HALTON, Ontario (LifeSiteNews) — A Catholic school board director told students and staff to stay away from the upcoming Canadian National March for Life in Ottawa, citing safety concerns.
Halton Catholic District School Board (HCDSB) director of education John Klein recently announced that students and staff at Oakville, Burlington, and Milton Catholic high schools will not be attending the National March for Life next week, according to INHALTON News.
“Some of us might have memories over COVID maybe seeing other marches or activities in Ottawa where they were maybe not quite what people hoped for or intended,” Klein said.
“There is a concern or worry that traditional form of demonstration is something that would be worrisome in terms of safety,” he continued, failing to mention any instances of violence or danger to students at the March for Life.
“I was even saying to some of the trustees earlier that I’ve even had instances where other people in this province who are union leaders sometimes had their own demonstrations and they’re worried about people who are not necessarily fellow travellers in that, coming in and taking advantage of it in terms of other far right (demonstrators) or others,” Klein added.
The National March for Life is set to take place on Thursday, May 11 in downtown Ottawa. The event will begin with a rally on Parliament Hill at 12:30 p.m. and end with testimonies at 4 p.m. The evening events include a Rose Dinner and Youth Banquet.
Jack Fonseca of Campaign Life Coalition, the pro-life organization in charge of running the National March for Life, told LifeSiteNews the decision “is a really disgraceful action by the Halton Board. It’s really a statement of not supporting one of the commandments: ‘Thou shalt not kill.’”
According to superintendent of education Lorrie Naar, the decision not to march is not final and the schools plan to “take a look at it and consider it each year, but I do know prior to COVID in the last couple of times that students went some of the concerns were that they would have to be very selective in the routes they picked because it was getting, in some cases … it wasn’t violent, but it was getting a little out of hand.”
“We don’t have a way of controlling or knowing what’s going to happen,” Naar added, despite no records of violence to youth at the March for Life.
Klein seconded the claim that the decision was based on safety concerns, saying, “That (violence) was certainly something that has become more evident over the last two years. Not only outside of Halton, but something we have to take advantage of in terms of making my decisions.”
However, Klein asserts that students will participate in other pro-life activities, including the annual Halton Walk for Life on June 3 and the Halton Alive conference.
“There used to be a life conference through the diocese that hasn’t been happening in the last few years, so we talked about a way we could gather some of our students together,” said Naar, adding that the event would not take place this year and is only an idea for future years.
According to Fonseca, the claim by the board over safety concerns for students is “nonsense.”
“The Halton Board really should be supporting sending Catholic students to the March for Life,” he said. “His (Klein) allegation that somehow it might not be safe at the March is ridiculous. The Ottawa police are the ones deciding the route. They will be there leading the March. It’s completely safe, and there’s never been an unsafe incident.”
Fonseca believes the decision “reflects an animosity by the people in charge at Halton Board towards the pro-life message.”
“It probably suggests that they don’t care about the unborn, and they don’t care about the right to life,” he continued. “They’re probably woke leftists and not faithful Catholics. And that’s probably the real reason for the decision.”
While the board officially discouraged students from attending, some board members are challenging the claim that the event will be dangerous and are instead encouraging students to attend.
Oakville trustee Chris Saunders questioned whether there was any credible evidence concerning safety risks at the March and pointed out that students from their community had been sent for years without any incidents.
“It just seems a shame that this is something on a national stage that really testifies to our faith and what we consider important,” he said.
“It would be nice, and I hope next year we reconsider and look into the opportunity if the temperature has not increased. I think this is an important thing to do,” Saunders added.
Similarly, Oakville trustee Helena Karabela plans to attend the rally and is encouraging others to go as well.
“I’ve gone several years in the past and I’ve seen students there and it’s always wonderful to see their faith in action and their commitment to life from conception,” she said. “I will be planning to go and I’ll let you know.”
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