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TCDSB squashes motion to ban gay-straight alliances in Toronto Catholic schools

Gay-straight alliance clubs will continue on in Catholic schools.

On Thursday evening Toronto District Catholic School Board trustees voted 7-4 against a motion brought forth by Trustee Garry Tanuan that would have seen a ban GSAs, which goes against the province’s Accepting Schools Act.

The Liberal anti-bullying act passed last June at Queen’s Park by a vote of 65-36 and allows all students, including those in the Catholic board, to use the term gay-straight alliance.

Tanuan’s motion, which was seconded by Trustee John Del Grande, said “Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) clubs promote a positive view of homosexual activity, which undermines Catholic teaching on chastity and marriage.”

It goes on to state that “The Church’s solution to bullying is being ignored and Church teaching is being undermined by these clubs.”

In March 2012 the board passed a motion to make “Respect Differences” clubs the solution to anti-bullying, however a plan for its implementation has yet to be created.

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) attended the TCDSB meeting to express its concerns regarding the motion.

“Students, like all people in Canada, have a right to freedom of expression, freedom of association and equality, subject to reasonable limits,” CCLA equality program director Noa Mendelsohn Aviv said in a statement.

“There is no reasonable justification for depriving TCDSB students of these fundamental rights by banning gay straight alliances or other LGBTQ-positive clubs in their schools.”

The Accepting Schools Act requires school boards to support student groups for “people of all sexual orientations and gender identities.”

From its inception as Bill 113 many Catholics spoke out about the act including the Archbishop of Toronto.

“Trustees and principals are legitimate stewards of the spiritual tradition of the school, and in a Catholic school that includes the Catholic faith tradition,” Thomas Cardinal Collins said in a statement. “Why should the power of provincial law be used to override that legitimate adult authority so that this one particular method can be imposed by any student who wants to do so?”

Laurel Broten, who was Education Minister when the bill was passed, said: “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…I don’t think there’s anything radical about allowing students to name a club.”

The legislation came in response to the suicides of two bullied students in 2011 and Broten said it is about protecting and empowering students – which includes allowing students to name clubs as they see fit.

With files from The Canadian Press

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