Deborah Gyapong, Canadian Catholic News

Deborah Gyapong, Canadian Catholic News

Deborah Waters Gyapong has been a journalist and novelist for more than 20 years. She has worked in print, radio and television, including 12 years as a producer for CBC TV's news and current affairs programming. She currently covers religion and politics primarily for Catholic and Evangelical newspapers.

OTTAWA - A Conservative MP’s private member’s motion that critics charge will re-open the abortion debate has been officially declared votable and will have its first hour of debate on April 26.

MP Stephen Woodworth’s Motion 312 would set up a Parliamentary Committee to examine Canada’s 400-year old definition of a human being in subsection 223 (1) of the Criminal Code. He has asked the definition be examined in light of advances in modern medical science.

Calls for a right to after-birth “abortion” to kill newborns have added to the urgency of this debate, he says.

OTTAWA - Parents must assert their rights as first educators of their children or bear the consequences of government policy that will profoundly re-engineer their children’s views on family and sexuality, says Teresa Pierre.

The director of Parents As First Educators (PAFE) said parents need to get involved in decisions being made that will affect their children.

“Start attending your parent-teacher meetings and start asking questions when you hear a proposal offered that doesn’t sound quite right, or worse, when you don’t hear anything at all,” she said. “Parents have a lot of influence when their criticisms are offered in a respectful way in a context of a community that knows you.

“The Church has told us the importance of parental authority in education and even suggested that families should work together to support each other,” she said, drawing from Familaris consortio (The Role of the Family in the Modern World), Pope John Paul II’s 1981 apostolic exhortation.  This document describes parental authority in education as “primary and inalienable” and outlines the duty parents have to maintain an active relationship with teachers and school authorities, she said. Parents are to be advocates of family policies in society, the document says, and warns “families will be the first victims of the evils they have done no more than note with indifference.”

PAFE is a fledgling organization formed last spring during equity policy public consultations with the Toronto Catholic District School Board. When former Ontario education minister Kathleen Wynne introduced the Equity and Inclusive Education policy to Ontario schools in 2008, Pierre said, “It was designed to create openness to all forms of sexual expression by offering them as part of the curriculum from the earliest ages.” The controversial Bill 13, which mandates gay-straight alliances in high schools, is one prong of this policy, which includes a sexual education curriculum.

Though the Liberals tried to introduce the curriculum in 2010, it received so much criticism from parents the Ministry of Education withdrew it, Pierre said, though she notes Wynne has said the policy will come back. This curriculum would teach Grade 3 students about homosexuality and gender identity, teach Grade 6 students about masturbation and teach Grade 8 students about the concepts “heterosexual, gay, lesbian, bisexual, two-spirited, transgendered, transsexual and intersexed,” she said.

“The second way the curriculum could be affected is that equity topics could be introduced almost anywhere in the regular curriculum,” she said, noting the Toronto District School Board issued a manual called Challenging Homophobia and Heterosexism: a K-12 Curriculum Guide that undermines traditional views of the family. The material treats homosexuality and gender identity as fixed characteristics, she said.

“The fact that there are lots of competing views on the origins of sexual identity or even the need for scientific proof is not even mentioned.”

Pierre said few parents even know about the policy, despite the public consultations.  She said the media, Church hierarchy and school boards play a role in dissemination of information but at the school level, parent-teacher associations should be informing parents about these policies.  

“Are they doing that? Most don’t,” she said.

“Even the people who do care and do know better are often afraid to speak against the culture. You need to overcome your own fear, which is the root of the problem.”

Canada’s Catholic bishops are pulling out of a national interfaith dialogue they helped establish.

The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops has informed the Canadian Council of Churches it will not participate in an ongoing interfaith conversation with representatives from major Christian churches and non-Christian faith bodies.

The CCC’s interfaith conversation began as the Interfaith Partnership in the run-up to the 2010 interfaith leaders’ summit in Winnipeg. That body was established to engage with world political leaders coming to Canada for the G8/G20 summit. Parallel faith leaders’ summits have been a feature of G8 meetings since 2005.

OTTAWA - Despite a “surprising” Supreme Court decision that won’t allow parents to exempt their children from Quebec’s mandatory Ethics and Religious Culture program (ERC), constitutional lawyer Iain Benson urges religious groups not to overreact to signs that parental rights are under threat.

On Feb. 17, Canada’s highest court ruled the ERC program doesn’t violate the religious freedom of Catholic parents because the parents — known as L and J in the decision — were unable to prove the course harms their children.

OTTAWA - The Catholic identity of Caritas Internationalis has “never been put into doubt” and the influence of the international federation of Catholic charities has continued to grow on the world stage, said general secretary Michel Roy.

“In this present globalized world it is important to carry the voices of the poorest that come up through the Caritas network to the right people in the international organizations,” Roy said during a recent visit to Ottawa. These organizations include UN organizations, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the International Labour Organization, governments and various private sector actors.

Overall, Caritas represents Catholic charities operating in 164 countries.

Canadian bishops are once again facing embarrassing questions about an overseas organization that received funding from the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace (D&P).

This time, the issue involves a Haitian organization, APROSIFA, that allegedly dispenses free contraceptives and promotes access to abortion, according to an online report.

OTTAWA - Most Quebeckers oppose the compulsory nature of the province's controversial Ethics and Religious Culture program (ERC), with 29 per cent saying it should be "scrapped altogether" in favour of improved mathematics or French-language courses.

In a Leger Marketing poll conducted for the Coalition for Freedom in Education (CLÉ), only four out of 10 Quebeckers want the controversial course to stay mandatory. A quarter would keep the course but make it optional.

The poll also discovered 55 per cent of Quebeckers would prefer the government introduce school vouchers that would allocate a fixed amount for educational funding per child that parents could use to choose the school they wish, whether public or private, CLÉ said in a March 7 news release.

OTTAWA - Colin Kerr used to believe Catholic bloggers in Canada were “a bunch of cranks.” But then he looked more closely and had to think again.

Kerr, an assistant professor of theology at Our Lady Seat of Wisdom Academy in Barry’s Bay, Ont., found more than 100 English- language blogs in his investigation of the Canadian Catholic blogosphere. They included blogs by bishops (Edmonton Archbishop Richard Smith, Ottawa Archbishop Terrence Prendergast and Montreal Bishop Thomas Dowd), blogs by priests and religious, blogs by organizations such as the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, The Catholic Register and Salt + Light TV, blogs by homeschooling moms, blogs by pro-lifers, blogs on liturgy, theological reflections, parenthood and religious life inside a monastery.

OTTAWA - As a battle over Canada’s prostitution laws wends its way through the courts, some Christian groups are campaigning to abolish prostitution.

Last year, an Ontario judge struck down Canada’s prostitution laws as unconstitutional, agreeing with the prostitutes who brought the case that the present laws endanger their security of person, forcing them to work on the streets or unable to seek help from police. The decision is under appeal.

OTTAWA - The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada (EFC) warns that Ontario’s anti-bullying Bill 13 could violate the rights of Catholic and private religious schools if it requires them to act contrary to their beliefs.

In an 18-page resource for parents, the EFC praises the approach taken by the Ontario Catholic School Trustees’ Association’s Respecting Difference policy because it “addresses all forms of bullying equally” and complies with existing federal and provincial human rights laws.

Bill 13 requires all publicly funded schools to have gay-straight alliances, it says. Though the schools may use a different name, the groups must be issue-specific.