A single secular school system for Ontario

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Recommendations

Establish one publicly funded education system in Ontario for each of Canada’s official languages.

The increasing diversity of Ontario’s population makes it difficult to defend a school system devoted to one religion. Ontario today is much different demographically than it was in 1867 when rights for Catholic and Protestant schools were established through the British North America Act., precursor to the Canadian Constitution Act, 1982.

Given the diversity of Ontario’s population, our school system should play a key role in fostering mutual understanding and social cohesion. This goal is best achieved through an education system where students of all backgrounds learn together and see themselves in the faces of their teachers, and where curriculum is developed based on the whole population, not on the beliefs of one religion.

Due to recent declining student enrolment, many communities in rural and northern areas have an insufficient number of students to support schools delivered through four different school boards. This leads to school closures that leave some communities without an elementary English-language public school; it also forces school boards to bus young students long distances. To compete for students, Catholic boards are accepting non-Catholic students and both public and Catholic boards are waging expensive marketing campaigns. This is an example of wasteful spending that should be directed to the classroom.

ETFO believes the public and Catholic school systems should be merged to create one public school system for English language students and another for French language students. The 2018 ETFO poll indicates that 56 per cent of Ontarians agree with this position.

The fact that Canada’s leaders made a deal in 1867 should not mean that deal can never change. Quebec and Newfoundland both changed their school systems. Quebec has eliminated its Catholic and Protestant school boards and Newfoundland has replaced seven denominational school boards with one public board. What is needed is the political will to make the change.