Friday, September 02, 2011

Ontario Election: GSAs, Greens and Catholic Schools

The issue of gay-straight alliances in Catholic schools in Ontario has heated up again, this time in the Toronto Catholic District School Board, which voted this week to place denominational rights above other rights in implementing the provincial equity policies - which were supposed to guarantee GSAs in Ontario high schools. Clearly, the individual schools in the board are interpreting this as carte blanche to ban anything which explictly has "gay" in the name, going so far as to threaten disciplinary action against students who are fighting for these support groups.

I am pleased to see that this issue is not only getting attention from the gay and alternative media. The Globe and Mail has been devoting significant coverage to this issue, including today's commentary piece from Aidan Johnson.

I'm going to be very curious to see how this issue plays out in the provincial election campaign. So far, the approach of the McGuinty government has been to support the creation of GSAs, using gay Toronto Centre MPP Glen Murray as the main spokesperson on this issue. (Although I find it curious and significant that Education minister Leona Dombrowsky is largely MIA on this issue). But there is clearly reluctance to putting the full weight of the government behind a strategy of compelling the Catholic boards to accept these support groups, especially with the Liberal government in danger of losing the election.

The option of seeking a constitutional amendment to eliminate public funding for the Catholic boards - as was done in Quebec and Newfoundland - does not appear to register on the radar for the current government. I'm not overly surprised by this, given the stew John Tory found himself in in the 2007 election with his promise of funding for other denominational schools. I'm not sure if the gay community and their supporters will be able to mobilize this as a major campaign issue, particularly given the fact that the only major party to endorse an end to public funding of Catholic schools in the 2007 election - the Greens - have retreated from this platform promise, and so there will be no standard bearer for this approach.

I imagine that the Liberals (and the NDP, for that matter), will make vague promises about resolving the issue in the courts, which should tie things up for at least a few more years.

More's the shame, as it will be gay and lesbian teens who suffer in the meantime. I'm not at all surprised by the hateful position of the Catholic schools (having been educated in the system myself), or by the hesitancy of the major parties when faced with a sizeable Catholic voting block. But it does betray their cynical political calculations and lack of willingness to passionately advocate for one of our most vulnerable populations.

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At 10:52 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You should read Chris Hedges' "The Death Of the Liberal Class." It's all about academics who refuse to take a stand and instead prefer to be spineless apologists.

At 10:56 am, Blogger Matt said...


Why do you suggest that I, in particular, read this? I'm pretty clear about my own politics and policy positions, and have been actively engaged in advising policy-makers and governments on areas related to my expertise.

At 10:32 am, Anonymous Eamon said...

Matt - Have you ever had a troll before?

At 11:07 am, Blogger Matt said...

Hi Eamon,

I have indeed. And I try not to feed them. But sometimes it is unclear and I'll give them a chance to prove otherwise.

At 2:59 pm, Anonymous Eamon said...

You can usually tell by the fact that they don't have the guts to use their real name.


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