What’s in a Name? A Lot.

Back in April, I wrote about Christian opposition to Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) clubs in Ontario schools. Since then, the government of Ontario has declared that school administrators or board trustees cannot interfere with a student club using the GSA name.

Sounds pretty straightforward doesn’t it? These are clubs designed to increase acceptance within schools for gays and lesbians, a group that is often the target for bullying. The clubs are inclusive for both gays and straights who work together towards acceptance. The name “Gay-Straight Alliance” says it all.

Of course, those sanctimonious hypocrites that run the Catholic Church and the Catholic School Board of Ontario have problems with the name. Cardinal Thomas  Collins, protests that using the word ‘gay’ in the title goes against the beliefs of his church and impinges upon his religious freedoms.

“Please consider the implications for all when legislation is enacted that overrides the deeply held beliefs of any faith community, and intrudes on its freedom to act in a way that is in accord with its principles of consciences,”

I believe they did consider his beliefs and made the decision that those beliefs were not equal to the need to protect the students. The law doesn’t say the school must have a GSA club, nor does it say that any club formed for that purpose must use the name. What the law does is empowers the students to use the GSA name.

The Liberal government initially said Catholic trustees could determine the name for new anti-homophobia student clubs called for in the legislation.

However, last Friday Education Minister Laurel Broten announced all schools would have to allow the groups to be called gay-straight alliances if that’s what the students want….

Ms. Broten said she changed her mind after hearing from students at committee who said they don’t want her or principals and trustees dictating the names of their clubs.

“We know that words matter. The message that we’re giving to Ontario students today is you will be listened to, it’s your club,” Ms. Broten told reporters.

“The Premier and I were both very clear that it was not for us at Queen’s Park to tell them what the name of their club should be, but neither should it be for someone else sitting in some other office in the province to tell them what the name of their club can’t be.”

Word are important and the Cardinal knows this. The use of the word ‘gay’ in the title suggests an actual support for gays. The Catholic church has opposed any movement towards equality for gay rights, as they have towards most concepts of equality. They know that the GSA title in a catholic school would imply acceptance, and they are not interested in acceptance. Like many on the wrong side of this issue, they prefer the freedom to declare the ‘gay lifestyle’ to be immoral, and allowing GSA clubs, under that specific name’ undermines those claims.

The Ontario Catholic School Trustees Association called the word gay “a distraction” and said anti-bullying legislation is supposed to protect all students, not just those who are picked on because of their sexual orientation.

“We don’t want to focus on the name,” said OCSTA president Marino Gazzola.

“We want to focus on the content and what the groups are all about. These are externally developed groups that do not necessarily reflect the unique values of our students.”

The groups are about gays and straights aligning to deal with the ostracizing of gays. in order to identify as such, and to ensure that everyone if clear about their purpose, the name needs to reflect that.

The New Democrats said the Liberals have finally got it right by admitting you can’t solve a problem like homophobia if you’re afraid to use the word “gay.

And that is exactly the problem here. The Catholics are afraid to use the word gay in a positive setting because that just might possibly suggest they are not completely opposed to the idea of homosexuality. Gay students need to have the name reflect the purpose of the club, or it loses a lot of its purpose.

It is certainly past time for Ontario to stop funding the Catholic school board, and just have one system for all students. It is also way past time for giving the Catholic Church a podium for making declarations from the position of moral authority. They need to be laughed right off the stage.


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2 Responses to What’s in a Name? A Lot.

  1. Yes. Laughter. The children are leading where the trustees ought to go: but “you cannot put new wine in old wineskins”.

  2. Elyse says:

    Hi There!

    This blog post is one of the only things that come up when you google “gay straight alliance Prince Edward Island” (I was actually hoping to find a list of schools that have GSAs in PEI but that doesn’t seem to be happening)

    I’m an Events Coordinator for UPEI’s Rainbow Alliance and we’re trying to get the word out about our Candlelight Vigil against Homophobia and Bullying which is on the 18th this month, your blog is really popular and I was wondering if you’d be willing to help us spread the word. If you would be willing please feel free to contact me at ecottrell@upei.ca or Ashley Arsenault at rainbow@upeisu.ca if not that’s okay too!


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