Member of European Parliament Supports Canadian Catholic Student in Gender Belief Fight

By Tara MacIsaac
Tara MacIsaac
Tara MacIsaac
​​Tara MacIsaac is an Epoch Times reporter based in Toronto.
February 22, 2023Updated: February 22, 2023

MEP Christine Anderson has expressed her support for a 16-year-old Canadian who has been barred from attending his Catholic high school because he says he won’t stop expressing his belief that God made only two, immutable genders.

“Josh Alexander is only 16 [years] … old and already he’s got it figured out: Freedom, democracy and the rule of law need defending,” Anderson said on Twitter Feb. 21. She said he is “a very impressive young man who’s earned my respect and support.”

Anderson, who expressed strong support for the Freedom Convoy in Ottawa that protested of vaccine mandates last year, embarked on a Canada-wide tour this month. Her first stop was a Feb. 20 meeting with Convoy organizer Tamara Lich and other prominent Convoy supporters.

Anderson’s tweet included a video clip of her on a stage with Alexander at a rally. Alexander is part of a group called Save Canada, which describes itself as a Christian youth organization that stands for Christian values and liberty, and Alexander often attends and speaks at rallies.

In the video, Anderson said to Alexander, “This is exactly what we need. Young people standing up for what they believe in.” She gave him a hug and said, “You are actually our hope. You are the one that is giving us our hope.”

Suspended, Excluded, Arrested

Alexander’s battle with his school—St. Joseph’s High School in Renfrew, Ontario—has been ongoing since November. It started when he organized a protest against transgender students using the girls’ washroom, after some girls at his school told him it made them uncomfortable. He was suspended until January.

In January, he told the school he would not meet their requirements for returning, which included refraining from saying there are only two genders, using the pronouns of a transgender student’s biological sex, and saying the girls’ washroom should only be for biological females. As a result, Alexander was “excluded” for the rest of the year. An exclusion is similar to a suspension, but not considered disciplinary.

Alexander went to school anyway on Feb. 6 and was arrested for trespassing. “They excluded me for no reason other than religious discrimination,” Josh Alexander told The Epoch Times on Feb. 7. “I would argue that I was supposed to be there.”

Alexander has been working with his lawyer, James Kitchen, to legally contest the grounds for suspension and exclusion as being discriminatory against Alexander’s religious beliefs.

School Board’s Position

The Renfrew County Catholic District School Board (RCCDSB) told The Epoch Times in an emailed statement that it cannot directly comment on a specific student. It could, however, say that “The Renfrew County Catholic District School Board deeply respects religious freedoms. This is fundamental to our values as a Catholic school board.”

“We expect that values will be expressed respectfully and in a way that is not harmful to others,” the board said.

The issue of “harm” is one that Alexander and Kitchen have contested. Alexander is being excluded based on the school’s and board’s decision that his presence is considered detrimental to the well-being of students at the school.

Alexander told The Epoch Times that in a class discussion, a transgender student yelled at him that he could choose his gender and Alexander said that he couldn’t. The school has said that Alexander used a derogatory term for transgender people, but Alexander said it wasn’t a term he knew was considered offensive—he didn’t intend offense.

Kitchen told The Epoch Times that Alexander is “not going to seek them out and call them names and make fun of them. But he does express his views.” And he is “not going to be held responsible for their subjective feelings of being offended,” Kitchen said.

“Offence is obviously defined by the offended,” Alexander said. “I expressed my religious beliefs in class and it spiraled out of control. Not everybody’s going to like that. That doesn’t make me a bully. It doesn’t mean I’m harassing anybody. They express their beliefs and I express mine. Mine obviously don’t fit the narrative.”

RCCDSB said it takes its guidance on human rights issues from the Ontario Human Rights Commission policies and also those of the Ministry of Education. It quoted in its statement to The Epoch Times the portion of the Human Rights Code that relates to gendered washroom-use.

The code states that “A trans person who identifies and lives as a woman should have access to the women’s washrooms and change rooms.” It describes protest against this as “transphobic” and prohibited.

“A trans person should not be required to use a separate washroom or change room because others express discomfort or transphobic attitudes, such as, ‘trans women are a threat to other women,’” the code says.

Kitchen said that the code is not absolute, that it must be tested in individual circumstances, must be supported by case law. It also protects religious freedom, he said, so these two rights need to be balanced.

“The Commission says certain things, and what the tribunal decisions say and what the courts say when they actually get to review the tribunal decisions aren’t always exactly the same,” Kitchen said. He also said the commission is often a “politicized body.” For example, the word “transphobic” is “used to sort of bully people into compliance with a particular ideological view.” It’s a “politicized ideological word” Kitchen said.

“What the school board is doing is saying, ‘Look, the commissioners said this, and we do whatever the Commission says no questions asked,’” Kitchen said. If it were a public school, that might still be problematic, he said. But with a Catholic school, the effort to protect religious belief should be stronger.