Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Separate schools

An interesting comment from this post:

"Scott Tribe said...
I should state here that Catholic (or separate) school funding is protected under the original BNA Act. It would be rather hard to remove it.. and if someone tried, there would be hell to pay, literally.

Ontario by the way, has been cited by the UN twice since 1999 for being discriminatory against faith-based schools for refusing to fund them like the Public and separate school boards. You either have to find all of them or none of them.. and since funding none of them is not realistic, I believe funding all of them is the proper thing to do. It removes discrimination."

I had been under the impression that such funding occurred under the government of Bill Davis. So I hit teh Google. It seems that both Scott and I are partially correct. The BNA Act did provide for separate school funding and in Ontario, that funding was extended beyond 9th grade by Bill Davis. But scanning this article in Wikipedia would suggest that not only can such funding be removed but has in fact been removed in other provinces. The hell to pay would just be a lot of noise from our Catholic neighbours and not a constitutional crisis. From the article,

"In the Quebec education system there were separate Protestant and Catholic school systems until 1998 when the system was replaced with linguistically based secular school systems. Similarly, Newfoundland and Labrador had schools organised on a confessional basis with separate denominational schools for Catholics, Seventh-day Adventists, Salvationists, Pentecostals, and an integrated stream. This was abolished by referendum in 1997 and a single secular system was introduced to replace the previous streams."

And since we in Ontario have indeed been tut-tutted by the UN for this inequitable funding arrangement, allow me to renew my call for the end to this system of imbalance and discrimination. Also according to the artice,

"A province-wide newspaper survey conducted between 1997 and 1999 in 45 dailies indicated that 79% of 7551 respondents in Ontario favoured a single public school system. But rumours that the Catholic Church had instructed its parishioners not to respond to the survey suggest that it may have produced inaccurate results. Regardless of whether the results were accurate or not, no widely supported movement to amend the Constitution Act, 1867 has developed."

So it would seem that there is a pre-existing popular interest in using public moneys for only the public system. Contrary to Mr. Tribe's warning, it seems that by precedent, it would require no more than a referendum to make the change and truly end the discrimination. Rather than stripping the public sustem by as much as half a billion dollars a year to placate the superstitious vote, let's place our money into creating the very best public education system we can and allow the religious folks to fund themselves. If Count Popenstein wants to indoctrinate his follower's kids, the least he can do is pick up the tab. As for hell and the payment thereof, well, I guess you'd have to believe in that malarky to worry.


Red Tory said...

When we lived in Ontario, I seem to recall being asked where I wanted my tax dollars directed. Is that still the case? It seemed a bit odd to me, given that I had three kids in the public system and one in the Catholic system, but if I'm not mistaken all of my tax dollars were going into the Catholic system because of the form I'd signed. I could be mistaken on this. To be honest, I didn't pay a lot of attention to it at the time.

Ti-Guy said...

it seems that by precedent, it would require no more than a referendum to make the change and truly end the discrimination.

Don't be so sure about that. The Catholics have a largely unassailable constitutional argument, which results in the stale-mate we usually end up with. That's why I've described the situation as a mess...the only way forward would seem to be to start funding all religious-based education, which has a real downside to it (and which I now firmly oppose).

It was easier in the other provinces partly because all education was confessional and therefore, it was easier to garner concensus that education should move to a completely non-denominational system. Ontario's entrenched a system based on minority rights, which, while no longer relevant, is what the Catholics cling to and what the other supporters of religious education want to exploit.

This is not something that's going to happen quickly; the Catholic Church has become desperate in the last few years and has been encroaching on the realm of political advocacy (something it really should NOT be doing). For this situation to change, it needs to be finessed by a leadership that understands the greater purpose of secular education. I don't see any of that these days, with the strident conservative demonisation of secularism that largely goes unchallenged by our elite.

Unknown said...

I was really encouraged yesterday to hear one of the main Muslim groups (though of course there are several) coming out against what they called the "ghettoization" of education. They pointed out that even if the curriculum itself can be mostly dictated by the province, the very culture of the school can still have devastating effects. (The person cited the way some Muslim schools could teach women's inferiority and inequality simply by the way seating in classrooms was arranged, or by the fact that boys and girls might not even be allowed to ride the same school bus.)

So thank goodness, there isn't monolithic support for this, even among faith groups. But I know the most radical and fundamentalist faith groups are drooling in glee at the idea.

One way to combat this, I suspect, is to make sure to lump ALL of them in the same boat when we talk about this. "I'm not entirely sure I support fundamentalist Muslim and Christian and Jewish schools being supported with my public money." Never let anyone forget that publically funding fundamentalism is as horrific when it's Christians as when it's Muslims or Sikhs or, or Jedis, or whatever.

Steve Withers said...

Tax money should not be used to fund religious education as doing so violates the principle of separation of church and state......and we end up funding the Jedi Knights Academy. Any charlatan can set themselves up as a religion. It's one of the reasons we have so many of them as it is.

Ti-Guy said...

Just to nit-pick...Canada does not have a constitutional requirement to separate Church and State. Our constitution recognises the supremacy of God, and the Head of State (the Queen) is "defender of faith."

The legal reality in Canada is that everyone has the right to be treated without discrimination before the law.