TORONTO - Sometimes one can find inspiration in the writings of thinkers long since passed. I confess to the allure of French Enlightenment philosophes like Le baron de Montesquieu (1689- 1755). They have a certain relevance even today, especially if one follows the meanderings of the Toronto Catholic District School Board.
In this regard, Montesquieu might have said, “Power ought to serve as a check to power” and “. Liberty is the right of doing whatever the laws permit”.
Corriere Canadese finds itself in an interesting position. It is a secular paper defending the religious rights of an institution which exists because the Constitution governing this land says it has a right to exist.
In layman’s terms, the Constitution is a contract between and among the partners outlining the principles and rights to be protected, enjoyed and nurtured under the umbrella of the law. Catholic school boards of education were part of negotiations that led to British North America Act and Confederation, the creation of Canada. They have rights under the Law because their participation made the Law possible.
One supposes that Constitutional rights, in modern custom, are much like a pre-nuptial agreement: one does not lose them because the marriage breaks up.
Catholic school boards exist for the benefit of Catholic ratepayers, paid by Catholic ratepayers to execute a skills curriculum demanded by the state in an environment consistent with the expectations of Catholic oriented families.
For better or for worse, the arbiter of what may or may not be Catholic is the Church through its local bishop. It is not the Government (through its Minister) and it is certainly not the local trustee or board of trustees. They, by the way, every year swear a solemn oath to abide by the teachings of that bishop.
Neither trustees, nor teachers, nor administrators, nor indeed parents and students are harmed by this “pre-nuptial agreement”. They have a choice: go to another constitutionally mandated school system, the one paid for by “public school ratepayers”. Or like others, send their children to private schools.
None of them can pretend to determine what is meant by “Catholic”. Ratepayers, for example, need to pass a perfunctory “test” to identify themselves as separate school supports, otherwise they cannot send their children to a Catholic school – and why would they, if they are not?
Competence and commitment aside, teachers, at least in the elementary panel, need to provide documentation that they are indeed Catholic, otherwise, how could they provide for a Catholic teaching environment? Who could tolerate them living and teaching a lie? It would not happen in any other “religious environment” – and it should not.
That takes us back to the school boards as institutions – Catholic and Constitutional. From my observation of the deliberations and the dynamics of the TCDSB, it seems that this Board is headed towards a Constitutional challenge. In the words of its own Chairperson, it is dysfunctional.
I would add that its decisions in the last two years may indeed be illegal. At least two of its trustees do not appear to have met the minimal bar of being separate school supporters on the assessment rolls. If true, in the words of both a criminal lawyer and a Constitutional expert, they have committed electoral fraud to be elected and should be removed.
A Toronto City councillor was removed after the election, last year, for a post election spending infraction of monies he had raised during the campaign! Yet, one trustee who has been found guilty of breaching the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act is still a part of Catholic Board deliberations and decisions.
Will all those decisions be invalidated once the law catches up to those trustees? Someone may have to front the expenses to validate the law.
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