There had been rumblings of discontent from right-wing Catholic groups over my criticisms of the Church, but only two letters came to the Board in response to this particular article. The Director of Education and the Chair of the Board replied to these letters, stating that debates over such issues were a normal part of the process as the Catholic community attempted to interpret the values of the Gospel in the contemporary world.

Fran Thoburn

Having felt protected and supported by the Board, the Toronto Star article was not on my mind as I approached the Catholic Education Centre on the morning of September 1, 1992. Imagine my surprise then, when, after telling me point blank that as of that day I was removed from teaching religion and restricted from taking part in chaplaincy work, the Superintendent told me that this directive was as a result of letters and phone calls about the article".

I was stunned, shocked, and quietly furious that the Board could take such draconian measures without a single complaint from students, parents, colleagues, or the administration at my own school. I had no previous warning of their intent, and there was no documentation whatsoever on any of my activities, inside or outside the classroom. The Board's action was in violation of commonly accepted due process in labor relations, and in violation of basic human rights.

Imagine my surprise

My Superintendent was obviously nervous and ill at ease in conveying the sanctions. He kept repeating phrases like, "I know how hard this must be for you, Joanna..." The Superintendent of Personnel, Mary Munnoch, remained silent for almost the entire interview, except to interject, "You must know that the Archbishop of Toronto [Aloysius Ambrozic] is the Honorary Chair of the Board." I realized then that the pressure to remove me must have come from the Archbishop himself.

After the interview, Steve Kirby and I returned to the OECTA office to consult with Don Schmidt, the Toronto Secondary Unit President. We requested a notification of the decision and the reason for it, in writing. The former was provided, but no reason given. Again, a violation of due process.

We consulted with OECTA Provincial and decided that the Board's actions were in contravention of Article 10.01 of the collective agreement, which reads, "No teacher shall be reprimanded, suspended, or demoted without just cause. In the event a teacher is so reprimanded, suspended or demoted, that teacher shall be given the reason therefore in writing, and failure to do so shall render such reprimand, suspension or demotion nugatory" (10.01, Just Cause).

The Just Cause clause was a very recent addition to our contract, and had been won at the cost of a bitter and prolonged work to rule strike by secondary teachers in 1991. Our unit had decided to hold out for this, even though our parallel elementary unit had given way on Just Cause and settled for more money. My situation would test the application of Just Cause, and how far it would go in guaranteeing basic freedom of thought and expression for Catholic teachers.

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