Tag Archives: education

Public Funded Education In a Pandemic

In the weeks leading up to Labour Day and the annual return to school, Canadian media outlets have provided ample coverage of the unprecedented stresses and challenges the COVID-19 pandemic have created for politicians and educators.

On September 1, 2020, CBC reported that Ontario’s school boards will need to ‘collapse’ some classes, trustees group says. It appears that school boards are coping with a dramatic increase in online learning in response to the pandemic. School boards and media covering Ontario’s education system have focused-on class sizes as a key element of funding agreements with the province.

On August 31, 2020 The Globe and Mail published an article stating that Ontario’s education unions file labour board challenge over school pandemic plans. The upshot is that Ontario’s four education unions are challening the provincial government’s approach to the coming school year….with a focus on smaller class sizes.

Back in July, The Toronto Star reported that Opening Ontario schools safely amid COVID could require up to $3.2 billion funding for staff, cleaning supplies, say Liberals, staff union.

What is absent from all of this discourse? Any evidence that educators, politicians or the media have recognized how fundamentally-flawed, ill-prepared and out-dated the design of Ontario’s education system is.

Who does seem to have recognized this issue? Administrators. CBC reported on September 2, 2020 that Ontario school boards lose 20% of education directors as daunting pandemic year looms, even quoting Alana Murray, a retiring Director in the Bluewater District that “I guess my timing was pretty good.”

The timing to recognize that Ontario’s publicly-funded education system is terribly outdated and badly in need of reform isn’t just “pretty good” – it is critical.

Federal and provincial governments are tripping over themselves, and each other, in hurried efforts to distribute supplies, maintain social distancing, fulfill online learning needs, negotiate with educate unions and sort our their funding agreements. How it will all be paid for is anyone’s guess. Or isn’t it everyone’s certainty that the costs of COVID-19, whether within the domain of education spending or across the whole public sector, will be paid via taxes?

Ontario’s government, whether anybody wants to admit it or not, is faced with a critical problem to redesign and modernize Ontario’s publicly-funded education system. No small part of that will be recognizing and addressing one of Ontario’s most expensive anachronisms – the ongoing public funding of separate Catholic schools. After COVID-19, we can’t afford it any longer.


Citations and References

  1. https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/covid-classrooms-collapse-trustees-ontario-1.5708005
  2. https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/hamilton/ontario-school-board-director-leaving-1.5708110
  3. https://www.theglobeandmail.com/canada/article-ontarios-education-unions-file-labour-board-challenge-over-school/
  4. https://www.thestar.com/politics/provincial/2020/07/27/opening-ontario-schools-safely-amid-covid-could-require-up-to-32-billion-funding-for-staff-cleaning-supplies-say-liberals-staff-union.html
  5. https://www.chroniclejournal.com/prairies/bc/alberta-to-dole-out-federal-funds-for-covid-safe-schools-on-per-student-basis/article_54bca2ee-a8b8-54c4-8ceb-bcad9d7e5d76.html

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.

Featured Photo courtesy of Dr. Richard Thain

Profile: Andrew West

According to his website, Andrew West is a lawyer in the Ottawa area with specialization in Environmental Law and dispute resolution. He’s also the Green Party of Ontario’s Attorney General Critic. Currently, West has his sights set on leading the Green Party of Canada.

Following a career in the television industry working mostly as a sole proprietor/independent contractor, West attended Ryerson University (B.A. (Hons) in Politics and Governance) and University of Ottawa (Faculty of Law). West has volunteered for several NGO’s including a committee chair role for Amnesty International’s annual fundraiser, “Taste for Justice” – raising money to help stop violence against women.

West has run for office as a Green Party candidate in four election since 2014, most recently in a provincial by-election in Orleans (February 2020). When asked during a candidate debate whether education should be considered an essential service, West stated

“I think education is the most important thing we can do in this province.rather than making cuts and slashing…proper investment back in to the most important resource we have, our children.” The format of the debate did not provide adequate time for West to immediately elaborate on how investing back into children’s education might be achieved. Later, however, he stated that helping to create appropriate funding would be “to merge the public and Catholic school boards.

Ontario’s Ministry of Education is one of the province’s biggest Ministries. This massive ministry happens to house one of Canada’s greatest human rights embarrassments, the ongoing privileging of the Catholic religion via public-funding of Catholic school boards.

There are many individuals and organizations in Ontario who oppose the ongoing public privileging of the Catholic religion. Andrew West appears to be one of the few politicians willing to talk about ways and reasons to bring the Ministry of Education’s spending into line with principles of equal human rights.

Candidates for the leadership of the Green Party of Canada must raise $10,000.00 as part of their leadership campaign by the first week of June.  While it appears that the Party has a system to track credit for generating donations, the money does not go to an individual candidate, but to the Party. As of May 28, 2020 West does not yet appear to have reached the mile-marking of having his portrait appear as a candidate. Whether he progresses or not, advances in human rights will rely upon politicians like Andrew West who develop and communicate policy that is consistent with a common and shared humanity.

At www.humanistfreedoms.com we do not endorse any specific political party nor any candidate. However, from time to time, political parties and/or individual politicians take positions on issues that deserve to be recognized and analyzed. We are particularly interested in issues related to defending human rights and our common humanity. If think that a position taken by an individual politician or a political party deserves to be covered – contact us.

Student Essay Contest

Humanist Canada

The national voices for English and French Humanism in Canada, Humanist Canada and Association humaniste du Québec, respectively, will host another essay contest this year. The theme for the Humanist Canada Essay Contest this year is “Religion and Humanism in Education” in a Canadian context. We welcome Canadian high school students to submit their strongest ideas, thoughts, and arguments to us.

The essay contest provides an opportunity for students to think critically on Humanism in Canadian society. The first place prize in each language will be $1,000. Deadline is September 30th, 2020 at 11:59pm Eastern Time. There are no predefined topics. However, the bounds of the content should be relevant to the humanist community and its values across Canada.

“We are once again pleased to be able to host this forum for young writers interested in humanist themes,” Dr. Lloyd Robertson, Vice-President of Humanist Canada, stated, “This forum promotes a defence of science and reason from those who would attack it,” The full information for the essay contest can be found on the Humanist Canada website.

Chair of the Humanist Canada Essay Contest Committee and Member of the Board of Directors of Humanist Canada, Scott Jacobsen, said, “This is a rare opportunity for the presentation of the best and brightest young freethought minds the country’s high schools have to offer, in a formal academic-based competition with written essays. Any inculcation of values comes from the passing of them and providing a space for the next generations to evaluate, present, and live them. The Humanist Canada Essay Contest is one opportunity for young freethinkers to shine.”

About Humanist Canada

Humanist Canada (HC) promotes education and awareness of humanism. We are a resource for secular groups and causes across Canada. We support the advancement of scientific, academic, medical, and human rights efforts.

Contact information

Lloyd Robertson
Vice-President, Humanist Canada

Vice-president@humanistcanada.ca

Humanist Canada Essay Contest Link

Dr. Richard Thain Versus

We consider this matter closed.

On September 20, 2014, the Canadian Museum for Human Rights was opened to the public. Located in the City of Winnipeg, one of the Museum’s guiding principles is to inspire human rights, reflection and dialogue. It is a principle that ought, perhaps, to have been given closer attention when Dr. Richard Thain was advised that his interest to place a series of advertisements on the City of Winnipeg’s buses was rejected.

Dr. Thain had planned to advertise his opposition to the public funding of Catholic school systems in Canada. His idea was to leverage local and national media coverage of the museum’s grand opening to bring attention to his position on this issue. Thain worked with a professional advertising designer to develop a series of simple and elegant bus-ads. The theme of the ads was that the system of public funding for Catholic schools in Ontario is a human rights disgrace. The ads contained no images, words or phrases that could reasonably be considered offensive. The only contained a message that some people might disagree with.

Thain grounded his views with a position taken in 1999 by the United Nations Human Rights Committee when indicating that the provision of funding to Catholic school systems while simultaneously denying it to all other religious groups is discriminatory. Thain hoped to inspire intelligent, reasonable public discourse on this long-standing issue.

Thain contacted Pattison Outdoor Advertising, the firm responsible for the management of the City of Winnipeg’s bus advertising at the time, to gain access to advertising space. During the back-and-forth of price negotiations and content review, he began to understand that that some of the “higher-ups” did not agree with his views and planned to put an end to his campaign. It was then that he received a letter advising that his ads would not appear via the Winnipeg Transit system and that he would not be provided an explanation of why his ads had been blocked. No one from the City of Winnipeg called him as he had requested.

Thain says that he received a letter from the City of Winnipeg’s agent, one of Canada’s most powerful and influential advertising agencies, that contained a five-word sentence which altered his view of human rights in ways that he could not have imagined. The sentence read, “We consider this matter closed.”

No dialogue. No reflection. No right to self-expression.

Thain’s initial shock soon passed and he was struck by the need to confront a deep and worrisome dilemma. What do you when authorities tell you to go away? How do you fight City Hall? Thain decided that the matter was not closed. He decided to sue the City of Winnipeg and Pattison Outdoor Advertising.

In the summer of 2017, Thain procured Winnipeg-based legal counsel, Thompson Dorfman Sweatman LLP to represent him in his response. Thain believes that he has been denied his charter right to freedom of expression. and has launched a legal suit against the City of Winnipeg and Pattison Outdoor Advertising.  The parties in the suite are set for an examination for discovery on January 30 & 31. 2020 – 62 months since the attempted advertising campaign. An examination for discovery process is intended to help all parties in a law suit find out about the other side’s case. Generally the idea is for each party to find out what the other parties have to say about the matters contained in the lawsuit, to see whether there are areas of agreement and to try to obtain admissions which could be used during a trial.

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