Some Vanier concerns still not resolved

Yukon's lapsed Catholics and left-leaning heathens must be shouting hallelujah this week, following news that Bishop Gary Gordon will soon be packing his bags for Victoria.

Yukon’s lapsed Catholics and left-leaning heathens must be shouting hallelujah this week, following news that Bishop Gary Gordon will soon be packing his bags for Victoria.

For many, the bishop will be remembered as the guy who sought over the past few years to ensure that Vanier Catholic Secondary School is run along the church’s own strictures – specifically the bit that views homosexual acts as sinful depravities.

The outcome, of course, has been completely contrary to the bishop’s goals. Following a public outcry, the education minister tossed out the proposed policy. The school now boasts an active gay-straight alliance club. And, judging by the number of Vanier grads who donned rainbow socks during their graduation ceremony to express solidarity with their gay peers, his views are not widely held by the school body.

It’s to the credit of the school’s administration, staff and students that they have set matters straight and restored Vanier’s reputation as a supportive, socially progressive environment. But that does not mean this drama is over.

Let’s remember that Yukon’s education department helped douse the Vanier controversy at its peak by promising to institute certain policy changes, to ensure future flare-ups didn’t occur. These promises remain unfulfilled, more than a year later.

One was to produce a new same-sex policy for Catholic schools, to replace the one that had been rejected. Another was to review the bishop’s role in hiring staff at Catholic schools.

The department appears to have given up on trying to make good of these promises.

Talks with the bishop over drafting a new same-sex policy appeared to have been held up by the diocese, and the department has imposed no deadline to have such a deal in place. And a departmental spokesman has lately asserted that the hiring policy isn’t a departmental concern, but rather the purview of Yukon’s Catholic school association.

In short, education officials have washed their hands of the matter, and it remains unclear whether either promise will be fulfilled.

In the absence of a same-sex policy that caters to Catholic schools, the territorial policy prevails, which makes clear that gay students should feel welcome and included. So, on that front, a stalemate still seems to be the bishop’s loss.

Not so with the hiring policy. The current rules give whoever replaces the bishop considerable clout in hiring decisions. In recent years, Bishop Gordon used these powers to ensure conservative staffers were hired, laying the groundworks for the eventual public blow-up, with students accusing administrators of creating an intolerant atmosphere.

Who knows how the bishop’s successor will apply these rules? Only new hiring rules that soften the bishop’s say on such matters will offer any certainty that we won’t see another relapse later. At the very least, seeing as the department promised a review, wouldn’t following through on that commitment be in order?

Even if that were to occur, there remains the inconvenient fact that the bishop’s views on homosexuality are the same ones expressly held by the Catholic Church. And, when stated baldly, it’s clear these views have no place in a publicly funded school like Vanier, which is expected to reflect the values of tolerance that are enshrined in Canadian law.

No matter all the hate-the-sin-not-the-sinner throat-clearing, it’s hard to create a welcoming environment for gay students if they’re being told, as the bishop has said, that they essentially have a disease, no different from diabetes. Likewise, being told that your attractions are a “grave depravity,” “intrinsically disordered” and “contrary to the natural law,” as the church’s Catechism has it, is not terribly welcoming either.

This leaves Vanier staff with the unenviable job of having to paper over some of the contradictions at the heart of this matter. In short, they are expected to run a Catholic school, but not one that is too Catholic.

Judging by the glowing assessments given by gay graduates, it seems this is being handled admirably. The Education Department owes students and staff the courtesy of ensuring that clear rules are in place to ensure this continues, as promised, no matter who fills the bishop’s seat. 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

In a Feb. 17 statement, the City of Whitehorse announced it had adopted the what3words location technology used for emergency response. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Three words could make all the difference in an emergency

City of Whitehorse announced it had adopted the what3words location technology

Jesse Whelen, Blood Ties Four Directions harm reduction councillor, demonstrates how the organization tests for fentanyl in drugs in Whitehorse on May 12, 2020. The Yukon Coroner’s Service has confirmed three drug overdose deaths and one probable overdose death since mid-January. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Three overdose deaths caused by “varying levels of cocaine and fentanyl,” coroner says

Heather Jones says overdoses continue to take lives at an “alarming rate”

Wyatt's World for Feb. 24, 2021.

Wyatt’s World for Feb. 24, 2021.

Approximately 30 Yukoners protest for justice outside the Whitehorse courthouse on Feb. 22, while a preliminary assault hearing takes place inside. The Whitehorse rally took place after the Liard Aboriginal Women’s Society, based in Watson Lake, put out a call to action over the weekend. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Courthouse rally denounces violence against Indigenous women

The Whitehorse rally took place after the Liard Aboriginal Women’s Society put out a call to action

Susie Rogan is a veteran musher with 14 years of racing experience and Yukon Journey organizer. (Yukon Journey Facebook)
Yukon Journey mushers begin 255-mile race

Eleven mushers are participating in the race from Pelly Crossing to Whitehorse

Legislative assembly on the last day of the fall sitting in Whitehorse on Nov. 22, 2018. As the legislature prepares to return on March 4, the three parties are continuing to finalize candidates in the territory’s 19 ridings. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Nine new candidates confirmed in Yukon ridings

It has been a busy two weeks as the parties try to firm up candidates

David Malcolm, 40, has been charged with assaulting and attempting to disarm a police officer after an incident in Whitehorse on Feb. 18. (Phil McLachlan/Capital News)
Man resists arrest, assaults officer

A Whitehorse man has been charged with assaulting and attempting to disarm… Continue reading

Yukon Energy in Whitehorse on Aug. 4, 2020. A site on Robert Service Way near the Alaska Highway has been selected as the future home of Yukon Energy’s energy storage project. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Site selected for Yukon Energy battery project

Planned to be in service by the end of 2022

The Yukon government and the Yukon First Nations Chamber of Commerce have signed a letter of understanding under the territory’s new procurement policy. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
First Nation business registry planned under new procurement system

Letter of understanding signals plans to develop registry, boost procurement opportunities

US Consul General Brent Hardt during a wreath-laying ceremony at Peace Arch State Park in September 2020. Hardt said the two federal governments have been working closely on the issue of appropriate border measures during the pandemic. (John Kageorge photo)
New U.S. consul general says countries working closely on COVID-19 border

“I mean, the goal, obviously, is for both countries to get ahead of this pandemic.”

Legislative assembly on the last day of the fall sitting in Whitehorse on Nov. 22, 2018. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Start of spring sitting announced

The Yukon legislature is set to resume for the spring sitting on… Continue reading

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
City hall, briefly

A look at decisions made by Whitehorse City Council this week

Most Read