Monday, September 10, 2007

Queer Issues in the 2007 Ontario Election

The Coalition for Lesbian and Gay Rights in Ontario (CLGRO) has released its list of questions that LGBT voters should consider asking local candidates on the hustings before the Ontario election on October 10th. I agree with CLGRO on all four issues.

Here is the link.

No tax funding for faith-based schools

The Progressive Conservative Party proposes to provide tax funding for non-Catholic faith-based schools. They say it's an issue of fairness and will help to integrate Ontario's increasingly diverse student population into the mainstream. We say it will provide tax money, including the taxes paid by queer people in Ontario, to finance the perpetuation of homophobia by schools controlled by the religious right. Many of the denominations that run faith-based schools view homosexuality as sinful, evil and abnormal and promote life-long celibacy for queer people who refuse to be cured. It's bad enough that tax funding is already provided to Catholic schools, when Catholicism also promotes these views. Fairness does not require that more tax money be provided to promote homophobia and intolerance. Fairness requires that no tax funding of any amount be provided to faith-based schools, whether Catholic, other Christian denominations or other faiths.

More proactive measures to eliminate homophobia and create queer-positive environments in all schools

The provincial government must make it a priority of the Ministry of Education to ensure that all schools are free from homophobia - whether expressed in attitudes and beliefs, systemic biases or as acts of harassment and violence - and are safe and welcoming for queer students, teachers and staff. School safety and anti-violence programs must specifically include anti-homophobia and anti-transphobia initiatives. There must be a requirement for ensuring mandatory responses to reported incidents of harassment and violence and effective provisions for enforcement and disciplinary action. School equity policies and programs that specifically prohibit the inequitable treatment of queer students, teachers and staff must be mandatory and must include effective measures for monitoring and ensuring compliance.

Reinstate sex reassignment surgery for coverage under the Ontario Health Insurance Plan

Ontario Health Insurance Plan coverage for sex reassignment surgery was eliminated in 1998 under the former Progressive Conservative government and has not been reinstated under the Liberals. As a result, a fundamental health need is inaccessible to a majority of trans people who seek to have sex reassignment surgery because of prohibitive costs. The Ontario government must publicly fund sex reassignment surgery and related medical procedures, including access to hormones, electrolysis, and counseling, and whenever possible, ensure that these services are delivered in community-based settings.

Amend the Ontario Human Rights Code to include gender identity as a prohibited ground of discrimination

Trans people in Ontario have no explicit legislative human rights protections. In 2000, the Ontario Human Rights Commission recommended the inclusion of gender identity in the Ontario Human Rights Code to ensure that trans people have the same protections in respect of employment, housing and access to services as do other Ontarians. The failure of the Government of Ontario to act on this recommendation is unacceptable. The next government must commit to immediately amending the Code to include gender identity.

Make Your Voice Heard and Your Vote Count!

3 comments:

Michelle said...

The immediate inclination of many gays and lesbians to oppose funding for faith based schools is understandable. Nevertheless, a few considerations suggest funding may actually be a good idea, or at least not a matter of extreme concern.

When a school is not receiving government funding of any sort, it is difficult to impose requirements like teaching units on tolerance and regulating what is taught. The extension of funding allows all kinds of requirements to be imposed as a condition of funding.

You cannot stop religious groups from holding onto whatever beliefs they hold. (Though Reform Jewish Rabbinical support for same sex marriage shows that one should not be too quick to tar everyone with the same brush.) But if their schools are publicly funded you can effectively prevent certain beliefs from being taught in those schools. The fact that Ontario’s Catholic schools, with about 675,000 pupils, are publicly funded and regulated, rather than privately operated, may be one of the reasons why the Catholic community’s response to issues like same sex marriage was actually quite muted.

Seen in this light, eliminating Ontario’s official religious discrimination by extending funding in a controlled manner for to the small excluded minorities is a cause we should all be able to agree on. Certainly we should all be saying clearly that continued discrimination in open violation of international human rights law is not an option. Unlike Premier McGuinty who defends continuing discrimination in open violation of international law, John Tory deserves credit for proposing a plan solve this fairness issue in a the only way politically viable, by including the small affected minorities in publicly funded education.

Jay said...

Oh yes Michelle,

"The fact that Ontario’s Catholic schools, with about 675,000 pupils, are publicly funded and regulated, rather than privately operated, may be one of the reasons why the Catholic community’s response to issues like same sex marriage was actually quite muted."

By muted do you mean having to nearly sue the Catholic Board so a guy could bring his boyfriend to a prom in a supposed "public" school?

"When a school is not receiving government funding of any sort, it is difficult to impose requirements like teaching units on tolerance and regulating what is taught."

By this do you mean the awesome education program that the Catholic Board currently has regarding using a condom, safe sex, etc without pushing abstinence on people? Or are you referring to how they teach children that homosexuality is normal instead of calling them sinners?

You pretty much said absolutely nothing of substance except twist every policy religious ideologues have into something supposedly gay friendly when its pretty damn obvious that it is not true. Tell that to John Tory. And you want to extend funding to even more hostile homophobic religions such as Islam, evangelicals, etc.

You got to be kidding, you actually believe what you just wrote?

Matt Guerin said...

Michelle, I agree that public funding and all that comes with it could have a moderating/sanitizing effect on existing religious schools. Emphasis on could.

Catholic schools have a long history in Ontario, and it's unclear if other religious private schools would become so moderate so soon, as you put it.

Plus I disagree with your suggestion that "But if their [religious] schools are publicly funded you can effectively prevent certain beliefs from being taught in those schools." I really don't think that would be true as that would likely be a violation of freedom of religion.

Such new religious public school boards would have to use the common curriculum, but I don't think the government would be able to tell these schools what of their religion they'd be allowed to teach.

"Seen in this light, eliminating Ontario’s official religious discrimination by extending funding in a controlled manner for to the small excluded minorities is a cause we should all be able to agree on"

Actually, no we can't agree on that. I'd prefer we choose the option of eliminating public religious school funding altogether.

Instead, Mr. Tory is going to make a problem even worse by institutionalizing religious funding for all religions. I'd rather not make the status quo even worse. I'd rather bide my time until the government does the right thing and figures out the best way to integrate the Catholic with the public boards of this province.