A Mississauga teen is headed to the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario to defend the right of students to create gay-straight alliances.
Christopher Karas was a student at École Secondaire Catholique Sainte-Famille when he and several other students decided to form a gay-straight alliance. But, according to the factum he filed with the court, the group was faced with censorship when they tried to put up a poster with a quote from Harvey Milk, the famed gay rights activist and politician.
Xtra reported in December 2013 that the school’s administration requested that the picture of Milk not be used and that the words “sexual orientation” on the poster be changed to “self-expression.”
On Oct 10, Karas, now a student at Humber College, finally met with representatives from the Conseil Scolaire de District Catholique Centre-Sud (CSDCCS) as part of a mediation. While they cannot disclose what was said in the meeting, the two parties did not reach an agreement, and they will proceed to the tribunal.
“I really want to hold them accountable,” Karas says. “I don’t want other students to ever have to go through this.” He adds that a student has to ask for safe space, but he believes that schools should put them in place without anyone asking for them. “It is basic,” he says. “It is something that we all need.”
According to a factum filed by Karas’s lawyer, Jean-Alexandre De Bousquet, the administration at École Secondaire Catholique Sainte-Famille is not allowing the current members of the GSA, called Porte Ouverte, to hold elections.
CSDCCS board members deny that they violated the Ontario Human Rights Code in any way or discriminated against Karas, according to a report on canada.com in April 2014.
Karas is still awaiting a date for his tribunal hearing.