York trustees voted in favour of Cathy Ferlisi’s (pictured) motion to write a formal letter calling on the teachers’ union to withdraw from participating in the parade formerly known as the Gay Pride Parade during its April 29 board meeting.

York board asks OECTA to recant its support of pride parade

  • May 7, 2014

The York Catholic District School Board is formally opposing the Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association’s decision to participate in the World Pride Parade this June.

During its April 29 board meeting, York trustees voted in favour of Cathy Ferlisi’s motion to write a formal letter calling on the teachers’ union to withdraw from participating in the parade formerly known as the Gay Pride Parade.

“I think that as Catholic educators they are called to provide young people with a vision of human life, marriage, family and sexuality grounded in Catholic values,” said Ferlisi. “Participating in the Gay Pride Parade would not be congruent with that. I would like the entire OECTA not to participate, but at the very least the York unit.”

The board’s objection to OECTA taking part in the parade comes after Toronto Cardinal Thomas Collins said the union’s decision to participate demonstrates an “inadequate and mistaken understanding of their faith.” He also said OECTA’s “competance is limited to collective bargaining” and union-relates services.

Although OECTA will not have a float in the parade, members will march during the event wearing OECTA colours behind the union’s flag.

The parade, to be held on June 29, began more than three decades ago as a protest in favour of gay rights. Although that continues to be the formal theme of the parade, critics say it too often promotes public nudity, sodomy and masochism.

Ferlisi said she’d have liked the controversial topic, which came out of OECTA’s annual general meeting in March, to have been addressed sooner but with March Break and Easter time did not permit more prompt action.

“I felt that we needed to send a very clear and strong message to at least our OECTA York unit to ask the membership not to participate.”

That message, which will be in the form of a letter, was expected to be in OECTA’s hands by May 9. When Ferlisi spoke with The Register she noted that both the chair of the board and the director of education were working on a draft.

But this is not the kind of reaction trustee Carol Cotton, the only York trustee to vote against Ferlisi’s motion, thinks the board should be taking.

“I would have preferred a direction to work with our bishops and the cardinal to recommend a co-ordinated response from all the Catholic school boards,” she said. “It would be more positive because the response is to a collective group. It is the provincial OECTA executive that made that decision so I think that it would be more appropriate if the response comes from that same kind of collective group.”

Cotton also said that opposing OECTA’s choice to participate in the parade does not coincide with her personal belief “not to judge and for us to embrace everyone.” But she made it clear that despite voting against the motion, she does support it as “legislation and our own code of conduct requires.” For Ferlisi, there was no other option.

“I felt that there was nothing else that we could really do,” she said, noting that no parent prompted her to put forward the motion. “The Gay Pride Parade is not the appropriate venue for our staff.”

York Catholic’s response comes on the heels of an online petition being circulated by Parents As First Educators calling on Catholic trustees to demand OECTA withdraw from the parade.

Despite the petition garnering more than 1,000 signatures within the first four days, Ferlisi said it did not influence her decision to put the motion forward. As of May 5 that petition had more than 3,760 digital signatures.

Although OECTA had yet to receive the letter when contacted by The Register, president James Ryan said the organization is sticking to its decision.

“OECTA will not be changing its position,” he said.

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