Five well-known personalities of the small screen met to counter homophobia amongst children, in particular homophobia in the classroom. France Castel, Pierre Gendron, Vincent Graton, Charles Lafortune and Dominique Pétin affirmed in unison that their “children will not be homophobic” in a new public awareness campaign launched by GRIS-Montreal (Research and Social Intervention Group about Gays and Lesbians). This campaign, without precedent in Quebec, will include the distribution of 50 000 publicity postcards and more than 1 500 posters throughout the city of Montreal. These five spokespeople were brought together, above all because they are parents, to affirm that “a different sexual orientation is nothing to laugh about nor is it degrading” and that parents should talk to their children about homosexuality and demand that schools talk about it as well. Parents are, according to GRIS-Montreal, the most reluctant to allow for the discussion of homosexuality to occur in the classroom because of their belief in the myth that an individual`s sexual orientation can be influenced by someone else.
This public awareness campaign also seeks to solicit donations from the general public since GRIS-Montreal does not receive any recurring financial assitance from the various government departments. This non-profit organization thus survives through donations from companies and individuals, as well as through nonrecurring financial assitance received from discretionnary funds of some provincial ministers and supplementary emergency programs for community organizations.
The principal mission of GRIS-Montreal is to demystify homosexuality in the classroom. Its interventions, directed at youth in high schools and CEGEPs, are mainly given in the form of testimonials by gay and lesbian individuals. After having delivered over thirty interventions per year up until 1999, GRIS-Montreal experienced a large increase in the number of requests from schools in 1999-2000 thereby increasing the number of visits to 75. In the 2000-2001 school year, the number of interventions grew to 115 and then to 296 in 2001-2002. Overall, last year, more than 7400 students were reached. In all, more than fifty volunteers visited schools to speak about what they`ve lived through and what they live through each and every day as do many other gays and lesbians. The speakers attempt to respond students`questions in the most objective and openly manner possible. Lastly, GRIS-Montreal each year produces a research report indicating young peoples` level of comfort vis-a-vis homosexuality.