Renewed effort to defund Ontario Catholic schools.Toronto -- The year 2007 has seen a renewed questioning of Ontario's Catholic school system's right to exist. The controversy is being stirred by various figures within the province's public school system, and is supported by media pundits and letters to the editor. Catholics in Ontario have enjoyed a constitutional right to education since Confederation. The guarantee of minority denominational schooling rights was included in Section 93 of the British North America Act British North America Act, law passed by the British Parliament in 1867 that provided for the unification of the Canadian provinces into the dominion of Canada. Until 1982 the act also functioned as the constitution of Canada. of 1867 to protect Protestants in Quebec and Catholics in Ontario. Catholics were then--and with some four million adherents still are--a significant religious minority in the province of Ontario. The right to education was further incorporated into the Constitution Act of 1982.
Protection for minority education was actually a precondition to the creation of the Canadian nation and represented the culmination of a long and hard-fought struggle by Catholics. In 1985, an all-party agreement in the Ontario Legislature extended full public funding Public funding is money given from tax revenue or other governmental sources to an individual, organization, or entity. See also
Today, at a time when other groups in Canada--most notably homosexuals--have been given greater rights, a concerted campaign is in progress to strip Catholics of some of their basic rights. This process has already succeeded in Quebec and Newfoundland. The attack on Ontario's Catholic schools is not unrelated to the homosexualist victory in achieving equality in marriage.
Letters to the editor started appearing in major Ontario newspapers toward the end of 2006, suggesting that the public and Catholic school systems be merged. "Throwing religion into the mix fuels discrimination," charged one letter-writer (Toronto Star The Toronto Star is Canada's highest-circulation newspaper, though its print edition is distributed almost entirely within Ontario. It is owned by Toronto Star Newspapers Ltd., a division of Star Media Group, a subsidiary of Torstar Corporation. , Nov. 25, 2006). "Surely it is time to end public funding for the Catholic schools in Ontario," added another in the Jan. 3, 2007 National Post.
A so-called ethics columnist in the Star, Ken Galliger, concluded, "Public money for Catholic schools (is) wrong." He added, "There is no ethical justification for perpetuating the myth that Ontario kids come in two varieties: Catholic and the rest. Nor is there justification for a situation in which one system makes hiring decisions based on a person's faith commitment, while the other is unable to even ask that question" (Jan. 13, 2007).
One such letter-writing campaign erupted on the pages of the Hamilton Spectator, beginning in January 2007. "I object to the privileged status the Catholic Church has achieved in Ontario," declared one writer. "Let us not forget that at the same time Catholic school funding was entrenched en·trench also in·trench
v. en·trenched, en·trench·ing, en·trench·es
1. To provide with a trench, especially for the purpose of fortifying or defending.
2. in our Constitution, women were denied the vote," said another. "Give us a single, integrated school board that focuses on excellence in education and leaves religious matters at home where they belong," said a third (Jan. 22, Jan. 23, Feb. 5, 2007).
The letters were followed by a call from trustees of the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board The Hamilton Wentworth District School Board (HWDSB) is based in Hamilton, Ontario. It consists of almost 120 different schools in the local area, both elementary and secondary. The current Director of Education is Dr. Chris Spence. in March to scrap public funding for the Catholic education system. "The Catholic school board is no longer the Catholic school board," claimed public trustee The public trustee is an office established pursuant to national (and, where applicable, state or territory) statute, to act as a trustee, usually where a sum is required to be deposited as security by legislation, where courts remove another trustee, or for estates where either no Robert Barlow For the American author and anthropologist, see R. H. Barlow.
Robert Barlow, (18 February 1813 – 16 February 1883), was a cartographer and topographical draftsman from England who spent most of his career there with the Ordnance Survey of Great Britain. . "Every kid in that system is not a Catholic. They are open to anyone, like we are, obviously" (Stoney Creek Stoney Creek, town (1991 pop. 49,968), SE Ont., Canada. It is a suburb of Hamilton and was the site of an American defeat (1813) in the War of 1812. News, Mar. 30, 2007).
Five other Ontario public school boards, including the Grand Erie District School Board The Grand Erie District School Board is a school board that has legal jurisdiction over Norfolk County, Haldimand County, and Brant County in the province of Ontario, Canada. in Brantford (which began the trend), also issued a call for renewed pressure for a single school system. The Ottawa-based One School System campaign, meanwhile, co-opted the support of Ontario's Green Party (Catholic Register, May 7, 2007).
By April, Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty Dalton James Patrick McGuinty, Jr., MPP (born July 19, 1955, in Ottawa, Ontario) is a Canadian lawyer and politician and, since October 23, 2003, Premier of Ontario. He is the twenty-fourth premier of Ontario, and the second Roman Catholic to hold this office. reiterated that scrapping funding for Catholic schools, which now have 650,000 students, in his province was not on the table. "We're not going there," he told the press curtly. Education Minister Kathleen Wynne Kathleen Wynne is a politician in Ontario, Canada. She is currently a member of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario, representing the riding of Don Valley West for the Liberal Party. confirmed this later at a meeting of the Catholic Principals' Council of Ontario: "I am here to offer unqualified support to Catholic education in the province," she said (Toronto Sun The Toronto Sun is an English language daily newspaper published in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. It is published as a tabloid and is known for its daily "Sunshine Girl" feature and for its populist conservative editorial stance. , Apr. 11; LifeSiteNews, Apr. 30, 2007).
However, these responses did not squelch squelch
v. squelched, squelch·ing, squelch·es
1. To crush by or as if by trampling; squash.
2. the controversy. Just two days later, the Ottawa Citizen The Ottawa Citizen (established 1845) is an English-language daily newspaper owned by CanWest Global in Ottawa, Canada. According to the Canadian Newspaper Association, the paper has a circulation of 141,540. in an editorial characterized Catholic education rights as, "An obsolete privilege." The paper noted Quebec and Newfoundland have eliminated constitutional rights to faith-based education. "It doesn't have to be a difficult process; all that's required is an understanding that times have changed," the Citizen said (Apr. 13, 2007).
Toronto Star columnist Ian Urquhart Ian Urquhart is a Canadian political columnist. He writes about Ontario provincial affairs for the Toronto Star. traces the latest agitation over denominational schools to the move in 2001 by the regime of former premier Mike Harris to give tax credits to parents of children attending private schools. McGuinty's Liberals repealed that benefit after assuming office in 2003. (May 2).
In the lead-up to the coming October 10 provincial election, Progressive Conservative party leader, John Tory, has thrown a wild card into the education equation with a pledge for full public funding of faith-based schools, which, apart from Catholic ones, currently have 50,000 students. The proposal has been embraced by non-Catholic faith groups, especially Jewish ones, but critics note it is a big step back from the Harris government's system of tax credits. For one, Tory's policy would include "strict criteria and accountability requirements," which entail the complete provisions of Ontario's common curriculum. That program includes mandatory instruction in sex education, sexual orientation sexual orientation
The direction of one's sexual interest toward members of the same, opposite, or both sexes, especially a direction seen to be dictated by physiologic rather than sociologic forces. and Darwinian evolution, among other objectionable points. (The Family Coalition Party, is proposing instead a tax-credit system of the kind created by the former Harris government, LifeSiteNews, June 12, 2007).
The dangers of the Tory proposal are making themselves known in Hamilton, where the Hamilton-Wentworth Family Action Council is sounding an alarm over an "equity policy" that the public school board in that city is poised to impose. Draft statements developed by an "Equity Policy Steering Committee on Sexual Orientation" call for promoting "active engagement" with lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered transgendered adjective Relating to a person who has undergone genital/sexual reassignment surgery Transgender health issues Hormonal therapy, cosmetic surgery, fertility options–eg, egg and sperm banking. See Sexual reassignment. Cf Transsexual. "communities to ensure inclusive school community partnerships." The committee also intends the board to identify and remove "barriers" to full participation in school-community partnerships by these lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered "communities" (Press release, Mar. 7, 2007).
Some Catholic education and Church leaders seem to be waking up to the dangers. The new Archbishop of Ottawa, Terrence Prendergast, for example, is making it clear that fighting for Catholic education will be high on his agenda (Ottawa Citizen, June 27, 2007).
As Urquhart concludes about the current education situation in Ontario: "The situation is very fluid right now and it is difficult to predict where it will end up."
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