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secular education

The Ontario Liberal Party is losing me…

… and fast!

I know that there is more to the OLP than just this single issue. But this issue is very important to me as a voter and as someone who can be an ardent and vocal supporter (with cheque in hand), if I feel that my voice would be helpful.

But I am dismayed by the intransigence of the OLP with regard to the funding of Catholic schools in Ontario and its refusal to even consider the process of introducing a Constitutional amendment to end the province’s obligation to provide a Catholic education system. I’m now considering my options. Maybe the Ontario Liberal Party isn’t my home anymore.

Ontario can look at “modern and innovative” ways to cut costs in parallel public and Catholic school systems without ending $7 billion in funding for separate schools, says Education Minister Laurel Broten.

Her comments came Wednesday as the Green Party and others called for an end to the financial support after the Roman Catholic Church objected to parts of an anti-bullying bill designed to protect gay and lesbian students.

“The elephant in the room, public funding of Catholic schools, has become so destructive to fundamental rights and equality it’s impossible to ignore,” said Justin Trottier of the Centre for Inquiry, a secular humanist group and registered charity.

But Broten and Finance Minister Dwight Duncan insisted that there are no plans to reconsider the funding as the minority Liberal government struggles to eliminate a $15 billion annual deficit.

“We are not willing to embark on a conversation with respect to seeing an end to Catholic education, which is constitutionally protected,” Broten told reporters.

I am a Liberal and a liberal. I have been for years and I will continue to support the LPC until I have reason not to do so. Who is chosen as the next leader with be the watershed for me. If the federal party looks to the past and not to the future in its choice, then I may well say “adios”. I don’t want to do this, but I may be forced to.

The same applies to the OLP. I haven’t been as involved on the provincial political front as I have been locally or federally, but I do support most of what McGuinty has tried to accomplish (I’m sure to get a nasty comment or two for that sentence!). However their stance on separate school issue might push me away.

Maybe it already has.

Don’t slam the door on a public conversation about modernizing our schools

Toronto – The GPO is calling on the Liberal government to open the door for a public conversation about modernizing our schools by establishing a public commission to examine merging the best of the Catholic and public education systems.

“It’s wrong for the Liberal government to slam the door in the face of school boards, parents and students who want to talk about modernizing our schools,” says GPO leader Mike Schreiner. “We owe it to students to ensure that our schools are safe for all children and respect the diversity of our society.”

Yesterday, Education Minister Laurel Broten stated: “There are school boards that have advanced a desire to have a local conversation with respect to a merger. We have indicated to them that is not a conversation we’re willing to embark upon, and one that does not respect the constitutional rights of Catholic education.”

“Our Constitution is not a barrier to equality,” says Schreiner.  “We cannot accept the Minister’s plan to close schools and cut services while prohibiting a conversation about merging the Catholic and public school boards.”

Since the Constitution Act of 1982, provinces have enacted 10 constitutional amendments. Five have involved education rights, 4 of those affecting denominational education rights.  Section 43 of the Constitution prescribes the methods of passing and enacting these amendments.

The GPO supports a fair, financially responsible and high quality education system that does not fund one religion at the exclusion of all others.

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A follow up to my post on the school kids in Morinville, Alberta

A while back, I wrote this piece about non-Catholic kids in this small Alberta community being forced to attend a Catholic school.

The Alberta Education Minister, Dave Hancock, seems to agree that a way must be found to provide a secular education to families on the area.

They have a legitimate beef, says Hancock. “I think that they’re entitled to a public education that doesn’t include religion,” he said in an interview.

The columnist goes even further and notes:

Frankly, I think the denominational school system should be relegated to the dustbin of history. Alberta, Saskatchewan and Ontario are the only provinces that still maintain publicly funded separate schools. Quebec got rid of the denominational system years ago with very little fuss.

Newfoundland replaced its church-run schools with a public system about a decade ago after a referendum. The world didn’t fall apart there, either.

Catholics, Muslims, Jews, Hindus and any other religious group has the right to educate their children in a faith-based system if they choose – but it should not be on the public’s dime.

In the meantime, it is encouraging that the Alberta government is on its way to correcting this injustice.

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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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