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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?


School system choices: one parent sums it up nicely

I have often lamented Ontario’s wasteful 4 track education system – especially the non linguistic based dualities of the Public and Catholic Boards of Education. I firmly believe that most if not all of the financial ills that face our system of publicly-funded education could be cured not by first looking to private sector alternatives like Charter Schools, but by eliminating religion-based education.

And I would dearly love it if a high level politico at the Provincial level would have the guts to make this a ballot box issue. But I am not so naïve to believe that this will happen any time soon.

But it will happen eventually. It must.


Megan Cornell runs a nice blog where she opines on a number of things, but many are education or childcare related.  She, like my wife and I, will be seeing her child enter JK this fall. And she, like my wife and I, considers this to be an important step in the development of her child.

In Megan’s latest entry she talks about having to choose a school and school system. This was not ever an issue for me. Because of my wife’s upbringing, we could have sent either of our children to one of the four Boards in Ottawa. But for us, it was really a no-brainer – the OCDSB was the only choice possible.

Here’s how Megan described her decision:

Next up: the Catholic Board.  Here’s the thing: I fundamentally do not believe that our publicly funded schools are the place for religion of any type to be taught.  I was raised going to Church and our family currently are members of a Church and attend regularly.  I believe that religious education should be delivered by family and religious institution, not the state.  Full stop.  I also believe that there are compelling financial reasons for there to not be four school boards in Ottawa.

Well put, Megan. It is good to hear a community leader like yourself making strong and accurate statements like these. It will take a groundswell of opinions like these to make a difference and bring about real education reform in Ontario. Religious education should NOT be delivered by the state.

Hopefully, someone is listening.