By Tim Waggoner

BURLINGTON, June 4, 2008 ( – Last night, trustees of the Halton Catholic District School Board voted in favour of passing a two-part motion that will ultimately see the removal of the HPV vaccine Gardasil from Halton schools.

The first part of the motion was passed by a 5-4 vote, and stated that the HCDSB will no longer offer school premises for the purpose of providing the HPV vaccine.

The second part pushed for an increased effort to impart to students the faith and morals of the Catholic Church’s teachings in order to empower them to live out healthy life choices; it was passed by a unanimous decision.

Trustee Joanne Matters, a passionate pro-life supporter who proposed the motion, told that she was “excited by the unanimous decision,” and continued by saying, “We are able as a board to place a focus on the second part of this motion, and although we are doing a good job, we need to do more. This comes as an opportunity to offer support to our students and to augment the curriculum areas that deal with human sexuality in a clear and concise way in order to empower and strengthen the message we give our students on the issue.”

Matters said that the vaccine was “compromising” the responsibility the school system has to its students and was creating “mixed messages” about the Catholic Church’s teachings on human sexuality.

“We have a responsibility as an education system and a double responsibility as a faith-based Catholic education system to delver truths to allow our students to make healthy choices. We cannot compromise the message and I feel that by offering the vaccine we were compromising the message”

“The Church’s teaching is life-giving and life-affirming, promoting spiritual, physical and emotional health, and this is what we are about, we are doing a service to our students,” added Matters.

Referring to the first part of the motion, Matters said she supported and promoted it on account of evidence from a Toronto researcher from the Canadian Medical Association, who said that there are too many unknowns about the HPV vaccine and who expressed concerns about the safety and effectiveness of Gardasil.

The Canadian Women’s Health Network reiterated this point, suggesting Pap screening as a more effective and safer way to prevent cervical cancer. “Until we know more about long-term safety and duration of effectiveness of the Gardasil HPV vaccine, as well as about how effective it actually is in reducing cervical cancer rates, health care dollars may be better spent in enhancing Pap screening programs.”

Matters also referenced Dr. Moira Mcqueen, director of the Canadian Catholic Bioethics Institute, who said the mass vaccination of HPV is dangerous to implement because it gives girls a false sense of security.

Taking these studies and opinions into consideration, as well as the fact that there have been numerous deaths and thousands of adverse effects associated with the vaccine, Matters still identified the “responsibility of the Catholic school system to uphold and promote the truth” as her primary reason for the motion: “I could argue this vaccine on several levels, but the salient point is whether or not the vaccine sends a mixed message to our students, and the answer is YES.”

Some may be surprised that Matters proposed this motion, because she voted to allow the vaccine into the schools last September. When asked about her change of heart, she said, “I felt pressured by conflicting messages, but have come to realize that no interests can come before the moral, physical and spiritual health of the students we serve. My mind and heart have now come together on the issue.”

CTV reported that Premier Dalton McGuinty, who is known for proclaiming his Catholicism while promoting abortion, is disappointed with the board’s decision and stated that the HPV vaccine “is the right thing to do for our daughters.”

McGuinty’s motivations have been questioned, however, on account of the fact that his provincial government received large cash donations from the vaccine’s maker, Merck. Critics have suggested that the drug only received rapid approval because Merck made similar donations to several public officials.

Moreover, the premier may not be speaking on behalf of all of Ontario’s students, given that many Catholic students have questioned why a vaccine for a virus communicable only by sex was made available in schools that promote abstinence before marriage. In fact, the three student representatives on the Halton board all were opposed to allowing the drug in Halton schools.

Matters concluded by saying that she believes the passing of her motion is a big step forward for the Halton Catholic School system, and speculates that there are more good things to come.

See related story:

School Board Official Changes Mind – Now Opposes HPV Vaccine in Schools

To contact the Halton board trustees:

Joanne Matters

Bob Van de Vrande

Rosanna Palmieri

Rev. David Wilhelm

Anthony Danko

Pauline Houlahan

Alice Anne LeMay

Ed Viana

Teanna Lobo

Kelly Medeiros

Erin Gamble