Defund Ontario’s Catholic schools

Latest flip-flop by Halton trustees shows they’re not in it for the students


The Halton Catholic District School Board has overturned its ban on gay-straight alliances—and yes, it was probably something you said. The board was subject to international ire after its decision to ban gay-straight alliances caught the media’s attention earlier this month. Rubbing salt in the already-festering wounds, board director Alice Anne Lemay decided to draw an unwise parallel to Nazism while defending the board’s decision. “We don’t have Nazi groups either,” she said to Xtra, Canada’s gay and lesbian newspaper. “It’s not in accordance with the teachings of the church. If they wanted to have a club outside of school, fine, just not in school.”

Well, it turned out people didn’t take to that analogy too well, nor did they accept the exclusionary rhetoric implied by the decision. So, unsurprisingly, the board met Tuesday night and voted 6-2 in favour of scrapping the ban on gay-straight alliances. Michael Pautler, Director of Education for the Halton Catholic District School Board, reflected on the decision in a statement released by the board. “The most compelling voices on this issue have come from some of the students in our care,” he said.

It would be silly to buy that explanation, of course. When local MPPs, pundits across the nation, and even celebrity blogger Perez Hilton chastises the board for its obstructive and prejudicial decision, it’s hard to believe board members when they proclaim that they suddenly and spontaneously decided to listen to their students after all. The controversy tarnished the board’s reputation and promoted the impression that its interests lie with the Catholic Church, not with the social wellbeing of its students. When that allegiance is so blaringly apparent, it becomes all the more outrageous that public dollars are still fueling Catholic school boards in Ontario.

It’s not just this unfortunate blemish that highlights the incongruity involved with publicly funding Catholic schools (though “Public Pays School to Discriminate Against Own Students” is an awesome headline). Some Catholic schools across the province still refuse to teach methods of birth control and STI prevention (even though it’s part of Ontario’s sex-ed curriculum) leaving it up to their students to educate themselves on preventing pregnancy and sexual diseases. Creationism is still taught alongside evolution (albeit, supposedly only in religion class), and the hiring practices invoked by some Catholic boards could, arguably, be called discriminatory. Make no mistake–churches and religious schools have every right to conduct themselves in any manner they see fit, but they should not be entitled to the public dime, especially when their methods and philosophies are so subjective.

Catholic schools’ exclusive privilege to public dollars is unjust. Ontario needs to follow Quebec and Newfoundland and move to invest wholly in secular education, tailored to all students regardless of religious background. This Halton scandal shows why funding schools concerned with following the teachings of the church, and not necessarily the interests of its students, should come to an end.


Defund Ontario’s Catholic schools

  1. Section 19 of the Ontario Human Rights Code effectively gives Catholic school boards a pass so that their non-fundamental denominational “rights” can trump fundamental equality rights whenever the two come into conflict. It states that “This Act shall not be construed to adversely affect any right or privilege respecting separate schools enjoyed by separate school boards or their supporters under the Constitution Act, 1867 and the Education Act. R.S.O. 1990.” In other words, Catholic school boards need not concern themselves with the human rights norms that apply to the rest of the civilized world – they are in a class all by themselves.

    Homosexuals are just the latest in a long string of victims of this “special” status. Catholic school boards have an absolute and unfettered right to discriminate against non-Catholic students in admissions until grade 9, when “open access” is supposed to apply. Their right to discriminate against non-Catholic teachers in hiring and promotion applies at all grade levels. One third of the permanent, publicly funded teaching positions in Ontario are effectively closed to two-thirds of the population — the non-Catholics. Publicly funded Catholic school boards in Ontario and other provinces (only Alberta and Saskatchewan still have them) have also been successful in dismissing Catholic teachers who became pregnant out of wedlock, who are gay or transgendered, or who were married in a non-Catholic ceremony – all serious departures from denominational standards.

    Democratic governments should be religiously neutral, but ours effectively sanctions a particular faith. It is time for Ontario to follow the lead of the provinces that have rescinded denominational school rights and moved to a single school system equally accessible to all.

  2. As Canadians we often try to look down at the Americans, especially on social issues which we feel we are a more progressive people. Yet we fund only one religious school system: Ontario Catholic schools. Clearly Ontarians want a single school system, as polls have shown but the Catholic unions continue to influence the politicians in order to save their jobs, not do what is best for the children of Ontario: Spend money on education not duplication.

    Does the political class think this will be the only incident? Catholic schools are left with a nonsensical choice, stop being Catholic to not upset the public and risk their funding (effectively becoming secular and duplicate) or remain Catholic and constantly be bombarded by progressive societies demands for equality and progressive values.

    Ontarians should decide it not worth the money and end this circus so we can focus on education.

  3. When I first applied to become a permanent resident of Canada I was appalled to find out that Ontario had a “state Church” and it wasn’t the church that most Ontarians belonged to. That the Catholic Church had this special status for it’s schools and boards that ran up big expense accounts.

    I thought Canada had more accountability than that.

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  5. REMOVE ALL public funding from the Catholic school system in Ontario. Poll after poll shows that the majority of people in Ontario want a single public education system. It’s time to cut the cord. No more tax dollars for the Catholic system. I’m sick and tired of seeing fancy new Catholic schools beint built everywhere, yet the secular public schools are falling apart. Sickening.

  6. This is not the first time the Catholic School Board has shown it’s values do not reflect the secular values of Ontario. In recent memory a boy was denied bringing his boyfriend to their Catholic school prom.

    It is time to stop funding this nonsense.

    Let’s remind Mr. McGuinty of this during the upcoming election.

  7. This is an extract of my submission to the Ontario Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs for the 2011 Pre-Budget Consultation.

    “In this submission, I wish to stress that Ontario must reassess its fiscal priorities in education and must manage responsively how it funds public education. To illustrate how much is currently wasted in public education funding, I will use the situation prevailing in Wawa, ON.

    According to the 2006 Census, the township of Wawa has a population of 3,204. Of that population, some 260 are students attending one of the four French schools.

    Those French schools are:
    · École St-Joseph Wawa ( Catholic High School ),
    · École séparée Saint-Joseph, Dubreuilville (Catholic Elementary School)
    · L’École publique l’Escalade (Public elementary School)
    · L’École secondaire Carrefour Supérieur-Nord (Public secondary School)

    Those schools are under the responsibility of two school boards: Conseil scolaire public du Grand Nord de l’Ontario and Conseil scolaire catholique du Nouvel-Ontario.

    Wawa also has three English schools:
    · Sir James Dunn ( Public Elementary School )
    · Michipicoten ( Public High School )
    · St. Joseph French Immersion Catholic School – Elementary

    Those schools are under the responsibility of two school boards: Algoma District School Board and the Huron-Superior Catholic District School Board

    One does not need to be a fiscal genius to realize that seven schools for such a small concentration of students is totally ludicrous. Or that four school boards are necessary to manage seven schools. Unfortunately, this duplication is rampant across the whole province and results in costly bussing programs, duplication of managers, under-enrolled schools which are not cost-effective, etc… In many instances for smaller schools, it also results in doubling or tripling grades in the same classroom, which impacts negatively on the quality of education provided to students.

    It can be argued that Ontario has to fund Catholic education, as stipulated in Section 93 of the Constitution. It can also be agued that an exemption from Section 93 can be obtained from the federal government, as Quebec and Newfoundland did more than a decade ago.

    In a 2007 survey, “71 per cent (of Ontarians) said they oppose funding faith-based schools” for reasons detailed at the link below, which also shows that no other province in Canada funds only ONE faith, as Ontario does.

    Ontario must respect Minority Language Educational Rights, as stipulated at Article 23 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and therefore education funding should be limited to the language of instruction.

    Savings resulting from amalgamating Catholic School Boards with public ones would exceed $500,000,000 ($500 Millions) per year.

    This is not the first time that the Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs is appraised, during Pre-Budget Consultations, that education funds could be better spent.

    But this is the first time that there is so much urgency to “fix the education system”. Failure to do so before the next provincial budget will result in critical health and social programs being deprived of adequate funding, with the most vulnerable likely to pay the price.”

    Gilles Arpin, MMM CD
    Former Vice-Chair
    Conseil Scolaire Viamonde

  8. The only thing I would caution is that Tim Hudak is an Evangelical Christian. Those bastards have their own personal agenda that, while they may seem secular to get their votes, they can easily turn it around once voted in.

  9. A couple of remarks.

    All Catholic school boards in Ontario won’t allow for gay groups – not just Halton. Using the term “gay” is not allowed in Catholic Ontario schools.

    Evolution is not on the Ontario curriculum at all. We often refer to the American South as being fundamentalist because of its controversies over teaching evolution. Ontario sidesteps the entire issue by not even including it in the curriculum. So who is backwards now?

    If Catholic schools kept to the intent of the BNA 1867 Act, they’d all be French-language schools.

    Bravo for one publicly funded system based on reason and science!


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