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Toronto school board chair to file complaint over flyers

Chris Bolton says PC campaign flyers and Sun TV ads misled public about curriculum

Progressive Conservative candidates in Brampton distributed this flyer during the provincial election campaign in September and October. Many critics, including the TDSB chair, complain that the ad misrepresents board policy and is homophobic.

The chair of the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) is filing a formal complaint against Ontario’s Progressive Conservative Party and Sun Media over homophobic campaign flyers that were distributed during the provincial election and a transphobic television ad campaign that aired for three weeks following it.

Chris Bolton says he may also take legal action.

Bolton says the ads were misleading about the nature of the TDSB’s anti-homophobia curriculum guidelines, suggesting that they required children to crossdress and set up same-sex kissing booths. The ads also said parents were not allowed to be informed about the anti-homophobia teaching.

The PC flyers were similar to an ad campaign from the Christian rightwing Institute for Canadian Values that ran in the National Post and the Toronto Sun. Those ads claimed the TDSB was teaching kids to become transsexuals, and both newspapers eventually pulled the ads, with the Post also running an apology. The ad next turned up as a one-minute spot on Sun News Network, where it ran for three weeks in October.
Bolton says he is meeting with lawyers on Nov 14 to seek advice. “We will be doing a parallel complaint to the broadcast council of the media. It is a quasi-legal direction and something we expect we will get some results from.”
Bolton says he has been waiting for three weeks for a response to a letter he sent PC Leader Tim Hudak and Ontario PC President Ken Zeise asking for a retraction and an apology for the ad’s “offensive inaccuracies,” which mislead the community and misrepresent the board.
The flyers, which were distributed in at least two ridings in Brampton, contained out-of-context quotes that were taken from a TDSB guidebook called Challenging Homophobia and Heterosexism: A K–12 Curriculum Resource Guide. The flyers also claimed the guide “recommends schools not to inform parents.”
Bolton echoed complaints that emerged when the flyers were released, noting that the guidebook advises teachers to “send a school newsletter home at the beginning of each term” as a “best practice for keeping parents/guardians/caregivers informed of all upcoming equity topics in the classroom.”
When questioned about the flyers on the campaign trail, Hudak defended the campaign.
“I think they reflect Dalton McGuinty’s out-of-the-mainstream policy ideas to have a sex-ed curriculum that would begin with grade ones,” Hudak was quoted by the CBC.
Alan Sakach, the PC’s director of communications, says that in light of Bolton’s complaint, the PCs stand by their contention that the curriculum advises parents be kept out of the loop on equity lessons in the classroom.
“It specifically told teachers not to let parents know. That’s our issue with it,” Sakach says. He refused to comment further.
Bolton says he will file a complaint with the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council over Sun News Network’s airing of the Institute for Canadian Values ad.
“Eventually it’s going to affect licences, if they continue on this way,” Bolton says.
The broadcast council has been bombarded by complaints about Sun News Network, more than its number of viewers, according to the Toronto Star. More than 4,000 complaints were logged following Krista Erickson’s June 1 interview with Canadian dancer Margie Gillis, eventually leading the council to plead with the public to stop filing complaints.
“We want to go through channels and persist with this to make a point. We would like a response, and if we don’t get a response, we will go through government,” Bolton says.
Bolton says he didn’t want to file a complaint during the election campaign so that the complaint would not appear political. He intends to update the board on the complaint status at its regular meeting on Nov 16.