Ontario children win recognition of right to opt-out of religious courses and programs in publicly funded Catholic high schools.
April 7, 2014
For immediate release.
(Ottawa, Ontario) - The directors of OneSchoolSystem.org were pleased to learn this weekend that the Ontario Superior Court of Justice has recognized the right of Ontario parents to procure an exemption for their children from religious courses and programs in Ontario's publicly funded Catholic high schools. Section 42 (11)-(13) of the Education Act has long provided parents with a right to apply for and receive an exemption from religious courses and programs for their children in Ontario's publicly funded Catholic high schools, but that right has almost never been respected by the school boards involved.
Brampton father Oliver Erazo bravely fought the intransigence of his local Catholic school board for two years to win recognition of his right to a full exemption from religious courses and programs for his children.
"Ontario families bear a heavy cross so that Catholic Ontarians can have a segregated, sectarian school system at public expense", said OneSchoolsystem.org president Leonard Baak. "Hundreds of thousands of children are consigned to long commutes past their nearest publicly funded school each day to attend another one farther away. Many of these children are also denied the opportunity to attend a school in their own communities", said Baak, "and the entire system is impoverished by the costly and unnecessary overlap and duplication."
"Today, these burdens are a little lighter for families -- Catholic or not -- preferring a non-sectarian school environment for their children", said Baak. "Parents of grade 9-12 students living in a community where the nearest school, the least crowded school, or the best school is Catholic can now chose that school without fear that their children will be forced to take sectarian courses and programs of little interest to them or with which they may disagree."
The decision in the Erazo v. Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board case does nothing, however, to change the situation of parents with grade JK-8 children. Catholic elementary schools still have an absolute right to reject non-Catholic children based on faith and exercise this right in most cases. Children admitted to these schools must still comply with the sectarian elements of their courses and programs. “Open access” legislation pertaining to Catholic high schools only applies beginning in grade 9.
Parents wishing to obtain further information about exemptions from religious courses and programs in Ontario's publicly funded Catholic high schools should visit myexemption.com, a web site dedicated to providing such information and assisting parents in obtaining these exemptions.
Leonard Baak, president, OneSchoolSystem.org
Education Act R.S.O. 1991, Chapter E.2 Section 42 (11) and (13)
Erazo v. Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board, 2014 ONSC 2072, Court File No.: 13-44-00, 2014-04-04