by Jeffrey Watts
I have heard many differing opinions on Vanier’s sexual orientation policy over the previous two weeks. This issue, being comprised of a potent mixture of religion, human sexuality, public education and vulnerable youth, has understandably lead to some very heated debate.
I have seen and heard in these debates messages of immense hope, and messages of extreme hate. But there has also been one message in particular that I’ve taken serious issue with. Indifference. There are some out there who fail to see why this issue is even an issue at all. “Why does it matter?” and “Why is it our business anyways?” they ask. To them I say this.
As previously mentioned in this paper, Vanier Catholic Secondary School is a publicly funded institution. This means that it is obliged to follow certain guidelines set forth by the Department of Education, including those dealing with sexual orientation.
The department clearly states that, “Homophobic and gender-based comments, discrimination, and bullying are demeaning to all students, parents or guardians and employees.” So it truly became the public’s business this past fall, when Bishop Gary Gordon rejected this clearly written policy by creating one of his own, describing homosexuality as “intrinsic moral evil.”
Does this not constitute demeaning? Does this not constitute discriminatory? Indeed it does.
It also became our business when Education Minister Scott Kent failed to uphold his department’s own policy that it “will not permit or tolerate any homophobic behaviour or bullying, whether by commission or by failing to act to end such behaviour.” Kent’s relative silence on this issue should indeed be viewed as failing to act, as he has done little to suggest any action will be taken against Gordon and his policy, nor against members of the school’s administration and faculty who refuse to acknowledge and support their gay students.
Perhaps some fail to recognize how blatantly discriminatory the bishop’s policy is because it is centered on a “gay issue,” something that many of us have little lived experience with. So let’s take a step back and ask ourselves, how would we feel if Vanier’s policy stated that being a racial minority was “objectively wrong”? What if women were viewed as “intrinsically evil”?
What if students with disabilities were seen as having an “objective disorder”? What if I opened a publicly funded school for gay students, with a policy stating “It’s OK to be Catholic, so long as you don’t practice your religion in any way, shape or form” and that “we don’t condone discrimination against Catholic students, but we do view their religion as disordered behaviour that is objectively wrong”? That math doesn’t add up, and neither does Gordon’s.
Too many gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered, questioning and queer kids are bullied. Too many feel alone, and far too many are dying. By adopting discriminatory policies in our schools and policies of inaction in government, we are doing a disservice to them all.
I pray that no GLBTQ student at Vanier feels unvalued, unloved and unrecognized enough to take their own life; but should it come to that, I’ll wonder how Kent, Gordon and certain members of Vanier’s administration sleep at night knowing that they could have, or should have done more to prevent the loss of yet another young life. That’s why Vanier’s policy matters, and it’s all of our business.
Jeffrey Watts is a residential care worker in Whitehorse