Michael Den Tandt thinks the federal Liberal Party should take on separate schools.
Liberals could begin speaking truth about education. This is provincial jurisdiction — but the constitutional guarantees that provide for separate schools in Ontario, Alberta and Saskatchewan, as well as the statutes that provide the same in the Northwest Territories, Yukon and Nunavut, are federal. Separate schools in Ontario, under the microscope now because of the furor over provincially mandated “gay-straight alliances” in Catholic schools, increasingly look like an anachronism. More importantly, most parents with children in public schools will agree it’s time to bring back the failing grade and negative consequences for bad behaviour. No federal politician is touching this.
Renegotiating the constitution requires provincial support so it isn’t a very good way to bring the battle against separate schools to the federal level, even if it would be a nice gesture.
A more appropriate way for federal parties to get involved in the separate schools debate is to point out Canada has been condemned by the United Nations Human Rights Committee for its separate schools (once in 1999, and a repeat in 2005 when the UN realised Canada ignored the 1999 report). This makes it a federal issue if we take our obligations with the UN seriously.
So what can the feds do? Not much without touching the constitution. But if all they did were to recognize the problem by citing the UN reports, they could then just recommend the provinces deal with it. It sounds lame and is just passing the buck, but having the feds recognize the issue will force the provinces to defend the funding. Since there are no moral, economic, or even religious reasons to keep funding separate schools, an open debate is all we need to keep up the pressure.
Ignoring our human rights violations simply because education is a provincial responsibility is wrong and we can’t let our federal politicians get away with it.