TORONTO - Parents as First Educators’ (PAFE) president Teresa Pierre is urging Ontario’s Catholic school trustees to pressure their boards into refusing to implement Gay-Straight Alliances (GSA) in Catholic schools.

“A legal opinion (from lawyer Geoff Cauchi) obtained by PAFE argues Catholic trustees are obliged to refuse to implement GSAs in Catholic schools,” said Pierre at a news conference held in the shadow of St. Michael’s Cathedral in downtown Toronto July 5. “Mr. Cauchi says a reasonable court should find that ‘it would be absurd to expect a Catholic board to tolerate the presence in its schools of student groups that present an anti-Catholic counter witness.’ ”

Published in Education

It isn’t just members of the Catholic school system being rubbed the wrong way by the Ontario government’s Bill-13.

The passage into law of the province’s anti-bullying legislation was the final straw for David Goldsmith, a trustee for the Lambton Kent District School Board.

“Bill-13 is causing me a lot of heartburn,” said Goldsmith, who will officially step down from his position June 30 after nine years with the southwestern Ontario school board.

Published in Education

TORONTO - The potential introduction of gay-straight alliances in Catholic schools has angered many Catholics, but several Catholic educators expect such clubs will closely resemble Respecting Difference groups already in operation.

“Our expectation is that the content will still mirror the Respecting Difference groups and that the Catholic content will be ensured and so will our denominational rights,” said Bob Murray, director of legislative and political affairs for the Ontario Catholic School Trustees’ Association (OCSTA).

Published in Education

TORONTO - Bill-13 is now the law in Ontario, which means Catholic schools must allow gay-straight alliance clubs if requested by students.

The controversial bill, supported by the Liberals and NDP, easily passed by a vote of 65 to 36 in the Ontario legislature on Tuesday.

Immediately following its passage, Toronto Cardinal Thomas Collins issued a brief statement in which he said Catholic schools should respect the law.

Published in Education

TORONTO - Opponents of Bill-13 lost the debate over gay-straight alliances because they seemed either fearful or contemptuous of the word gay in presentations at committee, said NDP and Liberal legislators during debate at final reading of the Accepting Schools Act.

“We know that homophobia is real. The committee hearings proved it is real,” said NDP MP Cheri DiNovo.

Published in Canada

TORONTO - Despite concerns expressed by Cardinal Thomas Collins, the Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association (OECTA) says it supports students’ rights to form gay-straight alliances (GSA) in Catholic schools.

In a May 29 news release, OECTA president Kevin O’Dwyer said, “Providing safe, inclusive environments and eliminating bullying wherever we can is paramount. If the students feel that a club should be called a GSA — that it makes a difference to them — then, we respect and accept that choice.”

Published in Education

TORONTO - Catholic schools will remain welcoming places for all students in full accord with the Accepting Schools Act and Catholic teaching and tradition, said Cardinal Thomas Collins in a statement released June 5 after Bill-13 passed third reading to become law.

Passage of the bill means Catholic schools must allow gay-straight alliance clubs if requested by students.

Published in Education

There’s plenty of well-reasoned discourse on all sides of the current debate around Ontario’s new anti-bullying legislation — but something’s missing. The voices that I have not heard in the debate are those of teens and youths dealing with same-sex attraction who want to live in conformity with God and His Church.

I can’t speak for anyone except myself — but as a person who was bullied, and a person who has dealt with same-sex attraction, I think I can offer a few thoughts. I returned to the Church last fall, after 13 years away. In addition to excellent pastoral support, a welcoming parish community and, of course, God’s grace, one of the biggest reasons I stayed in the Church after my return was the Church’s teaching on sexuality.

Published in YSN: Speaking Out

The long-running controversy concerning Ontario’s anti-bullying legislation has been covered by the media from the beginning with varying degrees of accuracy. But for inciting a string of negative coverage about Catholic schools and the Church in general, few events match coverage of the Ontario government’s May 25 announcement that all schools must provide gay-straight alliances if requested by students, followed by media reaction to statements from Cardinal Thomas Collins and other Catholic educators.

“Toronto’s Catholic Cardinal has a mistaken view of religious freedom,” thundered The Globe, editorializing that the cardinal’s viewpoint — that Catholic schools should be free to combat bullying in a manner consistent with Catholic teaching — is out of keeping with modern constitutional rights, and “public money should not be put toward discriminatory uses.”

Published in Joanne McGarry

Dalton McGuinty may not trust high school students to make smart choices about what to eat for lunch but he believes they are mature enough to overrule parents, principals and trustees on serious matters pertaining to sexuality and bullying.

At noon McGuinty insists adults must impose healthy food on kids in cafeterias. But if those same teenagers, who could be as young as 13, meet after school to discuss sexual orientation, gender identity and bullying, McGuinty will let them impose their will on their adult supervisors.

Welcome to the bizarre world of Ontario education, where vegetables may be mandatory but respect for religious tolerance and diversity is optional.

Published in Editorial

An estimated 600 people packed a downtown Toronto square on May 31 before marching to Queen's Park to protest the Ontario Liberal government's Bill 13.

"We are here to make a very public statement against the absolutely totalitarian legislation called Bill 13," said Jack Fonseca of Campaign Life Catholics. "Dalton McGuinty has set before us a choice between liberty and tyranny. It's requiring the Catholic Church to violate its religious beliefs in many respects."

Published in Canada: Toronto-GTA

The Ontario government respects the constitutional rights of Catholic education and is committed to its continuation, said Education Minister Laurel Broten.

Speaking to The Catholic Register in the wake of Cardinal Thomas Collins calling the Liberal's amended version of Bill 13 an infringement on religious freedom, Broten also rejected calls from some politicians and media for a single, secular education system.

"I've been very clear," she said. "The premier's been very clear. We respect the constitutional protection of Catholic education and that conversation is not on the table."

Published in Education

Cardinal Thomas Collins is puzzled and troubled by the Ontario government's reversal on a key aspect of Bill-13 but says it's premature to speculate on a court challenge to keep gay-straight alliances out of Catholic high schools.

Collins responded on May 28 to Education Minister Laurel Broten's announcement three days earlier that the government's anti-bullying Bill-13 will be amended to prevent Catholic school boards from blocking clubs called gay-straight alliances (GSAs). Under the amended legislation, the naming of such clubs will be solely up to students. Previously, the bill said clubs that deal with sexual orientation and gender issues could be called a gay-straight alliance "or another name."

Published in Editorial

OTTAWA - The Ontario government’s controversial Bill-13 could face a court challenge on six different points, a constitutional lawyer told an Ontario government social policy committee hearing. During a May 22 submission, Albertos Polizogopoulos, an Ottawa lawyer who practices primarily in the areas of constitutional and civil litigation, gave the committee an inch-thick document that highlighted previous Supreme Court decisions related to religious freedom.

“Nobody has a right to insist Catholic schools become non-religious or non-Catholic,” he said.

Published in Education

OTTAWA - The father of suicide victim Jamie Hubley made an emotional plea for the Ontario government to stop focussing on same-sex bullying and draft an anti-bullying law that does not single out any group for special treatment.

“I ask you to protect every child equally,” said Ottawa City Councilor Hubley.

He was speaking May 22 at an Ontario government social policy committee hearing on two proposed anti-bullying bills, the government’s Bill 13 and the Conservative’s Bill 14 (renamed Bill 80).

Published in Education
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