Peel - At a press conference held recently in Toronto, Ontario Conservative leader Mr. John Tory said he supports the public and Catholic school systems but believes in the interest of fairness that other faiths should have an opportunity to receive public funding.
"Ontario is the only Western democracy that fully funds faith-based schools of one religion to the total exclusion of all other religions," said Kanayalal Raina of the Canada Hindu Heritage Centre.
Ontario Conservative leader Mr. John Tory said he supports the public and Catholic school systems but believes in the interest of fairness that other faiths should have an opportunity to receive public funding if they agree to follow the provincial curriculum, use accredited teachers and participate in standardized student testing.
Ontario currently provides full funding for 93 percent of its faith-based schools, but this funding goes exclusively to Catholic schools. The other seven percent, the faith-based schools of non-Catholic religious minorities, receive no funding. There are some 53,000 students attending religious schools outside the public system and they deserve the same support as children who currently attend Catholic schools. Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba and Quebec all provide some public funding for independent schools that meet provincial standards, so extended funding would just bring Ontario in line with this system.
The Multi-Faith Coalition for Equal Funding of Faith-Based Schools consists of representation from Armenian Orthodox Schools, Coptic Orthodox Schools, Evangelical Christian Schools, Greek Orthodox Day Schools, Hindu School, Islamic Schools, Sikh (Khalsa) Schools, Jewish Day Schools, Seventh Day Adventist Schools, and Mennonite Schools who are currently victims of religious discrimination in the funding of education in Ontario. Our mandate is to publicize this issue to Ontarians and our goal is to obtain government funding for our schools.
The following representative's attended the press conference conveyed by John Tory on 23rd July 2007 at Queen's Park Toronto:
1. Kanayalal Raina, Canada Hindu Heritage Centre
2. Jim Agban, Philopateer Christian College (Coptic Orthodox)
3. Anna Saradidis, Metamorphosis Greek School
4. Ripsodhak Singh Grewal, Khalsa (Sikh) Community School
5. Mustafa Rawji, Islamic Society of North America and As-Sadiq School
All the religious groups present at the press conference said that they are discriminated against under the current system and deserve a share of public funding. While the prospect of a commission to examine the issue was welcomed by all religious groups, it was shot down by Education Minister Kathleen Wynne and public school advocates who say extending public funding will take away precious dollars from the current system and encourage segregation.
It's time Ontario figured out how to expand public funding to religious schools that hire accredited teachers and teach the provincial curriculum Conservative Leader John Tory said as he vowed to appoint former premier Bill Davis to examine the issue if the party is elected in October. Extending public funding to Islamic, Hindu, Jewish and Christian schools would bring Ontario more in line with other provinces and cost an extra $400 million each year if all the schools agree to teach the curriculum, participate in standardized testing and hire accredited teachers, Tory said. Extending public funding to Islamic, Hindu, Jewish and Christian schools would bring Ontario more in line with other provinces and cost an extra $400 million each year if all the schools agree to teach the curriculum, participate in standardized testing and hire accredited teachers.
A John Tory government would appoint a commission led by former premier Bill Davis to determine how to integrate religious schools into Ontario's public education system. Tory said that extending full funding to faith-based schools could eventually cost about $400 million a year if there is full take up by the 53,000 kids currently attending over 100 private religious schools.
"We welcome the discussion on this issue," Kanayalal Raina of the Canada Hindu Heritage Centre said. "It certainly would support our cause and Hindu community supports strengthening the public system by bringing faith-based education within that system and be part of the Ontario curriculum which will ensure that the Ontario government will continue to monitor and control what is being taught in the name of religion and prevent abuse of this privilege by any multi-faith schools. Public funding is badly needed by Hindu schools as well, which have thousand of students wanting to join our schools but many families who want to send their children to our schools can't afford the $4,000 to 5,000 per-child cost and in absence of these funds we can not afford to expand, Kanayalal Raina, said at Tory's news conference. He asked why we are denied such funds when thousand of students who have graduated from faith based schools, are a part of the society and are fully integrated in the main stream. Is there anything legally preventing the Govt to extend this facility to other faith based schools, where over 53,000 students are enrolled for studies as per Canadian curriculum.
Gila Martow, a Toronto parent with Parents for Equality in Education Funding, said she went to a Jewish school and she dares "anyone to say I'm not integrated." Still, the optometrist said she looks at her Catholic counterparts with envy. "Their children can go to a faith-based school that's part of the public school system and my kids are denied entry into the public school system if they want to study within their faith," she said. "They shouldn't have to choose one or the other. We should all be included in the public school system."
Mustafa Rawji, with the Islamic Society of North America, said many parents are having trouble making ends meet because of the cost of sending their children to religious schools. Those parents are taxpayers who support the public system and deserve to reap the benefits of it, he said.
"We want to be included in that system," Rawji said
Ontario Conservative leader Mr. John Tory, seen here in Toronto on 23rd July 2007 with Mr. Kanayalal Raina, representative from the Hindu community at the press conference.
Article and photo submitted by:
Canada Hindu Heritage Centre