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  • Writer's picturearjomandhoma

It is time that the ONDP modernizes its Education Policy to reflect the 21st century

February 24, 2010

Submission to the Task Force

Valorie Block, Executive Assistant to the Provincial Secretary, Ontario NDP 101 Richmond Street East,

Toronto, Ontario. M5C 1N9.

Telephone: 416-591-8637 ext.244

Fax :416-599-4820

It is time that the ONDP modernizes its Education Policy to reflect the 21st century

In the 21st century, a society that is divided into cultural, religious, national, and racial majorities and minorities should not be tolerated. The effect of such societies produces myopic communities with their own rules and regulations. People in these so-called minority communities live in a cultural, political, and intellectual quarantine simply because “minority rights” are placed above individual rights which means the rule of religion and traditions will override the rights of individuals within those communities. In these communities’ women and children will suffer the most. Their rights will be under constant attack. Faith based doctrine in education serves only to separate these communities in Ontario from their fellow citizens. Such special treatment encourages some communities to demand more power and authority from the state, particularly if the leaders are influenced by extremists and follow a political agenda. Not long ago the advocates of freedom, egalitarianism and secularism came forward in full force against having Sharia Courts implemented in Ontario. The advocates recognized that such courts were being promoted by political Islam. Concerned citizens globally rallied under the banner of “One Law for All” and managed to not only get rid of Sharia Courts but also all faith-based arbitration. This was a signal to the Government of Ontario that the time has come for parliament to change from dividing its constituents with its multicultural policies and to promote integration instead. Implementing one secular school system for all is the right step towards that goal.

In this century, members of society expect universal treatment for children and the clearly defined rights of the child should take priority over any national, racial, economic, political, ideological, and religious consideration or interest. And society demands that the state updates and modernizes its Education Policy to reflect the realities of present day. We are all aware that children have no religion, tradition, and prejudices when they are born. Naturally, they play, learn, and grow in harmony if they are not influenced by religion, sect and dogma. The advocates of freedom and defenders of children’s rights must not permit religious beliefs or rituals, particularly those with devastating effects, be imposed on children, especially in schools for children under the age of 16 years. We should make sure that the society provides a fair and equal educational system with living conditions for children’s growth, development, and their active participation in social life.

What we have now in place in Ontario is an education system that is inefficient, uneconomical, discriminatory, and unfair. Unfortunately, the parties in power have done nothing to update the educational system in Ontario. It is fair to say they are in fact blocking the normal social life of children in Ontario and pushing the children from these so-called minority communities aside.

To implement one secular system of education is the only way that would protect the Rights of the Child, promote integration, bring about harmony and encourage solidarity. Bear in mind that religion is a private matter of parents and should not be forced upon children.

According to the Universal Rights of the Child, the rights of parents, religion and tradition are limited, and conditional. No one, not even a child’s parents have right to take the child’s freedom away, or prevent the child from getting an education, or engaging in sports, or having a social life. No one has the right to abuse a child sexually, physically, psychologically, not even within the sanction of their parent’s religion, custom or tradition. It is the duty of the state to safeguard the rights of the child and protect children from all potential harms whether it is caused by the child’s parents or the collective role of the child’s community that is influenced by religion, custom or tradition.

We therefore respectively demand that the Government of Ontario upholds its full obligations in this regard and withdraws public funding for all sectarian religious schools by implementing the Universal Rights of the Child.

One hundred years ago many societies succeeded in removing religion from the ruling bodies and educational institutions. A few years ago, the United Nations Human Rights Commission ruled that it is discriminatory to publicly fund only one religious denomination and yet the Federal and Ontario Provincial Governments continue to ignore this directive

The Federal NDP and the Ontario Green Party support the ending of public funding for religious-based schools. Seven of the ten Canadian provinces have a single public school system. Only Alberta, Saskatchewan and Ontario have provisions for the full funding of Roman Catholic schools. We believe the Government of Ontario can and should pass a bill to unilaterally change the Education Act to remove the special privilege for Roman Catholics as Manitoba did just after Confederation. Alternatively, it can pass a bill to seek a Constitutional change by the Parliament of Canada, as Quebec and Newfoundland and Labrador did more recently. This can be done with ease if the ONDP modernizes its Education Policy to reflect the 21st century and follows its federal party policy, revokes its support of funding for Catholic schools and replaces it with a policy that supports the establishment of a single, non-sectarian, publicly funded school system made up of English and French language public school boards.


Homa Arjomand

The coordinator of the International Campaign against Sharia Court in Canada

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