The following article has been compiled from information provided by OPEN.
An application stating the current funding of Ontario separate schools violates s.15(1) of the Charter of Rights has been filed at the Ontario Superior Court and served on the Ontario government on behalf of One Public Education Now (OPEN) lawyers Adair Goldberg Bieber.
The two plaintiffs, a public high school teacher, and a parent of children in the French public school system, are founding members of OPEN (One Public Education Now). OPEN is a coalition of groups and individuals dedicated to challenging the current discriminatory funding of the schools of one religion.
Many people want to do something about this discriminatory funding of one religious school system, but don’t know what to do. Governments and political parties ignore letters, articles and petitions. But they can’t ignore lawsuits, and people can do something by contributing to our challenge. Our lawsuit is funded by the donations of many people and needs additional funding to continue our legal fight.
The Application states there have been sufficient changes since 1987 that the Reference re Bill 30 Supreme Court of Canada ruling that the Charter does not apply to the funding of Ontario separate schools should be re-examined.
Therefore, the only rights protected from Charter challenge are those that existed in 1867 and are protected by s.93(1); and the public funding of non-Catholics at separate schools and the public funding of Grades 11 and 12 at separate schools, neither of which existed in 1867, violate the equality sections of the Charter of Rights.
Not only is the public funding contrary to the Charter of Rights, but it wastes money in duplicate administration and unnecessary busing of students at a time when money is needed for, among other things, protecting the safety of teachers and students. Estimating the savings is difficult because so many of the costs are hidden but it has been estimated up to 1.6 billion dollars a year could be saved. So many people think separate schools are funded by residential property taxes, not realizing just 7% of separate school operational funding, and none of the capital funding, come from the property taxes of residential separate school supporters.
OPEN’s Positions Regarding Funding of Catholic School System in Ontario
- Separate schools were started under historical circumstances that no longer exist; for example, there were fights between Protestants and Catholics in public schools and Ontario agreed to protect separate Catholic schools in return for Quebec protecting separate Protestant schools; these circumstances no longer apply
- So much has changed since the 1987 Reference re Bill 30 Supreme Court of Canada decision, such as Quebec abolishing its funding of separate schools in 1997, that the ruling the Charter of Rights does not apply to the funding of Ontario separate schools, should be reconsidered
- Separate schools are not paid for by separate school residential property taxes.
- Capital funding is paid for entirely by general provincial revenues. In general, only 7% of operating revenues of separate schools come from residential property taxes; 15% comes from business property taxes; 70% comes from general provincial funding.
- By contrast, 15% of public school funding comes from residential property taxes and only about 60% from general provincial funding.
- The current system wastes money. Boards of Trustees, Superintendents of Education, Board offices and administrative staff, are duplicated.
- We don’t have two fire services, one for Catholics and one for everyone else. Think of the waste if we did.
- Students are bused to the closest public or separate school, instead of walking or being bused to the nearest publicly-supported public school.
- Local community schools are being closed that could be kept open if all local students went to a public local school, not split between public and separate schools
- Estimating the savings is difficult because so many of the costs are hidden but it has been estimated up to 1.6 billion dollars a year could be saved.
- One third of Ontario publicly-funded teaching jobs are denied to the two-thirds of the population who are not Catholic even though all Ontario tax-payers pay for these schools.
- Of course Catholics who want to can pay to send their children to religious schools, just as Anglicans, Baptists, Muslims and others do. What is unfair is the government, for outdated reasons, funding one religious group .
- People have signed petitions, written articles, and sent letters and emails. But because all the major parties support the status quo, nothing changes.
People can contribute to the challenge via the OPEN website, https://open.cripeweb.org/aboutOpen.html through our secure PayPal link, or send through e-transfer (Interac) to email@example.com. All contributions greatly appreciated.
Contact : firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Citations, References And Other Reading
- Featured Photo Courtesy of: https://www.ontariocourts.ca/scj/about/
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.