District of Muskoka council is backing a letter to “ensure schools are a safe place for all students.”
The letter, dated Nov. 21 and sent by Mark Nakamura, Chair of the Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Anti-racism (I.D.E.A.) Advisory Group, outlines how they want to see an extensive consultation process taken by the province if they plan to put forward legislation like what has been recently passed in Saskatchewan and New Brunswick.
Nakamura says the pair of provinces recently passed rules that require students under the age of 16 to obtain parental consent to change their names or pronouns at school.
“Schools, through teachers and support staff, need to continue to teach diversity and inclusion 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,” he wrote.
Coun. Scott Morrison spoke in favour of the letter.
“Look at what is happening in these other two provinces,” he said. “Speak to youth mental health organizations. Speak to the teachers. Speak to the principals. Speak to the students. Speak to the parents.”
Morrison added he doesn’t disagree that parents have rights when it comes to their children’s schooling, however, there are many parts of this puzzle and everyone needs to be included in the discussion.
Nakamura suggested contacting the Canadian Mental Health Association, youth mental health organizations, provincial Pride organizations, the Ontario Principals Council, various professional associations for Ontario’s teachers, parents, and youth.
The MyMuskokaNow.com newsroom reached out to the premier’s office for comment but didn’t hear back by press time.
“In Canada and across the world, there is a significant youth mental health crisis happening right now,” continued Nakamura in his letter to the premier. “It was exacerbated because of COVID, as were documented incidents of hate, and kids are still recovering from this unprecedented time of stress and isolation.”
He pointed out that transgender and non-binary youths are “disproportionately burdened by poor mental health outcomes owing to decreased social support and increased stigma, hate and discrimination.”
He said that if Ontario passes similar legislation to what has been enacted in Saskatchewan and New Brunswick it would signal to youth that “their opinion and mental health doesn’t matter.”
Muskoka Pride sent a similar letter in Sept. and, at that time, a provincial spokesperson clarified no legislation is planned in Ontario like what the two provinces have done.