Dec. 6 court date for lawsuit on disability funds in religious schools
The lawyer representing a group of parents has filed an appeal to the government of Ontario after several attempts to gain access to information regarding independent religious school funding for children with disabilities.
Lawyer Allan Kaufman represents a multi-faith coalition and eight families who filed a lawsuit June 26 to sue the provincial government for religious discrimination and violation of children’s rights according to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
After six separate access to information requests, Kaufman says the appeal was filed July 25. The first request for information was filed March 23, and after several more attempts Kaufman says he has had no response to his requests.
The information sought includes reasons the government cancelled the tax credit for parents who send children to independent religious schools and data on the $14.4 million the government allocates each year towards children with disabilities attending religious schools.
Kaufman has learned that of the $14.4 million, only $4.5 million is spent through the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care. This leaves approximately $10 million unspent, he says.
“There’s obviously an attempt to clam up on this matter, this was going on before we sued and it’s continuing on now that we have sued,” he says. Access to information requests are supposed to be answered within 30 days, he adds.
The children, who are blind, deaf or learning disabled, attend religious schools where they receive no government funding for their disabilities. However, students in religious schools with different special needs, such as occupational therapy, receive funds.
“Because the government has arbitrarily and bureaucratically put the deaf, the blind and the learning disabled under the Ministry of Education there is no funding for them at all in the religious schools of Ontario,” says Kaufman.
Students in public schools or the Catholic education system receive funds regardless of their disability. This means there are two forms of discrimination – first against those who attend non-Catholic religious schools, and secondly against the type of disability, says Kaufman.
Kaufman says he has made several requests to meet with Attorney General Michael Bryant or his officials and has had no response. The only contact was a notice from a lawyer informing Kaufman of a Dec. 6, 2007 court date.
“I think it’s despicable that (Bryant) would avoid any meeting or letter to these people at all and chose to unleash his battery of lawyers, paid for by taxpayers, against these parents of disabled children,” says Kaufman.