GUELPH, Ontario, September 11, 2009 (CCRL) – The Wellington Catholic District School Board has recently had a human rights complaint filed against it because of its policy, standard in all Ontario Catholic elementary school boards, of only hiring teachers who are active Catholics.  The complaint was filed with the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal by Jesse Lloyd, 36, a non-Catholic teacher whose application for employment was unsuccessful. 

Mr. Lloyd graduated with a teaching degree in 2006 and since then has worked short-term contract positions with public boards in Hamilton and Guelph, according to a report in LifeSite News.  He applied to the Wellington Catholic board in 2006 but did not hear back.

League President Phil Horgan notes that the right of Catholic schools to restrict teacher hiring to Catholics who practice their faith has been re-asserted in numerous court cases.  “Based on what we know from news reports, this filing flies in the face of the constitutional guarantees afforded Catholics dating back to Confederation and I am not aware of any court or tribunal which has challenged those provisions in respect of Catholic preferential hiring rights.”

Mr. Horgan pointed to the 1984 Caldwell v. Stuart case as precedent upholding the hiring rights of Catholic schools.  In that case, the Supreme Court of Canada dismissed the appeal of a teacher who was not rehired at a Catholic school after having contravened Church teaching by marrying a divorced man in a civil ceremony.

The League also notes that a section of Ontario’s Human Rights Code already addresses the question of teacher hiring in the board’s favour. Section 19 states: “This Act shall not be construed to adversely affect any right or privilege respecting separate schools enjoyed by separate school boards or their supporters under the Constitution Act, 1867 and the Education Act. R.S.O. 1990, c. H.19, s. 19 (1).”

The right to preferential hiring for religious (and some other) types of organizations is also recognized in Section 24 of the Code provided they can demonstrate that the preference (for example, for those of the same religion or other normally prohibited ground) is a bona fide condition of employment.

The teacher involved in the Guelph situation  contends that the policy is discriminatory.  The board’s director of education, Donald Drone, insists, however, that the board has a legal right to focus their hiring on active Catholics, and that this is essential to the very purpose of the Catholic school. 

“The reason for our existence is to provide a Catholic education to students,” he explained, “and by axiom, from my standpoint, those who are delivering that program should be Catholic, and should be knowledgeable in the faith.  And I would say that that’s likely the same position that most Catholic boards in this province would have.”

The board’s lawyer, Eric Roher, has issued a written response to the tribunal.  While he indicates that the complaint should be dismissed due to its lateness and because the board believes Mr. Lloyd was not qualified for the position irrespective of the difference in religious belief, he focuses on the board’s right to be authentically Catholic.

According to reports in The Guelph Mercury, Mr. Lloyd is currently preparing his response to the board’s submission.

When the state attacks the Church. Commentary by Brian Lilley,