CANADA’S DEFIANCE OF U.N. HUMAN RIGHTS COMMITTEE’S DECISION PROMPTS ANOTHER SUBMISSION
As the result of a submission to the United Nations Human Rights Committee in the early 1990s by Jewish parent Arieh Waldman, the Committee, on November 3, 1999, declared Canada “in violation” of Article 26 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. This is because Ontario provides public funds for the Roman Catholic separate school system, but no public funds for the schools of any other faith group.
Article 26 was the model for our Charter’s section 15(1) and is worded to ensure equality of treatment and to prohibit discrimination on many grounds, including religion.
The Optional Protocol of the Covenant allows an individual person to claim himself or herself as a “victim” if that person has exhausted all domestic remedies for a resolution to a situation, anywhere in Canada, which the person claims is in violation of the rights guaranteed by the terms of the Covenant.
Since no action to resolve the violation was taken by either the Canadian or Ontario governments in the almost seven years since the Waldman decision, Civil Rights in Public Education, Inc. has seen fit to file another submission to the United Nations Human Rights Committee. The submission was filed on November 17, 2005.
Formal notification from the United Nations Human Rights Committee confirmed that our claim on behalf of Grant Tadman and Jeff Prentice was registered as Communication No. 1481/2006 pursuant to the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). This is significant because very few Communications are actually recognized by the Human Rights Committee, given the voluminous nature of the claims that are submitted to the UN Tribunal.
In addition, we were advised, in accordance with Rule 97 of the Human Rights Committee’s Rules of Procedure, that a copy of the Communication was sent to Canada, as the state party, with the official request that any information or observation in respect to the admissibility and merits of the Communication should reach the Committee within six months.
Canada/Ontario then had to respond to the Committee prior to the end of 2006 in order to comply with the Committee’s Rules of Procedure. We also received a copy of Canada’s answer and have an opportunity to comment on it.
COMPLIANCE PROCEDURES IMPROVED
A past failing of the U.N. human rights process was that there was no effective enforcement mechanism to ensure compliance with any Covenant that a country has pledged to uphold. However, new since the Waldman case, there have been a number of procedures created to improve the process.
Now, the Human Rights Committee “…shall designate a Special Rapporteur for follow-up on the views* adopted… for the purpose of ascertaining the measures taken by States parties to give effect to the Committee’s views.”
The Special Rapporteur may make any contacts and take any action deemed necessary to carry out a follow-up mandate. He/she may also make recommendations for further action by the Committee itself.
In addition, the Special Rapporteur shall regularly report to the Committee on follow-up activities, and the Committee is bound to include this information in its annual report..
In short, this means that the U.N. will apply continual pressure to countries which ignore human rights violations as Canada and Ontario have done in the past.
*The word “views” is used by the Human Rights Committee to designate its decision as to whether a “state party” or country is in violation of the terms of the Covenant.
THE PREVIOUS SUBMISSIONS
The 1999 condemnation of Canada as an abuser of human rights came as a result of two submissions to the UN about religious discrimination in the Ontario school system.
One submission was made by Arieh Waldman, a Jewish parent who had to pay a substantial tuition fee to have his son taught in the Jewish faith while a Roman Catholic parent does not have to pay anything.
A second submission was made by our predecessor organization, Friends of Public Education in Ontario, Inc., claiming Tadman et al as victims of Ontario’s discriminatory school funding policy.
The Human Rights Committee considered the two submissions together and issued a rebuke to Canada under Waldman which stated: “…if a State party (Canada) chooses to provide public funding to religious schools, it should make this funding available without discrimination.” The two choices for Ontario then, were to provide equal public funds for all religions, or no public funds for any.
Since Canada has taken no action to comply with the Human Rights Committee’s decision, we claimed that Canada is now also in violation of Articles 2.1, 2.2, 2.3, and Article 50 of the Covenant. These articles outline Canada’s obligation to comply with the terms of the Covenant.
WHY ANOTHER SUBMISSION?
To the surprise of many nations, Canada, in November of 1999, was exposed to the world as a country, through Waldman, that discriminated against some of its citizens on the basis of religion. It caused an uproar in the Ontario press and is still referred to as a benchmark and significant ruling.
This discrimination has many tentacles that reach not only persons who have to pay about $141 of their provincial taxes, indirectly, to the Roman Catholic Church, but to teachers in particular.
A “Bill 30” teacher, of a religious persuasion other than Roman Catholic, who transferred to a separate board in 1985 or later under s.135 of the Education Act, is not eligible for advancement. Nor is a teacher of another faith eligible for a promotion if that teacher was hired by a Roman Catholic school board for the sole reason that a Roman Catholic teacher could not be found.
More widespread, however, is the fact that graduates of teachers colleges who are Roman Catholic have the choice of employment in both the Public and Separate systems, whereas a teacher who is not a Roman Catholic is eligible for a job only in the Public school system.
We wanted to put this discrimination on the record books and let the world know, through an organization of shame, of Ontario’s/Canada’s religious discrimination.