Despite the fact that persons must prove themselves to be practicing Catholics to be considered for a teaching position within the Catholic school boards of Ontario, several media reports have surfaced saying that some individuals are lying to not only board officials but even to Catholic priests about heir adherence to the faith, in order to land a job.
A Toronto-area woman, who did not want to be identified, told the Canadian Press that she and other teachers who are non-religious are attending Mass every Sunday in hopes of getting a pastoral letter of reference which is a requirement for being hired by a Catholic school board.
“I don’t particularly like going (to Mass) every Sunday, but if this is what I have to do, then I’ll do it,” said the woman. “I just really want to be in a career. I just want it so badly.”
She also admitted to having gone to confession and lying to the priest after having read about the sacrament in a catechism book.
Acknowledging a sense of guilt about the deception, the woman nevertheless stated that, “I know what I believe in. I support abortion. I support gay marriage. I’m going through what I have to go through to get a job. I know it sounds bad.”
“You feel really helpless,” said the teacher. “I thought, why not try this option. It was kind of out of desperation … not that I think it will work for sure, but it’s to have another option.”
“I haven’t gone for my, um, what do you call it, the bread thing yet…Communion. I’m nervous about it,” she added.
Frank McIntyre, a researcher for the Ontario College of Teachers (OCT), said the glut of teachers looking for fewer and fewer jobs has left teachers desperate to find work.
According to the OCT, there were 12,200 new teachers in the province in 2009, but only about 5,000 positions.
“What you can see, fairly quickly, is you have twice as many teachers as you do job opportunities and that has been going on for a number of years now,” said McIntyre.
“We’re getting a backlog of qualified teachers who are not able to get teaching jobs.”
A 2009 report from the education advocacy organization People for Education revealed that up to 335 Ontario schools face closure in the next three years because of declining enrolment, which stems from the province’s low birth rate.
Plummeting birth rates have already resulted in the closure of over 400 schools in Ontario this decade, and the Ontario Ministry of Education revealed that this year total elementary and secondary school enrollment has dropped by nearly 100,000 students from 2002 numbers.
Statistics Canada has predicted that student enrolment in elementary and secondary schools will drop by 500,000 in the next 10 years.
Tyler Charlebois, a spokesman for the Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities told the Canadian Press that the ministry recognizes the problem of too many teachers and too few students, and will begin limiting enrollment in teachers’ colleges starting on April 1, 2011.
“We are going to be reducing and limiting teacher-ed spaces by 1,000 spaces,” said Charlebois.
John Del Grande, a trustee with the Toronto Catholic District School Board, told the Toronto Star that the Catholic board is “just as strained for new jobs as the public one,” but he wouldn’t be surprised to find that people were returning to the faith or converting for the jobs.
“If you look at the pool of teachers, I’m sure there are ones that are Catholics in name only. At the end of the day I hope they are there to teach the kids and live on with the values that the Catholic Church stands behind,” he said.
Angela Kennedy, chair of the Toronto Catholic District School Board said she “hasn’t run across” anyone who has converted to Catholicism for the sole purpose of getting a job.
“I haven’t met anybody who is even contemplating doing that,” she told the Star. “In my position, would people tell me that? I’m not exactly the person people would tell.”
Kennedy said converting to Catholicism is a very long process, and elementary teachers must attend all liturgies and be Catholic role models for the students.
“We have an expectation that anyone we’re interviewing is Catholic and we’re also looking for the pastoral letter,” said Gary Poole, the superintendent of human resources for the Toronto board, adding that the interview process carefully and critically examines each applicant.
The right of Catholic school boards to insist that teachers and others who work directly with the children in the separate school system be practicing Catholics, is protected under the Ontario Human Rights Code, a subsection of which states that this right is guaranteed by the Constitution Act of 1867.
This right of Catholic schools to hire Catholic teachers was challenged last September when the Wellington Catholic District School Board had a human rights complaint filed against it because of their policy of only hiring teachers who are active Catholics.
The complaint was filed with the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal by Mr. Jesse Lloyd, 36, an out-of-work, non-Catholic teacher, whose application to the board was unsuccessful. Lloyd graduated with a teaching degree in 2006 and had worked short-term contract positions with public boards in Hamilton and Guelph.
When he applied to the Wellington Catholic board in 2006 and was not given an interview he filed his complaint contending that the board’s hiring policy was discriminatory.
The Wellington Catholic District School Board’s Director of Education Donald Drone responded to the complaint by insisting 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.
“It is the constitutional mandate of Catholic schools to provide Catholic education to Catholic students,” Drone stated. “It is critical that teachers who deliver this educational program to its students be Catholic.”
Catholic school boards, he said, have the “preferential right to hire Catholic teachers who can fulfill the responsibilities of a teacher in a Catholic school and who are knowledgeable about and committed to the values, goals and obligations of the Catholic school system.”