Far-right lobbying group endorses nine school board trustee candidates in Halton region

Campaign Life Coalition, a reactionary far-right anti-2SLGBTQ+, anti-abortion lobbying group, has formally endorsed seven Catholic school board and two public school board candidates across the Halton region.

Canadian Anti-Hate Network


Source: Wikimedia Commons


The upcoming municipal elections in Ontario are shaping up to be the latest battle in the culture war. Multiple regions are seeing candidates with positions aligned with far-right ideas getting their names on the ballot for the role of school board trustee. 

Halton, Ontario is no exception. 

The Halton region is home to four different school boards; however, the school board trustee candidates for the two French school boards were acclaimed. 

There are 35 candidates running for 11 available trustee positions on the Halton District School Board (HDSB), and 23 candidates running for nine available trustee positions on the Halton Catholic District School Board (HDCSB).

Residents head to the polls on October 24.

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Vincent Iantomasi
 
 
 

While Vincent Iantomasi is the incumbent trustee for Wards 1 and 2 of the Halton Catholic District School Board, he has been banned from attending meetings for the rest of his current term, based on his breaching of the Trustee Code of Conduct. 

Despite Iantomasi not completing their survey, Campaign Life Coalition (CLC) endorses him based on his having “courageously voted against a disgraceful motion to fly the so-called ‘gay-pride’ flag – that notorious symbol celebrating homoerotic fetishism (and genital mutilation in the case of transgenderism),” outside of HCDSB schools for Pride Month. In January, the motion passed and in June, the rainbow flag was flown over all Catholic schools in the district.

As was documented by Parents of Black Children (PoBC), an international organization which supports and advocates for Black children and their families, Iantomasi interrupted a 2020 professional development session on anti-Black racism to comment “Slavery isn't just about coloured people or Indians [...] slavery, it comes in all colours.” 

In a May 2021 Special Board Meeting of the HCDSB, Iantomasi argued that a policy motion that the HCDSB promote the hiring of staff from under-represented groups placed “too much focus on human rights” and that “our denominational rights are front and centre, and they do override most of it.” 

He called for the policy to be “vetted by legal” and confirmed to another trustee that yes, he was “looking to see the denominational rights supersede the human rights.”

On Twitter, Iantomasi has promote​​d COVID-19 conspiracism and other far-right ideas, including praising the recent election of neo-fascist Georgia Meloni, as Prime Minister of Italy.
 

Source: Twitter
 

David Cherry
 
 

In their endorsement of David Cherry for HCDSB trustee for Burlington Wards 3 and 6, CLC notes, “Cherry opposes the woke, leftwing agenda of the current Board of Trustees, and is a faithful Catholic.” 

Like Iantomasi, Cherry received CLC’s support despite not completing their questionnaire.

As has been the case with other anti-equity trustee candidates in this year’s elections, Cherry, on his campaign website, has called for changes to be made to the substance of the curriculum, an area not under the mandate of school board trustees. 

“We need to revise the relevant courses at our schools to educate the children about Health and Wellness,” he wrote. 

Cherry’s platform places special emphasis on the rights and feelings of parents. In reality, the concept of “parental rights” is not grounded in the Charter.

Cherry argues on his campaign website that “Parents should also have the opportunity to visit the classrooms with teaching going on and watch what is happening if they so choose – they’re paying for this service and it’s their right.” 

On Twitter, Cherry has referred to mask mandates as “crimes against humanity,” and on multiple occasions, directed tweets at Donald Trump Jr. praising former President Trump, and saying that he “prays for” Trump Jr.’s father and the Trump family.

David Cherry did not respond to a request for comment. 

Source: Twitter
 

Thomas Gwozdz
 

 

Like Ianotmasi and Cherry, trustee candidate for Halton Hills, Thomas Gwozdz, did not complete the Campaign Life Coalition questionnaire. Despite this, as well as his lack of voting record, campaign website or platform, CLC has endorsed his candidacy, noting “In communication with CLC, Gwozdz was deemed to (be) supportable, and a strong defender of parental rights against woke ideology.”

Gwozdz reiterated this position in his response to the Halton Parents for Change (HPFC) survey, declaring “My top priority is ensuring a stable learning environment free from post-modernistic, social constructionist, woke toxicity.” 

In his response to HPFC’s question about flying Pride flags at schools, Gwozdz opened with “A school is not a place to virtue signal nor is it a place for indoctrination.”

Thomas Gwozdz did not respond to a request for comment. 

 

Emma Murphy

 
  

Emma Murphy’s endorsement from CLC is based on her responses to their 2022 questionnaire – but just barely. 

“Emma is a pro-life catholic and gave good answers overall to CLC‘s 2022 questionnaire,” CLC writes, “but we do take exception to one bad answer she gave with respect to the sin of scandal in granting platforms to public figures who publicly contradict and oppose the moral teachings of the Catholic Church. Emma needs to be educated on the doctrine of giving scandal, especially giving scandal to children, so that she can become a more well-rounded and faithful Catholic.”​​

The “bad answer” Murphy provided was to the first item on the questionnaire, which does not specifically refer to “the sin of … giving scandal”  – “Will you work to ensure that Catholic schools do not invite guest speakers who have publicly expressed positions that contradict the morality and teaching of the Church, no matter how great their achievements in politics, business, sports, science or the arts?” 

In her campaign, and on her social media, Murphy, like so many other anti-equity candidates, centres “parents choice.” According to her answers to Inside Halton’s candidate survey, one of Murphy’s top three issues is “Parental choice brought to the forefront.” 

She also told Inside Halton that “there should be less time spent on teaching the students political and social ideologies.” 

Adding later, she feels “Rather than labelling and dividing students into identity groups, I will work to promote the Biblical view that every student is made in God's image and therefore has intrinsic value.”

Murphy does not have much of a social media footprint. From her new and lightly used Twitter, she has liked numerous anti-equity tweets, including one referring to gender-affirming care as “actually chemical castration, puberty blocking and surgical mutilation in certain cases;” and another from a Breitbart reporter featuring a video clip and quotation of the newly elected neo-fascist Italian Prime Minister, Georgia Meloni.

Emma Murphy did not respond to a request for comment. 

 
Helena Karabela
 

 

Oakville Wards 5 and 6 HCDSB trustee candidate Helena Karabela is the only other incumbent candidate, besides Vincent Iantomasi, that Campaign Life Coalition is supporting in Halton. 

CLC describes Karabela’s voting record as “exemplary” and lavishes praise for her “courageously” voting against raising the Pride Flag, and for introducing “a Sanctity of Life Fundraising motion that pro-abortion trustees eventually voted to kill based on a misguided interpretation of a regulation in the Education Act.” 

They also note that “She gave perfect answers to CLC's questionnaire in the run-up to the 2014 school board election and again during the 2022 election cycle.”

Like Iantomasi, Karabela was recently censured by the HCDSB, for violation of the Trustee Code of Conduct. She was barred from attending two meetings.

The voting record CLC considers “exemplary” includes Karabela voting against the motion to fly the rainbow flag at schools in the board, for the duration of Pride Month, among other anti-abortion and “parents rights” motions. Additionally, in 2016, Xtra Magazine reported that Karabela was one of four HCDSB trustees who voted “to reject a policy that denounced homophobia and advocated inclusivity for queer and trans students.” 

In response to Inside Halton’s question: “How will you embrace and champion diversity in this role?”, Karabela answered: “I embrace the reality that we are all children of God, created with equal dignity. Each person is a unique unrepeatable human being with gifts and talents to discover, develop and share with their communities. I established the annual International Holocaust Awareness Day at all schools to never forget this.”

Karabela lists having “established the annual International Holocaust Awareness Day across all HCDSB schools” as one of her “Achievement Highlights” on her campaign website. CAHN has inquired with her as to how she responds to the repeated Holocaust minimization of her endorser, Campaign Life Coalition. CLC has compared not only abortion, but same-sex marriage, bans on conversion therapy, and legislation against online hate, to Nazi Germany and/or the Holocaust. 

Helena Karabela did not respond to a request for comment. 

Campaign Life Coalition 

 

Far-right organizations like Campaign Life Coalition (CLC) have long encouraged their followers to be heavily involve​​d in school board trustee elections – from running as candidates to acting as “Citizen Journalists'' to “force the … candidates to divulge their position.” 

CLC has been producing voter guides for federal elections since the 1980s and for school board trustee elections since at least 2006. These voter guides are based in part, upon candidates’ responses to questionnaires (pictured below).

A screenshot of CLC’s public school board trustee questionnaire. 
Source: Campaign Life Coalition
 


A screenshot of CLC’s Catholic school board trustee questionnaire. 
Source: Campaign Life Coalition

 
Campaign Life Coalition has endorsed nine candidates in nine races across the Halton region – two in the public board and seven on the Catholic board.

In 2020, CLC compared gender-confirmation surgery to "the Residential Schools controversy" and female genital cutting. 

CLC suggested that the reason a woman of colour won (beating a man who publicly announced "not believing" in "transgenderism") in a 2014 public school board trustee election was that she "ran a campaign of ethnic politics"

Articles from the CLC have compared not only abortion, but same-sex marriage, bans on conversion therapy, and legislation against online hate, to Nazi Germany and/or the Holocaust. 
 

Other Candidates

 

In addition to the five profiled above, Campaign Life Coalition has endorsed four other candidates — Omar Kayed for HDSB Burlington Wards 1 and 2; Xin Yi Zhang for HDSB Burlington Wards 3 and 6; Rick Giuliani for HCDSB Burlington Wards 4 and 5; and Rob Kennedy for HCDSB Oakville Wards 1, 2, and 3. 

All were endorsed based on providing “perfect answers to CLC’s 2022 election survey.” Giuliani was noted as being “a faithful Catholic and solid pro-lifer.”

When contacted by email about CLC, Burlington Wards 1 and 2 candidate Omar Kayed told CAHN that he has no affiliation with the organization, but stopped short of denouncing the endorsement. Kayed said that the questions he answered are not related to issues outside of those asked on CLC’s survey and were instead very specifically focused on “parental rights.”

No other candidates nor the Campaign Life Coalition responded to requests for comment. 

 

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