Stop funding faith-based schools: Civil Liberties Association

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association says John Tory's plan to fund faith-based schools is wrong and will eventually put the public school system at risk.

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association is calling on the Ontario government to stop funding Catholic schools, joining the debate over faith-based schools that has resurfaced during the provincial election campaign.

Progressive Conservative Leader John Tory has caused a stir with his proposal to extend funding to all faith-based schools that meet curriculum criteria. Currently, the province fully funds Catholic schools and gives no money to the others.

Alan Borovoy, lead counsel for the CCLA, said Tory's proposal takes the province in the wrong direction.

"What we are trying to do is alert, raise public consciousness, to this unfairness and argue that the other side of it, not that the other schools should get more funding but that Catholic schools should not be getting the funding they are. In other words, the road to equality is to have one public school system."

Liberal Leader Dalton McGuinty has admitted he has struggled with the issue but said he can't support Tory's plan to fund faith-based education because of the damage it would do to public schools. He said Tory hasn't figured out how to train the teachers, build the schools or decide which religions would get the funding.

"If you are going to lob this grenade, you better have worked this out in minute detail," said McGuinty earlier in the campaign for the Oct. 10 election. "And I haven't seen any evidence of that whatsoever."

But Tory hasn't backed away from the idea.

"It may not be universally popular but I tell you I believe in my heart it is the right thing to do for the province of Ontario and a stronger public education system," he said in Oakville earlier this month.

Borovoy, speaking on CBC's Metro Morning, said the idea of funding all religious schools is wrong.

"As long as the Catholic schools are getting this funding … other religious groups are going to ask for the same treatment. And if you give it to all of them, as some have proposed, you're running a terrific risk of in time losing the public school system as we now know it."