On Thursday Feb 5 I had the distinct honour of attending the OECTA TSU Human Rights Committee gathering in support of the Catholic teacher union's LGBTQ members and school staff. I attended, along with others, as a friend and ally for a very straightforward and disturbing reason:
Ontario Catholic LGBTQ teachers and staff are the only workers in Canada who can be legally discriminated against contrary to our Canadian Constitutional Charter of Rights + Freedoms because of their sexual orientation.
You will find more information on the gathering in my Teacher Free Speech February News + Views blog. Suffice to say that there was a good turn out and most constructive dialogue. Both OECTA President James Ryan and local TSU President Dave Szollosy graced us with their strong leadership support and presence. It certainly felt like the OECTA TSU LGBTQ gathering was a proud and humbling experience for us all gay and straight as progressive, social justice, Catholic teachers.
There can't be real hope for peace and justice in the world today without human rights for all. That includes everyone everywhere in our class and staffrooms, the school board and our teacher union. Moreover, our human rights must strongly and directly include our LGBTQ teachers as well as the LGBTQ students whom we minister to. LGBTQ too are an integral part of the community in which we live, share, work and teach by our own example as Catholic teachers past and present.
Positive change by nature requires leading by example. For starters, it is often necessary to first advocate for the necessary changes within one's own immediate community from the grassroots upward. As a progressive Catholic my Jesus would not "do unto others" through denying anyone their most basic human rights. I do not believe that. It is not the example that I as a Catholic or as anybody else would want to set.
It is absolutely necessary that we all learn to truly "love one another". That begins with accepting others who are different than ourselves. I've thought this over in good conscience for a long time now so I don't mind saying so today. Regretfully, the official Catholic church mindset is misguided in using Catholic "denominational rights" to discriminate against our Catholic LGBTQ teachers. I wonder if the "church", so to speak, would really want to tempt finding out just what exactly those "denominational rights" specifically are when they are finally spelled out plainly in law?
I am not making a threat. Sooner or later, a case will inevitably end up at the Supreme Court of Canada. It is now only a matter of time. There might be an initial Catholic "win" with the first case, but it will only create a lot more questions that need to be answered. It will not ultimately be a very pleasing spectacle for the devout to see. And how sad for all our Catholic LGBTQ teachers who are suffering now!
Is there "moral victory" ending up on the wrong side of history in a fight to deny all our teachers the same equal rights the rest of us should enjoy: full family health and benefit coverage? Career mobility? Freedom from discriminatory dismissal and demotions? For shame!
OECTA; it's members, committees, executive, and secretariat have very often also demonstrated strong leadership within our Catholic community and Canadian society at large in advocating for necessary social and political change. Often it's been against great odds, accompanied by horrific threats and even brutal acts of retaliation, even with religious issues such as we must face now.
Still, OECTA has continued to work to create the necessary prerequisites for change. That work, as with most worthwhile groups, is usually ongoing and far from done. We are all God's children. And so we are all still works in progress.
My teacher free speech blogsite is, of course, independent of OECTA. It should not be misconstrued to officially represent the organization in any way, shape, form or respect. If in doubt please see the header at the top of my site.
Nor do I speak from first hand experience about the everyday face of the human right crisis that confronts our LGBTQ in our publicly funded Ontario Catholic school system.
I hope this blog helps make my own position clear. And in case I can help out our LGBTQ community with my site, I would like to propose the following:
My teacher free speech site can be constructively used as a progressive platform to discuss the issues at stake much further than might otherwise be possible through the other official mainstream media channels. You can check the little counter at the top of the right hand column beside my blogs to see the readership numbers. I humbly submit this is a well read site. It's widely read too. My own records show the reader visits are from across Ontario, Canada, the US, UK, Europe and around the world. With that in mind I would like to invite the following, if you are so inclined:
-"Guest blogs" on the challenges of our LGBTQ teachers in the Catholic schools, and on how to end the discrimination are most welcome. You can go HERE! to find how to get your blog posted on my site. I can accommodate confidentiality if you are concerned. The submissions can be from different points of view so long as they help facilitate open, constructive thought, and dialogue for our consideration.
-Likewise the "Comments" section below this blog is also available for an open, respectful discussion on the LGBTQ issues raised.
For your reading and writing information, I am including the publicly available text of the OECTA TSU Human Rights Committee handout from yesterday's meeting below. The first part lists the clauses within the OECTA Handbook 2014/15 pertaining to LGBTQ human right issues. Secondly, it includes the text of 2 resolutions to be forwarded at the OECTA Provincial AGM next month. One is for a "LGBTQ work group" to officially investigate the issues further. Another calls for each unit to participate in their local Gay Pride parades.
Here's the text of the handout:
Here's the text of the OECTA TSU Resolutions for next months Provincial AGM: