Pro-life Halton Catholic school board trustee Helena Karabela was re-elected on Oct. 22nd.

Pro-life Halton Catholic school board trustee Helena Karabela was re-elected on Oct. 22nd.

Halton’s Catholic school board killed its eight-month-old Sanctity of Life policy last month, but the bitter controversy the motion provoked didn’t die with it.

Instead, it raged on in the campaign for Ontario’s municipal election, with the winners decided at the ballot box Oct. 22.

The local leadership of the Ontario English Catholic Teachers Association (OECTA) campaigned to unseat the trustees who supported the pro-life motion and stack the board with its endorsed candidates.

OECTA Halton Secondary Unit sent high school teachers a September letter describing the current board of trustees as “dysfunctional” and citing the pro-life policy as proof.  “Let’s take Right-Wing, American political ideology out of our classrooms!” the letter declares.  “Too often the current group of trustees have pushed this agenda at the trustee table and in our schools at the expense of our students.”

Passed last February, the Sanctity of Life policy banned Catholic schools from raising funds for any charity that indirectly or directly supports abortion, euthanasia, contraception, sterilization and embryonic stem cell research. The ban simply reflects Catholic teaching on life.

It was vocally opposed by students and parents who were furious that they had to drop school-based fundraising for charities such as the Canadian Cancer Society, United Way Halton, Sick Kids Hospital, and WE Charities.

So fierce and widely publicized was the backlash — with parent David Harvey taking the board to court, and then Liberal education minister Indira Naidoo-Harris expressing her displeasure — the trustees agreed to hear delegations in March, and voted in May to suspend the motion to seek feedback.

On Oct. 9, trustees heard that of 1000 respondents to an online survey, 74 per cent opposed the motion, and 21 per cent supported it, reported Canadian Press.

“The people have spoken,” observed chair Diane Rabenda. “It’s totally presumptuous of us to think we know better.”

But trustee Anthony Danko repudiated this view before the motion was defeated 5 to 4. “Our job here isn’t to bow to public pressure on these types of issues,” he said. “On matters of faith and morals, they’re just non-negotiable.”

But long before the motion fell, OECTA Halton Secondary Unit president Keith Boyd promised the union would mobilize to defeat the trustees who supported it. Of the four trustees who consistently voted for the policy, only Helena Karabela and Anthony Quinn were running for re-election.

“I was shocked when I found out about the contents of the letter of endorsement,” Karabela, who sponsored the motion, told Inside Halton. “The derogatory language and accusations in this letter…is unprecedented.”

Quinn, who is pro-union, also decried the letter’s “vitriol” on his website. “I don’t think that Catholic institutions should be raising money that goes to groups that don’t believe that every human life has value,” he wrote. Quinn blamed “lack of support” from board staff for the “escalation” and “unnecessary polarization” of the issue.

A Catholic teacher who asked to remain anonymous likewise expressed disgust at OECTA’s campaign against the pro-life trustees. “In previous years, the local OECTA group promoted a Catholic teacher presence at the immoral nude-filled Toronto ‘gay pride’ March. Now, the union likens individuals who want Catholic and pro-life trustees as ‘American style right wing Trump supporters’,” the teacher told LifeSiteNews. “The trouble is they use teachers’ money to promote their scandalous views, as if every teacher supports their views. Many do not. The local union should stay within their area of expertise – negotiating contracts for teachers, and stop promoting anti-Catholic initiatives and views.”

Meanwhile, Maria Lourenco, a candidate in Burlington, is questioning whether OECTA is breaching the Municipal Elections Act, which requires groups to register as third-party advertisers if they use their own funds to disseminate endorsements beyond their membership. Lourenco alleges voters received pamphlets in the mail endorsing candidates and sponsored by OECTA, the Canadian Union of Public Employees, and the Association of Professional Student Services Personnel.

“This is clearly third-party advertising,” she wrote in an email to the city’s elections officer. “Please advise how this will be addressed.”

Briana Hamlet, also running in Burlington, did the same. “I called the City of Burlington and they said [OECTA] is not registered as a third-party advertiser,” she told LifeSiteNews. “They’re under investigation right now.”

OECTA’s politicking also led to sparked disruptions and yelling at an October 10 all-candidates meeting in Oakville, according to Inside Halton. One woman yelled “Are you pro-life?” at OECTA-endorsed Nancy Guzzo, while Karabela, Quinn and Ante Skoko defended their pro-life stance. “If you do not hold pro-life values … I have to ask my colleagues, why are you running for the Catholic school board?” said Skoko.  “As Catholics … you can’t really choose ‘I do believe this, I don’t believe that.’ You have to submit to authority. You have to be faithful. You can count on me to be a bulldog in that sense, because I see how things are going.”

“I don’t check my personal beliefs and faith at the door when I go into a school board meeting,” said Quinn.  “I am running as a trustee because of my faith. That in no way inhibits me from supporting the goals of students and their success.”

“We’re here because it’s a Catholic school,” Karabela told the crowd. “We should be teaching Catholic teachings.”

OECTA endorsed candidates for Halton Catholic school board were: Peter DaRosa, Nancy Guzzo, and Jeff Mamer in Oakville; Brenda Agnew, Jason Crawford, and Vincent Iantomasi in Burlington; Samantha Attew and Marvin Duarte in Milton; and Janet O’Hearn-Czarnota in Halton Hills.

Campaign Life Coalition green-lighted the following candidates: Anthony Quinn, Ante Skoke, Helena Karabela in Oakville; Briana Hamlet, Benjamin Matthew, Tim O’Brien in Burlington; and Bob Grynol in Milton.

Pro-life trustee candidates Karabela and O’Brien won. Karabela said in a statement that she was grateful for the opportunity to “increase awareness about the sanctity of life, from conception to natural death,” as a trustee. She said of her victory, “today is the day all Catholics and people of good will remember the great life of Pope St. John Paul II who said that the Right to Life was the most fundamental of all human rights. With my new mandate in this election, I look forward to working with the community to do more to advocate for the unborn, those threatened by euthanasia, and against all other attacks on the dignity of human life.”

 A version of this article appeared Oct. 16 at and is used with permission. Results from the election were added byInterim staff.