Toronto board's equity policy draws more fire

By 
  • April 19, 2011
Chris D’Souza, former equity and diversity officer with the Dufferin Peel Catholic School BoardTORONTO - A vocal group of Catholics loudly expressed its concerns that the Toronto Catholic school board’s draft equity policy could undermine Catholic teachings on same-sex relationships.

About 120 people attended the first equity policy public consultation at St. Mary’s Catholic High School April 18 and heard four panellists speak on the equity policy, including Chris D’Souza, a former equity and diversity officer with the Dufferin Peel Catholic School Board.

The McGuinty government introduced its equity and inclusive education strategy prohibiting discrimination based upon race, religion, gender and sexual orientation in 2008. Boards are expected to implement equity policies this school year.  

The Toronto Catholic District School Board’s draft policy states that the board “gives pre-eminence to the tenets of the Catholic faith” which are “congruent and compatible with the protections entrenched in the Ontario Human Rights Code, the Constitution Act 1982 and confirmed in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.”

But Catholic ratepayer Alan Yoshioka said he objected to the lack of strong language in the policy which would ensure it is in line with Catholic teachings. He referred to amendments proposed by Toronto trustee John Del Grande at a previous board meeting to add the words “in a manner consistent with the Catholic faith and Catholic moral teaching” and “unjust” before the word “discrimination” throughout the document. The amendments were defeated.

“I am a former gay activist, 15 years or more. I disagree with your treating the legitimate need for respect for all students with this imposition of a policy and groups that focus on sexual orientation,” Yoshioka said. “Love and respect for students is fine. (The issue is) how is that going to be implemented?”

A Catholic school policy that contradicts Catholic teachings “is not acceptable,” he said to loud applause.  

Others questioned the need for the equity policy and some objected to D’Souza’s views on homosexuality.

“Do you believe in the word of God or the Bible or the truth or choose whatever you like?” asked an unidentified woman in the audience.

D’Souza, a course director at York University’s Faculty of Education and founder of the Equity Summit Group, said it was a shame the equity policy was being “hijacked” by certain groups. Parents have a “simple expectation” that when their children are in school, “they will never hear anything hurtful or hateful about the wonderfully unique identities that are all protected by the Ontario Human Rights Code.”

“My wife and I took our two (daughters) and son to church on Sunday. And I looked at them and thought to myself, ‘If one of them is gay, I would still proudly walk them down the aisle and put their hand in the hand of whoever they fall in love with because I love them,’ ” he said.

Moira McQueen, moral theologian and director of the Canadian Catholic Bioethics Institute, said the Catholic Church’s teachings on homosexual acts are clear but distinguish between the act, which it views as “intrinsically disordered,” and the person with homosexual tendencies who must be loved and respected.

“What the Catholic Church does not judge is the sinfulness of the person. The distinction must be right,” she said.

Meanwhile Kirk Mark, the board’s co-ordinator of race and ethnic relations, reiterated the need to also focus on racial discrimination which is the top issue of cases at the Ontario Human Rights Commission.

Ashleigh Molloy, director of the Transformation Education Institute, spoke of the importance of ensuring equality of all students, including those with disabilities.

“(Students) can’t be defined by their exceptionalities, their race, culture, gender sexual orientation and interests,” he said.

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