TORONTO — The Ontario government is partnering with community organizations to better support Two-Spirit, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Queer or Questioning, and Intersex (2SLGBTQI+) students and their families. Stephen Lecce, Minister of Education, made the announcement as part of the province’s ongoing efforts to promote an education system that upholds and champions human rights and equity for all students. In addition, the government is working to strengthen school board accountability given trustees’ important role in the public education system.
“Our government believes that every student – regardless of their sexual orientation, race, or faith – should feel empowered to achieve their full potential in Ontario’s schools,” said Minister Lecce. “That is why we are working with partners to combat homophobia and advance inclusivity in our schools for Ontario’s 2SLGBTQI+ students. Let us all rally behind the universal message of Pride: love is love.”
The Ontario government recognizes that homophobia represents a serious threat to the mental well-being and safety of 2SLGBTQI+ students. It was recently announced by the government that for the 2021-2022 school year, mental health funding for students will rise to $80 million, representing a four time increase from 2017-2018. Ontario’s funding of mental health programs as part of the Safe Return to Class Fund will bolster support for 2SLGBTQI+ students and help foster safe and inclusive classrooms. The overall funding will provide community groups with funding to deliver collaborative, community-based student and parent resources, including targeted mental health counselling for 2SLGBTQI+ youth.
- $50,000 for White Ribbon to create a highly engaging, interactive social media campaign that speaks directly to Indigenous youth, Black youth, racialized youth, children and youth in care and 2SLGBTQI youth.
- $50,000 for Egale to foster affirming, equitable and mental health supportive environments for 2SLGBTQI youth by providing collaborative, community-based resources such as webinars and discussions for parents, caregivers and adults in the whole school community.
- $20,000 for The Canadian Centre for Gender and Sexual Diversity to create resources for students who identify as 2SLGBTQI and may be facing increased mental health issues due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The resources will support youth in affirming their identities, building resiliency skills and providing coping strategies to maintain their mental health and well-being.
- In addition, Egale is receiving $100,000 from the Federal Safe Restart Framework: Cross-sectoral COVID-19 Mental Health and Addictions Supports to provide targeted mental health supports to 2SLGBTQI youth identified as marginalized and/or in risk situations.
“Discrimination, bullying and other forms of hate will not be tolerated in our province,” said Jill Dunlop, Associate Minister of Children and Women’s Issues. “I’m proud our government is collaborating with various sectors, including schools, to ensure children and youth in Ontario feel included and supported. It is vital that at such a vulnerable age, students know help is there for them.”
The government will be working with provincial trustee associations and other stakeholders to explore ways to strengthen the school board accountability given the role of trustees as elected leaders of school boards. The province will be seeking input from stakeholders and the public on provincial standards for trustee codes of conduct and more effective measures for preventing and addressing breaches of the code to ensure the dignity and wellbeing of all students and families, and to uphold public confidence.
In 2019, Premier Ford, Ministers Elliott, Mulroney, and Lecce proudly marched in the York Pride Parade, celebrating the unifying message of Pride.