Ontario's publicly-funded catholic school system unjust

Post by Eric Mang in

10 comments

catholic school.jpg
A publicly funded Catholic school system operates in Ontario

Eric Mang returns with his perspective on the publicly funded catholic shool system operating throughout Ontario

It's time to bid adieu to the publicly-funded Catholic school system.

Year after year, secularists make a valiant effort to raise this point with provincial governments, and provinces, especially in Catholic-rich Ontario (currently helmed by a Roman Catholic Premier who's married to a Catholic school teacher), want nothing to do with what they perceive as a political and constitutional nightmare.

In Ontario -- where the Catholic school system was controversially extended by former Premier Bill Davis to cover grades 11 to 13 -- religious school campaign promises are hazardous to one's political ambitions.

In the 2007 Ontario general election, Conservative leader John Tory pondered public funding for religious schools funded on the taxpayer's dime.

There was a hue and a cry and John Tory kissed his aspiration to be Premier goodbye.

As much as I disagree with the public funding of faith-based schools, Tory had a point. Either we fund none or we fund all. Premier McGuinty stammered and dodged his way through a CBC interview that asked him why if he was opposed to Tory's plan, did he continue to support the Catholic system? Only the Ontario Greens had the courage to openly declare its support for a single, secular, public system.

I understand the historical and constitutional underpinnings of why we have two separate school systems, but to put it bluntly, those days are over. Canada is no longer a binary nation of Catholic and Protestant, of English and French. We are many faiths and no faiths and myriad cultures.

The United Nations' human rights committee declared that public money for Catholic schools but not for other religious schools is discriminatory. The UN was right.

And that the constitution is sacred and can't be meddled with is poppycock. Of the thirteen provinces and territories, only seven allow publicly funded faith-based schools. A province can hold a referendum, as Newfoundland and Labrador did in 1997, and upon a successful vote and a constitutional amendment, the deal is done. Newfoundland witnessed upheaval and protests, but it's over and the world didn't end and the moon didn't crash into the Earth and they have a single, publicly-funded system.

The third largest "belief" in Canada is no belief (and incidentally, if you want to know about the world's religions, ask an atheist or agnostic). This is a broad category and covers free-thinkers and agnostics and atheists and deists and so on. These Canadians, which represent the fastest-growing group, are united in their devotion to secularism. And I should note that there are certainly religious Canadians who also support secularism -- one of the more progressive movements being the United Church.

So why do we continue with this divisive system? Moreover, when a majority of Canadians strongly disagree with women wearing a niqab -- a vast majority support the Quebec government's ban on wearing niqabs when accessing public services -- where is the ire toward public funding of a separate Catholic school system, especially when many teachings and doctrines of the Catholic Church run contrary to a progressive and civilized society.

The Catholic Church, through its leadership, marginalizes and discriminates against women (females may not be ordained as priests and in May 2010 a number of Catholic students were bused into Ottawa for an anti-choice rally on Parliament Hill), it's openly bigoted toward homosexuality, its lies about condoms have helped foster an AIDS epidemic particularly in poorer parts of the world, and its protection of priests who have raped and sexually abused children is beyond contemptible.

Let me conclude with full disclosure and a defence. First full disclosure: I am an atheist, but my absence of belief in gods does not preclude me from arguing against an unfair and anachronistic system. The defence: we must put politics aside (with 34% of Ontarians claiming to be Catholic, politicians from the three major parties won't touch this issue) and ask ourselves whether the continued public support for Catholic schools is just and if those public  chools are an ideal expression of our society.

Eric Mang is a contributor to CityCaucus.com. This post was originally published at Rabble.ca

10 Comments

The reason public funding for Catholic Schools in Ontario is enshrined in the Constitution is to prevent the type of religious persecution the author is perpetuating.

This has nothing to do with any group being persecuted, and you know this. Indeed, to fund one religion and not others is unjust - the UN agrees and so do Canadians in other provinces.

Further, please tell me, in my enumerating the sins of the Catholic Church, where I'm factually wrong. I'm not. Fortunately, North American Catholics are less likely to cling to the abhorrent and bigoted doctrines held dear by the Vatican.

Finally, Catholics haven't been persecuted in Canada in ages. Your argument has been dead for almost a century.

Your very article reeks of anti-religious hatred and provides a great deal of evidence as to why the constitutionally enshrined funding of catholic schools in Ontario should continue.

So you would agree to public funds being used for Muslim schools, Jewish schools, Hindu schools, Evangelical schools? Or do Catholic schools only deserve that right (constitutional issues aside. After all, a decision to fund all religious schools does not need constitutional approval and a decision to terminate public funding for Catholic schools requires a constitutional amendment - see link to Newfoundland's referendum above)?

I've made it quite clear where I stand on public funds for religious education - I don't agree with it. But funding one religious sect and not others is unfair.

I think parents should have many publicly-funded options for their child's education...and it shouldn't be limited to schools that believe solely in secularism. Schools should reflect and teach the values a child's parents wants them to learn. So yes...I have no problem with a parent's school taxes going towards religious schools.

But getting back to constitutionality...it's not an issue that can be put aside. Funding for Catholic schools in Ontario is enshrined in the constitution for solid, historical reasons that are still valid today. To do away with it is akin to suggesting we adopt English as our only official language, or do away with transfer payments to have-not provinces. It's to ignore the fact that even with multiculturalism, we are a country with two founding nations recognized by law. Recognition of the historical discrimination Catholics faced (an still face) in Canada is paramount in understanding how we evolved into a nation that respects other cultures and religions.

Thus, I seriously question your motives for writing this article. Although you directly target Catholics (which I am not one, btw) in this article, I don't believe you have respect for any of the religions in the world which created many of the philosophies we live by. Humans are not robots. We are spiritual. When we reject that premise at any level, we contribute to the dehumanization of society.

100% agree with this article. Especially living in an area where the Catholic Board continually receives funding for new schools which are at 60% capacity while there is only one 40 year old public school that is at double capacity. Why as a non-catholic must my children suffer. Religion has no place in schools unless they are private.

The issue of the future of separate school education is up for discussion in Alberta (http://dkingofalberta.wordpress.com/2010/08/19/a-new-legislative-framework-and-separate-school-education/)

Separate school education is anachronistic. It fragments communities and duplicates resources, without commensurate benefit to the community. It patronizes one faith at the expense of all others. It compromises the basic tenet of public school education, which is that the community is better off if the public school models the community by being a place where kids of every description, including Roman Catholic, live and work together in preparation for living and working in the adult community.

Separate school education is a civil institution. It is created by law, not by a Church. It is accountable to a civil electorate (albeit of a single denomination), not to Church courts. The resources belong to a civil community, not to a Church.

It's funny how people scream persecution whenever the fully funded province wide catholic school system is Ontario is challenged. Of course it's time to end this system. Like all other publicly funded services Ontario's taxpayer's only need to fund one system and all those people who want something else can pay for it themselves. We need to provide a publicly funded school system that best serves student's learning needs, not their parents religious wants or any other special interest wants. Local school boards may allocate funding to alternative schools and programs as per evidence-based best practices and subject to the limitations set out in the Education Act. Ontario now has a 20 billion dollar deficit this year- how poor do we have to be, and how frustrated at government waste- like the catholic ed. system- before we put in place a government that will take an axe to all the waste? It's the legislature of Ontario's responsibility to address this discriminatory, wasteful, unnecessary system and it's the people's responsibility to insist they do so. The politicians won't act until they know they'll get more votes by doing it. The Ontario Greens were rewarded with 3 times more votes than even before in 2007 largely because of their support for one school system. The Conservatives could easily have won the election if they'd chosen that path instead of the opposite -fund all faith schools- idiocy. But even though the data is clear they refuse to represent the peoples wishes. In 2011 the big issue is the economy so I don't think this issue- although unresolved- will get any traction.

You don't like it find somewhere else to live. Why must we continue to appease other relgions. They impose their beliefs and continue to dictate their beliefs on us . Like I said you don't like it MOVE!

I'm currently a catholic student and agree that Canada should not have separate schooling systems, that it is discriminatory. if they want to go to catholic schools they can pay for private schooling like students who go to Jewish Schools or Muslim Schools. However, i do believe world religions should be taught in these public schools fairly. I would also like to say that i found this article insulting and discriminatory towards Catholics. i am highly offended by his generalizations and insults towards the catholic community. simply because some of those things occurred does not mean the catholic church in general is awful. it's not called anti-choice, it's called pro-life. i simply belief in life from the moment of conception and that murdering the infant in the womb is criminal. There is a choice i fully embrace, the choice to either have safe sex, not have sex or only have sex when your prepared to deal with the consequences. also, the Roman Catholic Church has proclaimed that Homosexuality is no longer a sin, just like it was removed from textbooks as a psychological illness. it is not strictly a catholic view, many people held it but it is not so anymore. we have apologized and moved on. so should you. i was insulted by this researched spewing of baseless facts. Just because you’re not catholic doesn't mean we were stupid or wrong or racist. Please note then while preaching about equality and non0discrimination you are being discriminatory.

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