It’s Vanier school council, not church council

It's Vanier school council, not church council School council elections will be held this coming Monday. A mere two: at Vanier Catholic Secondary and Watson Lake schools. Beaver Creek's school didn't receive any nominations, and everywhere else folks hav

School council elections will be held this coming Monday. A mere two: at Vanier Catholic Secondary and Watson Lake schools. Beaver Creek’s school didn’t receive any nominations, and everywhere else folks have been elected by acclamation. Regarding Vanier, one could wonder why we even bother…

Student enrolment at Vanier has more or less stabilized in the last three years, but is far from what it used to be (445 in Oct. 2010, 370 in Feb. 2016). As a consequence, fewer teachers and fewer options in programming are available to our students.

It’s probably no coincidence that a shift in the focus and direction of our school councils also seems to have taken place in the last four to six years: to “permeate” our students’ learning with the Roman Catholic faith.

It’s an alarming sight to see a school council member at a school council meeting in February with a book, multiple inches thick, about the catechism of the Roman Catholic church. A significant portion of our student body and parents are not Catholic church members; that includes me. Ideally, our school council would be a reflection of the diversity in faiths, world-views and cultures of our students and their parents.

The local Roman Catholic bishop (technically the Catholic Episcopal Corporation of Whitehorse, a corporation without a board of directors) and the territorial minister of education (on behalf of Yukon’s commissioner) are back negotiating a memorandum of understanding. That’s what I’ve been told; they are “in communication.”

The negotiations, if they indeed are taking place, are a continuation of those with the previous local Catholic bishop, which proved to be very difficult and included a lot of legal wrangling. In the agreement I would like to see roles and responsibilities clearly defined and brought into the 21st century. The hiring policy and its special provisions that are in place now for our public Catholic schools need to become significantly less discriminatory, at minimum. It is 2016!

The status quo is unacceptable. Where there is no will to succeed, there is the option of ditching the 1962/1991 agreements and become private Catholic schools. I sense neither the Catholic community nor the present government would be keen on that.

During the 2014 elections the Catholic church members came out en masse to elect what looked more like a church council than a school council; only one of the five council members elected at Vanier, then, was a parent of a Vanier student.

Other than Vanier parents with Canadian citizenship, only those that are “recognized” by the local Catholic Episcopal Corporation (that is, the bishop) can cast a ballot on Monday. There is no definition available of what “recognized” means. In practical terms it has meant, and still means, all Roman Catholic parishioners that are Canadian citizens. In this day and age, the power and control of who gets to vote still lies in the hands of a bishop? At a public institution?

It would be a miracle if I, a non-Catholic, would be elected as a member of Vanier’s school council. It doesn’t have to be me, but for heaven’s sake, elect also other-than Catholic church members this time.

Tjitske van der Eide

Whitehorse

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