Toronto District Muslim Education Assembly
Sound Education Sound Society
January 17, 2000
Presentation to TDSB’s Human Rights Committee
155 College Street Toronto, Ontario M5T 1P6
By: TDMEA’s President (Mr. Ibrahim El-Sayed)
Re: Human Rights and Religious Accommodation in the Public Schools.
Ladies and gentlemen, once again we have an important opportunity to critically re-examine crucial aspects of our society as they relate to the fundamental rights of us all with the view of correcting any infractions and setting things right. Thus, we truly hope this exercise to be serious.
Needless to reiterate, in accordance with the United Nations Universal Declaration on Human Rights, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and the Ontario Human Rights Code, every human being is guaranteed basic rights that are inviolate and therefore cannot be abridged by any, be it individuals, institution, agency or the very system that claims to deliver on these rights. This is not just axiomatic; our rights have to be protected.
Celebrated statements and expensive publications that simply rehearse these basic and fundamental rights are hollow ceremonies and rituals that do no more than appease and are seen as politically convenient tactics geared for public consumption only. What we need is serious action – implementation.
The track record in Toronto has shown that what is seriously lacking is a clear, decisive, conscious and sustained programme of consistent and universal application of human rights. Human rights decorated in the books or documents and the archives serve no benefit to human beings. Thus, the urgency for transparent implementation of the rights of people cannot be postponed any longer.
Moreover, the selective, partial and inconsistent application of human rights is itself a gross violation of human rights. By this approach, some individuals or groups may gain more protection than others and indeed more seriously even at the expense of the fundamental rights of others.
A classic case is the hasty and unabashed adoption by the TDSB of a policy of sexual orientation in defending and promoting homosexual behaviour in the public schools as normal despite the strong principled objection by the faith communities and people with religious values and moral convictions.
Such an action of the Board is not only irresponsible but poses grave concerns to us as parents of the faith communities with children in the system and has dire consequences for society at large. We call on the public schools to respect the rights of parents and students.
We affirm and insist clearly and categorically that homosexual lifestyle is directly contradictory to of our religious beliefs, values and practices, poses grave danger to our communities and put our children at risk.
The attitude of the Toronto District School Board has instead of contributing to an atmosphere of trust, confidence and true spirit of community created serious discontent and divisions in the GTA. Instead of promoting tolerance and understanding the Board’s defiant actions breed intolerance, hatred and hostility.
The Board makes its claims on the pretence of human rights and all the conveniently chosen politically correct buzzwords to achieve its agenda. We ask, "Why has the Board chosen to single out sexual orientation at the exclusion and even the peril of the rights of members of the faith communities?"
By its own calculated actions, the Board has with impunity discriminated against the vast majority of those who professed strong religious and moral values. Since our interests and rights are now being directly harmed by the Board’s malignant doings, it is imperative that immediate actions be taken in order to protect the rights of faith communities.
More than before, since we and our children are now faced with this danger, we call on the TDSB and all the responsible authorities in the strongest terms to implement human rights codes and policies as they relate to the rights of the faith communities. This would be consistent as much as it would protect our basic rights.
We insist on our rights that in the presence of any material, curricular and extra-curricular items or social activities which stand in contradiction to our faith, that the school has an obligation to first inform us about such issues in clear and unambiguous terms well in advance, obtain parental consent for student participation if any, and provide acceptable educational alternatives to our children.
We hold the school and all those who are responsible for the safety and well being of our children and insist on the protection and defence of our rights in the face of this new danger being imposed upon us.
There is urgent need for the school to work in close co-operation and meaningful partnership with parents and children.
We will not be content by simply being allowed to make this presentation or going through convenient rituals. We call for the immediate implementation of the relevant human rights codes and policies in order to protect our rights and the rights of our children and that of society in the public school system in the GTA.