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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, June 1, 2012 - Volume 40 Issue 22
Ontario government orders schools to accept GSAs
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Ontario government orders schools to accept GSAs

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

The provincial government of Ontario has ordered all schools in the province - including Catholic schools - to allow their students to form Gay-Straight Alliances and to call them by that name.

Ontario's Catholic bishops, who had resisted allowing the clubs, cried foul, charging that the government had blindsided them.

The May 25 order is a major change in the provincial government's new anti-bullying bill, the Accepting Schools Act.

After the announcement, Ontario Education Minister Laurel Broten said there could be no compromises.

.Schools need to be safe places for kids to be themselves - and for some kids, that means being able to name a club a Gay-Straight Alliance,. she said.

.I don't think there's anything radical about allowing students to name a club..

Broten said she decided not to pursue a compromise with the Catholic Church after hearing from students who said they don't want school authorities dictating the names of their clubs.

.We know that words matter. The message that we're giving to Ontario students today is you will be listened to, it's your club,. Broten told reporters.

.[Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty] and I were both very clear that it was not for us at Queen's Park to tell them what the name of their club should be, but neither should it be for someone else sitting in some other office in the province to tell them what the name of their club can't be..

Because Ontario, unlike other Canadian provinces, funds religious schools, those schools were included in the government's order.

Church authorities said they had been trying to negotiate a compromise whereby Catholic schools could prohibit the use of the word .Gay. in student club names. They also wanted to be able to ban clubs whose primary focus was sexual orientation.

The Catholic Church catechism teaches that LGBT people .must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided..

Being Gay or Lesbian, however, is said to be .intrinsically disordered,. and .under no circumstance can it be approved..

Consequently, Catholic bishops had proposed creating .Respecting Differences Clubs. instead of Gay-Straight Alliances.

Supporters of the new regulations said that allowing a school principal to rule out the name .Gay-Straight Alliance. is in itself a form of oppression that is inappropriate under the Accepting Schools Act.

Broten said using the word .Gay. is a necessary part of combating homophobia.

.If we can't name it, we can't address it - and we must address it,. she said.

Toronto Cardinal Thomas Collins said the church was taken aback by the government's announcement because they believed negotiations on compromise names for the school groups were going forward.

.Why is a piece of provincial legislation being used to micromanage the naming of student clubs?. he asked.

.We all are committed to obeying the law, but we can question whether the law is wise, whether the law is just, or whether a law is a kind of intrusion or limiting of religious freedom..

The cardinal issued a public letter on May 25 denouncing the government plan.

.As pastor of a large diocese, on the road constantly visiting the people, I have again and again heard concern from parents and educators about the proposed imposition of the GSA methodology on Catholic schools,. he said.

.That same concern has been expressed to me by people of other faiths, since parents often choose to send a child to a Catholic high school precisely because they expect a particular approach to life which is largely in harmony with their family and faith convictions..

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