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Repression of Conscience

Sweeney Defends Firings

Transition house workers fired, denied benefits for 'misconduct'

North Bay, Ontario, Canada (1988)
The Interim, March, 1989
Reproduced with permission

Frank M. Kennedy

The implication of the Minister's defence is clear. Government-funded "independent" social agencies, such as homes for battered women, may freely adopt a pro-abortion policy and then dismiss pro-life employees.

The Honourable John Sweeney, Ontario Minister of Community and Social Services, recently defended the dismissal of three pro-life staff workers at the Nipissing Transition House, a home for battered women in North Bay, for refusing to go along with the pro-abortion policy of the board.

Employees fired

Lorainne Carbonneau, married and the mother of three children, was fired on December 23 of last year [after] five years as a full time worker and, at one time, the assistant co-ordinator. She was fired because she would not counsel women for abortions or refer them to any pro-abortion counsellor working at the Nipissing Transition House.

One week later, two others were let go. Carol Baillargeon, a child care worker, and Rae desBlois, a household manager, were both fired over the phone one week after Christmas, also because of their refusal to refer for abortions. There was no other criticism of their employment records.

Carol Baillargeon told The Interim that she previously worked for the NTH for nine months and was off a month before being recalled to work on September 6 of last year on a one year contract.

Carol was asked to provide a cab voucher for a mother with two children while she went to a doctor's office to arrange an abortion. Sometimes the abortions are done in the doctor's office, she said, without any preliminary preparations. Baillargeon was asked to babysit the children while the mother did this. She refused, and the position that she took was backed up by Lorraine Carbonneau and Rae deBlois.

Carol, a single mother with three children, said that she told the acting co-ordinator then in charge: "I'm not taking part in any abortion referrals. I'm not going to make it any easier for a woman to get an abortion. I love children!"

Rae desBlois, a separated mother of nine children, told The Interim that her job for the past year was to keep control of inventories and supplies, but she was also like a "housemother" or "grandmother" to the residents. She enjoyed the contact with the women and their children. In 1987 she also worked as a counsellor.

All three wrote letters to the board outlining their stand against abortion referrals. This factor was the sole reason for their dismissal, they insist.

Board replies

On December 22, 1988, Lorraine Carbonneau received the Board's reply. Said the board: "...women's decisions are to be supported by the staff of the NTH." This she could not accept. She was dismissed the following day with only five week's pay, a week for each year she was employed.

In a letter dated January 31, 1989, Mrs. Carbonneau was informed by Employment and Immigration Canada that she would not receive any unemployment insurance benefits for the next three weeks. This is according to the Unemployment Insurance Act, the letter stated, because, "You lost your employment with Nipissing Transition House by reason of your own misconduct." Rae and Carol received similar letters, Rae being penalized for four weeks and Carol for five weeks. All three will appeal this decision to the Board of Referees, as the letter indicated they could do.

Also on January 31, Mrs. Carbonneau received a latter dated January 17, 1989, from Heather Saltstone, Chairman, Personnel Committee, NTH, informing her that they would not provide her with a reference for her five years' employment. Rather, employers whom she contacts in the future may get in touch with them for a "reference". Mrs. Carbonneau suspects that the only good reference she'll get will be for a job at McDonald's.

The six remaining staff members are going along with the pro-abortion policy. Nipissing Transition House placed an ad in the local paper to replace the three dismissed staff. When they were asked how they were going to avoid hiring pro-life personnel, they said: "We'll just ask them."

In other words, as Lorraine Carbonneau said, "They'll never hire a pro-life worker again."

John Sweeney

The Interim spoke with the Hon. John Sweeney, the Ontario Minister of Community and Social Services, on January 13, 1989. The Minister has overall responsibility for the operation of the Nipissing Transition House. Mr. Sweeney stated that transition homes are basically hostels with their own independent boards operating as a community agency on a non-profit basis. They have three sources of income, he said. One is a flat $26 per diem from the municipality, per bed, no matter how many beds they have. If their costs run more than that, which they obviously do, 80 per cent of these costs are paid for by his ministry. The balance of operating costs must be raised by the hostel's outside fund raising efforts.

The Minister had investigated the reasons with the board for the dismissal of Mrs. Carbonneau, reported by The Interim on the front page of its January, 1989 issue. He emphatically defended the board's right to dismiss her. He quoted a source at the board level who said that it was all right for Mrs. Carbonneau to have her own "personal convictions", but that her "personal, religious convictions or whatever" should not interfere with her job as counsellor.

The implication of the Minister's defence is clear. Government-funded "independent" social agencies, such as homes for battered women, may freely adopt a pro-abortion policy and then dismiss pro-life employees.

Cam Jackson

Cam Jackson, Conservative MPP (Burlington South), when told of the pro-abortion policy of the North Bay shelter by The Interim, stated that he deplored pre-screening people for jobs based on their personal convictions and that it offended the civil rights of individuals. He also described the dismissal of the three pro-life women as "inappropriate" and "offensive to human rights."

Mr. Jackson said that he was fighting against "solitary abortion" as a solution to the problem, meaning a clinic or hostel that offers that as the only solution. He felt that the trouble with the government-sponsored clinics and hostels in Ontario was that they didn't counsel strenuously enough other alternatives to outright abortion. The three pro-life women losing their jobs on the basis of their convictions, he said, was sad, but they had recourse to civil litigation for redress, much as the police have.

Jim Hughes, president of Campaign Life Coalition, had a much stronger response. He believes the Directors of the North Bay shelter for battered women don't counsel at all; they simply accept abortion as a "solution" to pregnancy, especially for battered women.

 

 

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