Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Canadian Non-Catholics Sue to Get Money for Schools

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Canadian Non-Catholics Sue to Get Money for Schools

Article excerpt

As American candidates debate vouchers for parochial schools, a different sort of debate over religious-school financing is playing out in Canada.

Non-Roman Catholic parents in Ontario are suing the government to get what Catholic parents have always had: public financing for their religious schools.

Ontario's Catholic minority has its own school system, paid for by the provincial and local governments, a financing plan that originated with confederation in 1867. But today, Ontario has Sikh, Muslim, Hindu, Jewish and various Protestant schools, and some of these groups are battling in court for their share. "Ontario is the only place in the democratic world that funds one religion to the exclusion of all others," said Ed Morgan, a lawyer who is representing two parents' groups, one Jewish, the other Dutch Reform. Morgan told the Supreme Court of Canada earlier this year that Ontario either should accept the American model, which prohibits public financing of religious schools, or follow the Australian model, which finances all religious schools in amounts proportional to each denomination's population. The Ontario government countered that the constitutional protection for denominational schools was specific and historical, according to Robert Charney, the lawyer who argued the case for the Ontario ministry of the attorney general. The confederacy agreement was intended to guarantee the rights existing in 1867 and was never meant to be extended as new minorities arrived, Charney said. The provisions were not provincial policy, he added, but were a result of the Anglo-French agreement that established Canada. The financing of Catholic schools stems from the British North America Act, the 1867 agreement that brokered Ontario and Quebec into confederation and launched the Dominion of Canada. The act, which became the country's written constitution, contained provisions protecting the rights of religious minorities. …

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