Toronto Centre MPP Glen Murray says the Ontario government will move to ensure that “gay, lesbian and trans support groups” are possible in every Ontario school — public and Catholic — in September.
Murray says Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty made the announcement at the Pride Toronto international marshals’ reception on Friday. The move may draw the ire of Catholic school officials, but, Murray says, “it’s the right decision.” From now on, says Murray, schools will take their cues from students, not administration and principals, for decisions on the creation of school clubs focused on gay, lesbian, bisexual and trans issues.”
Catholic school officials have so far allowed the formation of general diversity/inclusion/support clubs but have insisted they have “Catholic names,” such as Open Arms, the name given to the St Joe’s group. And Ontario Catholic school administrators have announced that they are working to develop a “framework for anti-bullying clubs,” while specifically not calling them gay-straight alliances (GSAs).
Does McGuinty’s announcement mean, then, that there will be GSAs that are called GSAs and supported by Catholic school administrators next year?
“Premier McGuinty did not use the words GSAs,” Murray wrote in a text message to Xtra. “He said ‘support groups for LGBT youth.’ Starting in September, it will be students, not principals or school boards that will decide whether a school has an LGBT support group. I emphasize he also did not say ‘generic support groups or diversity groups’; he said specifically ‘an LGBT support group.’ He did not, however, use the words GSA.”
“This is a huge step forward,” says Murray. “Rights are never easily won. It’s always a battle. And this is a victory.”
The matter could easily become a campaign issue in the lead-up to the Ontario general election, scheduled for Oct 6.
At the Toronto Pride Dyke March on July 2, honoured dyke, co-grand marshal and GSA activist Leanne Iskander cheered when she heard the news of McGuinty’s announcement. Other members of the St Joe’s GSA high-fived one another and hugged.
This is a developing story. Xtra will bring you more details as they become available.