A Town Divided: An Editorial Film

By Stephen Dafoe

This editorializing will be brief as the meat of what I want to say is better shown by the 70-minute news film I’ve produced on the Morinville schools issue. What remains to be said is why I put it all together.

In covering this story since it began last fall, I’ve talked to a number of people on the issue: politicians, parents, school trustees, etc. I’ve also dealt with numerous commenters who have responded to articles and letters published on MorinvilleNews.com about the issue.

Many of these comments have been vile, disgusting, and utterly contrary to what is publishable. That my fellow residents would be capable of so demonizing their neighbours over religion made me realize it is easy to do so when one is responding merely to the printed word. Words that, no matter how careful we in the media are, can be interpreted differently by those reading them, particularly if those reading them have their minds firmly made up on the issue.

Perhaps it would be better to show both sides of this story visually, allowing everyone to see the human face of a passionate issue. That project ended up being 70 minutes of largely raw footage of many of the parties involved. We asked for involvement from both sides. Some were reluctant, some refused, some changed their mind in retrospect, and others chose to submit letters to the editor instead of on camera time.

Everyone was given time to just state their case about an issue that has created A Town Divided.

A Town Divided

Editor’s note: This film is 70 minutes long and is 5GB of high definition video. As such, the smoothness of the production will depend on the quality of one’s Internet connection and computer. We’ve done our best to use a service that will stream the video well, but cannot control how well it will play on individual machines. Views expressed by participants in this video do not necessarily represent the views of MorinvilleNews.com

A Town Divided from Stephen Dafoe on Vimeo.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email


  1. Well done MorinvilleNews, Awesome Video.

    How hard would it be to send a form home with every child student in Morinville asking one simple question? Have the form filled out by the parents and returned in a sealed envelope. The Mayor’s office wants to stay neutral, then let them count the votes. No more guessing or protectionism, the parents and government will know exactly what is needed in this Town.

  2. An interesting video. Thanks for the opportunity to see a bit more into this issue.

    The pain and anguish Donna is going through is terrible. I think its unfair for her and her family. I also understand her efforts to resolve this. She cares for her children and the children of the community who’ve been stripped of their rights by the system. She cares for human rights and freedom. How she carries on with this day after day is beyond me. Clearly she’s a passionate, strong and loving parent willing to walk the line; a leader.

    I approached the 49 minute mark and witnessed David Koehane’s throat clearing and refacing a number of times with the specific religion pointed questions. It’s evident to me, where the main focus is within GSACRAD. WOW! The conscience which is covered by ego on this particular segment is amazing to witness. Mr David K: It is more than the 5 or so children/parents affected. But the ignorance to that statistic is to be expected.

    It saddens me to say but I feel this human rights ISSUE (not just a matter) inflicted on our children won’t be resolved to the delegation’s full request. However, any dramatic change would likely be of some relief.

    I feel for the residents of Morinville. I’m so happy to have chosen Cardiff as our home as I had NO IDEA the town was supportive of a Catholic permeating school system….I too never thought to look into it as I was under the impression it was a ‘PUBLIC’ system; I can’t imagine having no choice.

    Children learn from their environment…that is how simple this argument is.

  3. @ Tim

    While I can see your point about sending home a note with every student I don’t think that the question can properly be answered that way. There are many students already finding their education needs elsewhere as a result of lack of choice here in Morinville as well there are many parents with young children not yet in school who will ultimately be affected in the future by the outcome of the survey.

  4. We have lived in Morinville since 1982 and had 4 kids attend K-12 here. All are happy with the experience as are we,the parents. I find this video rather one sided in respect to the feedback from parents. You couldn’t find one that is satisfied with the status quo ?

    • Mr. Bell:

      An invitation was extended to the parents behind the We support the public faith based education system in Morinville, AB petition. Our offer to give them an on camera interview was declined in favour of submitting an editorial outlining their position.

      That letter to the editor was published Mar. 22. You’ll find it here as well as in the Mar. 28 edition of Monday Morning News.

      A request was also made of GSACRD to interview both Morinville School Trustees, which would have given us a three and three balance of on camera personalities. That request was denied and we were told only the superintendent and board chair could speak to the issue.

      In the interest of impartiality we held the first half of this segment for more than a week while we awaited a time to interview the GSACRD representatives that fit their schedule of availability, understanding that one person was on holidays and that they were meeting with Minister Hancock on Mar. 23. Our interviews were conducted Mar. 24.

      If we are guilty of any bias in this news production it is in agreeing to GSACRD’s request to have questions submitted in advance and in giving them an opportunity to see the parent delegation segment prior to their interviews that they may have the opportunity to respond to claims and accusations made. The same consideration was NOT given to those seeking secular education with respect to questions asked.

      We gave GSACRD those considerations because being the institution being challenged, we felt it was the right thing to do.

      Our purpose in producing this film, which I assure you took considerable time, was to present the human face of the issue, realizing both sides have merit and hoping that maybe both sides could stop brandishing torches of accusation about agendas that are creating a Town Divided.

  5. Steven,

    I watched the entire video and think that it was well done and should be played in front of all sides in a public forum.

    I was quite concerned when the Superintendent kept using the term “Catholic Public School System” as that is an oxymoron. In the rest of Canada, Catholic schools are separate, not public, as a public system is not faith-based. The very name public school implies and sets expectations of a secular education. As well, his interview seemed to imply that taking the religion out of Morinville schools would lower the quality of the education that can be provided. I think that many public schools across the country would take issue with that point. You don’t have to be in a Catholic school to grow with your students. No matter what the emphasis, catechism or social, no religion has a place in a public school. The education system as a whole has a responsibility to help form good citizens, not good Catholic citizens. Education is about learning, not faith. You can explore faith, but you are not in a “public” school to learn it as part of the daily curriculum. That is why Separate schools were created. His interview caused more concerns than were answered.

    Historically speaking, whenever you bring up religion or education you will enflame people for or against. To kick over a hornets’ nest I will ask the question that I’m surprised has yet to come up: will Morinville health classes not include discussions on abortion or birth control because they are not recognized or accepted by the Catholic religion? Women fought long and hard for the legal right to access abortions and birth control. Not teaching subjects that don’t fit a certain faith in a “public” school would be wrong.

    There shouldn’t need to be a survey to determine interest in creating a public school. That is what should have been in place from the start. But if you do, the survey should go to all taxpayers, not just parents, as we all support the schools with our taxes. And no, I’m not part of the “Hunter Delegation.” Just someone who has lived outside of Morinville longer than within it.

  6. Stephan, I applaud you this was very well done. The parents aren’t asking for anything that they shouldn’t already have being Albertans living in Canada. Mr. David K agenda was quite apparent that he is all for the Catholic public school to brain wash our children into being good Catholic citizens. It’s disgusting that in this day and age that parents have to fight for a non religious school when the fact is that it goes against our Charter of Rights. I’ve been to Morinville several times to visit family and it is a beautiful little town which is now getting a lot of media attention. The community shouldn’t be divided on this issue as there should never been an issue in the first place, and it certainly doesn’t seem like it is going to be resolved anytime soon. Keep your chins up parents delegation you could be in for a long fight but in the end it will all be worth it.

  7. Stephen,

    Very well done! I though you did an excellent job asking the important questions and personalizing the issue.


  8. @ Concerned Non Parent,

    You’ve made some very valid points. Especially in regards to sending the survey to all taxpayers. There are plenty of households who will eventually face the decision to send their children to school as those children become of school age; they should have some say. As Cardiff residents, we likely won’t have a say even though many of our children attend Morinville school….I believe opting to pay taxes to the Catholic School division is an option when tax time comes (but i’m not 100% positive on that point as I don’t choose that route).

    I am, for the first time, faced with sending my child to school. My options are to bus my child 13 kms down the hwy or Morinville. Honestly, if I could send him to a PUBLIC school 3 kms away I likely would! However (as a side note) I’m positive the children at Namao aren’t tormented by the stench of dog food cooking.

    High levels of academic success in a non-faith based PUBLIC school is just as attainable as the GSACRD system. In fact I feel there would be more learning options within the system….allowing the youthful minds to think for themselves; have a broader outlook. They can become educated, successful, active citizens without following the Catholic way. Why would this be so bad? And why does David Koehane see their system as “AGAINST” the Public System…his own referral as you would as heard on the movie.

  9. No dog food cooking odour at Namao or Sturgeon but on many occasions the smell of liquid and solid cow manure spread on local fields sifts through both schools…

  10. An excellent presentation.

    Most after watching this come to the conclusion that it is very difficult to teach tollerance in an environment that is clearly intollerant.

    Public should be PUBLIC and lets go from there.

    I am not a member of the Hunter group, just a open minded resident who thinks that all areas should welcome ALL people.

  11. Well done video but would have liked to hear some who are in favor of keeping the present system. If the Minister were to allow Morinville and Legal to amalgamate with Sturgeon School Division #24 then there would be secular schools to attend and any parent who wished to sit on School Board would be allowed to run. The bussing would be taken care of as well as parents would be living in their school jurisdiction. Please leave the history our forefathers created intact. I belong to GSACRD formerly Thibault School Division.

    • Thanks. We’d have liked to have seen that input as well, but as indicated earlier the “official” other side group decline our invite, preferring to express their views in a letter to the editor, which we published here and in our print edition.

  12. This a great video. The idea of polling the current families of the school children is very flawed. It doesn’t give any say in this matter to any of the families whose children have yet to start school. It doesn’t give any say to those families whose children have gone beyond the schooling sytem offered in Morinville. And last but not least the many seniors such as myself who no longer have family members in the school system. As senior citizens we must pay taxes to the Town of Morinville but we cannot say to which school board our school taxes are to be sent. This appears to be the only school district in Canada that doesn’t give you a choice. Send the poll question to every house hold In Morinville. Why should we be paying taxes when there are no “PUBLIC” (secular) schools to support.

  13. Very good video and overall coverage of issue. You’ve captured how much has actually been accomplished in just a few months. From board delegation to the provision of 7 possible options to town council meetings to media coverage to meeting with Minister to an upcoming survey to meeting with board again, as well as all the thorough thinking that must go into reaching an acceptable solution for all – in less than 4 months. I understand Mrs. Hunter’s obvious frustration as shown in the video but I think it is unreasonable for her to expect her request to have been “granted” by the Minister as a result of this meeting. There are so many factors involved and what the superintendent said about the board making decisions for the greater good of all children in the division is bang on. That is why this is taking “so long”.

  14. Perhaps polling the families of current students wouldn’t give a complete picture of the wants / needs, but it would be a snapshot of what exists today. Or for a more accurate study, Morinville is getting ready to begin its Census, why not add a few questions to it?

  15. As a Catholic parent with 3 school aged children, my husband and I have chosen to drive our kids from South Glens to the bus stop in Cardiff, twice a day (or more) for the past 3 years. It is a major inconvenience, but we feel that the religous upbringing of our children should be the responsibility of the parents, and NOT left up to the school system. My children are receiving a great education at Namao, and had we known about the school districts when we moved, we would have tried to settle in Cardiff. My feelings in regards to the public education in Morinville being a “Catholic” education, is that the religous education componant would still need to be supplemented at home because of all the different backgrounds. I also want my kids to take their beliefs seriously, not just as an academic requirement. Public education is an amazing privilege in our country. I am thankful that I have the opportunity to make the sacrifice of driving everyday to ensure my kids have the best, possible future and education as I, as their parent (and nobody else), deem to be in their best interests.

Comments are closed.