At the beginning of the week, on October 3, the Court granted leave to the Ontario Federation of Independent Schools (OFIS), with the consent of the Attorneys General of Ontario and Canada, (AGs) to intervene in our application as a friend of the court. To obtain the AGs consent, OFIS agreed not to participate in the AGs motion to strike our case (scheduled for April 20, 2023) and to abide by certain evidentiary filing restrictions on the main constitutional law application launched by GAJE and some individual plaintiffs.
Also at the beginning of this week, the Divisional Court delivered its decision in the “Safe Return to Class (anti-Covid) Fund”. Readers will recall that three independent schools – two religious, one non-denominational – brought the application to compel Queen’s Park to distribute some of the $763 million Ontario received from the federal government within a specially designated Safe Return to Class Fund. The application was heard on an emergency basis in August 2021, before the start of the school year one year ago.
The size of the Covid safety fund was calculated by the federal government on the basis of the number of children aged 4-18 years-old attending school in Ontario. Ontario gave no money whatsoever to the children attending independent schools despite the ravages of the public health crisis wrought by Covid.
The court dismissed the application. The court agreed with Ontario that independent schools are private schools for the purpose of the The Education Act and as such, the government has no funding obligations toward private schools.
The following passages illustrate some aspects of the court’s reasoning:
“The basis used by Canada to apportion funds among provinces and territories did not create a legal obligation for Ontario to provide funding to private schools. Governments, at all levels, were struggling to address an apprehended public health crisis. Use of a particular data set by Canada in this context is not a basis on which to imply legal restrictions on Ontario’s exercise of its own sovereignty over education and health matters within the province – a sovereignty acknowledged and respected by “the flexibility [afforded Ontario] to spend the fund in accordance with their education sector’s priorities.””
“Ontario has no obligation to fund private religious schools.”
“There is no unfairness in Ontario taking different approaches to addressing issues arising in the private sector and issues arising in publicly funded institutions.”
The remarkable indifference by Queen’s Park through the Covid health crisis to the then uncharted, worrisome health risks to children in independent schools (or as the government prefers to call them, private schools) was utterly unconscionable. Absent legal obligation, was there no obligation of conscience, of the heart, of sheer decency and concern for the health, safety and well-being of all Ontario’s children? The callousness of the Ministry of Education was ever more egregious in light of the fact that the monies for the special fund were drawn entirely from the federal government and represented no call upon the budgeted provincial treasury.
The court’s imprimatur of the government’s breathtaking indifference proves the merit of GAJE’s attempting to bring change to the rules by which Queen’s Park justifies its unfair educational funding.
If you wish to contribute to GAJE’s lawsuit for fairness in educational funding, 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.
Shabbat shalom and gmar chatimah tovah.
Grassroots for Affordable Jewish Education (GAJE)
October 7, 2022