I am a mom of two awesome children who teach me more than I ever thought possible. I love writing, exercise, movies, and LGBT advocacy.
From the Frying Pan to the Fire
The Toronto Catholic District School Board (TCDSB)—or at least, one of its trustees—is learning that inclusivity is no joke.
A vote regarding whether or not to add protections against discrimination for gender identity, gender expression, family and marital status was held at a TCDSB board meeting on November 7, 2019. During the discussion leading up to the vote, school board trustee Michael Del Grande noted that including these terms—which are protected under the Ontario Human Rights Code—in the TCDSB code of conduct was a slippery slope that might eventually lead to discussions about whether to include "bestiality, pedophilia, cannibalism, auto-erotic asphyxiation and 'auto-vampirism,'" according to a CBC article.
"I'd like all these terms to be considered—after all, everybody's concerned [that] the right terms are used, it's important to have the terms," Del Grande said, even moving an amendment that these terms be used in the board's code as well. Del Grande later said that the comments were hyperbole.
Since November 7, though, Del Grande's comments have generated a firestorm of complaints from parents who want the board to do something about what was said. Trustees voted 8 to 4 in favor of including gender identity, gender expression, family status and marital status under its protections against discrimination, but Del Grande now faces serious heat from the public he serves.
TCDSB Director of Education Rory McGuckin noted that many of the behaviors in the Del Grande amendment were criminal in nature and would result in criminal charges. Del Grande continued to say that he was being hyperbolic in making the amendment and asked, "where else does it end? Where else does it stop? … That was the point I was making."
Here's the thing: Being a member of the LGBTQ+ community, while once deemed a crime under the Canadian Criminal Code, is not a crime. There are people who identify as a member of the LGBTQ+ community who also identify as being a part of a range of faiths, including the Catholic religion. Del Grande's statement, which basically likens being LGBTQ+ to engaging in any one of a number of criminal offenses, not only demonstrates a great deal of ignorance, it demonstrates how little he understands that there are kids, parents and educators in Catholic schools who are members of the LGBTQ+ community.
For 15 days after Del Grande made his comments, the TCDSB reportedly did nothing, in spite of having received complaints through phone and online channels, according to a CBC news article. There were over 1,100 signatures on an online petition imploring McGuckin to remove Del Grande as a trustee as a result of his comments.
The challenge in all of this is, according to TCDSB board chair Maria Rizzo, that no one filed a formal complaint against Del Grande. She explained that there are plenty of online and phone complaints, but no one invoked the formal complaint process. There are no special forms to fill out; Rizzo said that all anyone needed to do was to state that they were formally complaining about Del Grande's comments.
Michael Del Grande, You Were Wrong
While I get the bureaucracy involved in filing complaints against professionals, and that any bureaucracy needs to make sure that their i's are dotted and t's are crossed, the very fact that people have actually emailed the school board to complain about this situation speaks to the fact that there are people who believe Del Grande was inappropriate and out of line in making the comments he did and are willing to come forward and say, "This was wrong."
As a man with lots of history working within a bureaucracy, Del Grande had to have known that these were extremely distasteful comments and that there would be outcry against him. For many companies, Del Grande's words would have likely landed him on the unemployment line. The TCDSB needs to officially launch a formal complaint process against Del Grande rather than simply stating that no one has said there's a formal complaint. The fact that people have emailed to say that Del Grande was wrong should have been enough to say that people are complaining.
Del Grande himself should also have the decency to say, "I was wrong," instead of "I wasn't serious." There is a big difference between these statements, and Del Grande and the TCDSB both need to do the right thing: officially apologize, and officially have Del Grande step down, as his beliefs have no place in any environment trying to work towards greater inclusivity.