Kevin Feehan not only lives his Catholic faith, but he integrates it into his professional life as well. A practising lawyer living in Edmonton, Alberta, Mr. Feehan has consistently given back to the Catholic education community for three decades.
His dedication to working to ensure Canadians have fair and proper access to Catholic education is precisely why he was nominated and awarded the 2014 Justice James Higgins Award.
The CCSTA’s Higgins Award is presented annually in memory of Canadian Catholic school trustee and jurist, the Honourable Justice James Higgins. It reflects recognition of an exceptional contribution to Catholic education in Canada.
Nominated by the Calgary Catholic School District, Mr. Feehan has demonstrated time and again just how much Catholic education means to him.
Coming from a family lineage involved in Catholic education, Kevin Feehan has been rooted in the system since his early childhood. Nearly 10 years following his graduation from the University of Alberta Law School, Mr. Feehan’s relationship with the Alberta Catholic education community deepened.
In 1988, The Alberta School Act was substantially re-written and the proposed amendments would have affected Catholic schools’ rights. The then superintendent of Catholic education in Edmonton approached Mr. Feehan, asking for his support against the changes.
Mr. Feehan attended, and spoke at, a rally that cried out against the changes, which included access to a taxation base and the management and control of trustees over the schools. Researching the amendments, Mr. Feehan outlined at the rally just what these proposed changes meant for Catholic schools across Alberta.
“It was an important community effort in 1988 to preserve Catholic education in Alberta,” says Mr. Feehan.
That rally ignited Mr. Feehan’s involvement in providing legal support to Catholic schools across the province and the nation. He has made himself available to the Alberta Catholic School Trustees’ Association and to individual school boards to assist in legal matters that deal with the many facets of Catholic education.
“Mr. Feehan has devoted himself to the promotion of, and defense of, Catholic education,” Mary Martin, Chair of the Calgary Catholic School District Board of Trustees, wrote in her nomination paper. “He is deserving of the CCSTA Justice James Higgins Award not only because he understands the importance of Catholic education to families, but because he understands its role as central to the fabric of our country.”
Mr. Feehan stands behind his work.
“I fundamentally believe in the principles of Catholic education. We need a system founded on the principles of the gospel in which the messages of the Catholic Church are fully permeated in a school setting,” he explains. “A Catholic point of view should permeate every aspect of the system.”
Letters of reference were included in Mr. Feehan’s nomination, including recommendations from Alberta Catholic School Trustees’ Association Past President Sandra Bannard, former Chief Justice of the Court of Queen’s Bench in Alberta Allan Wachowich, and Fr. Stefano Penna of the Newman Theological College.
When he learned these three people had backed the nomination, Mr. Feegan was gracious for their support.
“I’m humbled that they would support my nomination when in fact they have done as much or more over the years to promote Catholic education,” he explains. “These three people are people who have lived and breathed and laboured for Catholic education, and each of them could be Higgins Award winners.”
Married with four children and five grandchildren, Mr. Feehan looks at his family when reflecting on the future of Catholic education in both Alberta and Canada.
“Catholic education had an effect on my children’s lives and I want to make sure it’s vibrant and alive and well for my grandchildren and their children as well.”
Mr. Feehan will accept his award at the CCSTA Annual General Meeting this June in Kingston, Ontario.