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Thursday 10 April 2014

Sotiropoulos' Motion on TDSB Participation in the Gay Pride Parade. Wrong, wrong, wrong.

As the child of an educational psychologist and a teacher, it’s no surprise that I advocate for providing Canadians with access to a world class educational system, nor should it come as a surprise that I am an advocate for diversity, equality, and universal human rights.

Mere school attendance does not guarantee improved economic status for Canadians. Research demonstrates that cognitive skills and the quality of education have a far greater influence on individual earnings, income distribution, and economic growth. We must provide quality education as a long term financial investment in Canada.

However, I believe one of the greatest strength’s our educational system is its formal contribution to the enculturation of our children; the deliberate socialization process by which our children learn the obligations of Canadian culture and acquire the values and behaviours appropriate and necessary to broader Canadian society.

While informal enculturation may have Canadians identifying closely with Molson’s “I am Canadian” rant, hockey and Tim Hortons, it’s the formal enculturation through our educational system that have the majority of Canadians identifying closely with the higher ideals of multiculturalism, diversity, and equality.

This brings me to a tale of two cities, our Toronto and the alternate reality inhabited by Trustee Sam Sotiropoulos.

In my lifetime I can trace the history of LGBT rights in our Toronto through a chain of events leading to the ultimate tipping point for majority acceptance of LGBT over a decade ago:

  • Same-sex sexual activity legalized 1969
  • Charter of Rights and Freedoms enacted 1982
  • Section 15 of the CRF (Equality Rights) comes into effect 1985
  • Gays and lesbians permitted to openly serve in the Canadian military 1992
  • Supreme Court of Canada (Egan vs Canada ) rules sexual orientation is protected under Section 15 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms 1995
  • Canadian Parliament legalizes same-sex marriage nationwide 2005
  • Gender Identity and Gender Expression included in Ontario Human Rights Code 2012
 “One recent study by Mark W. Lehman suggests that between 1997 and 2004, Canadian public opinion on legalizing same-sex marriage underwent a dramatic shift: moving from minority-support to majority support and that this support was the result of a significant shift in positive feelings towards gays and lesbians.[1]
Yet, in Sam’s alternate reality, the vast majority of Toronto shares the homophobia which lurks just below the surface of his anti-pride motion. Upon his motion’s defeat, Sotiropoulos threatened those trustees who voted against his motion "(they) will hear from their constituents. It's an election year."
Andrea Houston of Now Toronto quotes Sotiropoulos as saying "I believe this board is out of touch with the majority of the population in this city, and has been for quite some time. The vast majority of the public stands behind my motion. They didn't come forward out of fear of being labelled." Those who have been following Sam for some time know he's fond of playing the victim, throwing around labels and ignoring reality.

I’ll add the following anecdotal evidence to that evidence I’ve already presented to support why I believe the majority of Torontonians support the LGBT community; in 2012 a friend, who just happens to live in Toronto’s Ward 40, finally felt safe and comfortable enough to finally come out his friends of over 20 years! My only regret is that we, his friends of decades, erred in not making our acceptance of the LGBT community much more overt years ago.

I’ll spare readers a repeat of detailed the analyses of why Sotiropoulos’ motion was disingenuous, and only point to Canada’s tradition of civil disobedience, the use of nudity as political protest, and the courts having ruled that public nudity as political expression is protected. Even IF Toronto Council had the ability and desire to instruct the Toronto Police Service to enforce nudity laws at the Pride Parade, the courts could never obtain a conviction.

To ask was wrong, period. That battle was fought by Sam’s predecessors and lost, and the majority of other Board members to their immense credit did not even dignify Sotiropoulos’ motion by allowing debate on the issue. In a previous blog entry I made my opinion on political intimidation well known. I find it cowardly, contemptuous and absolutely unacceptable in our political system. I applaud and respect those who opposed Sam’s motion, I feel shame for those trustees who supported him.

Human rights are universal rights. As a trustee, Sotiropoulos has demonstrated a lack of understanding of human rights issues. Due to his action’s, I no longer trust Sam Sotiropoulos to safeguard the socialization process through which our children learn the obligations of Canadian culture and acquire the values and behaviours appropriate to our society, especially those which relate to LGBT acceptance. I am more resolved than ever to fight to replace Sam as trustee for Toronto District School Board in Ward 20.