Inspired by the work of Ontario Catholic students fighting for gay-straight alliances (GSAs), two Ryerson University students have joined the movement.
Earlier this year and on the advice of their professor, Lee Kedan and Stephen Page, both students in the child and youth services program at Ryerson, began researching the ban on GSAs in Ontario Catholic schools. They were shocked at what they read. That’s when they reached out to Catholic Students for GSAs (CS4GSAs) and offered to help.
“This is no longer a class project for us,” Page says earnestly. “We plan to stand beside them for however long this takes. It has changed us.”
Since the beginning of the partnership, Kedan says, they have let the students take the lead. “They have really taught us. We didn’t go in trying to tell them what we think they should do. It’s about listening to what they want and the changes they want to see happen in their schools. Our role is to be there and strengthen their voice in any way we can.”
“We were fortunate to connect with these remarkable students,” Page says. “They are the most amazing young people I have ever met. They have so much courage and so much strength.”
Page, who is Catholic, says the position of Catholic boards is actually contrary to his understanding of Catholic teachings, which he interprets as a message of love and acceptance of everyone. He says GSAs should absolutely be supported in Catholic schools.
A March 26 press conference at Queen’s Park, at which students called for all MPPs to support Bill 13, was the result of their collaboration. They said that since students are rejecting the respecting-difference guidelines released by Catholic trustees, so too should legislators.
The guidelines point to the Catholic catechism, which states that being gay is “disordered” and “under no circumstance should homosexuality be tolerated.”
Mississauga Catholic student Christopher Mckerracher says this sends the absolute wrong message to students. “You can be gay and Christian. I don’t really see a conflict between sexuality and religion at all.”
Kedan and Page say the words of Leanne Iskander, one of the founders of CS4GSA, resonated with them.
“This is about putting students’ needs first,” Iskander says. “This should have nothing to do with religion. The respecting-difference guidelines are putting religion ahead of student needs.”