A new multi-faith group has been formed to raise awareness about the need for justice in Ontario’s education funding system.
Representatives from the Armenian, Muslim, Sikh, Hindu, and Jewish faith-groups held a media conference August 28 to announce the new Public Education Fairness Network.
Steven Shulman, Ontario regional director for the Canadian Jewish Congress, says the network will undertake a range of activities, both collectively and as individual groups in the coming weeks.
Members are to raise awareness within each of their faith communities about the benefits of public funding for faith-based schools.
They will speak to how it can not only benefit their communities but also “why it is good public policy to include a greater variety of faith-based schools in public education, why it’s the fair thing to do, why it’s good for society,” says Shulman.
The group will also be opening faith-based schools to the media and fellow-citizens with the goal of helping people understand “there is nothing to fear here, that it’s really in the interest of society to have this fairness coupled with accountability,” according to Shulman.
The network will be informing the general public that funding for faith-based schools is not something new in Canada, that in all of the provinces west of Ontario faith-based schools receive significant funds with varying kinds of administrative set-ups.
Shulman says he is very hopeful the group will be effective in achieving what it has been formed to do.
“Our main objective is that when people come to this issue and decide on this particular issue they realize there’s nothing to fear and in fact it’s the right thing to do. That’s what we want,” he says.
Howard English, vice-president of corporate communications for the UJA Federation of Greater Toronto says the network will also be holding interfaith events and advertising to get its message across.
In his words, the network has been formed “primarily to fight for fairness in public education funding because the status quo is blatantly unfair and indefensible.”
He points out that 650,000 students in the Catholic school system are part of public education in Ontario but the 53,000 students from other faith-based schools are not.
English and Shulman both note the network is not a partisan group in that it is not a third-party organization working on behalf of any political party.
The network includes representation from the Islamic Circle of North America, Canada, the Federation of Hindu Temples, the Ontario Sikh and Gurdwara Council, the Armenian community and the UJA Federation of Greater Toronto.