UPDATE OCT 5 – Queer activist Jon Hazell, who writes at the blog ohmygay.ca, has launched an online petition to ask PC Leader Tim Hudak to apologize for an ad campaign Hazell says is full of “bold-faced lies.”
Hazell says the entire lesbian, gay, bi and trans community is owed an apology.
“They need to apologize to the LGBT community for using them as a divisive tactic and using people’s homophobia to get more votes,” he says.
UPDATE OCT 3 – Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak was defensive about campaign flyers that rivals have called “disgusting” and “homophobic” when he was questioned by reporters in Windsor Oct 3.
Hudak deflected specific questions about the flyers and instead went on the attack about the Liberals’ sex education plan.
“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. “And the notion that Dalton McGuinty thinks a priority in our education system is a sex-ed curriculum starting at Grade 1 when they should be learning their ABCs or math skills, tying their shoes — I just think this shows another example of how Dalton McGuinty’s lost touch with mainstream Ontario.”
Spokespeople for the PC Party and for candidates who Liberals say distributed the homophobic and transphobic campaign materials did not return phone calls from Xtra on Oct 2 or 3.
Liberals fired back with press releases that debunked the claims put forward in the flyers. They also pointed out that no changes to the sex-ed curriculum have been made since 1998, when the PCs were last in power.
The quotes that appear in the flyers, which were taken from a Toronto District School Board guidebook called Challenging Homophobia and Heterosexism: A K–12 Curriculum Resource Guide, are exactly the same as quotes they say appeared in the TDSB’s 2002 guidebook Rainbows and Triangles: A Curriculum Document for Challenging Homophobia and Heterosexism in the K–6 Classroom, when Hudak was a cabinet minister in the Harris government.
Later in the day, the PC Party released a statement saying their objection is that “in the 2011 version, teachers are explicitly told not to consult with parents.”
That also is untrue; the TDSB guidebook says that best practice is to inform parents of any equity issues that will be part of the curriculum at the beginning of the term.
At a rally at a Tim Hortons in London on Oct 3, Hudak was greeted by a small crowd of protesters calling for equal rights for trans people, Global reporter Mark McAllister tweeted.
OCT 2 – Liberals accused Progressive Conservative candidates of distributing “disgusting,” “homophobic” and misleading flyers in the final weekend of the Ontario election campaign Oct 2.
Liberal candidate Vic Dhillon tweeted that his PC rival in Brampton West, Ben Shenouda, was distributing homophobic flyers in the riding.
The flyers, which were scanned and distributed online Sunday evening, depict a child writing on a chalkboard and take quotes out of context from the Toronto District School Board’s guidebook on dealing with homophobia in the classroom, under the heading “Actual parts of the K–12 curriculum.”
It claims that the curriculum requires six-year-olds to crossdress and that it suggests teachers should “celebrate sexual diversity [with a] kissing booth” (brackets in text). In fact, the guidebook lists only suggested activities, and the “kissing booth” activity is about students giving each other Hershey’s Kisses candies in exchange for filling out a survey about classroom attitudes on homophobia.
It also claims that the guide recommends that schools not inform parents when these topics will be brought up in the classroom, which is the opposite of what the guide says.
“Sending a school newsletter home at the beginning of each term is a best practice for keeping parents/guardians/caregivers informed of all upcoming equity topics in the classroom without having to single out one topic over the other,” reads the guide, entitled Challenging Homophobia and Heterosexism: A K-12 Curriculum Resource Guide.
Liberal spokesperson Alicia Johnston says the flyers were distributed in English and Punjabi in a Brampton grocery store and that a Liberal staffer took one from Shenouda’s own campaign office. Johnston also says similar flyers were distributed in Brampton–Springdale by PC candidate Pam Hundal.
Johnston also provided Xtra with a copy of a letter that she says Willowdale PC candidate Vince Agovino was distributing by mail and door to door. The signed letter includes a similar transphobic ad from the Institute for Canadian Values, which ran in the National Post last week and for which the Post apologized after a massive outcry by queer activists online.
“Unfortunately, we cannot dismiss these comments as the musings of but one Liberal Cabinet Minister who is pushing her agenda from inside the Dalton McGuinty Liberal Cabinet,” he writes. “Ontario schools continue to be forced into accepting Kathleen Wynne’s agenda to ensure that certain radical ‘opportunities exist’ in our ‘kids’ lives through their formative years.’”
The letter makes it clear that Agostino opposes gay-straight alliances in Ontario’s Catholic schools as well as the TDSB’s anti-homophobia curriculum. The letter is included in the Scribd document below.
Both the Agovino letter and the Brampton flyers include notices stating they were “Approved by the CFO of the PC Party of Ontario.”
Shenouda could not be reached for comment Oct 2, but a volunteer who has been with his campaign since the writ was dropped says that he’s never seen the flyers before and suggested it was Liberal slander. Neither Hundal nor Agostino could be reached for comment the night of Oct 2.
Liberals and other activists called on PC Leader Tim Hudak to condemn the Brampton flyers Sunday night, but no official response was released. PC campaign staff did not respond to voicemail and emails left Oct 2.
However, PC campaign staffer Chad Rogers defended the flyers on his Twitter account.
Adding fuel to the fire, a modified version of the transphobic Institute for Canadian Values ad that ran in the National Post last week appeared in the Toronto Sun on Sunday, Oct 2.
The newer version removes the quotes from the TDSB anti-homophobia curriculum and corrects the spelling of “transsexual” but maintains the transphobic tone of the original ad.
A phone call to the Toronto Sun was not immediately returned.