I have previously appealed to B.C. Liberals of conscience to help us to get a fair deal for our public education system. This appeal is addressed to faith leaders from all our faith traditions -- Sikhism, Islam, Hinduism, Judaism, Buddhism, and Christianity -- to shed some light on this dark chapter of our provincial history.
B.C. Premier Christy Clark's son has begun the new academic year at St. George's, a very expensive private school. She has said that he attends private school for "faith-based reasons." I am happy that she is able to make this choice for her son but what "faith-based reasons" can there be for denying the right to attend school for the 500,000 children whose parents cannot afford private school for whatever reason?
What "faith-based reason" can there be for insisting that teachers in the public system give up their constitutional rights before they can return to their classrooms?
Today, teachers in B.C. are being asked to forgo their Charter rights in exchange for the government agreeing to provide learning support for students. This is unconscionable and demonstrates a significant ethical and moral lapse on the part of the government. Faith communities are well positioned to point this out.
I was raised in the Christian tradition and so am only familiar with stories from the Bible, but I am sure there are variations of those stories in other traditions. The "Miracle of the Two Fish and Five Loaves" is what always comes to mind for me when teachers are being asked to do so much with so little.
When we have eight or more students in a class who have various levels of learning difficulties or special needs and there is only one education assistant to help, we are being asked in effect to either perform a miracle, or to play God and decide who gets the help and who does not. We cannot do this. We cannot perform those miracles.
Like the premier, Education Minister Peter Fassbender also attends church regularly. What does his faith teach about how to treat others, how to treat children?
When it comes to the treatment of children in this province, I am at a loss to understand why, for example, nothing is being done by our politicians about the fact that we have the highest childhood poverty rates in Canada. How is it possible that this situation exists, that children go hungry in a rich province like this?
In July this year, the governor of Massachusetts successfully appealed to communities of faith to help him to provide shelter for the 1,000 migrant children as young as three years old who had travelled illegally to the U.S. from Central America.
Help was being mired in political debates about immigration and there were 50,000 children who needed to be fed and sheltered. Leaders from the Christian, Jewish and Muslim communities all came through with assistance.
The presence of these leaders shifted the focus away from what was a partisan political debate toward an awareness of the fact that there were real, living children who needed help immediately. They could not wait for politicians to score ideological points against each other.
Though diverse in philosophy, all faith communities share the Golden Rule, which is a version of: Do unto others as you would have done unto you. Woven within this Golden Rule is the concept of justice and fairness.
Right now, political leaders in power in B.C. are in need of the kind of lessons that faith leaders teach so well.
I hope that your lessons confirm my belief that love is greater than fear.
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