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Parents concerned about ‘homophobic teachings’ at Whitehorse Catholic school

Parents claim St. Francis of Assisi school worksheet equates homosexuality with bestiality
St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Secondary School is pictured on June 8, 2023. (Dana Hatherly/Yukon News)

Concerned parents of students attending St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Secondary School in Whitehorse’s Riverdale area are blowing the whistle on what they say are “homophobic teachings” at the school.

In a letter addressed to the News’ editor, unnamed parents claim that students this year and in previous years were assigned to read from a textbook titled Called to Happiness: Guiding Ethical Principles. The letter’s authors say they believe the textbook and related lessons by a teacher at the school “go against the Department of Education’s Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity policy that is supposed to protect students of all genders.”

The teacher, whom the News has chosen not to name, allegedly used the textbook in a Grade 12 philosophy class.

In their letter, the concerned parents included photocopies of passages from the Called to Happiness textbook and a worksheet they claim the teacher assigned. The textbook includes passages condemning masturbation, contraception and “homosexual acts” as unnatural.

“This is how we come to understand by means of natural law that masturbation, contraception and homosexual acts are disordered and that we ought not to do them if we want to act in accord with the will of God,” reads page 52 of Called to Happiness.

A photocopy of a worksheet assigned to St. Francis of Assisi students lumps “homosexual acts,” pornography, masturbation, contraception and oral sex alongside bestiality, a term describing sexual acts between a human and an animal.

“Not only is this teacher using a homophobic textbook, but he’s focusing his teaching on some of the most hateful ideas in that text,” reads the letter from parents.

In their letter, the concerned parents also note that concerns about the textbook — and the teacher who uses it — have been brought to administrators’ attention over the years. However, they say nothing has been done to address their concerns.

“For years, students have expressed their concerns about this textbook and [the teacher’s] homophobic teachings to their teachers and counsellors at St. Francis. And yet, nothing has been done. Parents have complained to the principal and vice-principal at St. Francis, but nothing seems to change,” reads the letter from concerned parents.

In a statement provided to the News, the Yukon’s Education department asserted that students and staff in Yukon public schools have the right to respectful and dignified treatment that aligns with their sexual orientation and gender identity.

“While Catholic schools have the right to provide religious education programs and lessons that teach Catholic values to their students, they do not have the right to provide teachings about sexual orientation or gender identity that are inconsistent with the Yukon’s laws and Department of Education policies,” the Education department said in the statement.

The statement continues, “There is no place for homophobic or transphobic teachings in our public school system. Catholic schools in Yukon are public schools, and Catholic educators are Yukon public servants. These schools and teachers must adhere to all Government of Yukon laws and policies.”

The statement further notes that the department supports schools in meeting “their legal obligations to support 2SLGBTQIA+ students.” It also thanks the concerned parents of St. Francis of Assisi students for sharing their concerns and states, “We can confirm that the matter is being addressed at the school level.”

An Education department spokesperson did not provide further details about how the school is addressing the parents’ concerns before the News’ print deadline.

Contact Matthew Bossons at