It is time to make discrimination illegal

Since GAJE formed some two years ago, we have constantly pointed to the patent unfairness of the educational funding policies of the Government of Ontario. In 1996, the Supreme Court of Canada decreed those policies to be legal. But no one then and no one since has ever decreed them to be fair or just.

Today, some 21 years after the Supreme Court’s decision, many people are again questioning why the Government of Ontario – alone of all the provinces in Canada – should maintain its discriminatory policies. The reasons for Ontario finally to “do the right thing” are many: educational, economic and most important, moral.

Two weeks ago in this space we quoted Ben Eisen, director of the Fraser Institute’s Ontario Prosperity Initiative, who has advocated that Ontario adopt a more inclusive and not exclusivist funding policy.

Adopting a model where the province pays a portion of the general studies curriculum of private, independent schools “would accomplish two important things,” Eisen wrote. “First, it would ease the financial burden on existing independent school families who now pay the full cost of their children’s tuition, plus taxes, to support government schools. Second, it would bring independent education and greater educational choice within the financial reach of more families.”

We also quoted Charles Pascal, professor at University of Toronto’s Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, and a former deputy minister of education who advised former premier Dalton McGuinty on educational matters, who has called separate school funding “an anachronism.”

Despite being enshrined during Confederation, Pascal said it no longer has merit in a multicultural province.

We agree with Eisen and with Pascal.

GAJE has engaged the services of a lawyer who will explore the feasibility of attempting to “reopen” the 1996 decision. It may still be legal. But it is a legal anachronism the effect of which – according to Eisen’s research information – is to cost the Ontario educational system more than it need, impede Ontario from achieving excellence in its province-wide educational system and to continue to perpetrate unfair, unjust, discriminatory policies on a wide swath of Ontario families.

We hope to be able to bring positive reports in the future about the possibility of finally making illegal Ontario’s public discriminatory educational policies.

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Shabbat shalom.

GAJE

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