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Moral Dilemma Surround Edmonton Catholic School Casino Fund Raisers

Issues have arisen in Edmonton's Catholic school with regards to the method of raising money that would be used to finance certain school needs. The issue? Is it morally wrong for the school administration to be raising money for the children's needs through the 'sinful' gambling?

Despite the growing pressure from the church, Edmonton Catholic school parents are not that quick to dismiss the idea just because the church is against gambling, according to one Edmonton Catholic School Board trustee.

"The feedback I've received from parents ... is strongly against any motion that would restrict the flow of money generated by casinos," said Ward 2 trustee Janice Sarich.

The board with which she is included will be discussing this week the fallout of Calgary Bishop Fred Henry's warning. He warned that Catholic schools that continue to raise funds through gambling will be "blacklisted". In a similar light, Edmonton Archbishop Thomas Collins also view raising school funds through gambling is immoral. However, he does not threaten to withdraw Catholic services to the schools at present.

Trustee Jane Sarich represents the parents with children in Archbishop O'Leary and Bishop Savarin, but does not speak collectively for the Edmonton Catholic School Board. She stated that ever since she was elected to the position in 2001, raising funds by means of gambling has already been a sore issue between the church and the schools.

Edmonton Catholic board chairman Debbie Cavaliere says that almost all of the board's 84 schools host casino fundraisers an average of once every two years. Each fundraising event draws in approximately $85,000 net in average, a substantial figure that adds up to a possible $3.57 million annually across the district.

Parents were asked to participate in a poll conducted in Sarich's website in 2005 to gather the opinion of the parents in the schools. The poll raised the question whether they should be continuing raising funds through gambling or not. The funds are used mainly for the purchase of the student's needs, like school computers and library books.

"Since my first term parents have strongly signalled they do not wish for me to advance any message that they want (to stop using casino and bingo operations as a means to raise funds)," Sarich said.

"Supporters of Catholic education understand we do not operate parochial schools. We don't receive funding from the Catholic church to influence programming and services ... we get that directly from Alberta Education," she added.

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