A religious contract that the Calgary Catholic School District (CCSD) introduced in 2017 as an aspirational tool has some questioning the document’s place in a publicly funded school system.
The ‘ A Catholic Leader’s Covenant’, of which CTV Calgary has obtained a copy, outlines a series of objectives including to know, serve and love God.
“In all of our contracts are professional growth plans,” explained Tania Van Brunt, CCSD’s director of communications. “Our evaluations, our leadership quality standards, is an element of Catholicism and faith, and that’s who we are.”
The document does not include specific ‘do nots’ and does not indicate what repercussions, if any, the signee would face should they violate the terms that include attending Sunday mass each week, and ‘following and modelling to others, both in and out of school, a lifestyle and deportment in harmony with the practices and beliefs of the Catholic Church’.
CCSD officials could not say if there have been violations of the covenant or what the consequences would be for those found in violation.
Kris Wells, an associate professor at Macewan University, questions the intent of the contract. “It’s so vague, almost as vague as to be meaningless without specific examples,” said Wells. “It’s a form of discrimination if you’re not applying this covenant equitably to everyone who violates it.”
A covenant at Trinity Western University in British Columbia was challenged all the way to the Supreme Court due to its demand that students promise to abstain from sexual intimacy that violates the sacredness of marriage between a man and a woman or face expulsion. In June of this year, the school’s covenant was found to be degrading and it is now optional for students to sign.
Barb Hamilton, a teacher and former principal with CCSD, alleges she was pushed into resigning over her sexual orientation and has taken her concerns to the Alberta Human Rights Commission. She considers the CCSD’s covenant to be dehumanizing and feels her career with the school board was limited because she is gay.
“There’s fear from everything like I’m not going to pass my evaluation (or) say the wrong thing and then there’s fears around I’m going to lose my job if I speak out against a practice or policy.”
Alberta’s Minister of Education, David Eggen, says he has not read the CCSD’s covenant but he is aware that they do exist in some schools in the province. He states that faith-based schools are subject to the province’s mandated curriculum and the School Act and, if they’re in compliance with that, they’re doing their job.
Officials with the Edmonton Catholic School District says principals within their system are not required to sign a similar contract.
With files from CTV’s Brenna Rose
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