When the right of a tax-funded separate Catholic school system was put into the constitution back in 1867, it was a way of protecting the religious, cultural and language rights of the minority French (who were predominantly Catholic) from the majority English (who were predominantly Protestant) at a time when all schooling was church-run. We now live in a multicultural country based on equality and yet somehow in three provinces it's still considered kosher that one religious group gets tax-funded schooling but not Jews, Muslims, Sikhs, Buddhist, Hindus, etc. It's the dictionary definition of privilege.
I think the big win is that Prentice has shifted everyone's focus away from an unproductive and damaging debate to something far more important: creating an education system that is a genuinely "welcoming, caring, respectful and safe learning environment". He doesn't want the hostility of the gay/anti-gay debate the adults are having to filter down to the children, where it has already caused real and tragic harm.
Seventy per cent of students hear, "That's so gay" every day in school; 48 per cent reported hearing words like "faggot" or "dyke" every day; 58 per cent of straight students reported that they find homophobic comments upsetting; 64 per cent of LGBTQ students and 61 per cent of students with LGBTQ parents reported that they felt unsafe in school.
When businesses are in financial trouble, they find ways to innovate, reduce costs, and come out more competitive than they were before the trouble started. Can we apply that thinking to Ontario's Education system? Can we be innovative, eliminate costly duplication, and create a better school system in the process?
Should students at Catholic schools who are not Catholic be allowed to exempt themselves from Catholic related courses and activities? The answer is clearly yes. I am a product of the Catholic system of education, and I do not believe it deserves to continue in Ontario any longer. In a supposedly multicultural society, it is insulting for the government to fund and prefer the teachings of one specific group. The ever-changing makeup of Canadian society means that we are no longer a "Judeo-Christian" nation if we ever were, and so, we cannot give preference to a faith simply because we have a tradition of doing so
Administrative efficiency, human rights, respect for minorities and the integration of immigrants are all good reasons to put an end to religious segregation. Yet for politicians, the question remains taboo. We're in the early days of the provincial election campaign, and leaders are avoiding the subject like the plague.
The Catholic school boards take our taxpayer money and use that to create environments that disregard the rights and values that bind us together as a province and nation. As long as we're the ones footing the bill for your little 'God created Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve' sideshow, there is no debate.