re-election, says he believes the strategy seeks to “erode Catholic teaching” in the separate schools.
“I think we as Catholics and school trustees need to be more cautious with these documents because we got burned the last time,” he said, referring to the recently-pulled sex-ed curriculum. “Although we got on board later, we should have been the ones raising the flags upfront.”
Del Grande said he is concerned that the Ministry is using the strategy to promote openness to homosexuality in the schools, noting that it began under former education minister Kathleen Wynne, an open lesbian. “My understanding is that it is driving the homosexual agenda into our schools and through our children,” he said.
“This document is really about putting the government’s spin on (equity) and limiting us later,” he added. “It’s almost anti-Christian and anti-Catholic. I’m sure that’s where this came from.”
Technically, the equity initiative acknowledges the denominational rights of the Catholic schools, but Del Grande said Catholics should not be fooled. “We have to be diligent to make sure that we totally ingrain (our faith) in everything we do, in all of our policies, not just a preamble statement.”
“You’re going to have a lot of parents objecting to some of the materials that could be brought in, because the ministry drives all the curriculum and materials,” he warned. He said the ministry will introduce objectionable material “under the guise of this policy” and “it will get worse as time goes on.”
In August, Campaign Life Coalition posted a video message on their website warning against the Ontario’s equity and inclusive education strategy, calling it “a program of child indoctrination” that “represents a frontal assault on the moral and religious values of a majority of parents, and a trampling of their parental rights.”
CLC national president Jim Hughes said that the plan threatens the Catholicity of the separate school system, undermined the rights and responsibilities of parents as the primary educators of their children, and provides a mechanism by which radical activists can advance their own homosexualist agenda. He said the strategy was “heavily influenced by gay activists” and is a “smokescreen” that CLC fears will be used to “promote and celebrate the gay lifestyle.”
Indeed, in an extensive analysis CLC reported that the Ministry consulted numerous homosexualist groups in developing the strategy, including the LGBTQ Parenting Network, Queer Ontario, and Egale Canada.
The strategy, CLC concludes, “has less to do with equity and inclusivity, and more to do with thought control and social engineering.”
Dan Di Rocco, a former principal in the Catholic system (and The Interim’s circulation manager), said in the video message that while the strategy is praiseworthy for offering equal opportunities to students, it “over-reaches,” and “may present challenges to the integrity of schools as moral agents, resulting in moral confusion and systemic conflicts.”
Di Rocco also said there is an “inherent conflict between Catholic moral principles and the Ontario Human Rights Code,” which is the basis of much of the equity plan. Di Rocco asked, “Which will take precedence when these clash in the classroom?”
CLC called for the strategy to be scrapped and urged trustees to stand up to the province’s plan.