Premier Dalton McGuinty says all students need to be accepted for who they are, which is why Ontario wants them to have the right to form "gay-straight alliances" under proposed anti-bullying legislation, despite some opposition.
Specifically, the Liberal government wants to give students the right to call anti-homophobic groups "gay-straight alliances," if they choose to do so.
But some Catholic leaders and school officials, including Cardinal Thomas Collins, the Archbishop of Toronto, don't welcome the concept. Collins, for one, argues the government should not be forcing schools to allow students to create clubs under that name.
However, McGuinty says the government is not mandating use of the term, just insisting that students have the option to use it.
"Cardinal Collins has his responsibilities and he has to provide leadership in keeping with his responsibilities," McGuinty said Tuesday.
"But I have a different set of responsibilities. I’m accountable to all faiths, I’m accountable to people of no faith, I’m accountable to all parents."
Acceptance a priority
The premier said that all parents, regardless of their religious beliefs, "want to make sure that our kids are accepted and respected for who they are."
The Ontario Catholic School Board Trustees Association said the anti-bullying bill is overly focused on one type of anti-bullying group.
John Del Grande, a trustee with the Toronto Catholic District School Board, told CBC Radio’s Metro Morning that the existence of gay-straight alliances does not stop bullying in and of itself, and that there are many approaches to dealing with it in schools.
"[Bullying] really has to be looked at individual by individual, school by school, because one school’s issues may be different than another school’s issues," Del Grande said during an interview on Tuesday morning.
Del Grande also suggested that the gay-straight alliance terminology is linked to a larger political movement "that is tied to activism and political changes much beyond just bullying."