Cardinal Tom Collins responds to Education Minister Laurel Broten on the Gay Strait Alliances in schools. He commented at the Archdiocese of Toronto offices, Monday May 28, 2012.
Credits: CRAIG ROBERTSON/QMI AGENCY
The controversial issue reared its head in the wake of a government announcement that it will require the separate school system to accept student clubs named Gay-Straight Alliances (GSAs).
"We are not willing to embark on a conversation with respect to seeing an end to Catholic education, which is constitutionally protected, or French-language education," Broten said Wednesday.
Ontario Finance Minister Dwight Duncan said he's had no direction from cabinet to look at withdrawing full funding from the Catholic system.
"Our budget anticipates the Catholic system continuing on," Duncan said. "There are constitutional imperatives that are unique to Ontario. We're not looking at that right now."
Catholic leaders have strongly objected to a government amendment to its anti-bullying bill, the Accepting Schools Act, which strips principals and school boards of the power to ban the term Gay-Straight Alliance.
Cardinal Thomas Collins, Archbishop of Toronto and president of the Assembly of Catholic Bishops of Ontario, said the GSAs were formed out of a US political movement whose values veer sharply from those of the Catholic faith.
"Trustees and principals are legitimate stewards of the spiritual tradition of the school, and in a Catholic school, that includes the Catholic faith tradition," he said.
Ontario Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner has called for one publicly funded school system.
Justin Trottier of the Centre for Inquiry (CFI), which promotes a secular society, said the question that has been raised by this dispute is whether Ontario should support Catholic schools.
"The elephant in the room - public funding of Catholic schools - has become so destructive to fundamental rights and equality it's impossible to ignore," he said in a statement.
Former PC leader John Tory, responding to a fairness argument, had proposed funding all faith schools but the idea proved unpopular during the 2007 general election.
Broten said her government recognizes the great work done in Catholic, French-language and public schools.