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New Catholic school board trustee rejects Bill 13

Gary Tanuan says GSAs and abortion rights are 'a threat to Catholic teachings'

Gary Tanuan, the winner of the Toronto Catholic District School Board by-election for Ward 8.

The winner of a vacant Toronto Catholic District School Board (TCDSB) seat says he disagrees with gay-straight alliances (GSAs) and will instead promote “Respecting Differences” groups.

Gary Tanuan, who won the by-election in Ward 8 with 39 percent of the vote on Dec 10, says GSAs do not “respect the teachings of the Catholic Church.”

Tanuan declined to speak to Xtra, but his website refers to GSAs as “a threat” and states “the government is undermining the meaning of Catholic education” by allowing GSAs and sexual diversity education.

It states, “The Church’s solution to bullying is being ignored and Church teaching is being undermined by these clubs.” It instead calls for the promotion of “Respecting Differences” clubs. 

“Respecting Differences” is the name of the guidelines released last year by Ontario’s Catholic trustees. The word “gay” is absent from the document. The guidelines point instead to the Catholic catechism, which states that gay people are disordered, morally depraved and sinful.

In June, Ontario legislators passed Bill 13, which ensures that queer youth have the legal right to start supportive groups at school and call them GSAs, or whichever name they choose. Catholic schools in Ontario had previously banned GSAs. 

Tanuan was one of four TCDSB candidates endorsed by Campaign Life Coalition (CLC), the political arm of one of Canada’s most conservative Christian anti-choice activist groups. CLC fought against GSAs before Bill 13 passed into law. 

On its website, CLC states that GSAs “are homosexual activist groups that are being imposed on Catholic schools.”

Meanwhile, Tanuan’s website also notes the “threat” from those questioning public funding of Catholic schools.

“From public opinion polls to political leaders, many people are calling for an end to the Constitutional right to the public funding of Catholic schools,” he states.

Tanuan points to a 2012 Forum Research survey that shows 53 percent of Ontario residents are against continuing to subsidize Catholic education with public dollars.

He also promises to work to ensure Catholic schools continue to teach that abortion is a sin, even though it is legal in Canada.

In October, Education Minister Laurel Broten told reporters that Catholic schools should not teach that abortion is wrong because women have the legal right to choose in Canada.

“Bill 13 is about tackling misogyny,” she said at the time. “We’re very clear with the passage of Bill 13 that Catholic teachings cannot be taught in our schools . . . Taking away a woman’s right to choose could arguably be one of the most misogynistic actions.”

Tanuan disagrees. On his website he vows to go against the government’s directive. “[I will] fight against the government trying to undermine the identity of our Catholic schools by promoting the teachings of the Catholic Church in our schools.”