Canon, Catechism, and Curriculum: GSAs and Student Mental Health in Ontario Catholic Schools


  • Alyssa Pei-Middleton McMaster University



The permissibility of student GSA (Gender Sexuality Alliance) clubs in Ontario has been heavily disputed, with Catholic schools showing particular resistance. With a history of opposing same-sex rights, Canada’s Catholic Church holds great social, economic, and political power. This institution-level power generates extensive structural stigma that harms the LGBTQ community, including adolescents. Stigmatization provokes emotional, cognitive, behavioural, and physiological responses that compound each other, altering one’s health. Through the use of accepted socio-epidemiological guidelines for establishing causal inference along with data from a Canadian report on homophobia and transphobia in both Catholic and public schools, it is evident that structural stigma, expressed through prejudice against GSAs in Ontario Catholic schools, is harmful to the health of LGBTQ students. LGBTQ students, who are structurally stigmatized in Ontario Catholic schools, experience inferior emotional health compared to their nonstigmatized cisgender and heterosexual peers. Literature reviewed demonstrates confidence in a causal relationship; due to the structural stigma that Catholic schools in Ontario perpetuate against the LGBTQ community, LGBTQ students attending these schools experience greater risks to their mental health. It is imperative that LGBTQ youth are protected in schools, and solutions must be considered to balance Catholic religious rights in education with the health and social needs of students.


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