I was listening to As It Happens on my way downtown on Wednesday, and overheard an interview with Charles McVety. I recommend listening to the interview. It’s about ten minutes. It’s worth a listen, for a number of reasons.
The first reason to listen to it is that McVety sounds a little crazy. Actually, so crazy did McVety sound, that for a minute, I actually thought that he was faking it for a humour piece. But it’s not. And he wasn’t.1
Another reason to listen to it, is that the interview is instructive. It’s instructive, in part, because McVety demonstrates common ignorance about human rights. He also demonstrates, rather conspicuously, that the values professed by the Institute of Canadian Values are repugnant. And importantly, the kind of institutional homophobia that he is defending is evidence toward a building case that it’s time to defund Catholic schools.
Context: Ontario and some anti-bullying laws
The Institute for Canadian Values is upset because the provincial government of Ontario is looking to pass laws requiring schools to create anti-bullying clubs, if students expressed an interest. This could create a situation where, if students at a Catholic school expressed an interest in a gay-straight alliance club, then the school would be required by provincial law to make space for creation of that club.2
The idea makes total sense to me. I think it’s a no-brainer. And the It Gets Better video that Dalton McGuinty posted to Youtube is worth a watch because he admits that just saying “it gets better” is not enough. That’s why it’s so important to enact policies and practices that help it to get better for queer folks.
McVety is ignorant about rights and freedoms
McVety thinks that “homosexual clubs” are an infringement of his, and others’, rights and freedoms. But the requirement of a school to create a gay-straight alliance of some kind, would not inhibit the practices of any religion.3 In this sense, it’s a little bit like having a racialized-minority club for students who get bullied about being black or First Nations. This does not inhibit the practices of any religion.
No one would be stopping religious folks from worshipping. No one would be stopping religious folks from congregating or praying or reading their sacred texts. Clubs are going to be formed so that queer youth can get the support they need in an environment where violence is sometimes only a brief moment away.
McVety doesn’t understand bullying or violence
McVety argues that clubs don’t help kids that are bullied. He argues that the clubs created to help queer students, who don’t feel safe, makes things worse and increases bullying. But he has no data, and he makes no effort to pay lip service to science. It’s not clear to me that he has any pedagogical expertise.
Part of the problem is that he lacks understanding of the very notion of bullying. When he says that he is being bullied when the Ministry of Education calls him a homophobe, he’s dead wrong. He misunderstands the power relations of bullies and he misunderstands the actual violence that bullying makes space for. For the record, I don’t know if anyone from the Ministry has actually called McVety a homophobe. He claims so.
But I think McVety deserves to be called out. The views he expressed in the interview were homophobic.4 Here’s why.
McVety’s comments on As It Happens were homophobic
Freedom of religion is not a freedom to teach hate. Freedom of religion is not a freedom to create a culture of hate. Whether it is hatred to blacks or women or queers, freedom of religion does not trump our common moral sense. The only reason McVety could have for being opposed to a gay-straight alliance is that it interferes with the interest of the school to promote a culture opposed to homosexuality.
…well the fact is that they have been able to do this in public schools, but in Catholic Schools this of course goes against the teaching of the Catholic Church. But now the Premier is going to use the heavy hand of the law and legislate Catholic classrooms and schools to have homosexual clubs and that is a violation of the separation of Church and State.7
If McVety is right, we need to defund Catholic schools
McVety argues that the official teaching of the Catholic Church, and Catholic schools, is that “homosexuality is a destructive process” 8 and that if you have “gay clubs encouraging to the contrary then, of course, this goes against the precepts of the school.”9
If this is true, then Catholic schools aren’t queer tolerant. That means that they are teaching hate. In that case, it’s time to stop putting taxpayers dollars towards Catholic schools. It’s time to defund hatred.
Today there is a second part to this report by As It Happens. It’s an interview with the Minister of Education, and I won’t miss it.
- Charles McVety really is the President of the Institute for Canadian Values. Not my values, mind you. Here’s the link: http://www.canadianvalues.ca/. ↩
- The CBC report on Bill 13: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/story/2011/12/06/toronto-bullying.html ↩
- That is to say, that such a requirement would not inhibit the practices of any nonhating religion. ↩
- McVety’s views and utterances were homophobic, and it’s likely that he his behaviours are homophobic more broadly. But it may be too quick to conclude that he is homophobic. I’m certainly inclined to think so. ↩
- McVety makes these claims in response to Helen Mann saying that schools are only one source of values at around 5:10. ↩
- He goes on to say that a Muslim Club in a Christian school is also “nonsensical”. ↩
- This phrase from 3:35 in audio clip. ↩
- This phrase at around 4:36 of audio clip. ↩
- This phrase at around 4:50 of audio clip. ↩