Opening Statement



Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Windsor AGM: Rights and Sexual Identity


OECTA AGM 2012 passed a number of controversial motions in the ongoing debate between Denominational verses Human Rights, concerning sexual identity, GSA's [Gay Straight Alliances] and employment practices within our Catholic schools. All motions were passed by a huge majority of the voting delegates from the various local teacher units across the province. These approved motions represent a major reversal from attempts to pass such motions in years past. They are listed below;

That the Policies, Bargaining Goals,and Rights section of our by-laws be amended with the addition of a new section to include:

 
The protection from dismissal, promotion denials and harassment in exercising their leadership roles, of all teachers with regard to sexual orientation and sexual identity.
The pro side argued that when our Collective Agreements with the school boards are being negotiated, same sex teachers should have the same job security, personal protections, benefits and treatment as the rest of our teachers do. It was also argued that this would protect the Catholic school system from criticism over our human rights policies, which could be used against us for the withdrawal of public funding for our schools. The con side argued that this motion should not be discussed or approved because it violates church teachings. Arguments also focused on grammar and punctuation, and an unsuccessful attempt was made to have the motion tabled until next year so these could be corrected.

That  OECTA's Human Rights Policies be amended to read:



That the Association endorse and encourage the formation of support groups in keeping with the philosophy and objectives of Gay-Straight Alliances.



For the Con side a letter was provided from Cardinal Tom Collins stating that the Ontario bishops do not support the formation of Gay-Straight Alliance school clubs, as recently mandated by the Ministry of Education. The pro side argued a need for anti bullying protection of LGBTQ students [lesbian, bisexual, transsexual, two spirited queer and questioning individuals]. Reference was also made to a letter from the Assembly of Catholic Bishops of Ontario in January 2010. It was argued the motion's language was in keeping with that of the letter.

That the Policies and Human Rights section be amended by the addition of a new section:



That the association support an inclusive learning and working environment for lesbian, bisexual, transsexual, two-spirited, queer and questioning individuals.


The pro side argued a need to clarify our association's human rights position to maintain the support of our political allies for public funding of the Catholic Schools. An argument was made that the Gospel calls everyone to respect and maintain the dignity of all persons. The con side maintained that in the case of sexual orientation it violated Biblical and Church teachings that say these sexual activities are a sin.

In conclusion, I have tried as accurately as possible to briefly  summarize the basic pro and con arguments made for these motions in an attempt to help you understand how the decisions were made. OECTA Provincial will provide the official perspective. Most likely many other Catholic and non Catholic groups will also be weighing in with often quite contrasting views and interpretations of the AGM process and the approved motions. I hope my explanation will just help provide a quick and timely overview of what basically happened.

Whether one agrees or disagrees with the approval of these motions, please note that OECTA AGM is a very democratic assembly in which a very wide cross section of our teachers' views can be presented and debated upon for deciding the future direction of our association. As per our Constitution it is the chief decision making body of our teacher organization.

I know from my own executive experience in the delegate selection process that it is carried out fairly. Delegates are not chosen based upon their views of any particular AGM resolution. Likewise the resolutions can be written by any member. They are then voted upon by any and all of our TSU teachers at a general membership meeting before they are forwarded to the AGM. At this year's TSU Resolutions Meeting the above motions were passed with a relatively slim majority. Members with opposite views both pro and con were all invited to apply for OECTA AGM 2012. Here the final decisions would be made together with the rest of our teacher units from across the province. The numbers suggest that many members province wide who supported these motions applied to attend. The huge majority of support also suggests to me that many who didn't agree did not apply to go. In the final analysis this was a very transparent democratic process conducted by our teachers union.

Without doubt, these issues will be very controversial within the much wider debate between denominational and human rights raging in our Catholic community. I can only hope that my blog provides some food for thought and helps you understand how these decisions were argued, without prejudice, from what I saw and heard. Please visit http://oecta.on.ca for more complete and official information from OECTA provincial.

My other blogs from the Windsor AGM  are located below with more to follow. I hope that all our delegates now get a chance to relax and enjoy the March break. I know I will. Volunteering for the AGM involves a very long weekend of presentations and debate before one begins March break! Whew!

Windsor OECTA AGM 2012: A view of the assembly at work.

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