Many parents don’t even know these changes are being made, while others are wondering how they can defend their values and parental rights.
People of faith deserve the same respect and consideration for their worldview. When it comes to the education of their children, laws are in place to protect their parental rights. What’s happening is that parental rights are quietly being overrun in practice because many parents are not aware of their rights and therefore aren’t defending them.
Here’s what you have been granted as a parent when it comes to the education of your child.
Article 26 (3) of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights states very clearly that “Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children.” 22
The Canadian Constitution states that
Everyone has the following fundamental freedoms:
(a) freedom of conscience and religion
(b) freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other means of communication
(c) freedom of peaceful assembly; and
(d) freedom of association23
Even the new curriculum says that “parents are the primary educators of their children with respect to learning about values, appropriate behaviour, and ethnocultural, spiritual, and personal beliefs and traditions…”24
So, you can see there are protections for faith values and parental rights. But how are they put into practice in our schools?
Accommodating for religious beliefs
The Ministry of Education has provided the school boards with Religious Accommodation Guidelines to support religious beliefs. Below is an excerpt from the guidelines:
“The Board will take all reasonable steps to provide accommodation to individual members of a religious group to facilitate their religious beliefs and practices. All accommodation requests will be taken seriously. No person will be penalized for making an accommodation request.
The Board will base its decision to accommodate by applying the Human Rights Code’s criteria of ‘undue hardship’ with the Board’s ability to fulfill its duties under Board policies and the Education Act.
When concerns related to beliefs and practices arise in schools, collaboration among school, student, family, and religious community is needed in order to develop appropriate accommodation. It is the role of the Board and its staff to ensure equity and respect for the diverse religious beliefs and practices of students and their families and other staff in the school system.
AREAS OF ACCOMMODATION
For many students and staff of the Board, there are a number of areas where the practice of their religion will result in a request for accommodation on the part of the school and/or the Board. These areas include, but are not limited to the following:
- School opening and closing exercises;
- Leave of Absence for Religious Holy Days;
- Dietary requirements;
- Religious dress;
- Modesty requirements in physical education; and
- Participation in daily activities and curriculum [emphasis added]”25
22 United Nations, General Assembly. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights. (December 10, 1948), available from http://www.un.org/en/documents/udhr/index.shtml#a26
23 Canada. The Constitution Act. (1982), available from http://laws-lois.justice.gc.ca/eng/Const/page-15.html#h-40
24 Ontario, The Ontario Curriculum Grade 1-8, p. 10.
25 Ontario Education Services Corporation. Religious Accomodation Guideline – English Public Appendix B. Accessed December 27, 2014. Available from http://www.oesc-cseo.org/English/EquityInclusivity.html