It was not the main or even a minor reason for the Supreme Court’s decision some 25 years ago in the famous Adler case. However, Madame Justice McLachlin’s singularly devastating comment has survived in popular legal folklore and outlasted the majority opinion like a shining suit made of very loud, iridescent blue fabric that hangs in the closet and that we occasionally look at but never wear again.
She ruled that Ontario’s educational funding of only one religion had indeed violated the Adlers’ and other applicants’ charter rights. But she also ruled that the violation was legally justified as a way of protecting the public school system because, she implied, only public schools foster “a more tolerant, harmonious multicultural society.”
Thus, in this one essentially, throw-away comment, Justice McLachlin encouraged an image of independent schools and of the children who graduate from them, that was as unfortunate as it was inaccurate. It is this “off-register” image that independent schools and their respective parent bodies have strived to correct ever since. But to no avail with the Ontario government.
The independent think tank Cardus, whose academic research and popular writings GAJE has occasionally referenced in this space, has recently published a paper called Good Schools, Good Citizens: Do Independent Schools Contribute to Civic Formation? that attempts directly to correct the incorrect impression that independent schools and their graduates are somehow stumbling blocks to the creation of a tolerant, harmonious, multicultural society.
The 34-page study, written by Ashley Berner, is required reading. We reproduce only a few paragraphs from its Executive Summary.
“The vast majority of democracies have pluralist education systems: where the state, individuals, and civil society play equally important roles in democratic education. The goal of such educational pluralism is to maximize the freedom of schools to create their own organic communities with a common ethos and distinctive practices, while assuring the public of academic and civic quality with respect to outcomes.
“Is there evidence that this balance leads to success? Individually and collectively, the preponderance of findings on independent-school attendance after controlling for family background illustrate that the fear of independent schools’ negative impact on civic life remains misplaced. For example, a recent analysis of thirty-four quantitative studies on the effects of independent and state schools on civic outcomes yielded eighty-six separate statistically significant findings; fifty showed a clear independent-school advantage, thirty-three found neutral effects, and only three showed a state-school advantage.
“Independent schools can offer substantial benefits to civic formation. They do not inherently harm social cohesion as some critics fear; indeed, on almost every measure, independent-school attendance enhances civic outcomes. Thus, democratic policy-makers can have confidence that expanding access to independent schools while ensuring their quality is likely to enhance the civic capabilities of young people and lead, eventually, to a more civically integrated and politically engaged public.
“…Independent schools, in particular, play a positive role in inculcating the knowledge, skills, and habits that animate lifelong democratic participation. The key is honouring religious, philosophical, and pedagogical beliefs of families and students while ensuring robust knowledge-building for all.”
As readers of this weekly update know, GAJE has hired a team of lawyers lead by the distinguished human rights, constitutional law advocate David Matas, to end the educational funding discrimination in Ontario that has persisted since the Adler case was decided in 1996.
The Supreme Court’s decision did not prevent Ontario from extending funding to independent schools. Nor does Ontario suggest that its policy is fair to non-Catholics. Rather, Ontario simply believes it is immune from being legally compelled to change its policy because the Adler decision upheld its policy based largely on what many now consider to be an antiquated view of the relationship between our Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the 1867 Constitution.
The cost for proceeding with the case, from the trial all the way to the Supreme Court, is approximately $250,000. To date, we have raised a third of the required funds. As we have done each week for the past many, we turn to you for help to raise the balance.
Ontario’s indifference to the dangerous COVID-19 health risks for children attending independent schools should prove, finally, that behind-the-scenes lobbying or private/public attempts at moral suasion to bring about an end to the discrimination in Ontario’s educational funding have not worked and will not work. The courts now are our only option. Ontario was not moved by conscience to do the right thing for the children attending independent. We hope the courts will align the law with conscience.
This is our generation’s opportunity to try to end the funding discrimination that has existed in Ontario for more than 25 years. If we do not try, who will? It is an imperative that calls upon our consciences
Please help us make this happen! And please tell your friends to join in our effort.
To donate to this important cause, please click here.
(For further information, please contact Israel Mida at firstname.lastname@example.org)
Charitable receipts for donations for income tax purposes will be issued by Mizrachi Canada. Your donations will be used for the sole purpose of underwriting the costs of the lawsuit.
Be safe. Be well.
Grassroots for Affordable Jewish Education (GAJE)
August 20, 2021