The Department of Education has signed off on the last draft of the territory’s Catholic Schools One Heart policy on homosexuality.
Deputy minister Valerie Royle said on Thursday that she had just received the latest draft back from the Justice Department, which found that it does meet all the requirements of Yukon and Canadian law, including the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Now the document will go back to Whitehorse Bishop Gary Gordon. The decision about whether to implement it or not will rest with him, Royle said.
“It’ll be totally up to the bishop. We’re fine with the draft based on what Justice has said. If he wants it enacted at a public school, he needs to ask school council to approve it, and that’s up to him.
Gordon could present the document for approval as early as next Tuesday’s Vanier school council meeting. If he chooses not to present it at all, that will effectively end the whole affair.
“In the absence of a school-based policy, the department’s gender identity and sexual orientation policy stands, and has been in place this whole time,” Royle said.
The bishop’s original document, titled Living With Hope, Ministering by Love, Teaching in Truth, was removed from Whitehorse Catholic schools last year by the government after parents complained. Among its teachings, Living With Hope included passages from the Catechism of the Catholic Church, calling homosexual acts a “grave depravity” and homosexual urges an “inherent moral evil.” It also forbade the formation of a gay-straight alliance at the school, in conflict with the Education Department’s own policy.
At a public meeting in the spring, Royle promised that a new policy specific to Catholic schools would be drafted that would meet all Canadian laws.
She said it would be finished by the end of the summer.
That draft was finally presented at a meeting in October for public input, and many parents criticized it for simply whitewashing the controversial language of the original.
The passages from the Catechism were removed from the body of the document, but were still included in the footnotes. The draft also gives the bishop a veto over any student group or gay-straight alliance that he feels is contradicting the teachings of the church.
The latest draft incorporates public feedback provided at a school council meeting in October. Royle said she couldn’t provide the News with a copy of the new draft because it is the bishop’s document and won’t be made public until it is presented to the Catholic school councils.
Gordon was unavailable for comment on this story, and has not spoken to the News about the policy since the controversy first erupted last year.
He did tell The B.C. Catholic, an online Catholic newspaper that, “substantially the document will not change.”
That’s a big concern for Cynthia Matichak, one of the parents who first spoke out against the original documents.
“Was it changed? Because that’s the most important concern. If it was, shouldn’t there be another step where we can look at it?” Matichak said.
“Will the school councils come back to the Catholic community and ask us, or will they just make their own decision?” she said.
“By not presenting it right now, it keeps it in limbo,” said Leah White, another outspoken parent.
“We don’t know what’s going to happen with that policy. Right now, after everything awful that happened last year, (Vanier Catholic Secondary) school is solid. The acting principal, the teachers, this is really strong good stuff happening there, but we don’t know if he’s going to stay or not.
“This can’t be just, ‘he gets to sit on this forever.’ Sometimes it almost sounds like lip service. It seems like they’re trying to wait long enough until we just give up. I find it extremely disrespectful to the parents and the kids who have worked so hard on this,” White said.
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