Using fear, ignorance and racism as an advantage in politics

The faith based funding issue should have been about simple human rights. The U.N has already indicated that the practice of funding only Catholic schools in Ontario is unjust. John Tory hoped to address this issue by fixing the problem and allowing fairness. Fund all or fund none, and he opted to fund all. Unfortunately, reality occurred and we found out that Ontarians are actually a lot more racist, ignorant and bigoted then they like to believe. Not all Ontarians are like this, but based on call-in shows and the general mood of people, many are. In reality the question should have been “would you like Islamic schools to get public funding”. Many Ontarians have extreme stereotypes about Islam, to some no fault of their own. The images they see, and are bombarded with, tend to be on the extreme. On the radio comments, in regards to faith-based education, revolved around fundamentalist Islam elements and “terrorists”. I have even heard a voter say that they do not what terrorist schools to get funding. Now a lot of this is based on fear, since 9/11, but in essence we still extremely fearful and ignorant in Ontario. Now the question is, does that fear show how successful the media has been in planting the wrong image about Islam in the minds of Canadians? Because it’s absolutely amazing how clueless people are about various religions in Ontario. Rather than be properly educated about any group of people, we like to remain in our sheltered domain; ignorant to the facts around us.

What was really sad, and not becoming of an elected leader, is how Premier Dalton McGuinty used this situation to the advantage of the Liberal Party of Ontario. Dalton McGuinty, at one point, called the funding of religious schools “segregation”, along with others in the Liberal Party who called it divisive. This was one of the most irresponsible things for Dalton McGuinty and the party to do. Dalton McGuinty ignored that fact that he was educated in a Catholic school. His wife is a teacher in a Catholic school and his children attend one. Does Dalton McGuinty, and the Liberal Party, believe that Catholics and Catholicism are better then all other groups? Are other groups like Jews, Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims somehow not pure Canadians, or dare I say white or Anglo-Saxon Canadians? Are they not as enlightened somehow? What is amazing when asked by reporters Dalton “never” responds to the question with a “straight” answer. I assume that proper “political spin”, and his handlers, are making sure that he does not. Now another question to be asked is are the Liberals themselves only using this situation to play on the fears of Ontario voters? Regardless of how you feel in this election, this was an issue of fairness. The status quo was not good enough. Also, those who like to state that it only an issue of the constitution, hide in it. Tell me just because something was done years ago, does not make it right. With that fuzzy logic should a lot of old racists and ignorant laws should remain on the books; keeping the minority at bay.

To address the fears of Ontarians we must think deeply about the idea of funding faith-based schools. No fundamentalist Islamic or Christian school would accept funding or want to be under the umbrella of public education. It would require them to teach the curriculum, which may come in conflict with some of their essential beliefs. But for those who fear “terrorist schools”, they are probably already here. Even one Global TV reporter asked John Tory what he would do if Islamic schools wanted to “separate the boys from the girls”. This was an ignorant and, quite honestly, a stupid question. I have to believe that Global TV was obviously trying stir up trouble and play to the ignorance and fear of Ontarians also, seeing that Catholics already have some of their schools divided between boys and girls. I do not want to forget the element that legitimately, without the racist or ignorant feelings, have wanted to remove faith-based funding for years from Catholics. In the end this may be the only solution to the problem; however those who want this option, and can properly argue this point, are not the majority of enlighten and learned individuals. We must accept that there is still a lot of fear, ignorance and racists in the generally public. Let me be clear, not all are racist; but the element of it exists, however suttle. No sense trying to hop on the high ground on this issue. There is nothing wrong with those who fear, however they must face those fears and learn from them. Ignorance is unacceptable and racism should just not be tolerated. In the end, however ironic, it seems that the Liberals have used that fear and ignorance to their own advantage. For a party that claims to be for all, including the immigrants of Ontario it makes me wonder. What does Dalton McGuinty really believe? Is his only aim to get into power at whatever the cost? Playing to the fear of Ontarians is a low-ball strategy that will fail in the end. Do you want to live in a province based on fear, intolerance and ignorance? Liberals around Ontario should ask themselves if they truly want to continue down the Dalton McGuinty path. However I sense that they will wake up the next morning and wonder, what in the world did we just do?

By: Adrian P
a.k.a “The GTA Patriot”
Toronto, Ontario

2 Comments

  1. The UN did not just say the discrimination is “unjust”. They said it violates basic binding international human rights law.

    Specifically, the UN Human Rights Committee made a final ruling in 1999 (the Waldman case) that Ontario’s full funding of one religion’s schools to the total exclusion of all others is discrimination and violates the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR or “Covenant”). Unlike the hundreds of recommendations issued every year by UN bodies, this ruling is binding under international law. Only 11 such rulings have ever been issued against Canada, and almost all have been complied with as a matter of course. Further detail is provided below. Complete text of ICCPR is at: http://www.unhchr.ch/html/menu3/b/a_ccpr.htm.

    The ICCPR is one of the world’s most fundamental human rights treaties, developed by the community of nations as a response to the horrors of the WWII. An international human rights law like the ICCPR was needed since the slaughter by the Government of Germany of millions of innocent civilians was actually largely legal under German national law, (just as Ontario’s official discrimination against specific non-Catholic religious minorities is actually legal, as many have been quick to point out, under Canadian national law.) The ICCPR was designed to address this problem by providing an international law, that operates above national law, that both prohibits discrimination and (under Article 2) requires the state to pass domestic law (federal or provincial) to prohibit discrimination and to give victims of discrimination an effective legal remedy under domestic law. With respect to religious discrimination in faith-based school funding, Ontario has done neither.

    The Covenant and its Optional Protocol, (allowing citizen complaints about rights violations) were ratified by Canada on May 19, 1976 only after the Federal government went through a ten-year process of obtaining the written approval of Ontario (and the other provinces). Provincial approval was needed since the provisions of the Covenant explicitly “extend to all parts of federal States without any limitations or exceptions.” (Article 50) Ontario Premier John P. Robarts wrote an official letter to Ottawa on May 30,1969 stating that: “…the Ontario Government supports wholeheartedly the principles contained in these documents and has no objection whatsoever to the Federal Government entering into such agreements.” The letter thus officially confirmed Ontario’s participation – without any reservations – in the ICCPR and its Optional Protocol. This bound Ontario to abide by the terms of the Covenant.

    Ironically, the only reason why anyone can say that the treaty is not binding is because Ontario/Canada have also failed to comply with their obligation under Article 2 of the Covenant to provide a domestic remedy for all violations of the Covenant. The Ontario Human Rights Code was intended to be such a mechanism, but it does not apply to faith-based school funding due to a limitation in s. 19 of the Code, so does not prohibit this kind of discrimination which is nevertheless illegal under international law.

    Since the UN Human Rights Committee made its 1999 ruling in the Waldman case, Ontario has been in violation of international human rights law. In the words of the Committee: “by becoming a State party to the Optional Protocol, the State party has recognized the competence of the Committee to determine whether there has been a violation of the Covenant or not and ? pursuant to article 2 of the Covenant, the State party has undertaken to ensure to all individuals within its territory? the rights recognized in the Covenant and to provide an effective and enforceable remedy in case a violation has been established.” Full text of UN decision in Waldman case can be accessed at: http://www.unhchr.ch/tbs/doc.nsf/0/b3bfc541589cc30f802568690052e5d6?OpenDocument

    Explicit religious discrimination in education funding was found to violate the treaty. Canada and Ontario now have an obligation under international law to provide a remedy that eliminates the discrimination. The hypocrisy of politicians who claim to stand up for human rights, and who are always happy to chant “never again”, but then ignore blatant ongoing official violations of international human rights law in our own province, is shocking, as is the wide-spread complacency in Ontario about this violation.

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