Gambling and social policy in Canada

 — July 8, 20068 juil. 2006

Canadians spend more on gambling than they do on education or personal care. According to a report from the Vanier Institute of the Family, legal gambling in Canada attracts $1,080 per household compared to $1,007 for education or $834 for personal care. Gambling losses in 2003-2004 amounted to $596 per adult, or nearly $50 per person per month. Using data from Statistics Canada’s 2002 “Canadian Community Health Survey,” the Vanier Institute reports that almost 1.2 million Canadians exhibit at least one indication of problem gambling behaviour — roughly enough persons to fill a major Canadian city.

The report, entitled “Gambling with our (Kids’) Futures: Gambling as a family policy Issue” was written by Arlene Moscovitch, and is available online or in print through the Vanier Institute. The report argues that gambling is more than just a personal problem. Treating problem gambling as an individual pathology discounts its impact on the families of the problem gambler, as well as the wider society. Recent research supports a move towards a public health model that considers the impact of gambling on the community. Social policy relating to alcohol and tobacco has been greatly strengthened by a similar move to a public health model.

In related news, the Roman Catholic bishop of Calgary has sent a letter to each Catholic school in the Calgary separate school system critical of a recent decision of the school board. In late 2005, Bishop Frederick Henry asked the Catholic school board to put an end to school-based fundraising practices that involve morally repugnant forms of gambling. On May 31, 2006 the board adopted a task force report on school-based fundraising. One recommendation of the report rejected the bishop’s request, allowing the continued use of fundraising under guidelines to be established by the school district in consultation with school councils and principals. In Bishop Henry’s recent letter, dated June 20, the bishop said: “The acceptance of the Task Force’s recommendations constitutes a failure in Catholic leadership, pays lip-service to the pillar of ‘Catholicity,’ and is equivalent to Esau selling his birthright for a mess of pottage (cf. Gen.25: 29-34).”

Bishop Henry reminded the schools that the school board does not constitute an independent magisterium. According to canon law, teaching responsibility on faith and morals remains with the bishop, and the school board is accountable to the local bishop. Bishop Henry asserted that the board has to do more than merely “understand where the bishop is coming from.” The process of consultation undertaken by the board’s task force led to a broad consultation within the school system but did not include consultation in the wider Catholic community. Bishop Henry mentioned that his objections to the methodology of the task force were not considered sufficiently by the board. Quoting canon 803 #3, Bishop Henry asserted that the local bishop is empowered to issue “prescriptions dealing with the general regulation of Catholic schools.” This measure of accountability has not been adequately acknowledged by the board or task force.

Bishop Henry’s reference to canon 803 reveals a substantial tool in his control. Canon 803 #3 declares that “no school may bear the title Catholic school without the consent of the competent ecclesiastical authority.” Catholic schools receive their public funding through constitutional measures directed to the faith community. If the bishop were to withdraw his recognition of a particular school the public funding for the school would be in jeopardy. This does not appear to be the bishop’s intent, however he has indicated a willingness to withdraw diocesan and parish support for schools that continue to fundraise using gambling.

Rejecting the board’s decision completely, the bishop stated: “The School Board, the individual schools, and related parent councils and societies must get out of bingo and casino gambling fundraising activities. There is no question as to ‘what’ has to be done but there is room to negotiate ‘how’ and ‘when.'” Bishop Henry announced that he will not preside at September’s opening liturgy for the Calgary Catholic School District. He also served notice that if “satisfactory solutions are not found, other consequences will also be forthcoming in September including the black-listing of schools that engage in immoral fund-raising.”

In the weeks since the bishop’s letter, the debate over gambling in Alberta has heated up. Editorials in the Calgary Herald have supported Bishop Henry, and people in the pews appear to be supportive as well. Despite initial defiance from the school board, Cathie Williams, the chair of the board, has asked schools to look for alternative methods of fundraising and has asked for a meeting with Bishop Henry to find a resolution of the dispute. In the meantime, the Edmonton Catholic school board has met to discuss alternatives to school-based fundraising. Edmonton is not within Bishop Henry’s diocese, but the Calgary dispute clearly has a spill-over into neighbouring dioceses.

This dispute over gambling is not new to the Diocese of Calgary. In 1998, Bishop Henry made substanially the same request that he made last December, allowing the schools some time to wean themselves from gambling revenue. At the same time, a joint pastoral letter entited “The False Eden of Gambling” by the Alberta bishops asked the Knights of Columbus and other Catholic groups to withdraw from the operation of bingo halls and other support of gambling, and to wean themselves from gambling revenue. Since 1998, most school boards and other Catholic agencies have followed the bishop’s request. The Alberta Knights of Columbus decided in 2004 to move away from gambling as a source of revenue. The Calgary and Edmonton school boards remain among the few Catholic institutions in Alberta that have not ended their addiction to gambling.


Posted: July 8, 2006 • Permanent link:
Categories: NewsIn this article: 2006, Calgary, Canada, Frederick Henry, gambling, social policy
Transmis : 8 juil. 2006 • Lien permanente :
Catégorie : NewsDans cet article : 2006, Calgary, Canada, Frederick Henry, gambling, social policy

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