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Newfoundland's tragedy.


The September 2 Newfoundland referendum confirmed what many people fear referendums will normally do, that is, abolish the rights of minorities. In this case 53% of the population turned out to vote and 73% of them (that is, 38% of all Newfoundlanders) want the rights of Catholic and Pentecostal parents to denominational schools abolished.

The kind of reasoning employed by the abolitionists is illustrated in the following narrative.

In the Globe of August 30, Clyde Wells, former premier of Newfoundland, was reported as having said that Catholics and Pentecostals had enraged Newfoundlanders because of the following four actions:

1) made (false) catastrophic predictions; 2) tried "consciously to subvert the democratic process and the will of the people by trying to persuade the Senate in Ottawa to block constitutional change that had been approved by Newfoundland and the House of Commons"; 3) led a (subversive) court challenge to what had been approved by the Newfoundland legislature and by the two Houses of Parliament; 4) lacked "good faith" when the government made "one compromise after another" (John Gray, "Newfoundland referendum down to the wire again," pages A1 and 12).

So what is the truth?

Catholic and Pentecostal parents--a minority in the province -- would like to continue their schools with teachers, a curriculum, and a philosophy of which they approve. Mr. Wells calls this: "hanging on to power."

A referendum two years ago abolished these age-old minority rights with a 54% majority of only 52% of Newfoundlanders voting. That comes to 28% of the population. Wells calls this "the will of the people."

Next, the federal Liberals readily comply with Mr. Wells' request to suppress the constitutional guarantee of these rights. They rush it through the House of Commons in a day and a half, one half-day of hearings on Friday May 31, 1996, and one day of speeches and vote on Monday June 3 ("Liberals trample minority rights," C.I., July/August 1996, pp. 4-6).

Thereupon the Senate, deciding this is unacceptable, does its parliamentary duty, holds hearings over the next three months, and concludes that the legislation should be amended. What does Clyde Wells call the parents' appeal to the Senate? It is, he says, "consciously subverting the democratic process and the will of the people"! And Prime Minister Jean Chretien's reply to the Senate is: Nothing doing. His Liberals--with the help of the Bloc Quebecois--override the Senate with a new vote in the Commons (December 5).

There is more Catholic and Pentecostal subversion a la Wells. The successor to Mr. Wells, Brian Tobin, introduces school legislation. What Mr. Wells called false "catastrophic predictions" now come true: in the first year alone, some 60 Catholic and Pentecostal schools are closed, their teachers laid off, even in towns where the majority wants to keep them. This was the case in Cornerbrook, where 550 non-voters on the voters' list were added to the 579 votes for abolition, thus handily "defeating" the 807 citizens who elected to keep their denominational school.

The parents appeal to the courts. On July 9, 1997, a judge declares the legislated procedures unconstitutional; an injunction is issued; the changes are stopped. What does Mr. Wells say? Catholics and Pentecostals lack "good faith," while "we offer one compromise after another."

In August Mr. Tobin called a new referendum. His referendum question promises government controlled public schools "where opportunities for religious education and observances are provided." The Globe heads its article: "School-religion issue gets plain talk" (August 26) Was this plain talk? What was not on the ballot, but what had been made clear elsewhere, was that this so-called religious education will consist of a course in comparative religion taught from a neutral point of view. In other words, as reporter John Gray put it more truthfully in that August 30 article, everyone in the province "expects this referendum to end religious education."

Action Box

There is unfinished political business for all of us. As Mr. Wells would say: Here they go again with their political subversion.

The September 2 decision to banish all denominational schools requires Newfoundland to return to Parliament and ask for a new and, this time, total suppression of parental minority school rights from the constitution.

Write your Member of Parliament and express your opposition to this elimination of parental rights. Remember, your province may well be next. That's why we should also oppose Quebec's demand to be allowed to suppress their confessional schools. This also will be submitted to Parliament in the fall.

Federal Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Stephane Dion has announced it must be done before Christmas. He assures us that Newfoundland is not a precedent. "The federal government is committed to protecting minorities everywhere in the country," he says. My foot!

In Canada freedom of education is now under assault everywhere. As we asked in September 1996 (C.I., p. 16), let us not fulfil the Prime Minister's wish to sweep this attack on parental rights noiselessly into the dustbin of history. While there may be many things wrong with the Catholic school system in Canada, we believe things can still be rectified. But once the schools are gone, our taxes will be supporting secularism and the Planned Parenthood immorality, while our own, by then private, schools will be scraping the bottom of the barrel for a few pennies.
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Publication:Catholic Insight
Article Type:Editorial
Date:Oct 1, 1997
Next Article:False profits (Svend Robinson; Gregory Baum; Anthony Padovano; Hedy Fry).

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