Alarming Erosion of Ontario’s School System by the Ministry of Education, Part Four | marvin zucker
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The issue of funding for religious schools has also had its time in the courts in Canada, albeit on a much smaller scale and in the context of religious education for various denominations within the public system rather than in the context of vouchers for private schools. Section 2(a) of the Charter, which is part of the Canadian Constitution, prohibits religious discrimination. At the same time, the provinces have jurisdiction under s. 93 of the Constitutional law, 1867, to establish and maintain separate schools, as we have seen above. This provision At first glance allows discrimination in favor of Roman Catholics. This argument arose when Bill 30 in Ontario extended full funding to Roman Catholic school boards for secondary education.
A decade later, in Adler v. Ontario 30 OR (3d) 642, the Supreme Court upheld that funding only Catholic and Protestant separate schools (where they still exist), and not, for example, Jewish schools, was not unconstitutional because a special status for the schools of these two denominations was explicitly established in s. 93, which provided a comprehensive code for funding denominational schools. And, again, the Charter rights granting freedom of religion and prohibiting religious discrimination did not override s. 93 rights.
Moreover, in Ball c. Ontario (Attorney General) 34 OR (3d) 484, the Ontario Court of Appeal dismissed claims by a group of plaintiffs representing various religions that, by maintaining a secular public school system, the Ontario government was jeopardizing their religious traditions, which concerned the state. The court said that while we sympathize with the appellants’ concerns about the positive and negative influences of the educational experience on their children, their plight is no different from that of the majority of Canadians who cannot afford or do not want to send their children to privately funded religious schools. Although repeatedly denied before us, we agree with Judge Warren Winkler that this case is primarily about funding. No freedom has been violated. The problem for these parents, and for many others, is that the province has decided not to fund denominational schools.
Canada signed the Convention on the Rights of the Child on May 28, 1990 and ratified it on December 13, 1991. Yet, historically, successive federal governments have failed to deliver on the promises made upon ratification. Children’s rights have been set aside and even violated in various situations, be it poor children, indigenous children or children with special needs. It must be something better than a tent.
There is so much value in a rights-based approach, which emphasizes that all rights are equal and universal; that all people, including children, are the subject of their own rights and should be participants in development, rather than objects of charity; and that it is everyone’s responsibility to ensure that all rights are respected.
It doesn’t matter if a family is undocumented or mixed status or second generation. Their perceived definition of homelessness may be very different from how the law defines it. Schools should not exclude anyone who falls within the age range for guaranteed education. School boards should not send older immigrant students to adult education centers instead of being enrolled in a public high school, for example. My father came to Canada in 1921 at the age of 21. He went straight to high school to complete it in three years, then to the University of Toronto in 1924.
If you’ve ever seen an episode of arthur on PBS, the theme song has been indelibly programmed into your brain. “It’s a simple message”Ziggy Marley tells us. “Believe in yourself” first, and you will learn to get along with each other.
The show first aired in the fall of 1996. And despite its cast of animal characters, over nearly 250 episodes Arthur has consistently challenged children to see the humanity in the people who cross paths with them in the streets, who go to school with them and who teach them. Each episode, the theme reminds viewers that today is that “wonderful kind of day” to work toward cooperation and kindness.
Most recently, this focus on humanity and the dignity of others was evident in the premiere of the show, titled “Mr. Ratburn and the special someone. Ratburn marries Patrick and his students are happy to see him happy. It’s a simple message, but you would never have imagined it would be broadcast when I was younger. It felt like a milestone in the performance. But with small steps forward come reminders of the forces that want queer people out.
“Gay and queer identities, and especially relationships, are inappropriate topics for children.” This is an idea that is often replicated in schools, especially when a province wants to dictate the curriculum and backtrack. We hear it most clearly when school leaders and teachers silence students or offer euphemisms when asked about gay teachers or guardians. You hear it in the language surrounding school dances, and you see it in the family photos that are, and notably aren’t, displayed on teachers’ desks.
To suggest that same-sex relationships are inappropriate for children, absent and overtly sexual in content, is inherently homophobic.
We are living in a strange time. The disconnect between the world our students live in and the world we choose to show them is striking. Every day we don’t do this is a day we fail to prepare the student to understand others and themselves.
Dr. Larch, the founder of St. Cloud’s orphanage at John Irving’s The rules of the cider houselamented, “There are no heroes in the world of lost and abandoned children.” Well, the good doctor is wrong. We have all seen many heroes, many family members who have taken over, to be the hero of their own lives for themselves and for the sake of others. God bless them.
Our childhood makes us who we are. Our sorrows and our happiness. Our loves and our hates. Our successes and failures. All of our childhood experiences are woven into the fabric of our adult characters. If the hate gets out of control for the children at home, it is often fueled later by hate groups. Or sometimes stoked by their anti-hate counterparts. Whenever the hate gets out of control, it usually goes back to childhood. Children learn bigotry from their environment. Bigotry and hatred. Love and tolerance. If parents can teach their children the importance of difference, they can make a bigger difference than all our laws. The issue has less to do with poverty than with culture, with conscious values as well as unconscious behaviors.
We can only do our best, do our best. Charles Dickens started David Copperfield asking: “… [W]if I will become the hero of my own life, or if this position will be occupied by someone else…”
You can choose not to wait for someone else to act, but rather to be the hero of your own life – for the sake of others. By making this choice, you not only help, but inspire, and so keep the lights of bravery burning in the cause of justice all over the world.
Success should not, should never be defined as simply doing well in the mainstream, at the cost of losing one’s identity. i remember the movie The Miracle Worker, based on the life story of Hellen Keller. He focused on how everyone can learn, behaviors can be changed, and quality of life can be achieved. We need to think of the person behind his disability, not just courage but compassion and dignity for humanity.
To quote Dr. Seuss, “The more you read, the more you will know. The more you know, the further you will go. Just turn off that TV.
Human rights are rights that we recognize in others because we consider them human. Human rights are rights that we grant to others because we are human. We must use tragedy as a catalyst for a more peaceful and loving future.
Changing “C” stands for communication; “H” represents hope and health; “A” in “change” stands for advocacy; “N” represents “never again”; “G” stands for the highest good; and “E” stands for equity and empowerment.
Equity is still far from being a reality.
This is the fourth part of a four part series. Part One: Alarming Erosion of Ontario’s School System by the Ministry of Education. Part Two: Alarming Erosion of Ontario’s School System by the Ministry of Education, Part Two. Part Three: Alarming Erosion of Ontario’s School System by the Ministry of Education, Part Three.
Marvin Zuker was a judge of the Ontario Court of Justice, where he presided over small claims, family and criminal courts from 1978 until his retirement in 2016. He is an associate professor at the Institute of Ontario Education Studies/University of Toronto, where he teaches education law. Zuker has authored and co-authored numerous books and publications, including The law is not for women and The law is (not) for children.
The opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the author’s firm, its clients, The Lawyer’s Daily, LexisNexis Canada or one of its respective affiliates. This article is for general informational purposes and is not intended to be and should not be considered legal advice.
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