Trustee John Del Grande Sheila Dabu Nonato

Toronto Catholic board passes amended equity policy

By 
  • September 1, 2011

TORONTO - At a raucous meeting to amend its equity policy, the Toronto Catholic District School Board passed a resolution that affirms denominational rights will take precedence when there is a conflict with government policy.

The Aug. 31 meeting was intended to be the final leg in an emotional ride in the board's efforts to hammer out a policy to come onside with the provincially mandated equity policy. Each board in Ontario was to have its policy in place by Sept. 1.

The board voted on a series of amendments from trustees John Del Grande and Angela Kennedy during the stormy four-hour meeting. In the end, the board voted to accept one amendment and passed watered-down versions of the others. One other amendment was put off to be dealt with at a future meeting. Emotions ran high during the meeting attended by more than 120 people, many of whom favoured the unequivocal language of Del Grande's amendments that asserted Catholic denominational rights in education. There were loud outbursts when the majority of the Del Grande-Kennedy amendments were defeated and replaced by amendments with less-stringent language. The temporary commotion led to TCDSB chair Ann Andrachuk calling a   five-minute recess.

This reaction was in contrast to the loud applause that greeted the passing of Del Grande's amendment, which read: "When there is an apparent conflict between denominational rights and other rights, the board will favour the protection of the denominational rights." However, the board also said it would leave it to courts to determine any conflict of rights.


The remaining amendments were altered on the recommendation of board staff. They passed as follows:

-  With respect to school clubs, including those that deal with same-sex attraction, the amendment states: "The board will act to promote vigourously, champion and support the teachings of the Church.” (Rather than the Del Grande-Kennedy amendment that read the board “approve clubs which have goals that are not inconsistent with Catholic faith and the Catholic Church’s moral and doctrinal teachings.”)

- The new policy defined the term Catechism as “a Church-approved systemic presentation of Catholic faith and doctrine issued by the Holy See and updated periodically.” It also provides for Local ordinaries, taking into account the provisions of the Catechism, to "issue local catechisms to be used in their diocese." (Rather than the Del Grande-Kennedy amendment that Catechism be defined as “the Catechism of the Catholic Church its most current edition.”)

- An amendment aimed at teachers states: “It is the expectation that all staff in Catholic schools will promote and be informed by the teaching of the Catholic Church.” (Rather than the Del Grande-Kennedy amendment that proposed Catholic  teachers be expected to “provide the Catholic context” in a way that does not contradict Church teachings.

A final amendment related to board partners was referred back to the board for further consultation.

The provincial government passed the equity and inclusive education strategy in 2008 requiring all school boards to combat discrimination on the basis of gender, religion, race and sexual orientation. The policy has sparked controversy in Catholic school boards because of the push by lobby groups to have secular gay-straight alliances, or GSAs, in Catholic schools. GSAs are controversial groups with are supported by Egale Canada that tackle homophobia by encouraging dialogue between gay and straight students. Many opponents warn that GSAs encourage a lifestyle that rejects Catholic values.

This fall, a committee of Catholic bishops, trustees, teachers and parents is expected to present a common Catholic framework for student-run groups addressing homophobia in Catholic schools across the province.

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