The fallout from the recent controversy over the creation of gay-straight alliance clubs (GSAs) in Ontario’s publicly funded Catholic school system should give pause to those seeking funding – in the name of fairness – for their own faith-based schools.
It should, but it probably won’t.
The so-called anti-bullying bill, which seeks to end bullying in publicly funded schools, passed in the legislature earlier this week. Catholic leaders – including the Archbishop of Toronto, Cardinal Thomas Collins – had opposed it because it allows students to set up GSAs in schools and requires the schools to permit them, and for them to be named as such if students prefer it.
The whole idea was to provide safe spaces for gay students in schools, in order to prevent bullying and the kind of high-profile suicides that prompted the legislation in the first place. But Catholic leaders said the move amounted to an attack on freedom of religion.
The Liberal government denied Tory opposition charges that it has been using the issue of GSAs to try to open a debate about the $7 billion in annual public funding for Ontario’s Catholic schools.
The claim seems to be borne out by the fact the recent Drummond Report –which went over government operations in minute detail with an eye to finding as many budgetary savings as possible – passed over some rather low-hanging fruit in the form of Catholic schools and their parallel public educational bureaucracy. Some estimates put the annual savings from folding the Catholic system into the public one at a whopping $1 billion annually.
But regardless of whether or not the government intended to pick a fight over Catholic school funding, the war may already have begun: a new poll taken June 4 found that 48 per cent of Ontarians oppose Catholic school funding, while 43 per cent favour it (eight per cent were unsure). Continue reading