PRESENTATION TO TDSB
By Cheryfa MacAulay Jamal
Response to TDSB Human Rights Policy
155 COLLEGE STREET TORONTO, ONTARIO M5T 1P6
WEDNESDAY MAY 3, 2000
I am Cheryfa MacAulay Jamal, and I am here as a member of the Toronto District Muslim Education Assembly, and I’d like to address 2 particular issues pertinent to the Muslim community regarding the Human Rights Policy.
According to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: Article 26, Section 3 states:
"Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that should be given to their children."
Therefore it is the right of any parent to demand that if there are to be curricular materials promoting homosexual or bisexual lifestyles, or sexual promiscuity (such as sexual relations outside of marriage) as acceptable choices in human behaviour, then these classes must be announced within a reasonable amount of time and in all languages pertinent to the multicultural population of each individual school district. Parents have the RIGHT to informed choice in the material being taught to and graded upon their children, especially those parents who fall under the protection of the Policy’s definition of Creed: (and I quote from your draft policy)
"(Creed is defined as a professed system and confession of faith, including both beliefs and observances or worship.)"
Therefore, if a class including such aforementioned material is to be taught by a staff member or invited guest, and there are students who wish to be excluded from such curriculum, then it is the responsibility of the teacher and the school to provide supervised alternate material and or activity directly related to such curriculum with corresponding grading. Otherwise the School Board is violating another of its statements: (and I quote)
"Systemic discrimination: arising from policies, procedures, practices and conduct which may not be discriminatory in their intent but adversely impact individuals or groups protected by this Policy where the adverse impact arises from one of the prohibited grounds of discrimination."
Such curriculum does impact the religious community members within the school system, and is defined in the clause:
"Poisoned learning environments include inappropriate or non-inclusive curriculum and pedagogy, bias or discriminatory barriers in existing policies, programs, or assessment procedures, and discriminatory comments made by teachers and other employees."
Therefore, if a class is addressing the ‘normalcy’ of homosexual or bisexual lifestyles, or promiscuous behaviours, then it is incumbent on the teacher to include opposing lifestyles without bias, such as the lifestyles of the three Monotheistic religions whose scriptures state that this form of behaviour is considered deviant and dangerous. Non-inclusion of these community views would be in violation of the TDSB’s Human Rights Policy.
SAFE SCHOOLS POLICY
Within the Safe School Policy I have observed the following statement in Section 5, CODE OF BEHAVIOUR Subsection b):
In consultation with students, parents and staff, each school community should adopt a dress code, which may include a school uniform. In doing so, schools should recognize that:
Some styles of dress which conceal identity should be considered a safety concern;
I have great concern over this statement because it seems to me to be specifically targeting the women of the Muslim Religion who choose to follow the Sunnah of covering their face outside of their homes and in the company of non-relative males. This is a right guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Human Rights which states:
"Everyone has the following fundamental freedoms: (a) freedom of conscience and religion; (b) freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression.
In adopting a school uniform, the TDSB has the responsibility to include the choice of uniform styles that conform to the Islamic Dress Code for both males and females; namely that males be modest in their dress from their navel to their knee, not showing skin, nor shape of the body, and that females be modest in their dress, not allowing the shape of the body to be distinguishable by the tightness of the clothing, and allowing only the face and hands to be apparent, with the choice to cover their face if they follow that level of modesty promoted within the religion. If the school uniforms are to be adhered to, then these choices must be available without undue hardship nor extra cost.
These considerations are supported within Section 1, of the COMPONENTS OF A SAFE SCHOOL, Subsection SCHOOL ENVIRONMENT
A sense of responsibility, empowerment and ownership is encouraged by all members of the school community;
And are guaranteed through Section 6 of the same; PROMOTING SAFE SCHOOLS THROUGH CURRICULA
Students, staff, parents, and school communities need to understand that any form of discrimination is unacceptable.
And through the Ontario Human Rights Code which states:
"Human rights law prohibits the creation and/or fostering of negative or poisoned environments that threaten basic human rights."
I have been very impressed in the revisions made to the Human Rights Policy since the last public submissions, and am confident that these concerns will be addressed with the same level of cooperation and fairness. Thank you to all participants and especially to all members responsible for promoting a less discriminatory and exclusive Policy. I’m sure that with continuous community input, Muslim parents and students can be assured of their rights and considerations within the Toronto District Schools.
Cc: EIC; Ministry of Education; & Gail Nyberg