Sweeney Defends Firings
Transition house workers fired, denied benefits for 'misconduct'
North Bay, Ontario, Canada (1988)
Reproduced with permission
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.
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
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
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."
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
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.