Ottawa Parents Protest Partnership

"Explicit policy" needed to uphold goals of education
By Deborah Gyapong
Canadian Catholic News

Brian Lilley, Sun Media columnist, is a parent to four children in the Catholic school system.Brian Lilley, Sun Media columnist, is a parent to four children in the Catholic school system.
About 100 concerned ratepayers joined the Jan. 22 meeting of the Ottawa Catholic School Board (OCSB), insisting on tighter protocols for vetting speakers and school trips.

In a presentation to the board, Parents as First Educators (PAFE) Ottawa chapter president Andy Pocrnic cited four recent “public scandals” that have led to “the public perception of a weakening of our board’s Catholic identity, sowed confusion in the minds of our students and demoralized parents.” 

Pocrnic listed a proposed civics trip by high school students to campaign for American President Obama; a visit by Liberal leadership hopeful MP Justin Trudeau to a Catholic elementary school to talk about bullying; an upcoming social justice trip involving visits to El Salvador; and the co-op placement of a student with “a homosexual activist organization.”

“President Obama’s advocacy for abortion is public knowledge as is the Church’s teaching that the killing of an unborn child is always intrinsically evil and can never be justified,” he said. He outlined Trudeau’s stands in favor of abortion and same-sex marriage, noting the MP had said he would support Quebec separation if Canada ever brought back restrictions on abortion or overturned same-sex marriage. 

The El Salvador trip involves visits with “groups that have publicly advocated for the legalization of abortion, for the legalization of prostitution, for the promotion of contraception and the right to adoption for lesbian couples,” Pocrnic charged.

He urged the OCSB to develop an “explicit policy” that board partners “may not publicly undermine the goals of Catholic education.” He also suggested a vetting process that takes the whole of Catholic teaching into account when speakers are invited or school trips planned.

Fr. Pierre Champoux, pastor of Holy Redeemer Parish in Kanata and chaplain to three elementary schools and one high school, also called for tighter protocols.

“We don’t send soldiers into harm’s way without giving them basic training and a means of self-defense; it’s just as unethical to knowingly expose students to speakers and groups that embrace immoral ideologies and teachings, such as contraception, abortion and prostitution, when those very same students do not know what the Catholic Church actually teaches on those subjects.”

A majority of Catholic school students do not know their faith or attend Church regularly, he said. “Students in Catholic schools need to know what the Church teaches, and to have the ability to argue effectively in defense of the faith when it is challenged,” the priest said. “In fact, they have a right to know official Church doctrine.”

Champoux noted Catholic teachers “do not have the right to create a culture of dissent from Church teaching.”

Sun Media columnist Brian Lilley, a father of four children in the Catholic school system, brought several file folders filled with documents from Access to Information requests concerning the Obama trip, which was cancelled after news media began inquiring about the proposed trip.

Also host of Sun Media TV’s Byline, Lilley said the board told parents and journalists the trip would only involve observing political process. He said the documents he obtained proved the trip would involve campaigning.

“How can I trust the board when it hid the truth and told bald-faced lies,” he said. “You need to admit the truth and you need to tighten up policies surrounding school trips.”

Ottawa father James Doak pointed out a recent Cardus survey revealed Catholic school graduates now in their 30s are: “more likely to support same-sex marriage; more likely to feel helpless in dealing with problems in life; more likely to believe religion is a private matter that should be kept out of public debates about social and political issues; less likely to feel an obligation to vote; and less likely to believe that God or the Bible helps them decide what is right and wrong.”

“If this school board does not change its procedures and policies soon, faithful Catholics will no longer fight for a separate school system,” Doak warned. “Faithful Catholics will not defend an un-faithful school system against secularists and politicians who simply follow changing opinion.”

Kathleen Murphy, Ottawa coordinator for PEACE (Public Education Advocates for Christian Equity) told the board her organization has advised many non-Catholic Christian parents to seek refuge in the Catholic School system to escape anti-Christian policies in the public school system. Catholic schools risked losing those students, she said. PEACE supports PAFE in its call for having all partnerships be in line with Church teachings, she said.

None of the OSCB trustees asked any questions after the presentations, which the Board received without comment. 

“The chairperson Mark Mullan has written to the delegations and thanked them for sharing their concerns,” said OSCB communications officer Mardi de Kemp. “It’s standard operating procedure that the trustees will now take a couple of weeks to reflect and discuss, then respond.”