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Catholic parents’ group demands union pull out of Toronto Pride

English Catholic teachers' union recently said it would participate in parade

Ontario teachers marched in support of their students in the 2013 Toronto Pride parade. Credit: Adam Coish

A month after an Ontario Catholic teachers’ union voted to march in Toronto’s Pride parade for the first time, a Catholic parents’ group is calling for the union to change its decision.

At its annual conference on March 10, the Ontario English Catholic Teachers Association (OECTA) voted to march in the parade as a show of support for LGBT Catholics.

Parents As First Educators (PAFE) released a petition April 18 saying that June’s WorldPride event “is inconsistent with what the Church teaches about homosexuality.” The petition, which now includes slightly fewer than 1,500 signatures, asks that Catholic trustees “demand an end to union involvement in the Pride parade event.”

While the motion immediately prompted some conservative Catholic groups to start letter-writing campaigns, this appears to be the first appeal from Catholic school stakeholders. The head of OECTA has clarified to Catholic media that the petition does not mean the union would enter a float and that participating remains an individual choice.

The new petition references a failed proposal by a Toronto school board trustee seeking a crackdown on nudity at Pride. A 2012 Ontario ruling found that nudity at a rally or demonstration can be considered part of the Charter-guaranteed right of personal expression.

“Catholic Trustees need to step up and do their part to say the Pride Event is not suitable for families and not supportable for any Catholic organization,” reads a statement from PAFE president Teresa Pierre. “The Pride Parade breaks nudity laws and participants promote homosexual activity, instead of sex in marriage, and simulates extreme behavior [sic] like sado-masochism, which demeans the roles of men and women in loving relationships.”

PAFE claims to have 15,000 “supporters throughout Ontario,” though it doesn’t provide much information on its website. The group’s Facebook page dates back to 2011. The group strongly opposed a 2012 Ontario law that forbids publicly funded schools from banning gay-straight alliances.

The petition comes a day after Toronto’s cardinal told The Catholic Register that the union was overstepping its mandate and that members held “an inadequate and mistaken understanding of their faith.”

The OECTA motion was proposed by the union’s branch for Toronto secondary teachers. It noted that the union has “been a leader in promoting the inclusion and recognition of the rights of LGBTTQ people.”

PAFE takes a very different view, saying the motion threatens “the teaching authority of parents.” 

“It’s time for OECTA to reconsider the damage its stands are doing to the Catholic community,” Pierre’s statement reads. “Catholic parents expect a Catholic teachers’ union to support the timeless teachings of the church on marriage and family.”