Toronto Catholic school board could face legal action if it votes to fly ‘Pride’ flag: lawyer
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TORONTO, May 5, 2021 (LifeSiteNews) – An Ontario-based lawyer is warning trustees of Toronto’s Catholic school board that if they vote on May 6 to raise the homosexual “Pride” flag they could find themselves facing legal action from Catholic parents over their “serious errors in corporate governance.”
Lawyer Geoff Cauchi wrote a letter to the Toronto Catholic District School Board (TCDSB) on May 4 as a “friend of the Board” to urge trustees about their duties and responsibilities as trustees of a Catholic board (read full letter here).
“It is my understanding that your Board (the “TCDSB”) is about to deliberate on resolutions to approve the flying of the ‘Rainbow Flag’ at its schools during the month of June, 2021, and approve moving forward with a plan to incorporate into its curricula the ideologies promoted by the organization that goes by the name Black Lives Matter, and those that come under the general description of ‘Critical Race Theory,’” he wrote in his letter obtained by LifeSiteNews.
“As a member of the ‘Class of Persons’ in the Province of Ontario who possess what is known as Denominational Rights, I cannot resist the urge to again volunteer my assistance to the Board in helping it avoid serious errors in corporate governance,” he added.
Section 93 of the 1867 Constitution Act guarantees Catholics in Ontario the right to have a publicly funded separate denominational school system where Catholic children can be taught the fullness of the Catholic faith without government interference.
Cauchi’s legal opinion comes in the wake of the TCDSB’s newly-established “2SLGBTQ+ Advisory Committee” recommending that the board proclaim June as Pride month and that the Pride flag be raised “at the Catholic Education Centre and at all schools in the system.” Declaring June as Pride month “implores us to be compassionate, welcoming, and inclusive of marginalized people, including 2SLGBTQ+, as an example of our faith in action,” the pro-LGBT Committee states in its report that is included on the agenda for the upcoming May 6 meeting where the matter is expected to come to a vote.
Cauchi outlined in his 31-page letter how the trustees owe “fiduciary duties to all of their Catholic Electors” to not only “recognize and rigorously defend the constitutional right of Catholic education” but to fulfill their vow when becoming a trustee to “be faithful to the teachings of the Church and to the Primacy of the Roman Pontiff and the authority of the Magisterium.”
The lawyer made the case that TCDSB trustees who openly support groups promoting homosexuality or who openly dissent from the Church’s teaching on moral matters have a “conflict of interests” that makes them ineligible to vote on any resolution involving Pride flags at Catholic schools.
“I think this is an opportune time for the TCDSB to review its conflicts of interest ‘management’ obligations, and take appropriate action. In my opinion, a failure to do so could materially expose the TCDSB and many of its individual Trustees to valid legal claims asserted by its Catholic Electors,” he wrote in his letter.
The lawyer highlighted the many duties and responsibilities that trustees owe Catholic parents who send their children to Catholic schools to receive a Catholic education. These included, among others, that the “Board and its Trustees must always put the interests of the Catholic Electors who support the Mandate of the Board ahead of their own personal interests and the interests of all other persons or special interest groups,” and that they must “reject all advice and lobbying efforts from persons and groups that are hostile to the magisterial teachings of the Catholic Church.”
“A failure by the Board or any of its Trustees to fulfill the duties described above will constitute a breach of fiduciary duty that will trigger a variety of causes of action and their attendant legal remedies to which the injured Catholic Electors should have recourse as a matter of law,” wrote Cauchi.
Cauchi criticized Catholic school boards in Ontario in general for allowing what he called “busybodies” — entities and persons who have no legal standing — to weigh in at meetings on matters pertaining to the running of Catholic schools. In this group, he includes unions, such as the dissident Ontario English Catholic Teachers' Association (OECTA), along with non-Catholics and dissenting Catholics.
“Non-Catholic and dissenting Catholic ‘busybodies’ who seek to lobby the Trustees on denominational issues should be politely told that their efforts will not be tolerated,” he wrote.
He highlighted that Catholic parents have “multiple causes of action against Catholic Boards and their trustees” if they breach their “fiduciary duty.” These include, among others, a request for judicial review of policies that were enacted by trustees that may not align with Catholic teaching and a request for a court order declaring a trustee’s seat vacant for violations of a school board’s conflict of interest policies.
Cauchi told LifeSiteNews that Thursday’s meeting boils down to whether Trustees will fulfill their duties to Catholic parents.
“Here, we are on the brink of witnessing the Catholic Electors being victimized by their own Trustees,” he said.
Jack Fonseca of Canada’s pro-life and pro-family organization Campaign Life Coalition told LifeSiteNews that Cauchi’s legal reasoning in the letter was “impeccable.”
“He drew out of precedent-setting cases and administrative law principles, the clear fact that if any trustee votes in a manner that condones lifestyles or ideologies that are hostile to Catholic doctrinal teaching, he or she is in breach of the fiduciary duty they owe to faithful Catholics who reasonably expected the TCDSB to indoctrinate students in the fullness of Catholic magisterial teaching. As such, the trustee opens him or herself up to legal action by Catholic electors in Toronto. To leave no ambiguity, Cauchi presents case law which establishes that trustees have no fiduciary obligation to Catholics who dissent from magisterial teaching and who, therefore, cannot be considered beneficiaries,” he commented.
Fonseca said that Cauchi’s legal opinion also makes it clear that several of the current trustees who have publicly declared positions in opposition to magisterial teaching ought to declare that they have a conflict of interest on May 6 and recuse themselves from voting on the Pride motion.
“Based on public tweets and media interviews that I’ve seen from them, at least four of the trustees will have to recuse themselves from voting on Thursday’s motion, including Maria Rizzo, Markus De Domenico, Norm Di Pasquale and Ida Li Preti. Cauchi’s opinion suggests they open themselves up individually to a lawsuit if they don’t declare their non-pecuniary conflict of interest and don’t recuse themselves from this vote,” he said.
Fonseca said that if the TCDSB votes in favor of flying Pride flags from Catholic schools that parents should take action.
“Based on the strength of Cauchi’s expert legal opinion, I believe that Catholic parents should commence a lawsuit if the TCDSB votes to fly the gay Pride flag. This issue is important enough because such a vote to condone homosexual activity, lifestyles and ideologies that are hostile to magisterial teaching would put the souls of 92,000 students served by the TCDSB in grave spiritual danger by influencing them to also reject Catholic magisterial teaching. To paraphrase Jesus Christ, this is the Trustees’ millstone moment.”
The Archdiocese of Toronto, led by Cardinal Thomas Collins, released a statement yesterday advising the TCDSB against flying the rainbow “Pride” flag at its schools in June.
“Parents make a clear choice when they decide that their children will attend a Catholic school. They rightly expect that trustees, principals, teachers — all partners in education — will ensure that Catholic teaching is presented, lived and infused in all that we do,” the May 4 letter states (read full letter here).
The archdiocese points out that given the number of groups working to advocate for many diverse causes, many school boards “wisely fly only the Canadian flag out of a sense of equity for all.”