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NDP concerned about 'gap in regulations' of qualified independent schools

Cody Hamilton says in 2013 he was called into the principal's office at Prairie Christian Academy after he confided in a friend that he was gay, during which he was told to “follow God instead” and to “Pray the gay away.”

Hamilton says the exchange with the principal followed “pretty intense times,” leading him to feel suicidal and move out of his parent's home at 18.

“I was strong enough to get through all the rough times, but I know there may not be students in the future who can be strong enough,” Hamilton said at the legislature on Thursday.

Now, he along with the NDP is calling into question the government’s stance that human rights are protected in qualifying independent schools.

“This government chose to fund these schools and have continued to harm students with their educational practices and human rights abuses,” said NDP education critic Matt Love.

According to the Registered Independent Schools Policy and Procedure Manual, churches, denominations and religious societies have the authority to separate from the state to operate schools but “not always in complete accordance with public education practices.”

“Churches don’t care about the safety of students. They care about making sure people stay in line with their beliefs,” Hamilton said.

He says if not for the “fear of hell” that was instilled in him by the church, he “probably would have taken his life.”

Love says the fix is to tie funding to the protection of human rights, adding the current oversight isn’t enough.

“In those regulations are exactly why things like this can happen, and they (the government) can plead ignorance,” he said.

In an email to CTV News, the Ministry of Education defended its government, saying the Saskatchewan Human Rights Code protects and promotes human rights and “discourages discrimination.”

It says all schools are subject to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and are required to protect all students, “including those who may be at risk.” It’s against the law to discriminate because of sexual orientation or gender identity.

Love says stronger regulations are needed to uncover human abuses like Hamilton experienced.

Correction

In the original story, Cody Hamilton's name was incorrect. It has been fixed. 

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