One Public Education Now (OPEN) needs your help to stop public funding of Catholic school boards — a violation of human rights. Please spread the word! Canada has three provinces which continue to fund Catholic school boards: Ontario, Saskatchewan, and Alberta. This dual system is more expensive to operate and overtly discriminates against non-Catholics.
This is not a new issue. Renton Patterson has dedicated 37 years to fighting this injustice, ever since this terrible decision by Ontario. Yet, as Renton has discovered, and as has been confirmed by countless other warriors for public education, traditional tactics for change have consistently failed. That is why OPEN, which includes Patterson’s group, Civil Rights in Public Education (CRIPE), as well as supporters such as Richard Thain — who protested the funding of Catholic education eight years ago at the opening of the Museum of Human Rights — along with many others, are taking on the Ontario government to fight this human rights violation.
In all three provinces, years of letter writing campaigns, petitions, media releases, and protests have fallen on deaf ears. Supporters of a single, secular two-language public education system in Ontario also claim that there is no political party willing to tackle this issue. Consequently, “taking your vote elsewhere” is impossible since there is no viable option.
OPEN aims to change all this, with what they see as the only alternative: a lawsuit against the Province of Ontario, alleging that the public funding of Catholic school boards violates s.15(1) of the Charter of Rights, the human rights of Ontario residents, a position that is supported by the United Nations.
OPEN has two plaintiffs in this court challenge.
- A teacher who could not get a permanent job for nine years because one-third of publicly supported teaching jobs are at Catholic schools, where teaching jobs are either offered only to Catholic applicants or where Catholic applicants are strongly preferred.
- A parent who wanted his children to receive a public education in French. Because the closest French school was Catholic, he was required send his children significantly further to school each day.
To date, OPEN has raised more than $100,000 to fight this injustice. But they need more to get the job done. They have hired lawyers, found an expert witness, filed an Application Record (3,000 pages and four affidavits), and served the Ontario government.
None of this has been easy. Lawyers are prevented from working for both sides in a court case, even if they are not involved in this particular issue. Many Catholic school boards hire lawyers for a variety of purposes; consequently, several of Ontario’s litigation firms are unable to work for OPEN. Other lawyers have been very honest with a less legally compelling, but understandable financial concern that they would risk losing the business of prominent Catholics should they become aware of the firm’s involvement in this suit. Yet OPEN has persevered and obtained excellent legal counsel.
There are several hurdles to overcome before the case reaches the courts. Recently, the government filed a motion to strike, arguing that it was “plain and obvious” that OPEN could not win this case. However, the judge disagreed and set a tentative motion-to-strike date of November 15, but also scheduled a case conference on June 16, where the government will have to prove to the judge that its motion to strike is not a waste of resources. We will report back to you on the outcome of this case conference.
Longtime CFIC supporter Richard Thain hopes that this tribute to Patterson will be more than a symbolic one. He hopes that it will be the beginning of a flood of tributes to a man who has given selflessly to a cause he believes in. While many of us cannot give the time, commitment, and effort that Renton has, most of us can contribute a few dollars to ensure that this case reaches a successful conclusion. We can be public education warriors in our own way.
Above the $100,000 that has already been raised, Thain has offered a major donation. However, the majority of funds have been raised by people who have given what they can. “When people hear about us, they want to contribute and help. Every $20 helps.” This is your opportunity to be a part of the fight against discriminatory and expensive public funding of Catholic schools. It is not just Ontario who is watching. Public funding proponents from across the country have joined in. They see this case as an opportunity for change in their province.
Quebec and Newfoundland have passed legislation to stop funding Catholic schools. If you would like to be a part of rolling out this change to the three provinces that need it, please consider making a tribute gift in Renton’s name to OPEN. Contributions can be made through PayPal at the OPEN website or by Interac (e-transfer). Let’s stop accepting the status quo, writing letters, and speaking into deaf ears. It’s time for a change. Help us make this happen. Let’s make Renton’s lifelong pursuit a reality, as tributes to Renton Patterson could bring his life’s work to fruition.
The Tribute to Renton Patterson:
Richard Thain, who himself has been a tireless advocate for a single public education system, has been a long-time admirer of the commitment and work of Renton Patterson for this cause. Earlier this year, he donated funds in Renton’s name to dedicate a bench on the grounds of the Ontario Institute of Studies in Education at the University of Toronto.
Leslie Rosenblood, CFIC Secular Chair, and strong supporter of a single public education system, enjoys a rest on Renton’s bench. Rosenblood has provided advocacy and financial support for the OPEN campaign.
Tributes to Renton Patterson could bring his life’s work to fruition.