Holding trustees accountable
to the public they serve

di Priscilla Pajdo del January 18, 2022

TORONTO - The moral and ethical debate pertaining to trustee accountability appears to be an ever-present issue. The job is not an easy one. They are publicly elected officials with a job to represent the interests of their constituents. For Catholic school board trustees in Ontario, they are accountable to those they serve, while at the same time, advocating for the protection, preservation and promotion of the Catholic education system.

Parents have free will to decide where their children will be educated. While several factors may influence that choice, those who chose to enrol their children in the Catholic School System, do so with purpose. In a unique partnership between home, school and parish, Catholic education aims to develop students as contributing members of society through the integration of academic excellence, social development and faith formation.

Such schools are constitutionally protected under the denominational clause in the Constitution Act 1867. The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms further supports the rights and privileges of denominational schools. Nothing or no one may interfere with the rights of the denominational school system where students are taught the fullness of the Catholic Faith in accordance with the Magisterial Teachings of the Catholic Church.

According to the Ontario Catholic School Trustees Association, “Ontario’s Catholic schools have a well-recognized and celebrated tradition of providing inclusive, welcoming communities where all students are encouraged to realize their full potential as unique individuals created in the image of God”.

Yet, there are some activists whose aim is to interfere with that process and those of elected trustees whose mandate is to adhere to the Magisterial teachings of the Catholic Church. Catholic ratepayers expect their elected trustees to carry out their fiduciary duties in a moral and ethical manner consistent with the teachings of the Church.

For trustees at the Halton Catholic District School Board (HCDSB), their actions will be under scrutiny by stakeholders and ratepayers as they meet tonight to discuss issues like raising the Pride flag this June.

Another item up for discussion tonight is a motion that would require parents/guardians of minors to express consent in the collection of the Student Census information. This would be an amendment to the current “implied consent” model which is planned for the census survey in the Spring of 2022.

The Census itself appears to be a point of contention among parents and stakeholders. They have expressed concern over the privacy and protection of sensitive information collected in the survey which includes questions that pertain to socio-economic status, gender identity and sexual orientation.

For those in support of a Catholic education system, these issues call into question the Board’s motives in nurturing and preserving a Catholic school system for future generations. It also highlights the fact that trustees are accountable to the Catholic ratepayers they serve and their ethical and moral obligation to fulfil their mandate with integrity.

That “integrity” is further under scrutiny as one trustee, Nancy Guzzo, faces twelve counts of fraud charges in relation to her previous employment with the Labourers’ International Union of North America (LiUNA). Today, the case presents before the Hamilton Courts (for the ninth time), following yet another resolution meeting that was scheduled for January 13, 2022. Previous attempts have not resulted in a resolution.

During the last court date (December 21), the Crown Counsel appeared to be losing patience with the stall tactics saying, “this matter needs to move forward”. It is expected that the Defence will file a designation (details of a plea bargain or a date for trial) today, as instructed by Justice Bouchard.

These are unfortunate circumstances for anyone to be in, let alone a member of the Board. It has left many concerned ratepayers wondering why she has not recused herself from HCDSB matters and decisions until her legal issues have been resolved.

The Corriere has reached out to Board officials for comment on this matter. As of going to print, there has been no official comment on the situation from the Director nor the Board Chair.

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