Teresa Pierre, Ontario Catholic Parent Association

Seeking a voice for Catholic voiceless

  • August 26, 2011

TORONTO - Citing the absence of a Catholic parents’ voice in the debate over Ontario’s equity policy for schools, a Toronto-based group of parents was formed to get the opinions of Catholic parents heard in the corridors of power.  

Teresa Pierre, spokesperson for the Ontario Catholic Parent Association, said the group was formed about three months ago in Toronto because Catholic parents’ voices were silent during the recent acrimonious debate on the Toronto Catholic District School Board’s equity policy and wasn’t being addressed by other parent groups.

“We have some remaining concerns addressed in amendments still to be considered,” Pierre said.

In May, the TCDSB passed an equity and inclusive education policy that included provisions against discrimination based on sexual orientation. It also prohibits any form of social or cultural discrimination in its schools. Amendments have been proposed to that policy that would place even greater emphasis on the right of Catholic schools to operate according to Catholic religious beliefs. These will be voted upon at the Aug. 31 board meeting.

The provincial government is expecting all Ontario school boards to have an equity policy in place which prohibits discrimination based upon race, religion, gender and sexual orientation. In Catholic boards, concerns have been raised about the policy running against Catholic social teaching. There have also been concerns about the call to establish gay-straight alliances, dialogue groups of gay and straight students that some critics say push a homosexual agenda.

“We want teachers to feel confident about teaching Catholic morality in the classroom and not to be concerned about any repercussions from the administration,” Pierre said, adding that this concern extends to ensuring a Catholic curriculum.

Amy Gerdevich, president of the Ontario Association of Parents in Catholic Education, said her organization has not yet made an official statement on the equity policy but will be considering the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops’ recent pastoral letter on pastoral care for students with same-sex attractions.

“We really do try to stay out of the political foray for the most part because we find we need our focus to be on the ground, helping parents where they live rather than getting sidetracked by trying to play a political game,” she said.

OAPCE is recognized as the official representative of parents or guardians of children in publicly funded Catholic schools.

The Ontario Catholic Parent Association’s goals go beyond just getting a voice heard on the equity policy. It also promotes education faithful to Catholic teachings.

“Recognizing that the parents are the first educators of their children, the association seeks to give parents and other concerned Catholics a voice in Catholic educational policy,” according to OCPA’s mission statement.

OCPA researches issues facing teachers and administrators, suggests and lobbies for policy solutions and strategies, and keeps parents and the public informed about Catholic education.

There is no official membership count for OCPA, but Pierre said that most of the 2,500 Catholic parents and ratepayers who signed a petition concerned about the equity policy support OCPA.

Comments (1)

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Thank you for your voice in this sex ed situation. I have filled out the petitions that have been sent to me. I am currently signed up to join the Catholic Church and will be switching our education taxes to the Catholic School Board asap. I...

Thank you for your voice in this sex ed situation. I have filled out the petitions that have been sent to me. I am currently signed up to join the Catholic Church and will be switching our education taxes to the Catholic School Board asap. I have 4 adult children doing the same.

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