This letter has been sent to OHS via HAO, and can be read in it’s entirety at RThainLTEOneSchoolSystem, where you may also contact the author.
This letter was sent to the Ottawa Citizen & Montreal Gazette.
Received July 21 2012.
When the Quiet Revolution broke the Roman Catholic Church’s stranglehold on Quebec society, many advances in human rights were made and more humanistic laws and public policies were established. An example can be drawn from the education sector. Quebecers can be proud that in 1997 their leaders amended the Constitution Act in a bilateral agreement with Ottawa to exclude Quebec from the requirement to fund religious schools. (Newfoundland and Labrador soon followed suit.)
Quebec is decades ahead of Ontario and puts Ontario to shame for not yet creating a public education system which respects the fundamental ethical principle of equality of its citizens, a hallmark of a civilized society.
Sadly, here in Ontario, instead of moving to one publicly-funded school system with French and English school boards, Ontario taxpayers are still required to finance two school systems — one for Roman Catholics and one for everyone else.
Quebec‘s approach is enlightened — Ontario’s is abhorrent. Quebec complies with the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights: ‘All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.’ Ontario does not. In fact, the blatant religious discrimination inherent in Ontario’s education system violates the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and has been condemned by the UN Human Rights Committee (twice).
The Quebec Humanist Association, a defender of human rights, will be hosting a joint international conference in Montreal in August with Humanist Canada and the International Humanist and Ethical Union. [Sex And Secularism Conference -- http://www.humanistconference.ca] The IHEU has consultative status at the UN. Quebec humanists have told me they are appalled at what they have witnessed in Ontario. A few examples:
a) Some taxpayers are considered to be ‘‘more equal’’ than others. We all pay the same taxes, however, only those of the correct faith are guaranteed a publicly funded school choice for their children and have a guaranteed access to all of…(not just 2/3 of) publicly funded teaching positions (unless you are a gay/lesbian Roman Catholic of course, but that is another story.)
b) To try to eliminate some waste in transportation costs, the Ontario government mandated that transportation consortia be formed between the buses for the public schools and the buses for the Roman Catholic schools. Some boards have not been enthusiastic supporters and have been reluctant to cooperate fully. Hamilton provides an interesting case. The two coterminous school boards (Roman Catholic and public) agreed in principle to the consortia, but the devil is in the details. The Catholic board has different criteria as to the distance students live from their school to be picked up. The public school has longer distances which means on some streets, the Roman Catholic students have bus service and the neighbouring kids who attend public school, do not.
c) The Roman Catholic Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board also insisted that Catholic students do not travel on the same bus as public school students!
d) Ontario’s Bill 13 was introduced as an amendment to the Ontario Education Act to deal with bullying and allow students to use the word ‘gay’ in student group names such as, ‘‘Gay-Straight Alliance.’’ The Archbishop of Toronto, Thomas Cardinal Collins (Ontario’s biggest bully?) spoke out against this Bill. The position of the Church is that homosexuals are ‘‘intrinsically disordered’’ and the use of rainbows on signs in some of Ontario’s publicly-funded Roman Catholic schools was prohibited. (It would do the Archbishop some good to attend the Sex And Secularism conference in Montreal. He might learn something. A conference theme is religion and sexuality.)
Hopefully, Ontarians who endorse universal human rights and embrace the ethical principle of equality will be inspired by the IHEU conference in Montreal to compel our government to end religious discrimination in Ontario’s anachronistic and wasteful education system.
A majority of Ontarians oppose public funding for Roman Catholic schools but, they have not as of yet, been able to loosen the grip the Roman Catholic hierarchy has on the Ontario taxpayers’ purse strings. The issue of course, in not one of Roman Catholic versus non Roman Catholic. The issue is about whether it is appropriate for a provincial government to divert over a billion taxpayer dollars annually to privilege one religious group over those who live by other beliefs.
Ontarians must overcome the obscurantism of the RC Church, as Quebec has done, and become a more civilized society.
Ontarians need to speak out because the funding of public education in Ontario is an international embarrassment, a financial disaster and a moral disgrace.
Ontario needs an UnQuiet Revolution.Thank you for your consideration.
Richard G L Thain DDS