Revised and Updated: April 6, 2014
As a student at L’École secondaire catholique Sainte-Famille, a Catholic French school in Mississauga, I came out as a gay man at the age of fifteen and became an active member and voice of the community as the former vice president of the AESD, CSDCCS, and the former coordinator of Franc Parler an initiative of Action Positive a partner of the Aids Committee of Toronto. The AESD is a non-profit representative association of the students of the CSDCCS school board. Franc Parler is a Greater Toronto Area francophone group that organizes meetings, outings and activities for men who are gay, bisexual, transsexual, in questioning or who have sexual relations with other men. The group facilitates the exchange of ideas, talents and experiences. French is the group’s language of choice.
In March 2012, I asked my vice-principal, Vicky Marcotte, to put in place a group under the Accepting Schools Act, better known as a Gay-Straight Alliance. The Accepting Schools Act makes it clear that the school administration must approve the group. Unfortunately, Marcotte sent off an email to the school board. The school board asked Marcotte to stay an hour after work hours, so a representative of the board could meet with her. The representative made it clear that the group was not in the best interest of the school board, Catholic doctrine and teachings.
I was told to contact Jérôme Pépin, Superintendent of Education, and was told he was on vacation for two weeks. I was later informed that Pépin was in the office ignoring my call. I then contacted Réjean Sirois, Director of Education, and was told my school director Alain Lalonde had been informed I had contacted Réjean Sirois. The following day, Lalonde was unfortunately not very well informed. I was later called out of English class during my last period. Lalonde and André Blais, Superintendent of Education, informed me that they would make the current policy that had been made to reflect the Accepting Schools Act available to me and the greater public. The policy was published exclusively in French.
I was unsatisfied. I would then go on to call the Ministry of Education and spoke to a ministry officer by the name of Sue Brown. The Ministry was unable to provide accountability for the lack of a Gay-Straight Alliance at my school.
I was informed, on behalf of Lalonde, that the group would need to be approved by a third party of the school board, the Catholic Bishops. To make matters worse my vice principal Vicky Marcotte, did not wish to open up the group to the seven and eight graders because she believed that the students were not mature enough to take part in a safe space such as my own, Porte Ouverte.
I was frustrated and would later go on to speak to a friend of mine by the name of Liam Finnegan. Liam is an activist out in the Yukon. He referred me to Andrea Houston an LGBT activist and a reporter at Xtra!, a gay and lesbian newspaper in Canada.
Andrea Houston wrote an article that detailed my early struggle with the school and the school board. The article would be the first article of several news stories that would finally lead to organizing my group, Porte Ouverte (Open Door) put in a year and eight months after making a demand. We have only had one group meeting since establishing the group.
The Accepting Schools Act is clear. Shouldn’t someone be held accountable?
Editor’s note: Think Again! TV filmed exclusive interview with Christopher Karas. A short version and a longer version are available on the Think Again! TV website.
I share your frustration. Officials at the Catholic Boards are still very much squirming. They are caught in an impossible situation. Public funding comes at the price of adhering to public anti-discrimination standards. But Church control demands that gays be regarded as “objectively disordered”.
Ontario’s Catholic school boards simply cannot have it both ways, but we see them going through all kinds of contortions and wrigglings as they try.
Maybe one day the Church will put its money where its mouth is: They can make up any rules they want for their schools, but they must remove their snouts from the public trough. He who pays the piper calls the tunes, and right now it’s the Ontario public that’s paying 100% of the costs associated with Catholic schools.
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