WINDSOR, Ont. - Our Lady of Assumption Church has been placed on Canada’s 2015 Top Ten Endangered Places list.

Published in Canada

WINDSOR, Ont. - A $10-million bid to save Windsor’s historic Our Lady of Assumption Church has fallen through.

Published in Canada

After years of repeated delays and lack of communication, the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care has finally announced that money for its on-call palliative care program is on its way.

Published in Canada

TORONTO - Eight seasons into the popular CBC TV series, fans finally see more than a glimpse into Det. William Murdoch’s origins.

Published in Canada

Richard Corneil will be taking over as new chief administrator and principal of Windsor, Ont.’s Assumption University beginning in April.

Published in Education

WINDSOR, ONT. - Windsor’s historic Our Lady of Assumption Church closed its doors Nov. 3 while the Diocese of London considers a financial rescue package to renovate the church and reopen it again. 

Published in Canada

WINDSOR, ONT. - Last week I wrote about the impressive evangelical energy of young Chinese Catholics and how encouraging it was to be with them. Not two days later I was confronted with the grim reality of ecclesial life in Canada — the pockets of vitality are just that, pockets. 

Published in Fr. Raymond de Souza

WINDSOR, ONT. - On one of the coldest days so far this winter a small group of men walked back and forth on the sidewalk in front of a central Windsor shopping plaza to protest the proliferation of pornography.

Published in Canada

The Ontario Ministry of Education's decision to place the Windsor-Essex Catholic District School Board under provincial supervision is not sitting well with the board's trustees.

Deloitte and Touche LLP, an independent auditing, consulting and tax firm, produced a report for the Ministry of Education that detailed the various deficit-reduction shortcomings for the board's most recent budgets. It suggested the board appeared willing to cause labour disruption to balance its budget this year.

Despite board chair Barb Holland repeatedly going on record stating the board has no intention of forcing a labour disruption, the Ministry of Education accepted the Deloitte report Aug. 28 and promptly appointed Norbert Hartmann as supervisor.

"The decision to place the board under supervision was the direct result of the WECDSB's inability to meet its financial obligations," said Gary Wheeler, a ministry spokesperson. "In addition, the minister was troubled by the concerns outlined in the Deloitte report about the willingness of the board to endure a strike in order to meet its financial obligations."

The board has failed to balance its books in five of the past six years.   

Looking at the 2012/2013 budget, tabled with a projected $3.3-million surplus, the report "determined that there are significant risks in achieving all of the budget-reduction targets. Rather, we believe that there is a significant risk the school board will post a much smaller surplus of $0.7 (million) or even a deficit of up to $1.5 (million)."

A main criticism was that the projected figures, while optimistic, place too much weight on the results of collective bargaining agreements.

Holland doesn't agree with this point.

"You don't do your budget based on goals you'd like to achieve with a particular employee group," she said, adding that much of the predicted surplus came from lean administrative wages. "When we went into the budgeting process this year we were fully aware that ... contracts would expire by the end of August. The majority of our budget was based on what we felt was easily achievable in other budget lines."

What truly troubles Holland is not the accuracy of the statements made in the report, it is the speedy appointment of a supervisor just hours after the government received the report.

"I continue to be frustrated by the fact that a report had been put out and that we had no opportunity to discuss that report with the writers to challenge the findings," said Holland. "There's a lot in that report that I would like to challenge because things that are very positive for our board over the last six years have been portrayed as very negative in an effort to diminish the standing of the board of trustees and in an effort to justify the ministry's actions."

The Ontario Catholic School Trustees’ Association expressed similar sentiments. On Aug. 29 OCSTA president Marino Gazzola sent a letter to Minister of Education Laurel Broten.

"Although we do not challenge the statutory authority, we most strongly object to the way in which it has been exercised," wrote Gazzola. "As a matter of procedural fairness, the Windsor Essex Catholic District School Board had a right to expect some dialogue with you and your staff before taking such a draconian step in implementing the recommendations of the investigator.

"We wonder how it is possible, Madam Minister, that you could have had time on Aug. 28 to have given thoughtful consideration to the investigator's report before presenting your recommendation to the Lieutenant Governor in Council, and how the Lieutenant Governor in Council could have had time to give thoughtful consideration to your recommendation, all before the first 11 hours of Aug. 28 had elapsed."

Despite their differences, both trustees and the government have one source of common ground — parents.

"I want the parents to know that it is the board’s intent to continue to represent them," said Holland. "We have no intention of abandoning our ratepayers."

"The Minister has asked the supervisor to work to ensure that parents continue to have input and a meaningful role in decision-making at this board," said Wheeler. "Parents will also be able to continue to work with local trustees who will be free to carry out individual responsibilities in local communities and at school events."

Hartmann officially takes up his position with the board Sept. 4. In 2008 Hartmann was appointed supervisor of the Toronto Catholic District School Board when it became the first Ontario school board to be taken over by the province.

Holland has already spoken with Hartmann about his plans.

"I have just spoken to the supervisor and we have agreed to meet in the very near future to establish a fair and reasonable way to work within established parameters," said Holland. "I am pleased with that."

Published in Canada

For the second time, the provincial government has taken over one of the province's Catholic school boards.

The Windsor-Essex Catholic School Board is the latest to fall under provincial control after an external review found board staff was willing to risk a strike to balance its budget. The board's budget was short $2.2 million this year, the fifth time in the past six years it had failed to balance its books. Staff noted that a strike might help to find those savings.

The board had no contingency plan to find the savings, said Deloitte, the consultants who authored the review.

Norbert Hartmann, who oversaw the Toronto Catholic District School Board when the province took it over in 2008, has been appointed to oversee the Windsor board's financial management and administration.

Barbara Holland, chair of the Windsor board, had predicted a takeover was coming in early August. She told The Catholic Register's Evan Boudreau that it wasn't so much financial instability, but more of a retaliatory measure for the board filing for conciliation to resolve the collective bargaining difficulties it was having with its teachers (before the province introduced its Putting Students First legislation Aug. 27).

"I do feel that it is a retaliatory measure and it is retaliation because we spoke out on this issue," said Holland.

Published in Catholic Education

WINDSOR, Ont. - The diocese of London has fired the company charged with raising funds for an extensive restoration and expansion of Windsor’s oldest and most historic church, Our Lady of Assumption.

In a statement posted on the diocese’s web site Feb. 22, the diocese and Assumption Church stated they were “not satisfied with the results achieved so far and have decided to end our relationship with” Philanthropic Management Consultants Inc. (PMC) to manage a $9.8-million campaign to pay for the restoration.

Published in Canada

WINDSOR, Ont. - Four former Windsor students of Fr. William ”Hod” Hodgson Marshall are suing the priest, the Congregation of St. Basil and the diocese of London for claims arising from sexual abuse for which the now 89-year-old priest has been convicted.

Marshall was sentenced last June to two years in jail after pleading guilty to 17 counts of indecent assault between 1962 and 1985 for cases that arose in Windsor, Toronto and Sudbury. Marshall was a teacher, coach and principal at schools in those cities.

Published in Canada
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