Wade v Roches

JudgeMottley, P.,Mottley, P,Sosa JA,Morrison JA
Judgment Date09 March 2005
Neutral CitationBZ 2005 CA 5
Docket NumberCiv. Appeal 5 of 2004
CourtCourt of Appeal (Belize)
Date09 March 2005

Court of Appeal

Mottley, P.; Sosa, J.A.; Morrison, J.A.

Civ. Appeal 5 of 2004


Mr. Philip Zuniga for the appellant.

Mr Dean Barrow, SC and Mrs. Magali Marin Young for the respondent.

Constitutional law - Fundamental rights and freedoms — Infringement of right to equality of treatment — Constitution, s. 16(2) — Available remedy — Appropriate levels of damage.

Contract - Breach — Respondent working in Catholic school — Respondent breaching term of contract to be exemplary in conduct and to live according to Jesus' teaching in marriage and sex — Whether constitutional right to non — discrimination overriding term of contract.

Employment law - Dismissal — terms of contract — Respondent working as teacher in Catholic school — Terms of contract that respondent should be exemplary in conduct and live according to Jesus' teaching in marriage and sex — Respondent unmarried and becoming pregnant — Respondent informed that she was in breach of contract and released from duties — Whether release of dismissal — Whether infringement of constitutional right not to be discriminated against on basis of sex — Whether appellant correct party to non — discrimination — Finding that applicant's constitutional rights were infringed — Quantum of damages varied.

Mottley, P.

The respondent, who was unmarried, was employed as a teacher at the Santa Cruz Roman Catholic School in the Toledo District of Belize. This school was operated as part of the Catholic Public Schools by the Roman Catholic Church in Belize.

While there was dispute as to whether the respondent did in fact sign a written contract with the appellant, it can safely be implied that one term of her contract of employment was that she should be “exemplary in conduct and language and living Jesus' teaching in marriage and sex”. In April of 2003, the respondent informed Mr. Benjamin Juarez, the Assistant Local Manager of the Toledo Catholic Schools, that she was pregnant. On June 26th, 2003 Mr. Juarez wrote to the respondent informing her that, in view of the fact that she was not complying with the terms of the contract with the Toledo Catholic Schools Management, to live according to Jesus' teaching on marriage and sex, the Management was informing her that she would be released from her duties as a teacher with the Catholic School Management effective August 31st, 2003. A dispute arises as to whether she was released or dismissed. A dispute has also arisen as to whether she was dismissed because she had informed Mr. Juarez that she was pregnant. I shall return to these two matters later in my judgment.


The respondent instituted an action in the Supreme Court in which she claimed, inter alia, a declaration that, her dismissal on June 26th, 2003 by the appellant from her job as a teacher at the Santa Cruz Roman Catholic on the ground that she had become pregnant while unmarried, was in violation of Article 16 (2) of the Belize Constitution and infringed her constitutional right not to be discriminated against as a result of her sex. In addition, the respondent also sought an order for damages for breach of that constitutional right


The learned Chief Justice found that the respondent was in fact dismissed from her job as a teacher because she was pregnant. He concluded that in such circumstances her dismissal violated her constitutional right under section 16 (2). In addition, he held that the refusal to reinstate the respondent after being required to do so by the Chief Education Officer, constituted an infringement of her right to work under section 15(1) of the Constitution. The Chief Justice went on to award the respondent damages in the sum of $150,000 pursuant to section 20(2) of the Constitution.


The appellant had filed eight grounds of appeals. Ground 7 was argued first. This ground related to an allegation that the respondent had brought the action against the wrong party.


Mr. Zuniga SC submitted that the respondent was in fact employed by the Roman Catholic Church and not the Managing Authority. The appellant and, Mr. Juarez were in fact employees of the Roman Catholic Church. He contended that the respondent could not sue the Managing Authority of the Roman Catholic Church because the Managing Authority was not an incorporated body. He further contended that Mr. Wade and the Managing Authority would have been agents for the Roman Catholic Church. Mr. Wade was being sued as representing the Managing Authority of Catholic Public Schools.


The hearing of this matter in the Supreme Court proceeded by way of affidavit. There were no pleadings. In his judgment, the Chief Justice adverted to the fact that Mr. Zuniga “was candid in both his oral arguments and submissions and in his written skeleton arguments that the actual respondent is the Roman Catholic Church of Belize on whose, Mr. Wade, the named respondent, generally administers Catholic Schools in Toledo District”. At no stage does the Chief Justice make reference to any submissions by Mr. Zuniga that the wrong person was in fact sued and that the action ought to have been dismissed. At any rate, no application had been made by the appellant to dismiss the action on the basis that the proper party to the action was the Roman Catholic Church and not Mr. Wade.


In paragraph 19 of his judgment the Chief Justice identified the issues which arose for his determination. He stated:

“I believe that for a resolution of the issues in contention between the parties, it is necessary to determine first the following primary issues, namely:

  • i) Is the respondent a person or authority amenable to the proscription against discrimination stipulated in section 16 of the Belize Constitution? And

  • ii) Was the respondent's action in releasing/dismissing Ms. Roches from her position because of her pregnancy while unmarried, in fact and in law discriminatory?”


In his judgment the Chief Justice stated that “the Roman Catholic Church on whose behalf Mr. Wade is sued in these proceedings as representing the managing authority of Catholic Public Schools is as I have mentioned earlier, the largest Christian denomination”. The appellant did not raise this issue before the Chief Justice and in my view it would be wrong to permit the Respondent to raise this issue at this stage, on the Appeal.


In ground 1, the appellant alleged that the Chief Justice erred in fact and in law in finding that the appellant was a person or authority or entity that is amenable to the prohibition against discrimination against Section 16 (2) and (3) of the Constitution of Belize. As stated above, the Chief Justice identified the first issue which he had to decide as is whether the appellant is “a person or authority amenable to the proscription against discrimination stipulated in Section 16 of the Belize Constitution”.


Since December 1902 the Roman Catholic Church in Belize was incorporated under the Roman Catholic Church Act (the Ordinance). It has been for many years involved in the field of education in Belize. I share the view expressed by the Chief Justice that it “is in fact, the publicly avowed and acknowledged partnership between the Government of Belize and the Church (in the broad ecumenical sense of the word Church) in the field of education, popularly referred to as “the Church/State partnership”… This partnership spans every administration of Belize, from its colonial governance, to its successive independent administration, regardless of the hue of the political parties or the political divide. Every government had subscribed to this partnership.”


This partnership between Church and State is expressly recognized by sections 3(1) and 7(1) of the Education Act Cap. 36 (the Act) where it is stated:

“The Ministry of Education, under the general direction of the Minister, shall work in partnership, consultation and cooperation with churches, communities, voluntary organizations, private organizations and such other organizations and bodies which the Ministry may identify and recognize as education partners for the sufficient and efficient provision of education in Belize.”

Section 7 (1) of the Act provides as follows:

“There shall be and is hereby established in and for Belize a Council to be called the National Council for Education, embodying the partnership between the state and its partners in education, such as Churches, communities, voluntary organizations and other partners in education.”


The Act provides for a system of grant — in aid from public funds. Schools which receive such grants are required to conform to the provisions of the Education Act and Rules made under the Act (the Rules). The religious denominations and grant-in-aid schools are required to appoint, inter alia, a manager or managing authorities.


The general functions of managers or managing authorities are set out in section 15. This section provides that managers and managing authorities shall “with assistance and in partnership with the Government under the conditions for Grant-in-aid as specified in this Act or the Rules … of such support systems required to deliver the appropriate education to students enrolled in school under their management.”


Section 16 deals with the employment of teachers and state:

“The manager or managing authority of a government or government — aided school or institution shall have the authority to appoint, transfer, release, suspend or dismiss members of staff of their respective schools or institutions subject to the following conditions in so far as same are applicable:

  • (a) no teacher shall be appointed who does not possess the minimum qualifications for the post as may from time to time be prescribed by rules or regulations made under this Act;

  • (b) where the manager or managing authority proposes to terminate the appointment of or to release, suspend or dismiss a teacher, a statement...

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT