Monday, February 28, 2011
Premier Dalton McGuinty may want to take a break from tweeting about his favourite Arcade Fire song to reflect on a recent survey that shows most Ontario students disagree with Premier Dad about sexual education.
Nearly 82 percent of the 2,600 Ontario high school students surveyed via Facebook and email by the Ontario Student Trustees’ Association (OSTA) said they thought all sexualities should be taught in school during sexual education class.
The survey of 15 public and Catholic school boards across Ontario was conducted with assistance from Scholarships Canada and Student Vote.
Asked if they'd ever been bullied in school, 46 percent of students who completed the survey said yes.
Interestingly, the board with the highest number of students who reported being bullied, nearly 60 percent, was the Ottawa-Carleton Catholic District School Board.
A few months ago, days after Xtra's report on the Halton Catholic District School Board's ban on gay-straight alliances provoked a provincewide storm of controversy, a report in the Ottawa Citizen lauded the efforts of the superintendent for the Ottawa Catholic School Board in welcoming gay and lesbian students. However, the board's support for its students came with a condition:
Here in Ottawa, (Tom) D'Amico said the English Catholic school board doesn't use the name "gay-straight alliance" because the Assembly of Ontario Bishops -- to whom school boards look for spiritual guidance -- prefer a name that reflects a more general focus on equity and social justice.
As our subsequent investigation revealed, social justice may be a concern, but the Catholic bishops dictate that gay identity doesn't exist. D'Amico doesn't mention this significant detail, prompting one Ottawa blogger to call the Ottawa Catholic board's policy "homophobia with better PR."
Zane Schwartz, one of the student trustees who led the survey, told The Globe and Mail the project was an attempt to demonstrate that students should be playing a larger role in shaping educational policy:
“Students are always going to be the ones that experience [policy] decisions, and I think that puts us in a unique position to report back on what’s working and what isn’t working.”
Members of the OSTA have requested a meeting to discuss the results with Minister of Education Leona Dombrowsky.
A student trustee from the Simcoe County District School Board has agreed to discuss the results of the survey with Xtra. We'll update this post with her comments later today following our discussion.
Ontario Student Survey Report 2011
Saturday, February 26, 2011
Porn producer Michael Lucas issued a press release on Feb 22 calling for a boycott of New York City’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center if the organization didn’t cancel an Israeli Apartheid Week event scheduled for March 5.
The event was eventually cancelled by the the Center's management. Read a message from the organization's executive director here. The cancellation and boycott threat has created outrage with some groups. More on this story can be found at Towleroad, The Advocate, The Village Voice and JoeMyGod.
In case you've been living under a rock this past year, you can catch up on Toronto's Israeli apartheid saga here and the most recent coverage here.
Naturally, Xtra was at Toronto's Pride parade in 2010. Check it out.
And we were there in 2009, too.
We’ll keep you posted as the NYC story develops.
Thursday, February 24, 2011
The recent announcement of a planned partnership with Target had some Lady Gaga fans complaining she'd been caught in a bad romance. But in an interview with Billboard magazine, Gaga reveals the deal also involved securing a small portion of the company's community funds for queer groups:
“That discussion was one of the most intense conversations I’ve ever had in a business meeting,” Lady Gaga said. “Part of my deal with Target is that they have to start affiliating themselves with LGBT charity groups and begin to reform and make amends for the mistakes they’ve made in the past … our relationship is hinged upon their reform in the company to support the gay community and to redeem the mistakes they’ve made supporting those [antigay] groups.”
Target has been the focus of a gay boycott ever since the retailer donated $150,000 in corporate funds to Minnesota Forward, a political action group. The organization backed Tom Emmer, who supported a constitutional ban on gay marriage, in his failed run for governor of Minnesota.
Target has 1,743 stores across the United States and recently announced the purchase of the leases of 220 Zellers sites across Canada.
The Billboard report also says the retailer plans to create a new "policy committee" to review the company's donations to community efforts — which amount to $156 million a year.
In an interview with Target's public relations vice-president, Dustee Tucker Jenkins, Jenkins explains that the company's CEO, Gregg Steinhafel, will not be a part of the committee.
Wednesday, February 23, 2011
In what many are calling a major legal policy shift, The New York Times reports that President Obama has directed the Justice Department to stop defending a 1996 law that bars federal recognition of same-sex marriages against lawsuits.
Attorney General Eric H Holder Jr sent a letter to Congress on Wednesday saying that the Justice Department will now take the position in court that the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) should be struck down as a violation of gay couples’ rights to equal protection under the law.
Until now the Department of Justice had defended DOMA against lawsuits challenging it as unconstitutional.
Holder's letter suggests Obama played a major role in the reversal.
After careful consideration, including a review of my recommendation, the President has concluded that given a number of factors, including a documented history of discrimination, classifications based on sexual orientation should be subject to a more heightened standard of scrutiny. The President has also concluded that Section 3 of DOMA, as applied to legally married same-sex couples, fails to meet that standard and is therefore unconstitutional. Given that conclusion, the President has instructed the Department not to defend the statute in such cases. I fully concur with the President's determination.
Wednesday, February 23, 2011
Africa's Last Taboo is a fascinating documentary about being gay in Africa. It was first broadcast last year by Channel 4.
Samura goes in search of what is driving homophobia in Africa, finding Muslims and Christians working closely together to target homosexuals and visiting American pastors helping to spread anti-gay sentiment.
The doc was made by Sierra Leonean journalist Sorious Samura.
So it was a real challenge for me personally to make this film. It was really tough to confront some of the men who were now standing up against gay men in my continent because I knew exactly where they were coming from and what they would think about me – and it wasn't long before respectable men like Bishop Oyet in Uganda started questioning my sexuality. I spent a lot more time off camera answering questions about my sexuality than I spent interviewing some of the characters in the film.
Many of the scenes can be quite difficult to watch, but it's a powerful doc worth watching through to the end.
A few scenes of note:
- American evangelical preacher Lou Engle preaching anti-gay hatred to a crowd of Christians in Uganda;
- a member of Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG) confronts a homophobic bishop he knew as a young boy: "Religious leaders are blaming the white man for importing homosexuality here. They just don't want to admit that actually, it's the white man who has imported homophobia here";
- Two lovers are sentenced to 14 years hard labour under a law introduced by the British during the colonial period;
- a gay man named "Fred," arrested, cruelly examined for evidence of anal sex, and, according to his sister, hated by everyone, refuses to surrender to demands that he stop being homosexual.
Africa's Last Taboo: Part 1
Africa's Last Taboo: Part 2
Africa's Last Taboo: Part 3
Africa's Last Taboo: Part 4
Africa's Last Taboo: Part 5