Halton Catholic trustees quash controversial Sanctity of Life motion

The Halton Catholic District School Board's controversial Sanctity of Life motion is off the books after trustees voted against making changes to the board's official fundraising policy.

The motion, passed Feb. 20, gained attention throughout the province after it restricted school fundraising to charities that do not support — either directly or indirectly — abortion, contraception, sterilization, euthanasia or human embryonic stem cell research.

Outlawed charities included several hospitals, including the Toronto Hospital for Sick Children, as well as the Canadian Cancer Society and Halton Women's Place.

After receiving public feedback over the final months of the previous school year, five of nine trustees voted Tuesday to make no changes to the board's fundraising policy, effectively quashing the Sanctity of Life motion.

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Trustees Arlene Iantomasi, John Mark Rowe, Paul Marai, Jane Michael and Diane Rabenda voted in favour while Anthony Quinn, Helena Karabela, Susan Trites and Anthony Danko — all past Sanctity of Life supporters — voted against. The Sanctity of Life motion led to student protests and condemnation from former education minister Indira Naidoo-Harris last spring, with numerous parents complaining they were not offered the opportunity for input.

One parent, David Harvey, went to court in April demanding the board enact a "meaningful process of community consultation."

The motion was put on hold May 1 in order for the board to collect feedback but continued to dominate much of the board's activities this year, including the electoral campaigns of current trustee candidates.

Some groups and individuals also came forward in support of the motion, including student Kelty Barel and Toronto priest Terrence McKenna, who described trustees as "pioneers" in upholding Catholic values.

Tuesday's vote effectively wipes the slate clean for the new board, to be voted in during the Oct. 22 municipal election.

A vast majority of the candidates running for Halton Catholic trustee positions do not support the Sanctity of Life motion, with many vowing to get rid of it. At recent election debates, several candidates expressed concerns that the controversy could bolster a case among Ontarians for cancelling public support of Catholic education.

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