Roman Catholic separate school propaganda publication contains misinformation.    This link is no longer active – we wonder why, so read on.

Propaganda distributed

A publication of the Ontario Catholic School Trustees’ Association, (OCSTA) the Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association (OECTA) and the Catholic Dioceses of Ontario, in the form of a three-fold pamphlet, was recently distributed to parents of separate school students, by the students.  The content is obviously meant to justify the public funding of the separate system, goes to great lengths to do so, and crosses the line of truth in some statements.  As such, it begs comment.

The heading of the pamphlet is “168 years of success ONTARIO’S CATHOLIC SCHOOLS An integral part of public education”.

Portions quoted from the text of the pamphlet appear first followed by comments below:

A History of Success

ONTARIO’S CATHOLIC SCHOOLS go back as far as the 1600s.   A formal system was established in 1841, and the Scott Act of 1863 gave the Catholic community the right to establish and operate publicly-funded Catholic schools.


While much could be said about history, it is important to note the circumstances around acts of the common legislature for Upper Canada (Ont.) and Lower Canada (Que.) – 1841-67.   Representatives of both Ontario and Quebec sat in this common legislature and could pass bills which affected both provinces, or only one.  The Tache Act of 1855 and the Scott Act of 1863 gave considerable privilege to Roman Catholic separate schools in Ontario, both acts applied only to Ontario, and both were passed on the strength of Quebec (Roman Catholic) votes in the legislature common to both Upper and Lower Canada at the time.

Therefore, Roman Catholics, being a majority, voted themselves considerable school privileges in Ontario.

The population of Ontario has never voted in favour of privileges for Roman Catholic separate schools – they were foisted on Ontario by Roman Catholic legislators, mostly from Quebec.   (See “How Ontario arrived here.”)


Distinctly different

ONTARIO’S CATHOLIC EDUCATION system is not a duplicate of other systems.   While it adheres to Ministry of Education requirements, it does so from a Catholic perspective.…


Separate high schools do not adhere to Ministry of Education requirements; see “Monkey business”  The main difference between public and separate schools is that all citizens help pay for the indoctrination of children in the Roman Catholic faith, and every community that has a Roman Catholic separate school is infected with the religious discrimination and the social divisiveness that goes with it.


The system works

DIRECTLY SUPPORTED by 2.4 million ratepayers, Ontario’s English and French Catholic schools annually educate approximately 670,000 students – a third of all students in the province.


“Directly supported”?  These words, followed by “ratepayer”, give the impression that the Roman Catholic municipal ratepayers supply the total funding for the separate system.   If this is what is meant, it is totally untrue.     All taxpayers in Ontario contribute to the capital and operating costs of the Roman Catholic separate schools.  (See page “We all pay for separate schools” )


Challenging Times

In recent years, there has been growing discussion around the funding of faith-based education.   Despite its long-standing history of academic excellence and contributions to Ontario society, the funding of Catholic education has been drawn into this debate.


This is because there are other private schools and private religious schools which also “have a longstanding history of academic excellence” and they receive no public funds whatsoever.

Contributions to Ontario society?   What can one point to as a net benefit to Ontario society?   The religious discrimination with regard to student admissions and teacher employment in the separate schools is a social disgrace.   Better to benefit Ontario society through the transfer of the dollar costs to health care and hospitals.


2007 Election

The 2007 Ontario election campaign was a particular focal point, in some areas re-invigorating the efforts of interest groups that want to end public funding for Catholic schools in Ontario.


They feel our presence.

These detractors miss a crucial point: Catholic education is an integral part of Ontario society.   It has deep roots throughout the province’s history and culture – as much as any other institution.  Catholic education is built on a strong foundation supported by parents, students, teachers, administrators, religious sisters and brothers, the clergy and the community.   It is a proven success.


The “strong foundation” also includes money from our pockets, and that is the reason separate-school supporters go to great lengths to try to maintain the public funding.

Can this Christian denomination not support itself as do all other Christian denominations and other religions – all of which are minorities compared to the Roman Catholics?


There is simply no good reason to destroy a system that is working so well.


This is a bold admission that, when public funding is removed from the Roman Catholic separate school system, there will be no interest among the Roman Catholic population to pay for the separate schools themselves.

Nonetheless, it is important to be vigilant and to refute these renewed attacks.  Following are responses to some of the arguments critics have used to try and end funding for Catholic schools in Ontario.

Fairness: Some contend it is unfair for only one faith to have publicly funded schools. Historically, Ontario’s Catholic education system was established in fairness to Catholics, a religious minority in this province.


Being a majority had more to do with privilege than any “fairness”.   There were other religions in Ontario in a more fragile position than Roman Catholics – no “fairness” applied to them.   Let us remember that the RC church obtained its privilege in Ontario through devious political moves just before Confederation.  (See “How Ontario arrived here”)

If there were any “fairness” in the Constitution Act, 1867 it was the clause that forced Quebec to give the same privilege to Protestants in Quebec that Roman Catholics voted themselves in Ontario. [Section 93(2) of the Constitution.]  But now that Quebec no longer has Protestant schools,  why does Ontario keep funding RC schools?  (See, “No constitutional reason for Ontario separate schools”)


In 1867, the British North America Act guaranteed that all educational rights held by minorities at the time of Confederation would be constitutionally protected. Without this protection of denominational schools, Confederation would not have been achieved, and the Supreme Court of Canada has upheld this pillar of our nation.


Quebec removed its obligation to be fair to Protestants in 1997 through a constitutional change. [See pages on Quebec.]   Constitutional protection was no advantage to Quebec’s minority Protestants.   Ontario RCs now bask in a unique political and financial privilege condemned by the U.N. and our own Charter of Rights and Freedoms.


Whether other faiths should receive public education funding is a matter of public policy debate.   Governments of all political stripes, for various reasons, have decided against it.


See pages on “the lobbying game” .   Also, from the RC trustees’ website under “Government relations”: “OCS TA is a powerful lobby for Catholic education. We monitor government activity, contribute to the decision-making process, liaise with all provincial political parties, and respond to issues affecting Catholic education.”

It is true that OCSTA is a “powerful lobby” for separate schools because of the majority position of Roman Catholics in Ontario.   No other faith group has the lobbying power, the need, or the desire to lean on the government for public funds to support their mission – or their membership numbers.


At the same time, Ontario governments throughout the history of the province have recognized not just the legal rights of the publicly-funded Catholic education system to continue, but the merits of keeping it in place.


“Legal rights” didn’t protect Quebec’s minority Protestants, but Ontario has an over-riding legal imperative to terminate the public funding on a human rights basis.   Section 93(3) of the constitution allows this, only the political will of Ontario politicians to do it, remains.


Other provinces: Catholic schools are fully or partially funded in six other Canadian provinces.   Education is a provincial jurisdiction, and school governance in each province is unique – including Ontario, where the history, commitment and support for Catholic education is unlike any other.


True.   Yes, the “…support for Catholic education is unlike any other”, so unlike any other that no democratic jurisdiction in the world can match Ontario’s systemic government discrimination on such a large scale.   Nothing to be proud of.


Two provinces in particular are often cited as moving away from Catholic schools.   Quebec changed its system to a language-based model in 1997, to reflect that province’s linguistic and cultural reality (which is far different from Ontario’s).


Very different from Ontario – yes, but very much tied to one of the main reasons why public funding for the Roman Catholic separate system should be abolished.

Separate-school supporters make a big deal out of the confederation bargain which they now say can’t be broken.   Part of this bargain is that religious privileges granted to the separate schools before confederation must be preserved into the future until such time as the province decides otherwise.

Because of the privileges granted to the Roman Catholics in Ontario at Confederation , Ontarians, presumably in exchange for the privilege, insisted the same be applied to the Protestants in Quebec.   We thus have section 93(2) in the Constitution, which reads:

(2) All the Powers, Privileges, and Duties at the Union by Law conferred and imposed in Upper Canada on the Separate Schools and School Trustees of the Queen’s Roman Catholic Subjects shall be and the same are hereby extended to the Dissentient Schools of the Queen’s Protestant and Roman Catholic Subjects in Quebec.

As we all know, Quebec broke this bargain on November 18, 1997 when its proposed constitutional amendment to move to a secular, language-based school system was passed by the House of Commons.   See pages on Quebec.

The Roman Catholic separate school system in Ontario is the only publicly-funded religious school system remaining in both Ontario and Quebec.  Why?   Ontario’s religious and cultural reality is much different than in 1867.

With only 22% of Quebecers in support of eliminating their denominational and dissentient schools, Quebec politicians were adamant – at every stage – that all Quebecers should be treated equally.   Quite a contrast with Ontario, and therein lies the difference. See page on “Quebec’s new secular school system“.


In Newfoundland and Labrador, a 1997 referendum supported a single education system to replace the historical model of a myriad of denominational schools.


The Newfoundland & Labrador’s publicly-funded denominational school system was eliminated because it was “rife with discrimination”, cost “taxpayers $77 million a year out of a $420 million annual budget” and contributed to “an astounding (illiteracy rate) of 44%” See pages on Newfoundland.


In both instances, the circumstances were dramatically different from Ontario, and should not be compared.


There were, indeed, many similarities with Ontario, primarily: religious discrimination, excess costs related to inefficiencies, and social divisiveness inherent when certain groups are privileged above others.   Any one of the above similarities is sufficient to argue for change to build social peace, fiscal responsibility, and harmony across the land.


United Nations: In opposing Catholic education, some critics say the United Nations has called Ontario’s funding system “discriminatory.”   In fact, the U.N. has not made such a ruling.   It was the opinion of members of one committee, and never moved beyond that committee.


The above statement represents either total ignorance or a devious interpretation of the way the UN system works, and represents the most blatant error in this whole pamphlet.   The record is clear.   The United Nations Human Rights Committee ruled on November 5th, 1999 that “…if a state party (Canada) chooses to provide public funding to religious schools, it should make this funding available without discrimination.”  “…the facts before it (the Committee) disclose a violation of article 26 of the Covenant” (the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights). “The Committee wishes to receive from the State party (Canada), within ninety days, information about the measures taken to give effect to the Committee’s views.”

After the Human Rights Committee has presented its “views” and communicated that to the State party (Canada), its job is finished.   The “ball” is then placed in Canada’s court.

The UN General Assembly has no part in this.   The Committee did its job, the condemnation against Canada was issued, the Committee then proceeds to the next file in its docket.


Both the Canadian and Ontario governments responded to the opinion, strongly defending the existing system.   Notably, the matter has not been pursued by the U.N. or any member government.


Canada’s defence was composed of two volumes, one volume 1-1/4 inches thick and the other volume 1-1/2 inches thick, to no avail. “…the Committee rejects the State party’s argument that the preferential treatment of Roman Catholic schools is nondiscriminatory because of its Constitutional obligation.”

With regard to the statement that: the “matter has not been pursued by the U.N.” the Committee renewed its call in November of 2005 for Canada to abide by the provisions of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which both Canada and Ontario pledged to uphold.  The violation remains in the UN’s ongoing reports, now every four years, two more have been added to the list, one in 2009 and the other in the spring of 2013.

True, neither the federal nor the provincial government has taken any action to comply with the United Nations’ order for a resolution to the offence.   We therefore have no basis on which to criticize other nations for breaches of international law.

Shame on Canada and Ontario for their total abdication of a responsibility to abide by our much vaunted Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and a responsibility to abide by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to which Canada has pledged allegiance on the international stage.  Such a performance is akin to third-world governments which Canada often freely criticizes.


Financial savings:

The notion that creating a single education system in Ontario would save money is unfounded.


Not true.  When the transfer of full public funding to the separate schools started, the extra provincial cost was calculated by the government and given to each school board.  Figures obtained from the Renfrew County Public School Board in 1990 showed that the extra provincial annual operating costs for the two systems was $211.4 million.   At some point the government stopped releasing the extra cost per year, presumably because it was so high as to be embarrassing.  Today the extra, annual cost to maintain the Roman Catholic separate school systems amounts to — according to three different calculations — between $1.2 and $1.5 billion dollars.  

If there were no significant extra costs, the government would disclose such an insignificant amount to silence criticism of extra annual costs to maintain the funding.


As amalgamation in the education, municipal and health sectors has demonstrated, bigger is not necessarily better or more efficient.

In fact, trying to amalgamate into a single system would cost more money – not to mention time – to sort out the complex details.


Past amalgamations in the education, municipal and health sectors were amalgamations of services which had previously covered adjoining geographical areas. The elimination of duplicate services in the same geographical area is much different.

There is inherent simplicity and economy in one bus route to one public school in urban areas, in one public school building in small communities instead of two, and in one overall administration.

Simplicity, economy, and common sense go hand in hand.


It would also unleash a period of great upheaval for students, parents, teachers and administrators throughout the education system.


The greatest educational upheaval in Ontario’s history occurred when full public funding was introduced by the religious supremacist Liberal government of David Peterson through the infamous Bill 30.

The upheaval was particularly painful for teachers in the public system who were forced to maintain their employment by a transfer to the new separate high schools.   See “Teacher victims of religious discrimination”.

Separate-school supporters were happy enough to see Protestants experience a painful upheaval for their own benefit, but don’t seem to relish a lesser inconvenience in order to bring Ontario in line with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and international law.

What will happen when all publicly-funded schools become public schools – open to all? There will be an increased ability of students to walk to a neighbourhood school.  Bus routes will be simplified.   Teachers will no longer be hired or fired on the basis of their religion.   There will no longer be any religious discrimination and all children will play and learn together!

Comments are closed.

  • ---
Copyright ©2012-2013 Civil Rights in Public Education
^ Back to Top