The release last month of the Ontario government’s revised physical education and health curriculum is an opportunity for Catholic schools to again demonstrate an approach that is both distinctive from but supportive of secular goals.  

Published in Guest Columns

TORONTO - Despite an overwhelmingly negative response from members of the public, physicians and organizations during a three-month online consultation, the Ontario College of Physicians and Surgeons voted 21-3 to force doctors to refer for abortions, contraception and other legal treatments or procedures even if they have moral or religious objections.

Published in Canada

OTTAWA - Ontario Catholic authorities believe Catholic teaching is protected in the province’s new sex education curriculum, though pro-family groups don’t share in that optimism.

Published in Education

A Catholic school in southwestern Ontario is hoping to foster a culture of fitness within its community with the $100,000 it was awarded from the Aviva Community Fund.

Published in Canada

OTTAWA - Ottawa Archbishop Terrence Prendergast warned a proposed Ontario sexual education curriculum could threaten parental rights and force “immoral” teachings on Catholic school children.

Published in Canada

Guelph, Ont.’s Church of Our Lady Immaculate now dons the title basilica. The landmark church perched on a hill overlooking the city was designated a basilica earlier this month by Pope Francis, catching parishioners by surprise.

Published in Canada

TORONTO- Concerns that there was insufficient parental consultation during the reform of Ontario's sexual education curriculum were formally voiced by a newly formed Toronto citizens' group Dec. 12.

And some in the group went further, predicting that much of what was shelved four years ago when the Liberal government tried to bring changes to the curriculum will be brought back, and they expressed concerns that an alleged child pornographer's hands are all over the development of that curriculum.

“What we are trying to do now is to make sure that the consultation will let all parents express their views,” said Peter Chen, co-ordinator of Citizens for Good Education, which hosted a press conference in Toronto to voice its concerns. “We would like transparency and democracy in this consultation.”

Citizens for Good Education is an umbrella group that represents more than 200 faith and ethnic groups, including the Catholic Civil Rights League, REAL Women of Canada and the Toronto Chinese Catholic Task-force.

In the days following Nov. 28 when the consultation process conducted by the Minister of Education closed, more and more of the groups came forward expressing concerns that surveying 4,000 citizens (one parent from each elementary school in the province) over two weeks in a province with four fully funded school systems and a population of 13.5 million was insufficient.

Chen said the group is seeking to defer the proposed September 2015 implementation of the new curriculum to allow for further consultation.

“We want to make sure the timing and the contents are appropriate for our children age-wise,” said Chen.

Gwen Landolt, founder of REAL Women of Canada, also criticized November's consultation as an online survey which “is not parent input,” and said it contained “loaded questions all leading in one direction.”

The government believes its recent consultation was sufficient and intends to involve parents again before the finalizing the document.

“In recognizing that parents have a strong interest in how this information is provided to their children, the province committed to consult with parents before the document is finalized," said Ministry of Education spokesperson Derek Luk.  

Luk said this new information will be used in conjunction with that gathered between 2007 and 2010, extensive consultations with those directly involved at all levels of education and expert advice.

Beyond the lack of consultation, Mary-Ellen Douglas, national co-ordinator for Campaign Life, is concerned with former deputy education minister Benjamin Levin's role in developing the reformed curriculum four years ago, which was pulled by the Liberal government at the last minute. She feels that much of the new curriculum, considering the tight timeline of the current reform process, will mirror that program.

Levin is facing charges of making and distributing child pornography, counselling to commit an indictable offence and an arrangement to commit a sexual offence against a child under the age of 16. Since the original charges were laid, Levin had five additional child pornography related charges laid against him.

“He is an alleged child pornographer and he is up on these charges and this is the man who wrote the program,” she said. “If convicted the man should be in jail and stay there for the rest of his life. This is a man who wants to exploit our children through the school system.”

Jack Fonseca, a Campaign Life spokesperson, also expressed concern over Levin's potential contributions.

“In 2010, parents first learned of this Grades 1 to 7 curriculum sex ed lessons that were too graphic at too young an age and made them feel uncomfortable,” he said. “Now that we know it was written under the direction of an alleged child pornographer... parents are even less comfortable. Levin’s hand in an explicit program that seems to sexualize kids has only heightened concerns, including my own, as the father of a kindergartner.”

Luk said Levin was simply one cog in the development of the previous curriculum.

“No single individual writes curriculum policy,” he said. “Review or development of all curricula is based on research, evidence and extensive consultation.”
Following the press conference, Chen said Citizens for Good Education would be bringing its message to Queen's Park.

“We will be launching petitions online, or on paper, formed by our member organizations and plan to collect signatures and present them to Queen's Park,” said Chen.

Published in Canada: Toronto-GTA

The London Diocese is taking advantage of the overwhelming popularity of Pope Francis to spread a prayerful message.

Published in Canada

If Canadian author Malcolm Gladwell did not actually coin the term “tipping point” he popularized it in his book of that title. 

Published in Guest Columnists

TORONTO - Before marking an X on a ballot Catholic voters should pencil in a grade on a report card for candidates in the Ontario provincial election.

Published in Canada

Two bills under consideration in Ontario that seek to expand protection for migrant workers are “doomed” because they don’t address the real thing these workers need, a means of staying here, says Stan Raper.

Published in Canada
April 30, 2014

Shame on law society

In a decision that might be unenforceable and is certainly misguided, the Law Society of Upper Canada has barred future graduates of a Christian law school from practising in Ontario. In a 28-21 vote, the law society branded aspiring lawyers from B.C.’s Trinity Western University persona non grata because students and staff agree to live by a moral code of conduct that, among other things, prohibits sexual intimacy outside of marriage.

Published in Editorial

MISSISSAUGA, ONT. - A human rights complaint alleging systemic homophobia in an Ontario French-language Catholic school is “groundless,” said a board superintendent.

Published in Catholic Education

TORONTO - It’s highly unlikely Ontario will meet its own poverty-reduction targets in 2013, food bank use has hit record levels and Ontario’s bishops are worried that decent housing has become a distant dream for too many people.

Published in Canada

Concerns that the establishment of a prayer room, requested by Muslim students, at a London, Ont., Catholic high school will water down the school’s Catholic faith are just plain wrong, says the school board’s education director.

“First of all it’s a prayer room, it’s not named after a particular faith,” said Wilma de Rond, director of education for the London District Catholic School Board (LDCSB). “When a request comes from another faith there is no request for us to provide any sort of accommodation for them that in some way impacts our faith.”

Although de Rond dismisses the concern, it has been circulating in the media since news about the second floor prayer room at Mother Teresa Catholic Secondary School broke earlier this month.

Earlier this year about 25 students at the southwestern Ontario school, with a student body of about 1,400, submitted a request to the principal for a room for Islamic prayer during lunch period on Fridays. This is the first religious accommodation request of its kind for the board, said de Rond.

The Ministry of Education’s Developing and Implementing Equity and Inclusive Education Policies in Ontario Schools requires all publicly funded schools in the province to provide religious accommodations when requested by students or their parents, provided that doing so does not cause excessive grievance to the school. As long as it does not place burdensome costs on the school, interrupt instructional time or directly conflict with existing policies/practices, the school is obliged to do so, as is the case in London.

“We are trying to work  in a way that is respectful for our own faith, our Catholic faith, but also respectful of the fact that these young people have made a request that they want to be able to follow their faith,” said de Rond.

The goal, according to de Rond, is to outfit the room in a way that will satisfy the requirements for the Muslim students while maintaining an atmosphere where other students can use the room. Although no other groups have requested use of the room, it will be available outside the time allocated to the Muslim group.

De Rond sees this as nothing more than a learning experience. She did admit, though, that not everyone views this matter through that lens.
“Unfortunately there have been some concerns expressed in terms of racial comments which again is most unfortunate and is not in keeping with who we are as Catholic in terms of beliefs of our call to love one another,” she said. “There has also been expressions of very positive affirmation of this decision as well.”

The prayer room at Mother Teresa was expected to be completed by the end of September, although de Rond stressed there were still details to be worked out.

“It’s interesting for us to learn about a particular faith so it’s been a good thing for us to be able to have these conversations with the students and their parents and so we are proceeding forward in terms of our understanding of what will occur, how they pray, what they pray for (and) what the words of the prayers will be,” she said. “It’s increasing our own understanding, which is a good thing.”

Other Catholic boards are sure to receive similar requests, and are also seeing this as an opportunity. 

“It’s not an imposition on us at all,” said Michael Way Skinner, co-ordinater of religion, family life and equity at the York Catholic District School Board. “It is an expression of who we are as Catholics. When we as a Catholic community accept that call to be welcoming to people of other faiths we are actually putting into practice what we are trying to teach the kids in the classroom and it’s by what we do, it’s by our fruits that they’ll judge us, not by what we say to them and what we try to teach to them off chalkboards or smartboards.”

Although he supports the idea, Way Skinner did admit his board might not be able to fulfill similar requests. It’s not that the board is unwilling, rather, most York Region schools are already pushing capacity and allocating an entire room for a weekly prayer service would cause excessive grievance.

“It might be a space like in the library or somewhere like that that is a quiet space for the students to gather to pray if they wanted to,” said Way Skinner.

Published in Canada