Separate schools are schools operated by Roman Catholic or Protestant school boards. Members of these denominations are allowed by law to form their own school systems separate from the rest of the public. Students in these schools learn and worship according to Roman Catholic or Protestant doctrine. Even though separate schools are publicly funded, citizens who are not Roman Catholic or Protestant must receive special permission to enroll their children.
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Early European settlers in western Canada were predominantly Roman Catholic or Protestant. They settled, established communities, and built public buildings together, including schools. Public education, at the time, did not mean secular education. Religion played a large role in the classroom, usually reflecting the faith of the community’s majority denomination. Separate schools were invented so the minority denomination could have a way to protect their children from the religious teachings of the majority.
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No. This is a petition against special treatment for two Christian denominations and a “separate but equal” education system in Alberta. The disestablishment of separate schools would have no impact whatsoever on the free expression of religious conviction or the ability of Roman Catholics and Protestants to establish programs of religious education. It would merely require them to move their programs into the public school system, just like every other religious and cultural group.
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Multiculturalism, inclusion, and tolerance are important Canadian values. Public schools bring these values to life in the classroom and pass them on to future generations. Children are better off when they are educated with side-by-side with children from different faiths, cultures, and circumstances. Communities are also better off when children participate in a classroom that reflects the society they will experience as adults. Separate schools do not bring these values to life and they do not pass them on to future generations.
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Having a public school system and a separate school system spreads precious education resources thin in our province. The breaking apart of education funding fragments our communities at a time when too many of them are economically fragile. We cannot afford to have these precious education resources broken up into different pieces. Resources should not be diverted away from the classroom to support two parallel systems of administration and staff, transportation networks, and building facilities.
The sections of the Canadian Constitution that discuss separate schools are not what people normally mean when they talk about constitutional rights. The right to assemble, to free speech, and to choose our government are examples of fundamental constitutional rights in Canada. They exist for every person equally, and they are naturally occurring rights the authors of the Canadian Constitution did not have to invent. The same cannot be said of separate schools for Roman Catholics and Protestants.
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Currently, Ontario and Saskatchewan are the only provinces with separate schools similar to the ones found in Alberta. Quebec has a separate school system, but over the past century, religion has been replaced by language. Manitoba briefly had separate schools but ended the practice in 1896. Newfoundland and Labrador had government-funded denominational schools until the 1990s, when the public voted to replace them with one, secular system of public schools. British Columbia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, and Nova Scotia have never had any form of separate school system.