Dalton McGuinty Register file photo

Dalton McGuinty is mocking freedom

  • June 5, 2012

Dalton McGuinty may not trust high school students to make smart choices about what to eat for lunch but he believes they are mature enough to overrule parents, principals and trustees on serious matters pertaining to sexuality and bullying.

At noon McGuinty insists adults must impose healthy food on kids in cafeterias. But if those same teenagers, who could be as young as 13, meet after school to discuss sexual orientation, gender identity and bullying, McGuinty will let them impose their will on their adult supervisors.

Welcome to the bizarre world of Ontario education, where vegetables may be mandatory but respect for religious tolerance and diversity is optional.

With the passage of Bill-13 into law, McGuinty has rejected the reasoned appeals of Catholic trustees and Ontario’s bishops to let Catholic schools combat bullying by, as Cardinal Thomas Collins put it, “using methods and approaches that are in harmony with the faith we cherish.” 

One such method is through student clubs called Respecting Difference that confront with equal fervour all types of bullying. Teens who are overweight or short or unathletic, or who come from a minority, deserve a law that gives them equal recognition. But that notion has been haughtily dismissed. Instead, Bill-13 elevates some forms of bullying above others and, in a specific slap to Catholic schools, requires the establishment of gay-straight alliances if requested by students.

Collins called the legislation an affront to religious freedom. He is right.  This heavy-handed law, which is more about social engineering than bullying, mocks the constitutionally protected right of Catholic parents to educate children in a faith environment. Bill-13 demands adherence to a new provincial belief system, McGuinty’s moral code, that trumps Catholic moral teaching even in Catholic schools. If Bill-13 is about reducing division and intolerance it has already failed.

All parents should be concerned. McGuinty seems cavalier about usurping control of everyday school matters from parents and elected trustees. Parents are the first educators of children. It is their duty, acting with trustees and principals, to manage such minutiae as the naming of student clubs.

Respecting Difference flowed from extensive consultations between trustees, educators, parents and clergy. It was a balanced solution to a complex problem and was initially accepted by the education ministry. Then the Liberals decided Catholic rights weren’t so important after all.

Now the Liberals are declaring support for the future of Catholic education. But any support is condescending if it legislates Catholic education that can’t teach Catholic beliefs. In any event, after this betrayal, who will trust them?

Maybe the premier is expecting the controversy to subside over the summer or gambling Catholics have short memories. If so, we hope he is mistaken.

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