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BURLINGTON, November 8, 2013 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Despite strong opposition, the Halton Catholic District School Board’s trustees voted 6-2 on Tuesday night to open its schools’ doors to the controversial HPV vaccine.

Despite a packed room of parents and ratepayers opposing the reversal in policy, and the fact that only one out of seven delegations supported the reversal, the trustees met the two-thirds vote required to allow public health nurses to administer the vaccine to grade 8 girls through the schools.

The move sparked outrage from meeting attendees and a leading Catholic parents group, and Campaign Life Coalition has announced that it is seeking candidates to replace the six trustees in the 2014 elections.

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“The Board chose to listen to the spin from vaccine advocates over the wishes of a packed boardroom of parents,” said Teresa Pierre, PhD, president of Parents as First Educators. “The fact that the vaccine was made an issue in the Halton board this fall was entirely the work of an external group, HPV Canada.”

“One could detect no sympathy for the HPV Canada delegation among parents present at the meeting and no parent spoke in favor of vaccination that night,” she added. “How much evidence do we need that the wool was pulled over the eyes of these Trustees on November 5?”

The school board initially allowed Halton’s health department to use their schools for the vaccine in the fall of 2007. But they reversed course in June 2008 after parents expressed concerns. 

The motion to reverse the ban this fall was proposed by trustee John Morrison after the health department gave a presentation at the October 1 board meeting. The department was invited after the lobby group HPV Canada had contacted the board urging it to reverse its policy.

The decision to revisit the issue sparked a heated response from Catholic ratepayers, with an online petition garnering over 1,600 signatures. 

The two trustees who voted for the ban on the vaccine were Anthony Danko and Jane Michael. The trustees who voted to allow the vaccine were: Diane Rabenda, the board’s chair; Arlene Iantomasi, the vice-chair; Paul Marai; John Morrison; John Mark Rowe; and Ed Viana. The ninth trustee, Alice Anne LeMay, did not attend because of illness.

At the November 5 meeting, Danko again raised concern over the possibility that the vaccine could be administered without parental consent.

The school board and the health department have both insisted that written parental consent will be required before administering the vaccine, a claim reemphasized on Tuesday.

“No one has to have this vaccination if they don't want to have it,” said Arlene Iantomasi, the board’s vice chair, according to the Hamilton Spectator. “This is entirely a parental decision, along with the child.”

But a legal opinion obtained by the school board from the firm Keel Cottrelle LLP determined that grade 8 girls would be considered competent under the Health Care Consent Act to choose the vaccination on their own. “In general, female students in Grade 8 would have the mental capacity to determine whether they will or will not agree to the vaccination,” the firm wrote.

The firm ultimately judged, however, that there was no risk of parental wishes being violated because of the health department policy that requires parental consent.

Among the six delegations supporting the ban was Yvonne Armstrong, a mother who believes the HPV vaccine gave her daughter Kaitlin crippling joint and back pain after she began the series of shots in 2010. “I, like the majority of parents, listened to all the (HPV vaccine) propaganda at the time and signed the permission slip for her to have the vaccine,” she said, according to the Burlington Post.

In another address, Jakki Jeffs, executive director of Alliance for Life Ontario, urged the trustees to consider the vocation to chastity as they voted. “A child cannot 'catch' HPV by sitting next to another student, it is not like measles, or chicken pox,” she said. “Rather than a school vaccination program surely, the high risk young women who are engaging in precocious sex should be encouraged to have Pap tests.”

She noted that there is no “cervical cancer epidemic” in Canada, citing statistics indicating that women have a 0.7 percent probability of developing cervical cancer, a 0.2 percent probability of dying from it, and that among those who do contract it, there is a 74 percent survival rate.

Jack Fonseca, a spokesman for Campaign Life Catholics, said their two concerns were the physical and spiritual health of girls.

“When a Catholic organization facilitates vaccination of youth for something that is picked up through sexual activity, it risks sending kids the message: ‘It’s not realistic to expect your obedience to God’s laws. We don’t believe you can do it. Let’s just assume you’ll have premarital sex and plan for it,’” he said.

He also expressed concern about a Catholic school giving a platform to public health officials, noting their close ties with groups like Planned Parenthood. “What else might these secular nurses possibly bring up during such a conversation? What about condoms and birth control? What about abortion?” he asked. “Let’s be honest. By inviting secular public health nurses in, you’re inviting people who largely have contempt for Catholic teaching on sexual morality.”

After the meeting, Fonseca told LifeSiteNews that Campaign Life is now working with various groups to identify and groom candidates in for the public and Catholic school trustee elections in 2014.

“Especially given this fiasco of a vote in Halton that betrayed the Church and her beliefs, we especially encourage faithful Catholics in the Halton region who are interested in running against these six trustees to contact us,” he said, noting they are looking for “well-spoken, good communicators, willing to run an aggressive campaign to win the next school trustee elections.”

Anyone interested in running should contact Fonseca at [email protected].

The board’s current policy has also been supported by experts in Catholic moral theology, who urged the board not to reverse course.

Fr. Tom Lynch, national director of Priests for Life Canada and a former dean and lecturer of moral theology at St. Augustine’s Seminary, issued a statement to the trustees urging them to continue the ban “because it clearly reveals what our expectations about chastity are in the Catholic Church.”

“Although chastity may no longer be a cultural value in the popular culture, it is our value as Catholics. Our faith tells us we cannot give up trying to tell our children that there is a better way to behave than just using one another for pleasure,” he wrote.

“Your current policy respects the rights of parent to guide their children and form them spiritually, and it allows students to be taught to be responsible for their bodies and respectful of the bodies of others. It protects the wishes of the parents,” he added.

Dr. Moira McQueen, a theologian at St. Michael’s College in Toronto and executive director of the Canadian Catholic Bioethics Institute, previously told LifeSiteNews that parents should be allowed to take it upon themselves to have their children vaccinated.

“I think in these days of informed consent public health authorities should be more aware that parents should be treated like adults who can and should make their own decisions, and not simply be expected to fill in yet another form from a school board or health authority, almost as a matter of routine,” she said. “This is a complex moral issue, and many parents are hesitating, not just Catholics. That shows it is not nearly as straightforward as public health officials would like it to be.” 

Among the chief concerns about the HPV vaccine has been the high number of adverse reactions reported after taking it. In August, the British Medical Journal published an article with strong evidence showing that a 16 year-old Australian girl was made infertile due to the vaccine. 

In 2008, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration received reports of 28 deaths associated with the HPV vaccine. Among the 6,723 adverse reactions reported that year, 142 were deemed life threatening and 1,061 were considered serious.

Concerns over side effects have been so grave in other parts of the world that countries are starting to pull their support for the vaccine. Earlier this year, Japan announced they would stop recommending it while they conduct further investigation after reports of 2,000 adverse events, including 106 “serious cases of pains or body convulsions, pains in joints, or difficulty in walking.”

The Halton Catholic District School Board had been the only Catholic school board in Ontario that barred the vaccine’s administration on its premises.

Find contact information for all HCDSB trustees here.

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