Taylor Dallin, a 2019-2020 TCDSB student trustee discussed the gender issue debate with Kyle Iannuzzi, a former student trustee. Joshua Santos

Editorial: Trustees get it right

By 
  • November 7, 2019

It may seem odd to be extending congratulations to a committee that exists to protect Catholic educational values merely for doing its job. 

But these are unusual times, so we applaud four trustees for drafting a creative proposal to reconcile Church teaching with a government directive on the contentious topic of gender identity and expression.

By a 4-1 vote, the Education and Living our Catholic Values sub-committee of the Toronto Catholic District School Board has recommended that the board amend its code of conduct with wording that is faithful to Church teaching and offers a compromise to a provincial government mandate which directs school boards to update codes to explicitly reference gender identity and gender expression.

Rather than add those terms to a lengthy list that includes such classes as race, colour, creed and disability, the committee reached the entirely sensible conclusion that a better way to express absolute objection to discrimination, harassment and bullying of all types — obeying the essence of the provincial objective — was to stop singling out any particular group and simply state the obvious: Every member of the school community, without exception, is imbued with “infinite dignity and worth” and is required to “respect and treat others fairly, as children of God, created in the image and likeness of God.”

By affirming the unequivocal human dignity of every person without using labels or singling out any body of people, and by working to ensure no type of injustice, hatred or hostility will be tolerated, the committee crafted a commendably Catholic response to wider cultural debate. They came down on the side of Popes Francis and Benedict XVI and Canada’s bishops who reject all unkindness, discrimination and intolerance in favour of universal welcome, respect and compassion for all.

But it remains uncertain if this practical approach will be endorsed by the full board of trustees. The reservation stems, oddly, from a hostile reaction by the chair of the board, the person perhaps most responsible for ensuring the Catholicity of Canada’s largest Catholic school board. Maria Rizzo cast the committee’s one dissenting vote and then, speaking to a local newspaper, claimed to be “sickened” by the recommendation. 

Instead of cooling down a heated debate, she ratcheted up the temperature with angry rhetoric about homophobia and fear-mongering. They were words of music, no doubt, to a secular world that welcomes every chance to defame Catholics and others as hateful and intolerant for holding counter-cultural beliefs regarding life, family and sexuality.

Rizzo may yet get her way, but now is a time to gratefully acknowledge trustees who grasp their role as faithful guardians of values that are the bedrock of Catholic education. Trustees are duty-bound to resist a cultural offensive to strip Catholic schools of their distinct, faith-based essence. 

Of their many duties, none is more fundamental.

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