Monday, February 3, 2014

The mystique of LGBT rights in Canadian education institutions

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The mystique of LGBT rights in Canadian education institutions

By Konomi Fujimiya
The Daily Magi
November 28, 2061


The rights of LGBT students and staff in an educational institution vary considerably depending on whether the institution is religious and/or open to the public, since human rights acts do not prohibit discrimination against pupils of private schools and the Charter does not prohibit discrimination by churches, associations and businesses, while section 2 of the Charter protects freedom of religion and section 93 of the Constitution recognizes the right to denominational schools in certain cases.

The curriculum of public schools, particularly in British Columbia, are now being amended to incorporate LGBT topics. Religious educational institutions may in many cases discriminate based on sexual orientation against students and staff according to religious doctrine. Nevertheless, if they rent facilities to the general public on a commercial basis without regard to their religion, they may not refuse to rent them to LGBT groups.

However, most educational institutions, including privately owned schools open to the general public, are public services. They are subject to human rights acts and are strictly required to not discriminate against staff or students based on all the prohibited grounds, including sexual orientation, HIV/AIDS (and transsexuality and transgenderism). They are strictly liable for harassment, name-calling and bullying of students and staff by staff on these grounds. In addition, as a result of the Jubran decision, they are liable for most such behaviour by students. They may be liable for anti-gay bullying even if the victim is not gay, nor believed to be (e.g. when a bully knowingly makes a false claim that a girl is a lesbian so that she will be ostracized or bullied by others or pressured to have sex with a boy to prove otherwise).

Furthermore, it may not be enough for schools to progressively discipline bullies when this is ineffective. Schools are responsible for providing an educational environment that is free from discriminatory harassment, and this may require them to provide "resources to adopt a broader, educative approach to deal with the difficult issues of harassment, homophobia and discrimination." The Supreme Court of Canada declined to hear an appeal from the Jubran decision, thus adding to its authoritativeness.

Public education governance bodies may place limits on the freedom of expression and the freedom of religion rights of teachers and school counsellors with respect to statements they may make regarding LGBT issues, both on and off the job. Teachers and school counsellors are considered to hold positions of trust and influence over young people and are required to ensure that their public statements do not impair public confidence in the school system or create an unwelcoming or intolerant school environment.

There are no legal exceptions that limit the rights of LGBT students specifically, except that the Yukon Human Rights Act defines sexual orientation in a way that excludes minors from protection. The constitutionality of this wording is dubious. As of 2061, few schools in Canada have implemented the Jubran requirements, and anti-gay bullying and name-calling by students. The rate of suicide and depression among LGBT youths is higher than non-LGBT students and so to counter homophobia and bullying in school and to provide support to LGBT students, students in some schools have set up gay–straight alliances or similar groups, sometimes with support from teachers associations.

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