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Quebec’s largest school board axes gendered options on paperwork

Modification makes space for gay parents and families that do not have 'a mom and a dad'

Quebec's largest school board recently voted unanimously to change the words “mother” and “father” on all of its forms — both hard copy and virtual — to read “parent.” Credit: ThinkStock

The tedious task of filling out forms can go beyond a nagging nuisance if the applicant's reality doesn't fit into the series of unchecked boxes and empty lines provided.

But, for many same-sex parents in Montreal, the task of completing their children's school paperwork just became a little easier.

Quebec's largest school board recently voted unanimously to change the words “mother” and “father” on all of its forms — both hard copy and virtual — to read “parent.”

The Commission Scolaire du Montreal (CSDM) runs more than 200 establishments across the province and provides education to more than 100,000 students.

In announcing the change, the board stated that the modification comes in response to a request submitted by a member of the Coalition des Familles Homoparentales —  a group that works to sensitize the population about diverse family structures.

Mona Greenbaum, the coalition's director, said the board and its members have been making similar requests for more than a decade. Up until now, they had seen some success on a per-school basis — but the board-wide change comes as a welcome improvement.

The CSDM is not the first in town to make a move toward making its documents more accessible; last year the English Montreal School Board adopted a motion to change its forms.

“I think schools are realizing they have to be inclusive in their practices,” Greenbaum says. “This is not something that affects only our families — there are a number of families that aren't just a 'mom and a dad' family.”

In a statement, CSDM president Catherine Harel-Bourdon says the modification aimed to be inclusive, respect diversity and accurately reflect the different compositions of families present in society.

The same statement says the change embraces Quebec's action plan against homophobia — an initiative set to be implemented between 2011 and 2016.

“It's great news,” says Marie Houzeau, director of the Groupe de Recherche et d'Intervention Sociale (GRIS) Montreal, an organization that seeks to raise awareness about homosexuality and bisexuality, with initiatives primarily rooted in the school system.

Houzeau says actions like this will lead to further social acceptance of families with gay parents. She says the next step forward will be for schools to offer more inclusive teachings of non-nuclear family structures, beginning early in the education system.

“It would be interesting if course outlines and programs included  more representation of different types of families and that homo-parental families were included in that,” she says.

“I think this reality should be shown so that children that live in these types of these families can feel included.”