Home > Releases > Your Urgent Action is Needed: Gay-Straight Alliances in the Halton Catholic School District

Your Urgent Action is Needed: Gay-Straight Alliances in the Halton Catholic School District

March 11th, 2011

Hello everyone,

It has been brought to our attention that the Halton Catholic District School Board is turning to the public to receive input on its Equity and Inclusion Operating Policy [II-45], which has a deadline of today, March 11, 2011.* If you can provide your response to the policy within the next few hours, we may very well change the course of GSAs in the Halton Catholic School District.

The official response form is here: https://survey.hcdsb.org/policyii45.aspx

We (and the many queer and trans students in the Halton Catholic School District) thank you for your help,

Queer Ontario

* Note: We apologize for the short notice but, as you will notice in our letter from January 23, we requested that the Halton Catholic District School Board inform us of when they would be holding their public consultation. They never did.

To learn more on why this Equity and Inclusion Operating Policy is problematic,


Why is this Equity and Inclusion Operating Policy a problem?


1. It is an equity and inclusion policy that seeks to rectify ‘erroneous’ sexual attractions in LGBT students.

If you turn to page 4 of their Equity and Inclusion Operating Policy you notice that the Halton Catholic School Board “acknowledges that a Christ-centered, positive school climate is one where all members of the school community feel safe, welcomed, and accepted”, adding that the principles of equality and inclusion they are proposing are “consistent with Catholic doctrine and must be considered and applied in employing progressive disciplinary measures.” They cite an adherence to the Pastoral Guidelines for Students of Same Sex Orientation, which calls for teachers and other adults to guide LGBT youth into a “better sexual morality” — one of celibacy or heterosexuality. According to the Pastoral Guidelines (pg.5):

“Adolescent students are not always the best judges of their own sexual orientation. When a student discloses a same-sex attraction, it does not necessarily mean that the student is homosexual. Teachers and others entrusted with the pastoral care of students experiencing same-sex attraction should keep in mind the different stages in a student life and his or her ability to absorb teaching.

“While the Church respects an individual who has done his or her best to come to a correct moral judgment, it is not obligated to accommodate a decision based on an individual’s erroneous conscience. This includes a student who blamelessly arrives at the mistaken conclusion that homosexual acts are morally good. There is an objective truth concerning moral issues; and error, even when blameless, does not change the nature of this truth.

“Teachers and others should try and lead the homosexual student to a progressively better sexual morality without condemning and with much patience.”


2. While not mentioned in the their Equity and Inclusion Policy, the Board has committed itself to establishing By Your SIDE (Safety, Inclusivity, Diversity, and Equity) Groups instead of Gay-Straight Alliances

Because Catholic Schools cannot formally acknowledge or support homosexuality in students, they are refusing to establish Gay-Straight Alliances, as prescribed that they do by the Ministry of Education in its Policy Program Memorandum No. 145 (pg.5). Instead, they are proposing that LGBT students join SIDE groups which may or may not address LGBTQ issues since their main focus is on general human rights issues. This denies LGBTQ students a secure drop-in space where they can go and talk openly and honestly about their issues, whenever they feel the need to, with the support of peers and teachers who have a commitment to understand and provide personal and social assistance to LGBTQ students.

Indeed, Ministry of Education’s Policy Program Memorandum states that:

“[S]chool boards must provide opportunities for all members of the community to increase their knowledge and understanding of such issues as homophobia, gender-based violence, sexual harassment, inappropriate sexual behaviour, critical media literacy, and safe Internet use”

And that:

“Boards must also help school staff to give support to students who wish to participate in gay-straight alliances and in other student-led activities that promote understanding and development of healthy relationships.”

The Halton Catholic School Board’s refusal to establish formal Gay-Straight Alliances is a direct violation of this.


.3. These policies contravene the Ontario Human Rights Code and the established principles in the Canadian Charter around equality rights.

The inclusion of language that frames homosexuality as a contravention of “objective truth around moral issues” and the result of an “erroneous conscience” is not only the promotion of a particular conservative version of Catholic doctrine (as opposed to a more open and liberal one) it also denies the lived realities of an underecognized and underserviced group in our society — one that is constantly seeking to gain equality rights in a society that still privileges, promotes, and naturalizes gender conformity, opposite-sex attractions, and reproductive sex.

Moreover, the Board’s refusal to allow Gay-Straight Alliances in their schools violates the freedoms of peaceful assembly and freedoms of expression that are entrenched in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and the right to equal treatment with respect to services, goods and facilities without discrimination because of sexual orientation, as outlined in the Ontario Human Rights Code.


.Suggested Feedback:

1. Urge that the Halton Catholic District School Board adhere to the Ministry of Education’s Policy Program Memorandum No. 145.

2. Urge that the Board not follow the Pastoral Guidelines for Students of Same-Sex Orientation.

3. Urge that the Board allow formal GSAs in the Halton Catholic District.

4. Urge that it provide the same support and opportunities to LGBTQ students as it does to other student groups.

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