Edmonton Catholic passes first reading of draft gender policy
Draft policy to go to public consultation before second reading Nov. 24
Although the Edmonton Catholic School Board passed first reading of a new policy on sexual orientation and gender identity, there are calls for the education minister to step in and implement province-wide regulations.
Advocates are concerned about statements made by Trustee Larry Kowalczyk, who last month said transgender people have a "mental disorder.
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"I don't think there are people that are on this board that are even capable, practically not even willing, to create safe environments for these students," said Marni Panas, a parent and transgender woman.
"Clearly the minister has to step in and take some responsibility for this."
Although he apologized for suggesting transgender people are mentally ill, Kowalcyzk did not back down from his view that the board needs to follow Catholic doctrine.
"Humans are obliged to regard their bodies as good and to hold them in honour since God has created them," he told the meeting.
"Therefore to attempt gender transitioning is contrary to the teachings of the Catholic church."
Kowalcysk was the only trustee to vote against first reading of the policy. He tried to have the policy deferred indefinitely, but his motion was voted down.
His statements did not inspire confidence in the mother of a seven-year-old transgender girl who has been fighting for the right for her daughter to use the girls' washroom.
The woman — who CBC is not naming to protect the privacy of her daughter — wants Eggen to draft a province-wide policy to avoid these types of conflicts.
She said transgender children are still being forced to use gender-neutral washrooms.
"I learned of one on the weekend," she said. "It's unacceptable and the minister has the power to ensure that this discrimination stops."
The draft policy will now go forward for public consultation. Trustees plan to have it ready for second reading on Nov. 24.
Last month, Eggen intervened after a board meeting where trustees shouted at each other and one trustee broke down in tears.
When Eggen met with former board chair Debbie Engel, she assured him the board would come up with a policy that met requirements under the law.
Eggen said on the weekend that he would be keeping a close watch on the board's decision. He has said the publicly-funded board needs to follow the law and support transgender students.