Featured Image
The Ontario English Catholic Teachers' Association marches in Toronto's 2014 Pride parade.

BURLINGTON, Ontario, February 22, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – A “sanctity of life” motion initially voted down by Halton Catholic School District trustees Tuesday night was resurrected in a stunning twist at literally the 10th hour after one trustee had a change of heart.

Paul Marai voted to defeat the motion early in the night, but as the meeting wound down some three hours later, he asked that it be revisited, and this time, voted for it.

The policy that so roiled the Catholic board asked it to ensure no school-generated funds be donated to “any charities or non-profits that publicly support, either directly or indirectly, abortion, contraception, sterilization, euthanasia, or embryonic stem cell research.”

The board’s 50 schools raise about $12 million annually. 

The trustees had already passed the motion January 16 by a vote of 5-3, with Marai voting against it at that time.

But then came backlash from the Ontario English Catholic Teachers Association, a union known for a leadership that often publicly dissents from Catholic moral teaching. Some parents also objected to the motion. 

In a January letter to the board, OECTA representatives Keith Boyd and Nina March objected to the sanctity of life motion as “needlessly divisive,” and scolded trustees for “taking such a narrow view of Catholic values” and choosing to “interfere” in this way.

“Many of the charities and non-profits that could be affected by this motion do incredible work in our communities and around the world, enhancing health, equity and social justice,” they wrote.

Trustee John Mark Rowe subsequently asked the board to reconsider the motion in February.

Although Rowe voted for the motion in January, on Tuesday, he twice voted against it.

On the first go-round, chair Diane Rabenda cast the deciding vote to break a 4-4 tie and defeat the motion. 

However, on the second go-round, with Marai’s last-minute reversal, the motion passed with a vote of 5 to 3, with Helena Karabela, Anthony Quinn, Anthony Danko, and Susan Trites also voting for it.

Trustees Arlene Iantomasi and Jane Michael voted with Rowe against the motion.

The initial heated debate on the motion was “divisive yet enlightening,” trustee Quinn told LifeSiteNews. 

“We were able to get a sense of what I can generally call a misunderstanding of Catholic and moral teaching among the board, and particularly among the student trustees.”

Although their vote carries no weight, the student trustees “were unanimous in their support of being able to choose to donate their money to causes that fund abortion, euthanasia and human embryo research, so long as their intention was that the money be used for pro-social activities such as digging wells in Africa,” Quinn observed.

Trustees Michael and Iantomasi “supported the spirit of the motion but they were really, I think, in some moral quicksand,” he said.

They argued that some charities and non-profits “may be providing abortions but they’re also doing good work, which we as Christians should support, and it was that kind of moral conundrum that really the teachings of our faith are explicit about,” said Quinn.

Karabela, who sponsored the policy, lauded the trustees who supported it.

“At a time when taxpayers expect very little from politicians, it is refreshing that some Catholic trustees chose to promote the Catholicity of the Catholic institution and students under their care,” she said in a Wednesday press release.

“With this motion to ban donations to charities that support abortion, we are making sure the Catholic schools are walking the talk: the Church teaches that abortion is the killing of an unborn human being.”

Danko also hailed the vote as a victory.

“To fund pro-abortion groups with donations gathered via the Catholic school system undermines the Church and the school system,” he said in a press release. 

“This is such a major violation of our principles, it boggles the mind we never had a policy before today.”

Danko observed that technology and the Internet make it “so much easier to perform the standard due diligence needed to understand what organizations do. We need to use this knowledge to make sure institutions use their money, including donations, with integrity. Everyone knows where the Catholic Church stands on these fundamental moral issues today.”

Meanwhile, lawyer Geoff Cauchi sent a strongly worded letter to board chair Rabenda, and director of education Paula Dawson, asking the board to publicly rebuke OECTA “for unethically attempting to influence and therefore interfere with the deliberations of the Board on the Policy.”

A Catholic elector in the Halton board, Cauchi questioned why the board did not remind OECTA that “it has no legal standing to exert any influence” over a policy that “governed a purely denominational aspect of the Board’s operations.” 

He also questioned why the board did not demand that OECTA “refrain from exerting pressure or influence over individual Trustees (including the use of threats and other forms of intimidation) in an effort to have the Policy rescinded or repealed.”

Cauchi blasted Rabenda for casting the deciding vote Tuesday that initially defeated the policy.

It’s parliamentary convention that when the chair’s vote is needed to break a tie, “they normally cast a vote which maintains the status quo,” he told LifeSiteNews, “so she should have voted in favor of it.”


Teachers’ union pressures Catholic school board to repeal pro-life motion