Monday, August 27, 2007

Lemon: Public Funding of Religious Schools

There has been a lot of rhetoric tossed to and fro since John Tory announced he would allow any parochial school to be funded publicly.
Certainly, Catholics make up the largest contiguous denomination of people of faith in Ontario. But this just means that way more money goes to Catholic school boards than would go to, say, private Baptist schools.
There was a time, when we had a competent government (under Mike Harris) that a minuscule tax cut ($500) was allowed for any child who attended private schools. So our Montessori kid provided the family with a tax cut barely adequate to pay for pizza days.
Meanwhile, every day a greater number of Ontarians pull their kids out of the "heavy on social justice and frequently on strike" school system in favour of the "I'll pay whatever it takes to not have my kids' minds twisted by socialists" preference.
The glorious and always enforceable Charter does allow for education by any citizen in either official language, but where does it say that this relates to religion? Not in the Charter.
We do have a Toronto District French School Board that operates alongside the Toronto District School Board and a Toronto Catholic District School Board. This is fine - there is a Charter responsibility for the French portion.
New Brunswick - the only bilingual province in Canada - abandoned the idea of a Catholic board a generation ago - perhaps recognizing that being Catholic and being French in NB basically amounts to the same thing. Now English schools have portables while French schools are empty, but this provision for separate boards based upon language is enshrined in the Holy Charter so exists in NB.
Why Ontario?
John Tory's mentor, Bill Davis, in 1987, put in place Bill 30 which provided full funding for Catholic Schools.
I won't comment on the politics that might have been involved in at the time (what with Bob Rae and David Peterson ganging up on him and all).
This legislation was reviewed by the Supreme Court who judged that the Province could prejudicially provide funding to Catholic as such rights were included in the 1867 Constitution Act.
So, Bill 30 results in inequity in Ontario. If you're a Catholic, your religious education is covered off. If you're of any other faith forget it. The only way to solve the problem is to make it worse - offering funding to all.
Sort of reason ignored for the sake of sanity...

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