April 9, 2007 (Updated Apr.22, 2007)
public funding of Catholic schools
By Kevin Bourassa and Joe Varnell
“As a Catholic, I am embarrassed that
my children have the choice to attend any publicly-funded school they
want yet my neighbour’s children cannot. I am also shocked that in the
culturally diverse province of Ontario in a multicultural country like
Canada, we have set up a publicly-funded school system that is able to
openly discriminate based on religion.”
Although same-sex couples and their children now enjoy the benefits of equal marriage, the arrival of gay marriage has underscored the need to protect Canadian citizens and society from the extremist, hate-filled dogma of the Catholic Church, as promoted by the Vatican and the Bishop of Rome.
In the infamous, and universally condemned 2003 paper Considerations published by the Vatican, the hate-machine went into overdrive, attempting to corrupt civil law and secular practices with religious doctrine.
The Vatican called for "discreet and prudent actions" including pressuring governments to make their secular laws conform to Church dogma, and "above all, to avoid exposing young people to erroneous ideas" that would "contribute to the spread of the phenomenon" of gay marriage.
Canadian Catholic Bishops, like Calgarys Fred Henry, dutifully amplified this faith-based bigotry within Canada, comparing homosexuality to prostitution and pornography, and calling for governments coercive power to be used against gay and lesbian Canadians and their families!
From Bishop Henrys pulpit of bigotry, to the compliant Catholic School Boards, to the schoolyards, its easy to see how children can become the target of spiritual abuse and homophobe bullying.
Children need to be taught how to play well and feel compassion for others by example, says York University psychologist Debra Pepler (Prey grounds, by Trish Crawford, Toronto Star, April 9, 2007). Why do they (bullies) feel they can hit somebody or kick sand on somebody? We think theyll learn social skills by osmosis.
Bullies in the schoolyard learn from older bullies like Bishop Henry. For this reason alone, we are in favour of ending tax handouts to Catholic schools. Increasingly, others are coming to the same conclusion, albeit from additional perspectives.
Manitoba eliminated denominational schools in 1890. It took another 100 years for Quebec and Newfoundland to do the same thing in the 1990s. It's time for Ontario, home to Canadas largest population, to stop funding Catholic schools.
We support the recommendations of a non-governmental human rights organization, Education Equality in Ontario, in an effort to merge Ontarios public and separate school systems into a single, secular, school system for each official language (one English, one French).
One school system brings financial benefits
The province of Ontario spends $17.5 billion annually on education. Even so, many Ontario school boards still face financial crises. Any parent can share horror stories of eliminated programs and shoddy schools. Lack of funds in the Toronto District School Board has meant that the areas schools are crumbling. The Ottawa-Carleton District School Board has a maintenance backlog of over $325 million (Ministry of Education, News Release, Oct. 10, 2006). Other stories abound in communities across the province.
Clearly it is no longer feasible for Ontario taxpayers to support public and separate school systems, in both official languages.
The unnecessary and wasteful duplication in the Ontario school system exacerbates the funding challenges facing our schools, Education Equality in Ontario (EEO) told the Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs on January 31, 2007. Ontario can no longer afford to fund two competing school systems in each official language to serve students in overlapping jurisdictions. Ontario can no longer afford to bus tens (or hundreds?) of thousands of students past their nearest publicly-funded school each day to attend another publicly-funded school. Ontario can no longer afford to fund a religious school system where 70 to 80 percent of the families using the system do not even go to Church.
Contracted services, purchases of supplies, and other areas of school management would benefit.
Moving to one system will realize all of the advantages of joint administration to a greater degree than with two systems and it will realize further efficiencies from the elimination of overlapping services, EEO says.
End school admission / employment discrimination
Ontario separate schools have an absolute right to refuse admission to non-Catholic students up to grade 9 and can and do refuse employment to non-Catholic teachers at all grade levels, EEO states. Only Ontario Catholics enjoy publicly-funded school choice and they bear no additional tax burden for the privilege. They suffer no disadvantage that might warrant such preferential treatment. By allowing this blatant discrimination to continue, the Government violates the equality rights of over seven million non-Catholic Ontarians, discriminating against them on the basis of their faith or lack of faith.
Various human rights groups have already condemned the discriminatory education practices found in Ontario.
In November 1999, the UN Human Rights Committee found Canada in violation of the equality provisions in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights by virtue of the discrimination in the Ontario school system. The Committee censured Canada again in November 2005 for failing to adopt steps in order to eliminate discrimination on the basis of religion in the funding of schools in Ontario. Canada is now defending Ontario against a charge of religious discrimination in employment in the Ontario school system in another complaint to the Committee. That complaint could very well result in a third censure, Education Equality in Ontario concludes.
Ontario can change system at will
Instead of eliminating funding for Catholic Schools, some religious groups have argued that the province should make school funding available for all or any religious groups. We do not support this option, and agree with Education Equality in Ontario that only a publicly funded secular system will do.
The discrimination in the Ontario school system cannot be addressed affordably by extending comparable funding to non-Catholic religious groups, says EEO. Additionally, such extended funding would only compound the duplication penalty borne by the Ontario taxpayer, further fragment our school system, and do nothing to address the discrimination in publicly-funded school choice affecting millions of Ontarians.
Politicians have failed to move on this contentious issue, citing constitutional barriers to a single, secular school system. But Education Equality in Ontario debunks this myth:
Ontario could move towards a single publicly-funded school system with or without constitutional change. Section 43 of the Constitution Act, 1982 provides a mechanism through which constitutional change affecting one or more, but not all provinces (such as denominational school rights) can be accomplished through a bilateral amendment between the affected province(s) and the Parliament of Canada alone. Quebec and Newfoundland both eliminated denominational school rights through such an amendment in the late 1990s.
What you can do for Education Equality in Ontario
The LGBT community has an interest in helping groups like Education Equality in Ontario succeed in their mission. There are many things you can do to help: