TORONTO, Ontario, February 8, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) - At a major Ontario government equity and inclusive education conference last month, the head of the body charged by Ontario’s Catholic Bishops with overseeing curriculum joined in a presentation that assumed Catholic elementary schools would use books portraying homosexual relationships positively, a conference participant has told LifeSiteNews.
Sr. Joan Cronin, executive director of the Institute for Catholic Education, co-presented the workshop for Catholics on “religious accommodation”, where they discussed a scenario in which a father was upset that the reading list for his daughter’s grade 6 class included a book depicting two “fathers” in a same-sex “marriage”.
The attendee, who wished to remain anonymous for fear of reprisals, said Sr. Cronin sat by without a word as her co-presenter simply presumed such books were in the Catholic system. The attendee said the discussion focused strictly on how the principal should accommodate the father who felt the book threatened family values.
The January 26-27 conference, which brought together representatives from all Ontario’s publicly-funded school boards to promote the controversial equity and inclusive education strategy, had been slammed by the Family Coalition of Party of Ontario over the heavy involvement of the widely-criticized Ontario Human Rights Commission. Leader Phil Lees said the OHRC’s involvement signalled their “takeover” of the province’s education sector, posing a threat even to private schools and homeschoolers.
The anonymous attendee told LifeSiteNews that the conference gave “the message that the OHRC is very intent on monitoring what we are teaching and professing - kind of like Big Brother watching us.” In an opening address, OHRC chief commissioner Barbara Hall said the OHRC will be watching the schools closely, the attendee explained, and would be collecting “human rights data” to see if the systemic changes are effective.
In a plenary session, three public school principals emphasized the importance of “social justice” and of providing children with role models. But three of those named as social justice “heroes” were prominent promoters of abortion - Stephen Lewis, June Callwood, and David Suzuki.
The session co-presented by Sr. Cronin dealt with various scenarios which were based on real occurrences. Another scenario involved a grade 3 Catholic teacher in a common-law relationship. But rather than address the concern over an unmarried Catholic teacher cohabitating, her co-presenter focused on the school’s duty to accommodate the teacher’s desire to celebrate Jewish holidays with her male live-in partner.
The attendee was surprised that Sr. Cronin, who was present throughout the session, did not speak up to warn that the homosexual-positive book, “The Wonderful World of Dads”, might be inappropriate for a Catholic school, nor to point out that it’s problematic for Catholic teachers to cohabit outside of marriage.
The conference speakers made the Halton Catholic District School Board a target of “corporate bullying,” according to the attendee, by repeatedly bringing up the recent debacle over their pro-family equity policy. Last month, the trustees voted down the policy, which included a ban on gay-straight alliances, under pressure from homosexual activists.
“It was a way of putting [the board] down and marginalizing them,” the attendee said. “That’s sad because Halton are the ones who’ve taken a stand on Catholic teaching. They’re a group that other Catholic boards need to model, not profane.”
At a luncheon, a Catholic administrator detailed his son’s trials as a “gay” student in a Catholic board. The attendee said the administrator - David Pihach from the Niagara Catholic District School Board - made it seem the Catholic system was at fault for his child being beaten up every day at school. Pihach repeated four times that his son was “born that way”. The talk earned him a standing ovation from both the Catholic and public representatives.
Chris D’Souza, who has delivered workshops promoting the equity strategy in over a dozen Catholic boards, said in one of his workshops that he is proud gay men can get married in Canada, and that he believes in surrogacy, whereby homosexual couples can have families.
The Ontario equity strategy has faced strong criticism from pro-family advocates, who warn that the government’s intent is to promote the acceptance and affirmation of homosexuality.
“The threat to parental rights and freedom of conscience cannot be overstated,” said the Family Coalition Party of Ontario. “Parents who object to the indoctrination of their own children will become the objects of derision. The denominational rights and teaching authority of the Catholic Church is directly threatened by this intervention of the OHRC.”
Sr. Cronin did not respond to repeated calls from LifeSiteNews over several days. Her secretary was informed that the story concerned Sister Cronin and LSN wished to give her a chance to respond.
To respectfully express concerns, contact:
Tim Hudak, Opposition Leader
The Ontario PC Party
19 Duncan Street
Toronto, ON M5H 3H1
Most Reverend Thomas Collins, Archbishop of Toronto
President, Assembly of Catholic Bishops of Ontario
1155 Yonge Street
Toronto, ON M4T 1W2
Tel: (416) 934-3400 #609
Fax: (416) 934-3452
Most Reverend Gerard Bergie, Bishop of St. Catharines
Chair, Ontario Bishops’ Education Commission
P.O. Box 875
St. Catharines, ON L2R 6Z4
Tel: (905) 684-0154
Fax: (905) 684-2185