Some 30 charities and non-profits have signed a controversial declaration from an Ontario Catholic school board promising they will not support activities opposed by religious doctrine – including abortion, contraception and euthanasia – in order to continue receiving donations from school events.
The Terry Fox Foundation, the WE movement and the Knights of Columbus were among the charities that signed the form provided by the Halton Catholic District School Board, according to a list compiled by the board.
However, some charities had failed to understand the nature of the declaration and began withdrawing their names on Tuesday.
The Halton board passed a motion last month stating it would no longer provide or facilitate financial donations to non-profits or charities that publicly support, “either directly or indirectly, abortion, contraception, sterilization, euthanasia, or embryonic stem cell research.”
The motion comes as the federal government has faced criticism for an application requirement attached to the Canada Summer Jobs program that says groups must affirm their respect for a woman’s right to have an abortion in order to receive funding. In January, a Federal Court of Canada judge ruled against a request by an anti-abortion group to suspend the requirement.
In Halton, the broad nature of the “sanctity of life” motion caught many off guard. Trustees were to hear from 19 delegates, both in support of and against the motion, at a board meeting on Tuesday evening.
WE and the Terry Fox Foundation did not respond to The Globe and Mail’s calls or e-mails for comment.
“As a result of interpretation variations, and following discussions today with the Halton Catholic District School Board, United Way Halton & Hamilton requested and verified removal from the compliance list of charities this afternoon,” the statement read.
Meanwhile, Halton Women’s Place, which provides shelter and crisis services for women and their children, had its name on the list even though executive director Diane Beaulieu said in an e-mail that the organization supports women’s reproductive rights and choices.
When asked how the charity can be in compliance with the board’s resolution if it is pro-choice, Ms. Beaulieu said in an e-mail: “As I stated, HWP supports women’s choices. That is what I signed.”
As a result, “HWP has been listed as one of the organizations that the HCDSB does not support,” she said.
The Canadian Cancer Society (CCS) did not sign the form. CCS’s policies permit funding research using embryonic stem cells when it meets certain criteria.
“We feel that the motion fails to acknowledge the complexity of our work as a charity and the significant impact we have on the lives of cancer patients and their families,” said Tanya Henry, vice-president of CCS’s Relay for Life in Ontario.
The organization said it has requested that the board allow funds raised through Relay for Life youth events to be directed to research that does not involve embryonic stem cells.
A spokeswoman for the board said chair Diane Rabenda was not available for comment on Tuesday.
Halton Catholic schools raised about $316,000 for charities in the last school year.
Jack Fonseca, a spokesman for the Campaign Life Coalition, called the motion long overdue. His organization was scheduled to speak at Tuesday’s meeting. Mr. Fonseca said he hoped trustees would not be swayed to reconsider.
“Under Catholic teachings, it’s very clear that no Catholic dollars should be supporting organizations even indirectly which promote a culture of death,” he said.
But David Harvey, who has a child attending a high school in the board, said the motion is too broad and was done without consultations or research on its impact on schools. He said it should be rescinded and if trustees want to pursue it, then they should consult the school community.
“It was done policy first, and then we’ll look at what the practical implications are, and I think that’s just completely backwards,” he said.