New year, old discrimination

Turning the last page on 2020 reminds us that GAJE has been advocating for affordable Jewish education for more than five years. The overall condition of Jewish education in the GTA – tuition, enrollment, excellence – has noticeably improved these past years. Community professional and lay leaders have adopted new, restorative policies toward the infrastructure of Jewish education. School educators, administrators and boards responded to the unforeseen Covid incursion in eye-opening ways, confirming their respective schools’ excellence, importance and foundational value to Jewish families and community.

But the cost of sending their children to day schools is still far too high and a crushing financial burden for most families. Thus, despite the laudable progress, the task is still very much in front of us. Tuitions must become truly affordable. That continues to be our focus. And with unwavering laser precision it will be.

Without any apparent embarrassment or regret, the Government of Ontario perpetuates unfair, unjust discriminatory educational funding policies upon families that send their children to Jewish schools, indeed to all independent schools in Ontario. The government’s record is objectionable, even unconscionable.

•  Ontario supports the religious education of the children of one religion only, in preference to the religious education of children whose families’ religious faiths are different. How can such patently preferential support be justified in the year 2021 in modern Canadian society?

• Ontario differentiates in providing health support payments for children with learning disabilities to help them overcome their educational challenges. Learning disabled children in independent schools are not treated in an equal manner to learning disabled children in public schools. Surely, it is the need and the disability of the child that should be determinative for receiving standard payments for health support services rather than the address of the school in which the child is a student. How can such patently preferential support be justified in the year 2021 in modern Canadian modern society?

• Ontario has thus far refused to distribute federal funds to independent schools to help them defray the cost of the vital health and safety measures wrought by Covid to ensure safe learning environments for children and teachers. The federal government did not stipulate that the funds go only to benefit the public schools. The virus did not discriminate between children in public or independent schools. But the Government of Ontario did. We ask again: How can such patently preferential support be justified in the year 2021 in modern Canadian modern society?

Of course, Ontario’s behaviour is not justified. Nor can it be. Nor should it be.

As regular readers of this update know, Ontario is the only provincial government in Canada – where sufficient numbers of students create the need – that refuses to help fund independent schools even partially. GAJE has engaged the services of one of Canada’s renowned human rights advocates and constitutional law experts to try to remedy this entrenched injustice. Where moral suasion and public appeals to fairness have thus far failed to move the conscience of the government, perhaps the courts and the law will? In the weeks to come, we will write more about GAJE’s legal efforts. Your help will be needed. We hope you will support us.


Be safe. Be well.

Shabbat shalom. And best wishes for 2021, free of pandemic, full of optimism, and renewed inspiration for collective purpose and good health.

GAJE, January 1, 2021

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