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March 5th, 2011:

Fighting for a secular education in Alberta

Wow. Look at this. There are other places in Canada that are stuck in the 19th century aside from Ontario!

A Catholic education is the only local option for the Kirsop family and everyone else in Morinville, Alta., a community of 8,100 northwest of Edmonton. It’s a unique situation, rooted in the town’s origins as an outpost of French-Canadian Catholicism in the late 1800s. But this fall, when five-year-old Sarah Kirsop declared she had converted to Catholicism, her mother joined a group of local families who are challenging the status quo.

If one of my kids came home and said that – I’d move elsewhere.

So it’s not only Ontario where an anachronistic and duplicate system of education dawdles along. The unfortunate folks of Morinville Alberta have no choice but to enroll their children in a non-secular system.

Morinville’s unique situation, in which the only public school board is a religious one, came about through the collision of that history with a redrawing of the district maps 16 years ago.

Only Ontario, Saskatchewan and Alberta still have patchworks of public and separate, protestant and Catholic school divisions. Over the years, protestant divisions have become secular and many have amalgamated with like-minded neighbours. Mass amalgamations in 1995 in Alberta left Morinville being serviced by a single public Catholic board, while the region’s secular board, the Sturgeon School Division, was confined to areas around Morinville.

Time to take apart these patchworks, wouldn’t you say? The simple economics of dual systems will eventually kill the non-secular systems, but this will take time – and political guts.

Who will have the balls to stand up and start the process to end this? These systems are wasteful and discriminatory but will likely need a Constitutional amendment to make it happen. Mr. Hudak? Ms. Horwath? It is clear that Mr. McGuinty won’t take the lead here.

Will either of you?

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