Greater Saskatoon Catholic Schools is being accused of cancelling an LGTBQ-friendly event on the basis of sexual discrimination.
A dodgeball fundraising tournament for Saskatoon Sexual Health was slated to be held at George Vanier School Saturday. The GSCS was aware the event would involve a 16-team recreational tournament, lunch and local beer sales in the afternoon.
The organization’s executive director, Jillian Schwandt, said that all changed with a phone call Thursday.
Schwandt said the school division signed a contract for the after-hours rental at Oskayak High School, which was paid in full by Saskatoon Sexual Health on Jan. 27. On April 25, the venue needed to be change and the GSCS arranged for the move.
“The week of the event we learned the event included alcohol. Oskayak does not allow alcohol on the premises because it is not in alignment with Indigenous spirituality,” GSCS said in a statement Friday.
We worked with the group to find an alternate location. Because it is somewhat last minute, options were limited. We initially proposed Georges Vanier.”
However, Schwandt said on Thursday, the principal of George Vanier called her twice – first discussing plans for Saturday and a half hour late to find out more about the programming being funded by the event.
“She actually said she was interested in having it at her school and wanted some more information about it,” Schwandt said, adding the program is aimed at young men to help develop healthy relationships and communication skills.
“I mentioned there was a component on identity, and at that point she asked me if there was material related to homosexual or gay men, to which I said, ‘Yes, there is.’”
According to Schwandt, shortly after the conversation with the principal, GSCS facilities staff called to cancel the event.
Schwandt said the caller cited alleged concerns about alcohol at the event, but went on to say the cancellation “might also be about other stuff.”
“I was really surprised mostly because when I talked to the principal initially, she seemed very enthusiastic about the event and didn’t really seem concerned about the alcohol,” she said.
The GSCS superintendent of administrative services, Joel Lloyd, responded in a statement Friday.
“After learning more about the event, division office staff determined that Saskatoon French School would be a more appropriate venue,” he wrote.
“This is a facilities booking issue, not a position we are taking against the sponsoring group.”
In the statement, Lloyd said the GSCS spoke with Saskatoon Sexual Health Friday to restate an offer to hold the event at Saskatoon French School, at a reduced rate. Event organizers declined the offer.
Human Rights complaint possible
Schwandt said Saskatoon Sexual Health is now considering options for filing a human rights claim on the grounds of discrimination based on sexual orientation.
“We do plan on following up with the (Human Rights Commission) to see if this fits with the mandate of their commission,” she said.
A new venue will be announced Friday afternoon for the tournament, which supports the organization’s clinical and education initiatives that take a preventatives approach to health concerns faced by youth.