05.30.2012 08:19 AM

Mr. Radwanski’s passion

As both a Catholic and an Ontario Liberal, I disagree with just about everything Adam has to say, here.  But I like the fact that he says with passion and, dare I say it, anger.

He should do so more often.


  1. Tiger says:

    I think it’s about time that Ontario either fund religious schools for all faiths — where numbers warrant — or fund none.

    I think we could decide which way to break on that issue by plebiscite.

    • Dave Breukelaar says:

      Didn’t John Tory run on this position? That was a referendum of sorts.
      I would be curious to see someone run on the opposite position – No funding for any religious institutions; amalgamate the public and separate school boards, and drop the catholic teaching.
      I’m one of the many non-catholics who sends my kid to a catholic school. It’s 300m away from my house and it’s got one of the best reputations in town. We wouldn’t pay extra to send him there though.

      • Tiger says:

        No, Tory didn’t quite. He picked a side in that. And then argued it terribly.

        I’m actually fine with religion in schools — I went to an Anglican private school for junior high and high school. Chapel didn’t hurt me any, and I rather like singing hymns. I think it’s a shame that fewer and fewer people know them.

        So that there are Catholics — even devout Catholics! — getting public funding (and one Protestant separate school out in Penetanguishene), I’m fine with that.

        I’m fine with their (faith-based) objections to what the province is asking them to do, and I’m fine with the province saying to them in response, “Do what we said or we’ll yank your funding,” too.

        But I’m _not_ fine with funding only the Catholics and no-one else. That made sense before the late 1980s, when the Protestant school system (except for that one school out in Penetanguishene) became a secular one, and we decided that that was how we were going to be, going forward.

        Strict separation of church and state isn’t the Canadian tradition, and so if we fund parochial schools, that’s right in line with our way of doing things. But funding one set of parochial schools and refusing funding to all others — that isn’t just, over the long run.

        • coreyd says:

          Small problem with that. As unjust as it might be, Section 93 of our constitution guarantees that catholics can maintain their publicly funded schools in Ontario. It would take a brave and determined government to choose to tackle that problem. The GSA issue isn’t serious enough to go that far.

          Apart from that issue, many catholic schools provide better overall education than the public system. In the town I grew up in, our catholic schools had better reputations and results, and less discipline issues than our public schools. It would be a shame to lose those schools that are genuinely providing quality educations.

          • Tiger says:

            Other provinces have done it.

            Again: both Quebec and Newfoundland did it in the 1990s. It is a very simple single-province constitutional amendment that can be passed at any time, very easily.

            Heck, Ontario secularized 3/4 of its schools in the 1980s, when it banned prayer in the Protestant (now public) schools, and the sky didn’t fall.

            I went to a Christian school, and I wouldn’t be too terribly put out if they were all Christian schools (i.e., if we had an established church), but the status quo is unjust. If you’re going to fund the Catholics, where numbers warrant, you’ve got to fund the Jews, the Hindus, the Sikhs, and, yes, even the Muslims, where the numbers warrant. Anything else is institutionalized discrimination.

          • Tiger says:

            Here is a list of the amendments:

            Here is the federal government of the day, rubber-stamping the Newfoundland amendment:

            Interesting historical note: it was introduced by Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs Stephane Dion.

            Doing the same for Ontario is a simple procedure which requires no supermajorities, and nothing more than a majority vote.

            Ontarians would just have to decide whether they prefer to fund religious schools (like Alberta) or not (like Quebec).

      • Dave Breukelaar says:

        I went to one of the privately funded Christian schools that likely would have received funding if Tory had his way. There has certainly been debate within the school about whether they would even want to receive funding. As with the current story, at which point would a publicly funded school system be permitted to exercise teachings which may not be in line with the public opinion? I recall a staff member at the school being dismissed because of a lifestyle choice that was made, which was contrary to the contract that of conduct that had been signed and agreed to.
        I am seeing a shift in thinking though, among fellow Christian parents, in recognizing that Faith starts at home. There are benefits to being in a school that is a greater reflection of the society that we live in. We don’t rely on our school system to teach our children the faith that we hold dear. They will learn it from us and they will ultimately embrace it themselves or not.

        • Tiger says:

          It’s a tough call. Once you accept the Queen’s Shilling, so to speak, you’re subject to her other rules. As we’re seeing with the GSA issue for the Catholic boards.

          Which is why I think a referendum on whether to go one way or the other is the way to settle it. I don’t feel particularly strongly about which way it should go — I don’t mind parochial schools being funded (if all are offered it), and I don’t mind a secular public system either.

          But lots do feel strongly, and it’d be good to hear them hash it out and get it settled once and for all.

  2. bluegreenblogger says:

    I am bothered by the fact that since the seperate school funding is enshrined in section 93 of the constitution, there is no returning to this issue without opening a constitutional debate. That leaves us with two possibilities. One is that the proponents of eliminating seperate school boards are heartfelt, and preparing for a few decades of intense political battle to effect a constitutional amendment. The other is that they recognise that nothing can be changed, so they want to establish a long term appeal to bigots over an issue that will never go away. The Orangemen are girding themselves for battle once again. Who would have thought it in this day and age.

    • Tiger says:

      Wrong amending formula.

      It’d just take passing a resolution in the Provincial Parliament, then having the Parliament of Canada rubber-stamp it, to change that part of the constitution.

      Quebec and Newfoundland did it last decade with their school systems.

  3. Chris says:

    I send my kids to Catholic school so they can have a Christmas Tree, say Happy Easter and have Halloween parties. I don’t want to not have Christmas trees but my kids not be able to go to cafeteria on Fridays because of a mosque. Christianity is evil but Islam is okay. This isn’t remotely balanced. I don’t have a problem with the gay straight alliance other than perhaps the name. If this is an anti bullying measure let the name reflect that. By making it about sexuality you are creating a special snowflake group and that shouldn’t be allowed in public or Catholic schools.

    • Neil N says:

      It would be one heck of a lot easier to justify banning Islamic prayers in public schools if the other hand of government wasn’t shoveling millions of taxpayer dollars into Catholic schools.

      • matt says:

        Directing Catholic taxpayers’ dollars towards Catholic schools, no? Assuming the system is comparable to Alberta, which I am familiar with, my property tax form allows me to identify as Catholic or not, which affects the funds directed to my local school boards.

        • Neil N says:

          Does your property tax form allow you to identify yourself as Muslim or Jewish or Hindu?

          I thought not.

        • Ted B says:

          True about property taxes, but that’s only part of the story. The provincial taxes go into the public school system too and those are greater than the total property taxes. Most cities also put in extra money over property taxes.

        • Chris says:

          No, that is incorrect – all the self-identification does is allow you to vote for public or separate trustees. It has nothing to do with money as public and sep. schools are funded equally by the government.

    • Michael says:

      Halloween being a pagan holiday wouldn’t be too welcome in a Catholic school. 😉

  4. Tom says:

    Really, you’re catholic?

    You support a church that treats women as less capable of being leaders than men? A church that calls homosexuals “objectively disordered”?

  5. EAB says:

    Isn’t the solution simple, then?

    We go back to the time where our education taxes were separated from provincial taxes, and taxpayers decided which system to direct their education tax dollars to. If there are enough Catholics who want to pay for their own system, let them. However, they must pay the full cost of their own system.

    • coreyd says:

      Not really. As it is, the taxes that pay for our schools are not only taxes on parents, but taxes from all citizens of Ontario. I don’t think either a public or catholic system could sustain itself with just tax dollars from parents of kids in those schools. It would get more complicated than you suggest – and would end up basically how it works now.

      • EAB says:

        It wasn’t just parents who paid education taxes, it was everyone. But, you could decide where you wanted the funds to go. If all Catholics were prepared to fund their own system, presumably they would.

  6. Realist says:

    Radwanski’s position strikes me as exactly right.

    Our conception of gay rights has changed significantly in the past 30 years. It no longer comports to the official views of the issue taken by the Catholic Church. That’s not a criticism of the Catholic Church, it’s just a fact.

    If the Catholic school system doesn’t want to accept those changes in its school system, it doesn’t have to. But in that case, it shouldn’t insist on being funded by taxpayers. There’s no violation of freedom of religion here.

  7. Stephanie Powers says:

    You know what solves all these school funding issues, government mandates on curriculum and social engineering, and handicaps the teachers’ unions? The fact that Region of Peel is closing an arts-centric school because too many parents want their kids to go to the school, so in the name of fairness there is going to be no school for the arts?

    Vouchers. The dirty little secret is they work, and where they are used education resources are allocated by market forces and we don’t have these religious agenda issues, because it comes down to parental choice.

    Ah, but the teachers unions don’t like that idea, and we know the Ontario Liberals know what side their bread is buttered on.

    • Ted B says:

      They work only in small batches. Anything works in small controlled circumstances.

      State or province wide? Who knows but not likely.

      And it isn’t just the teachers unions who don’t like that idea, though they certainly don’t.

    • kenn2 says:

      Wow. Is there a weaker excuse to push vouchers? This isn’t the US, we’re not plagued with medieval curriculum mandates or underachieving schools to anywhere near the US level, and this “gay-straight alliance” thing is really small potatoes as educational issues go. So, no vouchers, thanks.

      Ontario should not back down, and politely suggest that the separate school boards just STFU about it, and if the Catholic establishment wants to get all shirty about it and risk their sweetheart educational funding arrangement over their kinder, gentler homophobia, so be it.

  8. Jason Hickman says:

    This is a hard one to solve. There is currently a system in ON that specifically provides for a public-funded Roman Catholic school system. I don’t see how one can have that system in place and *not* expect that the schools will be run in accordance with RC doctrine. I don’t think it’s sufficient to say (as WK effectively did in an earlier post) “Don’t take the public dime unless you’re prepared to follow the government’s rules.” Our Constitution provides for these RC schools, and I have to wonder whether this (or any government) has the right to tell them to follow secular (vs. Catholic) rules for this kind of a thing. We may see an interesting court challenge on the GSA issue, brought by RC school boards, and/or RC parents of students at those schools.

    (Also, and this is only my opinion, I don’t think a court challenge based on the Charter *against* RC school boards would be successful. At the risk of oversimplifying the decision, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled, in its 1996 decision in Adler v. Ontario, that not only is a Charter challenge against denominational education barred by Section 29 of the Charter, but also, that you can’t use one part of the Constitution (i.e., the Charter) to attack another part of the Constitution (i.e., Section 93). Here’s a link to the Adler decision if anyone’s interested: http://canlii.ca/t/1fr6t . It’s not quick reading, but the “headnotes” at the start of the text summarizes the Court’s decision pretty clearly.)

    If that’s unacceptable to the public at large then the solution, for better or worse, may be to do what Newfoundland & Labrador did years ago: grasp the nettle, pass a resolution at Queen’s Park (presumably following a referendum approving the measure, as was the case in NL) and then have the House of Commons pass the same resolution – and amend the Constitution to remove funding for RC schools. I know of no party (other than the Greens) that really wants to go there, but Ontarians may have to have that debate if and when GSA’s are themselves challenged.

    • Lawrence Stuart says:

      THis is the way I see the issue: By accepting public funding, Ontario Catholic schools make themselves somewhat beholden to the public will. Certainly more beholden than privately funded religious schooling. When the public will (expressed by the duly elected government) enacts regulations that conflict with some aspects of Catholic doctrine, the public interest should trump private doctrine. But only to a point. Because in some cases the Charter should be invoked to protect private doctrine and practice from undue public interference.

      The Gay Straight Alliance thing looks as good a hill as any to fight the battle of exactly where we draw the lines between the public interest and private religious freedom, specifically within the context of a publicly funded institution. Certainly one possibility is to try to withdraw public funding altogether. Unequivocal. Clear. But politically expensive, and not perhaps necessary. I think it is a much more nuanced question than a binary either secular or Catholic. It’s always about balance — how much secular, and how much Catholic, and under what circumstances.

      I hope McGuinty pushes ahead with the legislation, and I’d welcome the public debate and the legal challenges that will follow. While often noisy, and sometimes painful, they will contribute greatly to the definition of that balance for our generation.

      • bluegreenblogger says:

        That was very well said. The Catholic schools basically control their own, until and unless it conflicts with the funders (governments) policies, whilst protected from excessive interference by charter rights. As an aside, I live in an area with a whole lot of recent immigrants of many different religions, Partly due to the relative merits of local Catholic versus local Public schools, a significant proportion of non-Christians elect to move their children to a Catholic school at the first opportunity. As a Catholic, I was able to take advantage of the very good junior public school, and then just switch the kids over to the very good catholic middle school and high school. Non-Catholics often make the same moves, with somewhat more difficulty than I experienced. ANY Party that attempted to tinker with these choices, even slightly and at the margins would motivate a whole lot of people to kick their ass at the ballot box. Yes, the local public schools in my neighbourhood really do leave a lot to be desired, and people really care about their kids educations. I doubt that the Catholic schools in other areas are so very much better than the public schools, but the choice is important nonetheless.

        Seriously, when people start debating Cathoilc Schools and eliminating funding, it seems surreal. It calls to mind my Parents, and Grandparents, and Great grandparents warning us at their knee of the filthy Orangemen, and the Presbyterian Mafia that owned Toronto’s public offices. I can already see geriatric Orangemen marching, being met by the ‘double damned papist’ geriatric shock columns, lmfao. IMHO, we should all let sleeping dogs lie. Seperate school funding debate was only put to bed 28 years ago. Let it lie until all the haters on both sides of the Christian religious divide are dead and buried. Until such time, any public good to be derived from changes will be outweighed by the conflict and hatred that would be re-kindled.

        • Tiger says:

          It will continue to be an issue as long as only Catholics have a publicly funded religious school system.

          It isn’t a terrible injustice, but it’s a nagging injustice. And you’re going to see it brought up over and over, because there isn’t a way to square that circle. Either fund ’em all, where numbers warrant, or fund none.

          • Lawrence Stuart says:

            I understand your point, but … is it really an injustice? It is not equal treatment, to be sure. But inequality is something we accept all the time. Think of the whole business of two ‘official’ languages. Why just two? There is no principle of justice that would demand just two official languages. But there are historical roots: a long process of compromises made, balances achieved. It’s simply a modus vivendi. And while it might be unfair to non anglo or francophones, it has made possible the mosaic (v. melting pot) cultural reality that defines this country. And in that it has benefited (indirectly) allophones as well.

            The same might be said for the two publicly funded school systems: the spirit of compromise and cultural acceptance in embodied in the rather odd modus vivendi that defines the public/Catholic system in Ontario … trickles down (I dare to say it!) and helps to make the province the wonderful multi-culti place that it is.

            So unjust, no. Unequal, yes. But it is, perhaps, a historically necessary inequality, and furthermore an inequality that has positive consequences.

          • Tiger says:

            I said unjust, and I meant unjust.

            And it chafes all the more when people try to defend it.

  9. George says:

    Great election issue. More choice within a publicly funded system or no choice. It’s time for the debate in Ontario, but as well be at the polls.

  10. past says:

    How’s this, let the Catholic’s teach their kids what they will on their own dime as per the rest of the religions that exist in this fair province. Religious education is the responsibility of the parents of children not the state. The Catholics can either accept a secular weekday system or pay private tuition if they want otherwise. Sunday school is, as far as I know, free. Take religion out of the public system once and for all. (I know the history behind the system and know it’s outdated, as a historian of education.)

  11. catherine says:

    It would be great to have Catholic school funding addressed. However, I remember when McGuinty took on a so much smaller challenge of trying to eliminate religious prayer in Ontario’s Parliament. The NDP and Conservatives banded together and we ended up with even more prayer in Parliament. Did we really need more religious prayer in Parliament? Of course not! Religion is such a wedge issue politically, and anyone who tries to do anything involving religion will see the other parties exploit it in any way they can.

  12. Mike Foulds says:

    There is no rationale for state supported religious education or indoctrination in a modern democracy.

    The separation of Church and State is a protection for both institutions.

    I do not want my state influenced by your religion and I do not want my state to influence your religion.

    Enshrining something in the constitution does not make it “right”.

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