TORONTO - The Canadian Confederation, as a form of government, has a unique feature in its Constitution, or “corporate by-laws”. Under section 93, it ascribes to the provinces the sole jurisdiction for education. Within that section, it provides further exclusive “denominational rights” to certain citizens as a protection against the tyranny of the majority in a democratic society.
Significantly, those rights stand in recognition that some societal goals in education can only be achieved through a triage of school, family and church, each reinforcing the other, providing context and goals. Call it a natural alliance of mutual interests, for the sake of argument.
Without engaging in dramatic hyperbole, last September 17, in a “bloodless coup”, the “school” eliminated the church from that trilogy. In one fell swoop, it also eliminated the denominational rights of Catholic parents held under the Constitution.
Nothing happens in isolation. Two weeks prior we commented on a story covered by a Toronto Daily newspaper about a non-Catholic, teen aged, girl who is suing the York Catholic District School Board (YCDSB) for religious discrimination. She is Muslim. The Catholic Board made room for her and her family. Someone convinced her it would serve her future interests to seek the position of student trustee.
There is, however, the inconvenient condition that a trustee uphold and promote the interests of the organization s/he purports to represent. In this case, a Catholic education system. A further prerequisite is that any trustee prove s/he is a “Catholic elector” – or child thereof in this case. Yet another is that the successful trustee swears an oath of allegiance to the magisterium (the Church’s representative recognized by the Constitution as the official keeper of the “faith connection”).
If the young lady’s parents understand this, they must surely be embarrassed by the way in which they have disrespected the hospitality of their host. Their host Board, the YCDSB, cannot do less than defend the Constitutional rights of its parent Catholic community. Her backers have other interests.
The TCDSB has been “dealing” with this type of issue since the last election. Three of its adult trustees do not meet the “Catholic elector” test – they got there by fraudulent means (one is currently an NDP candidate). Another trustee, who has been publicly accused of misogyny and more recently of libel (see story elsewhere in this edition) has been promoting the election of non-Catholic students as trustees because of his hatred for traditional Catholics.
Thursday, at a TCDSB meeting discussing agenda items, the issue of the swearing of the oath was raised when trustee Del Grande asked, in a matter-of-fact fashion, if the new student trustee had taken the oath. No, was the answer. The Director refused to engage, letting his lawyer do the talking: the oath is not in the Education Act, and we apply the Act. Should trustees want the oath (known as the Service Dedication) they can present a Motion to that effect.
It is already there in the Board’s by laws, number 175. Specifically, section 3.3.1 states that “in the calendar year in which all Trustees are elected, the Service of Dedication shall take place at the Inaugural Meeting, and shall be, unless and until otherwise provided by resolution, the "Commissioning of Catholic Trustees”. Shall, in legal terms, means it is compulsory.
The lawyer and the Director, both know that without that Service of Dedication, the Board cannot be considered Catholic. They also know that the Constitution says nothing in the Education Act can be used to diminish the rights of Catholics to their school system. Those rights cannot be protected and/or advanced by lay trustees who may not believe in the system or may not even qualify to speak to its values around the table.
If the Cardinal does not move soon, he will cede Catholic rights to who knows whom. He may even be “impeached” by concerned parents for not doing his duty.
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