The bill, which ostensibly aims to prevent bullying, was strongly opposed by pro-family groups and religious leaders, including Ontario’s Catholic bishops, over concerns about religious freedom and the bill’s emphasis on promoting the homosexualist agenda.
The bill stipulates that schools may not “refuse to allow a pupil to use the name gay-straight alliance or a similar name.”
In May, before Bill 13 passed, the Windsor-Essex Catholic District School Board had planned to implement generalized “equity” clubs and insisted they would not allow gay-straight alliances.
But now they claim the law is forcing their hand.
“Our position is to be fully compliant with the law,” Superintendant of Education Mike Seguin told CBC.
“We’re law abiding citizens and it’s important as adults and as leaders in the school system to show that and to follow the mandate based on the Bill 13 guidelines so we will put structures in place.”
Seguin says they will still go ahead with implementing the mandatory equity clubs, but are holding training this month for all high school principals and vice-principals on how to organize and run the GSAs.
It is unclear who will be leading the training, and LifeSiteNews.com did not hear back from the school board by press time.
At least two students have told media they are planning to start the controversial clubs right away.
Fifteen-year-old Adriana Unis told the Windsor Star that she and a friend hope to start one at St. Joseph’s Catholic High School, and 16-year-old Dallas Mahaney told CBC he will be launching one at Saint Thomas of Villanova Catholic High School.
“I think it will make others realize more that it’s OK to be who you are, it’s OK to be gay, to be bisexual, transgender, whatever you are,” said Unis. “I feel more accepted now. … I can be in a Catholic school and still be myself.”
“There are actually a lot of supportive teachers,” she added.
For the clubs to be successful, said Mahaney, “I think we need a big turnout and the school being OK with it and allowing it, encouraging it and promoting it.”
Richard Delisle of Windsor Pride told the Windsor Star that they are running workshops for high school students to help them run GSAs and that students from Saint Thomas of Villanova Catholic High School and F.J. Brennan Catholic High School have attended.
“We’re more than thrilled to have that section of demographic of kids to be accessible to this kind of service,” said Delisle, who himself attended Holy Names Catholic High School in Windsor.
Before Bill 13 passed on June 5th, Cardinal Thomas Collins of Toronto had warned that it was a “very real” threat to religious freedom.
Forcing GSAs on the Catholic schools “overrides the deeply held beliefs” of the Catholic Church and “intrudes on its freedom to act in a way that is in accord with its principles of conscience,” he wrote as president of the Assembly of Catholic Bishops of Ontario.
In a May 28th letter, he said GSAs are not “in harmony” with the Catholic faith, noting that there is real concern that the clubs promote the views of the homosexual movement.
After the bill passed, the prelate said the Catholic schools would work within the new law to “foster safe and welcoming school communities,” while Bishop Frederick J. Colli of Thunder Bay said explicitly that the Catholic schools would allow GSAs.
Marino Gazzola, president of the Ontario Catholic School Trustees Association, said they were encouraging Catholic schools to comply with the law, had no plans for a legal challenge, and had “never considered” civil disobedience.
The bill came less than a month after the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops had issued a pastoral letter calling on the faithful to practice “conscientious objection” in the face of violations against conscience.
“It is sometimes necessary to resist, even in a heroic manner, the directives of the state, a court, or an organization that tries to force [people of conscience] to go against their convictions in matters of faith and morals,” read the letter.