Transgender Policy in Jeopardy After Delayed Vote By Catholic School Board

Catholic school leaders in Canada failed to approve a policy which would allow students to self-identify their gender, frustrating hopes of positive change and earning stern criticism from the Education Minister. The Edmonton Journal reported:

“Edmonton Catholic Schools trustees moved during the Tuesday night meeting to delay voting on the motion about the transgender policy until its next meeting in October, after several raised questions about its purpose and development.

“The majority of the board’s first meeting of the year was devoted to arguing over the policy, which could give students access to the washrooms, change rooms and sports teams that match their gender identities.”

That meeting devolved into a “shouting match” and then a delayed vote, which the policy’s sponsor, Patricia Grell, has called “very unfortunate.” She expressed concern for the well being of a female elementary student whose inability to use a bathroom consistent with her identity prompted the draft policy.

Three trustees worked with parents, trans advocates, and mental health professionals to craft the proposal. While Edmonton’s Catholic schools promise to provide an “inclusive, welcoming, caring, respectful, safe, and Catholic environment that promotes the well-being of all,” those involved say this new policy is quite necessary.  Because Canada’s Catholic schools are funded by the government, political officials become involved in decisions made by local governing school boards.

Its necessity is also endorsed by a high ranking government official. Education Minister David Eggen chastised the board for its failure to pass a transgender inclusive policy, and threatened action against them:

“What is a sensitive, important issue in regards to human rights broke and dissolved into acrimony, and I don’t expect that I will see that again. If it does so, there will be consequences. . .This has to be dealt with as soon as possible.”

This acrimony arose from the trustees who opposed to the policy, including Larry Kowalczyk who mistakenly said that Catholic teaching treats transgender identities as mental illness.  Kowalczyk previously voted against child protection efforts in April. The behavior of these trustees prompts doubts about their leadership, like those of Marni Panas, a transgender Catholic and mother of children in Edmonton Catholic schools, who told the Edmonton Sun:

“You expect a certain level of professionalism and decorum from your elected officials, and what I saw that night, I’d never seen anything like that. . .I think that shocked everybody, including myself. I question this trustee’s ability to provide a safe place for students.”

Pressure is mounting on the board to take action in the best interests of transgender students and, in the meantime, it seems school communities will continue growing in their acceptance. Former Education Minister Thomas A. Lukaszuk wrote of these themes for the Edmonton Sun:

“I don’t doubt that the Board may have the best intentions, but appears to be lacking in resolve to conclude this matter. . .In the mean time, our little girl, like many others, can’t innocently focus on her studies and recess play, as she knows that tomorrow may be the day when someone questions her identity or forces her go to a segregated washroom.

“Sadly, it’s likely to be an adult, as other kids love her for who she is.”

While adults opposed to LGBT inclusion cause “shouting match”-style government proceedings, younger children and young adults in the Catholic Church have thankfully become more accepting and affirming of LGBT people with each passing day. The board’s meeting in October will likely vote on the policy and even if it rejects the drafted policy, it seems the Ministry of Education’s intervention is a real possibility to ensure equal education. But it would be better for Catholic leaders to willingly enact policies which welcome all, meet every student’s needs, and cherish each young person as a child of God.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

8 Responses to Transgender Policy in Jeopardy After Delayed Vote By Catholic School Board

  1. […] Source: Transgender Policy in Jeopardy After Delayed Vote By Catholic School Board | Bondings 2.0 […]

  2. Friends says:

    For the record, it’s probably worth noting that Alberta is the most notoriously and trenchantly conservative Province in all of Canada. It’s basically owned and controlled by the oil and natural resource industries. Alberta’s Stephen Harper — himself one of the most unpopular far-right-wing Prime Ministers in recent Canadian history — is expected to be sacked in the upcoming national elections. So it’s not at all surprising to see retrograde social attitudes such as this being manifested in Alberta. Such attitudes would be rather less likely to appear in places like Quebec, Ontario, or — on the Pacific coast — British Columbia. Just an observation — for our readers who aren’t particularly close to the Canadian political scene. One side of my own family came from Atlantic Canada — Quebec and New Brunswick — so I have a particular fondness for the place!

  3. […] these have been heated. The Edmonton Catholic School Board’s meetings erupted into a “shouting match” last fall and approved “just discrimination” of some youth last December. […]

  4. […] around a transgender policy have repeatedly made headlines. Their meetings erupted into a “shouting match” last fall and the Board approved “just discrimination” of some youth in a draft policy last […]

  5. […] policy have repeatedly made headlines since last summer. Their meetings erupted into a “shouting match” last fall and the Board approved “just discrimination” of some youth in a draft policy last […]

  6. […] to accept LGBT student groups. The Board’s October 2015 meeting erupted into a “shouting match” and in December trustees approved a draft policy which would allow “just discrimination” […]

  7. […] School Board ‘s consideration of a transgender policy led to one meeting become a “shouting match” last fall.  Additionally, the Board approved“just discrimination” in schools as a draft […]

  8. […] Particularly intense were disputes among the Edmonton Catholic School Board, whose meetings erupted in shouting and eventually necessitated outside […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: