English Articles

Halton Catholic: Theatre
of the Absolutely Absurd

TORONTO – They probably do not know what they are doing. Barring the presence of a concerted effort by cowardly forces working in the wings, one cannot explain the machinations by trustees in certain Catholic school boards to diminish the constitutional rights of Catholic electors in their own school system.

Trustees were elected to uphold and promote those rights, the ideology and the family values (“the culture”) their religion espouses and advocates. They did not seek election to erode or do away with them. Inherently, to now work against those same values places each and every one of them in a position of conflict with their mandate. If they had integrity, they would resign.

Instead, they raise issues designed to evoke outrage and bigotry against the very principles they profess to support – the Catholic ethic. They may be misguided. They are neither qualified nor authorized to interpret the teachings that comprise that ethic. Besides, it is not part of their mandate; moreover, despite their assertions, the existence of Catholic schools is not a prima facie evidence of discrimination against non-Catholics. These have equal access to similar schooling – minus the religious or values-based component.

No one today is compelled to attend Catholic schools. The specious argument of “publicly funded” reflects an incomplete or poor knowledge of the funding bases for schools and school boards. Until recently (1985), schools were funded almost exclusively by local ratepayers.

Inequality in funding restricted Catholics to elementary panel classes while Catholics ratepayers financed non-Catholic public high schools.

The funding formula was changed to balance that inequity, but the [denominational] rights enshrined in the Constitution could not be altered no matter how much the enemies of Catholic education may have wanted to do so. In fact, those rights have been tested and reinforced by Court decisions.

Even now, despite an immigration policy seen by many as not favorable to people from Catholic countries, the “faithful” make up 33% of the population in Ontario. No other sectarian demographic component comes close.

“Catholic haters” (no need to be polite here, some even profess to be Catholic) have not stopped. Their tactics evolve to suit the occasion. The most recent issue is now that Boards “should” give non-Catholic high school students the right to serve as trustees on Catholic boards. The Corriere Canadese, a lay newspaper, has called it a Trojan Horse argument.

From a corporate perspective, rightly or wrongly, only “eligible Catholic electors” (and by extension, their children same) can serve on a board for Catholic schools. For those who think “cross-fertilization” is more important than “learning,” the Courts can sort it out for them. In fact, at least one case (from York) is currently before the Courts.

Nonetheless, apparently trustee Agnew or somebody close to her in the Halton Catholic District School Board may present or cause to present a motion on November 2nd to make room for a non-Catholic student trustee to serve on its Board. She must be impatient, has prior knowledge of the Court’s decision, is a grandstander or just plain “not with it”. What happens if the Court renders a negative decision? A Board cannot pass laws or unenforceable policies that run counter to the Education Act or the Constitution.

That’s not all. She will present before the Policy and Procedures Committee whose Chair is her ally, trustee Guzzo, currently facing twelve charges of fraud. Guzzo’s next Court appearance is scheduled for November 16. According to publicly available police and Court documents, her accusers are former employers at LiUNA (Labourers’ International Union of North America) locals 1110 and 3000.

Ms. Guzzo’s Committee oversees the Trustee Code of Conduct issues, yet she has not recused herself, nor have the Chair, Patrick Murphy, or the Director, Pat Daly, cautioned her to do so, according to a local weekly. Neither they, nor Agnew, nor Guzzo have returned calls made by the Corriere for comment.

One Catholic ratepayer (whose name is withheld at her request), calling in to the Corriere from Halton, expressed frustration that these “Catholic haters” have snuck their way into the Board and are now systematically tearing it apart from within. Who is making this possible, she asked? Minister Lecce? Bishop Crosby?

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