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Catholics voting in Horizon trustee elections

Posted on October 30, 2013 by Taber Times

It looks like religion and democracy may have collided again.

Taberite Tamara Miyanaga received national notoriety when it became apparent to her that she could not run for a trustee position for Horizon School Division, according to the Alberta School Act, because she is a practising Roman Catholic.

Having three daughters who have gone through already or are currently in the Horizon school system, she found the clause perplexing.

What continues to be perplexing for Miyanaga is the lax protocol at polling stations across the province, where she knows Catholics have voted in public school systems, where a separate Catholic school system exists — a violation of the School Act.

“I went as a point of interest to find out if they were following the laws of it, especially when I hadn’t been able to run and really wouldn’t be able to vote,” said Miyanaga, noting how she went to the polling stations on Oct. 21 for three Horizon School Division board of trustee positions that were up for grabs among five candidates.

“Different people had notified me that they were practising Catholics and none asked them that question and they were allowed to vote for public school board.”

Miyanaga walked up to the voter registration desk in which she filled in her information and check off the necessary boxes. Given the national notoriety Miyanaga has received in trying to expedite the province of Alberta Education Act which received royal assent in December of 2012 which addresses the religious discriminations of the old School Act, the voter register assumed she was able to vote in the public school system.

“I said I can’t vote because I’m Catholic and she said ‘well it doesn’t matter.’ I didn’t vote and I didn’t sign my paper because it does matter. It is the law that you can’t vote if you are Catholic in a public school election if there is a separate school system that exists (in the voting region),” said Miyanaga. “Yet there are still some people doing it. Some unknowingly still, some deliberately to prove a point. I wouldn’t approve that point because to me again it would be denouncing my faith.”

Miyanaga added she knows in Airdrie the question of what your faith was asked at their polling station and evidence on Facebook that they were denied their choice of vote.

“But in polling stations across Alberta it wasn’t enforced everywhere,” said Miyanaga of the lax nature of voting in most regions. “Yet it is very clear based on legislation, and based on my research and getting direction from Alberta Education the process should not be loose. It is very tight in fact and not being implemented. Partially it is people don’t understand the Act. My concern is then if we are going to have a law on the books that is vague or not followed or left up to discretion then it should not exist.”

Case in point: the election for board of trustee positions for Horizon School Division.

The discretion that Miyanaga speaks of could very well have influenced the outcome given the close results.

Catholics cannot influence public school system decisions as a trustee board member according to the School Act, but very well could have influenced those decisions by their vote getting someone elected who is making those decisions.

Only 58 votes separated Abe Klassen from the lowest vote getter to get elected to the board of trustees where the margin was even slimmer with Marine Mouland (676) with eight votes to Blair Lowry’s 684 votes. Miyanaga confirms she knows of Catholics who voted for trustee positions for Horizon School Division.

“Horizon School Division is a classic example. We had an eight-vote difference between an elected trustee and a non-elected trustee. How many of those votes were affected by people who were really not eligible to vote in the election? That we will never know,” said Miyanaga.

Since Miyanaga’s story broke in late September of not being able to run for the Horizon School Division board of trustees, she added she has received a lot of feedback provincially form people who have found her on Facebook  offering their support.

“People are definitely feeling like they need to change that law,” said Miyanaga. “I don’t want to undermine the people who do their jobs at polling stations. I just don’t th

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