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Catholic school trustee 'disappointed' by Gay-Straight Alliance vote

A Toronto Catholic District School Board trustee says he is upset that his proposal to ban Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) clubs was defeated.

“I am disappointed as a Catholic, a parent and a trustee that my colleagues made a poor decision,” Garry Tanuan said in a statement.

“They failed to see the big picture because they failed to protect the Constitutional rights of Catholic ratepayers, students and staff. “

Trustees defeated Tanuan’s proposal, which was seconded by trustee John Del Grande,  in a 7-4 vote on Thursday evening.

A ban on GSAs would violate the province’s Bill 13 called Accepting Schools Act.

Tanuan is arguing the Ontario government is in violation of section 93 of the Constitution, which enshrines the denominational rights of the Catholic schools.

“I am convinced by reading the British North America Act, and its interpretation by the courts, that Bill 13 is unconstitutional,” he said.  Tanuan did not say if he was preparing a legal challenge.

Bill 13 passed last June at Queen’s Park by a vote of 65-36 and allows all students, including those in the Catholic board, to use the term gay-straight alliance.

The Liberal anti-bullying act requires school boards to support student groups for “people of all sexual orientations and gender identities.”

It has the support of student and parent groups as well as the Canadian Civil Liberties Association.
However, it has angered some Catholics, including the Archbishop of Toronto.

Tanuan said GSAs “promote a positive view of homosexual activity, which undermines Catholic teaching on chastity and marriage.”

He is proposing calling the clubs Respecting Difference clubs.

The legislation specifically allows students to use the term “gay-straight alliance” and does not allow school principals to veto the name.

Bill 13 specifically makes reference to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered, transsexual, two-spirited, intersexed, queer and questioning people.

Laurel Broten, who was education minister at the time, said the changes were made so that students would feel safe at school.

“Schools need to be safe places for kids to be themselves, and for some kids, that means being able to name a club a gay-straight alliance,” Broten said.

“I don’t think there’s anything radical about allowing students to name a club.”

TCDSB Trustee letter by CityNewsToronto