A public school divisionin Winkler, Man., will have to review its mission statement, followinga requestfrom the Manitoba Human Rights Commissionto changeits Christian-themed declaration.
TheGarden Valley SchoolDivision's mission statement says schools operate "in partnership with the home, church and community" based on Christian principles, among other things.
In its letter ofMay 31, the commission said it was concerned with the division's statement of partnership with the church and its reference to education based on Christian principles.
"There are many good things in that mission statement, but we were concerned about the specific reference to the church," said Janet Baldwin, chair of the Manitoba Human Rights Commission.
Baldwin said Wednesdaythe commission waslooking into the mission statements of all Manitoba school divisionsafterit received complaints, and noticedGarden Valley was the only Manitoba school division to specifically name the church and Christianity in its mission statement.
"It's not so much a question of overt discrimination; I mean, we have no evidence at all of that kind," Baldwin said.
"It's a question of the general atmosphere, and that the general atmosphere would be welcoming and comfortable for anybody of any religion, and including people of no religion, atheists, agnostics and so on."
The city of Winkler,130 kilometres south of Winnipeg, has a predominantly Mennonite population. Winkler has grown in recent years due to German and Mexican Mennonite immigration.
Superintendent Dom Wilkins said Wednesday that the commission's concerns centre on religious discrimination.
"They basically said that the Human Rights Code prohibits discrimination in the provision of services, including education, on the basis of religion or creed," he said.
However, Wilkins said he doesn't think there's a problem, since religious exercises are done outside regular hours of instruction.
"We don't have any religious instruction in our schools, either before or after school hours," he said.
"We do have religious exercises at the request of parents, outside of the instruction of the day. They would take the form of three- to five-minute devotionals which would probably be a Bible reading and the Lord's Prayer."
Wilkins added no one has ever complained to the division about its mission statement.
Still, Wilkins said the division reviews its mission and belief statements after every school board election, and will do so followingits next board election in October. He said the commission's concerns will be considered in their discussions then.
The division has about 3,000 students in 10 schools.