Toronto Centre Liberal MPP Glen Murray had fierce words for the political competition on May 11 after announcing that he would campaign to defend his seat in the October provincial election.
About 120 supporters met at the 519 Church Street Community Centre where Murray called Progressive Conservative leader Tim Hudak “economically incompetent.” He warned that a vote for the Progressive Conservatives would unravel all the work of the provincial Liberals.
Murray vowed to stand up for civility and dignity. “Growing up as gay, I heard every ugly homophobic thing you can think of. I will stand up against every Tory that tries to take our rights away because that’s all they ever do.”
Murray won his seat in the Toronto-Centre by-election in 2010 after former MPP George Smitherman stepped down to run unsuccessfully for mayor of Toronto. Premier Dalton McGuinty subsequently named him minister of research and innovation.
Murray tells Xtra that he doesn’t believe his party wont be routed in this election like the Liberal Party of Canada was in the May 2 general election. Nor, he adds, does he see an NDP sweep in Ontario.
“The governments are very different,” he says. “I don’t think people vote provincially and federally with a great deal of consistency… Really, there’s deep Liberal roots here, but you don’t take it for granted. You work hard all the time. It’s like, for us as gay, lesbian and transgender people we’ve had some tough fights.”
Toronto organizer and artist Dave Meslin says he appreciates that Murray talks so openly about being a gay man.
“And it’s not just in the 519 that he’s this open,” Meslin says. “It’s everywhere, so he deserves a lot of credit for that.”
Still Murray admits his government’s equity and inclusive education policy “has run into some turbulence.” Since January, a growing number of queer youth and allies have been denied permission by school administrators to hold gay-straight alliance meetings in Ontario Catholic schools. Queer youth are asking for help, and GSAs are explicitly mentioned in the provincial policy as one of the best ways to fight bullying in schools.
But in February, Xtra revealed that GSAs are are forbidden at Ontario Catholic schools.
“I wouldn’t say we ban them,” Bruce-Grey Catholic District School Board superintendent of education, Gerald Casey told us then. “We support student clubs that support inclusiveness, especially for students who might otherwise feel marginalized. But all our clubs must, however, adhere to the Catholic teachings and values.”
“We don’t have Nazi groups either,” Halton board chair Alice Anne LeMay told Xtra in a January 6 report. “If a gay student requests a gay-straight alliance they would be denied. It’s not in accordance with the teachings of the church. If they wanted to have a club outside of school, fine, just not in school.”
Murray says he’s formed a “working group” that meets on the matter every Saturday.
“We realize the full implementation is not there,” he says. “We came up short, but we have to keep pushing.”
The group includes Egale Canada executive director Helen Kennedy, Halton Catholic District School Board trustee Paul Marai, Toronto Catholic District School Board trustee Joanna Davis, and lawyer Douglas Elliot. This group is separate from the committee formed by the bishops and Ontario Catholic School Trustees’ Association (OCSTA).
Murray says his first priority is to identify problematic schools.
“I have a meeting with [Liberal education minister] Leona Dombrowsky to explain our position. You don’t want to take a baseball bat to people because then you get everyone’s back up. Doug Elliot has been helping us with the legal issues of that.”
Liberal Ontario education minister Leona Dombrowski has so far refused Xtra
’s repeated requests for an interview.
Ontario goes to the polls on Oct 6.