It’s time to appeal to the courts

It is our belief that we must do everything we can and pursue every avenue possible to try to bring more children into our schools – for their sake and for the sake of the future of our community. 

UJA Federation has stated that making Jewish education affordable is its top communal priority. Indeed we commend Federation for the steps it is taking to make this so. But the task is too large for one agency or organization alone to accomplish. Every reasonable approach for making Jewish education affordable must be explored and not left only to the generosity of community philanthropists who already underwrite and account for so much of the community’s vitality and diversity. 

Given the urgent need, we believe it is well past time to endeavour to have the courts re-assess the 1996 Supreme Court decision that provided support to the government of Ontario’s policy of denying public funds to independent denominational schools. The ruling (known as the Adler decision) did not prohibit or prevent the government from providing funds to the general studies portion of independent denominational schools. Rather, the court ruled that not doing so was legal in light of the founding agreement of Confederation in 1867 between Upper and Lower Canada. 

There may now be a way of doing this. 

A legal opinion by David Matas commissioned by GAJE two years ago concluded that “there is merit in a request for reconsideration of the Adler decision”. 

A constitutional law paper delivered last year by Prof. Benjamin Berger suggests the Adler decision needs to be reassessed in light of demographic, educational and legal changes that have transpired since 1996. 

The combined reasoning of these scholars may provide the legal path for challenging the 1996 ruling. 

To that end, we have engaged the services of two law firms – David Matas in Winnipeg, a renowned human rights advocate lawyer with significant experience at the Supreme Court, and RELAW, LLP in Toronto – who have agreed to take on the case. 

We believe that such a challenge is not only sound and reasonable but necessary. Moreover it is morally imperative. Apart from the Atlantic provinces, Ontario is the outlier in the country regarding education funding. The western provinces and Quebec provide funding to independent schools for some portion of the cost of the general studies part of their respective provincial curricula. 

Through the Federation-led initiative two years ago in relation to the tuition at CHAT, we now have empirical evidence that the level of enrolment is directly tied to the cost of 

tuition. If the legal challenge succeeds and Ontario yields to the newly reinterpreted law, the financial impact will be significant. It will mean permanently lower tuitions in our schools. 

GAJE will soon be seeking support from individuals who share our view regarding the merits of attempting this legal challenge. We hope, if asked, you will respond positively as best you can. 

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Shabbat Shalom 

GAJE, November 1, 2019

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