The vice-chair of the Toronto Catholic District School Board is facing backlash for his comments at a board meeting earlier this month.
It was Nov. 7 when the TCDSB held a marathon six-hour session. One of the major items on the agenda that day was a motion to update its Code of Conduct to be more inclusive and protective of LGBTQ2 students by adding the terms gender identity, gender expression, family status and marital status.
Those changes passed by a vote tally of 8-4, but not without controversy.
During discussion around the motion vice-chair Mike Del Grande stood up to move an amendment asking for several other terms — including bestiality, pedophilia and terms related to rape, cannibalism and vampirism — to be added to the list.
Del Grande’s amendment was eventually ruled out of order and was withdrawn after raising the ire of parents in attendance and fellow trustees.
In an interview with Global News Radio AM640 Toronto Wednesday morning, Del Grande claimed he was trying to illustrate just how slippery a slope the original concept was.
“My point was that we do not accept or view that which is not compatible with our faith,” he said over the phone.
“Eight trustees deemed otherwise and I wanted to point out to them that if they want to use those same arguments … then what about all these other people that you say Jesus loves, etc? Why stop there, then? Why not continue your inclusion, if you will, on all these other terms?”
The negative response from the public was loud. Nicole Richard, who says she’s the godmother of a transgender child attending a TCDSB school, even started an online petition calling for Del Grande to be booted from the Board altogether.
Even, outgoing TCDSB chair Maria Rizzo spoke out.
“He needs to apologize,” she said.
“If he meant it or he didn’t mean it, it doesn’t matter. People were hurt by it.”
Global News contacted Del Grande again on Friday to see if he planned to issue an apology. He replied in a brief email, saying only, “Thanks, I have nothing more to say.”
The comments and Del Grande’s defence of them proved alarming to LGBTQ2 advocates at The 519 in Toronto’s Church and Wellesley neighbourhood. Community Engagement Manager Curran Stikuts said the trustee and former Toronto councillor’s words send the wrong message to LGBTQ2 students in TCDSB schools.
“For students to not see their identities reflected and valued in the leadership of their school board is deeply troubling and does have impact.”
The Board has received multiple complaints from the public, which could open Del Grande up to potential disciplinary action.
The Board was supposed to address the issue in private at its meeting Thursday evening, but Rizzo said they ran out of time.
The item will now likely be moved onto the agenda of its December meeting — something that could result in an investigation into Del Grande’s actions and potential “sanctions” if it’s found that he breached the Board’s code of conduct.
Rizzo told Global News she hopes Del Grande will choose to apologize.