Last May, the Toronto District Catholic School Board released a restructured version of its Harassment and Discrimination Policy.
That policy now bans discrimination, including “unfair treatment because of same-sex partner status and sexual orientation,” along with others including unfair treatment due to race, age or citizenship.
Its aim is to preserve an environment where harassment is not accepted, and measures are taken if such harassment exists.
The new policy has received reactions from members of the Catholic Church, causing a bit of controversy for Toronto’s Catholic schools.
According to John Del Grande, Catholic board trustee for Ward 7, the policy was adopted from the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The Charter of Rights and Freedoms includes equal rights and protection from sexual orientation in Section 15 of the Charter.
“With the contract switch, I guess it creates conflict with how you’re looking at it with the Catholic School Board,” Del Grande said.
The guidelines, titled, “The Respectful Workplace,” encourages “an environment that is free from harassment and discrimination.” It also states that the policy is deeply rooted in Catholic teaching, which “states that all persons are created in the image of God and therefore have an intrinsic worth that transcends social structures.”
This has brought into question how the new policy regarding sexual orientation reflects the Catholic teaching, causing some unrest in several online Catholicism forums responding to the decision.
Online blog responses include, “I read things like this and all I can describe about the way I feel is crushed inside,” and “I think that the Archbishop of Toronto should make some public statement about this.”
Underlying reasons for the policy are ingrained in the view that harassment is “contrary to Catholic values and undermines the Board’s mission to provide a Catholic education.”
In response to the “anti-gay” policy, Del Grande reassures that the act is not supporting one specific cause.
“The intention is not anti-gay and it’s not pro-gay,” said Del Grande. “It’s the aspect of, as a Catholic Board, our rights are protected that people who are students facing having moral obligation to be consistent with the Catholic teaching, but at the same time, people cannot be fired, dismissed or harassed because of their sexual orientation.”
Forms of harassment “include insults, threats, crude, degrading or suggestive remarks,” as well as “differential treatment, and the avoidance or exclusion of any group or individual.” Resolving these problems includes a complaint filed within six months following the harassment and involves consequences and responses where there has been harassment.
The new guidelines come close in time for the debate to enforce creationism in Christian schools by Progressive Conservative Leader John Tory and the idea to teach evolution in the Ontario curriculum.