Justin defends fundamental freedoms like Charter protections for gay students to freedom of expression and association and condemns according special privileges to single faith school systems to government funding. Despite championing gay rights and Gay Straight Alliance student clubs, the NDP continue to support public funding of Catholic schools, despite the continued prohibition at Catholic schools on allowing gay students to voluntarily organize, and the school system’s continued insistence on their right to choose religious doctrine over human rights of students whenever the two are in conflict. The Green Party is the only one courageous enough, and with no vested special interests to teacher unions or other bodies, to state that the system badly needs reform to ensure equality of all teachers, students and parents .
Excerpt of his remarks below. Photos from the rally are below as well.
Any pride I have in representing the only 1 of the 4 big political parties for which One School System is an important issue, is offset by the embarrassment of being the citizen of a province in which only 1 of the 4 big political parties dares to speak up on this.
This shouldn’t be a Green party issue. This should be a multipartisan issue. But when invitations were sent to members of the Liberal, PC and NDP parties the response was a deafening silence.
So you’d think, given their unquestioning support for the public funding of catholic schools, politicians from these 3 parties would have some excellent arguments to make.
When questioned, what do the politicians from these parties say in support of this system? Actually, they don’t even bother trying to support the current system. I’ve heard only 2 actual responses.
The most popular, by far, is “It’s in the constitution”. That’s usually accompanies by the shrugging of shoulders.
Notice how that isn’t actually an argument in favour of the system. Instead, it’s an attempt to avoid HAVING to argue in favour of a system that has nothing in its favour.
Things have changed since the British North America Act of 1867.
The BNA Act called for 4 provinces, now we have 10.
The BNA Act had no provision for our fundamental freedoms. Those were added through the 1982 Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
The BNA Act provided voting rights to only its male citizens. Now women vote and run for office. This last point is worth dwelling on. Although those attempting to stop female suffrage would refer to men’s voting rights as rights, we now know it was in reality a privilege. You see, a privilege is what we call a right when it’s only available to a subset of the population.
Things have changed since 1867.
I said there were two common answers from politicians on the matter of catholic schools. The first is the fall back on the supposed constitutional guarantee. The other is that the system is working just fine.
I always wonder just who the system is working fine for? The system is certainly working well for the bishops and the trustees. But how about the students and teachers?
Is the system working just fine for non-catholic teachers who are effectively barred from over one third of all public teaching positions, or teachers who have lost their job for breaking some aspect of catholic dogma?
Is the system working just fine for the students who were dismissed from class for daring to advocate for pro-choice at a school sanctioned pro-life rally?
Is the system working just fine for parents who wish their kids to have access to the full range of books and literature, but have school boards banning books that are deemed inconsistent with catholic dogma.
Did the system work just fine for Marc Hall, who had to go through the burden of getting a court injunction to allow him to bring his same sex partner to the prom, against the explicit wishes of the school board?
Did the system work just fine for students who wanted and deserve the best sex ed curriculum they can get? No, in a despicable move, the government capitulated to conservative catholic bishops and shelved their new sex ed curriculum after a mere 2 days, depriving both catholic school students and secular school students.
Is the system working just fine for gay students who have their charter right to freedom of assembly explicitly trumped by the catholic board? The TDCSB just a couple of weeks ago approved an amendment to their equity and inclusivity policy. From now on, whenever denominational privileges are in conflict with human rights requirements, the bishops get to overrule the government. Quite apart from the specific case here, how can we have a system paid for by all us taxpayers but accountable not to our elected officials, but to religious leaders?
The system isn’t working just fine, and I’m tired of hearing it is.
Now next time you hear either of these attempts to avoid actually defending cahtolic school funding, please do what I do, and tell these politicians to stop avoiding the core question and to do the right thing. If this issue is still with us in a year, I don’t want to be here reprsenting the only party with the guts to challenge the stauts quo and influential vested interests.
Photos courtesy of Jim McDonald