TORONTO, March 25, 2011 (CCRL) – As Ontario school boards move ahead in the creation of their government-mandated equity policies, the League is often asked for assistance in ensuring that these policies are appropriate for Catholic boards. While our national scope and traditional mandate prevent us from getting deeply involved at a local level, we have compiled several resources that may be of assistance to parents and teachers.
As one of our members points out in an excellent article in Catholic Insight, a genuinely Catholic school has no need of a dedicated policy on equity, since the need to be equally respectful of all people in a spirit of Christian love is the essence of the second great commandment.
Nevertheless, Ontario Ministry of Education policy suggest that all boards, public and Catholic, should have a written policy by the end of 2012. Many of the Ministry of Education guidelines are concerned with equality of opportunity for all income and racial or ethnic groups and are not controversial.
Catholic teaching on sexual morality is incompatible with some of the proposed ways of avoiding discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation. While all people must be welcomed and accepted, the overt or implicit approval of homosexual behaviour is against Church teaching.
Gay-straight alliance clubs in school, and “anti-homophobia” workshops have probably attracted the most media attention. Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty, when challenged, acknowledged that gay-straight alliances are not required under equity and inclusiveness requirements provided support is available for homosexual students. Discussion and debate about sexual morality will always arise, especially among older students. In a Catholic school system, parents have a right to expect guidance to be provided within a Catholic context.
Catholic electors and parents have an expectation that the curriculum will be delivered in accordance with Catholic social teaching. It is out of step with such teaching to identify students as gay Catholics, straight Catholics, disabled Catholics or as members of ethnic or racial groups. In fact, our teaching goes beyond what the ministry of education would advocate by recognizing the dignity of all human persons from conception to natural death.
Many boards, including Toronto, are in the final stages of drafting their policies and have sought parental input. The right of Catholic schools to uphold their Catholic character is spelled out in several legal documents, including the Constitution Act (BNA Act) and the Ontario Human Rights Code, as well as in case law. It is up to parents to participate in policy development to ensure that a right they have in law is protected in practice.
Bishops of Ontario statement of Jan. 14, 2011.
Ontario Ministry of Education Guidelines for developing an equity and inclusive education policy. Catholic board policy guidelines on page 55.