A controversial policy on homosexuality has been taken down from Vanier Catholic Secondary School’s website.
Parents had raised concerns that the document, titled Living With Hope, Ministering By Love, Teaching In Truth, described same-sex attraction as disordered, with a “strong tendency ordered toward an intrinsic moral evil.”
Education Minister Scott Kent met with Bishop Gary Gordon Thursday morning, and they both agreed that the policy should be overturned.
“There were some outstanding issues and concerns that hadn’t been dealt with,” said Kent in an interview yesterday.
“I was able to convey that and have those discussions with the bishop this morning and that’s why we both agreed to remove that document from the school website and begin work and a dialogue with the entire school community on a policy development, because this document didn’t meet the tests that the department has to actually qualify as a policy.”
Although his department had reviewed the document, they had not given it final approval, said Kent.
“Education did review the document in the fall of 2012 and provided feedback on what edits were required in order for it to be considered a resource document. There was a suggestion by the department that it be clearly marked as a religious document and be accompanied by our own sexual orientation and gender identity policy.”
Kent had not seen the document until recently, he said.
“I wasn’t really aware of the document itself until a meeting I had with the parents on Feb. 18.”
The next step will be for parents, students, school administrators and the bishop to come together and work towards a policy that is in-line with the department’s own policies.
“I look forward to the school community sitting down and engaging on this,” said Kent. “What I’m looking for as a product is a policy that conforms with the departmental policy on same-sex and gender equity, and that needs to be developed obviously in collaboration with the entire school community.”
The Department of Education has its own resource document on sexual orientation and gender identity, which specifies that schools must have proactive strategies like Gay-Straight Alliance clubs and designated faculty members to support LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered or queer and questioning) students.
The Catholic school’s former policy discouraged staff from using labels like “gay” and “lesbian,” and students have reported that attempts to form a Gay-Straight-Alliance were denied.
Kent would not say if the department would require the school to allow a GSA to form.
“I think at this point it would be premature to talk about that, because I want those discussions to come from the students and the parents and the school community. As I mentioned earlier on, this is something that has to come from the grassroots, and of course the bishop and the church will also play a role in determining that policy.”
The controversy over the school’s document has elicited some calls to de-fund Catholic education in the territory completely.
“At this point we’re not looking to do that,” said Kent.
Funding for Catholic schools is protected in federal legislation, said Kent, and has been in place since the 1960s.
According to the Yukon Act, “The minority of the ratepayers in that part of Yukon, whether Protestant or Roman Catholic, may establish separate schools in that part and, if they do so, are liable only to assessments of the rates that they impose on themselves in respect of those schools.”
“I’m a Yukon public school product, not a Catholic school product, but I think that one thing that we can’t argue with is the overall success of these schools over the long term and the type of students and individuals that have graduated from those schools,” said Kent.
“So I think that it’s important that we maintain the types of success that we have seen from the (Catholic) elementary schools and the high school and junior high that preceded that.”
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