Students in Oakville, Burlington, Milton warned to stay away from anti-abortion march


Published March 28, 2023 at 3:43 pm

Halton Catholic District School Board high school students won't be given the opportunity to take part in this year's March for Life being held on May 11 in Ottawa. FACEBOOK PHOTO

Citing safety concerns, students and staff at Oakville, Burlington, Milton Catholic high schools won’t be given the opportunity to take part in this year’s March for Life in Ottawa.

Halton Catholic District School Board (HCDSB) Director of Education John Klein announced the decision at a recent meeting.

The national anti-abortion march is being held on May 11 this year and while the HCDSB has supported students attending the rally in the past, recent gatherings in the national capital have raised safety concerns with the board.

“That is certainly an opportunity, as there are many opportunities, for us as Roman Catholics to visibly express the fact that we have a faith that understands that there’s a, as it was said by one of the American Bishops years ago, a seamless bolt of cloth and that we are a faith that believes in that and we want to stand up for that,” said Klein in announcing the decision.

The day of massing together in a march in places, he explained, isn’t always necessary the most prudent thing to do.

“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 continued. “There is a concern or worry that traditional form of demonstration is something that would be worriesome in terms of safety.

“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.”

Oakville trustee Chris Saunders, who asked whether there had been any credible evidence that would have been an issue, pointed out how the school has been sending kids to the march for years and wondered if they will be allowed to return next year.

The March for Life has been held in Ottawa since 1998.

“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.”

The decision came after talking to a large group of representatives from each high school.

“We’d 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,” said Lorrie Naar, superintendent of education

“We don’t have a way of controlling or knowing what’s going to happen,” Naar added.

Klein said where there is any potential be some form of danger to students is something that he and the board take very seriously.

“That was certainly something that has become more evident over the last two years,” he said. “Not only outside of Halton, but something we have to take advantage of in terms of making my decisions.

Klein said the HCDSB is ensuring students will have other activities to be involved in.

Catholic high schools will be encouraged to participate in local events such as 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. “It will take a year in the planning, but that would be one of the things we would be looking at for next year.”

Students and staff can still attend the March for Life, but it would be on their own and no connection to their school.

Oakville trustee Helena Karabela is still planning to attend the rally.

“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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