Tag Archives: systemic faithism

Toppled Legacies: How the Renaming of Ryerson University Recommends the End of Public Funding of Ontario’s Catholic School Boards

In August of 2021, the Board of Directors of the former Ryerson University voted to change the name of the institution due to (as one CBC story phrases it) concerns about the man the institution is named for and his links to Canada’s residential schools.

RU/TMU: Is it a University or a Fortress?

According to www.ryerson.ca, “Names matter. They tell the world who we are and what we stand for. They communicate ideas, values and aspirations. They speak to the future even as they acknowledge the past.  A new name offers an invitation to be more inclusive, to imagine novel ways of thinking and creating —  to open ourselves to new possibilities.  This is a new chapter for our university, informed by the pages that come before but open to the opportunities that lie ahead. Now is a time to recommit to the values that define us, to invite our community to gather around our shared mission and to shape a future in which everyone belongs.” So Ryerson University is now the Toronto Metropolitan University where “It’s the many collisions between peoples and perspectives that take place in a metropolitan setting that drive innovation. As such, our name is as much a marker of location as it is a statement of identity, one that’s befitting of a thoroughly urban university.” Collisions? OK. We can take that as food for thought.

Since questions of a dead legislator’s legacy is not only fair game for consideration (Ryerson/TMU has a 131-page document examining the life and legacy of their former namesake), it is the inspiration for baseball bats and crowbars to be taken to statuary (per featured image), perhaps it is reasonable and even to-be-encouraged that all areas of that legislator’s legacy be examined.

Consider, for example the Common School Act of 1850. As spacing.ca explains it: “The Common School Act of 1850 set into law what was already being practised (sic) by local communities throughout Ontario. The act permitted any group of five Black families to ask local school trustees to establish a separate school. The law also permitted the creation of separate schools for Roman Catholic and Protestant families.”

Here in 2022, as ideas of how to implement contemporary values of diversity and inclusivity collide with the legacy institutions, it seems odd that those who are concerned with updating our systems to reflect the values of the present and our aspirations for the future haven’t decided that a certain elephant in the room needs to be addressed. The public funding of Catholic school boards in Ontario is the single largest and least supportable example of segregation and systemic faith-based discrimination (faithism) in Canada.

By all means, let us rename, rebrand, renew. A better, more diverse and inclusive future is waiting.

Citations, References And Other Reading

  1. Feature Image Courtesy: CBC Canada
  2. https://www.msn.com/en-ca/news/canada/ryerson-university-to-change-its-name/ar-AANMA8o#:~:text=Ryerson%20University%27s%20board%20of%20directors%20has%20voted%20to,for%20and%20his%20links%20to%20Canada%27s%20residential%20schools.
  3. https://www.ryerson.ca/next-chapter/
  4. http://spacing.ca/toronto/2021/02/19/how-racism-in-ontario-schools-today-is-connected-to-a-history-of-segregation/#:~:text=The%20Common%20School%20Act%20of%201850%20set%20into,separate%20schools%20for%20Roman%20Catholic%20and%20Protestant%20families.

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.

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.