The Alberta Catholic School Trustees’ Association (ACSTA) is encouraged by the Alberta government’s recent display of leadership in placing the third reading of Bill 10 on hold. However, at the same time, we are deeply saddened by the distorted information, aimed at our Catholic schools and our faith, that seems to be taking over this debate.
As school trustees and members of the Catholic faith, we need to make it abundantly clear to those outside our community that in our Catholic faith, and therefore our Catholic schools, we believe that all people are loved and accepted as children of God and as a child of God, each person is to be accepted with dignity and respect.
- that all people, regardless of sexual orientation, are unique creations of God, and as such, all people share the same rights and dignity. Our faith affirms this truth and condemns any treatment that violates it.
- that, although sexuality is an important part of one’s identity, it is only one part of an identity. We are complicated beings, and no one particular trait alone defines us as a whole, unique person. In defining us, we cannot single out one human trait - this leads to stereotyping, misunderstanding, segregation and isolation - according to that one trait.
- in an inclusive approach to education - one in which each person, regardless of background, race, social, status, body image, sexual orientation etc, is welcomed, accepted, and supported. All forms of discrimination or bullying are, therefore, unacceptable and are immediately addressed. In Catholic schools, no student is excluded and everyone belongs - every child, every day with no exceptions.
- that Catholic schools are policy leaders in providing safe, caring and inclusive learning environments. Alberta Catholic schools excel at providing valuable and supportive programming, including our inclusive student groups, which are supervised and supported by teachers, counsellors, and/or chaplains.
- that parents are the primary educators in any student’s life.
- inclusive Catholic school communities and the protection of the dignity of each and every person.
- the safety and welfare of all students as evidenced by our zero-tolerance policy on all forms of bullying.
- safe and inclusive learning environments for all students - especially those students who may suffer from isolation, alienation, abuse, discrimination or violence - through the ACSTA Safe and Caring School Environments policy, endorsed and supported by Alberta Bishops, Catholic superintendents, and Alberta Catholic trustees.
- safe, caring, and inclusive student groups, open to all students, that demonstrate an understanding and respect for the sanctity of human life and respect for the human person. Regardless of ethnic or racial backgrounds, abilities or disabilities, sexual orientation, body image or social status, our inclusive student groups promote and support diversity, equity and human rights and do more to protect and support all vulnerable students, while strengthening understanding and compassion in society as a whole. As a result, Catholic schools do not support the naming of any student group in a way that would single out potentially vulnerable individuals on the basis of a personal trait, such as sexual orientation.
- working to eliminate all forms of bullying in schools; as opposed to singling out, through legislation, one group, such as gay-straight alliances, at the expense of other vulnerable groups. For example, Bill 10 would not have prevented the tragic deaths of children made vulnerable through cyber-bullying as reported in the national media.
We are proud of our Alberta Catholic schools and our tradition in providing inclusive, welcoming, safe and respectful learning environments for all students regardless of ethnic backgrounds, abilities, social status or sexual orientation. Our schools work hard to promote understanding and respect for the sanctity of human life and the human person. Our students, in turn, demonstrate respect for the unique differences of every person, thereby extending understanding and compassion to others.
By making our voices heard, I know that we can ensure and maintain safe and caring Catholic school environments for all Alberta students. As a Catholic community, we can demonstrate to our most vulnerable in society that their respective needs are just as important as any one group.