Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of May 3, 2004
Knights say no to casino dollars
Fraternal group backs bishops in ethical action
By RAMON GONZALEZ
WCR Staff Writer
The Alberta Knights of Columbus have reaffirmed an earlier decision to stop using casinos as fundraisers for charity.
At their April 23-25 convention, delegates voted overwhelmingly in favour of a resolution calling on the Knights to stop the practice.
The resolution says the Knights of Columbus "will not sponsor or work at casinos to raise funds for any charitable initiatives not currently undertaken or committed to."
"This means that we are not going to go out there and apply for licences to initiate involvement with casinos anymore," explained State Deputy Mickey Casavant. It also means those councils that have casino licences can continue to use them until a final deadline is set to stop the practice.
New funding sources
The resolution also calls on the jurisdiction to establish a committee to assist councils in the transition and to make recommendations on new fundraising methods. "The committee is being formed and will, in the course of the next year, look at alternate ways of fundraising to assist those councils that are in need or have developed a need for revenues from casinos," Casavant explained.
It's estimated that about 50 per cent of the councils in the Alberta-Northwest Territories jurisdiction work at casinos to raise funds for charity. The Alberta bishops have been urging Church organizations to stop the practice, because of the ethical implications of using gambling revenues.
"(The resolution) was voted through with a large majority," Casavant said. "There was no dissent on the question whether or not we should get out of the casinos, only (on) the process of how we are going to do it and the timing. But in terms of solidarity as an organization, solidarity with our bishops, they were totally supportive of our bishops.
"Delegates were very unified and supportive of the fact the Knights are getting out of casinos."
A motion to take the issue back to the councils for more discussion was defeated, Casavant said. "The delegates felt strongly enough about our responsibility as Catholic gentlemen to vote on the resolution by a large majority without having to go back to the councils."
The state deputy said the resolution generated a lot of discussion. "It was an opportunity for us to really sensitize ourselves to the concerns and the needs of the councils as it relates to financial responsibilities and commitments to various charities," he said. It also developed "an awareness of the ethical issues that relate to problem gambling and especially casinos and VLT machines."
Last year the Knights of Columbus Council of St. Joseph College made $75,000 in just two days working at a casino. But council members say they have no problem getting out of the practice. "We took a vote and the majority decided that we shouldn't do it anymore," explained deputy grand knight Gary Olkawa, 24.
Olkawa said the council would rather concentrate its efforts on their annual gala than continue than raising quick cash through casinos. Through the gala the council can raise $75,000 in one night but it takes year-round work.
"Casinos challenge the very essence of what the Knights stand for and I think that we have to move on this issue in a way that's consistent with what we say we believe," said Don Schurman, the St. Joseph's Council grand knight.
"I'm glad that the state convention supported the move by the Alberta bishops to withdraw from high stakes gaming revenue," said Brian Moret, grand knight of the Drayton Valley Council. "I feel that same way as the bishops, that high stakes gambling is distressful to the family."
Officials from St. Peter's Council in Edmonton admitted there was a "split feeling in the council about the (casino) issue" but said they support the bishops' stance. "We feel it went the right way," said grand knight Bob Newman. "The resolution gives us time to find alternative ways to raise funds."
But as council treasurer Henry Palindat pointed out, "It won't be easy to let go (of the quick and easy money the council has become accustomed to raising through casinos)."
He estimated the council has made over $500,000 by working casinos in the past two decades. Charities, churches and even schools will suffer because a lot less revenue will be available to support their projects, he said. "Everybody will suffer."
Bound by bishops
Palindat said if his council doesn't work casinos, other non-profit groups will do it because "there is no shortage of volunteers" to work at casinos. "But I guess we are sort of bound to follow what the bishops say."
The Knights also discussed the issue of same-sex marriage "and the comment that was made is that we are totally in support of the position taken by the Catholic Church and our bishops," Casavant said.
Several achievement awards were announced including the Council of the Year Award, which went to Edmonton's Nazareno (Filipino) Council. The Fraternal Council of the Year Award went to Brother Anthony Council of St. Albert; the District Deputy of the Year award went to Ronald Schuster of Edmonton; the Grand Knight of the Year award to Michael Anctil of the Joe McKenna Council in Medicine Hat and the Knight of the Year Award went to Max Ciesielski of Holy Trinity Council in Edmonton. Normand and Fernande Letourneau of the Legal Council received the Family of the Year Award at the convention.