District of Muskoka approves IDEA support letter for students to Premier Doug Ford
The District of Muskoka approved an IDEA (Inclusive, Diverse, Equitable, Anti-racist) support letter to Premier Doug Ford, in the November 20, 2023, Council meeting.
The IDEA Advisory Group created the letter to advocate for consultation regarding children’s mental health and safe schools.
According to the letter, the recent change in legislation in Saskatchewan and New Brunswick that “require students under the age of 16 to obtain parental consent to change their name or pronouns at school” has raised concerns.
The District of Muskoka and other community groups advocating IDEA are concerned after monitoring the outcomes and believe the legislation undermines efforts to provide a safe school environment for students regarding sexual orientation, gender, and expression.
The letter adds, “Collectively, we believe schools need to continue to be a safe and inclusive place for ALL.”
The IDEA group suggestions include diversity and inclusion be added to teaching curriculums, “and demonstrate that differences based on any prohibited grounds of discrimination under human rights legislation are not to be feared or hated but instead valued and celebrated.”
There is also concern about the mental health of youth, which is described as being in “crisis” in Canada and around the world.
The IDEA also expressed concerns that the mental health of youth was already negatively impacted by Covid, including the recovery from stress and isolation, and is now impacted by “documented incidences of hate.”
The group adds that if the same legislation was passed in Ontario, it would give the message that the opinions of youth aren’t important.
It continues, “Further, Ontario would be legislating teachers and support staff in schools to misgender and deadname trans youth, even though an Ontario-based study found that 20 percent of trans people had experienced physical or sexual assault due to their identity, and that 34 percent were subjected to verbal threats and harassment.”
According to the group, there are currently pending law suits due to the legislation in Saskatchewan and New Brunswick due to a violation of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
The group recommended that if the legislation is passed in Ontario that consultations with stakeholders, including Canadian Mental Health Association, youth mental health and provincial Pride organizations, Ontario Principals Council, and other professional associations for teachers, parents, and youth.
Councillor, Rick Morrison, said that this is something the group is passionate about but with respect to Council. He said, “We also don’t want to put anyone in the position where they have to get involved, divisive, and polarizing the subject. I put myself in the crosshairs of that already. I don’t wish that on any of you guys just for caring about a certain community.”
He advised that the letter is to remind the premier about the outcome of the two provinces. He said, “What we want is that if the province goes down this road and after that hopefully you can make the best decision if you study what I’ve been studying in the two provinces, it is causing a lot of strife, and issues, [and] labour unrest, when the next negotiation with teachers happens because they’re not happy, is going to affect the education in our communities.”
“If you really look into it, this legislation actually puts the conversation with parents further down the road to the point where parental involvement happens at such a stage that it’s a bit more dangerous,” continued Morrison.
Bracebridge Mayor, Rick Maloney, said, “I think the letter speaks for itself… I would hope that we all would support the initiative from our IDEAS committee.”