November 22 2018
At the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario (PCPO) convention held recently in Toronto, delegates passed a resolution on the subject of gender identity. Resolution R4 stated:
Be it resolved that an Ontario PC Party recognizes “gender identity theory” for what it is, namely, a highly controversial, unscientific “liberal ideology”; and as such, that an Ontario PC Government will remove the teaching and promotion of “gender identity theory” from Ontario schools and its curriculum.
Resolution R4 is not official PCPO policy yet; it still must be debated and passed at a policy convention to be held in 2019. It is not binding on the Ontario Government.
There are many problematic aspects to this resolution. The claim that “gender identity theory” is unscientific is not supportable. Some people may indeed find it controversial, but gender identity theory is recognized by numerous health professionals, including the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) in Toronto, which runs a Gender Identity Clinic that follows the World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH) “Standards of Care for the Health of Transsexual, Transgender, and Gender Nonconforming People” and is the leading institution in Canada for the care of trans people.
The resolution’s use of the term “liberal ideology” to describe gender identity theory adds a political dimension to discussion of transgender health that is simply not helpful. Trans people exist; this fact is not dependent on whether one is on the left or the right of the political spectrum. Activists on both the left and the right use gender identity issues to make political and cultural arguments that obscure and ignore the needs of trans people themselves.
Trans students attend public schools in Ontario, and a proposed government policy that removes the “teaching and promotion” of anything in the curriculum that, as WPATH puts it, provides them with “safe and effective pathways to achieving lasting personal comfort with their gendered selves, in order to maximize their overall health, psychological well-being, and self-fulfillment”, is dangerous and cruel.
Gender identity and expression have been established as prohibited grounds of discrimination in both Canada’s and Ontario’s human rights codes. This makes it illegal to deny services, employment, accommodation, and similar benefits, to individuals based on their gender identity or gender expression, in areas regulated by the Canadian or Ontario government. The public schools of Ontario certainly fall into this category; Resolution R4 does not meet this standard and will not withstand a court challenge if implemented. The rights of minorities, including sexual minorities, are constitutionally protected in Canada and are not subject to the resolutions of political parties, even when passed by a majority of delegates at a convention.
Curriculum issues like this have no place in the policies of a political party. We recognize the rights of individuals to hold contrary opinions, religious or otherwise, on gender identity issues, but these opinions cannot be binding on the public secular school system in Ontario. This resolution targets those in the LGBT community who are legitimately in need of help or guidance from teachers, guidance counsellors and other professionals in the education system. School policies and programs aimed at helping sexual minority students in Ontario schools should be informed by professional education and health care experts, not by ideologues on either the left or the right.
Trans people are not enemies to be fought, or a threat to be suppressed; they are citizens with equal rights. They are neighbours, friends, classmates, colleagues, and yes, fellow Conservatives.
We applaud Premier Ford’s recent statement that the Ontario Government under his leadership is not bound by this policy and will not implement Resolution R4, and we thank him for his firm response. The students in Ontario’s public schools deserve no less.