Canada's Catholic Schools Take Further Steps toward LGBT Inclusion

Mural painted as part of a Pride Week celebration at a Canadian Catholic high school.

Canada’s publicly-funded Catholic school system has made some great strides in regard to LGBT issues over the past few years. Three recent developments provide hope that these schools will only become more and more inclusive of differing gender identities and sexual orientations.

In April, the Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association (OECTA) drew criticism from traditionalist groups over the union’s decision to march in the WorldPride Parade. Now, trustees of the Waterloo Catholic District School Board have voted 8-1 in support of OECTA sending over 100 educators to march in Toronto this June.

Several trustees like Anthony Piscitelli spoke about LGBT justice in light of their faith, according  The Record:

” ‘As lay leaders in the Catholic community our words and actions matter,’ Trustee Anthony Piscitelli said. ‘Let’s make it clear here today that the board of trustees supports inclusion.’ “

Other trustees, like Frank Johnson, countered anti-LGBT critics of the teachers’ participation in WorldPride by saying:

” ‘I question your understanding of God’s design…It’s diametrically opposed to what I believe about God.’

“Johnson argued that censuring teachers could force gay Catholic students further underground, where they might harm themselves.”

Elsewhere, fired transgender teacher Jan Buterman’s legal battle with the Catholic school system which fired him after transitioning has moved forward. The Alberta Human Rights Commission will hear the case, and speculation about how the court will rule and what the impacts may be has already begun. National Post writes:

“Between recent rulings demanding greater ease for transgendered people who wish to change their sex on government identification, to debates over whether public and quasi-public religious schools should be able to enforce strict covenants and morality codes that exclude gay, lesbian and transgendered students and staff, Mr. Buterman’s case has provided a worrying precedent for the faithful.

“If Mr. Buterman wins his case with the Alberta Human Rights Commission — its hearing date still to be decided — these schools fear they will be forced to accommodate people whose values and behaviour differ markedly from their own in an environment that is explicitly religious.

“If he loses, it could prove to be a gut-wrenching setback for those with unconventional gender identities.”

You can read Bondings 2.0‘s full coverage of Jan Buterman’s case and find links to stories about all fired LGBT and ally church workers here.

Finally, this blog reported last week on a Canadian Catholic high school’s first Pride week celebration, which included educational programming and a film screening. Students at Blessed Pope John Paul II also painted a mural to promote inclusion of all people, and in our original post, we showed the mural in progress.  At the top of this post, you can see the finished product.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

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