Toronto’s Catholic school board faces criticism after removing LGBTQ+ website from resource page
TORONTO -- A decision by the Toronto Catholic District School Board (TCDSB) to remove a website from its resource page has frustrated some in the LGBTQ+ community.
"Frankly I'm just tired of how often queer communities have to prove that it's OK for kids to know about us, and that we're not trying to like, we're not trying to harm them," Berkha Gupta said.
Gupta is the executive director of LGBT Youth Line. They have been active for 25 years and include a website and hotline aimed at supporting youth who may feel isolated about their sexuality.
Last Friday, Gupta received an email from a representative at the TCDSB saying there is a section of the LGBT Youth Line website “that had inappropriate material” and that the school board “had to take a link out of our website.”
Gupta said "the link is about sexual health information," adding "my assumption is that it's related to the sexual content or the level of knowledge that is being given around sexual relationships."
The email also linked out to a publication called Coririere Canadese, with an article written by Joe Volpe.
The article says LGBT Youth Line “is a smut site” and that “It is a recruitment site operated by a self-professed LGBTQ+ umbrella organization to attract children that operates province-wide.”
Gupta said "yes, we recruit youth all year round to develop skills, strengthen their sense of self, and become peer leaders in their communities, but I think that Joe was going for something else there."
A representative from the TCDSB said that they have known about the content since the Christmas break, and wanted to open a conversation.
"We wanted an opportunity to connect with staff about the content and so it was removed in order for us to have that conversation," Shazia Vlahos, communications director for the TCDSB, said.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Gupta says LGBT Youth Line's traffic has seen a large increase in youth seeking help. Some LGBTQ+ activists say that to remove the site, simply sends the wrong message.
Tristan Coolman, from PFLAG York Region said "to take the content down, is to admit fault and to say that there's something wrong with the content and there's nothing wrong with the content. There's nothing wrong with talking about sexual health."
The TCDSB says they plan to engage with LGBT Youth Line with the purpose of eventually returning the website to their resource page, but Gupta said "they need to find a way to make sure that they're recognizing and taking accountability for the fact that they've indirectly supported homophobic, transphobic, racists rhetoric."
Gupta says LGBT Youth Line will engage in the conversation, but they will not be making any changes to their website.