Protestant parents are not allowed to have a religious program during school hours for their children in the three deaf and the one blind school in Ontario. At the same time Catholics, because of their historical right to have their own schools in Ontario are allowed to have a religious program during school hours in the very same schools.
A directive of August 14, 1992, from Dave McKee abrogates or cancels his previous directive of November 19, 1991, which killed the religious programming in all the schools. However, in restoring the special schools to their original status, Dave McKee, the Director of Special Education for Provincial (Ontario) Schools, insists that there be no denominational teaching – which he called “indoctrination” – of non-Catholic students during school hours.
Protestants found out recently that their deaf or blind students are considered to be “public school” students. And because of a recent court ruling, public schools are not allowed to promote any particular religion.
What the bureaucrats at Queen’s Park do not realize is that these are unusual schools. Because of their physical impairments the parents of deaf and blind children do not have the ready option of switching to other schools locally to obtain a religious training for their children.
A hundred deaf children, and another 30 who are physically disabled, board at the Sir James Whitney School for the Deaf in Belleville. The 30 disabled go home weekends. Some of the deaf students go home every second week. Another 50 do not board and live at home nearby. Many parents move to a place to be close to a deaf school or a school for the blind. What the Ministry of Education doesn’t realize is that because of the lack of numbers there are not Christian/Jewish/Moslem schools for the deaf or blind on every corner to provide options for parents.
“For 122 years since the first Ontario school for the deaf started in Belleville,” said Father Peter Monty, S.J., the Ontario Catholic chaplain, in an interview from Ottawa, “religious and moral education has always been an integral part of the regional schools’ program.”
“The recent victory is muted,” said Father Monty, “when I think of the Protestant chaplains and others who minister to their student body being denied access to the schools except after hours or before. The problem is that the schools often schedule programs after hours, basketball games, school trips, driver education, camera clubs, skating, ceramics, to name a few. Many of the Protestant kids are going to miss out on a religious program because they have other activities that they are keen on and some have buses to take right after school.”
Father Monty felt that students’ families and home churches are not equipped, nor do they have the communication skills to prepare the children with even the basics of religious teaching.
“The religious program in the primary level at the E.C. Drury (Deaf) School in Milton, Ontario, is very good but there’s nothing in the secondary school level. It’s not a satisfactory situation for Catholics or Protestants in the schools for the deaf in London.”
“The change back has not yet been implemented and I don’t know how satisfactory it is going to be because of the problem of scheduling. We were only informed on August 14. The province is thinking of introducing a ‘values’ program in the schools and we could certainly fit in there.”
“When it comes to the religious programs in the school, it appears that R.C. kids have rights – but not non-Catholics,” said Guy Buller, superintendent of the Sir James Whitney School for the Deaf in Belleville. “We’ve had legal advice about this situation and we found out that we don’t have many options. Of course, we are allowed to province for a religious program for Protestants and others in the school outside the school day.” He agreed with Father Monty that trying to put into place a religious program for after school hours presents many difficulties. And buses are not going to run early in order to provide religious education for a bloc of Protestant students whose parents are seeking it.
However, Marcia McVea, a spokeswoman for Gary Malkowski, an NDP member of the provincial legislation, who is deaf, stated in a telephone interview that she felt that the problem has been “successfully resolved.” She described the situation as having gone “back to the status quo” and Mr. Malkowski had “input” in resolving the problem.
It looks as though the bureaucrats are doing something behind Gary Malkowski’s back. And it doesn’t look too good for Protestant parents who are hoping that their kids will get Christian and biblical training in the Ontario schools for the deaf and the blind during normal school hours, as has been their right for 122 years.