Controversial Catholic Trustee Mike Del Grande is taking a medical leave of absence, notifying his constituents in an email and asking them to pray for him as he deals with a number of issues — including the fallout from complaints about an incident at a meeting where he linked LGBTQ rights to a variety of offensive, and even criminal, sexual behaviours.
In his correspondence, Del Grande notes a number of concerns about the Toronto Catholic District School Board, and also that he was accused of a code of conduct violation at a November 2019 meeting, saying “I was debating the inclusion of terminology which I found contrary to our Catholic faith. The secular media accused me of comparing philias to LGBTQ persons. I did not make any such comparisons. I was defending the moral teachings of our faith.”
An independent report found he contravened the code of conduct, but there were not enough votes to find him guilty at a meeting last August. However, trustees reconsidered the issue last November, ordering Del Grande to publicly apologize and take equity training.
Del Grande then lost an attempt to get the discipline overturned, and at the time said he was in “disbelief” over the rejection.
“The process of this code of conduct complaint has proven to be a severe punishment and has caused a further complaint to have my teaching licence revoked,” said Del Grande in his missive to constituents. “I struggle to pay legal fees to defend myself. I confess that it has also taken a toll on my health. I am announcing that I am taking a medical leave of absence.”
An online fundraising effort has so far logged more than $45,000 in donations to “stand with Mike” and legally take on “Canada’s power hungry LGBT lobby, along with dissenting forces” within the board.
Del Grande did not specify how long he will be away from his trustee duties, but said a constituency assistant will be available to help families.
“I will do my best to also monitor your comments and requests,” he wrote. “I ask that you also do your best, by praying for me.”
In an emailed response to the Star seeking additional comment about his leave, Del Grande replied: “Why is taking a medical leave of interest? Must I discuss and you report on it? Do I not have any privacy and do the laws not allow me protection from disclosure? Allow me the decency to rest and get better in peace.”
The independent report to the board noted that back in November 2019, Del Grande said the terms gender identity, gender expression, family status and marital status are “contrary to Catholic moral values and that Catholic school boards have a duty to ‘defend Catholic doctrine.’”
Del Grande has said he used “hyperbole to talk about the outrageous” — the board had been discussing adding gender identity and expression to its code of conduct to align with human rights legislation — the report notes, including adding the terms pedophilia, anthropophagolagnia (“raping and cannibalizing another person”); and anthropophagy (“deriving sexual gratification from ingesting human flesh”).
“Mr. Del Grande said that he did not say anything derogatory about gay or transgender people, and that he was not ‘yelling, shouting or screaming.’ Accordingly, he did not see his remarks as disrespectful,” the report said.
The board and Del Grande had come under considerable criticism, including from MPP and former premier and former education minister Kathleen Wynne, as well as current Education Minister Stephen Lecce.
“I continue to be disturbed by the language used by this individual,” Lecce said in a statement to the Star last year, urging the board to “deliver accountability for this trustee’s offensive and irresponsible actions.”