After nearly three years of back-and-forth court proceedings, the Ontario Superior Court ruled on Jan. 13 that the Toronto Catholic School Board (TCDSB) had acted legally in reprimanding school trustee Mike Del Grande for comments made back in November 2019.
Del Grande came under public scrutiny when he opposed a motion, directed by the Ministry of Education, to include the terms “gender identity” and “gender expression” as protected grounds for discrimination to the TCDSB’s official Code of Conduct, attempting to mirror the already-in-place provincial Ontario Human Rights legislation.
In the six-hour Nov. 7 meeting where trustees were voting to amend the code, Del Grande– who was also the TCDSB’s Vice-Chair – suggested that the terms “pedophilia”, “gerontophilia”, “bestiality” and “vampirism” should also be added along with the terms gender expression and identity. Although Del Grande later claimed that he was solely trying to illustrate the “slippery slope” argument of including such terms in the Catholic code, several trustees and members of the LGBTQ+ community took offence, inciting widespread public pushback.
“The point that I want to make is you wanted to add four terms. And my concern is that why stop at the four terms? Because it doesn’t cover everybody,” he said in the 2019 meeting.
Following an independent, board-led review of Del Grande’s actions in May 2020, an investigator found that he had contravened the code of conduct by “creating an unwelcoming and harmful environment for certain members of the Catholic school board community.” After a failed attempt in August 2020 to publicly censure Del Grande, the board voted again in November where a two-thirds majority ruled in favour of imposing sanctions.
Following the consensus of the Nov. 11 vote, the sanctions required the TCDSB trustee to issue a public apology to the LGBTQ+ community and undertake equity training. At the Superior Court, in front of a three-judge panel, Del Grande and his legal team had been mounting a challenge to revoke the sanctions. In tandem, they have also been fighting his case at the Ontario College of Teachers (OCT) — the regulatory body for teachers in Ontario— after Del Grande was accused of professional misconduct.
Campaign Life Coalition (CLC) has been supporting Del Grande since the controversy broke out in 2019. They have crowdfunded his legal defence fee at the Ontario Superior Court of Justice and the OCT.
Jack Fonseca, Director of Political Operations for CLC, said that the decision was a “disgrace.” The socially conservative political lobbyist organisation hopes that Del Grande will appeal to a higher court.
“I’m actually confident that if he appeals to a higher court whose judges are focused on the law and not politics, he’ll win. And if so, that’ll be good for Catholic education. If he loses however, and if that becomes a precedent, it’ll make every other faithful Catholic trustee in Canada an even bigger target of the cancel culture mob. It’ll be used to bypass our democratic process of voters electing their representatives. Instead, Codes of Conduct will be used by left-wing activists, most especially pro-LGBT activists, to sneakily reverse the results of democratic elections, and undo the will of the people,” said Fonseca.
Justice Sandra Nishikawa was the judge who handed down the executive decision which rejected Del Grande’s appeal against the TCDSB’s sanctions. Fonseca argues there was a conflict of interest and bias on the bench.
“The lead judge who authored the decision was appointed to the bench in 2018 by Justin Trudeau and is a pro-LGBT activist in her own right,” Fonseca says. “This judge had a bias against Del Grande’s Catholic beliefs on human sexuality, appears to have spent much of her adult life fighting against those beliefs, and she should have recused herself from the panel.”
Fonseca highlighted Nishikawa’s time on what he describes as “the radical feminist, pro-LGBT women’s legal group” LEAF and her position as Chair of the Equity Advisory Group of the Law Society of Ontario. The word equity in itself, Fonseca argues, signals a “vehicle for promoting LGBT ideology.”
“The stench from the bench is hard to bear,” he said.
The Corriere Canadese—an Italian-language paper published in Toronto— has been closely following Del Grande’s case since 2019, attending most committee hearings and board meetings.
The paper’s editor Joe Volpe objected to the Superior Court ruling on legal grounds, reasoning that the TCDSB was wrong to suggest the implementation of the terms gender expression and identity because they do not have the constitutional authority to regulate matters pertaining to Catholic dogma.
“The TCDSB, like all ‘Catholic’ boards of education, has a specific role in the contract (the Constitution) that binds this country. The only ‘entity’ with legal authority under the Constitution to interpret what ‘Catholicism’ means in that context is the magisterium. Neither Boards nor individual trustees have any jurisdiction in this regard. In the case of the TCDSB, which claims to serve c. 90,000 students and their parents, those families expect their values to be upheld and promoted,” said Volpe, a former federal Liberal MP and cabinet minister.
Volpe condemns the TCDSB for its handling of the situation and its treatment of Del Grande.
“The TCDSB has suffered gravely thanks to the trustees and staff who egged on this attack on the value of the Catholic ethic – Del Grande is the soft target in that process. It’s a long process. Over the last three academic years, the TCDSB has lost some 9,000 students and the revenue that accompanies them. The Director and his ‘allies’ on the Board should have resigned for having brought the TCDSB into such disrepute,” he said.
True North spoke over the phone to Del Grande’s lawyer, Dr. Charles Lugosi, who said that his legal team is in the process of filing an application called “leave to appeal.” Lugosi says this is the “next step in the process” and it would essentially ask permission of the court to bring an appeal to the Superior Court’s Jan. 13 ruling.