Popular conception: MPPs act objectively, for the good of all.
Reality: MPPs have acted as religious supremacists.
On the previous page it was noted that Section 93 of the Constitution Act, 1867 gives the provinces absolute power over education. As you will read on in the next section, below, you will find that in 1987 the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that, because a province’s absolute power, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms does not apply to provinces in matters of education. Ontario was therefore allowed to extend public funding to Roman Catholic high schools despite the fact that such a policy violates the Charter.
In the same time period there were two court cases: Zylber-berg v. Sudbury Board of Education (1986) and Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) v. Ontario Minister of Education & Elgin County (1988).
Each case claimed that Regulation 262, s. 28(1) of the Ontario Education Act, which prescribed religious exercises in the opening and closing of each school day in the public schools of the province, infringes the guarantee of freedom of conscience and religion in s. 2(a) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Both cases went to the Ontario Court of Appeal which ruled that the Regulation and the Curriculum contravene sections 2(a) and 15(1) of the Charter of Rights and are therefore unconstitutional.
As a result of these decisions, the Ministry of Education revised the regulations which became effective on January 1, 1991. Some of these new regulations were falsely interpreted as disallowing the Lord’s Prayer and Christmas concerts in public schools.
These revised regulations are outlined in Not Carved in Stone, page 37 reference #5 and restrict public schools to an absolute religious neutrality.
When the province acted to eliminate the Protestant imprint in the public schools, then, to be consistent with the court ruling, at the same time, it should have eliminated the separate system entirely.
That is where the fatal flaw exists, and where any existing or perceived religious neutrality of MPPs disappeared.
Sections 2(a) and 15 of the Charter, the sections used to eliminate the Protestant imprint in the public schools, are the same sections the Supreme Court said were violated by the extension of public funds to Roman Catholic separate schools. The Supreme Court then said that the Charter did not apply to the Province in matters of education. Because of this, the Provincial Legislature agreed to retain the Charter violation by keeping the discriminatory separate school system in place.
The Province also was free to exercise the same absolute power and, because the Charter does not apply to Ontario in matters of education, declare that the offending regulations which provided the Protestant imprint stay in place —whether they violated the Charter or not.
But the Province did not do this. Why?
Could it be because all three political parties support Roman Catholicism? Do all three parties wish to see Roman Catholicism strengthened by not allowing Protestants to provide any religious instruction in the public schools?
A person who believes in the superiority of a race of people over all others is called a racial supremacist. A person who believes in the superiority of one religion or religious denomination over all others is, by extension, called a religious supremacist.
So, are all the leaders of Ontario’s political parties religious supremacists?
Can we hope to influence these politicians to leave their partisan behaviour behind, and lead the way to true equality of citizenship?
The false perception: Supreme Court decisions cannot be questioned.
Reality: Many have questioned the regressive Bill 30 decision.
Bill Davis, Premier of Ontario in 1984, for whatever reason, decided on his own, that is, not by a decision of his party or his Cabinet, that the supply of public funds for the Roman Catholic separate school system should be extended to cover the costs of Roman Catholic high schools.
This betrayal of supporters brought down the Progressive Conservative government, so it was the Liberals that introduced enabling legislation, Bill 30. This Bill raised such a howl of protest that the government was forced to refer a question on the legality of the Bill to the courts. Upheld by the Ontario Court of appeal, a further appeal was made to the Supreme Court of Canada.
The Court acknowledged that Section 93 of the Constitution Act, 1867, gives absolute power over education to the provinces.
The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, introduced in 1982, forbids discrimination on the grounds of religion. The Court also acknowledged, because the terms of Bill 30 give special privileges to Roman Catholic citizens, that the Bill violates the Charter.
The Supreme Court then faced two sections of the constitution which appeared to contradict each other; the tenuous Section 93, and the protection from discrimination in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
hi June, 1987 the Supreme Court ultimately upheld Bill 30 through the following devious procedures.
The Court decision was written by Justice Estey and Madam Justice Wilson, the other justices concurring.
Justice Estey stated that: “It is axiomatic (and many counsel before this Court conceded the point) that if the Charter has any application to Bill 30, this Bill would be found discriminatory and in violation of s. 2(a) and s. 15 of the Charter of Rights. “
So Justice Estey said that the Charter did not apply to the question under consideration. In other words he threw out the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms which comprises all of Part 1 of the Constitution Act, 1982.
Estey’s statement contradicts what the Charter itself says in Section 32(1):
“This Charter applies (b) to the legislature and government of each province in respect of all matters within the authority of the legislature of each province.” The Court threw this out too.
The present Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, the Rt. Hon. Beverley McLachlin, publicly stated that: “…the constitution binds everybody, and cannot be avoided.” The obvious conclusion is that the constitution “binds everybody” when it suits the Court, and when it doesn’t suit, the Court throws it out.
This is justice? This is the rule of law?
The Court’s decision also flies in the face of orthodox principles of legislative interpretation in that newer laws, the Charter, automatically repeal inconsistent earlier ones, Section 93.
Another principle which the Supreme Court conveniently ignored is the influence of international law. From 1925 to 1990, 184 court cases have made reference, and given credence to, international human rights law. The Supreme Court can be excused for ignoring international law which does not affect Canada, but to ignore, in this case, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Canada acceded to in May of 1976, is inexcusable. It probably wasn’t mentioned because Canada is in violation of Article 26 of this Covenant precisely because of Ontario’s discriminatory separate school system.
Why did the Supreme Court
– defy the Constitution and throw out our Charter of Rights?
—put older laws ahead of newer ones?
— ignore binding international human rights law?
Did the Supreme Court have religious supremacist views which determined the outcome?
Was their decision helpful or harmful to our increasingly multicultural society?
The false perception: Roman Catholics pay for their own separate school system
Reality: We all pay for the Roman Catholic separate school system
There is a perception by some that local school taxes pay for the school system; that the taxes collected from Roman Catholic school supporters pay for the Roman Catholic separate school system; that both public schools and separate schools have their own tax base for funding their own operations. NO. This is not the case today, and never has been.
The authorities for what follows are comprised of Ministry of Education documents, phone calls to the treasurer of the City of Pembroke, calls to the Renfrew County District School Board, a call to the Ministry of Education, reference to the Ministry web site, and a paid advertisement inserted in the Ottawa Citizen by the Ottawa Carleton Catholic School Board.
Before 1998, and also at present, local property taxes provided a portion of the operating budget for school boards, and tax dollars are still collected for English Public, English Separate, French Public and French Separate boards, but the mill rates are now the same for all four sectors (no longer set by the school boards).
Mill rates are now the same for all four school systems in one municipality, but change across the province depending on the municipality. Local tax dollars collected for educational purposes are passed on to the appropriate board, and this amount is topped up, if necessary by provincial money so that it meets the amount determined by what is called the Basic Foundation Grant.
Large cities, like Metro Toronto, may collect more in education property taxes than the province allots to the Metro School Board. This is possibly where some get the idea that each board funds itself through local taxes. In any case, this would be the exception.
Separate schools are subsidized by all taxpayers.
Taxpayers in rich cities still pay provincial taxes which support grants for all other school boards in the province that can’t raise the necessary dollars locally.
Local education tax dollars are augmented through substantial provincial grants. In the early 1990s, public elementary schools received around 35% of their funding from the province while the separate received around 70%. Public secondary schools received about 30% from the province while the separate secondary received about 60%.
Provincial dollars to provide grants for school boards come from provincial taxpayers who do not have the opportunity to choose which schools their provincial tax dollars are directed toward. Tax dollars from everyone, including PST revenues, go into a central pot of money from which these public dollars are then disbursed.
Tax dollars from citizens who are not Roman Catholic end up paying a large portion of the costs for Roman Catholic separate schools.
From the web site of the Toronto District School Board: “Public schools are funded through your property taxes collected by the provincial government and sent back through specific funding formulas to school boards.”
A Foundation Grant provides every school board with a base level of funding, the same amount per student to all school boards -public and separate. School boards then receive additional funding through ten special purpose grants, which respond to costs or needs that are specific to some boards and students.
Each year, the Ottawa Carleton Roman Catholic school board places an ad in the Ottawa Citizen to advise that: “Your education taxes, at a rate mandated by the Province, are now pooled with those from all taxpayers in the Province. The money is then redistributed equally on a per pupil basis to all school boards in Ontario.
“When you designate your self as a separate school supporter, there is no longer a financial benefit to our Board. Rather, your designation guarantees a strong political voice through your elected representatives (Trustees) in ensuring your rights to a Catholic education…”