UN says funding of Catholic schools discriminatory

The United Nations human rights committee says Ontario's policy of fully funding Roman Catholic schools, while denying full funding to other religious schools, is discriminatory.

In moving to comply with the ruling Ontario could do one of two things; extend funding to other religious schools, or end funding to Roman Catholic schools.

Anne Bayefsky of the Osgoode Hall law department brought the case before the UN. On Friday, in Toronto, she said the ruling means "Ontario's policy of refusing to fund anything but Roman Catholic schools is discrimination."

Bayefsky argued the case on behalf of Arieh Waldman, who challenged the legality of the current school system. Waldman, from Toronto, spent $95,000 educating his son at Jewish schools.

The decision is likely to bring extra pressure on the Tory government to fund other private religious schools.

The UN ruling gives Canada 90 days to respond on behalf of the province. The committee expects to hear what steps will be taken to end the discrimination.

Ontario is not compelled to change its policy to comply with the UN ruling. However, Bayefsky says Canada has always taken a leadership role in complying with international law, and this should be no exception.

Bayefsky says Ontario should not move to end funding of Catholic schools, rather it should take steps to provide funding for other religious schools.

However the provincial minister of education says she's not going to obey the United Nations decision.

Janet Ecker says the government will continue to uphold its constitutional obligations and fully fund public and separate schools.

She says she's committed to providing an excellent public education system, that is open to all students regardless of their religious or cultural backgrounds.