Vancouver Catholic schools introduce transgender policy after human rights complaint

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      Diagnosed with gender dysphoria, Tracey Wilson wanted Delta's Sacred Heart elementary school to treat her as a girl.

      The private religious school refused, so the 11-year-old transgender student filed a human rights complaint.

      Today (July 16), the Catholic Independent Schools of the Vancouver Archdiocese and the Wilson family announced that the complaint has been resolved, with the Catholic school district becoming the first in Canada to have a policy accommodating gender expression and gender dysphoria among students.

      CISVA also paid the Wilson family an undisclosed sum of money, according to a joint news release.

      “I am so glad that the kids in the Vancouver Catholic schools won’t have to go through what I went through,” Wilson said in the release. “It was really hard for me because I did not feel accepted at school. Now kids like me will hopefully be supported.”

      The CISVA elementary school policy regarding gender expression and gender dysphoria notes that the Catholic Church teaches that “humans are not free to choose or change their sexual identity”. According to the policy, “Gender transitioning is contrary to Catholic teaching, and therefore the Catholic school cannot support any transitioning actions.”

      Nevertheless, the policy commits schools to keeping “strictly confidential” information about students struggling with their gender identity, even when it comes to their parents, if those parents are unaware.

      Upon a parent’s request, a student will be addressed by their preferred name. CISVA will “change a student’s official record to reflect a change in legal and/or preferred name”. Schools will also provide an “alternative uniform” upon request.

      However, the policy does not appear to allow transgender students to use the washrooms and change rooms associated with their gender identity.

      “Schools will make available a private changing area for the use of any student who is uncomfortable using the common changing facility, whether such discomfort is related to gender dysphoria, gender expression, or another reason,” the policy states.

      According to CISVA superintendent Doug Lauson, the Catholic school district has “apologized to Tracey and her family for not being in a position to meet her needs”.

      “We expect that this policy will be a practical basis for accommodating students with gender dysphoria, or who express their gender in ways that are different from prevailing stereotypes,” Lauson said in the release. “This policy will ensure that Catholic schools are a safe and accepting place for all students.”

      CISVA oversees dozens of schools in Vancouver, Chilliwack, Powell River, and other municipalities. Its adoption of this policy follows the approval of a similar policy last month by the Vancouver school board.

      “This policy is a very important step towards acceptance of gender variant youth in Catholic schools,” Michelle Wilson, Tracey’s mother, said in the release. “The process of arriving at this policy was very collaborative and the CISVA took our suggestions very seriously. In the end though it will depend on how well Catholic schools are educated about gender variant students and how the policy is implemented.”




      Jul 16, 2014 at 9:52pm

      Tracey and the Wilson family are not only brave, but are to be commended for taking this important issue to the human rights tribunal.

      We all stand to benefit as we have learned over and over that an 'injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere'. Every student in BC deserves to feel safe and be who they are.

      The Catholic schools and all public schools must now map out how they will keep on moving forward, honour this ruling and implement new policies.

      And to CISVA, I say it's finally time to formally take the giant leap and work on addressing some disrespectful, traditional catholic teachings.

      Tracey YOU are an amazing trailblazer! And your parents are as amazing as you are!


      Jul 29, 2014 at 11:30am

      It's really way past time to dispense with limiting gender polarities - we have no idea what it means to be male and female really - and we've been labouring under stupid caricatures for centuries! Isn't it time for each individual to chose what they want from the whole palette of gender – and other – forms of personal expression without being pathologized? Yay for Tracy and her parents - and yay for the Catholic School Board - I look forward to hearing how you back this up. We'll all be watching!