Toronto Catholic school officials tried to block GSA ban, claimed it broke law
TORONTO, May 20, 2013 (LifeSiteNews.com) – As North America’s largest Catholic school board prepares to vote Thursday on a motion to ban homosexual activist groups in the schools, LifeSiteNews.com has learned that school officials tried to block the move when it was brought forward in April.
Garry Tanuan, a new trustee in the Toronto Catholic District School Board, had filed his notice of motion by the deadline before the board’s April 25th meeting, but board chair Ann Andrachuk and Director of Education Bruce Rodrigues removed it from the agenda on a technicality.
In a rare display of dissension, however, the trustees at the April meeting challenged the chair, with one comparing Andrachuk’s actions to those of a “dictator,” and voted 5-3 to put the motion back on the agenda. (View the meeting here.)
During the meeting, the motion’s opponents made clear that the real concern about it is that it would go against Bill 13, the Liberal government’s controversial “anti-bullying” legislation that forced Catholic schools to allow gay-straight alliances.
As she was challenged by trustee John Del Grande for scuttling the motion, Andrachuk said it was removed as a “legal matter.”
“The motion was contrary to the [Education] Act and the Act supersedes any by-laws or policies of this board. We have to follow them first and foremost,” she said.
"If it's you as an individual who would like to challenge the government and its policies, that’s your opportunity, but at this particular time I made the decision in consultation with the director that that would not happen at this board today,” she said.
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After this exchange, Andrachuk went on to direct attendees to refrain from tweeting her comments. "If there is any tweeting going on about this conversation, we're already in public, it would be nice if the private opinions wouldn't be tweeted out to the world,” she said.
Backers of the motion have argued that Bill 13 itself violates the Education Act’s protection of Catholic denominational rights by mandating Catholic schools to allow groups that go against their faith. The motion itself charges that the government is “breaking the law” by violating section 93 of the Constitution, which enshrines Catholic denominational rights.
At the time of Bill 13’s passage last year, Toronto’s Cardinal Thomas Collins called it a “very real” threat to religious freedom that “overrides the deeply held beliefs” of Catholics.
In addition to the legal issue, Andrachuk claimed the motion had not been submitted by the deadline and that it ought to have been sent to herself as board chair and the director of education as board secretary, but instead was merely sent to the board’s recording secretary.
Other trustees protested, however, that while the board’s by-laws require motions to be sent to the chair and director, the standard practice is to submit them to the recording secretary who then forwards them to the chair and director.
A number of trustees said Andrachuk and Rodrigues had essentially taken it upon themselves to remove an item from the agenda because they disagreed with it.
Del Grande called it a "gross misconduct of democracy" and trustee Maria Rizzo said they were setting a bad precedent.
“I do really think that you've overstepped your authority and in doing so it's sort of like a dictatorship,” said Rizzo, while also emphasizing that she does not support Tanuan’s motion.
“We've had notices of motions for ever and ever and ever. I have never heard you say, I'm going to pull this because I don't like what it says,” Rizzo added. “We're smart people, we can figure it out. … You are not our mommy and I really resent that you are treating us in this way.”
During the discussion, trustees Peter Jakovcic and Barbara Poplawski rose to support Andrachuk, and trustees Jo-Ann Davis and Angela Kennedy, as well as student trustee Andrew Walker, opposed her. The five who voted against the chair were Rizzo, Del Grande, Tanuan, Davis, and Kennedy, and the three who voted to support her were Jakovcic, Poplawski, and Andrachuk.
The trustees will vote on Tanuan’s motion to ban GSAs on Thursday, May 23. Contact the trustees here.