January 11, 2016

During the past six months the Edmonton Catholic school board has been engaged in producing a policy to ensure children whose sexual identity is not congruent with their anatomical sexuality can feel safe in district schools.

The board and individual trustees have been subjected to a good deal of scrutiny and a degree of criticism in the policy development process. Most scrutiny and criticism has been well balanced but, as can be the case with complex emotional matters, some has not been helpful.

However, the trustees are to be commended for their courage in addressing a complex challenge.

They are also to be commended for the manner in which they considered the matter, notwithstanding the emotion that was on occasion brought to the discussion. Individual trustees spent many hours dialoging with a broad spectrum of the community to come to an understanding of the matter of "gender identity and expression."

They took time to ensure they were familiar with human rights law and Church moral teaching. The trustees spent many hours educating themselves on an issue that was new ground for the board, for society and for the Church.

In regard to the latter it has been noted, "Church doctrine in this area is not well developed" (WCR Sept. 28).

As the process unfolded, the board was subjected to intense and often contradictory political, legal and social pressures. Pressure emanated from the members of the "trans" (LGBTQ) community and from the "straight" community (liberal and conservative).

As well, the media showed a pervasive interest. Overriding all of this was the pressure to understand and respond appropriately to the Gospel.

A further complication was that, in the view of the majority of the trustees, the district already had policy designed to ensure that all children are provided with a safe and caring school environment.

While it was argued that appropriate policy was already in place, the influences and forces noted above demanded a more explicit policy.

The board has responded exceptionally well to the complex matter with which it was presented. It has also provided a service to other Catholic boards that will also be required to develop their own policy. As noted by the minister, Edmonton Catholic is actually leading in building policy.

I thank my colleagues on the board for their work.

John Acheson
Trustee Ward 75
Edmonton