Conversation on the separate publicly-funded Catholic school system in Canada with Renton Patterson — President, Civil Rights in Public Education
Renton Patterson is the President of Civil Rights in Public Education (CRIPE). Here we talk about the separate school system in Canada. Another interview here.
Scott Douglas Jacobsen: Democracy is an important international value. In Canada, we have issues. One issue relates to education: a publicly-funded separate school system (CRIPE, 2017).
How does the publicly-funded separate school system affect the general public? Potentially, how would a single publicly-funded school system improve democratic values within the country?
Renton Patterson: A publicly-funded separate school system affects the public in three different ways:
1. Social divisiveness. The governments of Canada, federal and provincial, have obviously agreed to set up two classes of persons. The lower classis is penalized because of their personal and private thoughts about their Maker.
The Lower Class, because of its worthless beliefs, must not associate themselves with the Upper Class, particularly in publicly-funded schools and school buses. Playmates on the same street are divided at school age.
Children of the Upper Class attend superior school facilities where the children’s priests ensure that they are indoctrinated in values approved by both the Ontario and Canadian governments, and the Supreme Court.
The one most recognizable to the parents, and children of school-age children, is the fact that the children may not be able to go to a community school because a separate school may be next door.
The students, therefore, may have to take a bus to the nearest public school, either elementary or secondary. This situation is exaggerated in rural Ontario, for example, public elementary-school students in White River, in Northern Ontario, are bused to Wawa, a distance of 93 km.
The only other option is to attend the separate school and be subject to indoctrination. (See CRIPE newsletter for Spring 2005.) At present, from around 2016, separate high-school students living in Mattawa are bused 62 km to North Bay. (See CRIPE newsletter for Fall 2009.)
Divisions, as outlined above, preclude the establishment of Community Schools. Such schools, especially in small communities, would, ideally, accommodate a library, meeting rooms, an auditorium, gymnasium, and other services that could benefit the entire community.
2. To separate the population through publicly-funded separate schools divides the population in negative ways. Small towns need co-operation among the population to achieve common community goals.
Rather than co-operation, there can be strong resentments, such as the divisions in Mattawa, Espanola, Port Dover (See CRIPE newsletter for Spring 2010) and on and on to a myriad of other communities.
With our present system of divisions based on religion, some students grow up never having made friends, or even met, with a person of “the other” religion. Separate schools mean separate busing and separate social activities.
Government-sponsored social division is unhealthy for communities — but some governments obviously believe that such divisions can be used to their advantage — an ulterior motive.
3. It costs Ontario taxpayers over a billion dollars each year to support the extra Roman Catholic separate schools. Three independent sources, using different methods, remarkably, came up to very similar figures — $1.435 billion, $1.431 billion, and $1.320 billion. (See CRIPE newsletter for Spring 2013.)
And then the provincial government admitted it costs an extra $billion to support the many underutilized schools across the province. This makes a one-time gas-plant cancellation scandal look like small potatoes.
These same extra dollar costs could be better used to fix school infrastructure, build living accommodation for the homeless, build or supply hospitals with modern equipment — and the list goes on. The separate schools, based on religion, provide no social benefit whatever to Ontario’s general population.
Jacobsen: Most of the Ontario public opposes the separate, publicly-funded, Roman Catholic school system, at 54%, while only 39% supported the public funding for the Catholic education system in Canada (Ibid.).
If this system exists, and if most of the Ontario citizenry oppose its funding, how does this also seemingly impact democratic values in Ontario?
Patterson: The most recent poll in Ontario is that conducted by “The Vector PollTM on Public Opinion in Ontario” released in May of 2017. See attached. This poll found that 70% of the total population, 70% of Liberal voters, 69% of PC voters, and 51% of Roman Catholic school parents supported “a single public school system”.
Since a democracy is defined as “…equality of rights and opportunities and the rule of the majority” (Gage Canadian Dictionary) Ontario, on both counts, does not have a democratic government.
The Supreme Court of Canada has ruled that Canada should not be a democracy either through its decision in “Reference re Bill 30”. It declared on June 25th, 1987 that the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms does not apply to education in Ontario, thus approving a desire of the Ontario government to engage in a two-tier citizenship policy.
The federal government refused to use its power of disallowance (section 56 of the Constitution Act, 1867) to throw out the offensive Bill 30. Both the Ontario and Canadian governments refuse to honour democratic values.
Reported in the Ottawa Citizen on November 7th, is an article which states that: The University of Ottawa is getting provincial money to help schools fight discrimination, Education Minister Mitzie Hunter announced Monday.
They’re calling it an Equity Knowledge Network, which is “intended to bring together educators, school and system leaders, and community partners to work on identifying and removing all forms of discrimination and systemic barriers from schools and classrooms, and uphold diversity, equity, inclusion, and human rights.”
Jacobsen: For younger people who live in countries with publicly-funded separate school systems based on religious preference, how can they combat it? What have been effective examples of educational, social, and political activism to reverse it, to even move towards a single educational system?
Patterson: Some time ago I read that there were, at that time, only seven countries that had some kind of religious preference as government policy. I know of no example of educational, social, or political activism that has reversed any policy of religious preference.
In the case of Manitoba, Quebec, and Newfoundland & Labrador, it was the government bodies of those jurisdictions that had the courage to “do the right thing” and get rid of any religious preference. This is the way it should be. In the case of Ontario, it will be an appeal to the court through OPEN. For more details on OPEN, go to www.cripeweb.org and click on OPEN.