Consult with community on controversial fundraising ban, education minister urges Halton Catholic board

The Ontario education minister urged the Halton Catholic District School Board (HCDSB) Wednesday to consult with the community as a controversial decision to ban fundraising for charities that run counter to Catholic values continues to strain relations between the board and students.

Students want board to rescind decision to stop schools from donating to certain charities

Education Minister Indira Naidoo-Harris is urging the Halton Catholic District School Board to consult with the community on its controversial decision to ban donations to certain charities. (CBC)

The Ontario education minister urged the Halton Catholic District School Board (HCDSB) Wednesday to consult with the community as a controversial decision to ban fundraising for charities that run counter to Catholic values continues to strain relations between the board and students.

"It is my expectation that fundraising decisions be made in consultation with parents, students and community leaders to reflect their needs and perspectives," Indira Naidoo-Harris said in a statement emailed to CBC Toronto.

"I was concerned to hear that this may not have been the case in this matter," she said.

Naidoo-Harris was responding to a media report that the board's funding ban contravenes the Education Act. Her comments also follow a HCDSB meeting Tuesday night where students voiced their opposition to the decision.

One of the students said she spoke out because the Hospital for Sick Children was one of the organizations the board has barred from receiving donations. She told CBC Toronto she had two operations on her heart at Sick Kids.

"We have voiced this concern with the board who has assured my Ministry that they will be consulting with their community further on this decision," Naidoo-Harris added.

In February, trustees voted 5 to 3 in favour of a motion to ensure that funds raised through the board's 46 elementary schools and nine secondary schools are donated to "charities and organizations that support activities that are in keeping with the mission of our Catholic school system."

The motion states that donations will not go to institutions that "violate the upholding of the sanctity of life from conception to natural death." That means financial donations will not go to charities or non-profits that "publicly support, either directly or indirectly, abortion, contraception, sterilization, euthanasia, or embryonic stem cell research."

The Halton Catholic board has 33,000 students. They raise about $12 million a year.

SickKids hospital would be included under the ban, prompting students to speak out.