By Patrick B. Craine

GUELPH, Ontario, September 11, 2009 ( – The Wellington Catholic District School Board has recently had a human rights complaint filed against it because of their policy of only hiring teachers who are active Catholics. The complaint was filed with the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal by Mr. Jesse Lloyd, 36, an out-of-work non-Catholic teacher whose application to the board was unsuccessful, reports the Guelph Mercury.

Mr. Lloyd, who has lived in Guelph for four years, graduated with a teaching degree in 2006 and since then has worked short-term contract positions with public boards in Hamilton and Guelph. He applied to the Wellington Catholic board in 2006 but did not hear back.

He contends that their policy is discriminatory. “I need work,” he told the Guelph Mercury. “But that’s not entirely it. It’s a higher conviction than that. I don’t think it’s right to have a publicly-funded institution where everyone is not welcome to work there.”

Lloyd is not optimistic about his case, but nevertheless thinks that it has value. “I definitely think there’s some substance to it,” he said. “I’m not convinced it will go through, but there’s definitely substance. I hope somebody will look at this and say: ‘You’re right, this isn’t fair and it needs to be changed.'”

The board’s director of education, Donald Drone, insists, however, that the board has a legal right to focus their hiring on active Catholics, and that this is essential to the very purpose of the Catholic school.

Catholic school districts have a constitutional right to restrict hiring to Catholics, he said, particularly those who work in direct service with children. “They need to be, should be, Catholic and therefore share the same values of the Church, because we’re founded on the teachings of Christ and salvation history. Therefore from our standpoint, from a board policy standpoint, it’s very important that people who are working with us would be Roman Catholic.”

“The reason for our existence is to provide a Catholic education to students,” he explained, “and by axiom, from my standpoint, those who are delivering that program should be Catholic, and should be knowledgeable in the faith. And I would say that that’s likely the same position that most Catholic boards in this province would have.”

Drone indicated that they do have non-Catholics working in the board, “but generally speaking, they’re not, for most cases, offering direct service by way of curriculum,” he said. “They certainly make a contribution, and they also, from our perspective, add to the social fabric of our organization.”

He says respects the concern that some might have about the hiring policy, but, he said, “I also respect our rightâEUR¦to show preferential treatment for people who are in concert with our teaching and our culture.”

The board’s lawyer, Eric Roher, has issued a written response to the tribunal. While he indicates that the complaint should be dismissed due to its lateness and because Lloyd was not qualified for the position despite the difference in religious belief, he focuses on the board’s right to be authentically Catholic.

Lloyd is currently preparing his response to the board’s submission, says the Guelph Mercury.

Phil Horgan of the Catholic Civil Rights League told, “Based on the initial reports, this issue flies in the face of the constitutional guarantees afforded Catholics dating back to Confederation and I am not aware of any court or tribunal which has challenged those provisions in respect of Catholic preferential hiring rights.”

Horgan pointed to the 1984 Caldwell v. Stuart case as precedent upholding the hiring rights of Catholic schools. In that case, the Supreme Court of Canada dismissed the appeal of a teacher who was not rehired at a Catholic school after having contravened Church teaching by ‘marrying’ a divorced man in a civil ceremony.

According to Horgan, however, despite the legal precedent, “it is somewhat unknown as to what some adjudicator from the human rights commission may decide.”