Under questioning from Trustees at a board meeting on Nov. 7, parental delegate Chris Elliott said that adding gender identity to the Toronto Catholic Board’s Code of Conduct was a Trojan Horse that would lead to the elimination of the board’s Catholic identity. Political activist Kyle Iannuzzi said he hoped that the disappearance of traditional Catholic teachings on gender would be the outcome of the addition of terms. It was a moment of agreement of sorts in an evening of discord.
Asked by Trustee Michael Del Grande what he thought of the board’s insertion of protective language into the preamble of the Code that would say that Catholic teaching would be paramount, Ianuzzo said “Gender, whether you know it or not, is a social construct. It has nothing to do with sex…So this idea of what defines gender I think is what you hope to encapsulate in that preamble and I think you’ll find as I said earlier, that it will dissolve.”
Trustees Michael Del Grande, Teresa Lubinski, Garry Tanuan and Nancy Crawford voted against a motion to accept revisions to the Code that followed on a staff report that enshrined four new terms coming from the Ontario Human Rights Code (OHRC) : “gender identity, gender expression, marital status and family status” into the Code along with a statement that the provision would “not adversely affect any right or privilege guaranteed under the Constitution Act 1867; the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, or the Ontario Human Rights Code.”
Trustees Joe Martino, Markus De Domenico, Ida Li Preti, Maria Rizzo, Norm Di Pasquale, Daniel Di Giorgio and Angela Kennedy voted in favor.
As passed, the Code offers a balancing act between the rights of Catholics and OHRC rights.
WATCH the delegate speeches by clicking here and moving to the 1:55:20 mark.
Trustee Del Grande objected fruitlessly at the start of the meeting that the report should not have come to the Thursday night committee meeting at all, given that debate on the Code has centered in the board’s Living Our Catholic values committee. That committee produced a motion borrowing language produced by the Archdiocese that proposed that all people should be treated equally as images and likenesses of God. The motion, which omitted the OHRC terms on the grounds that the Church does not reduce people to personal characteristics, was to come to a vote at the Student Achievement meeting on Dec. 5.
The staff report claims that the Archdiocese accepted the use of the terms of non-discrimination from the OHRC as long as protective language, recommended by the Diocese, about interpreting the policy through a Catholic lens was also inserted. It appears that the Diocese reversed its course under pressure from advocates for the gender identity language.
Trustee Angela Kennedy similarly veered from publicly supporting the elimination of the non-discrimination terms, on Oct. 30, when she advocated on behalf of the motion that was to come to board on Dec. 5, to voting in favor of adding the terms.
Seven hours after the start of the meeting, just as the board had almost come to an agreement to give the public time to see the report by sending it to the Governance Committee next week, Trustee Daniel Di Giorgio pre-empted what Trustee Lubinski called a more “democratic” process and forced a snap vote on the report, leading to the approval of the contents of the report.
In addition to Iannuzzi proponents of the addition of the terms to the Code, the Ontario Association of Parents in Catholic Education (OAPCE) and parent Carla DeSantis spoke in favor of adding the terms.
When the concrete cases of a teacher being challenged on teaching the Church’s teaching on sexuality and gender inevitably arise within the board in future, will the Board Trustees defend the rights of children to be taught their Catholic faith? That would be a good question to ask individual trustees.
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