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Review of Catholic School Board teaching contracts step in right direction: professor

Last Updated Dec 16, 2018 at 1:08 pm MDT

The Calgary Catholic School Centre, the basis of the Catholic schools in the city in Calgary on Tuesday, April 4, 2017. This building is the operation that helps run any of the Catholic schools in its district. (PHOTO: Chelsey Harms, 660 NEWS)

CALGARY (660 NEWS) — A professor from MacEwan University says the Alberta governments decision to review Catholic School Board teaching contracts is a positive and important step.

Alberta’s Education Minister David Eggen made the decision to investigate the agreements after concerns teachers could be fired for being in gay or common-law relationships.

Eggen said he has directed all 17 Catholic boards in the province to send him copies of the agreements to see if they meet legal standards, adding that denying anyone employment based on their sexuality is unacceptable.

Kristopher Wells an Associate Professor with the Faculty of Health and Community Studies at MacEwan University says if the Catholic church wants a school, they should pay for it.

“The Catholic church is not funding the Catholic education system, but Alberta taxpayers are. These are not church schools, these are government and publicly funded schools and therefore they must account to our various legislation and human rights,” said Wells.

Wells said we need to know on what criteria will these contracts be evaluated on.

“For example, what is it the government is actually looking for? And how are they going to determine if the contract is valid and acceptable or not? It really begs the question as to whether there should be any of these so-called Catholicity clauses allowed in any employment contracts.”

He adds that these clauses harm the teachers and students.

“LGBTQ teachers are forced into a ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ environment where they have to remain silent and invisible to keep their jobs. This denies LGBTQ youth in schools very important role models, to be able to see teachers like themselves, be able to reach out to teachers when they need support,” said Wells. “What it tells them is a message of silent and invisibility, that their identities don’t exist and their lives don’t matter.”

The Alberta Teachers’ Association says the law governing “Catholicity clauses” is complex and largely untested, but says teachers shouldn’t be forced to sign employment deals that violate their human rights.

There is no timeline for when the review is expected to be complete.

– With files from the Canadian Press