View of Catholic Schools in downtown Calgary, Alta Wednesday, March 11, 2015. Jim Wells / Calgary Sun / QMI Agency
Calgary's Catholic School District officials have confirmed that its teachers are required to sign documents called the same gender or joint-law relationship is a breach of employment contracts in a provincial controversy over practice.
But now that a Calgary teacher has brought the case to the Alberts Human Rights Commission, LGBTQ lawyers say that the issue will continue to be challenged, especially as NDP's bill 24 promises all schools to create GSA for students who want that support.
"How can these contracts – these Catholic clauses – be allowed to stand when they are clearly discriminatory," said Kristopher Wells, aprofessor at the Faculty of Health and Sciences at MacEwan University.
"It's hard to believe that in 2018, when marriages of the same gender are legal in this country, someone could lose their jobs because of it."
Wells says allowing such clauses, which require teachers to maintain "Catholic values," which only include exposures considered appropriate by the church, also create a dangerous environment of fear and exclusion not only among teachers but also young students.
"This is not a system directly supported by the church. It is a public education system supported by taxpayers," said Wells.
"But there is this" do not ask, do not tell "mentality that creates feelings of stress, despair where you have to be silent to maintain employment. It affects not only the teachers, but it denies LGBTQ youth the important role models , They need. "
According to the Calgary Catholic School District, all teachers must sign a contract describing a number of expectations, one of which includes living "a lifestyle and expulsion in accordance with Catholic teaching and principles."
Richard Svoboda, superintendent of human resources at CCSD, confirmed "anyone who does not live a lifestyle in accordance with the church, that piece of the contract would affect them.
"Relations that would be acceptable are those recognized by the Catholic Church, which must be recognized by a Catholic priest."
Svoboda then added, "it would not include a relationship between the same sex or a common law relationship."
Teachers are treated in each case and invited to meet with a Catholic priest.
"It is not for me to decide if they are right or wrong in the eyes of the Catholic Church," Svoboda said. "We give them opportunities to unite."
Svoboda said he is aware of obviously homosexual teachers in the system, but no-one has terminated their positions.
However, former Calgary Catholic school president Barb Hamilton has recently taken her case to the Alberta Human Rights Commission, claiming that she had to leave her post because of her sexuality.
Wells said there is also another ongoing human rights complaint that involves a LGBTQ teacher in Alberta who does not want to be identified.
In the last week, teachers in Edmonton and Red Deer have also raised concerns about signing catolicity clauses dictating their lifestyle choices and discouraging being homosexual.
Tonya Callaghan, associate professor of education at the University of Calgary's Werklund School of Education, left his job as Catholic school teacher to investigate institutionalized homophobia in the Catholic school system.
These clauses are used disproportionately to push out LGBTQ teachers, she said.
Schools do not use contracts to push out teachers who use contraception or live with lovers, she said.
"We can not see news about it. These things do not happen."
Wells is added if the Alberts Human Rights Commission finds that LGBTQ teachers are actually treated differently than teachers who are alike, but live with spouses outside spouses, the violations must be preceded by higher courts.
– With files from Janet French, Edmonton Journal