By Terry Vanderheyden

TORONTO, November 17, 2005 ( – The United Nations Human Rights Committee demanded November 3 that the government of Canada “eliminate discrimination on the basis of religion in the funding of schools in Ontario.” The ruling was in response to a 1996 complaint filed on behalf of a Toronto Jewish parent who was sending his child to a Hebrew private school.

The UN committee released its ruling in 1999, but reiterated its demands this month. A coalition of representatives from non-Catholic religious schools protested the lack of funding by Ontario’s Liberals yesterday in Ottawa, at Queen’s Park in Toronto, and at the UN in New York.

A private Catholic educator in Ontario commented on the UN Human Rights ruling: “Ontario’s Catholic education is under fire by the UN not because it wishes to promote the diversity of religious schooling in our land, but because its own secular collectivist dogmas are threatened by the existence of a unique Catholic intellectual tradition,” said John O’Brien, principal of Wayside Academy in Peterborough. “Many countries teach a clear religious ethic in their schools, but Canada’s Catholic schools are singled out for sanction because the UN and many of our country’s elites are intent on promoting an irreligious culture here and on the global stage. State-funded Catholic schools remain an embarrassment to Canada’s cherished leading role in this agenda.”

Ottawa Torah Institute vice-principal Rabbi Boruch Clinton was at the Ottawa protest yesterday along with about 50 others, according to the Ottawa Sun. “It’s an issue of inequality,” he said. “The government does support Catholic schools, which we support and we feel that is fair. But it does not support other faith-based schools which we feel is discriminatory.”

O’Brien explained that “Culturally and academically, there is little left to distinguish Ontario’s Catholic schools from its public schools.” Referring to the precedents in Newfoundland and Quebec, where religious education is no longer state funded, combined with the dwindling role that the Catholic Church plays in education, “it was only a matter of time before Ontario’s schools would be targeted for elimination,” he argued.

While private schools from other religions in Canada are seeking to use the UN ruling to their advantage, O’Brien said that the UN ruling is troubling because it does not seek to correct the inequality by encouraging Ontario to extend its support to all religious and independent schools. “A genuinely free and pluralistic society should develop forward not backward, and empower its citizens and communities,” he argued. “Instead, they have issued a cease and desist order to supporting Catholic schools.”

O’Brien also questioned the authority that the UN, “an unelected and unaccountable international body,” should have over matters of Canadian sovereignty. “The right of Canadians to a Catholic education is established in Section 93 of the BNA Act (now Constitution Act of 1867),” he explained. “Support for Catholic schools was an essential plank in the creation of Canada, and we have our own historical and cultural reasons for making it so. Taking our marching orders from the UN, an unelected and unaccountable international body, begs the question as to whether we still command our sovereignty as a free nation. If our constitution can be overruled by the UN, then perhaps we do not.”

Chairman of the Multi-Faith Coalition for Equal Funding of Religious Schools, Greek Orthodox Metropolitan, Archbishop Athanassoulas Sotirios was at the Toronto protest. “The multi-faith coalition has been pressing the government without results, including presenting a report to Education Minister Gerard Kennedy. We are not looking to set a new precedent,” he added, according to the National Post. “We are only asking to be treated the same as other religious groups in the province.”

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