Election campaign strangely silent on Catholic education

  • September 20, 2011

The Ontario election campaign has been on for a few weeks now and I have yet to hear Catholic education mentioned once.

That’s odd, considering all three main party leaders are graduates of the Catholic school system.
 Yet none of the three main parties specifically mention Catholic education or faith-based education in their platforms.

In the 2007 election, it seems that’s all we talked about.
The Ontario Progressive Conservatives promised to extend funding for faith-based schools beyond the Catholic system and include Protestant, Jewish and Muslim schools. The Liberals met that proposal with derision, claiming there should only be one public system that did not divide Ontario.

While Catholic schools have been a non-issue so far, that doesn’t mean there are no Catholic education issues to  concern parents and voters.
 There is, of course, the ongoing fight over the gay-straight alliance clubs being foisted on Ontario high schools. While the idea of stopping bullying in all forms is one most people could support, the government policy goes further than that.

Regarding homosexual persons, the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches “They must be accepted with respect, compassion and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided.” But the Church also teaches that “under no circumstances” can homosexual acts be approved.

The gay-straight alliance clubs proposed by Premier Dalton McGuinty celebrate that which the Church teaches is wrong. Will Catholic schools be allowed to tailor the clubs to meet Catholic doctrine? It seems doubtful.
 In his official greeting at the Toronto Pride Parade, McGuinty made it clear that these clubs would accept homosexuality as it is.

“This is not a matter of choice for school boards or principals. If students want it, they will have it,” McGuinty said.

One of his top cabinet ministers, Glen Murray, has made similar comments.

“When the premier said that gay, lesbian and trans students will be able to form gay and lesbian organizations in every school in Ontario if they choose to, and it would not be up to principals and school boards — memo to TCDSB — it will be the choice of students, that was a very strong commitment,” Murray told the gay and lesbian newspaper Xtra.

So there you have it from the premier and one of his cabinet ministers. Catholic schools must accept these clubs as they are.

While parents are asking questions about gay-straight clubs in schools, they will also want to ask about government plans for a new sex-ed curriculum.
 In the spring of 2010, facing push-back from angry parents, McGuinty backed down on changes to the sex-ed curriculum for elementary schools. The plan had been to roll out a new curriculum that had explicit descriptions of sexual acts and embraced a fluid sexuality.

Former education minister Kathleen Wynne recently told Xtra that the controversial curriculum will be back and will deal with homosexual issues.

“I think the education system is probably the single most important venue for education of a new generation that will be able to deal with homophobia in a much more intelligent way,” Wynne said.

She sees it as problematic that Catholic schools have issues with the sex-ed curriculum and the gay-straight alliance clubs.

“When I was minister of education, I made it clear to directors that in the publicly funded Ontario education system it was extremely important that we had equitable policies in all of our boards across the province, and I think that’s well understood,” Wynne was quoted.

Xtra also says Wynne is confident these “roadblocks” will be cleared if the Liberals are re-elected.
 Likewise, Murray also promises that the explicit new sex-ed curriculum will be back and blamed its temporary demise on “extreme right-wing homophobe attacks on gay and lesbian communities.”

Will Catholic schools still be authentically Catholic if they are forced to teach this brand of sex-ed or to accept clubs that go against Church teaching?
 These are important questions.
 Two senior McGuinty cabinet ministers insist the changes will come and Catholic schools will have to accept them.

What are the views of McGuinty himself?
 Or Hudak or Horwath?

Parents and voters should be asking.

(Brian Lilley is a newspaper columnist and TV host for Sun News Network.)

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