Toronto District Muslim Education Assembly
Sound Education Sound Society
Tel: (416) 245-0696 Fax: (416) 744-4360 E-mail: Assayyed@hotmail.com
Fax To: (416) 869-4322The Toronto Star 1 Yonge Street Toronto, Ontario M5E 1E6
February 22, 2000
I am a regular reader of the Toronto Star and would like to express my concerns regarding an article in the Saturday edition, February 12, 2000 page H7, written by the faith and ethnic reporter Leslie Scrivener entitled "School board addresses Muslim parents concerns".
The article touched on various Muslim practices that many educators recognized and for which accommodation could be easily made. However, the heading of the article is misleading and is contradicted by its contents and the practices of the Board. If the concerns of Muslim parents were being addressed by the Board, why would they then "pull their children out of school for a day as a protest"? What are they protesting for?
The concerns we have as Muslim parents are directly related to policies, curriculum, implementation, representation, and parental roles. None of these is being addressed. Parents’ and childrens’ rights are not being respected and valued. Our children continue to suffer for years because of their race, ethnicity, culture and faith. Yet, the Board has not seriously addressed these concerns for the Muslim community citywide.
The article contains inaccurate information: "the draft is a wish list prepared in consultation with … and some schools." This information is not correct due to the faith accommodation consultation process that has been put on hold, which the TDSB started last year. No final draft that is acceptable to the Muslim community has been produced, nor circulated to the qualified, competent and respectable organizations and Muslim leaders in the GTA. At the present time, the TDSB staff just started working on generic faith policies to be implemented by September 2000.
Muslims see the Board’s attitude as systematically encouraging homosexual and lesbian lifestyles. This is manifested by the its rush to pass a selective sexual orientation document in the name of equity and its blatant disregard for the urgent need of a faith policy. The Board’s practices speak for themselves and the document can be viewed in the Board minutes of December 1999.
An example is ‘curriculum’, item 4.1, "ensuring that the principles and practices of anti-homophobia and equity on the basis of sexual orientation permeates the curriculum in all subject areas". This has direct consequences for the Muslim community and other religions whose teachings and values are seriously contradicted by such a policy.
Another example is item 4.6, "ensuring that classrooms, resources centers, school libraries, audio/visual collections and computer software contain appropriate materials and resources which accurately reflect the range of Canada’s lesbian and gay communities and other communities who identify themselves on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity."
There are several other repeated examples under ‘Board Policies, Guidelines and Practices’. Such a policy exists to defend and promote homosexual and lesbian life styles as normal to our children in all aspects of public education. This is systemic.
The Board claims that the policy protects all students from discrimination. There was no need for the Board to selectively push for a sexual orientation policy when the Human Rights and Anti-Harassment Policy exists. This now directly discriminates against children of faith communities and exposes them to grave danger. The significant number of Muslim children in the public school system necessitates that their rights and concerns should likewise be fully respected. Currently, the Board has not done so.
Torezia Zoric, District-Wide Equity Co-ordinator for the Toronto Board was quoted as saying that the Board has not abandoned its commitment to create guidelines for religious beliefs. This statement is cannot be taken seriously because the Board blatantly turned down a motion for a faith policy under the principles of equity in conjunction with the sexual orientation. If the Board is serious about our concerns it would treat the issues and the different communities equally and fairly, rather than favouring or promoting one group over others.
The TDSB started working on faith accommodation since April 1999 before the Foundation Statement was adopted in June and before the development of the sexual orientation developed in November 19999, yet the other two documents were passed, whereas our concerns are still up in the air. This says something further about the tactics and preferences of the Board.
As members of the religious community, we have vital interests at stake and need our concerns to be addressed immediately. It is long overdue, especially in light of the new dangers that our children have now come to face in Toronto public schools.
The title of the article was betrayed by the content of the article itself and the facts regarding faith accommodation in the GTA public schools. The TDSB is still far from developing a satisfactory faith policy and each particular faith community may have different concerns and therefore requires different accommodations. Yet, the need for a faith policy is all the more heightened by the existence of an entrenched sexual orientation policy which "permeates the curriculum in all subject areas".