By Nathan Rumohr
The B.C. Catholic
Caption: Students enthusiastically participate in the National March for Life Rally in Ottawa May 12. According to Ontario's education minister, teaching students about the Catholic doctrine of the right to life is misogynistic and a form of bullying. Chris Watt / CNS.
According to Laurel Broten, Ontario's education minister, teaching that abortion is wrong is a form of bullying. Speaking at Queens Park Oct. 10, the minister characterized the practice as "misogyny."
"We're very clear with the passage of Bill 13 (Ontario's controversial anti-bullying law) that Catholic teaching cannot be taught in our schools that violates human rights and which brings a lack of acceptance to participation in schools," Broten said.
"Bill 13 is about tackling misogyny; taking away a woman's right to choose could arguably be one of the most misogynistic actions that one could take."
The minister was reacting to the sponsorship by three Progressive Conservative MPPs of a press conference for Campaign Life Coalition's Defund Abortion campaign. Broten's Liberal Party accused the PCs of trying to reopen the abortion debate in Ontario.
"It's a debate in Ontario that has been ended for quite some time," Broten said, "and I have been pleased to be part of a government that has said very clearly that we do support women's rights issues in Ontario."
A reporter at the press conference asked Broten why she was bringing up Bill 13 in regards to abortion, since the legislation doesn't say anything about pro-life or pro-choice issues.
"Bill 13 has in it a clear indication of ensuring that our schools are safe, accepting places for all our students," Broten responded.
"There are many, many families that send their children to Catholic schools and choose that education for their children that also support a woman's right to choose, and as I said, I don't think that there is a contrast or a conflict between choosing a Catholic education for your children and supporting a woman's right to choose."
Cardinal Thomas Collins of Toronto, who spoke against Bill 13 before it was legislated into law in June, responded two days later at the annual Cardinal's Dinner in Toronto.
"Defending the voiceless is our mission," he told the 1,700 in attendance. "Both the constitution and the Education Act make it clear that the Catholic identity of the school must be respected."
He said Catholic schools' pro-life identity must be respected because it fosters a "culture of life," which advocates for the "most vulnerable and the voiceless among us."
"If I understand it correctly, bullying is pushing other people around," commented Kyle Neilson, director of evangelization for the Archdiocese of Vancouver. "Isn't taking innocent human life the worst form of bullying?"
"Perhaps this minister is wanting to have no objective standards," he added, "in which case we will be subjected to whatever the current opinion is."
Pavel Reid, the director of Catholic Family Services of the archdiocese, said Broten's comments show the government is actively interfering with the ability of the Church to teach the Catholic faith.
"Canadians of all religions should be quite outraged that a minister of the government would dare to do something like this," he said.