On November 7, 2019, the TCDSB trustees voted 8-4 in favour of adding gender identity into its Code of Conduct, with trustees voting as follows.
The bad trustees who voted FOR adding the terrible terms:
- Frank D’Amico
- Markus De Domenico
- Daniel Di Giorgio
- Norm Di Pasquale
- Angela Kennedy
- Ida Li Preti
- Joe Martino
- Maria Rizzo, Chair
The good trustees who voted AGAINST adding the terrible terms:
- Nancy Crawford
- Michael Del Grande
- Teresa Lubinski
- Garry Tanuan
So, just how did the Toronto Catholic District School Board come to adopt terms from gender identity theory in its Code of Conduct?
As a close observer, I want all Catholics in Ontario to read this so that you know exactly what happened. All these events take place in 2019.
- March 19 A Toronto Catholic teacher requests the board to update their Code of Conduct to include the terms “gender identity”, “gender expression”, “marital status” and “family status”.
- April 30 This request is now being debated at the Living Our Catholic Values subcommittee of the board.
- May 22 PAFE notifies supporters in the Toronto area and contributes parent delegations to a meeting on May 28.
- Aug 29 Archdiocesan representative, Fr. Peter Turrone, tells the Living Our Catholic Values subcommittee that the Catholic faith is opposed to reducing people to labels, including terms of non-discrimination, and proposed new language to replace the list of terms of non-discrimination in the policy with language stating that “all people must respect and treat others fairly, as children of God, created in the image and likeness of God.”
Executive Director Nick Milanetti from the Ontario Catholic School Trustees Association (OCSTA) advised that the terms should be included so as to not threaten publicly funded Catholic education.
- Sept 17 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.
- Oct 16 Trustees Crawford, Del Grande, Lubinski and Tanuan meet with the Archdiocese to discuss their concerns. Trustees were told that the Archdiocesan lawyer would recommend to the board that it adopt language similar to what was proposed by Fr. Peter Turrone.
- Oct 17 Trustee Ida Li Preti asked representatives from OCSTA what their position was on adding the terms to the TCDSB Code. Board Executive Director Nick Milanetti said he thought the board needs to be inclusive but refused to take an official position, saying that OCSTA stands for allowing policy autonomy to the various boards. Li Preti asked about the bishops’ Institute for Catholic Education (ICE) position and was referred to a document on transgender students which he said was in draft form which Chair, Maria Rizzo said she would forward to trustees. Li Preti also asked whether other boards had the terms in their policies, and his response was he did not know of other boards opposing the terms, but that some might not have chosen to add them.
- Oct 28 ICE document is sent by staff to the Chair of the Living Our Catholic Values committee. The significance of the ICE document was that it talks about a Catholic understanding of gender identity and gender expression, as though the terms could be legitimately used by Catholics, although it qualifies that their usage must be grounded in Catholic notions of gender being tied to biology. The document also states incorrectly that PPM 128 amended school Codes of Conduct to include the gender identity terms—only individual boards of trustees can amend Codes of Conduct. A spokesman for the Archdiocese said that as a draft document, the ICE document should not be considered to have the approval of the bishops of Ontario.
- Oct 30 A spokesman for the Archdiocese said to a PAFE supporter that adding the terms along with a preamble stating that that the policy would be viewed through a lens of Catholic denominational rights would be equally as acceptable to them as attempting to remove the terms would be.
- Oct 30 At a meeting of the Living Our Catholic Values subcommittee the majority of speakers were concerned parents and teachers opposed to adding the gender identity terminology. There were, however, three speakers from powerful interests on the other side, an LGBTQ activist, Kyle Iannuzzi, saying that not including the terms would further harm individuals who are already predisposed to self harm; a speaker from The Angel Foundation, which provides breakfasts to needy children in the board, stating that corporations would be less likely to sponsor the board if it were known that they refused to subscribe to the OHRC wording; and a teacher from the Toronto Secondary unit.
Trustees who are not members of the Living Our Catholic Values subcommittee attended the Oct. 30 meeting. Trustees Ida Li Preti and Norm Di Pasquale appeared to support adding the terms in their questioning of speakers while Angela Kennedy appeared to oppose it, saying the presentation from the Angel Foundation “feels like blackmail.” Trustee De Dominico had told a PAFE supporter earlier in the day that adding the terms would be “indoctrination of our children,” but that he was concerned that if the terms didn’t get approved the board could get taken to court.
At the end of the meeting Trustee Crawford read a motion to amend the Code of Conduct policy using language faithful to the Catholic conception of the person, without the terms of non-discrimination. It was approved 4-1 and referred to the Student Achievement committee meeting on Dec. 5. Trustees Crawford, Del Grande, Lubinski and Tanuan voted in favor, while Trustee Rizzo voted against.
- Oct 31 Minister of Education, Stephen Lecce, declared "My message to the board is quite clear. 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." (Click here to read the article.) Lecce could have stayed above the fray and recognized the Catholic boards’ denominational rights, but instead, he chose to use his bully pulpit to pressure the board to include the terms.
- Nov 5 Sources tell us that trustees received an email from the Board Director saying that the Archdiocese had approved the board lawyer’s presentation on Nov. 1 that the terms be used along with a preamble contextualizing the policy within the framework of Catholic educational legal protections. The latter framework was suggested by the Archdiocesan lawyer.
- Nov 6 The board notified trustees that Angela Kennedy supported inserting adding the terms, sources say.
- Nov 7 Student Achievement committee meeting begins with a staff report that recommended enshrining the terms 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.”
Under questioning from Trustees at the board meeting, 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. LGBTQ activist Kyle Iannuzzi said he hoped that the disappearance of traditional Catholic teachings on gender would be the outcome of the addition of the terms.
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, Iannuzzi 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.”
After 7 hours of deliberations, a motion to accept revisions to the Code that followed the staff report was introduced by Trustee Di Giorgio.
Queenie Yu gave a stellar presentation urging Trustees to stand on their Catholic denominational rights. She stated that Section 93 of the Constitution guarantees Catholic schools the right to transmit the teachings of the Catholic faith to students. She pointed out that the OHRC does not have authority in law and that the Board was not obliged to add the terms and pleaded with trustees not to adopt the terms.
In response to Queenie, Chair Maria Rizzo claimed to have the Archdiocese and the bishops on her side. She said that the bishops had endorsed a document from ICE, which was counter to what the Archdiocese had been saying. With respect to the Archdiocese, at the beginning of the meeting Rizzo had alluded to a Toronto Star story saying that the Archdiocese would support the addition of the terms. A representative for the Archdiocese, Barry White, told PAFE supporters that night that the story was inaccurate.
- Nov 11 A clarification was issued by the Archdiocese on Nov. 11. The statement makes clear that Catholic faith teaches that Catholics cannot use the terms of gender identity in the fashion they are ordinarily used, indicating a view of gender fluidity, and that Catholics are protected by denominational rights in saying so.
How did the Archdiocese and Trustees come to shift from refusing to include the terms to provisional acceptance of including them? The confused and ill-advised notion that Catholics can take these terms and impart a Catholic meaning to them in the ICE document may well have undercut the Archdiocese’s ability to simply state that the terms should not be used.
But the role played by Doug Ford and Stephen Lecce's re-admittance of gender theory back into the sex education curriculum was paramount. Without this pressure there may well have been enough trustee votes to defeat the proposal to add the terms.
A look at what has happened to Markus De Domenico’s thought will illustrate this. Whereas on Oct. 30 he admitted that pushing the terms onto the board was “indoctrination of our children,” he was cowed by the thought that the board could be taken to court for not including the terms. By Nov. 6 he was telling a PAFE supporter that he was a bigot for saying that the content of the terms went against Catholic faith. What can account for De Domenico saying to delegate Chris Elliott on Nov. 7 that it was the Catholic faith itself that discriminated against LGBTQ students until recently in the board and that this has been replaced by a new value of inclusion? Suddenly De Domenico is a supporter of the government’s philosophy of the person. He drew Elliott’s attention to the board’s funder: “We are a public board,” he said. And what happened between the end of October and the first week of November? The Minister of Education made his announcement:
"My message to the board is quite clear. 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."
PAFE is calling upon all Ontario Catholics to tell Stephen Lecce he overstepped by forcing gender identity onto the Toronto Catholic District School Board. Let’s tell Premier Ford’s government that it must withdraw PPM 128, which forces gender identity and gender expression into the Codes of Conduct of the school boards of Ontario.
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