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Outgoing Letters and Public Statements

January 21, 2011

Re: Freedoms of Conscience and Religion of Ontario Parents and Students
An open letter to Ontario's Public and Catholic School Boards, January 21, 2011

The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada would like to congratulate you on your October election as school board trustees. This is an important responsibility and we are thankful for your commitment to serving the people of your community and the Province of Ontario. We are especially grateful that you have chosen to serve the children of this province, as well as their parents.

As you are aware, the Equity and Inclusive Education Strategy is currently being implemented in Ontario’s classrooms. In a letter written to a parent in 2008 by then Minister of Education Kathleen Wynne (available on our website), the Minister states that the “curriculum is designed to reflect the diversity of Canada” and should be implemented in order “that students can see the variety of their own backgrounds, interests, and experiences reflected in it.”

We hope this translates into practices that are consistent with the freedoms of conscience and religion of all Canadian parents and children, and reflective of the rights set out in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the Ontario Human Rights Code and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).

However, we are concerned that aspects of the Equity and Inclusive Education Strategy may not be consistent with these human rights instruments. Article 26.3 of the UDHR requires that “parents have a prior right to choose the kind education that shall be given to their children.” The Supreme Court of Canada (in Ross v. New Brunswick School District No. 15, 1997) has affirmed that school boards have a duty to ensure that the public education system is a welcoming and positive school environment for all students. The court went on to require that school boards be “ever vigilant” of anything that might interfere with that duty.

Our concern is with regard to those students whose worldviews and understandings may not be reflected in the materials being taught – that is, children from social conservative homes. The practice that passes for compliance with these legal requirements is to grant parents the option to exempt their children from classes with which they find difficulty. While we are disappointed that this is deemed an acceptable way to create an “equal and inclusive” classroom environment, we nonetheless anticipate that, as a minimum, this right of exemption will be respected as a matter of law.

Again, we thank you for your service to the people of Ontario. Should you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Sincerely,

 

Faye Sonier
Legal Counsel, The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada

Outgoing Letters

2011-present
2010
2009
2008
2007
2006
2005

EFC President Bruce J. Clemenger writes regular commentaries about public policy issues. The EFC magazine Faith Today often publishes articles and essays that examine such issues.

   
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