As of a few minutes ago, the Accepting Schools Act (Bill 13) is law.
Come September, Catholic schools will no longer be able to ban support groups for queer students. According to the Globe & Mail:
Bill 13 passed with 65 MPPs voting in favour and all 36 Progressive Conservative MPPs voting against it.
The PCs had explained their opposition by quoting a piece that appeared in the Toronto Star, accusing the bill of “support for prejudice against minority, religious and cultural groups.” The PCs then said it would “weaken democracy.” As I lamented the other day, this rhetoric is deeply mismatched with the contents of the bill. They also seem to forget that those students who are in these clubs are Catholics. To say that allowing them a safe space is an attack on their identity is somewhat suspect.
The Liberals’ Minister of Education, Laura Broten, affirmed that there was nothing anti-Christian about clubs like gay-straight alliances. She said that it was about doing what you can to keep your neighbour safe. She spoke of the students who testified in favour of support groups, and the threats of legal action by the adults who opposed them.
Another Liberal MPP, Liz Sandals, spoke of the vitriol directed towards LGBT students she witnessed during the hearings. She explained why the bill mentioned these kids at all:
What we did find with the Safe Schools Action Team was that, in many cases, if the kids wanted to deal with homophobic bullying, it was denied. … Then it was, “You can’t do that.” You could do everything else, but you couldn’t do that. We heard that over and over.
[GSAs are in the legislation] not because it’s the only thing we need to do, but because it’s the one thing where kids are consistently denied permission to deal with the issue of homophobic bullying. That’s how we got to where we got.
The bill’s passage is wonderful news. However, my hopes that this would be the last chapter in this saga were dashed by the contents of a leaked memo by the Ontario Catholic Schools Trustees Association:
The Ontario Catholic School Trustees’ Association – anticipating what it called “objectionable” new provincial anti-bullying legislation that is expected to pass Tuesday, requiring schools to allow GSAs – outlined a strategy in a memo to its members. This includes making GSAs a “subset” of broader anti-bullying clubs and ensuring that they adhere to the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church, which asserts that homosexuality is “intrinsically disordered.”
Why can’t they just leave the students alone? We’ll see what happens in September, but I really hope I won’t have to revisit this issue.
Minister Broten will appear on TVO’s The Agenda tomorrow to discuss the legislation.