Ottawa Public Schools Pay for Students to Attend March for Life Rally

Ottawa’s Roman Catholic school board (OCSB) provided buses to allow its students could attend the March for Life, a massive pro-life/anti-abortion* protest that converged on Parliament Hill yesterday. It would seem easy to chalk this up to religious schools attend political-religious rally, but as much as these are religious schools, we must remember they are also public schools.

The OCSB is publically-funded and as a publically-funded institution, it is risible to claim that it is private entity merely making private religious-based decisions. Our courts have already determined that these school, since they are by their nature public, cannot enforce religious observation on their students. It is equally valid to object to public funds going to such a religious endeavour (that does not fall within their mandate as a school).

And this is not a situation of a school board supporting multiple political viewpoints. Ontario’s Roman Catholic school boards object to anti-bullying school groups, and they have launched a campaign to prevent teachers from participating in pride parades. It would be laughable to suggest that they would pay for buses to take kids to a pro-choice rally.

Roman Catholics are the only religious group to be blessed with publically-funded religious schools, and they do what they can to maintain that privileged status. All other religious schools are private and are forced to find funding through tuition, donations and other fundraising schemes. In 2007, the Ontario Progressive Conservatives attempted to address this imbalance by extending some public funding to all religious institutions. The established school board opposed it, and the Liberals presented a thinly-veiled racist campaign against it. There was no support for the Tory plan, and they eventually relented.

So here we are. We have a formal hierarchy for religious instruction. Roman Catholics get theirs for free (using tax dollars), and the rest of us have to pay for our own (and theirs, through tax dollars). Currently, the Green Party is the only Ontario political party proposing to do away with this system. Unfortunately, they don’t have a whole lot of traction.

This should be a bigger deal than it is.

*I’m not particularly concerned about the labeling. I’ll let others battle that out.


7 thoughts on “Ottawa Public Schools Pay for Students to Attend March for Life Rally

  1. So you would have us believe that Ontario Catholics do not pay income taxes? I get where you are going here, but the wording has me concerned.

    • Whoever said that? Do all Ontario taxpayers get special (public) funding for their religious schools? No, only Roman Catholics.

      The point is not that they are taxpayers. It’s that the rest of us are, also, but we don’t get this benefit.

      • You did….Like I said, It’s the wording I take issue with. Your words not mine: Roman Catholics get theirs for free (using tax dollars), and the rest of us have to pay for our own (and theirs, through tax dollars).”

        I’m sorry, but that reads Roman Catholics get free education and everyone else is paying for two systems. Which of course is not true because 35% of Ontario residents identify as Roman Catholic, (at least some of whom pay taxes I would guess, maybe you would allow that much…) The Catholic School system receives about 1/3 of the school funding from the provincial government. You see, you AREN”T paying for the Catholic system, Catholics are.

      • Is there tuition? No. Do we say that people pay to go to (non-Catholic) public school? No. So now you’re just trying to play word games to make it appear that I’m slagging Roman Catholics. The parenthetical comments were actually the clarification that we all pay for both schools–clarifying the general idea that public school is free.

        I think you need to re-examine how money and taxes work. Money is fungible. There is no such thing as Roman Catholic tax funds. We all pay into the pot, and the public and public Roman Catholic school boards get money. So we’re all paying for both. That’s kinda what we mean by public.

        Further, anyone not participating in any of the public systems is (a) either not using the education system at all, or (b) are using a private method. Anyone who falls under (b) is paying for both their own system as well as all public systems (including the Roman Catholic system).

        To suggest that approximately 1/3 of the province is Roman Catholic and that the Roman Catholic school boards get 1/3 of funds so everything is even-steven is a vast failure of math, logic and public policy analysis:

        (1) You haven’t determined that RCs provide 1/3 of tax funds.
        (2) You haven’t established that all RCs direct their tax funds to the RC school board (I know some who oppose publically funding the system even if they support the system).
        (3) The argument relies on the idea that RCs only have a duty to pay for their (for lack of a better word) school system, and not the nominally public one. It sets them apart as if they’re not really a part of the populace as a whole.
        (4) We have decided that their is a benefit to public school…and we all benefit, whether we use it or not, because an educated populace is a good thing. But if we someone segregate Catholic tax funds from all other funds, then what we are saying is that RCs don’t have to support the “public” system, they can just support their own. Which means they’re free-riding off the rest of us. If there’s value to public funding, there’s value to public funding, regardless of whether one prefers a religious education.
        (5) If we say, it’s ok because RCs are supporting a system, then they’re contributing to an educated populace, we should say the exact same thing about anyone who supports any school (or homeschools!). But we don’t do that. So, if the logic holds up, then we’re discriminating against everyone else. We’re giving Roman Catholicism special standing in the province. Freedom of Religion, yo.
        (6) If we turned this around and said, RCs can fund their own stuff through tax dollars, they can use their own services and the rest of us will fund and use the public system, well, that’d be pretty horrible.

    • And, in case people aren’t aware, I’m *in favour* of public funding for religious schools (that adhere to ministry guidelines). I’m all over school choice and have been for quite a while. Right now, though, we don’t have that. We have it for one group of citizens, but not any others.

      • Of course it’s up for your interpretation, but the Catholic system is protected by the constitution, other religions are free to lobby to have the constitution re-opened to include their systems….

  2. You’re right it’s in the constitution. Throughout history, a lot of discrimination has been mandated by law, that doesn’t make it right. Two provincial elections ago, the Tories attempted to make the system a little more fair, and the Liberals did some xenophobic scaremongering and everyone rejected the idea. I think, slowly, people are realizing that the status quo is actually the offensive set up. Other provinces have changed the constitution, so we really could, too.

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