The editorial in The Canadian Jewish News on November 28, 1996 was a reaction to the Supreme Court’s release of its decision in the Adler case.
It is this case, as readers of this weekly update know, that provides the government of Ontario its legal “cover” for discriminating in educational funding against Ontario children in independent schools. It is to ask the courts to reassess the Adler case, in light of changing circumstances since 1996, that GAJE has retained the services of renowned counsel David Matas.
The following is excerpted from that 1996 editorial.
“The majority of the court determined that Ontario’s full funding of Roman Catholic separate schools was a result of the “historical compromise” crucial to Confederation. Because of this, the Ontario government’s funding practice toward the Catholic schools could not be impugned. But this reasoning misses, almost entirely, the main thrust of the community’s argument. The nub of the grievance against the government is not in the 12-year-old decision to extend full funding to the Catholic schools, but rather, in its constant refusal to extend any funding to other religious schools. The “historic compromise” was never the object of attack but rather the basis of comparison. The argument by the non-Catholic communities rests on fairness not on history.
“If individual Ontarians were to behave as their provincial government does, namely, discriminating on the basis of religion, they would be brought to account; they would meet the full justice of the law, and rightly so, for “[E]very person has a right to equal treatment with respect to services…without discrimination because of…creed…” This is not simply a noble sentiment; it is the very first provision of the Human Rights Code of Ontario. But the conduct of the government towards the non-Catholic schools seems not even to contradict the Human Rights Code.
“There is however, one argument in particular for continuing the unfair treatment, which we feel compelled to answer. Simply put, the argument holds that education in religious schools is somehow an impediment to fostering a common Canadian identity. The argument is fallacious and, in a sense, offensive.
“It is fallacious because it ignores the fact that five other provinces already provide some public funding to private, religious schools without any fear whatsoever that the graduates will turn out, somehow, less Canadian. It ignores the fact that the general studies curriculum is established by ministry officials and follows provincial (Canadian) guidelines. But worse, the underlying premise of the argument, namely, that the religious component of the education will likely lead to exclusionist behavior by the graduates from those schools, panders to the most unforgiving stereotypes.
“Jewish Canadians are as proud of their Canadianism as is any other identifiable group in this country. Our commitment to Canada’s well-being is not less than that of any Canadians. And our contribution to Canada’s development, prosperity and social justice since our arrival to her shores have been of equal vigor to that of any other group that dwells here. Is our attachment to this country diminished in any way by our millennial attachment to the values, traditions, customs, and religious practices of the Jewish faith or by our desire to transmit that faith to our children?
“Does anyone question the attachment of Catholics to Canada on account of their attachment to their faith? Are Catholic children less Canadian for having graduated from Catholic schools? The very notion is absurd.
“Is the definition of “Canadian” so meagre in Ontario that it cannot also include the desire and the equal opportunity to perpetuate one’s faith? What the religious communities understand, including the Catholic community, is that the definition of Canada is sufficiently expansive and sufficiently exhilarating to embrace the diverse faiths of all who live here and who strive with all their might to build and to benefit this great, bounteous land.”
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.
Ontario’s indifference to the dangerous COVID-19 health risks for children attending independent schools proves that the courts are our only option for ending Ontario’s discrimination. Ontario was not moved by conscience to do the right thing for the children attending independent schools. We hope the courts will align the law with conscience.
The total 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 some 40 percent of that amount. As we have done each week for the past many, we turn to you for help to raise the balance.
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? 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 email@example.com)
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.
We recommend an important article written by Daniel Held, Executive Director of UJA Federation of Greater Toronto’s Koschitzky Centre for Jewish Education. In the article, entitled Shifting Cultures for a More Attainable Judaism, Held writes “It’s expensive to be Jewish: Jewish education and Jewish food, Jewish neighborhoods and Jewish experiences are all expensive. But we cannot afford for the cost of Jewish living to drive people away from our community.”
And so, Held proposes a new conceptual community-wide approach for trying to ensure that Jews – of all ages and financial capabilities – feel that they belong to and participate in the life of the Jewish community.
Held’s article is available at: https://www.wexnerfoundation.org/shifting-cultures-for-a-more-attainable-judaism/
Be safe. Be well.
Grassroots for Affordable Jewish Education (GAJE)
August 27, 2021