Read: Ontario’s Funding of Catholic School Systems – A Story of Systemic Faithism

The concept of systemic faithism may not be familiar to HumanistFreedoms.com readers, so as a kind of preamble to the focus of this article, consider this definition of systemic faithism as presented by the Government of Ontario’s own Ontario Human Rights Commission presented in its 2013 Human Rights and Creed Research and Consultation Report.:

Systemic faithism refers to the ways that cultural and societal norms, systems, structures and institutions directly or indirectly, consciously or unwittingly, promote, sustain or entrench differential (dis)advantage for individuals and groups based on their faith (understood broadly to include religious and non-religious belief systems). Systemic faithism can adversely affect both religious and non-religious persons, depending on the context, as discussed in the examples below. Some forms of systemic faithism can be actionable under the Code (e.g. those amounting to “systemic discrimination”), while others may not be (e.g. those taking broader cultural or societal forms). This section looks more closely at two dominant forms of systemic faithism in the current era, flowing from the “residually Christian” structuring of public culture and institutions, and from “closed secular” ideology and practice...Among the most obvious examples of residual Christianity in Ontario…public funding in Ontario of Roman Catholic separate schools, but not other religion-based schools.

How is it that a provincial government is able to simultaneously identify, define and detail a form of systemic discrimination and continuously defend and perpetuate the abuse? It’s a puzzler.

The authors of upsetting.ca have decided to do their best to explore and communicate the lengthy and, well as the website says – upsetting history of ongoing privileging of a particular community within the provinces of Ontario, Alberta and Saskatchewan (a bit of rough math reveals that roughly half of all Canadians live in a jurisdiction that continues to ensconce and fund a major form of systemic discrimination).

Upsetting’s authors make their position clear: On the practical side, the Ontario public has never sanctioned the public funding of separate school systems for Roman Catholic citizens, just politicians.  The RC school systems (French & English) were foisted upon Ontario through two dictatorial moves by politicians.  Skullduggery (trickery, dishonesty) in the highest places has maintained them.  Each post in this series will tell a different story in order to reveal all the events and the characters associated with them.  Posts will be every Sunday evening, Tuesday evening, and Thursday evening for several weeks.

You can subscribe to the series of fifteen articles/posts at: https://civilrightsinpubliceducationinc.forwardtomyfriend.com/r-hkftrjdkk-3AC2157C-tyyusdl-l-j.

A Second Thought…

Perhaps you’re interested to investigate systemic faithism from a distinctly different angle? Have a listen to a podcast from York University’s Critical Spirituality in Leadership who say that they recognize that “neutral” or “secular” views often privilege agnostic or atheist traditions and worldviews (Ontario Human Rights Commission, n.d.) and are “residually and normatively Christian” (Seljak et. al, 2008). This leads to systemic faithism.. we consider Seljak et. al’s (2008) analysis of the close connections between religion, ethnicity and race in the Ontario context and caution that Christian privilege can result in anti-religious sentiment, ethno-religious alienation, polarization, and alienation, rooted in the belief that religious practices and identities are incompatible with Canadian identity and citizenship (OHRC, n.d.). This encourages the creation of religious “ghettoes” that may lead to religious radicalization and disengagement from Canadian public life (OHRC, n.d.). We heed Butler’s (2000) warning that spirituality may be commodified in modern schooling, reducing it to individual approaches instead of situating it in larger contexts of social struggle. 

Citations, References And Other Reading

  1. https://www.ohrc.on.ca/en/human-rights-and-creed-research-and-consultation-report
  2. https://www.ohrc.on.ca/en/iii-background-and-context/4-systemic-faithism
  3. https://www.upsetting.ca/
  4. https://www.yorku.ca/edu/unleading/podcast-episodes/critical-spirituality/#:~:text=This%20leads%20to%20systemic%20faithism%2C%20which%20the%20Ontario,broadly%20to%20include%20religious%20and%20non-religious%20belief%20systems%29.

The views, opinions and analyses expressed in the articles on Humanist Freedoms are those of the contributor(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the publishers.

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