Toronto archbishop opposes gay-straight alliance bill

The Archbishop of Toronto spoke out against the Ontario government's plan to introduce anti-bullying legislation that would allow anti-homophobic clubs to be called 'gay-straight alliances.'

The Archbishop of Toronto spoke out on Monday against the Ontario government's plan to introduce an anti-bullying bill that would allow anti-homophobic clubs be called "gay-straight alliances."

At a news conference Monday afternoon, Cardinal Thomas Collins questioned why provincial legislation should affect how Catholic boards fight bullying.

"Why is a piece of provincial legislation being used to micromanage the naming of student clubs?" he said.

On Friday, the Liberal government at Queen's Park said it would introduce legislation that would require all schools to accept clubs by that name.

Collins insisted that a broader approach to the issue was needed, rather than one particular method.

"Why are Catholics not free to design their own methods to fight bullying, and provide personal support to students, as long as they attain the common goal of a welcoming and supportive school?" said a statement from the bishop earlier on Monday.

'To many of our students we know that the term gay-straight alliance has great meaning... if you can't name something you can't address it—Laurel Broten, education minister

The Ontario Catholic School Board Trustees Association also spoke out against the proposed bill.

"We are concerned that the bill's focus on only one type of anti-bullying group overshadows the needs of students bullied for many other reasons," said Marino Gazzola, president of the association.

Education Minister Laurel Broten told CBC Radio One's Metro Morning on Monday that the names of clubs do matter.

"To many of our students, we know that the term 'gay-straight alliance' has great meaning, and that words matter, and that if you can't name something you can't address it," Broten said.

Collins, who is also president of the Assembly of Catholic Bishops of Ontario, said "it is not helpful when Queen's Park moves in" to give students control of an issue instead of elected trustees, and warned other religious groups they too could be targeted.

"Please consider the implications for all when legislation is enacted that overrides the deeply held beliefs of any faith community in our province, and intrudes on its freedom to act in a way that is in accord with its principles of consciences," wrote Collins.

"If it happens to us, it can happen to you, on this and other issues. When religious freedom becomes a second class right, you also will eventually be affected."

With files from the Canadian Press