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Jan Wong: Why it’s time to talk about the elephant in the classroom—the Catholic school system

Most Torontonians think the Catholic school system is antiquated, expensive and unfair. So why don’t politicians want to talk about it?

Jan Wong: The Elephant in the Classroom

(Image: Getty Images)

As Christopher Hitchens so memorably noted, “god is not great.” Please allow me to add that god is especially not great when it comes to taxpayer-funded Catholic schools.

Ontario remains the sole Canadian province that still fully funds Catholic education while not providing a cent to any other faith-based schools. About 660,000 Ontario students—one third of all students attending taxpayer-funded schools—are in the Catholic system. In Toronto alone, 92,000 are enrolled in 200 schools. Funding any religious school in a pluralistic and secular society is anachronistic, but it is especially appalling when a school’s teachings come into conflict with societal norms—as was the case earlier this year when the Catholic board refused to allow its students to use the term “gay-straight alliance.”

Politicians say that a constitutional brick wall has stymied us from dismantling the separate system. As Laurel Broten, the education minister, reiterated in May, Catholic education is “constitutionally protected.” News flash: a deal is not always a deal, and walls that men build can always be dismantled. Especially one that financially weakens our public schools by $7 billion a year, fights an inclusive student environment and discriminates against unemployed teachers, be they Jewish, Muslim, Protestant, Buddhist, Baha’i, lapsed Catholic or garden-variety atheist.

History buffs can skip this next paragraph. The rest of us need to go all the way back to 1763 to trace the roots of our separate schools system. The victorious Brits struck a deal at the Treaty of Paris protecting the rights of Quebec’s Catholics to practise their religion. In 1841, when the governments of Upper and Lower Canada were combined to form a single legislature, Catholics and people of other faiths were allowed to establish denomi­national schools. And at the time of Confederation in 1867, Catholic education rights were secured constitutionally while control over education was passed to the provinces.

I appreciate 1763 and 1841 and 1867. What shocks me is our collective passivity in 2012 and our inability to tackle the core issue. Instead, we shrug and sigh as if the guns just fell silent on the Plains of Abraham.

In 1999, the UN Human Rights Committee ruled it discriminatory to fund only the Catholic system. Certainly the unfairness rankles. You may be a taxpayer with school-age children and live next door to a Catholic elementary school with small classes, a music program and decent computer facilities. You may desire for your offspring the vaunted culture of obedience and the psycho­logical discipline of school uniforms. But your children can’t access it unless you’re an honest-to-god Catholic and can prove it. It’s not quite the Spanish Inquisition, but according to the Toronto Catholic District School Board, prospective families must show a Catholic baptismal certificate for each child. Failing that, the school board requires at least one parent to produce his or her own Catholic baptismal certificate. For non-Catholic parents, the only option is conversion. This means enrolling in a program for aspiring converts at a Catholic church, and of course producing the paperwork.

Alison Buchanan falls into the second category. A single mom with four kids, aged 18, 10, seven and four, she had to present her baptismal certificate so her three youngest could enroll at St. Gabriel Catholic School near Bayview and Sheppard. (Her eldest had been baptized, and the other three have since followed suit.) Buchanan emphasizes she is not at all religious. “I was baptized, but never confirmed,” she says. “I don’t believe in the separate system. It’s better for society if there’s one strong public system.”

  • Toby

    How disappointing that Toronto Life has chosen to pay for and publish such a truly offensive/bigoted opinion piece by Jan Wong. If Catholics, and those who know the history of the right to manitain Separate Schools, were of some other faith, she would not touch the matter. Catholic school suppoters pay a share of their property taxes to support Separate schools They are not free-loaders),and must go through an application process to do so. Jan, open your mind to differences.

  • Sonia

    Ummm…Toby, how is it discriminatory to talk about a discriminatory practice in our province? If Catholic schools are getting public funding and other faith-based schools aren’t, that is bigotry. Just because they have a constitutional right does NOT make it ‘right’.

  • MS

    Sadly, the first comment isn’t true. Catholic public schools are funded out of general revenue by Ontario, the same as any other public schools. The idea that Catholic homeowners support them is widespread, but totally false.

    For what it’s worth, Ontario funds the regular public school system in the amount of about $11,000 per child per year, and the Catholic school system gets about $13,000 per child per year. The extra money doesn’t go into better teaching for the most part; it goes into maintaining less efficient schools with more bussing and more administrators.

  • Moderate

    Thank you Jan Wong. The anachronistic practice of funding a religious education for one denomination of one group (however historical it may be) makes no sense in a pluralistic society. Our meagre education resources (and surplus land in large cities) should be marshalled towards making the best, most accessible public education system in the world. It is actually a goal we can achieve and one of which, I dare say, Jesus would approve.

  • opl

    Hello Jan, why all the hate?

  • Fair

    Amen, Jan! John Tory was absolutely right: Either we should fund no religious schools, or we should fund all of them. I’m a Catholic parent, but I’m not blinded by the smug sense of entitlement that many Catholic parents have about this issue.

  • QueenWest

    Great Post! I have a friend who just went through the process to become a teacher in the Catholic system and I was appalled by the fact she need to be a practicing Catholic AND have a priest recommend her in order to even be considered for the role. No wonder so many crappy teachers were employed at the catholic schools I was in – we should focus on getting the best professionals, not the most religious.

    Also, interesting to see the difference in funding each school gets per child. I would have assumed the religious-based schools would receive far less public funding, and receive the rest through privatization. You want to raise your kids in a religious school, pay for it. The tax payers shouldn’t, especially since it promotes so many intolerant views that are against Canadian standards.

  • steve

    the left really is brilliant. the scale and scope of what they are trying to accomplish is so huge that it is senseless to try and address it when talking abotu one story of one issue. yet when one can see the overall pattern it is really crazy what is happening all over the western world and what forces are in action to destroy our heritage. jan wong. no doubt a child of chinese immigrants to canada. heres a newsflash for you: canada and the western world in general was built and is founded upon these “bigoted” christian morals you so clearly despise and want to see eradicated. without these things, and the more pluralistic our society becomes, the less it will be canada.

    i think your parents and everyone else who came here knew what kind of country and what kind of people lived here before they arrived. if they hate us so much, feel free to leave.
    and having gone to both catholic and public schools (brought up catholic but not religious) i can certainly agree the quality of education was much much better at the catholic school

  • Fair

    @Steve Please learn to write/punctuate/think properly. Your semi-literate, racist comment is painful to read. Obviously, the Catholic school system didn’t do a great job in your case.

  • jann

    Ummm…Steve…newsflash: just because your ancestors may have arrived in Canada before Jan’s doesn’t give you any more claim to calling yourself a Canadian. In case you’ve forgotten our Western world was not only founded by Christians, but it was also founded by stomping on the beliefs and human rights of our First Nations people.

  • tony

    What a hack job of an article Jan (as usual)… of your main beefs is that for non-Catholic teachers who are out of work, the Catholic system is off limits…well guess what Jan, it goes both ways and as a young teacher you need to decide which ‘system’ you want to dive into…once in the Catholic system is definitely not easy to jump into the public system if your out of work so there’s no real advantage either way. Also I would argue that once the public started funding (catholic highschools – under Bill Davis) the level of education & discipline dropped measurably, so for all those who say “pay your own way”….I’d say, gladly!, because the watered down version of Cahtolic schools is pale in comparison to what it used to be. And as for the separate system funding…..the first commentor is correct…you can direct where your portion of your ‘education taxes’ is directed…..separate or public. I wonder if Jan voted for Mr. Tory in the last election?

  • Schadenfreude

    It’s interesting that every single negative comment starts out with some form of ad hominem: 1) Jan Wong is a biggot, 2) this is a left wing conspiracy, and 3) Jan Won’s article is a hack job because Jan Wong writes hack jobs.

    Also, Steve’s notion that this is a left/right issue is plainly wrong. There are lots of “right wingers” who would like to see the Catholic school system disbanded. There are also lots of “left wingers” who support the system. If it makes you feel better to think that this is some kind of “left” / “right” issue then go ahead and keep thinking it. It isn’t.

  • Kat

    The condition that candidates be active in the Catholic church is a relevant criteria. This enables faith based education. The are thousands of out of work Catholic teachers as well. The selection process for teachers in Catholic boards is dependent on education, skills, experience and the needs of the schools; not just a baptismal certificate.

    The issue with Catholic education is it needs to be iterative. The policy makers need to grow and learn with the rest of the world.

  • Chris

    This article fails to seriously ask why several hundred thousand parents are choosing to send their children to such “anachronistic” schools. For some parents, religious and otherwise (the high schools are open to non-RC students), the answer is the values infused in the Catholic approach. Those values can have a tangible effect, particularly in schools in vulnerable communities.

    In my work, I’ve met parents for whom the public school in their community compromised not only their children’s future, but, in their view, their immediate safety. These parents would not be able to afford to pay tuition at a privately-funded school(and neither would their neighbours in such communities, so these exemplary Catholic schools would close). For these parents, “fairness” means more educational options, not less.

  • Hannah

    Before I speak to some of the incorrect statements in this story, let me first say that international bodies have claimed that Ontario has one of the best education systems in the world. The McGuinty government publishes these reports and promotes them widely.

    This very successful system consists of English-Public, English-Catholic, French-Public and French-Catholic schools. Our systems are welcoming, multicultural and thriving places for young people to learn and have been for over 100 years. Why in the world would you suggest we dismantle it?

    Students of every colour and faith attend public AND Catholic schools – and I’ll explain below.

    It’s highly incorrect and offensive to claim that the existence of Catholic schools “weakens” the public system to the tune of $7 billion a year. First of all, 2.1 million Catholic ratepayers “choose” to support Catholic schools. Yes funding comes from a central pot for all FOUR of Ontario’s school systems, but school system support is documented for every student.

    Second, those 660,000 students in Catholic schools are supported by provincial dollars from a central provincial pot, but again they represent 2/3 of the system and 2/3 of Ontario tax payers have expressed their support for Catholic schools so in essence Catholic schools are supported by Catholic ratepayers – just as public schools are supported by those who indicate on their municipal assessment forms that they are public school supporters.

    It’s also important to know that every Catholic high school in Ontario accepts students from every faith and no faith. Non-Catholic parents who choose to send their children to Catholic high schools explain that they do so because they appreciate the faith-based focus.

    Yes Catholic schools have a distinctive focus that diverse communities appreciate and it would be great to have other faith-based schools, that meet provincial requirements, funded as well. It just so happens Ontarians sadly did not agree to such a proposal. Is that any reason to dismantle a system that is working for Ontarians?

    Do we really want to start a precedent for taking away the rights of a minority group because it’s the hip thing to say or do??

  • MS

    toby writes:

    “And as for the separate system funding…..the first commentor is correct…you can direct where your portion of your ‘education taxes’ is directed…..separate or public.”

    Nope, that’s false. While people can choose which set of school board trustees they want to vote for, that decision has nothing to do with school funding. If every single person in Ontario decided to vote for the French Catholic school board trustees in the next municipal elections in 2014, that would not change one cent of the funding going to the public, Catholic, French, and French Catholic school systems.

  • Colleen Landers

    The statement that it will save 7 billion dollars has been studied to death by governmnet and others and no one can substaniate any savings by eliminating the Catholic system.
    The students still have to be educated. The information below answers the myths being stated in public which cannot be proven.


    Over the 160-year history of Catholic education in Ontario there have been groups and individuals who have called for the elimination of publicly funded Catholic schools. These attacks on our system have taken many forms, including books, articles, pamphlets, media advertisements, letters to the editor and recently an email petition campaign. Whatever the motivation of these groups and individuals, their arguments and the rationale for their position are similar and are often filled with myths and inaccuracies.

    The Catholic system is a duplicate system that costs the taxpayers of Ontario hundreds of millions of dollars annually and should be amalgamated with the public school system to save money.

     The Catholic system is not a duplicate of the public secular school system.
     At the heart of Catholic education is the person of Jesus and the good news of His gospel.
     We are a distinctly different faith-based system whose educational purpose is not only the transmission of knowledge but also the formation of the whole person, body, mind and spirit so that our graduates can contribute to the transformation of the world in the image of God.
     Catholic ratepayers represent approximately one-third of Ontario’s tax revenue base and fund Catholic schools through their property, income, sales and other taxes.
     Ontario went through a major amalgamation of school boards in 1998 and most economies of scale have now been realized. The history of school board amalgamations shows that amalgamating boards can in fact increase some costs. If all school systems amalgamated, the cost of salaries, benefits and services would rise to the highest level. In addition, a great deal of money would be required for employee buyouts and restructuring costs.
     Catholic and public school boards already save taxpayers millions of dollars annually through a variety of successful business partnerships in such areas as co-operative school financing, purchasing, transportation, energy management and other shared services.
     Bigger is not necessarily better. A recent study by the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation concedes:
    “It does not seem feasible … that a simple amalgamation of the 777 current schools in Metro Toronto with close to 22,000 teachers, 25,000 support staff and countless thousands of board administrative personnel would in any way be financially feasible, accountable or … acceptable to the citizens of Toronto”

    Catholic school boards unjustifiably discriminate in admitting only Catholic children to their schools and in hiring only Catholic teachers.

     It is the constitutional mandate of Catholic schools to provide Catholic education to Catholic students.
     Non-Catholic students can attend Catholic high schools.
     Some Catholic school boards have policies that permit non-Catholic children to attend at the elementary level under certain conditions.
     Catholic boards have the preferential right to hire Catholic teachers who can fulfil the responsibilities of a teacher in a Catholic school and who are knowledgeable about and committed to the values, goals and obligations of the Catholic education system.
     A preferential hiring right is also extended to publicly funded social welfare agencies that are language-based, culturally-based, or religiously-based. This right is specifically protected by the Ontario Human Rights Code.
     We do not believe that it is unjustifiably discriminatory to employ people who are committed to the purpose and goals of the Catholic school system. No corporation, organization or business hires people and promotes them unless they share the goals and objectives of the corporate culture of these institutions.
     There are many non-Catholic persons employed by Catholic school boards as teachers, administrators and support staff who share the values of our system and contribute in meaningful ways to the mission of Catholic schools.

    It would be easy to eliminate Catholic schools in Ontario based on the precedent set in Newfoundland & Labrador and Quebec
     Educational, cultural, political and linguistic conditions that existed in Newfoundland & Labrador and Quebec differ from those that exist in Ontario.
     The Catholic school system in Ontario has been a successful part of publicly funded education for over 160 years.
     All three political parties in Ontario are on record as supporting the Catholic school system as an integral part of publicly funded education in Ontario.
     Catholic schools educate one-third of the pupil population in Ontario (more than 600,000 students) and are supported by over 2.4 million taxpayers and voters.
     Catholic education in Ontario is supported by a strong infrastructure of Catholic organizations that include: The Institute for Catholic Education, Ontario Conference of Catholic Bishops, Ontario Catholic School Trustees’ Association, Ontario Association of Parents in Catholic Education, Catholic Principals’ Council of Ontario, Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association, Ontario Catholic Supervisory Officers’ Association, Ontario Catholic School Business Officials’ Association, the English Catholic Board Council section of the Ontario Student Trustees’ Association and l’Association franco-ontarienne des conseils scolaires catholiques. This coalition of Catholic partners provides educational leadership, service and support for Catholic education.
     The majority of Ontario’s French language school system is Catholic and is supported by French parents and ratepayers whose rights are also constitutionally protected.
     Attempts to eliminate Ontario’s Catholic schools would be highly divisive.
     The elimination of Catholic school boards would be complicated, costly and would create unwarranted and unjustified chaos for students, parents, teachers and communities who are an integral part of our publicly funded school system.
    Catholic schools result in social and ethnic segregation which undermines the development of tolerance and respect for Ontarians of different backgrounds.

     Students from many races and cultures attend and learn together in Catholic schools, as they do in public schools.
     Catholic school curriculum instils in students the values of tolerance, respect, inclusivity, love of neighbour and community service.
     Our students are taught to respect and affirm the diversity and interdependence of the world’s peoples, religions and cultures.
     Graduates of Catholic schools make meaningful and important contributions to improving their communities as leaders in politics, business, healthcare, education and volunteer services.
     Understanding other groups and other beliefs is an important part of the teaching in Catholic schools. Our schools have led the way in providing courses on World Religions.

    Catholic schools are a successful part of publicly funded education in Ontario. Our schools and school boards consistently meet or exceed provincial expectations in student achievement, program delivery, class size and character development. Our curriculum is purposely designed to produce graduates with good moral character who are responsible citizens, caring family members and collaborative contributors to the common good of Ontario’s society. These are values that we celebrate and share with all Ontarians.

    We encourage parents, neighbours, community leaders and all those who support the English and French Catholic school systems in Ontario to promote the good works and achievements of our students and teachers.

    Speak up for Catholic education! Ontario’s publicly funded Catholic schools are part of a 160-year tradition that has enriched generations and with the continued support of all of our Catholic partners and peers in education we will continue to educate and inspire
    generations to come.

    We need to speak openly and strongly about our valued Catholic system.

  • tony

    well said Hannah!……just further highlights how poorly written/researched Jan’s article is (along with many other articles by her).

    toby….its not false, you CAN choose where the education portion of your tax dollars go…just contact MPAC and they will spell it out for you, still in doubt? then or go online and type in “Application for Direction of School Support”….a good ol’ Gov of Ontario form….its been around for some time.
    Quote: “The information will be used to direct your school taxes”.
    Even tenants of apartments have a right to direct their school taxes.

  • Susan

    This is so not fair. The Ontario government cuts off the extra-activities for the public schools effectively because the teachers aren’t getting paid for that but fully funds Catholic schools. What happened to fair for all? This shows that favoritism and bigotry exists in the Ontarian society.

  • Keith

    I’ll match up the Catholic School system against the public one ANY day. The faith infused education that Catholic students receive makes a huge different in their growth and development as society struggles with secular challenges.

  • Estelle Scappatura

    Dismantle the catholic school system? Absolutely not! I am a product of the catholic school system,a University graduate (cum laude) and currently a trustee for the Sudbury Catholic School Board. The catholic school system continues to serve our students well no matter their race, creed or religion. We are supported by those who choose to be catholic ratepayers. What’s the problem?

  • Bill

    I taught in the “public” system for several years, before transfering to the Catholic system mainly because of a job opportunity. Fellow teachers ribbed me about this move. As time went on, with a loss of values in our society and in particular with our youn people, the Catholic school system became an oasis for emphasizing standards – in Religion, morals and analysis. This was part of curriculum, not just in integrating ideas into subjects, but an actual time slot to be adhered to.

  • Lori

    First I would like to see if I can have the last 5 minutes of my life back please….
    Second, I will express my disappointment with Toronto Life for publishing this EDITORIAL, I dare not say article because I would have thought facts would have been checked prior to printing??!!??
    Thirdly, I will solidly state that I SUPPORT CATHOLIC EDUCATION, in taxes and in practice.  I am happy and proud to live in a country ( and province) founded by immigrants and where publicly funded education is a right for all.  I can also say that in our local Catholic schools there are many faiths represented, not just Catholics.  Might I remind you all that in the very foundation of Catholic Education you will find INCLUSIVITY.  
    I think it is also important to point out that the money per pupil doesn’t change whether or not you are in a separate school system or in a single system. 
    Finally I will say to anyone who might be confused about publicly funded Catholic Education….Our schools and school boards consistently meet or exceed provincial expectations in student achievement, program delivery, class size and character development. Our curriculum is purposely designed to produce graduates with good moral character who are responsible citizens, caring family members and collaborative contributors to the common good of Ontario’s society. These are values that we celebrate and share with ALL Ontarians.  Faith based Catholic education is not just part of the curriculum it is a way of life.   Besides the required academic achievements an Ontario Catholic graduate is expected to be:
    A Discerning Believer Formed in the Catholic Faith Community 
    An Effective Communicator 
    A Reflective and Creative Thinker
    A Self-Directed, Responsible, Life Long Learner
    A Collaborative Contributor 
    A Caring Family Member and 
    A responsible Citizen.
    I rest my case.

  • Dave

    As the product of a Catholic elementary school, who went on to go to a private Catholic high school, I felt I needed to comment as I’m sure many of the commenters here are speaking out of ignorance. Some of my best friends in both schools were non-Catholics. I’ve never heard of an inquisition into a fellow student’s religious affiliation as a condition of acceptance. The great value of the Catholic education is that there is a codified moral standard that can be applied and taught to all students, which even if you aren’t religious has some merit. For fear of not being politically correct and all inclusive, this important aspect of education seems to be lacking in the secular public system. There is more to being a good citizen than hard sciences and empirical facts.

  • Lisa

    Hannah – thank you for your positive response. Too many of the people who have posted on this article are being hateful – in both directions of the conversation.

    It’s interesting to note that our society is becoming so secular that the mere mention of “God” is treated with hate – as if the person who believes in God has somehow committed a crime. Its very sad what this world has come to.

    A MAJORITY of the people in this province do believe in God and the % of students attending Catholic high schools who are NOT Catholic is rising. I taught in the Catholic system and over 30% of our students were NOT Catholic. The public school was down the street, so it wasn’t proximity that brought those students there. That says something for what parents want for their children.

    As I am sure some of you are unaware, as part of attending Catholic school, religion is taken by our students. Grade 11 religion focuses on World religions and our students learn about ALL the other religions in the world. The wonderful part is all our students learn about the other religions of the world and 30% of the class can share their faith with their fellow students. Rather than ban all mention of religion for the sake of the few that don’t believe in anything, why not learn about others so we can all respect our differences.

    It’s also important to note that Catholic schools do NOT get more funding than their public counterparts. Our board, is in the top three for the LEAST amount of funding PER PUPIL…but we are at the top for EQAO results. ie. We do more, with less.

    Each board has their own purpose and it’s important to know ALL the facts before making assumptions that we’d be better off dismantling a system that works.

  • peachy

    its because ontario spends such a lot of time and money talking about cheap plastic bags (and not the kind filled with heroin either)

  • Marino Gazzola

    Many of the comments and statistics about saving money are incorrect. The numbers being bantered around about potential savings are exactly that, numbers, they have never been substantiated. In fact, Ontario schools are funded on a per pupil basis, so you would have the same number of students, the same number of school, teachers, staff etc. The last round of amalgamating school baords, 1997/1998 cost over $1.1 Billion dollars. The infrastructure required to oversee the amalgamation cost about $23 million. Amalgamation of the school systems into one system would create chaos for all students, as students would be moving schools everywhere. Catholic schools are about educating the entire person, body, mind and soul. Many non-Catholics choose to send their children to catholic Secondary Schools exactly for that reason.

  • mark

    The focus on values and character that the Catholic School teach are incredibly unique to the catholic system. The public side teaches math, science, history, etc but don’t have a course that specifically informs students about way and ideals of being a good person. From my own experience with the catholic board, I have seen students who come from a traditional aboriginal culture/religion household, students who have come from a muslim household, students who come from all sorts of religions. The one thing that I see promoted in Catholic school more than Public is not “Jesus” so much as general spirituality, positivity, and the idea that be nice to the people around you and they will be nice back.

    I believe the requirement of Catholic Schools to hold steady to “the bible’s teachings” is a way of setting a consistent precedent of behavior that students are expected to achieve. A similar precedent should be set, modeled, and achieved by all students in Ontario not for the sake of being Christian but for the sake of the common good.

    So my last point may have leaned to the side of joining school, which might not be such a bad idea, if there was more of an emphasis on the Public side changing gears and being more like the Catholic side because math is math, but not all boards put such a huge focus on being a good person that they actually make a class for it.

  • maria froese

    my child lost his young brother when he was three years old. Thank God for the Catholic Board who help give my child the faith and strength he needed to get through this pain. I am grateful every day, that my child can go to school and pray, and be a whole spiritual person. My child is on a journey through this system that helps him appreciate all faiths and re-assures him that this journey is one of love, community, reconciliation and faith.
    I am a Catholic teacher and I am blessed to to able to speak about God in a loving and trusting way that accepts a
    every child for their uniqueness.

  • maria froese

    When my son lost his brother, it was the Catholic School board that helped him through his grief process. A Catholic education is a gift that helps each child pursue their journey as loving and caring citizens who accept all for their uniqueness. I, myself being a Catholic teacher thank God every day that I am allowed to praise God and teach each child that our journey here is to be loving and productive citizens, through peace, reconciliation, education and acceptance of all.

  • aethiest

    I am not Catholic but did attend a Catholic High School for three years after transferring from a public school collegiate. Catholic Schools are better run, have better track records and the teachers there do care. The Religion classes did not make me a believer but gave insight I otherwise would not have had. Check out the Provincial scores and you will find that the top schools are consistently Catholi. They do what they believe and bekieve in what they do.that is what makes them different. Having a choice is nt a bad thing. By the way, i think the author should do her research before going on the attack. Why call for the dismantling of something that works and gives choice., healthy competition is good. If we get rid of anything it should be underperforming schools. If that were done I guaranter that very few Catholic Schools would be closed. What’s your real beef Ms. Wong? Put that elephant on the table.

  • Chris

    I predict this article will go as far as the nearest garbage receptacle. My suggestion would be to stop wasting your time writing senseless articles. At the end of the day, people are getting paid, people are getting an education, and no one is complaining (except for a select few, but everyone complains). We all pay taxes, even for people who are terminally ill due to smoking cigarettes or over-eating. I can bet that you probably don’t know half of where your tax money is being spent, so stop venting about this small part of the equation. By the way, you article was very poorly written; I feel sorry for your grade teachers.

  • Lynda

    I will not comment on the views of Jan Wong because our great country gives everyone the right to an opinion.. I have worked at a Catholic School for more than fifteen years. I have watched students come and go including my own four children who are now well educated members of society. They learned their morals and their Catholic beliefs at a small school based on the Catholic religion. How can the families of the 660,000 children who attend Catholic schools all be wrong! I doubt that Jan Wong as attended any of these schools where she would find that the basis to moral, well rounded individuals is based in the teachings of faith.. Incidentally, the Catholic school teachers are a special breed of people who should be applauded. These are the views of a small town mother who has seen both sides of the education controversy.

  • W. R.

    I’m a product of the Catholic school system in Ontario and I would have no problem with seeing schools run by other religious communities for other religious communities and to have the tax arrangements to facilitate that. I can easily imagine the Toronto Jewish Board of Education or a Muslim school board in Toronto, for example, making good use of money that the Province chose to let their supporting communities keep or have back for mass education of children.

    I am a history buff. My Catholic high school history teacher showed me that the better we understand history, the more we understand the people we live with now, the more we appreciate and sympathize with them even if we believe that they are partly wrong about some things, and the more we turn against bigotry. I became a Catholic teacher to continue that work.

    Something that we have to keep sight of is that, historically and up into the present time, schools as we think of them now — institutions of learning meant to educate large numbers of children outside the home — have been inherently religious. They have been the products of Catholic parishes, Protestant congregations, synagogues, Islamic centres and so on. It is not that letting taxpayers have some of their own money to pay for satisfactory education is anachronistic; it is that gov’t is a relative late-comer when it comes to taking on the daunting and expensive task of providing quality education.

    The first schools (as we would recognize them) in Canada were founded by French Catholic religious orders in the 1600s. After British settlement began, Protestant congregations set schools up too. Government did not begin to involve itself in the process until some time in the 1800s. Ontario did not even have a ministry of education until 1876 (9 years after Confederation started). Ontario’s “Public” schools were still pretty openly Protestant into — at least — the latter half of the 1980s. The current state of high centralization in which the Ministry of Education micromanages schools over the heads of trustees elected by the People to run schools goes back to the 1990s and Mike Harris. Even in this post-Enlightenment and post-Marxist age, many of the World’s schools are faith-based like Ontario’s Catholic schools. They have staying power; they’re not anachronisms. There is no organization that has ever existed that is as multi-ethnic and multi-cultural as the Catholic Church has become (and I include the United Nations as it sits in New York in that comparison).

    All schools have their biases. Religious schools are open about theirs. There are truly decent politicians,lawyers and bureaucrats out there but, still, shouldn’t opponents of religious schools ask themselves how comfortable they are with what has lately been misrepresented as the natural default mode? I. e., that schools and values and subtle biases enveloping our children and adolscents should be the creatures of the ruling political party of the day and its appointed or ensconced civil servants. Why is it that political parties need that much influence over our young people’s minds? Why do they want it? Whether you think of yourself as “right”, “left” “other” or apolitical, is that really what you want?

    If you’re not Catholic, you can do what Catholics had to do after the British takeover of Canada. Make your case for the kind of schools that you want. It’ll take a lot of hard work but you and like-minded people won’t have been the first to work that hard. You don’t build anything by tearing down what others have built.

  • Jim

    With our huge provincial defict, I believe we should look at establishing one school system. Any family that wants to send their child to a religion based school should pay for it as the Muslims and Jews do.

  • Steve B

    Fully support Hannah’s comments. She has it right. It is time that Canadian stand up for the rights that our forefathers and mothers fought for and not let governments take them away becuase of a minority. It is Christmas because Christ is the reason for the season. It is a Christmas tree. This are only examples of a pervasive movement to take away the way of life of Canadians. When in Roman do as the Romans is a way of life. When I travel I embrace the culture of the country I do not try to change them. As for the immigrants that want Canada to change I think that they should take advantage of the freedom to leave Canada and return to the country that they escaped from and solve issues at home instead of trying to change our society.

  • Shine

    Jan Wong sounds like someone who would go along with the crowd (maybe for attention) or group mentality even if their thinking is misguided or prejudiced. It is so important to instil in young minds spiritual qualities, especially in this day and age where so many people are succumbing to depression and hate as there is no spiritual foundation.

  • Mrs. Duncan

    Just one quick comment.
    What are our public board teachers doing right now?
    NOT working for the good of our students.
    And I may add getting MORE funding from our hard working taxpayers.
    Which is better you answer?

  • DJ

    I want to thank Hannah for her comments on setting the record straight about the way ALL of Ontario students are funded. The Catholic Boards do not get any special treatment financially when it comes to funding schools on a per student basis. I have seen a lot of comments surrounding the financial implications of funding Public and Catholic School Boards and the apparent discrimination towards other non-Catholic Faiths. Jan failed to mention (or do her research) that the MAJORITY of Catholic School Boards in the province have an open-access or more flexible admissions policy at the elementary level. Other faiths such as Orthodox and Anglican etc are free to register their children in certain Catholic School Boards as long as they understand that their children will be taught in a Catholic school environment. Yes there are Catholic Board’s that still only admit Catholics, but these Board’s do review their Policies periodically and sometimes exceptions are made etc. The point is this, the overall goal of any Catholic Board is not to be elitist or discriminatory but rather provide an alternative to the mainstream Public system for parents who honestly CHOOSE to have their children taught and raised in a Catholic environment at home, church and school. If Jan is so concerned about “wasted” tax dollars I am sure the Government can provide her with a laundry list of items to focus on rather then our education system that is grossly under-funded as is.


    Get to the real issues, let’s cancel French a total waist of time. Save millions!! I know that my children have had mandatory french from grades 4 to 9, yet couldn’t put together a sentence. Yes I had mandatory rench from Grades 4 to 9 also, yes a total waist of time. Stop waisting time and money on French. Put the money into music and atheltics.
    I Support Catholic Funding.

  • Jackie

    Jan Wong mis-spelled his last name for this article -he is missing the R!! The parents who choose to send their students to a catholic system also choose to pay taxes for that system! Get it right not Wrong Wong!

  • Kathleen

    Perhaps if all school boards were more tolerant to allow all faiths to openly practice their beliefs, we would not have such a strong need for seperate faith based education. Catholic Schools provide an arena for students and staff to openly discuss their beliefs without fear of prejudice or persecution of offending people.

  • Nicole

    I like how the author reminded us that at least 92,000 students’ parents think that the Catholic School system is important in Toronto alone!

  • KB

    I can’t believe Toronto Life would run a piece like this. MOST Torontonians think the system is antiquated, unfair and expensive… really? Where’s the survey? There is none – the headline already is totally made up. Such a hateful tone in this story. Please try to publish positive people that are making the world a better place, not an angrier place.

    @Queen West – Why appalled? Why would your friend want to teach at a Catholic school if she’s not a practicing Catholic? Would your friend want to teach at a Jewish school if she were not Jewish?

  • Beth Hawkins

    I pray our province will continue to support public funding for Catholic Schools. Our schools are schools with a difference- we incorporate the Gospels in every aspect of the school. It is more than a few prayers and a couple of crosses – it is about using Christ’s example and our church doctrine when delivering curriculum and acting as a school community. I was a non-Catholic hired by the school board in 1989. Yes – they asked me a lot of questions and made it clear that what I taught in my classroom followed church doctrine – but I wasn’t looked down upon for being a non-Catholic. The witness of my co-workers and board lead me to become a Catholic – and I am now the head of Religion in my school ( yes – a convert is good enough to become a Religion Chair.) My students are not all Catholic – I’ve had Muslim students, Protestant students and students who never even thought the word “God” or “Jesus” – let alone write about him. That has never been a problem. Christ has always been about inclusion – and our schools mirror that belief. I’ve had several students who were unsuccessful in the public board come to our school and find success – because we gave them more than curriculum – we gave them Christ’s love. It may sound corny to the non-believer – but in a world filled with dysfunction and challenge – Christ brings us hope. I pray we don’t lose our schools.

  • Rose

    Jan Wong would not be writing this article if it was about any other religion, Why is it socially acceptable to attack the catholic religion. As a taxpayer I choose to support the catholic school system,I want my kids to go to a catholic school, faith based learniing is beneficial.Why am I not entitled to do so, why do you want my rights taken away.The Seperate system was fought for many years ago and we won that right. Why should we have to fight for it again, because single minded people like yourself Jan decided you should take away what was constitutionally ours….. should we take away all the rights awarded to all people in the constitution cause “you” dont like it.. too bad Jan. Jan Wong’s article is written with a hateful undertone to Catholics, discuss the topic for sure, but such one sided propaganda serves no purpose. It is very easy to blame the Catholic system on the problems with the public system.. we dont blame you for our issues so why blame us for yours.. try taking a look at your own system and fix it before you want to dismantle ours. But it is always easier to place the blame on others.. hence a society of people who take no accountability for their own actions. I am a catholic, I am not blind to the issues the church faces in catching up with the issues of todays society, I would have NO PROBLEM with gay /straight alliance in my schools, as regardless of whether it is against the teaching of the church, children are still going to be gay or lesbian and we need to support them in their journey.The church will catch up eventually, I believe that.This is one issue, and it should not define the seperate school system as a whole. I believe Jan Wong let herself down with this article, as a journalists role is present both sides FAIRLY of the issue and let the public decide. This article is just propaganda and very sad that someone could be so openly hateful towards Cathoics… it is a sad day when this passes for journalism.

  • Marc

    The last published cencus would appear to indicate that most Canadian tax payers are of the Roman Catholic Faith, who is funding who again ?

  • Graham

    I’ll begin by saying I don’t usually comment in blog form. To much at stake with too few words. Reminiscent of the above article. However, something needs to be said about the obvious and dreadful Catholic bashing so evident underlying Ms. Wong’s derisive article. First, shame on Toronto Life’s transparent need to create a tempest in a teapot by dredging up the Catholic education canard once again although it has been replied to quite adequately time and again over the years in order to sell its magazines. Secondly, as to the article, it is far too lopsided in its treatment of the issues so important to so many people to be taken seriously. It barely rises above intelligent trolling. I would rather read a refereed journal discussing the issue at length and in a much fairer manner. I would suggest that the reader should beware her contentions and treat the article as it deserves by casting it into the garbage, literally. Phew

  • Kevin Kobus

    The reference to weakening our public schools by “7 billion dollars a year” is tremendously misleading. The cost to educate a student in a Catholic or a Public school is essentially the same under the funding formula. If systems were ever to be amalgamated, and I hope that it never happens, it is estimated that as many as 800,000 students would have to change schools. Those who seek an amlgamated syatem are ignoring the tremendous disruption that this would bring to every school, Public and Catholic, in Ontario. The current system is working well.

  • Kathy

    It never fails to puzzle me why people constantly want to get rid of the Catholic school system. Do these people not realize we will still need the schools, the teachers, the custodians, the secretaries, the support staff, etc no matter if there is one or two systems? And what about the French schools – both Catholic and Public and the Afrocentric schools in Toronto and now, just last night, the possibility of a gay high school. No one seems to comment on those! The Catholic schools, by and large, are chosen by people to send their children to because they want the religious affiliation, teaching and so much more. Seriously, just leave us all alone Jan and get a life! Just because you don’t like Catholic schools doesn’t mean we have to be forced to give them up.

  • Garth

    Great article that’s long overdue.
    It infuriates me that we continue to support the Catholic school board.
    If parents want their kids raised in a Catholic school that’s fine – let them foot the (whole) bill.
    For those of us who choose not to believe in fairytales, let’s focus on making our public school system as excellent (and inclusive) as possible.

  • Frank Perruccio

    It is obvious that the nuances involved escape the author. The piece over-simplies a serious matter. Firstly, anachronism doesn’t fit. Today more than even just thirty years ago, people are more religious not less so. Secondly, properly understood, “secular” in its classic sense envisions a freedom to believe whatever one chooses. Thirdly, modern, educated and thoughtful parents are in fact,freely choosing a Catholic education for their children. Finally, it will be abundantly clear to the open-minded that the brick wall Wong refers to, is not just constitutional but something much deeper and beautiful – namely an appreciation for most of us that God is great and that He has a role to play in our pluralistic society. The majority of Canadians are religious!

  • WhyILeftTDot

    There are so many errors in this story that they would be virtually impossible to fix and it is doubtful those who have their minds made up would believe the truth. This article is blantantly incorrect, creates division, and proposes no equitable solutions. This is the kind of press and attitude that caused me to leave Toronto and move to a small town where people strive to work together for the benefit of all instead of trying to destroy and defame.

  • Meg

    Sadly, attitudes such as this author’s are not based in facts. Responsible journalismn does actually require real research, and this farce of an article is significantly lacking in truth. “Most Torontonians think the Catholic school system is antiquated, expensive and unfair…”? On what foundation can you possibly makes this statement? Where’s your research? Did you ask Torontonians, or is this just some blanket bias that fulfills your agenda?
    Have you any experience of the Catholic education system? What, may I ask, is so wrong about a school system being based on the principles of love and respect, a system that anyone may attend, regardless of their faith, and be welcomed as part of a community? Is that what frightens you so much? Or were you just trying to sell an article by playing on some people’s intolerance? Too bad you didn’t go to a Catholic school…you might have learned something. Oh, and God is spelled with a captial “G” by most Torontonians.

  • James Doyle

    I cannot but agree with one of your arguments that there should be one publicly funded school system in Ontario. This should be a system that is true to the ideals of equality and caring which all Ontario taxpayers demand. Unfortunately this would not be the Publicly funded secular system that we currently have in Ontario. This system has made news recently promoting the acceptance of Polygamy as well as the promotion of sexual activities with innocent fruits and vegetables that are unable to give consent. We do need an open debate on whether this broken system should continue alongside the Catholic system.

  • Mike C.

    This article is so outrageously inaccurate and biased that I’d suspect it could be a case of “If you tell a big enough lie…” propaganda!

    I’ve been teaching in Catholic schools for over 30 years, and I wouldn’t even know where to begin to correct such amazing statements as (referring to the Catholic elementary school next door) “…smaller classes, a music program, etc.” Has J.W. got any clue as to how Catholic schools are funded or the realities under which they operate?!

    Catholic schools have ALWAYS had to “do more with less”, even in Hogtown. One example: only recently have Catholic school boards had access to their demographic share of commercial property taxes and educational levies.

    You let me know when you find a Catholic school with a full state of the art automotive shop or machine shop, or (most amazing to Catholic school students) a swimming pool.

    I will let others deal with most of the nonsense in Wong’s article, but let me just add something that always seems to be missing in such pieces:

    Where do critics of Catholic school funding think that all of that “taxpayer money” comes from? It doesn’t come from “Jewish, Muslim, Protestant, Buddhist, Baha’i, lapsed Catholic or garden-variety atheist” taxpayers who are somehow coerced into funding a system to which they do not belong. It comes from Catholic taxpayers!

    One-third of Ontario’s children are in Catholic schools. About one-third of Ontarians are Catholic. It doesn’t matter if you “don’t believe in the separate system”, any more than I don’t believe in teaching about condom use to pre-teens. It’s been here LONGER than the so-called ‘public system’, and it was Canada’s first education system for the public. No, not ALL of the public — but then again it is not paid for by ALL of the public.

    Besides being inaccurate in so many ways (NEWS FLASH! An ONTARIO referendum would NOT overrule CANADA’S constitution), it is also dishonest. “…At least it’s secular” is an indication of the underlying bias. Apparently Wong is not in favour of other religious groups getting a share of their own education tax money, but seems to just be against the idea of religion playing a part in education at all. It’s not ‘Catholics vs. other faiths’ in education, it’s just anti-faith.

    Here’s another fact that Jan Wong would never have shared with Ontario’s public: Ontario public schools are NOT supposed to be secular! The Education Act REQUIRES that ALL teachers in Ontario “inculcate by precept and example respect for religion and the principles of Judaeo-Christian morality and the highest regard for truth, justice, loyalty, love of country, humanity, benevolence, sobriety, industry, frugality, purity, temperance and all other virtues;” Ontario Education Act, “Duties of the Teacher”, Sect 264 1.(c).

    Wait until all of our “public” school parents begin to march into school board meetings to object to controversial curriculum content with THAT in their hands! Things could get very interesting in a hurry.

    Don’t hold your breath waiting for Premier McGuinty to tackle that one! He’s just another politician who happens to be Catholic (when he goes home from work, that is).

  • Chris

    Catholic schools are a successful part of publicly funded education in Ontario. Each student is funded equally (Grant for Student Need is about $11K per child), regardless of which of the four school board systems a child attends (Public, French Public, Catholic English, Catholic French). Catholic schools and school boards consistently meet or exceed provincial expectations in student achievement, program delivery, class size and character development. Catholic curriculum is purposely designed to produce graduates with good moral character who are responsible citizens, caring family members and collaborative contributors to the common good of Ontario’s society. These are values that Catholics celebrate and share with all Ontarians.

    To attack a minority group that has been a successful part of the Ontario history and culture is not a very open minded thing to do. Instead of focusing on tearing down Catholic schools in Ontario that have had 160 years of strong history, we should look at how we can make all schools stronger and turn out better students regardless of which system.

    The idea that the Amalgamation of boards would save us money is a fallacy. The Catholic system is not a duplicate of the public secular school system. At the heart of Catholic education is the person of Jesus and the good news of His gospel. We are a distinctly different faith-based system whose educational purpose is not only the transmission of knowledge but also the formation of the whole person, body, mind and spirit so that our graduates can contribute to the transformation of the world in the image of God. Catholic ratepayers represent approximately one-third of Ontario’s tax revenue base and fund Catholic schools through their property, income, sales and other taxes.

    A recent study by the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation concedes:
    “It does not seem feasible … that a simple amalgamation of the 777 current schools in Metro Toronto with close to 22,000 teachers, 25,000 support staff and countless thousands of board administrative personnel would in any way be financially feasible, accountable or … acceptable to the citizens of Toronto”.

    In short, the Catholic system is working for the benefit of all Ontarians and deserves to remain as an important part of the educational opportunity for the people of Ontario now and into the future.


  • Rick

    Thank you Jan, for this superb article. I think that anyone who isn’t completely and hopelessly brainwashed can see the obvious good sense in stopping religious discrimination while at the same time saving a billion+ dollars EVERY YEAR. This is a no brainer.

    “Steve”: The more you talk the stronger the case for ending publicly funded bigotry. So please do keep talking.

  • Paula Conning

    Great article, Jan. The comments reflect that many people highly value Catholic schools for a variety of reasons. They like choice. religion, history, values. None of them mention liking the fact that their board refuses enrolment to non-catholic elementary students and employment to non-Catholic staff. None of them mentions liking the fact that Catholicism is raised on a pedestal above all other ways of belief in Catholic schools. So it’s time to stop the divisiveness and work towards ensuring our communities offer schools that are free from all human rights discrimination and include values, ethics, education about ways of belief in our society, and equity of respect and acceptance for all. Yes our public system must always improve, but offering a privilege to the members of one religion has no place in Ontario in 2012. And our government has neglected their responsibility as the stewards of our tax dollars to assess the true cost of running the separate system so we have to depend in independent estimates. These tend to be in the $1.5 Billion annually range. I won’t hold my breath waiting for the premier who has driven us into a $15Billion annual deficit to do this basic accounting. He’d rather scapegoat the public sector.

  • Bryan

    Face the music folks. Public funding of sectarian schools is forbidden in most of the western world – even big Catholic ones. The US outlawed it from day 1. Ontario only has it because it was first pushed on un-Catholic Ontario by Catholic Quebec when it had the majority in Parliament before Confederation and then as a deal at Confederation to get Quebec to join with the unsympathetic un-Catholic provinces to its east. The UN condemns it but that doesn’t matter to those who think they deserve a special privilege.
    They don’t. Keep religion out of our schools.

  • Rick

    Keith says: “I’ll match up the Catholic School system against the public one ANY day. The faith infused education that Catholic students receive makes a huge different in their growth and development as society struggles with secular challenges.”

    I find it odd that you think “faith infused education” is what makes Catholic schools somehow better. If there’s any difference at all, it probably has more to do with the fact that somehow Catholic schools have been given the riht to dump any troublemakers into the public system. The public system, on the other hand, can reject NO ONE, ever.

    Do you think that this might have some effect on the tone of a school?

    But, Keith, you can go on believing that it’s all about magical Catholic doctrine.

  • Paul Coates

    It is shocking to read this. Although it is sorely misinformed which makes it shocking. Wong is simply providing a basis for another kind of dicrimination,and bigotry,namely anticatholicism.Perhaps “Cathliphobia” works just as well.If she examined the great good catholic systems and schools have provided our culture she might see things much more realistically. This she has not done. The doctors, lawyers, teachers, researchers and on and on. The values Catholic schools represent the values of millions of Canadians who genuinely appreciate and esteem Catholic education.They WANT their children in this environment and they PAY for it! Where is her diversity and pluralism? Not for Catholics! Catholic schools are highly successful publically funded places of intellectual and moral growth which meet and exceed provincial expectations. Catholic schools teach world religions and have done so for years and affirm the value of all people as made in the image of God. Human rights, personal dignity, care for the poor, religious freedom, moral truths,academic excellence,faith in dialogue with culture(not eliminated from culture) as realized and valued by the wisdom of our constitution are relalized by the presence of Catholic schools.Wong is trying to smear Catholic education. She seems to imply that sameness is equality. She needs to reboot her thinking. You do not advance diversity by eliminating it. Disagree yes with Catholicism yes. Agree to disagree for sure but eliminate, I think not. This diveristy does not make! Catholic schools are a sign of diversity and cultural exchange as well as a historical accomplishment of peaceful co-existence.

    In closing and on a practicle note the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation stated, “It does not seem feesible…that a simple amalgamation of the 777 current schools in Metro Toronto with close to 22,000 teachers, 25,000 support staff and countless thousands of board administrative personnel would in any way be financially feasible, accountable or…acceptable to the citizens fo Toronto”.

  • Nicole

    Each education system offers something unique to it’s families and students. Parents have the choice and choose what is best for their children. It’s interesting that many people who offering their opinion don’t even have a vested interest in the education system. You get to choose where your tax dollars go. Choosing the Catholic School system is a parent’s perogative.

  • Joe

    I find it sad that the same incorrect arguments against Catholic Education are rehashed over and over again. Obviously Toronto Life felt the need to get some reader interest and published this article in the hopes of raising their reader input. I won’t go into any of the obvious errors with funding that were mentioned above. I will comment however that many of our religious teachings and beliefs are now being incorporated into the secular world under different title and names. “Character Building” instead of moral teachings etc. The Catholic boards have been teaching this way for years and there is a reason many parents who are not Catholic choose to send their children there. When you teach students how to act properly and respect for your community, elders, even your self it makes a difference in the final product. A holistic view of teaching that encompasses the whole, including the soul. I will pray that in the future more responsible stories are put out in our media that actually research issues properly and aren’t simply insults meant to create controversy.

  • VS

    What an offensive piece. The values the author claims are not shared by one third of Ontario’s population who happliy fund our Catholic schools. What is really disturbing is the authors “news flash: a deal is not always a deal, and walls that men build can always be dismantled.”
    WOW. What then would the author say of the hard fought treaties signed by the First Nations peoples and our Government? Should we honour those? According to the author a deal is not always a deal. What about the deed to the authors house? Man made those property laws, man can undo them as well. If followed to thier logical ends the authors propositions are illogical and ridiculous. It’s a good thing that there is a Catholic tradition which embraces Faith and Reason to counter and rebuke these types of attacks.

  • James

    I have a friend who taught at both Catholic and public schools. When I see people writing that a Catholic school teaches Catholic values, all I can think of is the teacher talking about how many drugs were traded out of the back of the car in the parking lot at Catholic schools vs less at public. There were also many more high school pregnancies at the Catholic ones -perhaps excused as another immaculate conception…

  • W. R.

    Rick wrote above:

    “If there’s any difference at all, it probably has more to do with the fact that somehow Catholic schools have been given the riht to dump any troublemakers into the public system. The public system, on the other hand, can reject NO ONE, ever.

    Do you think that this might have some effect on the tone of a school?”

    I’ve been a teacher for over 21 years and I have never seen either system “dump any troublemakers” into the other system. I once saw a student transferred from one Catholic school to the next closest Catholic school to his home after he was involved in some really serious vandalism in his own school. Once, the Catholic school at which I was teaching received an extremely disruptive student from a public school but that was not a case of the public school dumping on us either. It was the parents’ decision. Almost always, students are transferred by their parents; not by school administrations.

  • Elsa

    Nicely stated Rick! As a public school teacher and non-Catholic I fully respect my colleagues in the Catholic system. We share a common desire to uphold the standards of the profession and o what is goid for kids. Our school system, whether Catholic or Public, French or English is something to be proud of. What makes us whole is the sum of all these parts. Losing any part will diminish the rest. Parents hsve rights and if they don’t like ehat they are told r what is done to them they can exercise those rights. No school can reject a student and if tht happens parents hould be contacting their MPP, the Ministry if Education, the Remiers office and whever else they deem appropriate to be their advocate. Schools are working harder thn ever to keep kids in schooll not toss them out.

  • Elsa

    Well said Rick!

  • Seamus

    Why give Jan Wong any attention at all? Stop responding to her articles. She is calculating, spiteful and will say anything as a means to an end. Just google her. Shis stirs it up and than bssks in the limelight. Hek out this liink to find out how she snags the unsuspecting and then pounces.

    The best thing we can do hs ignore her ignorance!

  • Tom

    We need to have a meaningful debate on this subject as I as a new immigrant in 2001 lived next to a Catholic school in oakville, Ontario. Requested to send my kids to the school and I was turned down rather rudely that as a non-Catholic, there is no way I can send my kids to the school. It was shocking as I didnt realise that Canada had institutionalized discriminatory educational practices based on religion- never mind that I am a Christian. I tried to convert but hit a brick wall when they said I wasnt suitable to become a Catholic…LOL ! wohhhh! The constitutional rights were always cited. The world has changed my friends, its out of date and if its in the constitution, then it must be changed to reflect the society today and multiculturalism. Outside of Canada, the country stands firm and promotes human rights. But inside the country, we are nurturing divisiveness based on religion. Allowing this practice is morally wrong and against all values that canada stands for. Tear it down.

  • Tom

    In case there is any misunderstanding of my comment above, I would like to clarify that its good to have Catholic or Public, French or English school system (which is Elisa’s point) but its important that students are allowed to join any of these systems regardless of their religious background.This barrier must be removed and only then funding will not be an issue.

  • Laura

    Why is it appalling that teachers in the Catholic system need to be practising Catholics involved in their parish? In order to teach the Catholic faith effectively to the younger generation, I would much rather a teacher who is strong in their own Catholic faith than a teacher who just wanted a job. If you have no interest in promoting what the Catholic church stands for then please get a job elsewhere. If our Catholic schools continue to be watered down by teachers who no longer live their faith, then I agree that it may be beneficial to go private.

  • . Duncan


    Just a note.
    You do not have to be Catholic to be in the school system.
    Also you do not have to be Catholic to work in the system.
    Myself as well as many others who work here are not.
    Maybe facts should be found out before writing such a comment.

  • OneSchoolSystem_dot_org


    Just a note regarding your *assertion* that you do not have to be Catholic to get into Catholic school.

    Baloney. Tell that to the thousands of non-Catholics who are told every year that their children are unwelcome at their local Catholic school on account of the “colour” of their faith. They probably just wanted to attend their closest school, or the newest school, or the school with the better facilities in some regard — but they couldn’t on account of the “n1gger” non-Catholic faith. They wanted in for the same reasons as Catholic parents in their neighbourhood — and most of the times it had little or nothing to do with religion. Non-Catholics are only welcome in declining enrolment areas where they need a few warm grant-generating bodies to boost the enrolment of a seriously under-enrolled school to a more cost effective level.

    And non-Catholic teachers are as rare as Sasquatches in Catholic schools. Any that are there are in temporary positions (ineligible for permanent) and thus ineligible for advancement or promotion.

    It is you, Duncan, who needs to get your fact straight. Reality is not whatever fairy tales you wish to believe.

  • Erik Weissengruber

    That should be “small” share.

  • Rick

    I’m getting the overwhelming impression that this comment section has been hijacked by a small number of strong supporters of the current discriminatory school funding policy.

    The sysadmin, I’m sure, would be able to verify this without much difficulty.

    In any case, I’ll take a minute to respond to only the most egregious of the errors (lies?) that are rampant here:

    1. Catholic schools are 100% publicly funded. Ask your MPP.

    2. Catholic schools can, and routinely do, turn away non-Catholics. But they don’t turn away their dollars.

    3. Public schools bear the burden of new immigrants wildly disproportionately, and that includes many problem children, and very many “English As a Second Language” students. It takes some digging — and even most reporters are too lazy to do it — but whenever a Catholic Board/School boasts a higher EQAO score, no mention is made of the fact that the public system has so many ESL students.

    4. Connected to #3: Anyone familiar with the school systems knows that it’s next to impossible to expel a bad apple from a public school. Yet its very, very easy for a Catholic school to dump its undesirables into the public system. I’d like to know why this is. It’s clear that this fact can go a long way in explaining whatever differences in tone might arise, though Catholic system propagandists will insist it’s all about the superior moral teaching of their Church. (If they were even half right, then why dump their bad apples? Why not keep them and just give them a higher dose of religion to reform them? Why cast them out into the “godless, secular school system”? How utterly un-Christian!)

    I’ll leave it there.

    Jan Wong: Thank you for this article! You’ve now joined the few of us who are willing and able to say what needs to be said, even if it means having bigots call us bigots.

  • Rick

    Paul Coates wrote:
    “Wong is simply providing a basis for another kind of dicrimination,and bigotry,namely anticatholicism.”

    What an absolutely demented thing to say.

    I’m old enough to remember a time when the privileged whites of South Africa complained that those who fought Apartheid didn’t really care about equality, they just hated white people(!)

    Mr. Coates, if denying public funding to Catholic schools counts as “bigotry” in your books (I can’t type this without laughing), then you must also believe that Ontario is frightfully antisemitic because we don’t publicly fund Jewish schools.

    Do you believe this? Sincerely?

    Or maybe you are just trying to silence those of us who genuinely care about fairness by calling us “bigots”?

    As you may or may not be aware, history shows that whenever the government elevates one religion above all others, it’s a bad thing.

    It’s time to amend the Constitution. It’s time Ontario had its Section 93B.

  • Meh

    All these commenters keep talking about “values” infused into the student. I went to a Toronto Catholic high school in the 90s and the number of teen pregnancies, violent assaults, and illegal drug incidents was shocking in the years I attended. That argument just doesn’t fly. Values come from proper parenting not from brainwashing religions.

  • Leonard Baak
  • Adrienne

    Ms Wong states in her article, from what I understand her issue is the amount of monies flowing to the Catholic Schools in Ontario. In her own article, and I quote “About 660,000 Ontario students—one third of all students attending taxpayer-funded schools—are in the Catholic system.” In her own words she states the obvious. In my opinion, that alone states the obvious. Also, she goes on to point out that $7 billion dollars is lost to the public system, but, should these children be all placed under one Board would the costs not still remain the same. I as a parent, I enjoyed the small classroom size and found that as a teacher this becomes a better learning environment and less children tend to “slip through the cracks” in this situation. Just a small note, I worked for the public board prior to moving over to the Catholic Board and was forced to change my property taxes to support the public board because I was employed with them, this should be my decision and no one else’s, simply because I am employed somewhere I should not have to change my beliefs to become employed. Also, during my interview with my Catholic School, I was never asked if I was Roman Catholic, although I am, and they never advised me that I needed proof of which board I support. I have subsequently changed my support back to the Catholic Board since leaving my last employment. Although I am Catholic I do not push my view on others and I have no problems with a public system to accommodate other religious or non-religious groups and I feel we deserve the same courtesy.

  • wilf garrah

    When my Father lost his wife, my Mother at the age of 27, left behind were 4 children, daughter 6 months old, myself 2 years old a brother 3 and a brother 5. The Famiy were raised together by practicing our Faith. Life went on for us accompanied by my Dad’s Grandsparents. When I was a little older I asked my Dad what was going through his mind when he lost his wife and was left with 4 children. His response was very profound. My wife left me with 4 special angels and it was my responsible to be bring them and be responsible Children with multi values but Faith being at the top of the list. My Father said that times were tough, however, but he was surrounded by support of the Catholic School System, Church and the Catholic Faith always being their for him life had to go on. My Dad was always faithful as we children were as well to the Catholic Faith. My Dad found time to serve for many years as a trustee and Chairperson of the Catholic School Board in our small Townhship. I remember going through the Catholic School system that guided my sister and brothers and I every step of the way. In the early 1900′s my Grandparents donated land to build a Catholic School as they saw the value of Home, School and Church surviving as Family unit in supporting one another through difficult times. I have been a Catholic School trustee for 27 years as I wanted to be involved like my Dad and Grandparents of ensuring Catholic Education remains strong in Ontario and continues with success in every way.Our own 3 Children were very successful graduates of the Catholic School System. Let’s not waste our time of trying to dismantle a Catholic School System that has had a long history of being successful.

  • W. R.

    Tom, I’m not calling you a liar but I’m trying to picture your situation and wondering about your choice of words. The Catholic Church really, really likes to get new members so I’m wondering if you were actually told that you were not “suitable to become a Catholic”. Was it more that you just were not really into all the Catholic teachings, and actually excluding yourself? I think that, sometimes, there’s a lifestyle or marital relationship situation that some would-be new Catholics don’t feel ready to change even though it is inconsitent with Catholic teaching so they are told that they are not ready to join yet. Unless you’re really into the teachings, you’re likely to regret joining.

    There’s obviously some confusion about whether or not Catholic schools “turn away” non-Catholic students, parents and/or job-seekers but that doesn’t necessarily mean that people are intentionally lying here. The fact is that there are different rules for elementary and secondary and that school boards have somewhat different policies from each other. Durham Catholic requires that children being enrolled its elementary schools have proof that they have been baptized in one of the several rites of the Catholic Church OR that ONE (or both) of the parents present proof of having been baptized in one of the rites of the Catholic Church themselves. So, I have taught kids that were not baptized Catholics, including kids that were being raised as Protestants, Eastern Orthodox Christians, Muslims, in Rabbinical Judaism, Messianic Judaism or without much active religiosity because one of the parents had been baptized decades earlier in a Catholic rite. I am happy that non-Catholic parents choose to agree with their Catholic spouses to enroll their kids in our system and that non-Catholic parents convince their lapsed-Catholic spouses to take advantage of the opportunity to put their kids in our system.

    Here’s something that has to be brought up about the perceived exclusivity of Catholic schools in Ontario — it was originally imposed from outside. All over the World religious schools have a long history and secular education is relatively new. All over the World, the Catholic Church is eager to get new members and getting the chance to educate non-Catholics is something that the Church has eagerly sought — hence the brainwashing accusation, right? That’s how formal schooling as we know it now started in Canada. Catholic missionaries came to a land where, of course, all the Aboriginal societies educated their children (religiously and otherwise) but where there were no schools as we would think of them. The missionaries started schools, and parents voluntarily put their kids into those Catholic schools. A while after the British takeover, the Catholic Church was no longer the only game in town when it came to formal schooling. For years, there were struggles between efforts to replace Catholicism with Anglicanism on the one hand and Catholic efforts not to be replaced or assimilate on the other. Also, non-Anglican Protestants did not want to be disregarded. Gradually, in Upper Canada (Ontario), the idea of Anglican-only gave way to tolerance of Catholicism and Catholic schools and a multi-denominational Protestant default mode. “Public” schools were assumed to be Anglican/Protestant schools and got much better funding even after Premier Bill Davis had brought in so-called “full-funding” for Catholic schools. It isn’t because Catholics don’t like to get non-Catholics into Catholic schools that there are restrictions. The exclusivity of Catholic education started because letting it survive was seen as a concession in a Protestant province. Protestants did not want Catholicism to spread. Even today, if you don’t make a point of declaring yourself in writing to be a Catholic school supporter, you are automatically assumed to be a supporter of the recently-secularized, until-recently-Protestant system.

    Today, with so much Provincial involvement in the internal affairs of schools and school boards, Catholics and some others who share important values with Catholics worry that the system will be watered down to non-religiosity as has happened to Protestantism in the Public schools. Therefore the exclusivity has, ironically, received support from within.

    Even back in the ’80s when I was a Catholic high school student, I sometimes said that one of my best Catholic teachers was a Hindu. My biology teacher was not a convert but he was the head of the science department and he was awesome. When he taught us biology, he made bio-ethics go hand-in-hand with the current scientific beliefs. When he got us thinking about genetics, he got us thinking about the sin of racism and helped us write letters asking for the liberation of Nelson Mandela. We were taught to take the technical knowledge and combine it with the Jewish teaching, that all human beings of both sexes are made in the likeness and image of God, to come up with sound, strong anti-racist education and action. That’s just one example of what made my eduction special and how it did not have the degree of exlusivity that some have described above.

  • deh3

    The English Catholic schools receive greater funding per pupil due to possessing smaller economies of scale. Based on my knowledge, only Catholics who state which school board to direct their taxes toward are officially registered as supporting the Catholic school board, and has no effect on the funding formula.

  • deh3

    Private Catholic schools are partly funded by the public through exemption of corporate income and property taxes. Otherwise, I agree.

  • deh3

    Some people consider religion to be offensive.

  • deh3

    Based on my understanding, the registration of which school board one supports is recorded only if one is Catholic, and this does not have an effect on the funding formula.

  • deh3

    Based on my understanding, parents send their offspring to public Catholic schools more due to convenience or perception of quality than the religious aspect.

  • deh3

    Most jurisdictions continue to subsidize religious schools through exemption or corporate income and property taxes.

  • deh3

    “Success” is in the eye of the beholder. The English Catholic schools are funded more per pupil than the English secular schools, partly due to smaller economies of scale. The outcome of standardized testing is more correlated with economic status and capacity to discriminate in hiring and expulsions than religious affiliation. Merging is different from amalgamation. Mike Harris amalgamated municipalities and school boards, not merging.

  • deh3

    The amenities available at English secular schools is more associated with economies of scale than with preferential treatment by the province. The existing laws conflict with other laws. It is impossible for the curriculum not to be controversial to someone.

  • deh3

    Toronto is a net contributor to provincial and federal coffers due to be continually underrepresented in their respective legislatures.

  • deh3

    There would be a slight decrease in enrolment in public schools due to shift in enrolment in private religious schools in the event of abolishing the public denominational schools. Based on my understanding, parents send their offspring to public Catholic schools more due to convenience or perception of quality than with the religious aspect.

  • deh3

    There is a difference between merging and amalgamation. Mike Harris amalgamated the school boards and municipalities as a cost-saving measure, which is a more complex process than merging.

  • deh3

    The question of which school board one supports has no effect on the funding formula. The public funding of Catholic schools conflicts with other sections of the constitution, such as section 15.

  • deh3

    It will be several generations before the province stops funding private Catholic schools through exemption of corporate income and property taxes.

  • deh3

    Some people consider religion to be prejudice, prosecutorial and offensive.

  • deh3

    The question of which school board one supports has no effect on the funding formula.

  • deh3

    The English Catholic schools are funded more per pupil than the secular counterpart, partly due to smaller economies of scale.

  • deh3

    Some people consider religion to be hateful.

  • deh3

    The outcome of standardized testing is more correlated with economic status and capacity to discriminate in hiring and expulsions than with religious affiliation. Parents have the choice to move to a different school catchment area, opposite language public school, home school or private school.

  • deh3

    I assume there would be a slight increase in enrolment in private religious schools in the event that public denominational schools were to be abolished. There is a difference between amalgamation and merging.

  • deh3

    And, based on my understanding, parents send their offspring more due to convenience and perception of quality than religious affiliation.

  • deh3

    The use of a sample size of one is not conclusive evidence of funding. Based on my research, the English Catholic schools receive more funding per pupil than the secular counterparts, partly due to smaller economies of scale.

  • Fernando Fidalgo

    Catholic school system has to be gone, just like all religions will in time. We need to focus on creating ONE very good school system so that our children and future generations can learn and work together instead of dividing us based on a 2000 year old book written by men that thought the earth was flat.

  • Franklle

    Haha I only found this article because I remember Jan Wong’s infamous column following the Dawson College shooting in Montreal. I wanted to say that, despite all the things you guys may dislike about Quebec, we did one thing right : we completely separated the Church from the State. The concept of confessional school is one that fills me discomfort and… fear (call me xenophobic I dont care). To me there can be only 2 types of schools : public schools and private schools. There should be no such thing as a public catholic school.