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The Toronto Catholic District School Board (TCDSB) is being accused of “validating” homophobia after removing an LGBTQ+ organization from its list of school board resources.
On Jan. 8, LGBT YouthLine, a youth-led organization that supports Two-Spirit, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Queer (2SLGBTQ) Ontarians under 29, was notified by the TCDSB that their organization was to be removed from the school board’s resources webpage.
According to an YouthLine press release published Monday to social media, the decision to remove the group from the school board website due to “inappropriate material” on YouthLine’s Website. An email from the Chief of Mental Health Strategy and Staff Well-Being of the TCDSB informing the group of their removal included a link to an article about their organization published on Corriere Canadese, an Italian-Canadian daily news outlet, entitled “TCDSB website hosts Pornographic site defended by trustees.”
The article, written by Joe Volpe, a former MP for Eglinton-Lawrence with well documented anti-LGBTQ+ views, referred to YouthLine’s website as a “recruitment site” for children and a “smut site” that “promotes the purchase and sale of porno paraphernalia for sexual activities.”
Volpe references a blog by Tony Kiar, a retired educator and principal, who has been allegedly working on an “exposé” of YouthLine for more than a year in an attempt to have the TCDSB remove the organization as a resource on its website. Kiar runs multiple blogs which frequently uses faith to espouse homophobic sentiments as well as COVID-19 skepticism and refers to white privilege and critical race theory as “poisonous ideology.”
In 2019, Kiar published an letter written to David Coombs, Superintendent of Upper Canada School Board to his website, citing his main issue with students having access to YouthLine content was that the website “promotes high risk sexual behaviour that can lead to injury and serious health problems.”
Volpe’s article echoed Kiar’s concerns while also including personal attacks on TCDSB trustees and referred to supporters of LGBTQ+ friendly resource within the Catholic school system as “urban social terrorists.”
According to YouthLine, the removal of their website as a resource for the TCDSB following Volpe’s article can be interpreted as aligning the school board with Volpe and Kiar’s hate speech.
“As a 2SLGBTQ+ youth organization, homophobic, transphobic, and racist attacks on our work are sadly not new. What’s extremely concerning is that the TCDSB felt it appropriate to remove our much-needed service from their resources based on an article that is homophobic, transphobic, and racist,” YouthLine said in a statement. “The article was posted on Friday and our website was removed from the TCDSB resources page within hours. The removal of our website is a validation of homophobia and transphobia by the TCDSB and has blocked access to our critical service to 2SLGBTQ+ youth attending their schools.”
Following YouthLine’s removal from the TCDSB website, people began messaging, tweeting and commenting on the school board’s social accounts, urging the school board to reinstate the organization as a resource as soon as possible.
“As a physician who works with 2SLGBTQ+ youth, LGBT YouthLine is one of the first resources that I refer people to when needed, particularly during the pandemic when other resources (groups, in-person visits) are very limited,” wrote Dr. James Owen, a family doctor and award-winning assistant professor at St. Michael’s Unity Health Toronto. “TCDSB should add this listing back immediately.”
Others echoed Youthline’s statement by calling TCDSB’s actions an example of “institutional homophobia,” as well as “disgusting” and “shameful.”
“Shame on you @TCDSB there is nothing ‘inappropriate’ about being 2S + LGBTQIAP+ I am heartbroken for all of the students being told their identity is wrong and not important in your schools. In the middle of a pandemic, too. Do better for your students,” read a tweet by a fellow educator with the Hamilton Wentworth District School Board.
Yahoo Canada reached out to the TCDSB for comment regarding their decision to remove YouthLine from their website.
“We recognize the services YouthLine provides to LGBTQ2S youth offering peer support. It was brought to our attention that their website had third-party resources which included content that is not appropriate for school aged children,” a TCDSB spokesperson said in an email. “The link was removed to allow staff an opportunity to connect with YouthLine to better understand their resources and to ensure continued support for youth in need of services.”