Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Ontario Government To Mandate ALL Public Schools Have LGBT Student Groups

The Ontario Government under Premier Dalton McGuinty has crafted new rules regarding the formulation of LGBT support groups in Ontario schools - both secular and Catholic. According to Toronto Centre MPP Glen Murray, as reported in the Toronto Star
"The choice to have an LGBTQ group will be the choice of students, not the choice of principals and school boards"
       Recall that there has been a substantial amount of controversy regarding Gay-Straight Alliances in Ontario within the past few months. The publicly funded Catholic School Board in the different regions, have been quite hesitant to allow such clubs, citing that by doing so they would be violating their fundamental religious beliefs.  To alleviate such problems, they have proposed allowing "diversity groups" and groups that "teach inclusion". The McGuinty Government has rejected such broad and vague groups and is now requiring that Catholic schools comply with the current policy, which is to allow LGBT specific groups in their schools. 

      Though this is a good move on the part of the McGuinty Government, some activists are concerned with the lack of specification to what the groups are to be called. It is not known whether or not schools will be required to these groups "Gay-Straight Alliances" or if they may be called something else. This has young activists like Leanne Iskander concerned, 
"I don’t think what he’s saying is allowed now is much different from what we have…but they made us call it Open Arms, which is so generic and no one knows what it is...there’s no point having the support there if students don’t know it’s there, so the name is important."
     Additionally, I for one am wondering about the Constitutional implications involved in this move. Catholic schools are protected by Section 93 of the Constitution, as well as Section 29 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms which states, 
Nothing in this Charter abrogates or derogates from any rights or privileges guaranteed by or under the Constitution of Canada in respect of denominational, separate or dissentient schools
      For those who are not Canadian - LGBT equality rights are contained in Section 15 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. What section 29 states, is that nothing before it - LGBT rights included - can jeopardize the funding and/or the rights that these schools have under the Provincial Government. Because of this, if the Catholic School Board decides to take the province to Court over this issue, I have a feeling the CSB would win. 

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