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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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  1. If Quebec and Newfoundland could dump the religious school system, it shouldn’t be a problem for Ontario either.

  2. Dave says:

    As much as I agree with you that the current two tier system creates a huge waste of administration costs and I loathe the stupidity of teaching anyone about a guy in the sky that will make everything ok if only we believe in him, I have to say that I think you’re up against it on this one. The catholic system in Ontario is enshrined in language from a peace treaty signed between England and France and would require both provincial and federal politicians to buck the Catholic church and many other interested parties. In particular it is my belief that McGuinty is a product of the catholic system and has his children enrolled in it as well. This is not to say the catholic school boards aren’t in many cases doing a good job with their schools but it is to say that it will be a truly herculean task to try and effectively do away with this entrenched form of superstition, led education.I suspect I’m much too old to see it ever come to pass in my lifetime. And when one sees the way people cling to old traditional beliefs in many areas of life I suspect there will be few politicians with the courage to lead a fight to eliminate this anachronism.

    1. trashee says:

      I agree with you, Dave, that this may or may not happen in your lifetime – nor mine – but the pendulum has to be put into motion.
      And the feds needs not “dirty their hands”. Constitutional amendments that affect only one province require the consent of that province only. And really, there is even precedent to abolish the separate school board without an amendment – Manitoba did that.
      BTW – how are you feeling these days?

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