Officials leading Toronto’s Catholic school system approved new LGBTQ protections that had been quite contentious, but were quickly adopted after the local archdiocese came out in support of them.
On Thursday, the Toronto Catholic District School Board voted to add four protected classes to the system’s code of conduct policy that would benefit LGBTQ community members. The Star reported:
“The move came on the heels of the Archdiocese of Toronto — the Catholic Church’s spiritual leadership in the GTA [greater Toronto area] — weighing in on the side of inclusivity. A report submitted at a Toronto Catholic District School Board (TCDSB) meeting Thursday evening said the archdiocese would support the board in changing its code of conduct policy to include controversial terms: gender expression, gender identity, family status and marital status.
” ‘The archdiocese will accept (the terms),’ the report reads, provided that the amended policy ‘be interpreted through the lens of the Catholic faith as articulated by the teachings of the church and protected in legislation.’
“After much debate during the seven-hour meeting, which included members of the public making submissions to the board, the trustees voted eight to four in favour of including the terms.”
The vote happened quickly after the archdiocese signaled its support because TCDSB had missed the Ontario Ministry of Education’s November 4 deadline to include that language in school policies. Trustees and nearly 100 community members met until 2 a.m when the vote occurred. The Star reported that many people welcomed the change with some relying on Catholic teaching for their support:
“Following the vote, board chair Maria Rizzo, a vocal supporter of including the four terms, told the Star, ‘God heard my prayers.’
” ‘We finally, finally, after months and months of turmoil and creating this division, we finally came together as a board and did the right thing by our students and our families.’ . . .
“Kyle Iannuzzi, a former student trustee and member of the LGBTQ community, addressed the board, urging trustees to adopt the language. He said he had been a victim of bullying at school and considered suicide, noting LGBTQ youth are disproportionately affected by hate, harassment and violence in school.
” ‘This is matter of life or death,’ he told the trustees. ‘No one is asking you to abandon Catholic teachings; in fact I’m asking you to embrace them. There’s nothing in Catholic teaching that would prevent you from including everyone.’ “
The vote is a reversal for TCDSB, which had been discussing this issue since last spring. A subcommittee recently proposed omitting the four protected categories and, in place of any specific categories mentioned in the code of conduct, inserting the generic statement “that all people are created in the image and likeness of God and are deserving of respect and dignity.” But it appears the archdiocese’s endorsement of explicitly naming gender identity, gender expression, marital status, and family status in keeping with Ontario law and the Education Ministry’s regulations prompted board members to shift course swiftly. In doing so, Catholic officials from the archbishop down to the trustees very much made the right choice for the world’s largest publicly-funded Catholic school system.
—Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, November 10, 2019