The provincial government — not the Catholic church — is the higher power when it comes to running Ontario schools, says Premier Dalton McGuinty.
The reminder came a day after Cardinal Thomas Collins, archbishop of Toronto, accused the minority Liberal government of making “religious freedom . . . a second-class right” with a controversial amendment to an anti-bullying bill.
McGuinty, a Catholic whose wife Terri teaches in the separate school system that gets $7 billion annually in taxpayer funding, acknowledged Collins has responsibilities to exercise in his position.
“I have a different set of responsibilities,” McGuinty said Tuesday at the Bombardier factory in Downsview.
“I’m accountable to all faiths, I’m accountable to people of no faith. I’m accountable to all parents.”
Under the amendment supported by the New Democrats and the Ontario English Catholic Teachers Association, Catholic schools must let students call anti-homophobia support groups “gay” clubs or words to that effect if teens so desire.
That means all children “will be accepted and respected for who they are,” the premier said, arguing it is one of Ontario’s “fundamental values that transcend any one faith.”
Collins questioned why the government would be “rigid” in giving students more power than school principals and trustees in naming clubs.
“Any student apparently can sort of override the people who have a serious responsibility to care for all the kids in the school,” Collins, also president of the Assembly of Catholic Bishops of Ontario, told Newstalk 1010.