Stephen Lecce inserted himself into the battle over whether the Toronto Catholic District School Board should have to adopt gender identity terms into its Code of Conduct on Oct. 31.
"My message to the board is quite clear," he said in a statement. "My expectation is that every child irrespective of their differences can see themselves reflected in schools and more importantly that they will adhere to the Ontario Human Rights Code."
How did all of this come about, you may ask? The terms “gender identity and gender expression” became part of the Education Act with the Anti-Bullying Act back in 2012 under then-Premier Dalton McGuinty and part of the Ontario Human Rights Code the same year.
Through an educational policy memorandum called PPM 128 boards across the province were pressured during the Wynne years to adopt the terms in order to render them consistent with the Provincial Code of Conduct. PPM 128 states that the standards of behavior set out for the board community must be consistent with the Provincial Code of Conduct (which contains the terms gender identity, gender expression, family status and marital status). But it does not say that specific wording must be adopted in the standards of behavior.
So why then did Stephen Lecce choose to intervene in the Toronto Catholic battle? For an answer to that we must look to the Ford government’s track record on gender identity.
Ford Government Retreats on Gender Theory
After suspending Ontario’s sex education curriculum for a year in response to parental complaints about gender theory and age-inappropriate material being taught in the curriculum, Premier Ford’s government capitulated to having the old curriculum taught in its entirely in August of 2019. You can read about it by clicking here.
OHRC Raps Toronto Catholic School Board Knuckles
Likely emboldened by Ford’s sex-ed flip flop, the Ontario Human Rights Commission sent the Toronto Catholic board a letter admonishing it to add the terms on Sept. 17, 2019.
Stephen Lecce Calls on Toronto Catholic Board to Adopt the Terms
Catholic trustees have the right to state that provincial legislation does not bind Catholic schools if it infringes on their denominational rights. A statement from the Archdiocese states that Catholics cannot accept the view of the person which underlies gender identity terminology.
Consequently Toronto Catholic trustees could have exercised their powers to stand up for section 93 Catholic denominational rights and banned the language from their Code of Conduct. They could have said that PPM 128 was ultra vires (beyond its powers) for seeking to coerce any Catholic board to adopt language opposed to the faith.
Education Minister Lecce could have stayed above the fray and recognized these denominational rights, but instead, he chose to use his bully pulpit to pressure the board to include the terms.
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