Liberal leader Justin Trudeau, left, has come under fire from Pat Daly and the Hamilton Catholic school trustees due to his decree that all future Liberals must be pro-choice. Register file photos.

Hamilton school board expresses concerns with Trudeau on abortion stance

By 
  • June 11, 2014

Hamilton’s Catholic school board has let Liberal leader Justin Trudeau know it is unhappy with his decree that all Liberal candi-dates going forward must be pro choice.

In a letter sent to Trudeau May 27, the board expressed “concern with your recent state-ments requiring that all future non-incumbent federal Liberal candidates be ‘pro-choice.’ We, like many others, were deeply offended by your comments.”

Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic District School Board chair Pat Daly said this strictly pro-choice mandate for new Liberal candi-dates could lead many Catholic voters away from the party.

“Clearly the Catholic Church and our faith teaches that life is to be protected from conception to natural death. The Church could not be more clear on that,” said Daly. “Life issues are very important. The people of faith have strong views on these issues and expect to have the right to have their voices heard.”

But it is not just the fact this is a life issue which has Daly and his colleagues being so vocal with their discontent.

“We disagree with his position on life issues, there is no doubt about that, but in this case we thought that he went even beyond that serious issue with his suggestion that people who have different views would be silenced,” said Daly.

“If parties try to silence everybody who disagrees with them there is really no room for discussion or debate.”

Daly continued by saying the board is concerned the Liberal leader, by taking such a hard stance on an issue, specifically such a controversial one, could steer students away from social justice initiatives.

“We are very concerned with the impact on young people in our schools and Catholic schools across Canada and other young people who are really committed to social justice issues and getting involved in public service,” he said. “(They) are making our communities and country a better place. Our view is that the kind of position that he (Trudeau) is taking really discourages those kinds of wonderful young people from getting involved in public service in the future.”

In the letter the board requested Trudeau “publicly correct your earlier stated position,” but the Liberals are not entertaining this idea. A Liberal Party spokesperson said Trudeau was only doing his job by taking this kind of uncompromising pro-choice position.

“Mr. Trudeau’s job is to make decisions that safeguard the rights of all Canadians,” said Kate Purchase, the party’s director of communications planning. “That is why he is steadfast in his belief of a woman’s right to choose.”

Purchase, who responded to The Register on behalf of Trudeau in an e-mail, said the party respects the school board’s position but made no indication that the Liberal leader would soften his pro-choice stance.

This is not the first time the Hamilton Catholic board has “unanimously supported a rec-ommendation ... to express our strongest concern” regarding a party leader’s pro-choice stance. In June 2003 the board sent a letter to former prime minister Jean Chretien who like Trudeau also professes to be Catholic.

And while the issue does not directly impact education in Ontario, Daly said because trustees are elected by ratepay-ers there is a responsibility to represent their voice. He said a number of Hamilton area residents have contacted him ex-pressing their concern.

“We as Catholic school board (trustees) are elected by the Catholic ratepayers,” he said. “We have a responsibility on issues like these to speak on their behalf and for the staff and students who so strongly are committed to promoting a culture of life. We really felt a responsibility .... (and) we could just not sit back and let it go.” 

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