Edmonton Catholic chair apologizes if sending out Calgary bishop’s letter caused hurt
Edmonton Catholic School Board Chair Marilyn Bergstra said Monday she didn’t agree with sending out a Calgary bishop’s letter to parents.
“I would have advised against the move for a variety of reasons,” Bergstra said, explaining she was at an Alberta School Boards Association Board of Directors meeting when a majority of trustees decided to send out the guidelines and the bishop’s letter to parents “for information purposes.”
“I would like to personally apologize if this information caused harm or hurt to anyone,” Bergstra said.
The letter, written by a Calgary bishop, was emailed to parents on Friday. Bergstra would not say how many parents received the letter.
In his letter, F.B. Henry – Bishop of Calgary – blasted Minister of Education David Eggen’s guidelines on how school boards should deal with LGBTQ students, calling it a “…forceful imposition of a particular narrow-minded anti-Catholic ideology.”
Minister Eggen responded by saying the NDP government “strongly supports” Catholic education and has had “very positive” relationships with Catholic boards. Still, he stands behind the government’s guidelines.
Eggen said Monday that Edmonton Catholic School Board trustees need to “sort themselves out” when it comes to drafting a plan to help LGBTQ students.
“Obviously, we are seeing a variety of opinions on these best practices, but I would remind everyone that this is about providing students with a sense of security in their place of learning,” Eggen said in a statement to Global News.
“How an elected board of trustees chooses to communicate with its parents is up to them, but all boards are aware of my expectations around professionalism and decorum in public. We will continue to work actively with all school authorities to build greater understanding and acceptance.”
On the issue of transgender students, the bishop said God created beings as male and female and that: “In his plan, men and women should respect and accept their sexual identity.”
On Friday, the Board of Trustees emailed a link to the letter to parents. An ECSD spokesperson explained that it was done so they could access it if they wanted to.
The e-mail sparked a firestorm online, with LGBTQ advocates calling on the Minister of Education to dissolve the board.
On Saturday, ECSB Trustee Patricia Grell apologized on her website, saying she tried to discourage other trustees from including the link to the letter in the e-mail.
“…it would not bode well for our district and the future of Catholic education if we allowed ourselves to participate in disseminating his uninformed views and comments which frankly, in my opinion, are not in keeping with the spirit of the Year of Mercy recently declared by Pope Francis”
On Monday, Bergstra said the Edmonton Catholic School Board is starting the process of looking through the 21 pages of guidelines from the province.
“There is a lot of information to go through,” she said.
“We want to honour a process that will be respectful, thorough and thoughtful,” Bergstra said.
Once the board is finished reviewing the guidelines, it will bring a draft policy forward for its third and final reading.
With files from Tom Vernon, Global News.
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