Lawyer vows to sue Ontario Catholic trustees who vote against pro-life motion

Three trustees took donations from a teachers union campaigning against the pro-life measure.
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Lianne Laurence By Lianne Laurence

Lianne Laurence By Lianne Laurence

BURLINGTON, May 1, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – A Catholic lawyer is ready to bring legal action against three Catholic school trustees in Ontario if they vote tonight to suspend a pro-life motion.

The three trustees received campaign donations from a Catholic teachers union that is campaigning to overturn the pro-life motion.

In a 35-page letter sent to the board Monday, Geoff Cauchi says the Halton Catholic District School Board trustees are in danger of breaching the Municipal Conflicts of Interest Act.

It's the latest development in the public and highly acrimonious dispute over the Sanctity of Life policy the board passed by a one-vote margin in February.

The policy bans school-generated funds to any charity or non-profit group that directly or indirectly supports abortion, euthanasia, contraception, sterilization and embryonic stem cell research in violation of Catholic teaching.

Critics are angry students can no longer donate to such associations as the Canadian Cancer Society, Sick Kids Hospital, WE Charity, Doctors Without Borders, and the Canadian Red Cross.

The most prominent critic is the Ontario English Catholic Teachers Association (OECTA), well known for a leadership that openly dissents from Catholic moral teaching.

OECTA representatives Keith Boyd and Nina March sent a letter to the board in January, excoriating the pro-life motion as “unnecessarily divisive,” and the trustees for “taking such a narrow view of Catholic values.”

Boyd, who also denounced the policy to the media, sent an email April 21 to OECTA members seeking volunteers to campaign in October’s municipal elections against the trustees who voted for the pro-life motion.

“If interested in helping defeat the ‘Slate of 5’ in the Trustee election on Monday October 22 please let me know.  We are assembling a list of any/all volunteers wishing to help out in the fall. Thanks,” wrote Boyd.

The five trustees are Anthony Danko, Anthony Quinn, Helena Karabela, Susan Trites and Paul Marai.

OECTA has a “political action strategy,” but “that’s as much as I’m going to say,” Boyd told LifeSiteNews.

“I would comment if I felt there would be a fair and balanced reporting of what I have to say, and I’m not convinced of that,” he added.

Boyd also appended David Harvey’s April 17 presentation to the board to his email as “a comprehensive argument regarding the legal, philosophical and moral issues surrounding the change in policy.”

Harvey, a parent of three and retired Burlington lawyer who told the board his wife has stage 4 cancer, has gone to court to get the policy repealed or suspended, claiming trustees breached the Education Act by not consulting school councils.

In the face of ongoing opposition, including a 23,000 petition launched by upset students, the board agreed in March to get feedback until June 1 on the policy, which remains in force.

However, Marai tabled a motion last week to suspend the policy until the consultations are in, and at least until the school year is done.

But Cauchi warned in his letter that trustees who vote for the motion on Tuesday are in danger of violating Section 5 of the Municipal Conflicts of Interest Act.

OECTA’s Boyd donated $400 each to trustees Marai, Arlene Iantomasi, and Jane Michael during their 2014 election campaigns, according to their public financial statement filings. Union donations to candidates are now prohibited by the Municipal Elections Act, but were permissible then.  

However, the donations themselves are “sufficient to establish a pecuniary conflict of interest,” Cauchi contends.

He also would not be surprised if some of the trustees have been contacted by OECTA and promised support in the next election campaign if they vote the way the union wants them to on the pro-life policy, and threatened with active efforts to defeat them in the election if they do not, Cauchi told LifeSiteNews.

A trustee voting for Marai’s motion “needs to make full and complete disclosure of all such communications from OECTA on the policy issue” to comply with the conflict of interest law, he wrote the board.

The law also obliges trustees to “not take part in the discussion of, or vote on any question in respect of the matter” in which they have a conflict of interest.

Cauchi, who has standing as a Catholic elector, says he’ll take non-compliant trustees to court following Tuesday’s vote.

If they are found guilty of breaching the Municipal Conflicts of Interest Act, a judge could declare their seats vacant, and disqualify them as trustee candidates for up to seven years.

Cauchi is also prepared to combine his statutory claim with a common law conflict of interest claim, he wrote the board.

That common law claim “would be based on a non-pecuniary conflict of interest stemming from the trustees’ decision to put their own dissenting views on Catholic teaching above the constitutionally protected right of Catholic electors to have their trustees manage their schools in accordance with Catholic teaching,” he told LifeSiteNews.   

“Essentially, they have breached their fiduciary duty of loyalty to Catholic electors,” Cauchi said.

That’s echoed by Jack Fonseca, senior political strategist for Campaign Life Coalition, Canada’s national pro-life, pro-family lobbying group.

Campaign Life is urging its Halton-area supporters to attend Tuesday’s board meeting “to give moral courage to the trustees who previously voted for the Sanctity of Life motion to stand their ground, not be intimidated by OECTA’s  pressure tactics, or by the pro-abortion media,” he told LifeSiteNews.

Fonseca said Campaign Life is also urging Halton Catholics ratepayers to support the pro-life Motion #61/18 in the online consultation, which can be found here on the HCDSB website.

One Catholic ratepayer also urging people to complete the online consultation in support of Motion #61/18 suggested the following comment:

The history of Catholic Education in Ontario shows the tenacity, perseverance and determination of an oppressed minority of faith-filled Catholics who did everything they could to make sure Catholic education is guaranteed in this province. We cannot "drop the ball" now by watering down Res. #61/18. We must hold fast to our Catholic values to ensure that true Catholic education remains intact in Halton and in Ontario. The trustees who have filed and stood by  this motion are to be applauded for continuing this legacy, rather than being oppressed and derided. The fact that this resolution is so unpopular and misunderstood, proves that more pro-life education for both staff and students is needed. This is a perfect opportunity for students to research Catholic teachings and various charities so that they can discover excellent ones that they can support. Conscious giving makes sense and is encouraged in many other organizations, why not in our school board as well?

The deadline for completing the consultation is June 1.

The HCDSB meeting begins at 7:30pm Tuesday at the Board office at 802 Drury Lane, Burlington.

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