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TVO election education special will ignore GSAs

Dombrowsky not asked about ban on gay support groups

Host Steve Paikin let Education Minister Leona Dombrowsky off the hook on the issue of GSAs on The Agenda on Sept 26. Credit: Andrea Houston

Don’t expect to hear Education Minister Leona Dombrowsky field any questions about the ban on gay-straight alliances in Ontario Catholic schools on tonight’s education-focused episode of The Agenda. The executive producer decided it’s not an important election issue.

Dan Dunsky tells Xtra that GSAs don’t stack up against other education issues, such as labour disruptions, provincewide testing and post-secondary tuition costs.

“I don’t believe the issue of gay-straight alliances is a major election issue,” Dunsky says. “There’s no question that public funding for Catholic schools is a big issue, but gay-straight alliances is not a big election issue.”

There was no plan to discuss faith-based education funding on the show, either. The episode of The Agenda, featuring Dombrowsky, airs Sept 26 at 8pm on TVO.

“The premier is running on his record as the education premier, so it was really an exploration of the last eight years of the Liberals’ record in education, both in elementary school, high school and the post-secondary system,” says Dunsky. “And it was a good wide-ranging discussion.”

Although The Agenda has never devoted a show to GSAs and Catholic schools, Dunsky says he is “very aware of the issue,” and GSAs have been discussed on the program’s blog. “We had a plan to do a show on it back in the spring, but plans fell apart.”

GSAs first made international headlines in January when the Halton Catholic District School Board banned the groups. 

In June, Liberal MPP Glen Murray spoke on behalf of Premier Dalton McGuinty, promising that students would be allowed to start queer support groups in September and that students would lead the way on all decisions. The Ministry of Education equity policy stipulates that GSAs are a requirement in all schools. Throughout the summer activists have lobbied hard for provincial enforcement. 

Despite this, Ontario students continue to be blocked from starting GSAs in Catholic schools. GSAs have also been discussed at election debates outside Toronto.

Coverage of the Xtra/519 Community Centre debate.