Toronto's Catholic school board should comply with human rights code, education minister says

Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce says he expects the Toronto Catholic District School Board to protect gender expression, identity, marital status, family status from discrimination.

TCDB trustees grapple with adding gender identity, family status to code of conduct

Education Minister Stephen Lecce expects the TCDSB to comply with the human rights code on issues such as gender expression, identity, marital status, family status. (Kate Bueckert/CBC)

Ontario's education minister is weighing in on a heated debate at Canada's largest Catholic school board about whether to add the terms gender identity, gender expression, marital status and family status to a list of prohibited grounds for discrimination. 

Trustees at the Toronto Catholic District School Board (TCDSB) have been grappling with the issue for months.

"My expectation is that every child, irrespective of their differences, will see themselves reflected in school, and more importantly, the human rights code," said Education Minister Stephen Lecce at a news conference Thursday.

His response comes after a board subcommittee, Catholic Education and Living our Catholic Values, voted 4-1 against the school board including the terms in its code of conduct. Several deputations against the move cited that "gender ideology" is against Catholic teachings.

Gender ideology is a term that some in the Catholic and Protestant churches use to describe the separation of the concepts of gender and biological sex in today's secular society — something they say contradicts traditional Christian values. 

The issue is now before the board. 

"We're going to continue to advance that message and will be watching in the coming weeks," said Lecce. "I want kids to feel safe." 

TCDSB chair and trustee Maria Rizzo confirmed she and Lecce spoke on the phone. 

"I felt relieved," said Rizzo, who has always maintained the board has to adhere to the human rights code. "I'm hoping a sober second thought by my trustee colleagues will help in the deliberations." 

The board will vote on the issue some time in the next two months.