LETTER: Government’s ties with religion must end

Canada is a great country being forced to re-evaluate its basic identity as a nation… and it isn’t easy.

It is important for us, as Canadians, to establish a clear and honest way forward from the horrors of the residential school deaths of aboriginal children. Anything less than our best just isn’t good enough. How can an ordinary person influence a historical situation created in our name by government and church? Here is my proposal to make a difference… The relationship between government and religion is at the crux of this problem – and it is high time this relationship be broken permanently! It is an old relationship dating back before the British North America Act, but the passing of that Act in 1867 solidified the Church/State relationship that is still causing problems 154 years later.

The BNA Act was implemented solely to tie Canada as a colony to Great Britain with the goal of keeping peace with the French (which meant accepting the Catholic Church), and finding a way “to deal” with the aboriginal people. It was not a well thought out document, but it had great influence on the development of Canada… and it had dire consequences for First Nations people.

Today, as we re-evaluate the past, it is time for us to break those old chains that State and Church created to control us. Now is the time for the Province of Ontario to cease public funding for all religious based schools; for our Federal Government to do away with the British North America Act; and for both governments to throw full support behind a public provincially led school system.

As a taxpayer, I question the practice of funding a school system based on religion. About 10 per cent of the student population in the Ontario separate system are non-Catholic and the Catholic school system receives additional funding for accepting them – but they can never be employed by them! I also question why my taxes are directed towards a religious school system whose church has an ongoing history of child abuse and its cover up. I do not want to see my taxes used to support a school system whose church allows this kind of inhumanity to exist and who protects those responsible.

The recent news of 215 children found in unmarked graves at a residential school site in Kamloops, and another 751 unmarked graves found in Saskatchewan is only the tip of the iceberg. By the time the investigation is finished, I have no doubt that the number will be in the thousands. Children dying and laid in unmarked graves while in the care of our government and the Church must be addressed and properly dealt with – the tie between State and Church needs to be broken now! Only 3 provinces (Ontario, Saskatchewan and Alberta) and the territories still use tax dollars to fund the Catholic system. In 1997, both Quebec and Newfoundland stopped funding religious based schools and now fund only the public system. If we want to make a real difference and to build a better future for Canadians, now is the time to end all religious based funding of our schools.

Within the next year, there will be elections at both federal and provincial levels – now is the time to make defunding all religious schools a priority and to enshrine support for the public system across Canada.Aside from being the right thing to do, articles I have read indicate it would save Ontario taxpayers almost $2 billion a year.

A system that serves all children regardless of race, colour, sexual orientation or religion is what Canada needs now. It is time for our governments to show leadership and to place the needs of all children first.

Dennis Fox