Monday, September 10, 2007

Queer Issues in the Ontario Provincial Election

This guide to key queer issues in the election was put together by the Coalition for Lesbian and Gay Rights in Ontario, a group with a long history in queer politics in the province that describes itself as "working towards feminism and bisexual, lesbian and gay liberation."

Here it is:

Queer Issues Election 2007

During the 2007 Ontario provincial election, ask the candidates who want your vote where they stand on these issues

No tax funding for faith-based schools

The Progressive Conservative Party proposes to provide tax funding for non-Catholic faith-based schools. They say it's an issue of fairness and will help to integrate Ontario's increasingly diverse student population into the mainstream. We say it will provide tax money, including the taxes paid by queer people in Ontario, to finance the perpetuation of homophobia by schools controlled by the religious right. Many of the denominations that run faith-based schools view homosexuality as sinful, evil and abnormal and promote life-long celibacy for queer people who refuse to be cured. It's bad enough that tax funding is already provided to Catholic schools, when Catholicism also promotes these views. Fairness does not require that more tax money be provided to promote homophobia and intolerance. Fairness requires that no tax funding of any amount be provided to faith-based schools, whether Catholic, other Christian denominations or other faiths.

More proactive measures to eliminate homophobia and create queer-positive environments in all schools

The provincial government must make it a priority of the Ministry of Education to ensure that all schools are free from homophobia - whether expressed in attitudes and beliefs, systemic biases or as acts of harassment and violence - and are safe and welcoming for queer students, teachers and staff. School safety and anti-violence programs must specifically include anti-homophobia and anti-transphobia initiatives. There must be a requirement for ensuring mandatory responses to reported incidents of harassment and violence and effective provisions for enforcement and disciplinary action. School equity policies and programs that specifically prohibit the inequitable treatment of queer students, teachers and staff must be mandatory and must include effective measures for monitoring and ensuring compliance.

Reinstate sex reassignment surgery for coverage under the Ontario Health Insurance Plan

Ontario Health Insurance Plan coverage for sex reassignment surgery was eliminated in 1998 under the former Progressive Conservative government and has not been reinstated under the Liberals. As a result, a fundamental health need is inaccessible to a majority of trans people who seek to have sex reassignment surgery because of prohibitive costs. The Ontario government must publicly fund sex reassignment surgery and related medical procedures, including access to hormones, electrolysis, and counseling, and whenever possible, ensure that these services are delivered in community-based settings.

Amend the Ontario Human Rights Code to include gender identity as a prohibited ground of discrimination

Trans people in Ontario have no explicit legislative human rights protections. In 2000, the Ontario Human Rights Commission recommended the inclusion of gender identity in the Ontario Human Rights Code to ensure that trans people have the same protections in respect of employment, housing and access to services as do other Ontarians. The failure of the Government of Ontario to act on this recommendation is unacceptable. The next government must commit to immediately amending the Code to include gender identity.

Make Your Voice Heard and Your Vote Count!

Coalition for Lesbian and Gay Rights in Ontario
Box 822, Station A
Toronto, Ontario M5W 1G3
(416) 405-8253
e-mail: clgro(at)

(Via GK.)


Michelle said...

The immediate inclination of many gays and lesbians to oppose funding for faith based schools is understandable. Nevertheless, a few considerations suggest funding may actually be a good idea, or at least not a matter of extreme concern.

When a school is not receiving government funding of any sort, it is difficult to impose requirements like teaching units on tolerance and regulating what is taught. The extension of funding allows all kinds of requirements to be imposed as a condition of funding.

You cannot stop religious groups from holding onto whatever beliefs they hold. (Though Reform Jewish Rabbinical support for same sex marriage shows that one should not be too quick to tar everyone with the same brush.) But if their schools are publicly funded you can effectively prevent certain beliefs from being taught in those schools. The fact that Ontario’s Catholic schools, with about 675,000 pupils, are publicly funded and regulated, rather than privately operated, may be one of the reasons why the Catholic community’s response to issues like same sex marriage was actually quite muted.

Seen in this light, eliminating Ontario’s official religious discrimination by extending funding in a controlled manner for to the small excluded minorities is a cause we should all be able to agree on. Certainly we should all be saying clearly that continued discrimination in open violation of international human rights law is not an option. Unlike Premier McGuinty who defends continuing discrimination in open violation of international law, John Tory deserves credit for proposing a plan solve this fairness issue in a the only way politically viable, by including the small affected minorities in publicly funded education.

Scott said...

First of all, I have to say that I do agree that the issue underlying the first recommendation is more complex than the CLGRO statement allows and I remain unconvinced about how exactly to proceed (though obviously I think it is a position that deserves to be circulated, since I did post it here). I don't really have time right now to work out where I am at in a lengthy way, unfortunately, but it includes the fact that I feel that the very power of the state to tone down what gets taught in faith-based state-sponsored schools is in fact net socially harmful because of how it relates to the state's role in maintaining the uncritical, propagandistic, ideological ways in which other subjects (like history and social studies) get taught in all of our schools, all the time. I think education needs to be social rather than private in many ways, but I think there are things very deep-down in how education is currently socially organized that will make it very, very difficult to create spaces that are truly safe and liberatory for queer students (white or racialized), for indigenous or African Canadian students (straight or queer), or for lots of other people.

I agree that religious discrimination in funding should be eliminated, but none of the mainstream proposals do much of anything to address the ways in which our education system propagates the oppressions of many of the youth whose growth into adulthood it is supposed to be supporting.