Keith Boyd, president of the Halton unit of the OECTA, said those who support the policy are in the “significant minority.” Photo courtesy of Keith Boyd

Halton school board 'Sanctity of Life' fundraising policy on hold

  • May 11, 2018

Tensions continued to run high as the Halton Catholic District School Board suspended implementation of its controversial fundraising policy.

The board of trustees voted 5-4 on May 1 to suspend a policy that would deny financial donations to charitable organizations that “publicly support abortion, contraception, sterilization, euthanasia or embryonic stem cell research.” 

The “Sanctity of Life” policy, initiated in February, excluded 70 from a list of 100 charities the school community regularly supports, including Me to We, SickKids Hospital, the Canadian Cancer Society and the Terry Fox Run. 

The revised policy would have affected various fundraising events at its 58 Catholic schools. Many parents, educators, students and community stakeholders took to the media to voice frustration over the lack of public consultation. An online petition has collected more than 25,000 signatures from supporters across the country. 

“I think the greatest thing I’ve learned from this is the importance of communication over entrenchment,” said Oakville trustee Paul Marai, who proposed the suspension during the May 1 meeting. “This motion is very much my genuine attempt to fulfill my fiduciary duty to the board. And for those who felt ignored through the process, I’m sorry and I hope this is just the first step we take to make this right.”

The May 1 amendment of the policy resolves that HCDSB schools and school councils may continue to fundraise in the same manner until an amended fundraising policy is approved by the board for the 2018-2019 school year. 

In the meantime, a community consultation process will take place to gather feedback online and in regular meetings until June 1. 

Supporters of the new fundraising policy believe the board should not have to apologize for ensuring that charities the school board supports align with Catholic social teaching on the sanctity of human life. 

In fact, supporters believe it is the trustees’ duty to uphold the pro-life motion. 

Catholic lawyer Geoff Cauchi threatened to sue HCDSB trustees if they voted to suspend the policy. 

“Nobody should be surprised that a Catholic institution, which explicitly opposes abortion and destruction of human life, would not be giving money to organizations that promote and facilitate the destruction of human life,” said Jack Fonseca, project manager at Campaign Life Coalition. “This should have been a non-controversial policy.”

Fonseca believes that dissenters of the policy are a small but vocal few led by the Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association (OECTA).

Keith Boyd, president of the Halton unit of the OECTA, said those who support the policy are in the “significant minority.” 

Although the Catholic spirit of the policy was well-intended, Boyd said the original wording of the February motion did not sit well with him. 

“I just thought the wording of the policy made it so wide open that it would restrict almost any charitable gift giving,” he said. “The other concern was procedural…. They were dismissing the rule of law to make the policy.” 

Boyd cited a section in the Education Act that says policy changes related to fundraising must seek feedback from community stakeholders. By passing the motion (5-3), Boyd said the trustees ignored proper process and effectively lost the trust of its school community. 

“I will have concerns and will work to replace those trustees in the municipal election in October,” he said. He added that he would like to see the policy repealed entirely.

“The (original) motion gives a couple of weeks notice to the public that it’s on our agenda and the documents are sent and are publicly available,” said Oakville trustee Anthony Quinn, who voted in support of the fundraising policy and voted against the suspension of its implementation. 

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