Home > Releases > Queer Ontario’s Letter to Alice Anne LeMay, Chair, Halton Catholic District School Board regarding her comments and stance on Gay Straight Alliances (January 12, 2011)

Queer Ontario’s Letter to Alice Anne LeMay, Chair, Halton Catholic District School Board regarding her comments and stance on Gay Straight Alliances (January 12, 2011)

January 21st, 2011

January 12, 2011

Alice Anne LeMay
Halton Catholic District School Board
Catholic Education Centre
802 Drury Lane
Burlington, Ontario
L7R 2Y2

Dear Ms. LeMay,

I am writing on behalf of Queer Ontario in response to your comments and actions
regarding Gay-Straight Alliances (GSA) in Halton Catholic District high schools. In a
recent study conducted by Egale Canada, three-quarters of lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans
and queer (LGBTQ) students stated that they felt unsafe in at least one area of their
school, with half of their straight peers corroborating the unsafe nature of high schools
for LGBTQ youth. No student, queer or straight, benefits from this kind of learning
environment, nor do they deserve it.

Gay-Straight Alliances have proven to be an effective means of dissipating and
combating homophobia and transphobia in schools. The work they do helps to unravel
the myths surrounding LGBTQ persons, and offers a support network for youth who are
marginalized both at school and in their broader communities. And yet, you somehow
managed to find a way of comparing Gay-Straight Alliances to Nazi groups, which is an
irresponsible gesture on your part and, quite frankly, one unbefitting of an elected
official. For not only is it disrespectful to queer youth today who continue to suffer from
homophobic violence, but it is absolutely abhorrent to align an oppressive, violent, and
discriminatory group — and one that has a history of persecuting LGBTQ people, no less
— with organizations that seek to support students suffering from such systems of hate
and violence.

But the comparison is there, and your justification for it as being a sample of groups “that
are not endorsed and permitted in Halton Catholic schools,” simply because they are
“against magisterial of the Catholic Church,” is quite telling of the restrictive school
environment you want to create for your students. The fact that you claim that Catholic
schools have ‘denominational rights’ to do as they please with requests to establish Gay-
Straight Alliances also comes to show how poorly you understand your role as a school
trustee, not to mention the equity laws that govern your school district.

You are indeed correct in stating that you have denominational rights with regards to
most practices within Catholic schools, but should the wellbeing of your students not
come first? As Chair of the Halton Catholic District School Board, are you not primarily
responsible for the health and wellbeing of all students in your community, many of
whom identify as LGBT or come from families with members who do? Indeed, by
choosing to ban Gay-Straight Alliances in your schools, you show not only that you are
delinquent in your duty to foster a nurturing learning environment for your all students,
but you actually do a great disservice to your community by barring them from
developing more informed and compassionate attitudes towards your LGBT constituents.

Queer Ontario is of the position that allowing a safe and loving space for students to
explore, discover, and come to terms with their sexual orientation (should they choose to
do so, of course) creates an opportunity for dialogue, support, growth and empowerment.
As such, we disagree with the HCDSB’s claim that “the same objective of promoting
understanding” can be fostered with generic human rights groups, especially if this takes
place in an environment that discourages ‘coming out’ or the discussion of issues related
to sexual orientation and/or gender identity.

By choosing to not allow Gay-Straight Alliances in your district, then, you are denying
students their right to free association, freedom of expression, and the mandated
provision of a space that is free of oppression and discrimination. Or, to put it in more
empathetic terms: by blocking these Ministry recommended organizations, you are not
only contributing to a hostile atmosphere for LGBTQ students in your district, but the
student body as a whole. Everyone can benefit from honest discussion and a greater
awareness of LGBTQ issues — your straight-identified students, teachers, and board
officers included.


Casey Oraa
Chair, Political Action Committee
Queer Ontario

Cc: Leona Dombrowsky, Minister, Education
Kevin Flynn, MPP, Oakville
Joyce Savoline, MPP, Burlington
Ted Chudleigh, MPP, Halton
Ted Arnott, MPP, Wellington-Halton Hills
Tara Elliott, Director of Education, Egale Canada
Halton Catholic District School Board (HCDSB)
Ontario Education Services Corporation (OESC)

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