Newfoundland’s faith-free schools challenge
It can be done. There were so many problems associated with sectarian education in Newfoundland that all schools were taken under secular state control in the 1990s. Before then, animosity between different faith schools even resulted in savage ice hockey matches which weren’t about playing the game, but an all-out battle.
It was a grim fact of life in that province under its historically sectarian education system in which the churches ran the schools with money from the public purse. Besides the rivalries, students and neighbours were divided along religious lines, often driven on half-empty buses across town to schools that were homogenous but under serviced.
By the 1990s, the tensions had eased, but the economic burden of too many groups operating too many schools remained. That is, until a dramatic and complex political move uncoupled schools from the churches, turning the education of Newfoundland youngsters on its head, from one that was entirely denominational, to one that entirely was not.
Now there’s an election, and the issue has been raised again by Ontario Progressive Conservative leader John Tory, who wants to extend public funding to all faith schools. However, the polls indicate that the tory Mr Tory is on to a loser as voters fear the province could be split on religious lines.