TORONTO - Some twenty members of the public attended at a School Board meeting to listen to the presentation of Dr. Moira McQueen, noted professor of Bioethics.
She appeared as a delegation at the behest of some concerned Burlington residents who were and continue to be concerned that the School Board’s fundraising policies may have unnecessarily insinuated divisive issues into the Catholic community.
The Board had passed a resolution whose impact is that several charitable, not for profit organizations would no longer be eligible for funds raised by school communities, by virtue of their support for issues that run counter to Catholic values, dogma or tenets: abortion, embryonic stem cell research, non-heterosexual marriages etc.
The Motion, if it stands, would exclude organizations like the Canadian Cancer Society, Sick Children’s Hospital and the like which may engage in the activities that support the above. For some, there is no middle ground.
Local Catholics see it as test of their convictions and their right to hold and practice religious beliefs.
They have also emphasized that the Separate Schools exist under our Constitution precisely to protect and nurture those principles and values.
Their tax dollars – like everyone else’s – go towards maintaining the public, secular school system as well.
Over the last several months, students (lead by student Trustees), OECTA teachers representatives and some aspiring candidates for office have demonstrated to pressure the Board to change its position.
The Ministry has urged public consultations (deadline for which is June 1, 2018) prior to the Board taking a final vote.
Dr. McQueen’s presentation was part of that consultation.
No Trustees asked questions following her 10-minute outline of Bioethics and its relationship to Catholic obligations, evangelism and relationships to institutional authorities whose ethical basis may differ from the Catholic.
Asked outside the Board Chambers if she had “advice” to offer Trustees as next steps going forward, she responded with: ”it’s all in the presentation”.
And it is, except that people under pressure look for reassurance and guidance.
The Ministry of Education and the [new] Minister may want to avoid having to make a decision. They may wish to keep the issue “local”; but, as one attendee said, why are Catholics the only ones constantly under pressure to compromise?
Justin Trudeau’s government has advised all faith groups that they will be declared ineligible for Summer Jobs money unless they adhere to the “Canadian values” as outlined by his government in respect of Human Rights.
The Halton Catholic District School Board may well prove to be a testing ground for faith vs state issues.