Niagara Code of Conduct

Background: Action Item on Code of Conduct

   What would you think if a principal of a Catholic school were to reprimand a teacher for telling his students that there are only 2 genders?

   What if a Catholic teacher were to tell her students that they would be promoting hate and bigotry by saying that marriage is between one man and one woman?

These things could happen if the Niagara Catholic Board folds, like Toronto Catholic did, under the latest challenge to Catholic educational rights in Ontario.

Ontario Catholic school boards have been requested to update their Codes of Conduct to include the terms “gender identity”, “gender expression”, “marital status” and “family status.” 

The Trustees will be voting on the wording in the next few weeks.

The Niagara Catholic Board’s Code of Conduct includes the following statement in its standards of behaviour:

All members of the school community must:
Respect and treat others fairly, regardless of, for example, race, ancestry, place of origin, colour, ethnic origin, citizenship, religion, gender, sexual orientation, age, or disability

The practical consequences of this could be an enormous chill on the schools’ ability to teach Catholic teachings on sex and gender.

For more background on what happened in Toronto, 

-click here to read a Globe and Mail article on the debates;

-click here to read a Toronto Star article on the subcommittee’s recommendation against the terms;

-click here to read a Toronto Sun article about the passage of the terms and one from the Toronto Star.

Does the Board Have to Make the Changes?

According to a Ministry of Education policy document called Program and Policy Memorandum 128, school board Codes of Conduct should be consistent with the Provincial Code of Conduct, which contains those terms.  

Catholic schools, however, are exempted by law from having to conform to policies that infringe upon their denominational rights.

The denominational rights of the Catholic school boards were guaranteed in The Constitution Act, 1867 and bolstered by the Ontario Human Rights Code, The Education Act and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

  • Ontario Human Rights Code: Catholic school officials should keep in mind that Section 19 of the Ontario Human Rights Code contains provisions for the protection of the denominational character of Catholic schools. Section 19 of the Ontario Human Rights Code states, “This Act shall not be construed to adversely affect any right or privilege respecting separate schools enjoyed by separate school boards or their supporters under the Constitution Act, 1867.”


  • The Education Act: The Education Act likewise contains a protection in Section 1(4) which reads, “This Act does not adversely affect any right or privilege guaranteed by section 93 of the Constitution Act, 1867 …”


  • Charter of Rights and Freedoms: In addition, any requirements which might be imposed on Catholic schools by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms are curtailed by s. 93(3) of the Constitution Act, 1867 as specifically mentioned in s. 29 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.


  • Constitution Act, 1867: Catholic education is explicitly protected in the Constitution Act of 1867: 93 (3) Where in any Province a System of Separate or Dissentient Schools exists by Law at the Union or is thereafter established by the Legislature of the Province, an Appeal shall lie to the Governor General in Council from any Act or Decision of any Provincial Authority affecting any Right or Privilege of the Protestant or Roman Catholic Minority of the Queen's Subjects in relation to Education.

There are ample legal precedents which convey legal acceptance that Catholic teaching on sexual morality and marriage form part of the Catholic faith, according to a legal opinion from Michael Osborne of 2011. 

Osborne writes that any attempts to force Catholic schools to accept a policy that infringes on their denominational rights is thus beyond the powers of the Ontario government to enforce:

“It follows that any directive that would compel a Catholic school in Ontario to adopt any policy, support any group, form any partnership, or allow the expression of views, that are inconsistent with Catholic teaching on these matters, would interfere with the denominational aspect of Catholic schools and therefore be ultra vires the Ontario government and of no force or effect.” (June, 2011 Osborne Opinion Re: TCDSB Equity Policy, p. 12).

Some people use the argument that school boards have to accept the policy because “it’s the law.” It is not a law that is requesting the change: it is a policy.  And trustees are free to reject any policy that is at odds with a Catholic world view, regardless of any pressure from the Ontario Human Rights Commissioner or the Ministry of Education. It’s the job of trustees to do so, if necessary.  Otherwise, if policy is ultimately being “passed” by unelected bureaucrats, with trustees just rubber-stamping them, we may just as well do away with boards of trustees altogether.

What does Church teaching on gender theory say?

Part of the Church’s teaching on sexual morality and marriage is its opposition to gender theory, or the idea that gender is fluid and not grounded in human biology. See Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia, Nos. 56, 285, 286 (March 19, 2016). 

A recent document from The Vatican’s Congregation for Catholic Education, Male and Female He Created Them (Vatican City, 2019) was written to address what it calls a “crisis” in the teaching of sex education in Catholic schools. It criticizes the teaching of gender ideology in schools, rejects the idea that people can choose or change their genders and insists on the sexual complementarity of men and women in the procreation and raising of children.

The mistake made by gender theory, says the document, is to separate sex and gender and to make gender independent of sex. The result is a “radical separation between gender and sex, with the former having priority over the later. (p. 8)” Moreover “the concept of gender is seen as dependent upon the subjective mindset of each person, who can choose a gender not corresponding to his or her biological sex. (p. 8)”

The document criticizes “non-discrimination” educational and legislative policies that push a view of the world where sexual difference does not matter: “The generic concept of ‘non-discrimination’ often hides an ideology that denies the difference as well as natural reciprocity that exists between men and women. (p. 11)”

What can we do?

Please email, call or meet with your Trustee
Remind them that gender theory goes against the teachings of the Catholic faith and has no place in a Catholic Code of Conduct. 

You can mention the possible effects of adding the terms. They could:

  • make teachers reluctant to teach the Church’s teachings about gender
  • subject the board to Human Rights complaints from parents whose children were taught gender theory at school
  • lead to the Board changing its denominational hiring practices and including teachers who openly model a “marital status” explicitly prohibited by the Gospels

Ask the trustee what they would do if this passes and parents start to complain about their children being taught gender ideology at school.  This could lead to questions about why have a Catholic board at all.

Please contact your trustee and let us know by calling PAFE at 416-763-7233 or forwarding a copy of your email to [email protected].

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