August 19, 2011
Mr. Jeremy Dias, Director and Founder
Ms. Emma Dowd, Day of Pink Coordinator
Ms. Yasmin Giama, Day of Pink Coordinator
C304-440 Albert Street
Albert Street Educational Centre
Dear Mr. Dias, Ms. Dowd and Ms. Giama:
Thank you for the opportunity to outline the Ontario Liberal commitment to building a more inclusive Ontario.
I believe Ontario is the best province in the greatest country in the world. I believe a big reason why is because Ontarians look out for each other. We support one another. And we come together to move Ontario forward, to make it an open, inclusive, respectful place to live and raise a family.
While some look to take Ontario backwards, Ontario Liberals will be talking about the issues and challenges that face us in the future. Our plan will address those challenges, and keep us moving forward together.
Safer, More Inclusive Schools & Communities for All
Ontario Liberals believe every student and every teacher have the right to attend a safe, welcoming school. Students do better when they feel safe. Together with elementary teachers, we have worked hard to make our schools safer, and that has helped make Ontario’s schools among the top 10 in the world.
Previous governments failed to tackle the issue of school bullying head on. We put bullying into the Education Act for the first time, and students can now face serious consequences for bullying (physical, verbal or online), including suspension or expulsion. We also made reporting serious incidents to school principals, such as bullying, the law. Principals are now required to contact parents of victims and school staff who work directly with students. They must respond to any incidents involving inappropriate and disrespectful student behaviour. We are also raising awareness about bullying prevention by designating the third week of every November as Bullying Awareness and Prevention Week. During this week, students, school staff and parents are encouraged to learn more about bullying and its effect on student learning and well-being.
In addition, our Equity and Inclusive Education strategy requires all school boards to have an equity and inclusive education policy in place to ensure all students; staff, parents and other members of the school community feel safe, comfortable and accepted. The strategy is designed to uphold the fundamental human rights described in the Ontario Human Rights Code, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and
other relevant legislation.
Unfortunately, some opposed the changes we made and even proposed getting rid of the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal — a fundamental pillar of the human rights system. Only Ontario Liberals have a clear record of supporting safer schools for students and teachers. Ontario Liberals have also taken steps to create a more inclusive education system in which all students, parents and other members of the school community are welcomed and respected, and in which every student is supported.
This is one of the most progressive equity and inclusive education policies in North America. And it is clear when it comes to supporting students: if they ask for support, schools must provide it.
Ontario Liberals support gay-straight alliances and have included this in school resource materials as an example of one option for boards to consider in building more inclusive, respectful schools. Decisions about creating the alliances are made by local school boards. Boards may choose different approaches, but all must work toward the same goal: ensuring every student feels welcome, safe and supported in an environment free from discrimination and harassment. To help students and teachers with the resources they need to learn and teach about equity issues, we have funded the creation of Egale’s MyGSA.ca website. The website includes a number of links to articles and campaigns related to homophobia in sports, such as the Step Up! Speak Out! Ally
Campaign for Inclusive Sport. This is a partner initiative led by national sport organizations designed to encourage athletes, coaches, officials, sport administrators, parents, fans and other members of the Canadian sport community to respect all individuals involved in sport, regardless of perceived or actual sexual orientation.
Ontario Liberals also support teaching sex education to Ontario students. Sex education has been taught in publicly funded schools in Ontario since the 1960s. Ontario Liberals believe that it is important to provide students with the best information possible to help them make decisions about their health and well-being. Studies also show that young children who understand their bodies are better able to stand up for themselves and get help in situations of abuse. That is why we have moved forward with 90 per cent of the updated elementary health and physical education curriculum. We are committed to consulting with parents before moving forward with any changes to the sex education portion of the curriculum.
Outside our schools, Ontario Liberals are proud to support several cultural events across Ontario that celebrate and support the LGBT community. Since 2004, we have provided more than $2.1 million to Pride Toronto to support the celebration of lives, stories and the vibrant culture of Ontario’s Pride communities. All our funding programs are open to any organization. All funding recipients are required to adhere to the Human Rights Code.
Ontario Liberals are firmly committed to continuing to support Ontario’s diversity. We are working with education and community stakeholders to support effective implementation and to build greater knowledge, capacity and understanding within schools, school boards and school communities in support of more welcoming and inclusive schools.
Support and Services for Ontarians Living With HIV/AIDS:
I believe that our province is at its best when we are all working together to make our communities safe, healthy, inclusive and welcoming to all. For Ontarians and their families living with HIV/AIDS, there is more we need to do together to achieve that goal. I have incredible respect for those bravely fighting HIV/AIDS, and the courage with which they face their illness. My friend the late June Callwood impressed upon me how important it was to always look adversity and discrimination in the eye, and work even harder to overcome it. I often think about her example, which continues to inspire our work.
Ontario Liberals are committed to ensuring that testing increases and that transmission of HIV/AIDS decreases. We currently provide approximately $60 million each year for
HIV/AIDS-related initiatives. These include: funding for over 90 programs and services across the province focused on prevention and education, support programs for those infected and affected by HIV/AIDS, and prevention strategies for those most at risk of acquiring HIV/AIDS in Ontario.
Ontario Liberals believe that collaboration across sectors is essential in combating HIV/AIDS in Ontario. Working with community groups, health experts and the research community is important to ensure that we are delivering the most effective population specific prevention strategies. The stigma of living with HIV/AIDS can be profound, which is why programs like pre-natal HIV testing, anonymous testing sites and supportive housing for persons with HIV/AIDS are so important. Ontario Liberals will continue to invest in these and other programs, and will develop new initiatives grounded in evidence for those living with HIV/AIDS and those most at risk of
HIV/AIDS. We will continue to work with and take the advice of the Ontario Advisory
Committee on HIV/AIDS, made up of people living wit
h HIV/AIDS, health care providers and community representatives.
Ontario Liberals’ goal is also to help Ontario become a province where all residents, including those from the LGBTQ community, have equal access to health and wellness services. We reinsured sex reassignment surgery (SRS) under OHIP in 2008 after it was de-listed by the previous government. Recently the Centre for Addiction and Mental
Health (CAMH) revised the eligibility criteria to better align it with the World
Professional Association for Transgendered Health’s recommendations. We will continue to work with the LGBTQ community to ensure appropriate access to health services for all.
Thank you for the opportunity to respond to this questionnaire and outline the Ontario Liberal commitment to building a more inclusive Ontario. I commend your organization on being an effective and passionate voice.
Please accept my sincere best wishes.
Leader of the Ontario Liberal Party