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Catholic school promotional video taken down after controversy Add to ...

An Ontario Catholic school group has taken down a promotional video, which featured Marc Kielburger of Free the Children, after it drew criticism from its secular counterparts.

The YouTube video released earlier this month featured educators, students and graduates of the province’s Catholic system praising the values learned in their schools, and at one point referring to how the religious-based system differs from the public school down the road.

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The video immediately caused a stir on Twitter and in public school circles, even though its creators say is was meant to showcase the English Catholic system and not promote one system over another.

“While we believe the original trailer served our purposes of celebrating Catholic education and engaging our constituents, we were disheartened by the controversy it generated among advocacy groups,” said Sharon McMillan, spokeswoman for the Ontario Catholic School Trustees’ Association.

Ms. McMillan said the promotional video is among a series of videos featuring alumni, teachers, students and trustees meant to “celebrate the distinctive attributes of Ontario’s Catholic schools in support of the students and families in our school.”

“Given that several wonderful promotions were made, we are rotating our feature campaign video with other videos created as part of this campaign series,” she said. “We will also be updating the video that was pulled and reposting when it is ready as part of our mandate to support Catholic school board constituency communications.”

Mr. Kielburger, whose role in the video came under fire by public school officials, is no longer part of the video series. Public schools have been big supporters of Free the Children, Me to We and We Day, an annual youth activism event launched by Free the Children.

“To avoid any confusion about the intention, my testimonial video was taken down,” he said in a statement Monday. “We work closely with Catholic and public school boards and we value greatly our relationship with all.”

Michael Barrett, president of the Ontario Public School Boards’ Association, was among the first to criticize the video on Twitter. He said he was pleased the Catholic school association removed the video.

“I believe the videos were constructed with the best intent [but] unfortunately the message was challenging,” Mr. Barrett said. “I applaud the decision to remove the videos as another indication of the continuing collaboration and partnership that is necessary in these trying times.”

The Catholic school association’s video comes at a time when all school systems are working toward another round of teacher negotiations. Ontario houses four distinct publicly funded systems – francophone public, francophone Catholic, English Catholic and English public – and competition for students is fierce, especially as birth rates decline.

In the past academic year, when extracurricular activities in the English public school system ground to a halt because of a teachers’ labour dispute and the system was at a disadvantage, other school boards upped their student-recruitment game, promoting sports teams and clubs and bolstering their kindergarten registration advertisements.

Follow on Twitter: @calphonso

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