Opening Statement



Saturday, 5 May 2012

RAC: Religious Affairs Update

I was out of school much of this week for meetings, events, and symposiums relating to my Religious Affairs Committee [RAC] portfolio. As TSU 3rd VP, I am not a release officer. I still have a class at school, in  my case with the AU-DDME's, and a roster of fine OT's [Occasional Teachers] I can call upon for excellent coverage. Let me bring you an update on what is going on.

Tuesday was the Right To Life [RTL] Youth Leadership Conference. 200 students were in attendance which was good, only down about 40 or so from last year. Quite frankly I think there were some teacher's who weren't interested in exposing their students to the guest speaker Michael Coren. He's a local talk show host with a very abrasive, bully like manner. Everything is always just a big joke but he can really hurt people, and I hardly find him a good role model for building consensus, more so he's someone who seeks and provokes confrontation to make his point. Is this really the way we want the Pro Life movement to go with the students in our care?

That aside it was a good speaker's list, and the mass at St. Basil's was very moving. It's a beautiful old downtown church, right across from St. Mike's College University of Toronto. There was a small lunchtime business crowd there too, for the express mass, in a very idyllic, uplifting church setting.
I found it very inspirational just being there celebrating the mass with our students.

There have been some false rumours going around that OECTA TSU boycotted the Youth Leadership Conference this year, so as executive liaison I felt it was very important that I be there. Our support will be ongoing. Last year we contributed a significant amount to Right For Life for the conference; fliers, the student's lunch and so on. I purchased some teacher and student guidebooks on how to set up a Pro-Life Club at school, which I distributed to the interested parties, in hopes it helps.

This year we are spreading out our donations more for various Respect For Life Week activities We will be distributing wrist bands in your teacher mailboxes for Respect Life Week. Please wear it, or give them to the students. We are sponsoring a guest speaker from the Respect Life Week Catalogue. Bev Hadland-Turner is a well respected youth counsellor who will speak on "Straight Talk About Sex, Love and Dating." She is free to speak at you school to the students on a first come first served basis during the Respect Life school week of  May 14 to 18th. Contact our RAC Chair Mark Sherlock via his board directory email to book her asap!!!

Next day I attended the TCDSB NCC [Nurturing Catholic Community Committee] Witness to Faith Symposium on TSU's behalf. We have been offered a seat on the committee, to which I have been appointed. All the CUPE affiliates were also invited. We were welcomed by our organization's name in the opening introductions. I was directed to a seat at the table side front where I sat with TCDSB Director Bruce Rodrigues, and later Cardinal Tom Collins joined us for lunch.

I have met with the Cardinal a few times before on your behalf, when he was Archbishop of Toronto, but it was a special honour to be able to congratulate him now in person on his new position within the church. He later graced the symposium with a homily on faith, which I recorded on my Ipad 3. I have posted an excerpt on my Davechiarelli Youtube Channel. The full homily will be broadcast of the Light and Salt Channel May 7th, but I managed to capture a nice taster, which is inspiring to see.

Cardinal Collin's Homily [Excerpt] Click Below:


Director Rodrigues actually taught at my school, JCM, back in the eighties or so. I was surprised he still remembered so many of the staff names. He looks kind of small and diminutive, not in a bad way, rather unassuming like, at least when I saw him. I could sense a serious heaviness to him, expressed perhaps best by his eyes, that would suggest he definitely has a lot on his plate and he takes it very serious. Anyway, he was also a pleasure to talk too and I later passed on his greetings to our staff back at school.

The student choirs at lunch were extraordinary, and there was a delightful group of dancers lead by their teacher.I think they really captured the joyous spirit of the occasion. As we all know, community building is very important if we are to survive as a Catholic school system, and it is not always there. I was pleased to discover Superintendent Geoffrey Grant has made it a priority and invited a very broad representative cross section of our Catholic community to bring us all together as a part of the NCC. A teacher, parent and student from each school across the board was also invited to attend the symposium, so I should think somebody at your school must have gone and can tell you more.

I ended the week at the OECTA Reach Every Student Conference: Supporting Marginalized and LGBT [Lesbian, gay, Bi-Sexual and Transgendered/ Trans-sexual] Students in Catholic Schools. It was jointly funded by the provincial government, the Catholic Principal's Council of Ontario [CPCO], and of course our own Ontario English Catholic Teachers Association [OECTA]. OECTA Lawyer Paul Cavalluzzo presented  a very informative legal analysis of the implications of Bill 13: The Accepting Schools Act which will require that anti-bullying measures for LGBT be implemented in all our schools, along with a club of some sort to help these students.

Paul Cavalluzzo noted there are many, many legal right verses denominational right  issues and other gaping ambiguities in the act which will probably have to be tested by Supreme Court challenges. They could be quite a concern for teachers accused of being too conservative or too progressive in offering assistance with the students and the clubs. It will be very risky. You could even end up before an Ontario Teacher's College [OCT] tribunal and risk losing your license to teach. Of course it is a very good cause, and very important to a lot of our students but.....................whew!

The OCT presented a workshop on how they are setting up an AQ [Additional Qualification] course for teaching LGBT student's but it is still just in the planning stages. We are facing some very interesting and difficult years ahead! There doesn't seem to be any easy answers either! I think this was one of the best forums for intelligent discussions on the issue of LGBT students that I have yet attended. Any hyperbole on all sides of the debate was openly challenged in a constructive exercise to try to make sense of the issues, no easy task!

Our TSU delegates finished Friday with dinner on Church St in the village. We enjoyed a well earned break and enjoyed some intriguing TSU election talk with much merriment and mirth. Having been acclaimed as your TSU 3rd VP certainly leaves me in an interesting situation. I can just move about talking with everybody on all sides and was touched by the congratulations.

I am beginning a Who Speaks For Teachers? thread as part of the Election Edition of my blogsite later this week, with more links to my new Youtube channel. My coverage will be very teacher issue orientated. Please stay tuned!

Photos from my week of RAC work is being added to the slideshow top right corner of my site screen.




Cardinal Tom Collins speaks on Faith at this week's NCC Symposium. See the link above to watch and hear him on my new Youtube Channel! 

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