Katelyn Scorer, Omega Contributor Ω
The fight for equal treatment of gender diversity and sexual orientation has been an ongoing challenge in this country for quite some time.
With youth suicide continuing to make national headlines, immediate response from educational institutes will help ensure lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered (LGBT) youth are better protected.
It is with that goal in mind that the province of Ontario is setting a mandate for the future of educational professionals in the province.
Ontario teachers colleges have made a groundbreaking decision to include a mandatory focus on gender and sexuality for all institutes within the province, ensuring that future educational professionals understand and respect the diverse nature of the provinces’ students.
The new section is to be introduced in 2013 as a mandatory component for all individuals seeking graduation from teaching programs in Ontario.
In doing so, the future of teaching professionals in Ontario is expected to experience an increased inflow of qualified and accepting individuals, sparking the necessary change to strengthen the fight towards equal treatment of diverse genders and sexual orientations.
Davina Hader, a well-known queer activist in Toronto, will spend next year creating the new component.
Though the training will directly focus on introducing teachers to the importance of gender and sexuality, Hader hopes it will eventually be introduced as a training workshop for everyone involved in the Ontario school system including administrative staff and trustees.
As a response to the high demand of support required for these youth, Hader told Xtra.ca, “this is something that will go a long way to help our youth and effectively change the way the next generation looks at queer people.”
With recent religious groups demanding the removal of mandatory Gay Straight Alliance clubs in a number of Ontario schools, it can only be expected that the decision will be met with some scrutiny and disapproval.
Catholic, Evangelical Christian, and Orthodox Jewish groups are arguing it inappropriate to force professors to teach topics which they do not condone.
According to Charles McVety, the president of the Canada Christian College in Toronto, quoted in the Ottawa Citizen, “…when you are forcing teachers…to teach things that are contrary to the values that they hold, to teach that there are six genders and that you are not attached to the gender of your anatomy – that may be an offence to many Ontarians.”
With the recent suicide of Jamie Hubley in Ottawa, however, the importance of student protection against anti-gay bullying is at the forefront of societal concern.
According to CrossCurrents, out of the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, studies indicate that approximately 32 per cent of youth who identify under the LGBT umbrella have either attempted or considered suicide, not as a result of their sexuality, but as a result of the difficulties involved with living in a generally heterosexual society.
According to Statistics Canada, between the years of 2007 and 2008, hate crimes involving sexual orientation increased 127 per cent.
The responsibility to protect students falls on three key players: parents, society, and teachers.
By ensuring future teachers are well-educated on the different needs of students, educational institutes can begin to better support the LGBT demographic, challenging the woes of discrimination and persevering in the face of hatred.
The decision to include mandatory learning on gender diversity and sexuality is a significant step in the direction of equal treatment and opportunity for all of our country’s youth.
As future leaders of our nation, such a decision will ensure students learn the importance of respect at an early age, enabling them to prosper in environments built around support and acceptance.