TCDSB to reschedule equity policy symposium

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  • March 23, 2011
Toronto Catholic District School Board chair Ann AndrachukTORONTO - The Toronto Catholic District School Board has cancelled its upcoming symposium on the province’s equity policy, which was set to begin on March 26, with some hinting that it was because of a controversial keynote speaker.

Board chair Ann Andrachuk denied that was the case, saying the cancellation was “an issue with aligning panelists” and that it would be rescheduled.

“Everybody’s got other commitments,” she said.

But trustee John del Grande, in a March 23 newsletter to constituents, said that in addition to the scheduling conflict of panelists, some parents had raised concerns about a speaker, Chris D’Souza, a course director at the York University Faculty of Education. D’Souza is also a former equity and diversity officer with the Dufferin Peel Catholic District School Board.

Del Grande told The Catholic Register the concerns stemmed from comments by D’Souza that were interpreted as promoting same-sex marriage. D’Souza has denied promoting the issue with students. “I've said that as a citizen of Canada, I have no problem with them removing that barrier for that demographic but I've never needed to throw my support, never been an advocate of that. That's a political reality that's already taken place. If people have a problem with that, they should speak to their MP and MPP. My simple mandate is a child has a right to get education that is free from harassment and bias,” D'Souza told The Catholic Register.

“If somebody rightfully or wrongfully made commentary that can muddy the waters, then it’s probably best they not be the person to speak on the topic,” said Del Grande.

Another concern with the board’s public consultations on the equity policy has been the format, Del Grande said.

“Is it a talking-to session or hearing from people, feedback from people? A public consultation format that 'indoctrinates' and presents only one side would be problematic,” he said.

The province introduced its equity strategy in 2008. It calls for all school boards to establish policies that prohibit discrimination based upon race, religion, gender and sexual orientation.

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