When Paul Bourassa talks about how he first became a Catholic school trustee six years ago, he has two things to say about it: he signed on by default and he is so happy he did.
“There was an email circulated to the parents of the Catholic Francophone schools asking for candidates to be trustees as the incumbent had stepped down. When the first email came, I hoped someone would step up. When the second email came because no one had stepped up, I discussed it with my wife and whether I could make the time commitment,” he explains. “After that discussion, I put my name forward and have never regretted it. I have input and influence over my children’s and all our children’s education which is great responsibility and honour. I have no regrets.”
Since putting his name in, he’s served as a Catholic trustee for Conseil scolaire FrancoSud and he’s continued his involvement with Catholic education.
Paul joined the Alberta Catholic Schools Trustees’ Association’s Board of Directors and recently came on as Vice President. Prior to the New Year, he joined CCSTA as the Alberta representative.
While he’s been in the trustee role for six years, Paul’s relationship with Catholic education started long ago.
“I attended separate schools from kindergarten to Grade 12,” he says, adding that his elementary school days were primarily completed in Regina while he graduated from Bishop Grandin High School in Calgary.
Later in life, he got married and had three daughters.
When he and his wife – who is Anglican and attended public school in Ontario – made the decision to send their children to separate school, his wife, admittedly, had some hesitations.
“But when our oldest came home one day and was talking about Jesus and him being in our hearts, my wife was over the moon and so pleased that I seem to recall her eyes welled up a bit,” Paul says.
When he’s not wearing his trustee hat, Paul is a Federal Crown Prosecutor. Currently on sabbatical this year from his job, Paul’s explored new ways to use his knowledge. Hired as an advisor to Zimbabwe with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, Paul works with communities to help provide legal support and knowledge. While there this past December, Paul brought over school supplies, shoes and soccer balls – donated by Catholic school groups in Alberta – and passed them along to two local organizations, including an orphanage.
“The experience has been phenomenal,” he tells CCSTA while driving in a snowstorm to Edmonton, where he planned to attend a debate on Catholic education hosted by the University of Alberta Law School.
With a demanding job, a busy family and commitments to volunteer roles, Paul says he works hard to keep the balance.
“We have a lot of balls in the air, and some days I do a lot of things at the edge of my desk,” he says. “With regard to family, that has to be key and has to come first. If there’s not a strong relationship with them, then everything else falls apart.”
When it comes to fulfilling his passion for Catholic education, he’s clear on what it means to him, his family and community.
“I believe in Catholic education. It has a certain ‘je ne sais quoi’,” he says. “The importance of Catholic education is [that] it is education with a difference.”
Now that he’s a part of the CCSTA Board of Directors, Paul says he’s looking forward to the national-based involvement.
“I am looking to the mutual support to further Catholic education and fend off those who attack Catholic education,” he explains. “The future of Catholic education is pluralistic. We are welcoming and caring and inclusive, but we still need to do more.”