Confusion over faith has Wetaskiwin trustee position questioned

A special meeting called when the eligibility of a Wetaskiwin Regional Public Schools trustee was questioned...

There was some question about a trustee's eligibility bat a special meeting Sept. 12.

A special meeting called when the eligibility of a Wetaskiwin Regional Public Schools trustee was questioned ended in raised voices and implied lying on Sept. 12

The argument of eligibility of the trustee in question is linked to a believed practicing of Roman Catholic faith. However, the trustee had already made, in a private document not available for public viewing, a deceleration he is not Catholic.

There was confusion by some members of the board; apparently, at least one was not aware of the private declaration.

“I’m misinformed,” said division 1 trustee Lynn Ware.

Board chair Barb Johnson says before the election she was assured the trustee in question was eligible to participate as a board member, based on the Constitution, the School Act and the Local Authorities Election Act. “I stand by that.”

“I sadly believe we have a resident on the board who it not eligible,” said division 4 trustee Karen Becker.

According to the Local Authorities Election Act there are two definitions which determine residence and eligibility. The first is physical residence and the second is by faith.

The Local Authorities Election Act states, “The persons of the same faith as those formed by the separate school district become residents of the separate school district and are not residents of the public school district.”

Ogilvie LLP lawyer Desiree Ryzuik, acting consultant for the board, says, in part, the issue comes down to freedom of religion. “Freedom of religion allows you to say or not say what you want about your faith.”

She added the Bill of Rights allows a declaration of faith to be taken as true at face value without further proof needed.

During the meeting Becker asked the trustee in question if they are Catholic and if they attend a specific church. The individual did not and was not required to answer.

Trustee Jennifer Day informed Becker she did not have the right to ask those questions, especially in a public forum. At that time she motioned for the meeting to adjourn.

“What it comes down to is what it means to be of the same faith,” said Ryzuik.

She says part of the issue of determining eligibility versus ineligibility is the antiquated, partially overlapping and grey areas of the determining documents. “I think the new legislation is to eliminate some of that ambiguity.