Ontario Catholic elementary schools quietly admitting students of all faiths


*Ontario’s Catholic elementary schools are quietly opening their doors to students of all faiths, blurring the lines even more between the Catholic and public systems and raising questions about the roles — and need — for both.

Windsor’s Catholic school board became the latest to admit non-Catholics into grade schools in June — discreetly. It warned principals to discuss the new policy “with caution.” Some 82 non-Catholic children already have signed up, good news for a board that has been losing some 500 students a year.*

I am surprised that some Ontario Catholic grade schools restricted admissions to Catholic students. Since the schools are government funded, I would expect them to have open doors to all faiths. The article does mention, however, that more than half of Ontario’s Catholic grade schools do have an open policy. And the schools with a restrictive admissions sometimes merely require that a parent or grandparent be Catholic.

I don’t see how this is unique. Lots of Catholic schools have admitted non-Catholic students in the past. ??

So, why don’t they just declare it a secular school? Seems like it is going that way anyway…

I think the reporter was trying to frame a larger question about the purpose and/or need for government funded Catholic schools. This question is rooted in a recent court ruling allowing non-Catholic students to opt out of religious education and also in the government push for Catholic schools to allow Gay-Straight Alliance clubs.

Quoting from the news article:
Even Michael Barrett, president of the Ontario Public School Boards Association and a defender of Catholic schools’ historic right to exist, warns that open-door policies and the move to opt out of religion class “will have some people asking, what’s the difference?”

“If it’s religious-based education based on Catholic doctrine and you’re blurring the lines to attract more people, you risk losing the reason to have a Catholic system in the first place.”


Is it common in Canada for Catholic schools to not admit non-Catholic students?

The Catholic high school in my city probably has more non-Catholic students than Catholic students.

Elementary schools used to be very strict.

High schools were open to all.

Agree. My Archdiocese has been doing it since before I was in school, many moons ago. On both elementary & high school levels.

Historically in the Province of Ontario, Catholic schools are government funded. Other religious groups have to pay for their own religious schools. This unfair practice was was taken to the World Court which ruled that it is unfair to fund one religion and not all the others. They were ordered to change the law which Ontario has not done. This unfair practice continues with Catholics getting “free” education and Protestants, Jews and Muslims, having to fund their own religion-based schools. The rest of the children go to public schools. The Premier of the Province is firmly committed to this gross in justice.
However, there is declining enrollment in all schools. They are competing for students and some schools need to be closed. To solve the declining enrollment problem, Catholic schools are trying to attract any students, even if they are not Catholic. This is simple a matter of money.

:thumbsup: This was my question too.

I went to catholic school but I wasn’t catholic. I loved it though, met some lifelong friends there.:smiley:

EDIT: Just saw your post sscott. Thanks for the history lesson especially for those of us not from Canada.:slight_smile:

You may have information which has not yet been presented in the discussion, however from the news reports I have read, a court ruling required Ontario Catholic high schools to become open in their admissions policies. That was roughly 30 years ago, however it did not apply to grade schools. As such, each elementary schools adopted its own policy. At this point, according to the news, more than half of Ontario Catholic grade schools admit non-Catholics.

Historically Ontario has been comprised primarily of Protestants and Catholics. At one point in time there was a Protestant school board as well as a Catholic one. The former morphed into public school system while the Catholic school system has retained its identity. Consequently, the Catholic school system is a historical accident rather than any attempt at overt favoritism.

Should that accident be corrected? Perhaps. There are plenty of reasons for Catholics to get behind a defunded Catholic school system. Most Catholic schools are Catholic in-name-only. The government has shown that it is ready (in the casing of allowing GSA) and willing (in the case of Church teaching on Abortion) to interfere when necessary, Moreover, the Catholic schools in Canada are barely Catholic. I’ve met people in Catholic schools serving on student council as the mass coordinator who didn’t know that the Catholic Church still offered the sacrament of reconciliation. If you’re afraid that Catholic teaching is being spread on government money you have very little to worry about.

Living in and growing up in Ontario I can attest to what you are saying. However if Catholic schools do get defunded then what do Catholic parents who wish to put their kids in a Catholic school going to do? There are Catholic private schools that are very good but they aren’t cheap. Homeschool is an option if a family can afford to have one parent stay at home. It would be nice, although it would never happen if Catholics could get some type of tax exemption/credit to pull their child out of the school system.

Given the amount of fallen away Catholics I have come across from Catholic schools, I really fail to see what the point of them is. The difference from these Catholic schools to secular University Catholic life is like a 90% fall off. Hardly a good investment.

Besides, the sooner that Canadian Catholic schools get off this drug of public funding, the sooner they can start teaching the true Catholic faith instead of pushing the secular agenda to unsuspecting parents.

I went to a public school and I turned out alright. These are great times to be alive in the Church Militant to do battle against the secular world and conquer it for Christ, and I would not want to deprive my children of the opportunity to be a witness in a secular school.

I’ve never heard of any Catholic school in the US not admitting students of all faiths. How odd.

@saintjohnXXlll-Catholic parents will have to do what all the other religious parents had to do; pay for it themselves. Why do you think it’s fair that other parents have to subsidize your Catholic education while they have to pay out of pocket to send their children to religious school. Why do you think Catholics alone deserve free education when all other religions have to pay for education for their children? What is not clear about that?

Have to agree with you, sscott. I’m a true-blue Catholic and attended Catholic grade school and high school in the U.S., but the system as you describe does sound unfair. However, if the province finds it financially beneficial to fund the Catholic school system there, then let them…but the schools should allow non-Catholics in, like we do here in the States.

This article supplies some information. It’s Canada, after all.

The roots of discord over religious schools

These are some excerpts from the article.

“… Irish beggars are to be met everywhere, and they are as ignorant and vicious as they are poor. They are lazy, improvident and unthankful; they fill our poorhouses and our prisons, and are as brutish in their superstition as Hindoos.” – Newspaper editor George Brown
That reality was a grim one if you were Catholic in the Ontario of the 19th century, especially in York, as Toronto was then called.

Known as the “Belfast of North America,” the city was populated mainly by Northern Irish and Scottish Protestants, who were appalled by the arrival of thousands of Irish Catholics forced out of Southern Ireland during the Great Famine of 1845 to 1849.

The quote at the beginning of the article, from the Globe newspaper, was typical of the unrelenting bigotry against the impoverished “Papist” immigrants, their large families and peasant ways, their “Mick superstitions” and, perhaps worst of all, lack of loyalty to the British Crown.
In 1841, the Act of Union had combined Ontario and Quebec into the United Province of Canada, with one legislative assembly. Half the members were French-speaking Catholics.

Due solely to their support, two acts were passed, in 1855 and 1863, creating the basis for today’s separate system.

They gave Ontario’s religious minority the right to direct their property taxes to the separate schools and guaranteed Catholic trustees the same powers as their public system counterparts.
Section 93 of the BNA (subsequently known as the 1867 Constitution Act) would deal only with Ontario’s and Quebec’s religious minorities, and would be unrepealable. It gave them the constitutional right to separate school systems, though leaving it up to the provinces to work out the funding.
In 1936, Liberal Premier Mitch Hepburn, feeling disposed to do something, as he put it, for “those who eat fish on Friday,” introduced a bill, similar to Quebec’s, compelling corporations and public utilities to direct 40 per cent of their taxes to separate schools.

In a December by-election in East Hastings that year, anti-Catholic protests cost the Liberals a seat. The following year, Hepburn repealed the bill.
With Canada’s changing demographic face, a challenge was sooner or later inevitable. In 1996, a case before the Supreme Court argued that Catholic-only school funding contravened the 1982 Charter of Rights, which guarantees equal treatment for all, regardless of religion.

The court ruled against the application. It noted that the founders of the nation had used Section 93 of the 1867 Constitution act to make Confederation possible between two distinct groups, Protestants and Catholics.

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