The Halton Catholic District School Board has voted to hold a special policy meeting in the summer to discuss a controversial motion that forbids students from raising money for charities that support abortion, euthanasia and other activities opposed by the church.
The board received feedback “much greater than the norm” about the motion, according to education superintendent Tim Overholt, who presented the community’s reaction to the board Tuesday night. A majority of respondents to an online form opposed the changes to the fundraising policy.
Keith Boyd, president of the Halton Secondary affiliate of the Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association, said the consultation process was important to the community and made them feel “empowered.” But, he added, he was not surprised that a final decision on the policy has been pushed back and believes the feedback will not keep the policy from moving forward.
Revisions to the motion after community feedback were initially tabled for a Sept. 11 policy meeting, but that meeting was moved up after trustees raised concerns about clarifying fundraising protocols in time for the 2018-19 school year.
The motion in question was passed in February and stated that the board 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.”
In April, the provincial government stepped in, asking the board to put the charity policy on hold until it considered feedback from the wider community.
The board suspended its policy in May, after months of uproar from students and parents who said they had not been properly consulted before the changes were made.
The community feedback, presented in a staff report to trustees Tuesday evening, included more than 900 responses, with 74 per cent of respondents opposed to the policy changes.
“Jesus said to ‘love thy neighbor’ and to ‘treat others as you would like to be treated’ so why are we going against his word and refusing to aid those in need,” one wrote.
About 21 per cent of respondents supported the policy, saying it upheld Catholic values, differentiated the Catholic school system from the public system, and that anyone who didn’t agree with the policy could donate to the charity of their choice on their own time.
The staff report noted that the online feedback form was anonymous, making it difficult to ensure that the responses came from the Halton Catholic District School Board community, which raised more than $316,000 for charities in the past school year.
The broad nature of the “Sanctity of Life” motion caught many off guard. At one point, more than 30 charities and non-profits had signed a form provided by the board promising not to support certain activities in order to continue receiving donations. But there also seemed to be confusion over what they had agreed to, with some saying the board’s concerns did not apply to their organizations.
The Canadian Cancer Society did not sign the declaration. And several large organizations, including WE Charity, the Terry Fox Foundation and the United Way Halton & Hamilton, removed their names from the board’s list of approved charities.
- With reports from Caroline Alphonso