Yet another survey shows majority support for defunding Ontario’s Catholic school system, but does it matter?

Poll numbers in Ontario are up! No, not for the Ontario Liberals – they’re in the basement and digging (say hi to Justin Trudeau while you’re down there!). I’m talking about public support for ending the publicly funded, separate Catholic school system.

I don’t imagine anyone who reads this blog supports the idea of maintaining a separate Catholic school system in Ontario. And you’ve certainly heard again… and again… and again… that the Ontario public generally wants to end public funding for it and merge it into the secular school system.

Surprise surprise, a new automated telephone survey by Forum Research released Wednesday once again finds that a majority of Ontarians want an end to separate, publicly funded Catholic schools.

In fact, here’s what the founder of Forum Research, Dr. Lorne Bozinoff, had to say about it:

We have tracked this issue for several years, and opposition to funding is always at about one half, while support is nearer one third. If it were ever put to a public referendum, Catholic school funding would lose, fair and square.

And the trends over time back him up.

[Chart showing support for defunding Ontario Catholic school board over time.]

Support for defunding Ontario Catholic school board over time

But what really are the chances of it happening any time soon?

I’ve written before about why our broken electoral system makes it hard for politicians to support secular endeavours, such as defunding Catholic schools. Still, it’s likely going to be more than 3 years before the next Ontario election, so it’s far too early to predict what might be the issues then. In the meantime, though, we’re stuck with Kathleen Wynne.

Full disclosure here: I was an enormously strong supporter of Wynne when she was first elected leader of the Ontario Liberals. I had no preference when I started watching the 2013 Ontario Liberal leadership convention, but her speech blew me away. I sat on the edge of my seat as she lost the first two ballots by increasing margins, then cheered as she came back and won the third ballot – and the leadership race – handily. First gay premier in Canada (and at the time a full half of premiers across Canada were women – this was before Pauline Marois, Kathy Dunderdale, and Alison Redford flamed out so spectacularly) with a majority mandate after the 2014 election. At the time there were signs of the abysmal ethical failure she would eventually become, but it was easy to find excuses – for example, the gas plant scandal was McGuinty’s fault, and she only inherited the mess.

We know now that it’s not worth wasting our time trying to reach out to Kathleen Wynne to do the right thing. She has made it clear that she is determined to ignore both the will of the population she is supposed to represent, and the condemnations from human rights groups – including even the United Nations – for the sake of pandering to the religious vote.

So to hell with the Ontario Liberals. Let’s look to the other parties.

There is some small hope there. If the other parties sense the popular pressure behind the issue, they might decide to champion the cause. If they do, that might force Wynne’s hand – after all, there is majority support for defunding, and that’s without any party waving a flag about the issue. And if Wynne is determined to dig in on the point, the other party or parties might just decide to make it an election issue for 2018.

So let’s look at our options.

Unsurprisingly, we can rule the Conservatives out. I know, shock of shocks, right? Not only does there seem to be little motivation for them to take up our flag in this cause – because Conservative supporters want to continue funding – this is a party that has actually managed to make Wynne look progressive on the issue. In fact, in 2008, then-leader (and now mayor of Toronto) John Tory wanted to extend funding… to all religions!

So to hell with the Ontario PCs. Who’s next?

Well the remaining two major parties are the Ontario Greens and the Ontario NDP. The Greens are notable for being the only major party to actually put the issue on their platform and come out in favour of defunding. Good for them!

Now the bad news. They support chiropractic, naturopathy, acupuncture, … and homeopathy. Now, in their defence, just a month or two ago they had their Annual General Meeting and Policy Conference, where they passed a resolution to ditch that shit. However, it remains in their policy book, and even if/when it gets removed, they haven’t exactly been beating the public drum about giving up on peddling woo in favour of science-based medicine.

But even if they’re no longer into pushing magical water memory, let’s face facts. They’re never going to get elected. They can’t even manage to win a single seat. Even party leader Mike Schreiner couldn’t manage better than third place in his riding in 2014. (Narrowly beating out James Gordon of all people.)

Which brings us to the NDP.

Right now thanks to the momentum from the startling win in Alberta, the NDP looks like it has the best chance of winning the next election, and its star is still rising. There’s still a lot of time to fuck things up before October 2018, but if we’re looking for the party that has the best chance of either pressuring Wynne’s Liberals into doing the right thing, or ultimately doing it themselves, the NDP has the numbers that suggest they should be our choice.

Even more intriguing, after Green supporters, NDP supporters are the second most supportive political bloc when it comes to defunding Catholic schools, with 56% supporting defunding and 37% opposing. In other words, this is something the NDP’s supporters want.

So we should throw our support behind the NDP right?


Ontario NDP leader Andrea Horwath has played every card in the deck to stymie the efforts to do what’s right. She has actually stepped in and violated the NDP policy against whipping the vote to specifically order her MPPs not to look into merging the school systems. Lolwut?

Believe it or not, there is still a very faint glimmer of hope. The reason Horwath is so freaked out about the separate schools merger issue is precisely because her own MPPs keep bringing it up. And of course, their supporters want it (not to mention the general public).

The roadblock here is Horwath, who is Catholic. If she weren’t the party leader, there would be a very real shot at not only getting this issue on the table, but of actually getting it resolved. Unfortunately, at her last leadership review in 2012 she got strong (76%) support. On the other hand, that was before she fucked up with the 2014 budget, and then flubbed the 2014 election. On the other-other hand, there’s no way the NDP would switch horses at this point, even when the current one is running in the wrong direction.

So there it is, sadly. Unless something really major comes up, there seems little hope for Ontario’s elected government to actually comply with the will of its population – never mind the condemnations from human rights groups and the plain and simple economic sense of merging. And it would have to be something really major, because neither scandal over Gay-Straight Alliances nor the Truth and Reconciliation Commission report have managed to have any effect. We don’t even really have a party we can push on the issue.

I’d be open to hear anyone’s thoughts on a plausible strategy for actually making this happen. But from where I’m sitting, this seems to be a dead issue for the time being at least.

Jimmy Carter Leaves the Southern Baptists for Equality

Jimmy Carter has been a proud member of the Southern Baptists for approximately 60 years. He is also a compassionate leader who, after completing his term as President of the United States, started The Carter Center in 1982. As Wikipedia points out the Carter Center “…promotes democracy, mediates and prevents conflicts, and monitors the electoral process in support of free and fair elections”. One of the greatest achievements of this non-profit institution is its elimination of more than 99 percent of Guinea worm, bringing down the number of cases in Africa and Asia from 3.5 million in 1986 to 148 in 2013. He has also worked extensively in diplomacy all over the world in North Korea (!), the Middle East, Africa, etc.

I often found myself using Jimmy Carter as an example of how a Christian should behave – doing well without foisting their religion on others or pushing a Christian agenda into science classrooms. It seems Jimmy Carter has finally applied his thoughtfulness to his faith and come to the conclusion that being a Southern Baptist runs counter to his concept of equality. As the Australian publication, The Age reports, Jimmy Carter feels that:

This view that women are somehow inferior to men is not restricted to one religion or belief. Women are prevented from playing a full and equal role in many faiths. Nor, tragically, does its influence stop at the walls of the church, mosque, synagogue or temple. This discrimination, unjustifiably attributed to a Higher Authority, has provided a reason or excuse for the deprivation of women’s equal rights across the world for centuries.

At its most repugnant, the belief that women must be subjugated to the wishes of men excuses slavery, violence, forced prostitution, genital mutilation and national laws that omit rape as a crime. But it also costs many millions of girls and women control over their own bodies and lives, and continues to deny them fair access to education, health, employment and influence within their own communities.


I don’t expect Jimmy Carter to become an atheist, but I am glad he has begun to criticize the nasty parts of the Abrahamic religions. Good on Jimmy Carter!

To read more about the good work the Carter Center does, check out their web site.

Source: Losing my religion for equality

Recommended Reading


Two articles published this month deal with topics recently discussed on Canadian Atheist. The first article, “The Myth of Religious Obligations,” addresses secularism and state neutrality, topics that were debated in the comments to “’Secularism Betrayed: A Summary.’” The thesis of “The Myth of Religious Obligations” is

There is no such thing as a religious “obligation” because religious belief is not an innate characteristic.

and addresses religious accommodation, dispels the myth that religion is innate and characterizes the wearing of religious symbols as “Bad Fashion Choices”:

the Islamist veil is a symbol of misogyny and fascism. The Christian crucifix is also a symbol of fascism; after all, the Roman Catholic Church has generally been a faithful ally of fascist regimes in Europe and Latin America. That is why the crucifix must be removed from the wall of the National Assembly in Quebec City.

Thus I repeat: We must not fall into the trap of accepting the myth that wearing a crucifix, veil or turban, etc., is somehow “obligatory” because it is supposedly the reflection of some innate characteristic of the bearer. On the contrary, it deserves no more deference than any other fashion choice. It can be removed.

The second article, “Polite Self-Censorship No Environment for Free Speech” addresses the “implication . . . that we must all endeavor to be polite about religion.”

Multiculturalism’s proponents have garnered popular support for the illiberal notion that all citizens in liberal democracies must demonstrate respect for religion or religious believers. Yet this respect is not to be earned by valid arguments or by exemplary behavior; it is to be coerced by violence, or else by means of the law. Those who would limit speech on the grounds of ‘religious offense’ are content to allow the public marketplace of ideas to be governed by the taboos of a religious segment of society.

and “gives several reasons to reject this form of cultural imperialism,” reasons that complement the thesis of “The Myth of Religious Obligations”:

Religious minority groups are by no means homogeneous in religious belief, practice or sentiment.

Westerners need to ask which Muslims they intend to protect by means of new censorship laws or informal policies of self-censorship.

Political liberalism, secularism, atheism and feminism are as much a part of many peoples’ identities as religion is a part of the identity of the committed Muslim.

Imagine a context in which the same right not to be offended or defamed could be claimed by other political ideologies, other social groups and other communities. Public debate would quickly be replaced by courteous silence.

During the roundtable discussion of “Is Christianity in Decline?,” Majed El Shafie declared to great applause,

politically correctness is the cancer in our Canadian fabric. (16:00)

If Shafie is correct, “Polite Self-Censorship No Environment for Free Speech” shows the cancer has spread.

Is Anything Possible?

Guest post by BillyBob


Recently on this site, there has been a discussion about whether an atheist should say gods do not exist or that atheism is a lack of belief in gods. The underlying concern is can you prove a negative, which brings up the question is anything possible? In my response to the question I described a creature, the Planet Eating Vorpal Dragon Kitten. Is it possible this creature exists?

What if someone were to write a computer program comprised of 5,000 adjectives and adverbs that randomly described one of 5,000 random nouns. An example could be Green Gigantic Cosmic Goat. Can we prove this creature does not exist? No, but what is the probability that any of the millions of creatures created by the program exist? Is it realistic to be agnostic to the creatures created by the program or just call them nonsense? Nonsense is the correct answer.

Why are gods not considered nonsense? The Planet Eating Vorpal Dragon Kitten has a greater probability of existing than a god because it could have evolved naturally in strange circumstances somewhere in the universe whereas gods are poofed (imagined) into existence. When a telescope takes a photo of a Planet Eating Vorpal Dragon Kitten having lunch, I will then consider it a real possibility and when a god shows up I will then consider gods a real possibility. Until then, neither exists.

“Is Christianity in Decline?”

If it weren’t for the fact that Dr. Christopher Di Carlo was a guest on Zoomer Television’s June 15th roundtable discussion of the question “Is Christianity in Decline?” I would not have watched the video.

Conrad Black and Faith Goldy hosted the discussion which featured, according to Conrad Black, “a table full of religious leaders and observers”; at the same time as Black is omitting non-believers from his list,  Di Carlo’s face appears on the screen. The list of guests is available on the Zoomer website, but Dr. Di Carlo’s contribution, which starts at 23:00, is, in my biased opinion, the best: he was blunt, honest and uncompromising:


Please click on pic for access to the “Is Christianity in Decline?” episode

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