OTTAWA, December 17, 2013 (LifeSiteNews.com) – The crucial religious freedom case to be argued by Loyola High School before the Supreme Court of Canada in March 2014 has dire implications not only for faith-based schools, but also for the right to homeschool, warns the Home School Legal Defense Association.
“If this case is lost, it will mean that the right to homeschool is called into question for the entire country,” says Paul Faris, HSLDA Canada’s president.
Loyola High School, a Catholic private school in Montreal, was ordered by the Quebec government to teach the province's controversial ethics and religious culture program. The school refused, saying it would instead teach its own version because it would undermine their teaching of the Catholic faith to offer a course that treats all religions on an equal footing.
The Quebec Superior Court agreed with Loyola in a ruling released June 18, 2010 wherein the justice called the government’s actions “totalitarian.” But the Quebec Court of Appeals overturned that ruling on December 4, 2012. On June 13, 2013, the Supreme Court of Canada granted Loyola leave to appeal. They are scheduled to present arguments on March 24, 2014.
The Home School Legal Defense Association is seeking to intervene at the Supreme Court. The group warns that the justification used to force a private Catholic school to teach a course that violates its religious beliefs would apply equally to homeschoolers.
“If the government can tell a private school they can’t teach in accordance with their religious beliefs, then what’s to stop them from saying the same thing to homeschoolers,” Faris told LifeSiteNews.
This month, Faris sent a letter to supporters appealing for funds to help with their intervention.
“If this ruling stands, it undermines the very right that we use to protect homeschooling,” he wrote. “Put another way, if this case is lost then we may very well have lost the right to homeschool without even having our say.”
Homeschoolers in Quebec are highly regulated, and there have been several incidents of children forced into schools or state-run daycare by the province’s child welfare agency.
“Families can only get government approval by teaching all government curriculum. Freedom to homeschool in Quebec hangs by a thread,” he wrote.
According to Faris, the Loyola case “is part of a concerning trend in Quebec that is affecting the whole country.”
He notes that when the ethics and religious culture program was introduced, it was required to be taught by public schools, private schools, and homeschoolers. The Supreme Court, in S.L. v. Commission scolaire des Chênes, already mandated that students in public schools could not opt out of the course, so if private schools are forced to teach the course, then homeschoolers will be the only group remaining to appeal.
“Not only will this mean more pressure on us and a likely court challenge, but if the Supreme Court has already ruled against freedom of religion in two similar cases, they will be unlikely to rule in its favour for us,” he said.
Faris also highlighted the fact, however, that the homeschooling movement has had a “tremendous string of successes” lately.
He noted, for example, the victory in Alberta in 2012 when the province backed off a proposed provision for its new Education Act that would have made homeschoolers subject to the Alberta Human Rights Act. They were also successful at lobbying against a report by Nova Scotia’s Auditor General that called for increased regulation.