Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on
Issue 24 - Evidence - Afternoon Session
ST. JOHN'S, Wednesday, July 10, 1996
The Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs met this day
at 1:45 p.m. to continue its consideration of the resolution to amend the
Constitution of Canada, Term 17 of the Terms of Union of Newfoundland with
Senator Sharon Carstairs (Chair) in the Chair.
The Chair: Good afternoon. We are ready to begin.
Mr. Colin Irving, Lawyer: Honourable senators, I appreciate very much the
opportunity to testify today. To introduce myself briefly, I am a lawyer. I
practice law in Quebec and Ontario. For many years now, I have acted on behalf
of the Quebec Association of Protestant School Boards with the result that I
have been involved in, I think, all of the four or five most recent
denominational school cases in the Supreme Court of Canada.
Against that background, I would deal with four or five of the most key issues
in the proposed amendment to Term 17.
My brief is before you and I will follow the order in that brief. The first
issue goes back into history. As I think will become clear in the end, we are
having the same debate here today which was held more than a century ago in
Manitoba and in other places on this whole, very troubled issue of school
Section 93 of the 1867 Constitution, which is the equivalent of Term 17 for
Newfoundland, was put there in the first place to protect minorities. There was
never really any doubt about that. That was the purpose.
I have quoted from the most recent pronouncement of the Supreme Court of Canada
in the very first paragraph of my brief. The words of Madam Justice Wilson
contain a reference to the origins of section 93 and its purpose which was to
protect minorities. Over the page, in the second paragraph, there is another
quotation from the Ontario Secondary School reference, but she is quoting the
old Manitoba case of Brophy where the judicial committee of the Privy Council
pointed out why it was that Roman Catholics wanted to have Catholic schools and
what it meant to them.
If I can pause there for a minute, we have been hearing that debate renewed
today. You heard the group from the integrated school council this morning.
What they said represented the traditional Protestant view of education. It is
the view long espoused by the Protestant school boards in Quebec. It was the
original view in Ontario. Their view is that the churches should not be involved
in the governance of schools.
Being a member of the mainstream Protestant group myself and having represented
Protestant school boards for so long, I feel I know their view: Schools should
be Christian schools in the sense that there will be some religious
observances, but that is it. The churches should not be involved in governing
the schools. That has always been the traditional Protestant view. It still is
and it is precisely the view you heard this morning.
Whether right or wrong, it is not for me to say, but Roman Catholics -- and
Pentecostals in Newfoundland take the same view -- feel that their schools
should reflect Roman Catholicism. Perhaps to a Protestant that seems like a
wrong-headed idea, but that is what Roman Catholics have long believed.
That is precisely why section 93 was inserted in the Constitution Act in the
first place. The Roman Catholic minority in Ontario was looking at a Protestant
majority. The Protestant majority was not going to tolerate Catholic schools;
they would have a public school system. That is what did happen, but because
section 93 was there, the Catholic minority in Ontario was able to establish a
separate school system. In that brief quotation from the Brophy case, you see
the reasons given in the judgment of the Privy Council.
It is certainly far from my competence to suggest who is right and who is wrong
in all of this, but I want to make the point that, in Canadian constitutional
history, protection for denominational schools was intended to be a protection
for religious minorities, particularly the Catholics in Ontario. Of course, the
Protestants in Quebec would form a minority in that province. In those days, it
was anathema to Protestants to be educated in a Catholic school. They did not
want Catholic education; what they really wanted was public education.
In paragraph 3 at the bottom of page 2, there is a quote from a speech given by
the Right Honourable Louis St. Laurent, the Prime Minister when Newfoundland
entered Confederation. I put it there to reiterate the point which he makes:
Term 17 was also intended to protect minorities.
I would submit, with great respect, there is really no doubt that minority
protection is the aim of Term 17 and of section 93. The suggestion has been
made that there are no minority rights issues at play here. You heard that said
again this morning and I heard it from several people. So the argument runs:
Look, everybody in Newfoundland belongs to one or other of the groups which is
protected. Since 95 per cent of the population of Newfoundland has rights under
Term 17 and a majority voted to give them up, where then is the minority rights
You heard where the minority rights issue is this morning. The Churches in
Integration, the four mainline Protestant denominations whose members comprise
the majority, have the perfectly traditional and perfectly acceptable
Protestant view that the churches should not be involved in governing schools.
You really do have a majority who may be voting to give up their rights, but
they do not believe in those rights. You heard their leaders tell you that this
morning. They feel the churches should have nothing to do with governing the
schools and that there should not be unidenominational schools.
It is not quite correct to say that there are no minority rights here because
the only people who believe in "separate schools" -- in the sense of
the separate school system in Ontario -- are the Catholics and the
Pentecostals. They are a minority.
The position of the Churches in Integration -- and I stress, these are the
churches who represent the majority of the population -- were expressed to you
this morning. There was a press release in May 1996 from which I have quoted at
the bottom of page 3 of the brief. Nothing could be clearer. The wish of the
Churches in Integration has been and continues to be the establishment of a
single church school system which would include all students in the province.
That is a classic statement of the Protestant view of education. It is not for
us to say it is wrong, but it is the Protestant view. It is not the Catholic
view. Whether we believe the Catholics or the Pentecostals to be wrong in this,
it is certainly contrary to their view and they are the minority. It is those
minorities who are meant to be protected by Term 17.
The third section begins halfway down page 4 and relates to the text of Term 17
as proposed by the Government of Newfoundland. There are one or two rather
critical points which have been made the subject of a proposed amendment of the
amended Term 17. Those have been debated already by various people in front of
The first critical point deals with what is called "unidenominational
schools." Such schools are, in anyone's lexicon, denominational schools.
Provision is made for them in paragraph (b) of the proposed terms which you
have before you and which I have quoted at the bottom of page 4. It is the
opening words which I would like to stress:
...(b) subject to provincial legislation that is uniformly applicable to all
schools specifying conditions for the establishment or continued operation of
(i) any class of persons referred to in paragraph (a) shall have the right to
have a publicly funded denominational school established...
There is, in appearance, the grant of a right to any denomination, including the
Catholics or Pentecostals, to have a true unidenominational school. However,
that right, which seems so broad when you read subparagraph (i), is subject
entirely to those opening words, "subject to provincial legislation that
is uniformly applicable to all schools."
In short, the grant of a constitutional right in subparagraph (i) is diffusible
by provincial legislation. It would be very easy -- we can all imagine how easy
it would be -- for the Government of Newfoundland to pass legislation which
would be uniformly applicable which would in practice make it impossible to
have a denominational school.
I will come back to that point in a minute. As far as I know, there is no other
example in the Constitution of Canada where what is meant to be a guaranteed
constitutional right can be defeated by any government. Any government can
override the Charter of Rights by using the notwithstanding clause. We are not
talking about that here. This gives Newfoundland the right to set conditions
under which they grant the right to denominational schools, which is a
fundamental issue. It becomes meaningless. You could not do it.
Let me give you an example because we heard it this morning: The Churches in
Integration pointed out that what they wanted is neighbourhood schools. All the
government needs to do is say that everyone goes to the neighbourhood school.
Denominational schools become impossible under those conditions except,
possibly, just by a fluke, in one area which happens to be almost entirely of
one religion. It would be so easy to do that.
You are being asked as legislators to approve to approve a constitutional
guarantee which is no guarantee at all and which could never be taken to a
court of law. The courts would have to say that, yes, the Constitution grants
that right but subject to Newfoundland legislation. With that Newfoundland
legislation, the only question the court can ask is whether the legislation is
applicable to all schools. That would be the end of the inquiry.
The amendment proposed to make paragraph (b) meaningful in terms of a
constitutional guarantee was to replace that opening language, "subject to
provincial legislation," with the expression, "where numbers warrant."
That is an expression which is known to Canadian constitutional law. It forms
part of the Charter of Rights. It is in the Language of Education section. The
courts have looked at it in the past.
It does not mean that any time five or six people want a school of their own
they will get it. The courts approach these things in quite a sensible way. It
does not mean that the courts will not take into account Newfoundland's ability
to pay, the demographics of Newfoundland, and the problems with transportation.
All of those things form part of the equation when the expression "where
numbers warrant" is used. On the other hand, at the end of the day, it is
the courts which will enforce the right.
The Chair: As a matter of clarification, does the phrase "where numbers
warrant" replace the whole of paragraph (b)?
Mr. Irving: Yes, it would replace the opening sentence, "subject to
provincial legislation that is uniformly applicable...".
As I understand it, the amendment was rejected by the House of Commons. Frankly,
I do not understand why it was rejected. I did attempt to gain an understanding
by reading Beauchesne to see why but I never succeeded. Somebody thought that
those words could not be taken out for some procedural reason. They left in the
language and added "where numbers warrant" which makes a complete --
excuse the expression -- pig's dinner of the whole thing. The idea here would be
to take that language out.
You have heard from my old and much respected friend Ian Binnie who had appeared
before this committee. He dealt with this question of "where numbers
warrant." He told you, as you will remember, that if the expression "where
numbers warrant" is used, then, at the end of the day, the courts will be
able to intervene to protect the right which is given, whereas if the language
is left as it is, the courts are excluded. He said that that is as it should
be, that this should be decided by the elected representatives and not by the
In effect, he was criticizing the proposal to put in "where numbers warrant"
on that very ground, that it would introduce the courts into the equation.
However, the courts are involved in all constitutional guarantees. It is not a
constitutional guarantee at all if it cannot be enforced in a court of law.
There are no exceptions to that. We do not have any guarantees in this country
which cannot, in the end, go before the court where a citizen of Canada can
claim respect for his rights. That citizen must have the right to go before a
court; otherwise, we are not talking about constitutional guarantees at all.
Mr. Binnie also pointed out that to make the right dependent on the expression "where
numbers warrant," would be to give a broader and greater right than the
present language would give. I agree with him. I do not disagree with a word he
said. However, when the Government of Newfoundland was soliciting support for
the referendum, they delivered to everyone in the province a brochure which I
have included at tab B and about which you have heard already. The population
was told in that brochure by the provincial government, as it urged support of
its position, that there would be denominational schools where numbers warrant.
That is the very promise that was made.
When you are considering the effect of the referendum, you must ask what were
people voting for? There was no need for a referendum in the first place, but
the government relies heavily on the majority result in the referendum.
You heard people speculating this morning what "our people" voted for.
I do not know what anyone's people voted for. I do know that the government
told the populace that this amendment would not take away denominational
schools. It will change governance. They said that quite flatly and fairly. "You
will have the right to denominational schools where numbers warrant." They
did not say, "You will have the right to denominational schools where we
decide whether or not you will have it." They used that very expression
and it is quoted in my brief.
What can we take from the positive result? What were people voting for? Were
they voting, "Yes, I would like to see the school system reformed?" I
suggest, with respect, that if the question involved reform of the Senate, the
House of Commons or the courts, they would always say yes. Everybody is in
favour of reform. Or were they saying, "...but I do not want to lose my
denominational schools and I will not because I will have them where numbers
We cannot get inside the heads of people to know that, but we do know that that
is what was held out. When Mr. Binnie tells you that there is a big difference
between "where numbers warrant" and the present text, we should
answer that that is fine, but people were promised "where numbers warrant."
Without reading it out, the text from the government brochure is set out in
paragraph 14 of the brief at pages 6 and 7.
That completes my remarks on the first of the two issues of language in revised
Term 17. Paragraph (b) should be amended so that it conforms to the undertaking
made by the Government of Newfoundland when it solicited support for this
amendment. The way it is now, it falls far short of what people were told they
were going to get.
On page 7 of the brief is the fourth item, being paragraph (c), regarding
unidenominational schools or, as we should recognize them, real denominational
Under paragraph (c), where a school is established under paragraph (b) -- and
not many will be unless that language is amended, but assuming that were to
happen -- the classes of persons have the right to provide for religious
education, activities and observances. That right goes through all the schools.
There is an additional right to direct the teaching of aspects of curriculum
affecting religious beliefs, student admission policy and the assignment and
dismissal of teachers.
The processed amendment was to add to that so the phrase read "to determine
and direct." Mr. Binnie told you that you need not do that. He was quite
funny about it with the deprecating remark about lawyers, saying that lawyers
can always find a way to use three or four words where one will do nicely.
This is no semantic quibble and, with great respect to Mr. Binnie, he knew darn
well that this is no semantic quibble. He suggested that dictionaries in common
use would say that "to direct" means "to determine". I
looked at some dictionaries and they say no such thing. He gave you a definition
for "direction", which is a noun. He did not give you a definition
for "direct", which is a verb.
Look at the Oxford dictionary or at Black's Law Dictionary. They will raise some
serious doubt as to the definition of "to direct" in this phrase. It
does not necessarily mean "to determine." It is clear that Mr. Binnie
did not tell you that the Government of Newfoundland is opposed to the classes
determining these issues.
I refer in my brief to a letter written by Mr. Wells himself in which he was not
opposed either. He just said that it was quite clear already and that one need
not add any words.
Nobody said, "Just a minute. We do not intend to confer the right to
determine these matters." They simply said that "direct" is
The Oxford dictionary -- which I still consider to be one of the leading
dictionaries -- under the verb "direct," rather than the noun, lists
a whole series of definitions for all the different senses. The one which is
obviously relevant here is set out for you in paragraph 19 of the brief, "...to
regulate the course of; to guide; to conduct; to advise."
As it happens, in one of those rare curiosities, we had a whole court case which
went to the Supreme Court of Canada only a few years ago on precisely this
issue: What does it mean when you say that someone has the right to regulate
the course of something?
In the Quebec school legislation, the school commissioners have the right to
regulate the course of study. We took that to mean that the school
commissioners could determine the curriculum. That case went all the way to the
Supreme Court of Canada and the Supreme Court said that, "to regulate the
course of study," does not mean to determine the course of study at all. It
only means to implement it. The task is purely administrative. Someone else
will do all the determining; the commissioners will put it into force.
I have given you the reference for that case. It is a well-known case which has
stuck in my craw, I must tell you, for a long time. I think they were
absolutely wrong, but never mind that; by a heavy majority, that is what they
decided. We went to the extent of requesting a re-hearing on the grounds they
had decided per incuriam. They heard us in chilly silence but they did not
agree. That is the law.
This very issue then, this tiny word which Mr. Binnie laughed off as a lawyer's
dream to get in another word, has been the subject of a Supreme Court of Canada
decision. You are being invited to say that they shall have the right "to
direct," which everybody seems to think should mean "to determine"
-- except the Churches in Integration who are opposed to that idea -- but that
is not what is written there at all. That amendment is also vital.
I have two other points which I understand have been debated before. There has
been a framework agreement. Prior to that, there was another agreement by all
of the churches here to make certain changes to the school system.
Page 9 of the brief has reference to the two issues: One is the reduction in the
number of school boards from 27 to 10; the other is the creation of a single
construction board. There is an idea rife that, somehow, if you give a dollar
to one denomination, you must give one to another. That is not so. That
argument has no validity in my opinion. It has to be non-discriminatory and
In any event, those two changes were being discussed. The question arises, can
the number of school boards be reduced from 27 to 10 and can a single
construction board be implemented without a constitutional amendment? I refer
the committee to paragraph 23 of the proposal from all of the churches,
including the Churches in Integration, in June of 1995. The whole press release
is attached as tab D.
The churches are prepared to consolidate the 27 school districts into no more
than 8 to 10. They were willing to go below the 10 requested by the government.
They proposed for each district a single transportation system streamlined to
the maximum degree. They are prepared to agree to the establishment of
Over the page, the churches are prepared to participate in the establishment of
a school construction board which will determine capital construction
priorities on a provincial needs basis.
At the end, I would emphasize this:
In brief, church leaders reiterate their commitment to educational reform and
recognize that significant changes should be made to the education system of
this Province. These changes, however, can be made within the context of the
exercise of present constitutional rights.
There you have all of the chairmen who have an interest saying, quite plainly,
quite a long time ago, "All of those changes can be made, as far as we are
concerned, without constitutional amendment."
The framework agreement contained the same commitment with regard to school
boards and the construction board. I will not get into the debate because I was
not there, but I understand the Churches in Integration withdrew their support
for that agreement.
Let me pause there for a second. It is easy to see in writing where the problem
lies. You have before you now the framework agreement for school board
consolidation which was submitted to the minister on April 1, 1996. You heard
this morning that it included things like school board consolidations and the
construction board, but it included other things as well.
If you look at page 3, you see a big heading, "Other Matters On Which
Consensus Was Reached." This comes from all of the church groups.
...there would be provision for denominational committees, for each school
board, with responsibilities as follows:
A. (1) The denominational committee shall, for a unidenominational school,
(a) determine and direct
This is the very language we were just discussing.
(I) religious education, including teacher assignment for religious education,
(ii) pastoral care...,
(iii) the philosophy and ambience, and
(iv) the teaching of aspects of curriculum affecting religious beliefs in that
(b) determine and direct student admission policy for that school;
I do not know what happened at all those meetings, but that is what is in the
framework agreement. The press release at tab A, from the Churches in
Integration, shows that they flatly disagree with that whole concept: Churches
should not be involved in governance; there should be no unidenominational
schools. What they are saying in effect is that there should be no Catholic
schools. There should be a single church school system, i.e., no Catholic
schools, no Pentecostal schools. That is precisely what they said this morning.
There can be no doubt that, whatever happened at those meetings -- on which I
have no comment because I was not there -- there is a profound disagreement by
the Churches in Integration to this concept which I just read from the
framework agreement. There is no consensus now. I do not know how they came to
agree to it then. It seems to me that that is where the framework agreement came
In any event, the question now becomes, "Can we make these changes to the
school board numbers and put in the construction board and perhaps do a lot of
other things, without a constitutional amendment?"
In my opinion, the answer is "yes". My perspective comes as someone
who has spent a lot of time in the Supreme Court of Canada and in other places
attempting to defend rights under section 93 and finding it very tough going.
The courts are not anxious to put a lot of meat on to the bones of school
rights; they do not see that as something to be greatly encouraged. It is very
difficult to win a case based on section 93, and it would be on Term 17 as
As long as the amendments to the system are practical and reasonable, flow from
a need which is obvious -- such as the shortage of money -- and do not destroy
the right to denominational schools, which is the basic right, the courts will
uphold those amendments. With great respect for others of a contrary view --
none of those who have testified here have appeared in those cases, as far as I
know -- it will be very difficult and, in my opinion, impossible to win a case
challenging the right of the Newfoundland government to make those changes now
without any constitutional amendment at all.
I do not oppose any constitutional amendment, nor am I saying that the present
Term 17 is the best of all possible words. I am saying that, when it comes to
those things which are urgent and which can save all the money that we have
been hearing about, they can be done as of September 1, 1996, without any
constitutional amendment at all. Both the Pentecostals and the Catholics are
still committed to whatever is in the framework agreement. I have tried to
explain my opinion on that issue in paragraphs 26 and 27. I believe there is no
need for an amendment.
The final issue on which I was asked to speak is whether the Government of
Newfoundland has the right to create a non-denominational school system without
a constitutional amendment. Could Newfoundland, tomorrow, simply decide to
create a secular school system? To that, in my opinion, the answer is clearly "yes."
In fact, it has not even been debated in Canada since the 1920s.
There was a famous case from Quebec which went to the Supreme Court of Canada
and then to the judiciary of the Privy Council. It was the case of Hirsch
involving the Protestant school board. A lot of you will know about it. One of
the questions put to the court in that reference case was: Could Quebec set up
a school system which was neither Catholic nor Protestant; that is, can they set
up a secular school system? The unanimous answer from the Supreme Court of
Canada and confirmed by the Privy Council of Canada was "yes." The
fact that there are in existence in a province denominational school systems
does not in any way preclude the establishment of a non-denominational system.
You may ask how the province of Newfoundland could possibly afford to create a
new school system and house and staff it. Of course it could not, no more than
Quebec or Ontario could. However, the courts have also recognized that, if a
school is not being used, it can be transferred to another system. If there
exists a secular, non-denominational system in which parents want their children
educated, they will opt to do that. If that option empties out other schools,
those schools will be handed over to the secular system.
There is no need of a constitutional amendment to effect that kind of
arrangement. That has always been the law. It has been happening in Ontario. It
happens in Quebec. No one has ever challenged it. Schools must be used for the
purpose for which they were created. It does not matter who put up the money.
If the Catholic church paid to build a school and the people were not using it,
the Government of Newfoundland can take it over and use it for a secular
The brief finishes with the quotation from Hirsch which makes quite clear the
point I was making about the fact that the secular school system can always be
Senator Beaudoin: This revised Term 17, if adopted, becomes part of the
Constitution. I have raised the question of the opening clause in paragraph
(b). You have answered, and I cannot agree more, that if the Constitution of
Canada declares something to be subject to a provincial statute, then the
province needs only to legislate a restriction or modification or even to
discard that right. I agree also that that possibility does not appear in
section 93. It is not so in Manitoba, nor in Alberta, nor in Saskatchewan.
Mr. Irving: It is not anywhere.
Senator Beaudoin: Of course, for those who favour the thesis that another system
should take the place of the present system, then this is the perfect wording.
Mr. Irving: Yes, you are right.
Senator Beaudoin: For those who would like to safeguard the principle of
denominational rights, which would not be protected at all under this opening
clause, then what is the best thing to do? Do you simply suggest the
substitution of "where the numbers warrant?"
In the Ottawa hearings, Ian Binnie and Dale Gibson disagreed, as did Benoit
Pelletier. Of course, you also disagreed with Binnie.
Mr. Irving: No, he is right. I do not disagree with what he said. I disagree
with the conclusion that he reached: He does not want you to amend it, but I
think you should.
The reasons which he gave are correct. He said that "where numbers warrant"
gives a real right with which you could go to court. I agree with that.
Senator Beaudoin: What is your conclusion? Should we set aside that opening
clause or should we amend it?
Mr. Irving: My suggestion would be that the clause should be amended. With
respect, this committee and all of us are faced with the plain fact that there
was a referendum in Newfoundland and the Commons has passed a resolution
following a resolution here in Newfoundland. It becomes very awkward to know
how to deal with this.
If you choose to "respect" the referendum, then you may do that, in my
opinion, by accepting the vote for reform but also by accepting that the
proposal which was put to the people who voted for it included denominational
schools "where numbers warrant". If the proposed language is taken out
and replaced with the proviso "where numbers warrant," then you would
be respecting, I suggest, the referendum result and you would be turning it
around so that it becomes a real constitutional guarantee like other
That is the only way you can do it.
Senator Beaudoin: So you respect the referendum?
Mr. Irving: Of course.
Senator Beaudoin: The referendum was not strictly a necessity but that is
another question. You say that it is enough of a constitutional guarantee to
add just those three words, "where numbers warrant?"
Mr. Irving: Yes. Sometimes we try to make too much out of guarantees anyway. No
guarantee is worth much if some goodwill does not go with it.
If you change the words, take out the present introductory sentence and put in "where
numbers warrant", you will have done several things at once: You will have
respected the question which was put to the people of Newfoundland. Second, you
will be using a legal expression which is well known in Canadian constitutional
law. The courts are used to it. "Where numbers warrant" appears
elsewhere. Third, you will be avoiding a tremendous anomaly which appears for
the first time that I can think of in Canadian constitutional history -- the
creation of a right which is not a right. A right which exists only if another
party chooses not to take it away is not a right. That would make nonsense of
the idea of constitutional rights. That is not a right.
Senator Beaudoin: I agree. There is no precedent.
Senator Rompkey: With regard to Mr. Binnie's testimony, I wrote down the phrase
you used, "He knew darn well..." Are you suggesting that he
deliberately misled the committee? What did you mean by that phrase?
Mr. Irving: Ian Binnie is a friend of mine in all respects. He is like a lot of
lawyers. He put a view to you, and I would say this to his face, "Ian, you
know darn well that that is going to be a lot more trouble than you were saying
it was." He was using that very funny style of his.
Senator Rompkey: That is not incorrect, though?
Mr. Irving: Yes, I am saying --
Senator Rompkey: You are saying he is incorrect and that he "knew darn well"
that he was incorrect?
Mr. Irving: I think he knew darn well it was going to be a lot more trouble than
he was suggesting, yes.
Senator Rompkey: I want to clarify that because I thought it was an important
comment on his attitude.
Mr. Irving: He would not think so.
Senator Rompkey: The bottom line is that you do not agree.
Mr. Irving: Just a second, senator --
Senator Rompkey: Throughout the testimony, we have heard and continue to hear
lawyers taking positions on both sides of the issue. The conclusion I have
reached is that there is no unanimity among lawyers, as there is none between
politicians on the particular issues.
Mr. Irving: Unfortunately, there is unanimity as between the judges of the
Supreme Court of Canada on this.
Senator Rompkey: Let me see if we can get unanimity on this, on how funds are
disbursed in the province. You questioned whether there needed to be a
dollar-for-dollar disbursement. I want to read to you, as I read into the
record of the Senate earlier and into the committee transcript, paragraph 3 of
section 76 of the Newfoundland Education Act amended in 1946. It was in effect
in 1949 when the terms of reference were consolidated, and it says that monies
provided by the commission of government for colleges -- meaning high schools
-- for assistance to pupils, teachers, for board contingencies, for industrial
education and for the erection and equipment of schools shall be apportioned
among the several religious denominations according to their respective
populations and that those monies may be expended for such purposes upon the
recommendation of the proper executive office and in accordance with the
provisions of the act.
That seems to me to be very clear. If you think things have changed since 1949,
let me put on record the situation which occurred in Gander Bay, Newfoundland,
During 1993, it was determined that two integrated schools in the Gander Bay
area had been contaminated with a toxic fungus and had to be closed. The Nova
Consolidated School Board decided to construct one new school to replace the
other two buildings. The estimated cost of the new building was $3.5 million.
Since the Integrated Education Council had already committed its funding for
the 1993-94 fiscal year, the Minister of Education sought approval to pre-commit
funds for this project from the 1994-95 fiscal year budget.
In order to commit $3.5 million to the Integrated Education Council for this
emergency construction, government was required to commit a total of $6.2
million. The additional $2.7 million was distributed to the Roman Catholic and
Pentecostal councils in accordance with their respective proportions of the
provincial population, as required by legislation.
So in the legislation of Newfoundland, it seems clear to me, monies are
proportioned on a per capita basis to the seven recognized denominations which
have their rights enshrined in the Constitution.
Mr. Irving: Whether the provincial legislation says that or not, the
Constitution does not require that. Let me read to you from Term 17 --
Senator Rompkey: But your comment was that --
Senator Ottenheimer: Point of order.
The Chair: Let the witness finish please.
Senator Ottenheimer: My point of order was the same as the Chair's. We are
interested in hearing Senator Rompkey's views and we have the benefit of those,
fortunately, over a longer period, but the witness we only have for a short
Senator Rompkey: I would agree not to hear your views if you agree not to hear
Mr. Irving: I have not committed to memory all of the Newfoundland legislation.
It may be that there are anomalies in that legislation. Term 17 contains the
constitutional guarantee and is the only thing which stops Newfoundland from
changing the law. It simply says:
(a) all such schools shall receive their share of such funds in accordance with
scales determined on a non- discriminatory basis...
"Non-discriminatory" is another well-known concept. It does not mean
that the government must hand out 10 cents for every 10 cents --
Senator Rompkey: It happened in 1993.
Mr. Irving: That is not what it means. I cannot answer for how it may have been
interpreted or for what school boards or governments have done over the years.
Sometimes foolish things get done.
Under the Constitution as it is now, if a construction board was set up and
money was allocated where it was needed, and provided there was no
discrimination, it would not be open to challenge. Newfoundland could repeal
any legislation which made that impossible right now.
Senator Rompkey: Newfoundland is trying to repeal it.
Mr. Irving: No, they do not need to repeal Term 17 to do that. That is all it
Senator Rompkey: The framework agreement has been referenced again and again.
However, we heard testimony from the integrated boards that they are still
prepared to go to the table when the table was reconvened and that the
agreement was a working document, a work in progress and not an agreement in
fact. We should be careful about who agreed to what. There is no final
agreement. At least that is the testimony we heard this morning from the
integrated representatives. The document in question is a working document
which is a work in progress.
Mr. Irving: Yes, but when you read the document on the matters in which
consensus was reached, and this is signed by everybody, that includes --
Senator Rompkey: We were told that consensus has not been reached.
Mr. Irving: It was then.
Senator Rompkey: We are talking about now.
Mr. Irving: That is why I am saying that somebody has withdrawn from this
agreement. This is an agreement. It is not a complete agreement but it lists
matters on which consensus was reached between all the churches.
Included in those matters, on page 3, are all the rights which the separate
denominations would have in unidenominational schools. You have before you the
press release and others from the Churches in Integration now saying that there
should not be any such schools, that there should be only one school system.
It is quite obvious that the present position of the Churches in Integration is
entirely different from the position they had at the time of signing this
framework agreement. They are irreconcilable.
Senator Rompkey: Let us talk about the Churches in Integration. You were
comparing section 93 with Term 17. I am no lawyer, but section 93 refers to
Catholics and Protestants. As I understand it, it protects a Catholic minority
in the area of Protestant majority and vice versa.
In your testimony to us, you used two different phrases, the "leading
Protestant denominations" and the "Protestants". Is it not true
that Term 17 goes beyond section 93, that in fact Term 17 entrenches the rights
of seven particular Protestant denominations? Is it not true that there is now a
difference of opinion among those Protestant denominations? Therefore, can you
compare section 93 with Term 17? It seems to me that Term 17 goes beyond
Mr. Irving: Actually, Term 17 does not go nearly as far as section 93. That
section provides a whole series of political remedies which are not included in
Term 17. Under section 93, specific provision was made for subsequent rights
being granted by the provincial legislature, and when those rights are granted,
that gives them a certain constitutional caché, so the provincial
governments can make up for deficiencies as in the Ontario Secondary School
That is not true in Newfoundland. Term 17 provides exactly the same thing as
section 93 without the political remedies. However, both of them refer to the
state of the law in the province at the time of union. So, yes, you are
Senator Rompkey: But the state of law in the province at the time of union was
that seven particular denominations had their rights protected, including the
right to an equal proportion of the --
Mr. Irving: No, they never had a right to equal portion. They had a right to
schools funded by government on a non-discriminatory basis. That is all they
had. They never had a right to that other provision. To my mind, that is a
myth. It is true that there were more denominations protected by law in
Newfoundland in 1949 than there were in Quebec in 1867 or in Ontario.
Senator Rompkey: How far would you go? If you agree that the present Term 17
should be retained and that it should be the status quo, how far would you go
in protecting the rights of the other Protestant minorities? There is only one
Catholic church in the province, of course, but there are other Protestant
churches, some of which are larger than the Protestant churches which presently
have their rights enshrined.
Mr. Irving: I am not here to say that no changes should be made at all. I am
saying that the term as it is before you should be amended.
Senator Rompkey: Is that not a fair question? I think it is.
Mr. Irving: I will answer it.
Senator Rompkey: If we are talking about minority rights --
Senator Doody: Let the witness answer.
Mr. Irving: I am not trying to avoid answering your question. I am saying, from
my own knowledge of the Protestant school systems and not just here, that the
Protestant view is precisely the view you heard this morning. The Protestant
Senator Rompkey: Surely it is not the Protestant view.
The Chair: Please wait for the witness to give the answer you requested.
Senator Rompkey: How can you say it is the Protestant view?
The Chair: Let him finish.
Mr. Irving: Reading a page of history or five pages of any of the leading court
cases will tell you that. The Protestants have always run their schools
together. If you go to Quebec and look at the supposed Protestant school system
Senator Rompkey: This is not Quebec.
Mr. Irving: Just a minute. Protestants are Protestants in Quebec just like they
are here, and Anglicans are Anglicans. They are the same --
Senator Rompkey: That is a fallacious argument, in my view.
Mr. Irving: You have not heard the argument yet.
Protestants in this country have traditionally and historically run their
schools in integration, just as you heard this morning. There is no
denominational side to those schools. How could there be, because there may be
five or six different denominations.
By the way, if you go back to the Brophy case, the Anglicans were saying the
same thing as the Catholics. Only churches run by the Church of England are
satisfactory for our pupils. That is what they said then; since then, they have
You always get a kind of school where it is okay to have a public school with
some Christian elements in it, but it would not be all right to have an
Anglican school, and it would not be all right to have a Salvation Army school.
Anglicans and Salvationists have quite different views on a lot of things. That
is why those schools are always non-denominational; there are too many
denominations involved in them to permit a true denominational education. They
are not denominational; they never have been. That is the history of our
You heard it this morning and let me just summarize it. They are saying: We want
a single system that is Christian. We do not want it to be multi-cultural. We
do not want to be stuck, as they are in Ontario, with barring Christmas
pageants because the Muslims do not like it or because someone else does not
like it. We want to keep our own little rights. The schools will be Christian,
not Jewish or anything else, but we only need one system and everybody can go
That is precisely the Protestant view. That is precisely the view that was
debated in 1890. The Catholics said that it sounds wonderful but that it does
not suit them because they do not believe in a single school system.
We will not decide today who is right and wrong. That is the history of this
country and that is where section 93 comes from. You are being told precisely
what people were told in the pre-Confederation debates.
Somebody said, "Why should Catholics have the right to teach people?"
It is because it is important to them and, frankly, because we have behaved
with a certain tolerance over the years. We have not allowed the majority,
which generally has been Protestant, to dictate that the schools for them are
all right and should suit others, too. That is what you are hearing. It is as
simple as that. It is the same debate. Go back to the history books. I invite
you. You will see that it is precisely the same debate.
I am not saying it is bigotry. It is not bigotry. It seems so normal and natural
as a Protestant, and I am one, to --
Senator Rompkey: Are the Pentecostals not Protestants?
Mr. Irving: Yes, but they happen to be a group with a special view.
Senator Rompkey: However, they are Protestants.
Mr. Irving: The mainline Protestants, the Anglican, the United Church, the
Senator Rompkey: That is my point.
Senator Doody: You are at it again, senator.
Mr. Irving: I think I answered the question.
Senator Rompkey: I am at it again because, you know, he makes my point.
Senator Lewis: I have a supplementary question on what Senator Rompkey raised.
Senator Rompkey referred to the 1946 statute.
The Chair: He was talking about the 1946 financial portion of the Education Act.
Senator Lewis: That section provided for the distribution of funds.
Mr. Irving, I gather that the legislature here could change that. If we look at
the present Term 17 of the Constitution Act, it states:
In and for the Province of Newfoundland the Legislature shall have exclusive
authority to make laws in relation to education but the Legislature will not
have authority to make laws prejudicially affecting any right or privilege with
respect to denominational schools...that any class of persons have...at the
date of Union, and out of public funds...
I take it that, at 1949, the statute of 1946 was in effect. That cannot now be
Mr. Irving: If you stopped there, there might be an argument that you could not
change it. The section goes on. It goes on to deal specifically with funding.
First, the province decides what funding it will give overall.
...out of public funds...
(a) all such schools shall receive their share of such funds in accordance with
scales determined on a non-discriminatory basis...
The Constitution itself rather modifies what has gone before it in saying that,
as far as funding is concerned, it shall be a non-discriminatory right. That
does not take us to a point where an equal grant must be given, whether or not
it is needed.
The opening paragraph which you read says that the legislature will not have
authority to make laws prejudicially affecting any right or privilege with
respect to the denominational schools. The Supreme Court of Canada has made it
very clear in recent judgments that that means one cannot make laws
prejudicially affecting the denominational aspect of denominational schools.
It is not everything. As far as funding goes, they have also made it very clear
that the denominational rights regarding funding only go so far as making sure
that there are schools in which denominational rights can be exercised.
Therefore if you were to say that we intend to get away from the system of
automatically handing out the same amount of money or proportional dollars for
each group every time we give out anything, and someone were to challenge that,
what will they say? The first answer is that it is not prejudicially affecting
denominational rights, anyway.
Senator Lewis: Everything is denominational here.
Mr. Irving: The courts will say the same thing that they said for other
provinces. This is precisely a copy of the words of section 93 here. In the
first place, they will say that funding is not an aspect of the denominational
side of the schools anyway, provided of course the government is not saying that
there will no longer be any funding for Catholic schools. That would be
However, to say that we are not distributing money on an automatic, proportional
basis would never fall within that section, and in any event subparagraph (a)
makes it clear what the real right is, and that is that it be
non-discriminatory. If somebody made these arguments, I can imagine yourselves
looking at the judges of the Supreme Court of Canada and having them say to you,
"Are you seriously suggesting that when the Constitution says it should be
non-discriminatory, that means that every time you give ten cents to a Catholic
school to fix something, you must give the same ten cents to someone else?"
You would be laughed out of court. I would not care to plead that, except under
an assumed name.
Senator Lewis: Except that they might look at the background to see what applied
here in Newfoundland. I take it you do not presume to know exactly what has
been the history here and the tradition, as far as the funding and the sharing.
Mr. Irving: No. I know something about it because I have spent a lot of time
here over time, and had the pleasure of working for the government here, but
no, I do not claim to be expert in all of that.
Senator Lewis: We will hear that tomorrow.
Mr. Irving: Whatever the statues of Newfoundland said about funding, the only
thing that has to remain is what is protected by Term 17. All the rest they can
modify as they please. All I am saying is provided they stick with the concept
that it will not be discriminatory, they will never get into any legal trouble.
Senator Pearson: My question is just a point for clarification. It comes back to
this issue of "determine and direct" and as I read the new Term 17, I
am assuming that if you include the word "determine" then you
enshrine the capacity of an unidenominational school to hire teachers who are
denominational. Is that correct?
Mr. Irving: That will be decided shortly. I am not sure about that. You
certainly enshrine their right to do their choosing of teachers. You will know
that in Ontario, where the separate school system has grown by leaps and bounds
since funding was extended, there is a serious issue now. The government had
said right at the beginning, "Yes, we will provide funding to the secondary
level of separate schools, but you must hire any teacher who comes along, and
you must not hire teachers for denominational reasons." However, that was
Senator Pearson: That has a 10-year life on it.
Mr. Irving: Yes, I think there was a moratorium. As I understand it, the
moratorium is coming to an end, and there will likely be a court case on it. I
would not fancy the chances of anyone arguing that they would be entitled to
exclude non-Catholics from a teaching post. As I understand it here,
non-Catholics are not excluded from teaching posts now. All the specialist
teachers are hired by the boards altogether and they are simply allocated to
schools. They do not have anything to do with religion.
However, there is an issue, because the Supreme Court of Canada said quite
recently in Caldwell that where there is a real Roman Catholic school and a
teacher violates the rules of the church, then the school board is entitled to
say to that teacher, "You cannot teach here." That troubles a lot of
people, but I do believe that that is the latest decision of the Supreme Court
of Canada. However, their decisions do not last forever anymore. The warranty
is down to a few years now. I do not know how long that will last.
Senator Kinsella: I wonder whether you would comment on the matter of
justiciability. Is the matter of justiciability not a corollary of right,
whether it be a constitutional right or a statutory-guaranteed right, and does
it not conform to what is currently proposed in (b)(i)?
Mr. Irving: I agree as (b) is now written, it is not a justiciable issue as to
whether people are entitled to denominational schools. It is an issue of what
the Newfoundland legislation says, and the courts will be helpless; it is not a
The Chair: I have two quite quick questions: First of all is there a referendum
of the province of Newfoundland, and if so, was it that referendum act under
which the recent referendum was conducted?
Mr. Irving: I believe it is the Plebiscite Act.
The Chair: If you amend Term 17 to include "where numbers warrant", my
reading of what the Seventh-Day Adventists said to us yesterday is that they
would be cut out of that system because, if one looks at the way the language
portion, section 23, has been interpreted, "where numbers warrant"
has been any number from 16 to 23. They often do not have classes that size, so
they were given a right in 1949 which, it would appear to me, the addition of
the phrase "where numbers warrant" would remove from them. What is
their protection if Term 17 is amended to include the phrase "where
Mr. Irving: I think the answer to that is probably that they do not have any
protection. There is a point at which practicality and rights have to meet. You
mentioned 16 or 20 but, of course, the "where numbers warrant"
provision in section 23 is a double-barrelled one. There is a right to have
instruction in your own language where numbers warrant, and then there is the
right to have institutions where numbers warrant. We are really talking about
the second one here. The right to create an unidenominational school will not
arise when there is 16 or 20 people. That is more or less the equivalent in
section 23 of the right to have an institution of your own language. I am afraid
if there are groups that are small enough, it is almost impossible to deal with
that, and the answer would be, I guess, that you would have to try to
accommodate that group within another school, as I understand is sometimes done
The Chair: Thank you very much.
Senator MacDonald: Although the time is up, since we are the masters of our own
destiny, I was wondering whether there was anyone else who had any questions?
If so, I would move that we hear them.
The Chair: There was no one else on the list. I would say thank you to Mr.
Irving for your presentation this afternoon.
We now have three representatives from the Yes Means Yes Committee.
Mr. Tom Hann, Committee Member, Yes Means Yes Committee: Thank you for the
opportunity to appear. We will do our presentation in phases.
Ms Mandy Cantle, Co-Chair, Yes Means Yes Committee: We would like to thank the
Senate committee for providing the Yes Means Yes Committee with the opportunity
to be heard today. I will begin our presentation by explaining how and why we
were formed, and who we represent. In April of this year, shortly after the
provincial election, the Education Minister, Roger Grimes, announced that
agreement had been reached between the government and the denominational
education councils for the establishment of 10 interim school boards, a
provincial construction board, and on key issues on educational reform. The
churches who were party to the agreement have control of certain aspects of
education, educational rights and responsibilities, and, through their
denominational education councils and school boards, share governance in the
operation of education. This agreement was subsequently referred to as the
The Avalon Consolidated School Board publicly expressed concern about some
aspects of this agreement, as a result of which a number of parent advisory
committees and home and school associations requested that public presentations
be made so that parents could be better informed.
The first presentation was held on May 2, and was attended by over a thousand
people. The second, held the following week, was attended by approximately 400,
and others followed which received the same kind of response. The reaction of
parents and other concerned citizens who came to these presentations was one of
anger and frustration. It was apparent that many of the changes which we, as
parents and citizens of this province, believed we had voted for in the
referendum were not included in the framework agreement and that, in fact, the
end result of this agreement, if implemented, could be that more power and
influence over education, not less, could be handed to the churches, or at the
very least, the status quo would be maintained.
There was an obvious need to take some form of action to bring our concerns to
the attention of the government. A meeting was called for May 13 of all the
presidents of the parent advisory committees and home and school associations
of the schools within the Avalon Consolidated School Board. With only two days'
notice, 18 of 24 school associations were represented.
Two courses of action were decided upon at that meeting: First, an invitation
was sent to the leaders of the churches which are partners in the education
system to attend a public presentation so that members of the public could hear
them state their position on the framework agreement and have an opportunity to
ask questions. This meeting took place just over a week later. The church
leaders denied having signed such an agreement and subsequently made public
statements disagreeing with the framework. Second, we decided to circulate the
Yes Means Yes petition, a copy of which you have attached to our presentation
and which Tom has here with us today.
Mr. Hann: This petition represents 12,000 people from across Newfoundland, of
all religious faiths, and you will find if you go through them, that it is
representative of the "yes" side and the need for reform. We would
like you to take these signatures and make sure that someone has a look at them.
Ms Cantle: We achieved these signatures within a period of only five weeks. We
started from nothing, with no organization in place, no financial resources to
promote or advertise it, no network in place to circulate it. These signatures
have come from all religious affiliations: Roman Catholic, Pentecostal,
Anglican, Presbyterians, Salvation Army, United Church. They also come from
those who are the true minority here in this province, and whose rights are
apparently ignored: Jews, Hindus, Muslims, Baha'i, and other groups including
people of no religious conviction.
We are here today, therefore, believing that ours is the only group that can say
we speak for the cross-section of the people in this province. As a group, we
have no power base to protect, no vested interest to look after, no funding to
guard. Whilst we originated with and represent all of the schools within the
Avalon Consolidated School Board, numbering 26, most of whom have
representatives in the audience here this afternoon, we can honestly tell you
that we are here also on behalf of the thousands of people from all over
Newfoundland and Labrador who signed the petition.
The five statements on the petition have also been publicly supported by Premier
Brian Tobin in the House of Assembly, the Leader of the Official Opposition,
the Liberal members, the provincial New Democratic Party, the Newfoundland and
Labrador Home and School Federation, the Newfoundland and Labrador Teachers'
Association, the Anglican Church, the Presbyterian Church, the Salvation Army
and the United Church.
What are we asking for? We are asking for the opportunity to begin to move
towards the same kind of education system you take for granted in the rest of
the country, which we thought we would be getting by voting "yes" in
the referendum. Let us be quite clear here: The people of this province are
sick and tired of talking about the possibility of educational reform. We just
want to get on with it.
Former Premier Clyde Wells stated publicly that the government had tried for ten
years to negotiate educational reform with the churches. Several thousand
people were heard during the Williams commission. In 1995, the Wells government
announced that it would hold a referendum and let the people decide. To ensure
that the wishes of the people were heard, the government decided not to
interfere or influence people's opinions by conducting any pro campaign in
favour of reform, but would let the people decide the issue on its own merits.
The "no" side, on the other hand, waged a major campaign against
reform, spending hundreds of thousands of dollars and mobilizing volunteers
across the province in a slick election-style campaign that articulated the
perceived evils of reform.
Many people did not vote in the referendum because they believed that the
question did not go far enough. Others of the same opinion voted because at
least they saw the potential for the beginning of change. Despite all of these
factors, the people of this province voted in September of 1995 in favour of
reforming our education system by a vote of 54 per cent. It should be noted that
this province entered confederation with a smaller majority.
As you are aware, the former premier resigned, and we have a new government. An
election was called. Education was not an issue, because it was assumed that
when the new premier stated that education reform would proceed because the
people had spoken in the referendum, we, the people, believed him. This,
however, was not to be, and here we still are with reform having been delayed
yet again, having to make representation to you, a non-elected body from the
rest of the country, to justify proceeding with educational reform, which is a
Let us be quite clear here: All we are asking is that every parent have the
option of sending their children to the school of their choice. Under our
present constitutionally entrenched system, that choice is determined not by
the parent but by the churches and institutions of this province. In other
words, we do not have a public school system here as exists in other provinces.
We want the same opportunities for our children to attend interdenominational,
neighbourhood schools as children across the rest of the country have. Why
should we be treated differently from any other Canadian? We do not want to
take any rights away from parents who choose to have their children educated in
unidenominational schools. Neither are we suggesting that religion be taken out
of whatever neighbourhood schools are established in the future, but the choice
of schools should be made by the parent, not through the churches.
We are obviously well aware that your focus during this hearing is on minority
rights because of the extremely strong lobby you have been receiving from the
Roman Catholic and Pentecostal churches. We are hearing loud and clear about
your concern for protection of minority rights. In fact, the Roman Catholics in
Newfoundland are the largest single religious group, with approximately 36 per
cent of the population. It is only when the partners in integrated education are
viewed as a single group -- and they definitely are not for any other purpose
than education -- that the Roman Catholics become a minority, and then not by
In addition to this, there are situations in the province where the majority
becomes the minority, such as here in St. John's where the Roman Catholics are
the majority even when the integrated partners are grouped.
Here in Newfoundland and Labrador, the system of education is very different
from any other province -- so different, in fact, that we suspect that the
confusion expressed over the amendment to Term 17 comes about because it would
not occur to people in other provinces to believe that the power and control of
the churches over education here even exists.
People's frustration with this church power and control over education was
expressed to us time and time again by people signing our petition and coming
to the public information sessions. We heard from many people, and these were
some of the comments we heard: Roman Catholic and Pentecostals who want reform
but have no voice as their church bodies reflect an official position, and do
not allow opportunity for individual expression; teachers in the Roman Catholic
system who signed a petition in favour of reform, and wanted to circulate it in
their schools but were afraid to for fear of losing their jobs; Roman Catholic
and Pentecostal parents who signed the petition and encouraged us to continue
because they have no way of expressing their views through their schools;
elderly people who went to the trouble of voting in the referendum because they
considered this to be such an important issue, and who now feel that their
rights are being violated because the "yes" vote they cast is not
being acted upon; Roman Catholic parents who refused to ever send their children
to a school in the Roman Catholic system; parents of the non-affiliated
religions in this province whose rights under the current system are
nonexistent; parents of children within the Roman Catholic system who have been
asked to sign and send back to their schools forms stating whether or not they
would prefer to stay in the Roman Catholic system, parents who have told us that
they have felt intimidated by this and have signed agreement for fear their
children might be adversely impacted if they did otherwise; people who, as
children, were forced to attend schools many miles away while their
neighbourhood friends attended the school across the road, which would not
accept them because they were the wrong religion; parents who are now forced
into the same segregationist situation with their own children, putting them on
a school bus in the morning for a trip of perhaps 45 minutes or more because
the school across the street, where all their neighbourhood friends go, will
not accept them on religious grounds, and because there is no room left for them
at the bottom of the registration list.
Yes, we use the term "segregation." Where, in the rest of Canada, in a
country which prides itself in respecting the rights and freedoms of
individuals in the twentieth century, would you find an education system, paid
for by our tax dollars, which condones religious segregation? That, indeed, is
the reality of the situation that exist here in this province.
Mr. David Martin, Co-Chair, Yes Means Yes Committee: The Yes Means Yes petition
spells out clearly in plain English what the people of the province thought
they would get as a result of voting "yes" in the referendum. Nobody
who has signed or supported this petition could possibly misunderstand in any
way what we, the people of Newfoundland and Labrador, want our future education
system to be. We are not lawyers; we do not write or understand legal language,
like a lot of the people who have appeared before you today. We are parents,
and we certainly know what it is that we want, and what we thought we were
voting for in the referendum.
There are five definitive statements on the petition and they are clear and to
the point, and we will go through them briefly. First, the establishment of an
interdenominational school board open to all children without regard to their
religion. Second, the right of all children to attend their neighbourhood
Statements 1 and 2 go hand-in-hand and express our belief that the norm in this
province should be that all children be able to attend their neighbourhood
interdenominational school, as do children in other provinces. It is wrong that
children in this province are segregated from their neighbourhood friends by
religion and forced to go to different schools, often a long bus ride away.
Apart from any religious consideration, we desperately need to consolidate our
educational tax dollars so that our fragmented and poorly coordinated system
can be improved to meet the tremendous challenges of a declining, changing and
Third, the provision of unidenominational schools where there is parental
preference and where numbers warrant: We do not want to take away parents'
rights to send their children to what in other provinces would be called a
separate or independent school. However, the criteria for the establishment of
these schools has to be clearly defined. The demand can only be considered
genuine if parents and other citizens have been allowed to express their views
through an independent and anonymous voting system. It is pretty obvious that
if a school sends a note home with its students asking if they would prefer to
stay in that same school or change, most will choose to stay where they are.
The reaction is only human nature. Having to sign such a response would make it
very difficult to express dissatisfaction.
Fourth, the appointment of teachers based solely on merit and qualifications,
except in unidenominational schools: Although we do not agree with it, there
also it was a compromise. Teaching jobs within the Roman Catholic and
Pentecostal systems, with a few exceptions, were only open to teachers of those
faiths, while jobs under the integrated system are open to everyone based on
merit and qualifications. As a result, only approximately 60 per cent of the
teaching jobs in this province are open to all teachers. Teaching positions in
the rural, so-called joint service schools are allocated according to the
religious proportion of their students.
While we understand that the right to hire on the basis of religion in
unidenominational schools exists across the country, nevertheless, because of
the church-controlled nature of our school system, the degree of this practice
here makes the situation unacceptable to us, and we are opposed to it. We
consider it to be a poor example to our children and our students going into the
twenty-first century. Whatever happened to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms?
Is it not time that the hiring and firing of teachers on religious grounds was
the exception rather than the rule?
Fifth, church influence confined to religious education and pastoral care,
except in unidenominational schools: This statement is clear and obvious. We
want church influence in aspects of education other than religious education to
be removed from the interdenominational neighbourhood schools. However, it is
obvious that unidenominational schools would maintain their right to church
control, since that would be the basis upon which they were established in the
We as a group have a lot of work to do. Even with the passage of Term 17, we
recognize that the process of reforming the educational system in this province
will be a long, slow and difficult process. We have had many concerns about the
process, and sincerely hope that the provincial government will look to us, the
parents, for input, realizing that we represent a true cross-section of the
We believe that future school boards need to be structured in such a way as to
guarantee equality of viewpoint; that board members should be elected by the
public, not appointed by the churches; that educators and parents should be
consulted, and that the mandate to move towards the development of
neighbourhood interdenominational schools is clear. If board members are not
committed to this philosophy, then there is little chance that reform will
You must realize by now, from the submissions you have already heard, that the
Roman Catholic and Pentecostal churches are totally committed to the
continuation of denominational education in this province, regardless of the
vote of the majority. The integrated churches had similar concerns back in the
1960s when they joined forces. Those concerns were proven to be unfounded, and
the integrated system has worked well. If the will is there among educators,
the same thing can happen with other religious groups, in our view.
While we appreciate that you have taken the time and made the effort to visit
our province to hear directly from the people of Newfoundland and Labrador, we
are surprised by the representations you have selected to hear. That you should
have chosen not to hear from any of the school boards in this province, let
alone other educators, is, to us, quite extraordinary. During the hearings in
Ottawa, you heard from the Ottawa School Board. Why would you come to this
province and not hear from any of our own? In particular, the Avalon
Consolidated School Board, the largest integrated school board in the province,
could have expertly answered all of your questions regarding the framework
agreement, and many other questions besides.
Further, the time allotted to the various church groups seems to have been out
of proportion to their provincial representation, presumably because you are
focusing on minority rights. We do not believe that this is an issue of
majority rights but one of education. Ten years of trying to reach agreement
has been enough, and we believe that this is an education issue that must be
resolved here in Newfoundland and Labrador by our elected provincial
government, as is its right and responsibility.
One thing, though, is very clear: However much we in this province want our
education system to be reformed and brought in line with others across the
country, and however much we want our children to be exposed to the same
opportunities for an integrated, non-segregated system of education as the
children in other provinces, the process of reform cannot even begin without the
passage of the amendment of Term 17. Various groups have made it consistently
clear to the government that if changes are attempted without the passage of
this amendment, challenges in the court will result.
We would like to conclude by thanking you, Madam Chair, and the members of the
Senate committee for the opportunity to appear before you. We have expressed
opinions on behalf of thousands of people in the province, and look forward to
the amendment of Term 17 being passed expeditiously so that we can get on with
the enormous challenge facing us in reforming our educational system for the
benefit of our children and generations to come.
Senator Kinsella: The witnesses in their brief have attached to it a form. Was
this a petition that was circulated?
Mr. Martin: This is the petition that represents approximately 12,000 people,
Senator Kinsella: The third item thereon says, "Provision for
unidenominational schools where parental preference and numbers warrant."
The application of that principle, "where numbers warrant," has come
up in our discussion with reference to the wording of the proposed Term 17. It
is subsection (b). Do you agree that the wording of Term 17 ought to be amended
to provide for "where numbers warrant"?
Mr. Martin: I think what we said clearly at the beginning of our presentation
was that we are not lawyers. We are not constitutional experts. We are
concerned parents who, we feel, represent a very good cross-section of the
parents of children in the school system in this province. It is not for us to
say constitutionally whether we think this should happen or whether we do not
think it should happen. What we are saying is simply this: As a democracy, we
voted in a referendum here in September, which clearly outlined certain aspects
of reform that we thought we were getting.
During the discussions which have gone on with respect to the framework, it came
to our attention that certain of those issues that we thought we were voting
for were in actual fact being flip-flopped. The two that we speak of
specifically are: initially, when we voted, we thought that interdenominational
schools would be sets up as a norm, and that unidenominational schools would be
set up where warranted. We did not know any of the particulars at the time of
how this would be implemented.
When we discovered what was in the framework agreement, we found out that that
concept had been completely changed around in that unidenominational schools
would be set up as the norm and, where numbers warranted, interdenominational
schools would be set up. Our problem with that, and the problem of parents in
general, is that once these systems and these schools are set up, it will be
very difficult to change them, and I think it is the view of the people who
signed our petition, and the view of this group, that that is a backward step.
Senator Beaudoin: You referred to some expressions that are not necessarily in
the proposed Term 17 and, of course, what is before the Senate is only Term 17
as proposed. I understand that you would like to have some guarantees that what
you are suggesting will, in fact, happen. Therefore, if it does not appear in
this document that is before us, which is of a constitutional nature, it has to
appear somewhere. You are then relying entirely on the legislation that will
come from the Legislative Assembly of Newfoundland. I understand that some
people are of that opinion, of course, but you know that governments may
change, and they do change from time to time, so I am a little bit surprised
that you did not suggest that those expressions be enshrined in the text that is
before the legislature.
Mr. Martin: Again I go back to the point that we are not lawyers. We are not
constitutional experts. Because of that, we are reluctant to get involved in
the constitutional debate with you people, with all due respect. This is your
business. We are simply parents. We have other jobs; we have other interests;
we are here as interested parents. What we feel is that the government of
Newfoundland is an elected body, as you said, and if these people do not make
the right decisions, then there is an election down the road and the government
can be changed. We do feel strongly that it is a provincial matter. We, as a
group of people; we, as parents, voted "yes" that we wanted reform.
All we are asking is that we be allowed to get on with it.
Let us not waste any more time. This is a very poor province to start with.
There is money being spent on this whole process and, in our view, there is no
need for it. We, as a people, have voted for reform. We want to get on with it
and we will leave it to our elected officials to do that. If they do not make
the right decision, there will be a day of reckoning, and that day of reckoning
is the next provincial election. On that date, both sides will have an
opportunity to cast their vote to reflect their point of view.
Senator Beaudoin: In some countries there is nothing in the Constitution on that
subject, and it is left to the will of the Parliament of the country concerned,
or with the government of the country, and there is no constitutional
guarantee, but it works. I understand that you are probably in favour of such a
philosophy: The parliamentary system works; we elect governments. We may defeat
a government, and so on, and that is good enough; we do not need more than
that. That is certainly a philosophy that is quite feasible. I understand that
this is what you favour.
Ms Cantle: I would like to comment here, in response to that point, that, yes,
we believe ultimately that our provincial government will bring down
legislation which we hope will introduce what we, as parents, are looking for.
We are very concerned here that all we have heard, or almost all we have heard,
from the Senate committee is about minority rights. I think everyone here in
Newfoundland has a deep respect for people's religious beliefs. People in
Newfoundland and Labrador are deeply religious people whose faith means a great
deal to them, and nobody here wants to take away any minority rights.
What we want to see, however, is the establishment of interdenominational,
neighbourhood schools, that people anonymously can elect to have in their
neighbourhoods, and to which parents can choose to send their children without
any fear of religious recrimination, while at the same time providing
denominational schools, or unidenominational schools, for those parents whose
faith is so deeply entrenched that they truly do not believe in any other
educational system for their children.
I think it is very hard to get the point across to people who do not live here
that the system of neighbourhood schools, which exists across the rest of this
country, in fact in most provinces, as non-denominational schools whereas we
are talking about interdenominational schools, that that system does not exist
here and that is what we are asking for.
Senator Lewis: I do not know if I missed something at the beginning. but did the
presenters explain who the Yes Means Yes Committee is and how you were formed?
Ms Cantle: We tried to.
Senator Lewis: How are you funded?
Ms Cantle: We are not funded.
Senator Lewis: You have been doing this work on our own?
Mr. Martin: You must have missed the first part of our presentation.
Senator Lewis: That would be on the record.
Mr. Hann: We are a group of parents and we have no axes to grind. We have no
funding from anyone whatsoever. This is strictly a volunteer organization of
people who got together because we have some major concerns about what is going
on in this province with the education system. We have a major concern about
the fact that we did vote in a referendum to reform the education system, and we
feel that that is not happening, and that it is not about to happen.
Senator Lewis: You are not beholden to anyone except your children and other
Ms Cantle: Except the children, and the people who signed the petition.
Senator Lewis: That is refreshing.
Senator Cogger: Several times you conveyed a sense of urgency; you conveyed a
sense of being impatient with the fact that nothing much seems to be happening.
I think in all fairness I just want to put on the record that in this province
a vote was taken on September 5 last year, promptly followed by a resolution of
your House of Assembly. This was all then forwarded to Ottawa, followed by a
letter from Prime Minister Chrétien to then Premier Wells, saying that he
would introduce that resolution in the House of Commons promptly. We all know
what followed. It was introduced in the House of Commons on the last day of
May, I believe, voted upon after 12 hours of debate, and then referred to the
Senate. Since then, as you can see under the whip of our fearless chair, this
committee has tried to act as reasonably promptly as can be done, and we are
committed to a decision and a report by next Wednesday.
Mr. Martin: I think you must keep in mind that some of our frustration may be
coming forward here because, while you are talking from September until now, we
are talking 10, 20 years. I was born and raised in Newfoundland. I was born in
1949. A previous speaker was quoted as saying that there were no such things as
separate school boards other than the Roman Catholic and Protestants. That is
not the case in Newfoundland. Prior to 1960, there was a United Church school
board, an Anglican school board, a Presbyterian school board, and so on. During
the 1960s, much the same debate took place as is taking place here today, and
it was decided that these integrated churches would get together, and there was
just as much opposition to that group getting together in the 1960s as there is
today. Then once everyone made up their minds that this is what they would do,
and that it was in the best interests of the students to do it, it was done,
and it has worked exceptionally well in this province since the 1960s.
The Chair: Thank you very much. Just to give you a little further information,
this resolution was not received by the Legal and Constitutional Affairs
Committee until June 13. We will make our report on the July 17, so it is
certainly not this committee that is in any way hampering any efforts to deal
with this matter expeditiously.
To answer the other question in your brief, when we made contact with the
affected groups, the groups that were protected by the original Term 17, we
asked them to put together panels of witnesses. Therefore if few school boards
were represented here, it was quite frankly because the integrated schools or
the churches, the Roman Catholic churches, the Pentecostal churches, the
Seventh-day Adventist churches and others, chose not to include in their panel
representatives of the school boards. I thank you very much for your
Senator Lewis: Are any of you on school boards?
Ms Cantle: No.
The Chair: Our next witnesses are from the Newfoundland and Labrador Home and
School Federation. We would ask them to take their seats now. Please proceed.
Ms Marie Law, President, Newfoundland and Labrador Home and School Federation:
Madam Chair, I intend to be brief. Members of the Senate committee, first of
all I would like to thank you for the opportunity to speak on behalf of the
Newfoundland and Labrador Home and School Federation. Our organization is the
umbrella group for parent-teacher associations, home and school associations,
parent advisory councils, in fact all school-based parent groups by any name.
Through our member association we represent a substantial portion of parents in
the province. I would like to point out that the associations which belongs to
our federation represent integrated Catholic and Pentecostal schools. We are
regarded by government and other educational organizations as the official
representative of parents in this province.
School reform has been on the agenda in Newfoundland and Labrador since the
Wells government was first elected in 1989 and the Williams commission was
appointed. The Home and School Federation has followed this process closely,
and we have been very actively involved. We presented briefs to the Williams
commission and endorsed its conclusion when it reported in 1992. The one issue
with which we had difficulty was the recommendation that the present system of
denominational education be replaced by an interdenominational system. Our
difficulty was not that we disagreed with the recommendation but, rather, that
there was uncertainty about whether our members would accept it.
The Williams commission reported four years ago, in 1992. Many of its
recommendations have been, or are in the process of being, implemented. The
principal exception has been its recommendation that a single system of
interdenominational schools be established in lieu of the present system.
Because this change could not be made without either the consent of constituent
denominations or a constitutional amendment, the Wells government engaged in
protracted discussions with the representatives of the denominational education
councils. Only when it became apparent in 1995 that an agreement could not be
reached did the Wells government decide to call a referendum on an amendment to
The Home and School Federation endorsed the idea of a referendum, and indeed
urged that it be held in order to resolve the issue. We did so because, without
it, school reform, which was vital to the education of children in this
province, could not proceed.
When the referendum was called, our organization remained neutral. As a
representative of all parents, we felt that we should wait and see how the
citizens of Newfoundland and Labrador would vote. The referendum results
indicated that a majority wanted our education system to change from a
denominationally based system to an interdenominational system. Although there
was some confusion about the exact meaning of the referendum question, people
knew what they were voting for. It was clear that anyone who had reservations
or wanted the present system preserved voted "no." Those who voted "yes"
either endorsed the government's position -- essentially a compromise -- or at
a minimum favoured the creation of a single interdenominational system.
Subsequent developments have led us to reiterate our support for the referendum
decision. This endorsed the creation of a single interdenominational system
while allowing for unidenominational schools where parental preference and
numbers warrant. Because more than half of our members came from Catholic
schools, we did so with some trepidation. However, despite our very public
endorsement of the creation of a single interdenominational system in May of
1996, we have not had a single withdrawal of any of our members. Instead, our
membership has increased.
We urge the Senate to pass the proposed amendment to Term 17. We appreciate the
Senate's concern with the protection of minority rights, but the issue at stake
here is not one of minority rights but, rather, creating a single
interdenominational system in which religion is taught but church influence or
power is reduced. This is in accord with the view of the majority of the people
of Newfoundland and Labrador and is essential if our children, within available
means, are to receive the education which they need in order to function in an
increasingly global society.
Our endorsement of the referendum result has been confirmed by our member
associations. We have had support for our position from associations from
non-integrated as well as integrated schools. Our members feel that this shift
will protect the rights of all citizens. Revising Term 17 does not mean that we
are removing a faith-based system and replacing it with a faithless system. We
are advocating, as parents, an interdenominational system, not a
non-denominational system, as is being portrayed by some groups against the
The main concern seems to be one of rights, but what about children's rights?
For example, what about a child's right to attend his neighbourhood school?
Neighbourhood schools are important. Having neighbourhood schools means that
children not only play together but they can also go to school together. This
does not happen at present. Instead, children can grow up on the same street but
find, at age five, that they must attend separate schools. Under the present
system, even if parents wish to send them to the same school, there is no
choice. Instead, they must go to their appropriate denominational school,
whether it is in their neighbourhood or not.
Neighbourhood schools and an interdenominational system are important if our
children are to learn tolerance and understanding of beliefs and persuasions
different from their own. When you teach these ideals, you build a foundation
for the future of peace and harmony; a society that one day will reflect the
equality of all people.
Contrary to some claims which have been put forward, there has never been an
attempt to replace denominational education. All school systems in this
province practice and promote faith-based education. What we do want changed,
however, is the power of the denominational authorities in our education
system. Under the present system, students can be denied admission to schools
because of their religion; teachers can be hired and fired for denominational
cause. We feel that this is wrong. What right do denominational authorities
have to deny a child access to a school based on religious affiliation, or to
hire and fire teaching staff on criteria other than qualifications and merit?
The present Term 17 gives denominational authorities these prerogatives. The
revised Term 17 would restrict this authority to unidenominational schools.
It is claimed that the proposed creation of interdenominational schools reflects
financial considerations. This is true to some extent. In an ideal world, there
would be funding for every school in this province, and for the system to
remain as it is. However, the reality is that this province is facing a
financial crisis, and we must make our education system as effective as it can
be within current and future financial limitations, which are considerable. It
is not economically viable to have two or three schools within a community,
each with its own bussing system, separate school boards, separate buildings,
and so on, operating at less than full capacity. I can assure you that this is
happening in numerous communities around this province. Consolidation of schools
and more effective use of resources are essential if children are to obtain the
high quality education that they deserve.
We have no problem with schools remaining unidenominational, if parents prefer
this and numbers warrant. This has never been an issue, nor has the role of
churches in schools. Under proposed reforms, churches will play a role in
interdenominational schools. They will continue to supervise religious
education and pastoral care.
Our school system has always been a denominational-based system. What we want
now is a system whereby all people of all persuasions can be educated together,
a truly unique system, an interdenominational system.
In conclusion, the Newfoundland and Labrador Home and School Federation urges
the Senate to pass the changes to Term 17 of the Terms of Union. We appreciate
the Senate's concern for minority rights but the issue here is not one of
majorities taking away minority rights but, rather, approving a bilateral
amendment to the Terms of Union between Canada and the Government of
Newfoundland and Labrador. This does not deny rights to minorities but will
guarantee that the parents of this province can enjoy the right to send their
children to neighbourhood schools in which religious instruction and pastoral
care remain. This is a fair compromise which respects everyone's rights.
To be sure, someone will lose, but contrary to some of the testimony you have
heard, the losers will not be individuals or classes of people but rather
institutions such as denominational education councils which have enjoyed
extraordinary power in this province. The exercise of such power is no longer
acceptable to the majority of the people of this province.
Endorsing this amendment, as the Senate ultimately must, will not set a
precedent. The fact that we have the Senate, a chamber of sober second thought,
guarantees that each request for constitutional amendment will be treated on
its own merit, and not passed blindly because a precedent has been set. As we
look to the future, let us put our prejudices behind us and allow our children
to go to school together.
Remarkably, our present system of separate schools has not driven a wedge
between the people of Newfoundland and Labrador. People here are remarkably
tolerant of each other. This might be to the credit of our present system of
separate schools but, in our view, this tolerance exists despite rather than
because of it.
One thing is particularly important: Despite our ostensible riches in minerals
and oil, our only real resource is our children. They deserve no less than the
best education we can give them. In a period of diminishing financial
resources, this can no longer be done in the context of separate denominational
schools. Needed instead is education for the twenty-first century. This does not
imply segregation according to religion but rather ensuring that our children
learn not only about their own religions but about the religions of other
people. This, and not the removal of minority rights, is what the Senate is
being asked to endorse.
Failure to endorse the changes to Term 17 will not, in the short run, turn
Newfoundland and Labrador into another Northern Ireland, but it will deny our
children the quality of education they deserve, and intrude on a matter of
provincial rather than federal responsibility, namely education.
We urge you to report on what we have said to the full Senate, and to ensure
that this bilateral amendment is passed without delay.
The Chair: Thank you.
Mr. Steve Wolinetz, First Vice-President, Newfoundland and Labrador Home and
School Federation: Madam Chair, I do not have a written brief but there are a
couple of points I would like to augment, particularly in view of the questions
you have asked and the comments you have heard over the last two days. I should
warn you, as some of you know, I am also a professor of political science, and
when you get the Vice-President of the Home and School Federation, namely me,
you also get the professor -- but not a 50-minute lecture; you will take care
First, what are the reasons for change? Previous government said these were
matters of efficiency, and bringing standards up. There have been great
questions about that. People have said we are almost up to national standards.
What a travesty. National standards are far too low either for the people of
Canada or for this province. We have an economy in desperate straits. I wish you
were here longer. I would like to give you a tour of "for sale" signs
in better neighbourhoods as people leave. One has a sense of, "Will the
last one to leave turn out the lights?"
We alluded to resources in minerals. Really, all this province has going for it
is brain power and cleverness. That needs to be developed to the hilt. Those
qualities need to be developed within an education system which, in the past,
has failed miserably. I teach university and I have some idea, a very good
idea, of the inadequacies of systems across the country. Ours has improved, but
not enough. We need to go well above the national standards and pull the
We are also in a province with very scarce resources. Our government, in its
wisdom, eliminated public exams just two weeks before they were to be set,
causing consternation throughout the system. This was done for financial
reasons, and was a travesty, because such exams provided a uniform standard.
There is very little money. You have talked as if one could redistribute
resources and create new systems here. The population of Newfoundland is
550,000, and going down. We are comparable to a medium-sized city in Ontario,
running three systems of education, dividing the resources. Too many of us who
are parents have been asked to give money and sell chocolate bars to finance
anything in our schools.
I went to my son's high school and looked at the books on Canadian politics on
the shelf. I found that the most recent textbook was dated 1972. That is where
this province is in terms of some resources, although we are buying the
computers and selling the chocolate bars. We cannot divide resources.
Let me comment on your investigation. I thank you for coming here. You have
given this matter far more consideration than the House of Commons did. In some
ways, you have given it far more consideration than the present provincial
government has. However, you also have been conducting something like an
investigation. At times, I have wondered whether it was the X-files, or a
whodunit, trying to find out what happened to this mysterious framework
agreement. You have done yourself some disservice by not hearing Bill Lee, who
worked very hard to torpedo it, as did I with the Home and School Association
and the Yes Means Yes Committee. We did that because of some very noxious
provisions which have not been mentioned much in the testimony. There is a lot
more you need to know.
You have suggested that somehow we could rewrite the constitutional amendment,
or find better wording for it. Perhaps one could, but what you are dealing
with, and what we were stuck with, not necessarily by our choice, is what the
government served up. That is the matter under consideration. You are dealing
with a bilateral amendment under section 43, not something which requires the
agreement of seven out of ten provinces or anything like that. You can delay;
however, ultimately, after you consider it, you will be roughly in a position
analogous to that of the British House of Commons when the Government of Canada
requested repatriation of the Canadian Constitution. You can make suggestions
as to better wording. Undoubtedly, such wording could be found. The proposed
Term 17 is rather convoluted. Its wording certainly would not pass an English
exam or anything like that. However, I think it will stand up in the courts, if
some good sense is used in this province.
Education is a provincial matter. There have been suggestions that we should
entrench various kinds of rights because we cannot trust the House of Assembly.
Perhaps that is the case. This is a small province, and the House of Assembly
is responsive, whether to questions of medians on the TransCanada Highway,
which the premier has had to deal with, or to the Yes Means Yes Committee, to
which the House has listened, or to various other lobbies.
The Senate's role here as is stated in the textbooks is as a chamber of sober
second thought. You have done some great service on a number of issues, and I
am glad some second thoughts are being considered here. However, ultimately,
you are dealing with a provincial matter.
You have set yourselves up, or someone has for you, as a defender of minority
rights. That role is something new in Canadian history. Appointed as it is, the
Senate is a defender of provincial rights. However, there is always room for
You may try to mediate, but I think you misunderstand the complexity of the
issue and the depths of the failure. I wish that Newfoundland senators had been
active four or five years ago when there might have been more time.
We have waited a long time for these reforms. We would like to see something
move through. We know that the road is complex. What really happens will depend
on the legislation. Every comma in it will make a difference, and we and others
will be watching it.
There have been questions raised about minority rights. It is true that one can
raise many questions about minority rights. In some ways, what is at issue here
are the privileges which certain institutions have had and which, perhaps, can
be changed. Ultimately, majorities need to speak. This is a parliamentary
democracy. Ultimately, what happens in education here has to depend on the House
of Assembly and the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador.
If the people of this province or groups within it do not like what the
government has done, they hear about it, and they hear about it fairly quickly.
Large numbers of groups are able to defend their rights. The Yes Means Yes
Committee organized, got together petitions and was heard by the government.
The Home and School Federation has been listened to from time to time, but
certainly not as much as we would like to have been.
If you think about what you have seen here in the past two days, the minorities
you wish to defend are not helpless minorities. You have seen groups quite
capable of organizing, mustering resources and presenting testimony. I think
many of you have had long experience in politics and can sort through some of
these things. There are very few helpless people here in various groups.
If this matter were left to the good sense of Newfoundlanders, who are very
tolerant people, it would have been settled long ago. However, there have been
a variety of power considerations which have prevented that. Ultimately, it has
to be worked out here.
Thank you very much, Madam Chair.
Senator Ottenheimer: Madam Chair, my question is one of clarification to ensure
that I understand the issues. As I understand it, you are recommending the
interdenominational school system, which is more or less synonymous with
neighbourhood schools, and then allow facility for the unidenominational school
system, where numbers warrant and parents so desire.
Obviously, the unidenominational system would include Roman Catholic and
Pentecostal schools. My point of clarification has to do with this because the
terms are not identical, but they can be used interchangeably where it is not
immediately clear, at least to me. Within the possible unidenominational
system, there are Roman Catholics and Pentecostals. Does the integrated system,
as we know it, come under the designation of unidenominational? It is in fact
interdenominational. Where does the integrated come into it? Is it part of the
interdenominational, or is it one of the unidenominational?
Mr. Wolinetz: Sir, the integrated system is integrated in that it is governed by
different faiths. In practice, in effect, in philosophy, it is an
interdenominational school system. It always has been, and it is more so today.
It is very open. One of the things which galvanized us and the Yes Means Yes
Committee -- and I hope you will ask the Minister of Education about this
tomorrow -- was the claim that the integrated system was a unidenominational
system and under the so-called framework agreement it would be
unidenominational. Therefore, it would have denominational education committees
at the board level. That is utterly unacceptable to most parents in that system.
It is clearly an interdenominational system. In the mainland sense of the term
it is not a public school system. The role of religion is clearly different,
and in the background.
I am a Jew. I have no trouble having my kids educated under such a system. They
learn about different faiths. They have gone to school with Catholics, parents
who have broken with the system, where room was found, though it is not always
Senator Ottenheimer: Actually, the term "interdenominational" is sort
of synonymous with "integrated" as it is used in Newfoundland
Mr. Wolinetz: Yes, I think you can say that.
Senator Ottenheimer: Those from the interdenominational school, or the
integrated, have made it clear to us, and indeed it is their traditional
position going back decades, that their concern is with the opportunity to have
religious instruction or participation for students who go there and who wish to
participate in some religious observances, although it is not compulsory.
However, they are not interested in other aspects of the governance of schools.
The point has been made that the Roman Catholics and the Pentecostals are
interested in, or wish to have participation in, other aspects of school
Where there would be unidenominational schools, where numbers warrant and where
parents wish, would the supposition that those two groups may wish to continue
with their traditional method or involvement in governance be of concern to you
or not? Would that be something you would say if they are unidenominational,
that they meet the circumstances if their method or interest in governance is
different from that of the interdenominational, or would it be of concern?
Mr. Wolinetz: We have stated that, first, we can accept unidenominational
schools where there is parental preference, and where numbers warrant,
according to a standard determined by the legislature. I will elaborate on
this. Nothing else can be acceptable because the legislature has to deal with
diminishing dollars and the diminishing numbers of students.
As for traditional methods of governance, I am not sure that anyone wants to
keep the separate boards. The way in which the integrated system has been
governed is different, perhaps, from the way in which the Catholic system has
been governed. Everyone agreed in some way or another that we will live
together under new boards. That may cause some difficulty. However, I think
there is room for unidenominational schools as long as there is free and open
parental choice. That does not exist now. One takes the schools as they are and
sees if there is room. That does not give parents the choice they should have.
It also does not give teachers the freedom to express themselves. I know too
many Catholic teachers who tape their mouths shut when this question comes up
because they fear for their jobs. A very peculiar effect of a Christian system
of education is when people cannot say what they think because of fear. Maybe
they are wrong about their fears, but I know too many people who just do not
speak out, people who feel they have to keep their kids in those systems
although they might want to make another choice. This is what we have now. It
is not acceptable. We need something for the coming century.
Despite what you have heard, there are very little differences between Catholics
and Protestants in this province. No one talks about Catholic or Protestant
unemployment, for example; but they talk about Newfoundland unemployment, or
Newfoundland fish or the lack thereof.
The question here would be to create an open system so that people have choices.
We are not there yet. I suggest that the proposed Term 17 provides the means.
It is not perfect, but it is not something one necessarily has to hold one's
nose about, contrary to what Reverend Wishart said this morning. It provides a
means, if we can just get over this hurdle. Practical questions will be worked
There will be a lot of discussion about schools as they close in rural areas in
the coming years. The discussion will not be about religion but about whose
community keeps the school because not having a school means death to the
community. Religion is not the bottom line for many people who are desperate in
this province. Their bottom line is having the best education, a way out, and
preserving communities. That is really what it is about.
Senator Ottenheimer: I thank you for your answer. I do just have to put on the
record that I am Christian, I am a Roman Catholic, and I have never found the
branch of Christianity to which I belong to be oppressive. Obviously, different
people have different judgments.
Mr. Wolinetz: I know people who do not speak for those reasons. They are good
friends of mine. Otherwise, I think you are quite correct, senator. It is not
oppressive, yet there are contexts created wherein people cannot speak and
cannot be exactly what they are. It is strange in a Christian system because it
Senator Pearson: I am delighted to see parents here. I will talk to you as a
parent, not a professor. I have two questions. One is on your petition. Do you
know if you received some responses from students in those petitions?
Ms Law: It was not our petition.
Mr. Wolinetz: I was involved with it. We did not petition students, we
petitioned parents. Certainly, I think people allowed anyone to sign them.
Senator Pearson: Have you been having discussions with the young people on this
Mr. Wolinetz: We have not had a lot of time to do that.
One of the stranger features of this system is that you can ask students about
this issue, and we have done it at the university, and you find out that they
do not know that they came out of a denominational system. It is peculiar, but
they do not. I heard the discussion last night. To my mind it was rather
unfocused and not a good example of necessarily disciplined thinking or students
of this province.
Senator Pearson: The other question I have has much more to do with parents. The
recommendations in the Royal Commission talk about the school councils. That
sounded like a good idea to me.
Ms Law: I think school councils are a wonderful concept. I hope that this is one
of the recommendations that will be put into practice, grow and be nurtured. I
am afraid that with everything else that has been dished up on our plates in
the education system, some of the really good things will be overlooked. I have
been a member of a pilot school council for the last two years, which, for me,
has been a rewarding experience. It has given me an opportunity as a parent to
be able to have direct input into my children's education. I really hope that
this will be the way of the future in our province.
Approximately 30 years ago, when I started school, I came from a little
community in Bona Vista Bay which took in 15 communities. Some of those
communities were the staunchest Roman Catholic, Pentecostal and integrated
communities in this province. We went to one single school. There was never a
question of being denominational. We all went to school, and we all came out at
the very end. Some of us are lawyers; some of us are teachers; some of us are
doctors; and some of us are even priests and nuns.
The whole concept that we have to teach our children is that it is possible to
go through our lives and be able to tolerate everyone's different points of
view. I find some of the things I am hearing upsetting as a parent and as an
educator, that is, the thought that because we do not belong to one system or
the other that in some ways it is lacking. This is what we have to overcome. We
have to direct our resources, our energies and our prayers into our children
and the future of Newfoundland. As we indicated in our report, our children are
our future. If we do not consider that, we will be sadly disappointed in the
Senator Jessiman: Do you or do you not know that the savings that we are
discussing are somewhere between $29 million and $31 million? Do you also know
that without any amendments those savings could be made any way? That is what
we have been told.
Mr. Wolinetz: I think the government was ill-advised to raise this as a matter
of savings because it depends on a lot of hypotheticals.
Senator Jessiman: Do you not agree that that is a fact?
Mr. Wolinetz: No, I do not agree because I do not know.
Senator Jessiman: You are denying what others have said. You say that you do not
know. Others have said that and I thought I could have you agree with it. Are
you saying you do not know, or are you saying it is not true?
Mr. Wolinetz: I am saying that, ultimately, the amount of savings is a guess. It
will depend on where schools are put and the costs of the adjustments.
Senator Jessiman: That has nothing to do with the amendment to Term 17. Whether
they are right in their numbers or whether you are right in your estimation,
changing Term 17 does not save the money.
Mr. Wolinetz: Of course not.
Senator Jessiman: Thank you very much.
Do you have a copy of the proposed Term 17 in front of you? We have been asked
to delete the first two lines of 17(b), as well as the word "schools",
and to include the words "where numbers warrant". From listening to
you, I gather that you would add also the words "and parents choose".
Would that then be acceptable?
Ms Law: Compromise is acceptable to us, yes, but "where numbers warrant"
has to be realistic.
Senator Jessiman: We agree with that. Of course, yes. That definition has had
some judicial interpretation from a linguistic point of view under section 23
of the Charter. The courts have determined what that means in certain
circumstances, and it will change. I think you are saying we should not just
limit it to "where numbers warrant" but should add "and where
Mr. Wolinetz: Or the words "parental preference". Let me try to answer
your question. I cannot comment in detail about desirable constitutional
language because I am not a lawyer quite by choice, nor do I teach law.
Whatever "where numbers warrant" means someone will have to define the
term in order for there to be a standard on which people can appeal to the
In the first instance this is not very useful. I think that the proposed Term
17, while not optimal from a plain English standard point of view, provides
more guarantees than are allowed. The guarantees of the rights of various
denominations or classes of persons with pastoral care and religious education
are found in the proposed Term 17(a). I would trust the legislature, if only
because I know something about the districts of this province and the political
processes, to deal effectively with the situations in which unidenominational
As an organization we have not discussed whether this should be amended.
Therefore, you cannot ask us to take a position on it without first having some
advice about it. I would be quite satisfied with the proposed amendment as it
The Chair: Thank you very much. We thank you for your presentation.
Our next presentation this afternoon is from the Newfoundland and Labrador
Teachers' Association. I would ask Mr. Wayne Russell, the executive director,
and Lesley Ann Brown, the communications officer, to join us. They will be
joined by Frank O'Day, who is their legal counsel.
Mr. Wayne Russell, Executive Director, Newfoundland and Labrador Teachers'
Association: Thank you, Madam Chair. As I understand it, the committee has a
copy of our brief.
The Chair: We do indeed.
Mr. Russell: I will pass quickly over the brief, refer to some points within it,
and from there we will accept any questions which members of the committee may
In the first section of the brief we comment on who we are. The NLTA is one of
the oldest teachers' organizations in Canada. I believe that only the
association of protestant teachers in Quebec is older. We are now in our 106th
year of continuous operation. This organization began and has remained as an
independent proactive teachers' organization. We began with a dual purpose which
we have retained to this day. That purpose is to work on behalf of teachers and
It also may be of interest to the committee to know that this organization began
as an interdenominational organization, that it has not changed in our 106
years and that it remains the same today. Our members include all the teachers
in the province of Newfoundland, including those who teach in our native
schools. We represent all teachers from all jurisdictions.
On page 4 of our brief we set out the beginning of the current debate on
reforming the Newfoundland and Labrador education system. We believe that to be
important. Therefore, I wish to make a number of points regarding that issue.
The reform has been attributed to a number of causes, some of which are
political, some which have to do with the philosophical organization of school
systems and others which connect them to the reform in education which is now
occurring in other Canadian provinces.
If we correctly trace back the reform we are attempting to bring about in this
province, I think you will find that it began with a brief which our
organization presented to government in May 1986. At that time, the Progressive
Conservative Party was in power and the Honourable Brian Peckford was premier.
In that brief, we pointed out a flaw which exists in our delivery system. We
made the point that the flaw was so extensive that it would require an in-depth
study and recommendations for correction.
About a year before we presented the brief, the government of the day
established a Royal Commission on employment and unemployment. The commission
reported in October of 1986. In its report it identified education as a primary
element of employment. In that respect it pointed through the primary,
elementary and secondary education system. It concurred with the conclusion of
our organization and urged the government to carry out a study and to determine
whether or not a correction was required and how that correction could best
In the opinion of our organization, there is no doubt that had the Progressive
Conservative Party remained in power it would have commissioned a Royal
Commission study. However, its leadership changed shortly after that time and
it then lost power in the election of April 20, 1989. The new government under
Premier Wells did not move to carry out such a study.
Our organization put in place a major forum which took place in February 1990.
The forum brought together people from throughout this province. It debated the
education system and concluded that the flaw existed, that it must be
identified and that a correction was required. Following that forum, with
urging from ourselves and a number of other groups, the premier moved and put in
place a Royal Commission study.
Shortly after the Royal Commission study was in place, the government moved to
put in place a strategic economic plan for this province. In so doing it asked
the advisory council on the economy, an independent group, to carry out public
consultations in order for them to identify points to be placed within the
strategic plan. That council advised the government that it had been told
repeatedly that education was a key to economic revival. It expressed doubt as
to whether the current setup of the education system could deliver the quality
required. They made that report before the Royal Commission reported. As we all
know, when the Royal Commission reported, it identified the flaw and
recommended a correction.
We make these points to indicate that it has been in excess of 11 years now
since we initiated this particular call for change. During that period of time
a number of independent groups have carried out extensive public consultations
in the province. They have concluded that there is a problem with our delivery
system and that the problem requires correction.
What, then, was the problem which the Newfoundland and Labrador Teachers'
Association first identified and brought to the attention of the government at
that time? In order to identify it correctly we need to look at the system of
education as it existed when we entered Confederation. Like many other parts of
our province, it required extensive revision. We needed new schooling, a modern
curriculum, proper financing, trained and experienced teachers, a support system
in school trustees, a department of education and so on.
Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, we made tremendous gains in this province. We
moved the education system of this province much closer to that which existed
in the balance of Canada. By the late 1970s we began to slow in closing that
gap. By the early 1980s, it became obvious to all of us who followed the
education system closely that we were no longer closing the gap with the balance
of Canada and that we needed to find out why. We were by that time reasonably
well financed. We had the curriculum. We had changed our school system and
built new buildings. We had one of the best trained and most experienced
teaching forces in Canada.
It did not take long to determine where we believed the flaw existed. During the
years since Confederation, we had consolidated and built regional central high
schools, but we had done it all within four different educational systems --
four separate streams. The reality was that the economy of this province and
the number of teaching personnel needed to make the schools run could not
support four separate school systems and allow us to produce the kind of
education which we believed is possible within this province.
That was the reason. We placed it before government. In the end, it was studied.
As I have said, a number of groups have come forward and said that, yes, it is
a reality and it needs a correction.
On page 10 of our brief, we talk about the evolution of the system. We have
heard that since Confederation the system of education in Newfoundland and
Labrador is evolving and that it will evolve into the type of system we
First, we find some fault with the fact that the system is evolving. It leads
one to conclude that the system as it existed was not correct and that it
needed to evolve into something which would be correct.
Second, when we look at the system of education in Newfoundland as an evolving
system, we do so at three check points. We asked ourselves in May of 1986, when
we first brought this matter to the attention of government, whether in our
opinion the evolution which was taking place would, in time, lead to the kind
of system we required and whether it simply required adjustment and speeding
up. At that moment in time as Newfoundland and Labrador teachers we answered a
clear "no" to that question. We could provide all kinds of data and
statistics in that regard.
In the 11 years since that was brought to the attention of government, has the
evolution taken place? Again, the answer is "no". Clearly, we can
conclude that we have entered a stalemate during those years in that we have
not further divided the system and that the system is not evolving into a system
which best meets the needs of this province.
If the proposed Term 17 is not approved, will the system continue to evolve?
Will it serve eventually our students in the way in which it is required? In
our opinion, because of the debate which has occurred in the last 11 years, the
answer to those questions is "no".
On page 11 of the brief, we comment briefly on why the NLTA is involved in this
particular debate. While in Ottawa, you heard from another organization of
teachers, one we know well which is closely associated with ours. That
organization is very self-interested. If the separate school system in Ontario
should change, it would alter that organization. In our case, perhaps the
reverse is true.
If we were to ask what would be the healthiest for the NLTA and for our own
members, the answer would be not to change the system. By consolidating the
system we gain no new members. In fact, there are many arguments which say that
we will lose members. Our current collective agreements will have to be
altered, and altered dramatically, in order to meet the new system. It will
require a great deal of work and a great deal of protection in order to be able
to bring our members through this in a manner equal to that which they had
We do not do this because of any self-interest within the organization or any
self-interest in terms of the protection of our members. We do it from our
second mandate, which is to advance the cause of education. In our collective
view, that mandate brought priority and that mandate required this change.
On page 12 of our brief we refer to rights. We have heard how this change to
Term 17 might affect minority rights, linguistic rights, rights of First
Nations peoples, rights of churches and so on. We certainly respect those
rights. We have no intention to reduce the rights any minorities may hold.
However, there is another question. What about the rights of the children of
Newfoundland and Labrador? What about the rights of children born in one of the
weakest economies in all of North America, which has an unemployment rate close
to 30 per cent? What about children who must leave this province in order to
find a quality of life or employment? What about their rights?
As the teachers of this province, we see those children in our classrooms each
and every day. We say to this committee that we see the reality of this
province reflected in their faces and in their eyes every day. We see that they
are seeking an opportunity for hope. We see that they are looking for ways and
means in which they can find a quality of life which other Canadians often
We conclude that they have only two things they can really take with them. One
is their capacity for hard work and their pride, much of which, unfortunately,
has been impacted negatively because of support services, something which is
often done with good intentions but which, many times, creates negative impacts
on these children.
The second thing they can take with them is the education they may achieve. As
members of this committee know, we now live in a time and in a reality in
Canada and in the developed world in which those in the world have been
separated into those who know and those who know not. We want to make certain
the children of this province know. What we can give to them is that kind of
quality of education.
When you consider rights, we urge you to consider the rights of children. You
must ask if the rights of children are second to the rights of various sectors
of society. Is their right to an education to be placed second to the right of
the churches to remain involved in education? Is their right to an education to
be placed second because of some minority right that may have been enshrined at
the time of Confederation? We have no wish by any means to say that these
rights are not proper or that they should not exist within reason. However, as
teachers, we cannot conclude that they take precedence over the right of
children to be educated properly and correctly.
Children themselves are a large minority. They have rights. Those rights cannot
be placed second to others. They are a silent group. Only the legislature and
particular groups such as yourselves speak for them and act on their behalf.
Finally, with respect to the proposed Term 17, do we believe that the proper way
to do this is to change the Constitution? The answer is no, we do not.
Can we proceed in this province at this time without a change in the
Constitution? Unfortunately, the answer to that question is "no". We
are left now with but one alternative. We must change the Constitution and see
whether or not the change proposed will allow us to provide the type of
education system which this province so badly requires. If you have further
questions on that point, we would be delighted to entertain them.
In the conclusion on the last page of the brief, we strongly make the point that
the children of this province deserve the best kind of education which can be
provided to them. They need it now. They cannot wait. The teachers of this
province believe with all our collective knowledge and experience that we can
provide that type of education. The fact that we have provided good education to
this moment in time is only a testament to the unbelievable effort that will
take. If you remove this barrier and allow us to better organize, then there is
little doubt that we can provide some of the best quality education in all of
The Chair: Thank you very much.
Senator Rompkey: I wish to give our witnesses time to comment further on the two
points made on page 9 of their brief, which are that there is duplication and
that with the population and economy it has this province simply cannot afford
to run four different systems.
We have heard that the four systems are more myth than reality. In fact, a lot
of consolidation has taken place. There are joint ventures. Busing is not so
much a problem as is denominational schools and the consolidation of schools.
In any case, if it were eliminated, it would not really save that much money.
The standard is good. In spite of the four systems, we are producing a good
quality student. Indeed, those who graduate from school are of good quality.
Might you elaborate to a degree on the drop-out rate and what happens to those
who do not get to high school and those who do not graduate? Could you comment
generally on the question of the problem of duplication? We have heard testimony
on both sides of that issue. We have heard in testimony that it is not really a
problem. I want you to talk about that point in connection with the point you
made with regard to the rights of children. It seems to me that we have heard
too little about those rights in our deliberations. It is quite right to say
that we have talked about the rights of minorities and the rights of classes,
but we have not talked a great deal about the rights of children, particularly
in Newfoundland and Labrador in the 21st century and in the knowledge economy.
Could you give us more evidence of the problem of duplication and how it impacts
on the right of children in Newfoundland and Labrador to the best kind of
education that we can possibly give them?
Mr. Russell: Senator, let us first separate the two reforms which are impacting
on this province. First, by no means is this province exempt from the reform
which is going on across Canada and which began in this decade as a result of
the reorganization of the economies of the developed world and in which we are
seeking to find a more effective and efficient means to deliver public services.
Therefore, there is a move toward consolidation of school boards to find
efficiency in busing and things of that nature. These things are occurring.
They are of value and we support them. We believe that if they are done
properly a way in which the system can be run more effectively and efficiently
can be found.
However, they will not do much of anything for students. The one thing we know
about students and education is that what matters is what occurs when teachers
meet students. That is the issue. That is an issue in Newfoundland and Labrador
which separates itself completely and uniquely from any other movement that is
occurring across Canada. We must find a means by which we can take the teaching
force that we can afford and place it before students in such a way that it can
produce the best possible opportunities at that moment.
Is that occurring in Newfoundland within the current system? Can the system as
it now exists continue to provide the kinds of education of which we are
capable? The answer to both questions is "no".
One can provide information, data and support endlessly. We must ask the
question clearly. As we stand as teachers, can we provide the type of education
with the abilities that we have under the current system as compared to a
reorganized system? The answer is no, we cannot.
We do not have time to go into great detail on that matter. However, what we
must do in education is ask how to take the teaching force which we have and
which we can afford and apply it so that it is effective and efficient. That
cannot be done if we go to the costs required to train a physics teacher, for
example, and then place that teacher into a school where he or she will teach
physics 20 per cent or 30 per cent of the time and other subjects in the
balance of the time while another trained teacher is doing the same thing in
another school a short distance away. We must use the people to the greatest
extent of their abilities and collect students together to teach them in that
That is the difficulty with the current system. It is that which requires
Senator Rompkey: I want to ask you about teachers. You made the point that if
the proposed Term 17 goes ahead and there is consolidation, then, obviously,
teachers tend to lose, generally speaking, in terms of numbers. There will be
fewer teachers, presumably, and fewer administrators. I assume that is the
point that you are making. There will be an exchange of jobs.
I want you to talk about that, as well as about the rights of teachers in the
province. Again, if we are talking about rights, the rights of minorities and
children, teachers also have some rights. What rights do teachers have now in
the province, and what rights do they not have? Can you talk about the options
for teachers within the province?
Mr. Russell: First, senator, we are not willing to conclude that if we
reorganize the system there will be a reduction in the number of teachers. We
are certainly willing to conclude that we will have a tough fight in order to
retain them. It is a difficult economy out there. Newfoundland itself is going
through an extremely difficult time. Whenever any kind of reorganization occurs
within this province, politicians immediately look to see whether or not we can
draw from it in order to create some freedom and place it in other parts. We
will have to fight, and fight hard, to retain them. We make that point to say
that if we stay with the current system, that is one fight we probably would not
have. We do not need an extra fight at this moment in time.
With respect to rights, yes, teachers have rights. When you work within a
denominational system, the rights of teachers are subject to the rights of the
denominations within that system. Does that create for the teachers of
Newfoundland and our own organization a major problem? I would have to answer
that it is a problem, but we would not consider it to be a major problem.
I say that from the point of view that the school boards which exist, that is,
the Integrated, Roman Catholic, Pentecostal and Seventh-day Adventist, as well
as the organizations which are beyond them, have not been difficult employers.
They have not been employers with whom we cannot work to achieve a balance
within those rights. Yes, we have our disagreements across the bargaining and
the arbitration tables. If we wanted a perfect world, we would have one in which
teachers were hired and terminated strictly on merit. We have an adjustment in
this province which is a concern and a problem for us. However, I want to make
it fairly clear in this way: Would we have begun this debate in the province
and moved it this far simply because of that issue? I would have to say to this
committee the answer to that questions is "no". It is a concern and a
problem, but it is not an immense problem, and certainly not one which requires
a constitutional amendment to correct.
Senator Rompkey: I am sure you have covered this question in your brief,
however, when you speak do you speak for all teachers in the province? Would
you tell us exactly for whom you are speaking?
Mr. Russell: Senator, as you and other members of the committee are aware far
better than I, no democratic organization really speaks for all its people. We
represent all teachers of all denominations in the province. We run a
legislative representative assembly. It gathers together each year. The people
who come to our assembly are elected from the 56 locals that we have throughout
the province both on the island and in Labrador. They come forward. They debate
Our stand on changing the system has been in place since we first debated this
subject in 1984. It has been there each and every year. It has gone before our
legislative assembly on a number of occasions. The position I am putting
forward today is clearly the one supported by the organization.
Are there some within the organization who disagree with it? Yes. How many? The
number is not large.
Senator Doody: Mr. Russell, does your organization prefer only one system of
non-denominational or multidenominational education; or, in your estimation,
does the notion of a publicly funded denominational system sitting side by side
with a multidenominational system have any merit? Would your optimum position
be a single system?
Mr. Russell: In a province which has a stronger economy, one probably could
consider forming a fifth system, an interdenominational or public system not
connected to the denominations, something which would provide a choice between
that system and the other four.
However, we set that aside very early in our deliberations because the reality
of Newfoundland and Labrador is that we cannot afford to divide our students
into four groups. We simply have not been able to provide for our students the
kind of facilities, equipment and the kind of education possible within our
economic means. Economically, a fifth system makes no sense whatsoever.
Therefore, we cannot support any thought which would say that we create a fifth
system and give to the parent the choice of either the system which is for all
or one of the four separate systems.
Therefore, we strongly support the interdenominational concept. However, within
the interdenominational concept we also strongly support the retention of
unidenominational schools in areas of the province where there are sufficient
numbers and where that is the wish of the parents.
Senator Doody: Your organization represents all the teachers in the province,
the Roman Catholics, Pentecostals and so on. How do the Roman Catholic and
Pentecostal members of your organization feel about that position? Have they
been consulted? Was there a system of consultation with your members before you
presented or formed this particular position?
Mr. Russell: The answer on consultation is "yes", in the sense that we
are an open and democratic organization which operates under a representative
system. It is clearly there.
Have we at any time or at any time in the past divided our membership by
denominations on this issue and then carried out our consultations within
particular sectors to see how they felt on particular issues? No.
Do we have coming to our organization from within our own membership briefs,
positions, or other such movements from any one of our particular groups saying
this particular stand is wrong? No.
Senator Doody: Therefore, as far as you are concerned, generally speaking, the
membership is quite happy with this particular position?
Mr. Russell: Yes. However, I would emphasize, as I did in answer to an earlier
question, that I do not believe any democratic organization can say they speak
for 100 per cent of its members. There are groups within which would take a
Senator Doody: I said "generally speaking". Thank you.
Senator Jessiman: How many members do you have?
Mr. Russell: Approximately 10,000.
Senator Jessiman: This has been going on for years and it is very important. Did
you write to the 10,000 people? I am sure you send out notices from time to
Mr. Russell: The answer is yes, on many occasions.
Senator Jessiman: Did you write concerning this presentation you are giving us
Mr. Russell: About this particular presentation or the content of this
particular brief? No, we have not circulated this particular brief to our
members, but we will when they return to school in September. The contents of
this brief are consistent with the contents of other briefs and other statements
we have made consistently over the past 11 years.
Senator Jessiman: You say on page 13 of your brief that if you did not have Term
17, you could not have your interdenominational schools. I assume you mean
that. It says:
The proposed new Term 17 will provide to the legislature of this province the
means to bring about the required change at the school level. It will provide
legislative authority for the creation of inter-denominational schools.
Do you not now consider integrated schools to be interdenominational schools?
Mr. Russell: Within a particular segment, yes.
Senator Jessiman: Do you consider the integrated schools to be
Mr. Russell: We consider the integrated schools to be an integration of four
Senator Jessiman: So they are interdenominational schools.
Mr. Russell: They are not interdenominational schools in the sense that all
Christian denominations in this province would have access to those particular
schools. They are an integration of a particular portion of the denominations
which have rights in this province, but they would not be considered --
Senator Jessiman: You do have now the integrated school system.
Mr. Russell: Yes.
Senator Jessiman: All Term 17 is doing is acknowledging that what has been
happening since 1969 continues to happen. Is that not correct?
Mr. Russell: No, not in our opinion.
Senator Jessiman: Have a look at it. Do you have the proposed Term 17?
Mr. Russell: I do.
Senator Jessiman: I am reading at 17(a), the three last lines, which state:
... and the group of classes that formed one integrated school system by
agreement in 1969 may exercise the same rights under this Term as a single
class of persons.
That is what it is doing. It is really confirming what you have been doing since
1969. Is that not correct?
Mr. Russell: The term is saying that when we look upon the integrated system
with respect to the proposed Term 17, they would be considered a
unidenominational system in the same way as the Roman Catholic or Pentecostal
system would be considered.
Senator Jessiman: Does that give you more powers?
Mr. Russell: No, it just states the realities.
Senator Jessiman: It just confirms what you have been doing for the last 27
Mr. Russell: Senator, I would have to disagree with that conclusion. As we
understand them, the interdenominational schools are a group of schools in the
province which would exist. Those which are now members of either one of the
existing groups, that is, integrated, Roman Catholic, Pentecostal or
Seventh-day Adventist, would have full access.
Senator Jessiman: This proposed amendment does not in any way reduce the number
of recognized schools, does it? You will still have Roman Catholic, Pentecostal
and integrated schools. Under the amendment, not under your agreement, from
1969 forward that could be broken down into four. You will have the Seventh-day
Adventist. I think they would have the power without it, but for the first time
non-denominational schools are being mentioned. Therefore, you are not reducing
the number, you are increasing the number.
Mr. Russell: As we understand it, and of course it was written by the
legislature, the proposed Term 17 suggests that we not have an additional
system, that we not keep the four systems as we now have them with all the
schools that now exist and on top of that create a fifth system, but that from
the system as it now exists we would extract a system -- not add, but extract
an interdenominational system.
Senator Jessiman: That is not what this says.
Mr. Russell: A number of the schools which now exist would therefore be
interdenominational. There would then be separate schools existing within the
group. It is not the adding on of a system but the extracting from the original
system. We would take the position that the legislature clearly does not have
the authority to extract. That is why the amendment is required.
The Chair: Clearly, Senator Jessiman, there is a difference in interpretation
Senator MacDonald: Could you tell us a bit about the economic situation of this
teachers' group? Have you had a strike in recent years? Have you had a
reduction in your members? Have you had a raise in pay? In Nova Scotia, we have
had a little bit of a problem.
Mr. Russell: I understand, senator. If one were to follow the history of the
Newfoundland and Labrador Teachers' Association, one might well conclude that
we probably are one of the more aggressive teachers' organizations in Canada.
That is not as a result of our recent history, but dates back to the early
years when the organization was formed. It had that reputation.
We have had a strike in the last five years over economic issues, that is, over
issues of restraint. Our organization has gone through a period of about six
years now in which our incomes have been frozen. The number of teachers in the
province has been declining since 1990, and declining fairly rapidly. That has
been occurring because of two reasons. First, the number of students in the
province has been declining, and declining rapidly, as a result of the birth
rate and out migration. The migration patterns in Newfoundland are clear. We
lose our people at a young age. Often, many of them return at an older age,
after having been able to establish themselves outside and wanting to return to
the province to retire. We lose huge numbers of students each year. Yes, our
numbers are declining, and declining to the point where the province finds
itself in an economic position in terms of the number of teachers it can
support has been declining.
Senator MacDonald: Would it be by as much as 10 per cent or 20 per cent?
Mr. Russell: Our decline since 1990 would probably be in the range of 15 per
Senator MacDonald: Apart from out migration, would the teachers be called upon
to take on two jobs or work harder?
Mr. Russell: Yes.
Senator MacDonald: You would be in an ideal position to give us information on
drop-out rates, students who fail to finish high school in the province, as
well as the number of children who get to university. We have had figures from
various people, but they were more or less talking of their own groups or
people with whom they were more familiar. Do you have an overall figure?
Mr. Russell: I do not have actual numbers to present to the committee. The
drop-out rate in this province has declined dramatically and now may be at a
level beyond which we not may wish to go. In other words, we may be getting as
close to full attendance as possible.
That is occurring for a couple of reasons. First, quite a number of programs are
on the go in the province to encourage students to remain in school.
Second, in this province, particularly when we ran into the decline of the cod
stocks and the closure of the fish plants, there simply was and is no work for
our young people. If people leave school at any age, there is simply no work at
all. Therefore, the move to keep them in school has been advantageous.
I think the conclusion is that our drop-out rate is very acceptable, and I do
not think a change in the school system would do much to alter the drop-out
Senator MacDonald: When you think about the challenges facing you in the matter
of Term 17, you are going into uncharted waters. What things worry you and your
executive the most? Obviously, this means that you are negotiating with the
Government of Newfoundland. Can you give us a priority list of things which
worry you the most?
Mr. Russell: I would say there are two. First, we, like many in this province,
stand on the edge. We stand on the outside relatively close to looking in, but
we still stand and look in. There has been a major discussion in this province
as to what should happen to the children of the province. It concerns us that
that discussion has been limited to the representatives of the legislature and
representatives of the churches. Others have not been part of that debate and
have not been able to contribute their wisdom, knowledge and experience. With
the change to Term 17, we believe that debate will continue. Even though the
change will provide more authority to the legislature, nevertheless, it will
have to be a compromise between the legislature and the churches. That is a
major worry of ours.
The second major concern is that if we are to reorganize the system, it will
mean infrastructure. Many schools, as they are currently constructed, cannot
take a consolidation whereby we take students out of one or more schools and
simply put them in another building. We will have to move to an infrastructure
system. We do not have the money to do that. Nor do we see in the next number of
years where the economy will provide the money to do that. With the change to
Term 17, we will be on the correct road, but it will be a difficult and
frustrating one because of the lack of money to provide infrastructure.
The Chair: There is no question that if you close small schools there is an
immediate infrastructure cost in joining schools together, but, down the road,
there is a cost saving. The same thing is true for amalgamated busing systems.
We have been told that Newfoundland spends about 21 per cent of its overall
budget on education as compared to my province, Manitoba, which spends about 17
per cent of its budget on education. While Newfoundland spends on average
$1,000 less than the rest of the country, in fact that represents a much larger
share of the overall budget of the province of Newfoundland. What guarantees
have been offered, if any, that the money saved from the anticipated savings on
Term 17 will be kept in the education system?
Mr. Russell: The guarantee has been offered in a variety of ways over a number
of years by more than one government that if we bring about the changes, the
money will be reinvested in the system. There is no doubt in our conclusion as
teachers that when these statements are made and when these promises are
placed, they are well-intended and it is the intention of the government at the
Then, in this province, there comes the next provincial budget. We find
ourselves with deep challenges because when the men and women who sit around
the cabinet table and the legislature prepares the budget, they find
insufficient money in revenues to meet the expenditures and they must make
choices. At that moment, if they find any area of the economy in which they can
say, "Look, by making this change we can operate the same system we have
at a lesser cost," it is very difficult to retain that money for
improvements rather than move it to some other area that may require it.
The promises are there, but are these promises that one can bank on or plan for?
The answer is "no". We believe, however, that we must change the
system and then apply whatever pressures we, parents and other groups can apply
to ensure that the money remains in the system. Just because the promise of the
money may not be fulfilled and we may have some challenges is not sufficient
reason not to move forward with the change and then see whether we can use the
political system to retain the money.
The promises are made, but there are also budget realities. There are politics
and there are political parties. Then there are numbers. All political parties
must eventually bend to the numbers, which is the challenge.
The Chair: Thank you very much. I personally thank you for your comment that
real education takes place between a child and a teacher. As a teacher, I thank
you for that.
Senators, our next presentation will be from the Newfoundland and Labrador Human
Mr. Geoff Budden, Lawyer, Vice-President, Newfoundland and Labrador Human Rights
Association: Honourable senators, I practise law in Mount Pearl, a nearby
community. I appear as a representative of the Newfoundland and Labrador Human
Rights Association of which I am vice-president. My colleague, Mr. Jerry Vink,
is the executive director of our association.
By way of background, the association was founded in 1968 and has as its mandate
human rights education, human rights research and human rights advocacy. No
other single issue has received more of our attention than has the
denominational education system of our province.
Our organization submitted a position paper to the Royal Commission, the
Williams commission, in 1991. We believe that our brief is as relevant today as
it was five years ago. As such, we have submitted it for the consideration of
this committee. My comments today will cover much the same ground as that brief
but not as extensively.
Our focus today will not be on the economic dimensions of education reform or on
the details of the legal changes. Rather, we will focus on the inequities in
the present system of education and on the reasons why our association believes
that it must be reformed substantively and why we endorse the proposed
amendment to Term 17.
Any informed discussion of education reform must begin with a clear
understanding of what we presently have in this province. All schools in
Newfoundland, excepting only one or two private schools, are operated by
Christian religious organizations through denominational structures such as
school boards. The provincial Department of Education provides curriculum
guidelines, but the real authority, particularly day-to-day authority, lies
with the enumerated denominations and their agencies. What this means, ladies
and gentlemen, in theory and in practice, is that virtually all of this
province's children and teachers attend schools run by certain enumerated
Christian denominations. If students or their parents and teachers feel
uncomfortable with any or all aspects of this denominational control, they have
no alternative. No public school system accountable to a non-religious school
board exists in this province. Newfoundland is the only jurisdiction in North
America which does not offer at least the choice of a publicly funded school
system not controlled by religious denominations.
As a human rights organization, we find this status quo absolutely abhorrent, a
vestige of a pre-democratic world of privilege, state religion and intolerance
towards those of different religious creeds or of no religious creed
Given the time restrictions, I will identify a few of the ways in which the
present system fails Newfoundlanders. I realize we are covering ground that
other organizations have covered, but we are coming at it from a particular
perspective, that is, a human rights perspective.
First, many Newfoundlanders are not observant members of the enumerated
denominations. Many Newfoundlanders are and many Newfoundlanders are not. The
individuals and families who are not observant, whether they believe strongly
in the tenets of another religion or profess no religious beliefs at all, have
no alternative but to attend schools run by and for adherence to another
individual. As faith is so central to a person's life, the status quo is
intrusive, unfair and offensive to many people.
Second, students have been denied admission into neighbourhood schools or into
special programs such as French immersion because that school, the school
offering the program or the neighbourhood school, favoured children of its own
denomination. This problem is particularly troubling in the case of children of
non-enumerated denominations or children who are non-religious because those
children do not have schools of their own faith to rely on for those programs.
Third, teachers have been fired or threatened with firing for actions such as
irregular church attendance or marrying a person of another faith. Even the
fear of dismissal is enough to cause teachers or prospective teachers great
anxiety when contemplating relationships or political activities which
challenge the dogma of the church under which they teach. Our provincial Human
Rights Code has specifically excluded the denominational school system from its
ambit. Thus, there is no relief therein.
Fourth, parents who wish to become involved in their children's education are
often not permitted to run for a school board if they do not practise that
particular faith. This effectively disenfranchises citizens solely because of
their religious beliefs or lack of beliefs.
Finally, the segregation of children into single denominational schools can
foster intolerance and misunderstanding. This is particularly likely where, as
in Newfoundland, society effectively forbids interdenominational education.
Once again, we appear to be the only jurisdiction in North America which
continues to practise official segregation in the schools.
For these and other reasons, our association is opposed to an education system
in which children, parents and teachers have no alternative to schools operated
by the enumerated religious denominations. We recognize, however, that in our
pluralistic society many people want to belong to a school system operated by
their denomination which reflects their beliefs. We respect that choice and
would never endorse any attempt to remove it.
We see the proposed Term 17 as a fundamental improvement on the present Term 17.
For the first time in our modern history, it explicitly empowers the
legislature to establish schools of a non-denominational character or for a
denomination other than the enumerated denominations.
We submit this milestone has been accomplished without adversely affecting the
rights of those individuals who desire an education system along traditional
lines. Those people may have a publicly funded system for their education. All
that they will lose is their collective monopoly over the education system of
It is misleading to characterize this reform as an attack on minority rights. It
is the present system which denies rights to those individuals who do not wish
to participate in the education systems of the enumerated denominations. It is
really unclear at the present time who is in the minority and who is in the
majority. However, it is obvious that few, if any, other groups in Canadian
society are denied their fundamental rights in so abhorrent a fashion as are
Newfoundlanders who are not members of the enumerated denominations or who have
no religious beliefs whatsoever.
I would stress again that we see this not as a restriction of rights but as a
restriction of privilege, which is an entirely separate point.
In closing, we ask this committee to consider the serious limitations and
unfairness of our present denominational system of education and to recognize
the extent to which the revised Term 17 addresses those problems without
affecting the rights of people who believe in the present system. We urge this
committee to recommend passage of this constitutional amendment.
Senator Kinsella: Madam Chair, I wish to explore three areas with the witnesses.
Perhaps we might begin with their reference to the Newfoundland Human Rights
Would you prefer to see all of the school systems subject to the Human Rights
Act of Newfoundland?
Mr. Budden: Most definitely. Presently, that is not the case.
Senator Kinsella: What impediments do you see in the House of Assembly simply
repealing that provision of the Newfoundland Human Rights Act that exempts its
application to denominational schools? Why can they not do that?
Mr. Budden: I suppose the legislature could do that. In another forum, on
another day, we have urged the legislature to do so, but to this point that has
not been accomplished.
Senator Kinsella: If there is a concern with the service provision of the Human
Rights Act or the employment provisions of the Human Rights Act, the
application of the provisions of the bona fide occupational qualification would
Mr. Budden: If that were to happen, that would address one of our concerns.
Perhaps it would. Again, we have urged that position in our very recent
submission to the Newfoundland legislature and the Newfoundland government. As
Newfoundland law now stands, the Human Rights Code does not exclude
specifically application to the denominational school system.
Senator Kinsella: Do you think inclusion of the phrase "Subject to
provincial legislation" is part of the reason you are supporting the
proposed Term 17 in that this provincial measure would be helpful?
Mr. Budden: Yes, it would be helpful.
Senator Kinsella: You make reference in your brief to the International Covenant
on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic,
Social and Cultural Rights of the United Nations. Senator Pearson's
father-in-law, Prime Minister Pearson, wrote to all the provinces when those
instruments were open for ratification by the United Nations in 1966. All the
provinces agreed, including the province of Newfoundland, that Canada should
ratify those conventions. You drew our attention to those conventions, which,
by the way, were ratified in 1977 with the deposit of the Instrument of
Ratification with the written agreement of all the jurisdictions in Canada,
including this province.
In general, are any provisions of either of those two covenants violated by the
present application of Term 17?
Mr. Jerry Vink, Executive Director, Newfoundland and Labrador Human Rights
Association: Senator, I do not have copies of those covenants with me.
Therefore, I cannot specifically identify the sections of these covenants.
However, the major one is the element of choice.
All covenants talk about the right to make decisions and the right of choice in
determining the best kind of education for one's children. Obviously, in
Newfoundland, that right does not exist. If one is a member of a non-enumerated
denomination, or if one is non-religious, or if one does not belong to a
Christian faith, then one does not have a choice. That is one of the major
problems. The system in Newfoundland violates the international conventions.
Senator Kinsella: Do you think that the conventions are being violated?
Mr. Vink: By the system.
Senator Kinsella: Have you ever filed what is technically called a "communication"
or a "complaint" with the United Nations Human Rights Committee under
the optional protocol to the international covenants on political rights for
Mr. Vink: We have talked about it and thought about it, but these things are
fairly expensive. It requires people to write them and prepare them, so we have
never done it. To my knowledge, no one has ever done it, other than one time
under the torture convention.
Senator Kinsella: My experience is that it is not very costly. It is the price
of a postage stamp. I filed a communication against Canada in the matter of the
Lovelace case under the covenant. It is an interesting question. I am not sure
that it would be successful.
I am interested in your comments on some of the provisions of the covenant,
particularly article 27 of the Civil and Political rights Covenant, which
speaks to the right of communities and the people within communities to grow
and to develop within those communities. That is the cultural right which is
spoken to. As I reflect upon that right, it seems to me that the rights
guaranteed in the Constitution pursuant to the current Term 17 are a
constitutional means to give some enrichment and some programmatic effect to
the rights of the classes of persons to develop within their communities. That
could be threatened by the proposed changes. What is your reflection on that?
You are right, it preserves certain rights. However, I disagree with you when
you say that the amendment necessarily threatens those rights.
I would also add that there are other communities in Newfoundland whose rights
are not protected under the present Term 17.
My next question relates to the area of multiculturalism. Your association has
been at the forefront promoting multiculturalism in this province. Given the
fact that Canada is a multicultural society, it falls to reason that we are a
multi-faith or multi-confessional society. Given the remarkable developments in
the realization by Canadians and the sensitization that has occurred to the
diversity and multi-confessional nature of our society, do you think that,
perhaps, this province is very avant-garde in having a plurality of
confessional schools and that other parts of Canada will catch up? When you
reflect upon the fact that we are a multi-confessional society, what is your
reflection on the need of Canadian society to develop national etiquettes
relative to that social reality of our confessional diversity and the
importance of learning the social traditions that flow from the various faith
communities? Is there the possibility that we find ourselves in a situation in
which this province is in the forefront of responding to the multi-confessional
nature of our society in a very significant way with our funds?
Mr. Vink: I think, senator, you are idealizing the situation. We have a large
number of non-believers, non-Christian groups and denominations who are not
enumerated and who are not part of the system. It is true that the groups which
control the system allow a certain amount of multicultural interfaith
activities; but, in reality, because they have the power, they also determine
how much they will allow other groups to enter into the process. By definition,
it is an unequal position because they have the power.
Our position has been that for truly active interaction between different faith
groups, which of course we support, there must be a level playing field for
that to happen. It does not exist.
Senator Kinsella: If one of the effects of the proposed Term 17 is the loss of
unidenominational schools, then the children in those faith communities would
have the right to their religious heritage placed at risk. When you consider
UNESCO's Convention against Discrimination and Education and, indeed, the
Convention on the Rights of the Child, both of which contain provisions
recognizing the significance of children learning within an environment that
will nurture and respect their own cultural or religious tradition, why would
you go backwards and annul or abrogate a program that is in place and which
provides for the child's right to their religious heritage and development of
Mr. Budden: We are not suggesting that those rights be abrogated. Perhaps we
could look at it this way. Let us take the percentage of the population that
currently attends schools of the Catholic school board. If a significant number
of those parents and children wish to continue doing so, as we have outlined in
our submission and as we read Term 17, then that should still be possible.
However, the proportion of those parents who have children attending those
schools who do not wish to do so can pursue other options available to them.
Their rights would also be protected.
Senator Pearson: You raised the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which is
something I have been greatly interested in ever since it evolved. It has been
ratified by Canada with the letter from Newfoundland, that is, it has been
consented to by Newfoundland.
After the youth panel we had last night, I spoke to some of the young people. I
learned that a child cannot make a decision to change his or her school without
parental permission. I am not thinking of young children in this case. I am
really thinking of adolescents. All of us know that the great challenge with
adolescents is transferring the authority from parents to them so that they
emerge at the other end of the process as fully autonomous beings. This means a
lot of work with the adolescents to give them choice. Is there any limit to
The young students to whom I spoke last night told me that a child cannot change
schools without parental permission. As well, the child always needs a letter
from a parent to excuse them from religious education. There seemed to be no
time limit on that. Have you ever looked at that question?
Mr. Vink: We have not looked at it formally. However, we have become aware that,
in many ways, children who are not of the enumerated faiths are often put in a
very unfair position. The classic case is where, in Grade 2, children go for
their first communion. By the way, I am a practising Catholic. Those who do not
belong to the Catholic faith and who are students in that school sit in the back
of the church or are excused. You can well imagine children in Grade 2. That is
not an ideal situation. Often, children who do not belong to the faith of that
school are placed in a position where they are discriminated against, where
they stand out, where they are made fun of by their peers.
In terms of an older student saying, "I do not want to participate in these
religious activities," the child has no say. The parent makes that
decision. That is quite true. This is most unfortunate and it is a result of
Senator Pearson: I think Article XII of the convention says that the child has
the right to participate in decisions made either of a regulatory or of a
legislative manner. It is an interesting question. I think children should have
an opportunity to talk about it, even if they do not act on it.
The Chair: We thank you very much for your presentation this afternoon.
Our last presentation this afternoon is from the Labrador Métis
Mr. Todd Ressell, President, Labrador Métis Association: Madam Chair, our
brief is being photocopied as we speak. I am waiting for it to come back.
Senator Rompkey: Perhaps Mr. Ressell could take the time to tell us about the
Labrador Métis Association while we wait.
The Chair: He can certainly do that without his brief.
Mr. Ressell: It will probably come as a shock to most senators that there are Métis
in Labrador. There seems to be a perception in Canada that the Métis
reside primarily in the west. My brief will discuss that in particular detail.
I think it gives you an appreciation of who we are as a people and as an
The term "Métis" for us in Labrador is a new one in the sense
that it is a term we have taken to self-identify. We are distinct in many
respects from other aboriginal groups in that particular territory. Indeed, we
are distinct from other aboriginal peoples across the country.
Our association represents 5,000 or 6,000 people in Labrador who reside in
coastal communities from the straits or the southern most portion of Labrador
to the northern communities, which are predominantly Inuit or which belong to
the Labrador Inuit Association. We have members there as well. There is a
tremendous amount of overlap in terms of membership between the Labrador Inuit
Association and the Labrador Métis Association.
As Senator Rompkey clearly said at our annual general meeting, sometimes it is
not a matter of kind, but it is a matter of degree with some of these
aboriginal groups and how they define themselves. The barriers are flexible at
The Chair: I come from the province of Manitoba, which of course sees itself as
the centre of the Métis people in Canada. We always think of our Métis
as being a combination of those with both Indian heritage or aboriginal
heritage and French heritage. Is that the same definition that you give here?
Mr. Ressell: No, it is not. In the west, there is a river, Louis Riel and Métis
homeland concept. Although we have certain ties in a peripheral sense, it is
not the same type of homeland concept we have. Our homeland is very much in
The Chair: Is your heritage the same?
Mr. Ressell: No, it is not. I will illustrate that.
Madam Chair and senators, first, I want to thank the Senate for agreeing to hear
at least one of the main aboriginal groups in the province on this important
issue. I know that there was some concern and opposition to the Senate holding
hearings at all on Term 17, and I am very glad you have agreed to carry out
your constitutional obligation to exercise second sober thought on what we
consider a hasty decision taken by the House of Commons.
With me today is elder Ken Mesher. He is from the community of Paradise River, a
town of just 27 people on the south coast of Labrador. Ken also sits as an
elder on the executive council of the Labrador Métis Association. He
will be speaking to you later in this presentation about his concerns and his
Before I go into my own concerns and suggestions, I wish to provide those of you
who do not know Labrador with a brief overview on our people and our land. We
have not got a lot of time today, so I will be happy to provide you, through
Senator Rompkey or the chairperson, with additional information afterwards.
There are about 5,000 Métis people in Labrador in 24 communities, in 11
of which the Métis are a clear or overwhelming majority. The term "Métis"
has become the favoured term of self-identification of our people over the past
two decades, although earlier references to our communities and people used
such terms as "half-breeds", "mixed-bloods", "part-Eskimo",
"Labradorian Inuit" and "Kablunangajuit". The terms "settler"
and "planter" have also been used in the past both for ourselves and
members of today's Labrador Inuit Association on the north coast, but these
terms are really Newfoundland confusions and are not widely used in Labrador.
The Métis are predominantly descended from Inuit and non-aboriginal
settlers, with Indian descent as well. In the context of Canada's legal
framework, we believe we are best described as Métis. We are unique as
the only cultural group who are descendants of both pre-contact peoples, Inuit
and Indian, as well as the main settler groups, French and British. I would
like to think this gives us something of a unique outlook on such issues as
national unity and, obviously, on the issue that you are focused on today, that
is, the protection of minority interests from being overridden by majority
Our way of life has brought out the best of each culture in each season. In
autumn, we canoed to our trapping grounds and remained there until late winter.
There we snowshoed and trapped. In early spring, we harnessed our dog teams,
hitched our "komatiks", sharpened our "naulaks" and hunted
seals as proficiently as our cousins, the Inuit. Caribou and game birds were
also hunted during this time. In summer, the European aspect of the culture was
adapted to build houses, boats, to fish and, where possible, to plant gardens.
By September, the Métis were ready to return to the traplines. Métis
land use was, and remains, native, intensive, comprehensive and in tune with
We have established distinct customs and traditions. We developed a unique code
of conduct to help fellow trappers, to protect traplines, and to lend
assistance to the old and infirm. Property and descent laws favoured the family
property going to the youngest as an inducement to assist and respect the aged.
The boundary of a trapper's trapline was secure and recognized. When inheriting
a trapline, the new trapper paid one-third of everything he earned to the
retired trapper. This was Labrador's own brand of social security. The way of
life was and is unique, self-reliant and adapted to our Arctic climate and
economy. Because of this setting, we established our own aboriginal system of
justice and social order.
Métis land use was so well understood prior to union that both Canada and
Newfoundland attempted to enlist Métis in support of the various
territorial claims to our country, and it was the successful assertion of
traditional boundaries based on Métis traplines that clinched the Privy
Council's 1927 decision on the demarcation line for the height of land in the
Labrador interior. If not, my people would be dealing with a separatist Quebec
government today and I would not be talking to you about amending our Terms of
Union with Canada.
I say "our" Terms of Union because Labrador people, both Inuit and Métis
in particular, first participated in the democratic process outside our own
traditional governments in 1949 when we all voted overwhelmingly to join
Canada. You should understand one of the reasons we voted this way was because
we were not at all satisfied with the Government of Newfoundland. In fact, even
today we are somewhat unsure of our relations within the province and the
Labrador was attached to Newfoundland as a non-self- governing territory in
1760. For administrative purposes we were shuffled over to Quebec in 1774 and
then back again in 1806. The 1927 decision continued to treat us as a prize and
not a people -- a treasure but not a home. Even the Terms of Union only refer
to Newfoundland, not to Labrador, and so not surprisingly Quebec is still
raising its so-called claim to our land, just as St. John's is still talking
about another Terms of Union amendment to confirm Labrador as part of this
All this shuffling back and forth forgets that the aboriginal people of Labrador
have to be dealt with. You, as senators, have a fiduciary obligation to ensure
that nothing that affects our interests as aboriginal peoples is done without
full and effective consultation with us, and without ensuring that our
interests are put above all others, and certainly above political convenience.
This legal obligation is unique to aboriginal peoples. I know that it wears
heavily on your shoulders in considering what to do about Term 17.
As you all know, aboriginal title rights to Labrador have still not been dealt
with -- even while investors around the world are starry-eyed about the
billions of dollars in profit to be made from our homeland. There are three
main land claims filed in Labrador -- one by the two Innu communities residing
in the territory; one by the Labrador Inuit Association; and one by ourselves,
the Labrador Métis Association. Claims negotiations are only going on at
present with the Innu and the LIA. A decision on negotiations with the Métis
is supposed to be completed by the federal government in one to two months.
The province's current position on land claims is unknown to me, since the
premier has yet to respond to our requests for a meeting or for clarification
of the provincial position. This is one reason why I will urge you today to
send a strong message to the premier and the legislature of Newfoundland.
The strong sense of alienation and distinct status in Labrador is one of the
reasons we approach Term 17 with a certain mixture of feelings. We have not
been well-served by the Newfoundland education system to date. Therefore, our
primary concern is to re-acquire control over the education and future of our
youth, both from the churches and from distant bureaucracies. We want community
control, and neither the denominational school system of the past nor the
proposals tabled to date for a consolidated system would seem to offer us any
real hope of achieving that.
Yet, control is our right. All senators at this table today have endorsed at one
point or another the stance that aboriginal peoples have an inherent right of
self-government. According to Liberal senators, and perhaps according to all
senators, that right is already guaranteed as the highest law of the land
within section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982.
Our right of self-government must surely include effective control over how our
children are educated, over what values and what culture they are brought up
with and in what languages. If it does not include such a fundamental safeguard
for our future as aboriginal peoples, then clearly the right of self-government
On this point, it is important to state that if Labrador is at all affected by
the Newfoundland Terms of Union, as is implied by our being here today, then
the Terms of Union are also subject to and must be consistent with the living
Constitution of Canada, which includes both section 35 and section 91.24 of the
Constitution Act, 1867. Section 35 speaks to the existing aboriginal and treaty
rights of the Indian, Inuit and Métis. The Supreme Court has stated
already that the right includes the fiduciary obligation on the Crown and on
the Senate as an institution of the Crown. The Supreme Court has also stated
that the federal Parliament has exclusive jurisdiction for aboriginal peoples
and our lands under section 91.24. Therefore, you have a lead role and a lead
responsibility, whether under section 35 or under section 91.24.
Senator Rompkey raised the issue of aboriginal peoples in the Terms of Union
when Ovide Mercredi appeared before you in Ottawa. Senator, I have to make one
clarification that directly affects what you the Senate do with Term 17. It was
stated that aboriginal peoples were "pencilled out" of the Terms of
Union. In fact, we were firmly included, and two or three legal opinions by the
federal Ministry of Justice in the 1950s and 1960s confirm that situation very
well. The issue is not whether we are in or out of the Constitution. We and our
rights are in -- that is clear.
The issue is whether anyone intends to do anything about it. The issue is when
the Terms of Union will be implemented so that the rule of law in Labrador, or
on the island, is respected when it comes to aboriginal rights and the
constitutional division of jurisdictions regarding aboriginal peoples.
For 50 years our rights have been ignored and suppressed. Each succeeding
generation of politicians finds a new bag of excuses to delay doing what the
law says should have been done in 1949 or in 1966 in relation to out-port
closures or in 1968 in relation to Churchill Falls. Today, the issue is the
auctioning off of our fishery, mining and forestry resources. Yet again, excuses
are being found for delay and inaction. Excuses must end.
In relation to the inherent right and education, I believe you, as senators, can
send a strong and positive message of hope and determination that the rule of
law is not only a rule to be paid lip-service but that the law must be obeyed.
That is the issue we want to address today. It is triggered very clearly by the
issue of who controls education.
I have some suggestions on how this committee could proceed, but I wish now to
turn the floor over to Ken Mesher.
Mr. Ken Mesher, Elder, Labrador Métis Association: Thank you, Madam Chair
and honourable senators. I would also like to thank all the people who made it
possible for me to appear before you here today. I know you put in a lot of
work and I really appreciate it. As well, I would like to thank the Federation
of Newfoundland Indians and the Mi'kmaq for the privilege to speak here today.
If you would please bear with me, I do not feel real comfortable speaking before
you now. I am a bit nervous. I am sure I would feel much more comfortable
standing alone under a big tree.
I come from the small aboriginal community of Paradise River. Senator Rompkey is
aware of where I am from. He is a good friend of ours. Paradise River is on the
south coast of Labrador. As an elder, I sometimes give advice to our board
members about how things were done in the past and where things may go in the
I went to school in 1943. That is when I first started school. I am not a child
any more, I guess. I have had a lot of experience, and I know that I am looking
at a lot of knowledge sitting around the table today. You people can pass that
knowledge along to the rest of us. I would sure appreciate that.
Our schools taught us to respect wildlife, the environment and fish and to
conserve the stocks as our forefathers did in the past. When I was a child
growing up, we depended on the fish, the wildlife and the game in order to
survive. There was a lesson in survival and living in a harsh climate and cold
weather. That was one lesson we learned.
During my childhood, we relied on food from the land. What I see now are young
people growing up and not following the teachings of our forefathers. They do
not have respect for the environment, the land, the fish, the wildlife and the
game as did our forefathers.
Madam Chair, I know you are a school teacher. I do not want to offend anyone. I
hope you do not take personally anything I may say.
The Métis people are very religious and very literate. Our literacy
predates the school system. It came from the Bible. Isolation played a big part
as well. I remember our people used to write letters home for the illiterate
Newfoundland schooner men who came to Labrador. My grandmother was a religious
person, and she was a friend of all the people who came along. She helped them
write letters back home. These were the Newfoundland fishermen who came to our
coast each summer. In my day I saw 17 fishing schooners load fish at
Independent Harbour. The fish were in abundance then. You cannot even get a
fish to eat there now. That is a big change. During my years, I have seen a big
Newfoundland culture was taught through the particular church in those days.
There was a problem because we were not taught one culture. Spirituality is
essential to culture, and that means the spiritual content must be built into
the curriculum. This has happened now to some extent in the Labrador East
Integrated School Board.
In the old days, after the First World War, education was more of a punishment
of shame than teaching skills of good values. Education had a negative meaning
for many of us. We were despised as aboriginal people. Despite the values of
our forefathers and mothers, we had to hide our aboriginal origin and
traditions and to suppress our language and culture. The whole school system
left a bad taste in our mouths.
Communities should have more control. Each community knows what is best. Each
community should have a say as to the direction of education.
I saw an educational book this past winter put out by the federal authorities on
wildlife. They stated that a .270 calibre rifle is the rifle one should use to
kill a fox. That is what we are teaching some of our people now. Anyone knows
that a .22-calibre will do the job quite effectively. I think you could ask
Senator Rompkey and he could tell you. They should take advice from the older
people about what calibre rifle it takes to kill a fox.
From a spiritual point of view as a Métis elder, this issue is one of
regaining control over our future. How this can best happen is the issue. Will
a "no" or a "yes" to the proposed Term 17 change anything?
The province and the churches have been silent on the issue of education in
aboriginal communities. We wonder why.
We fear traditional communities will be closed down forever, just as many were
closed in the 1960s. We fear the loss of our culture just when the governments
talk about respecting our rights.
That is all I have to say for now. Thank you.
Mr. Ressell: Madam Chair, I wish to sum up with some recommendations. I think
that a compromise might be able to be reached in the apparent impasse before
this committee and the Senate.
We are aware, of course, that Term 17 is a specific amendment not dealing by
name with aboriginal rights or aboriginal education. Yet, Term 17 directly
affects aboriginal rights.
In the absence of movement on aboriginal rights and control over education, Term
17 will clear the way for another generation of leaders to forge ahead to
further assimilate our people under the guise of a cost-cutting effort at
consolidation. We certainly have no assurance that the proposed amendment to
Term 17 is not aimed at this outcome. We have no commitment to the contrary and
no offer from the premier. We have no assurances.
For reasons that Ken Mesher has cited, our people are in favour of ending the
denominational school system or at least replacing it with effective community
control so that the education of our people serves our people as Métis.
This is the same position as that taken by the Innu and the Inuit and, no
doubt, by the Mi'kmaq people here on the island.
I guess a sign of good faith was just yesterday when an announcement was made to
move Davis Inlet to Shango Bay. Part of that particular deal was for that
community to have control over its own educational system or a fair amount of
What can the Senate do? We recommend that you make very clear that education in
the province must, in its application, respect our constitutional rights. Like
the churches, we believe that what the government says its intentions are has
to be backed up by guarantees. We have been made promises before, and the
promises have vanished once public eyes are turned to other issues.
The churches have been accommodated to some extent within the proposed
amendment. There might even be a stronger way to protect denominational rights,
but at least an accommodation has been written into the actual amendment.
However, this is not the case for aboriginal people and our constitutional
We need a general protection clause added to the Terms of Union which clearly
states that aboriginal rights, including our unique right to have a full say in
the education of our children, are not to be affected. At the least, that will
give us the leverage we need to negotiate the implementation of our existing
rights, rights that are now being ignored and subordinated, especially through
plans for so-called consolidation, which in our language spells removal,
resettlement and assimilation.
We would prefer to see this reference refer specifically to the right of
self-government. The Senate and the House of Commons should certainly find it
easy to state this in law, just as government has stated it in policy.
Otherwise, we have no assurance that St. John's will implement a new regime and
respect aboriginal demands and rights. We need community control for the
protection of our unique lifestyle and cultures.
The Senate faces a dilemma, of course. You can amend the proposed Term 17
resolution directly, whether it is for the protection of aboriginal rights or
for added protection for minority religious rights; but, if you do so, you can
be overridden by the House of Commons very quickly. You know that the house
will use a lack of democratic accountability in the Senate as an excuse to
Therefore, we strongly recommend that you take on the powers and the
responsibilities that you have under the Constitution to launch your own
companion resolution to the proposed Term 17 amendment. This approach is well
understood by Senator Carstairs and by others around the table, such as Senator
Beaudoin. It simply involves tying approval of the proposed Term 17 amendment to
approval by Newfoundland and the House of a separate amendment to the Terms of
Union that clearly protects aboriginal rights.
The companion amendment would state positively what the federal government says
is already the law. It would do so in such a way that in the area of education
specifically, the aboriginal right to community control will be top priority
for action instead of a silent and forgotten obligation.
I am not a constitutional expert, and you will forgive me if I put off some of
your technical questions for written follow-up or a second session to go into
this proposal in more detail, but we have taken expert advice on this issue.
Our experts have pointed out that the Senate has a choice other than simply
going along with Term 17 or trying to amend it directly, which may amount to the
same thing at the end of the day.
That option is a companion resolution. A companion resolution simply involves
the Senate linking approval of the proposal to amend Term 17 to the passage of
an amendment to the Newfoundland Terms of Union that sends the onus to protect
rights back to the House of Commons and the Newfoundland House of Assembly. The
two Houses can address aboriginal rights through your amendment, in which case
your approval of Term 17 will go through, or the House will have to treat your
defence of aboriginal rights as a rejection of Term 17 and pass the Term 17
resolution all over again. The House will face the dilemma that you are now
facing by virtue of your dedication to protecting the rights of minorities and
If a companion resolution goes through, nothing more has to happen to Term 17.
You will not be asking the House or the assembly to bow down or knuckle under
by forcing them to repass an altered Term 17. They will have a positive option.
This approach also increases the chances of the House not having to override the
Senate on Term 17, an action that would further deepen the sense of frustration
and cynicism of Canadians about our federal institutions. Instead, both Houses
would be presented with a positive companion resolution that specifically
targets what is missing in the proposal before you -- guarantees for aboriginal
peoples. If you choose, you can also add in better language and the protection
of minority religious and education rights.
Madam Chairperson, you know better than most the folly of ignoring aboriginal
rights or attempting to marginalize our participation in amending the Terms of
Union or constitutional clauses. I understand you were also supportive of the
companion approach to dealing with Meech Lake, as was Mr. Charest in 1990.
We did not have a budget to bring our technical experts on procedure with us on
this matter, and I have not drafted a specific clause for either a direct or a
companion amendment, but we would be happy to get our experts together with you
later. I would welcome an opportunity to also sit down with other aboriginal
groups to ensure all interests in Labrador and on the island are respected. This
process could be accomplished in very short order.
In closing, I urge you to take up this option for a positive and honourable way
out of the dilemma now facing the country on Term 17. Aboriginal rights, as
well as minority language, education and denominational rights, are part of
what Canada is all about. Dealing with these rights fairly, largely and
liberally is the essence of what Canada is all about. We offer a procedure that
is clear and fair to all sides. We feel that your duty to the Constitution,
which must come first in this matter, translates clearly into support for
protection of aboriginal rights if only out of an abundance of caution and in
the face of the clear failure of the Newfoundland government to respect
aboriginal rights over the last 50 years.
Your duty is clear. We can support the Term 17 resolution amendment, but only if
the Senate clearly supports the effective implementation of our right of
self-government. You cannot proceed with one without coming clean on the other.
Senator Beaudoin: I wish to thank you very much for your presentation. I agree
with you when you say that we should refer to aboriginal rights in our report.
Do you have something in particular in mind because within one to three months
we will have in our hands the report of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal
Peoples? My impression is that they will suggest, among other things,
self-government for aboriginal people. There may also be some delegation of
powers in the field of education. When you say that we have to pay attention to
your rights -- and I agree entirely -- do you mean in the field of
self-government, in the field of education, or do you mean treaty rights in
particular? Thought is being given to more powers for aboriginal people. That is
the direction in which we should go.
In the field of education, I would like to know a little more about what you
Mr. Ressell: To clarify, there are no treaty rights issues in Labrador because
no treaties have been signed. It is not applicable in our particular situation.
We feel that an existing aboriginal right is the inherent right of
Senator Beaudoin: That is what I thought, but you have confirmed that.
Mr. Ressell: The federal Liberal government announced its policy on the inherent
right to self-government in August of last year. Our feeling is that education
is fundamental to the inherent right of self-government, that aboriginal
communities must have some control over the education system, the curriculum
and exactly what is taught in the schools.
Senator Beaudoin: It means that, in practice, you should have your own Term 17.
Mr. Ressell: If you pass a companion resolution that firmly endorses our rights,
then, perhaps, we will have our own Term 17 to some degree.
Term 17 is silent on the protection of aboriginal rights in terms of
self-government and how education might affect that. It would be fair to say
that aboriginal peoples in Labrador have a sense of distrust or alienation from
Newfoundland in many respects in the sense that if we are to give the province
more administrative and legislative control over education, then we do not see
it as necessarily a positive sign for us. I would venture to say the same thing
about the denominational system. If there were an amendment to give the
denominations more power in the education system, we would certainly have an
issue with it.
Senator Beaudoin: In your case, it might be different. If we look at the whole
of Canada, six provinces have a denominational system. Some provinces do not. I
think there are four. The two territories have denominational rights. What are
you suggesting for your group? Do you agree with that or are you suggesting
Mr. Ressell: From our perspective, I suggest that there be some protection and
recognition of the inherent right of self-government of aboriginal peoples.
Part of that would be education. Aboriginal peoples, as far as we are
concerned, should have some control over their education systems.
Senator Beaudoin: Chief Mercredi appeared before us in Ottawa last week and
suggested recommendations of this nature. Do you agree with him?
Mr. Ressell: I am not privy to exactly what he put forward, but if that is his
general sense, then I agree.
Senator Ottenheimer: I wish to thank both gentlemen for an interesting and
beneficial presentation. We have been dealing with one specific area. We have
heard various points of view. There has been no unanimity, but we have been
dealing in the specific area of school boards and denominations. I think you
have given us an opportunity to reflect on rights which predate the Terms of
Union of 1949 and section 93 of the Constitution. I would like to ask a couple
of questions about the process.
Some years ago, I was a minister in Newfoundland. At that time there was the
Labrador Inuit Association, the Innu Association, which represented the
Montagnais-Naskapis, which is a third aboriginal organization.
Educational rights are related to cultural rights. Are you thinking also in
terms of a land base and resource ownership? Is that part of what you regard as
part of your inherent right?
Mr. Ressell: Certainly. We filed a comprehensive land claim with the federal
government back in 1991. Subsequent to that particular submission, we have
conducted research in terms of traditional and current land use and occupancy
as well as into family backgrounds. All of that, along with the reports of the
experts, has been submitted to the federal government. I guess they will peruse
it, make an analysis of that particular research and decide if they want to
enter into substantive negotiations with our particular association as the
representative body of the Métis aboriginal people in Labrador.
Senator Ottenheimer: Is there agreement or even tentative agreement -- I would
not say "framework agreement" -- among the three aboriginal groups in
Labrador with respect to the land claims? The problem used to be that they
conflicted. That was when the land claims of the two intruded one on the other
or some land was being claimed by two. Now there are three.
Senator Rompkey: There are five.
Senator Ottenheimer: There are the Innu, the LIA and the Métis.
Senator Rompkey: As well as the Quebec Innu and the Quebec Inuit.
Senator Ottenheimer: I was thinking in terms of this province, but I know that
claims come across the border.
Are you looking to the federal government to settle the issue of the demarcation
of aboriginal lands?
Let us say it is agreed there are aboriginal lands. One could even agree that
certain areas are aboriginal lands. How will the determination be made to which
of the aboriginal groups specific land adheres? Will the courts decide? Will
the federal government decide? Do you think you can negotiate among yourselves?
Will there be some form of compulsory arbitration, or is that too far down the
line that you are not worried about it yet?
Mr. Ressell: The comprehensive land claims situation in Labrador is not that
different from comprehensive land claims in other parts of the country. In the
Northwest Territories there are various areas of overlap. If you look at the
province of B.C. and the overlapping land claims there, they are just
phenomenal in terms of overlap.
The fact of the matter is that aboriginal peoples have shared particular
territorial areas. They have hunted, trapped and harvested in the same areas.
Usually, with an aboriginal group, there is also an area of exclusive use and
occupancy, primarily to the exclusion of other aboriginal groups.
Labrador is really not unique. There is an overlap between the LIA, the Innu
nation, the Labrador Métis Association, the Naskapis of Schefferville,
as well as the Makivik of Quebec. Those things will be settled at a land claims
table in conjunction right now with federal claims policy, with the feds, the
province and all the aboriginal groups sitting down. You will have overlap
agreements in some particular areas. In other areas, you will just have
agreements between the three levels of government, federal, provincial and
Senator Ottenheimer: If I understand your answer correctly, overlap in itself is
not a big problem.
Mr. Ressell: It is only a big problem if you cannot settle it.
Senator Rompkey: I appreciate the need for clarity in the Terms of Union with
regard to aboriginal rights. Although there are certainly legal opinions as to
the responsibilities of governments no matter what is written in the Terms of
Union, the fact remains that there is no specific mention of aboriginal people
in the Terms of Union between Newfoundland and Canada. In that sense, in the
terms of wording, the Terms of Union were silent, even though, as you say,
there may be legal opinion as to a fiduciary responsibility. Because the Terms
of Union are that way, I certainly feel that some clarity is called for. In
some way, the Terms of Union should be clarified to underline the fact that
there are aboriginal people in this province and they do have rights.
On the basis of the proposed Term 17 and the old Term 17, which is what we are
charged with exploring, would you agree that the "new" Term 17,
although it does not mention aboriginal people specifically either, provides a
greater opportunity than the old Term 17 for having schools which would be
governed by aboriginal people? The proposed Term 17 states in subparagraph
(b)(ii) that the legislature may approve the establishment, maintenance and
operation of a publicly funded school, whether denominational or
non-denominational. That is the specific provision, not so much written in the
old Term 17, but it is certainly written in the new Term 17. In that sense,
would you say that the new Term 17 may provide an opportunity for the land
claims process to proceed, including governance of schools, that the old Term
17 did not provide?
Mr. Ressell: Back in 1949 when the Terms of Union were negotiated, there was an
opportunity to mention specifically aboriginal peoples, who had responsibility
for them and the jurisdiction of each level of government.
I know this is a legal argument, but section 91.24 is included in the Terms of
Union. It gives the federal government responsibility for aboriginal peoples
and lands reserved for aboriginal peoples. There is an opportunity here now to
specifically include aboriginal peoples.
With respect to your specific question about whether there is more opportunity,
I would have to agree there probably is with that specific clause but, again,
the interpretive power lies with the legislature of Newfoundland. There is no
guarantee. It is only if they somehow want to recognize us on a particular day
that we see some movement on this particular issue.
From my perspective, I am looking for greater certainty regarding how we will be
dealt with in a proposed new educational system.
The Chair: You are quite right that I know something about companion
resolutions, as does Senator Beaudoin. Thank you for reminding me about that.
Since Senator Rompkey is in the room, I want to make a ruling that I reserved
from this morning. I do not consider the point of order indeed a point of
order. Certainly there is a difference of opinion, and that difference of
opinion, I anticipate, will get further exploration when we hear from government
We will now hear from our walk-ons.
Ms Karen O'Leary: Madam Chair, senators, I am a Catholic youth minister at St.
Stephen's parish in Stephenville. No one has mentioned youth ministry during
the whole hearing, so I thought I would mention it.
To take away the partnership between schools and parishes would greatly impair
youth ministry. Youth ministry, which involves retreats, youth masses,
leadership training sessions and spiritual weekends, is a system whereby youth
work with youth and youth work with adults. When youth get a chance to be
active members of parish and school life, it results in better communication,
leadership and interpersonal skills. Without the denominational school system
in its present form, youth ministry cannot take place. It is an informal system
that relies on the cooperation of both schools and church.
If we lose the right of Catholic education, we may also lose the system that is
giving young people a chance for a deeper understanding of spirituality as well
as a chance to understand their talents and use them for the future -- a future
within this province and the world. Thank you.
Ms Maria Kelsey: I stand before you here today as a Roman Catholic, as a product
of the separate school system of Ontario and the Roman Catholic school system
of the province of Newfoundland and Labrador, and also as a teacher employed by
the St. John's Roman Catholic School Board for the past 29 years. As a Roman
Catholic and as a teacher, I find myself totally committed to the United
Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights which states that parents have the
prior right to choose the education for their children. As evidence of this
commitment in recent years, I have been actively involved, both in my parish
and in The Alliance for Choice in Education, in an attempt to retain this right
for parents and, at the same time, to move forward with educational reform and
improvement. I believe that both these are possible and are not mutually
exclusive, as some people believe.
I have watched the senators over the past two days as they have listened with
open and impartial minds and as they have tried to figure out what happened,
for instance, to that famous -- or infamous -- framework agreement or working
paper. I also watched and listened in January of this year when Premier Wells
brought forward his proposed new Education Act. At that time, there was a
tremendous public outcry from both those who voted "yes" and those who
voted "no" in last September's referendum. The common cry was: "This
is not with what we voted for." These are but two incidents in a long list
that have served to reinforce my belief that constitutional protection is
necessary to safeguard minority rights.
I also stand before you as a member and staunch supporter of the Newfoundland
and Labrador Teachers' Association. However, on this issue, the supposed
necessity to amend Term 17 to proceed with educational reform, the NLTA does
not speak for me. As a matter of fact, as Mr. Russell stated here today, it has
never taken a vote or poll of any sort in the last 10 years to ascertain the
degree of support within its membership. It could not give you a figure as to
what percentage of teachers support their position.
On a personal level, approximately three years ago I wrote to the previous
president of our association, Mr. Sutherland, expressing my concerns over the
NLTA's position and my disagreement with it. I have yet to receive a reply. I
cannot support the NLTA position on this issue, nor can I remain silent here
today, for to do so would imply tacit approval of their position. As a matter of
conscience, I cannot do so.
I have supported the NLTA during my teaching career by word, action and
pocketbook as it resisted attempts by provincial governments to remove
unilaterally any benefits or provisions from our collective bargaining
agreement. I remember one particular incident when the government of the day
tried to make unilateral changes to our pension agreement, an agreement which
clearly states that such changes can only be made with our consent -- and I
stress that term "with our consent". I regret to say that the NLTA,
which has such a history of opposition to removal of its own rights and
privileges, has, by its words and actions in this recent debate, condoned the
policy of our government which seeks to remove rights from parents and minority
groups without their consent.
An old adage comes to mind: What is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.
If you believe in the protection of rights, then that protection applies not
only to your own but also to the rights of others, to the rights of minorities,
and to the rights of those who disagree with you.
Ms Helena Bragg: Honourable senators, I represent the Parents' Association of
Gonzaga High School. A few points were raised today that I should like to
refute at this point, mostly statements made by the Newfoundland and Labrador
Home and School Federation.
I have been authorized by the president of the parents' associations of both St.
Pius X schools to say that, in fact, they did withdraw their membership from
the home and school association this year because they disagreed with the
federation's stand on denominational education. As president of the parents'
association at Gonzaga High School, I can say that we did not affiliate
ourselves with the home and school federation this year for the same reason.
Another issue that I would like to mention briefly is the issue of choice in
education. Twenty years ago, as a parent, I made a decision. Even though there
were six schools within a stone's throw of where I lived, I decided to put my
children in a different school -- a Jesuit school in this particular case. I
had a choice. I do not want and many of the parents in the same situation do not
want to see this choice taken away.
With respect to students being denied entry because of religion, obviously I
cannot speak for other schools, but I can state unequivocally that that does
not happen at Gonzaga. In any given year, some 10 to 15 per cent of the
population of that school is other than Roman Catholic.
I have one child left to complete her last year of high school. I believe if she
said to me tomorrow that she did not want to go to Gonzaga any longer and
applied to Prince of Wales Collegiate or Booth Memorial or Bishop's College,
they would take her. I do not think boundaries such as that remain any more.
I see some confusion about this business of duplication. People say that they
are trying to eliminate duplication. In 1967, there were 800 schools in
Newfoundland. Today, there are 293, of which 260 are single-school systems.
Parents have banded together in their communities and, where the situation
warrants, have combined the school systems on their own. That is 89 per cent of
the schools in this province. Only 11 per cent, or 33 schools, still remain to
be consolidated into a joint services system. We would like to keep our reform
moving in that direction so that parents continue to have input into what is
done in these schools.
My final point is this: You cannot compare Newfoundland, with its population of
500,000 people, to a city of comparable size in Ontario. What I can do with a
school system if I take 500,000 people and put them in one place is entirely
different from what I can do with that same school system if I take those
500,000 people and scatter them thousands of miles around the jagged edges of a
coastline, as is done here in Newfoundland. The principles are entirely
different. Thank you.
Mr. Kevin Power: I am a parent, grandparent, school board trustee, businessman
and practising Catholic of Irish descent living in rural Newfoundland. We in
Newfoundland and Labrador are mostly a gathering of Irish and British. We have
a population of about 500,000 living together on this rock. That can only be
done here. It cannot even be done in Ireland. The British and Irish cannot get
together long enough to live and survive together. We have been able to do it
here, so we are something special.
This country, Canada, has become known as the best place in the world in which
to live. We have the privilege of having formed this great nation without
bloodshed. Why? Because most of us are a docile, peace-loving bunch of
negotiators. We have evolved and were continuing to do so until we had the
second coming of Mr. Wells and Mr. Roberts, who were later joined by Mr. Decker.
They became the three wise men.
When Mr. Wells came on the scene, an agreement had been worked out among the
leaders of this nation. It was known as the Meech Lake Accord, and it had to be
ratified by the legislatures of this country. As we all know, it was dumped by
one man. If we are kind enough to say that he represented each and every
citizen of the province of Newfoundland, still only 3 per cent of the population
of this country made a decision against the majority.
Several years later, we had the referendum on Term 17. The vote was 54 per cent
in favour, 46 per cent plus against. The same man chose to ignore the minority
vote because it was not what he wanted.
How can we make a change in the Constitution by having everyone vote on the
rights of a minority? Even a banana republic requires a majority of two-thirds
to three-quarters of the population to make such changes.
One of the senators here today used the word "enshrined". That caught
my attention and I went to Webster's Dictionary to define it. Webster's says "enshrined",
"to hold sacred", "to be cherished".
As I mentioned, I am a school board trustee. As such, this past winter I had to
deal with school closures. We closed one elementary school and a high school.
You can appreciate that the public in that area were not too happy with me. We
did so because it will help us educate our young in a better setting. We have
shared-services schools in our area, a situation that is working well --
although not without its problems, I am sure. The board that I sit on now
represents three former boards. They were consolidated not because of the
imposition by any government but because the people recognized it needed to be
done to do a good job.
It has been said that we are not producing well-educated people. I beg to
differ. We have produced statesmen, educated people, people going any place and
all places in this country and throughout the world. They have become leaders
in their field, taking a second seat to no one.
The politics of this issue are that the government asked for a referendum. We
did not participate in the question. They said they were not going to run a
campaign, yet they spent over $1 million while giving nothing to those of us
who wanted to fight the government. Now I see Mr. Roberts in Ottawa lobbying
and being paid by the office of the fisheries minister, Mr. Mifflin. He has been
present these past couple of days passing crib notes up to Mr. Rompkey. Crib
notes were not allowed when I was going to school. We would have been kicked
The Chair: I will give him a detention for that.
Father Aidan Devine: I am a priest of the diocese of St. George's, presently
living in Stephenville. I would like to address you on a few items.
During the last few days you have heard the term "church control"
being bandied about. I have been a member of four different school boards in my
diocese in the last 25 years. In those 25 years, I have yet to see a bishop
attend a meeting. I have yet to hear of a bishop ever writing to a school board
telling us what to say or what to do. When I became a school board member,
perhaps 85 per cent of the school board members were clergy. In my school
board, I am the only priest out of 12 members. In terms of education, we have
gone from a clerical church to a lay church in which lay people definitely have
If you were to go down the list of Catholic school boards in our province, you
would find very few priests listed as members. I want to put that to you
tonight so that when you hear this term "church control", you will
know it ain't a bunch of bishops saying, "Do this," or "Do not do
that." That has long since passed.
I have also heard people leave the impression that because someone is of one
faith, they cannot be hired by another faith. I remember being on the school
board in a particular situation where I put forward the name of a non-Catholic
because that person had the qualifications to teach in the particular school,
and that person, even to this day, is a very good teacher in our school. Once
again, that goes to show that we are open to anyone in that regard.
The greatest fear I have is with respect to rights. If we lose our rights, the
Catholic church in Newfoundland will survive. We will grow strong regardless of
what type of system we have. However, I fear that down the road, when we are
all dead and buried, there will come a time when some premier, some prime
minister, some members of the House of Assembly and some members of the House
of Commons will have to address this question: Why did we let this happen back
in 1996? That time will come.
When we founded Canada, we left out our native peoples. Today we are still
troubled with the problem of our native peoples simply because many years ago
we did not consider them to be part of our plan. The same thing will happen to
us. A majority cannot take away the rights of a minority. Somewhere along the
line someone will rise up and ask, "Why?"
Ms Mary Mulcahy: I just have one observation to make and it concerns the
atmosphere of irrationality -- no, not irrationality; of contempt -- no, that
is too harsh a word; of non-appreciation of the different denominations which
form the school system in Newfoundland. I see here a resurgence of the troubles
we experienced in the 1840s and 1850s with respect to denominational education,
and that is too bad.
I feel that much information has been disseminated to rank and file
Newfoundlanders, not the intelligentsia. Where has it come from?
I am very sorry, but I will lay some blame on the media. You people are not all
exempt from blame. We have had a continuous barrage of misinformation
surrounding discussions of the Term 17 amendment and of the referendum. It has
been very sad.
I have made it a duty of mine to study what is happening in the media -- radio,
television and the newspapers -- to try to put some sense into all this
misinformation. It is rare rather than frequent. Some members of the media give
out information that is incorrect and make statements about education of which
they know nothing. Other people writing to the print media and speaking on radio
and television have a gripe against the church, and they use the media as a
form of therapy. That is true. Some of them have therapeutic sessions quite
Every night from 10:30 to 1:00 I turn on the radio to listen to a talk show. I
do the same thing in the morning from 9:00 to 11:30. I listen only to the parts
concerned with education. It is impossible for me to describe to you what I
have heard from those talk show people. They know nothing about education and
they make the most wonderful statements.
I will tell you of two instances. Talk about bigotry! I hate to use the word,
but it is there.
One night a gentleman was talking about religious denominations. He said, "The
Pentecostals and that other crowd". The Roman Catholics were that other
Another night someone said, "Well, you know, Brian Tobin cannot be the
premier of Newfoundland because he is a Roman Catholic."
This is what we are hearing, and it is very distressing. That is the atmosphere
in which our people discuss the referendum and the Term 17 amendment. I am not
saying that this is widespread, but I am saying these are the sources from
which many of our people receive their information.
Let there be no doubt that many of the people from Newfoundland and Labrador --
west coast, east coast, south coast -- listen to those talk shows. The evening
show is particularly fascinating. Our visitors ought to have an experience
tonight. Turn it on at 10:30 p.m. and periodically listen.
My question is this: If we move to 10 boards, do you see the problem we are
By the way, I am a Roman Catholic; you probably know it by this time. Even here
I have heard, if not direct insults, insults by innuendo because of my faith.
Ms Ann Aylward: I am here this evening as a guidance counsellor employed with
the Roman Catholic School Board. I am also here as a parent of six grown
children and a grandparent of nine young children. I wish to make three brief
First, I would like to assure the honourable senators most decidedly that the
NLTA was not speaking for me and for many of my Catholic colleagues in the
stand they have taken on the issue before you today. They may speak for me on
any other issue, but they are not speaking for me on this one.
Second, I would like to dispel the implication that was made here this afternoon
about the control of the Catholic teachers. Whether this was by the school
board or the clergy remains uncertain in my mind. However, I would like to
assure you that while we must be practising Catholics in order to be employed
by the Roman Catholic School Board, no one takes attendance on Monday morning as
to whether we have been to church and no one monitors or penalizes us with
respect to who we choose to marry. While some teachers have been accused in
recent months of taping tactics, I have not seen that tactic used by anyone in
trying to control the Catholic teachers. I have not seen any restriction put on
discussion. Anyone who has been to any of our meetings knows that the discussion
is free and open. Quite often, we disagree violently with respect to policies,
but we are free to make those things known.
Third, I am very concerned about the reports that the government, if and when it
takes over the school system, also plans to seize our property, our schools and
the adjacent properties without compensation. As a parent who has worked long
and hard to build and support our schools, as our parents before us have done,
I think the committee should be aware of this as well. Thank you.
Ms Carmel Doyle: I am a Catholic teacher who has been involved in the education
system now for 26 years. Like two of my colleagues who spoke here this
afternoon, I will say basically the same thing but with a different nuance.
Both of my colleagues have said that the NLTA speaks for them on welfare issues.
Listening to the presentation here this afternoon, if they were not so certain
that we needed an amendment, I could agree with them. If we do have an
amendment, certainly it should allow for unidenominational schools. However, I
strongly disagree with them on the fact that there is a need for an amendment at
It was stated yesterday afternoon that a framework agreement was arrived at a
few weeks after the election of a new government in this province. Given time
and a certain amount of freedom, I believe that those negotiations could
continue to a very successful closing.
Someone asked whether youth have a chance to choose in the area of religious
education. As a member of the Roman Catholic school system, I have been
involved in surveys in the last number of years. We sent out one to our schools
about three years ago in particular because people were saying they thought a
lot of young people were opting out of religious education. We wanted to find
out if that was the case. As you know, young people can opt out with their
parents' permission, and although that may say "with parents' permission",
anyone who has an adolescent in the house knows what that term means. That is
not a very difficult thing to get by if the adolescent wants something. We
conducted an island-wide survey and found that fewer than 5 per cent of students
in any of our schools were opting out of religious education. They can do it.
They are not easily duped. They are not placid people who sit down and wait for
you to pour something down their throat. They are the same kids you see on the
street skateboarding up and down the sidewalks.
I do not want to see this issue go to a constitutional amendment, but if it
does, I would certainly like to see the phrase "subject to provincial
legislation" removed and the phrase "where numbers warrant"
added, and I would add to it "as determined by parental choice". Thank
Ms Dianne Barker: "Oh, what a tangled web we weave when first we practise
I am so delighted that you glorious senators are here, and I trust you will be
able to sift through the many lies, half-truths and misrepresentations to find
the kernel of truth that will ensure for me and my eight Catholic children and
my Catholic husband that our rights will be preserved. None of us have been
represented by the organizations said to speak for us today. The home and school
federation does not represent me or the organizations that I belong to as a
parent. The NLTA does not represent my Catholic husband. I hope you can
continue your efforts to find the truth and ensure that my Catholic rights for
Catholic education -- which means Catholic governance -- for my children are
enshrined and they stay there. Thank you.
Mr. Patrick Howard: I am from Baie Verte and White Bay. I represent the teachers
of my school and my district. I would like to thank you for your patience and
your long day, but I feel that walk-ons put a very personal face on this issue.
I am a Roman Catholic high school teacher and have been teaching at a Roman
Catholic high school for the past 12 years. I was educated in the system, and I
now have two young children who enjoy the privilege of being in that system. I
have watched with varying degrees of shock, dismay and disbelief as my rights
as a minority have been undermined. My school system and the quality of
education it delivers have been denounced and blamed for all the ills of the
Newfoundland schools. I have watched my professional association, the NLTA,
deliver policy statements which in no way reflect my wishes. I have watched as
my government, under the guise of quality of education and control over it, has
been hell bent on stripping me of my right to send my children to a Catholic
school. I feel a great sense of loss, a sense of impending doom.
Our school system is inextricably entwined with my faith. What makes a Catholic
school different, I believe, is also a question of faith. To take away from me
the right, which I now enjoy, to educate my children in my faith is to strike
me at a very deep level.
I have heard all kinds of arguments about economics. Since when have the rights
of a minority been an economic issue? Is it possible that today a right that I
deem to be indispensable, a fundamental right, can be deemed quite dispensable
by others who do not share my view? Into what dangers will that lead us? Who
will be standing here tomorrow?
Ms Ann Griffin: I come before you today as chairperson of the parish pastoral
council of Immaculate Conception Parish in Grand Falls-Windsor. I come to you
also as a teacher in the NLTA. I have been a member of that association for the
past 27 years and have been employed by our Roman Catholic school board for the
past 25 years. At the time I was hired, two other teachers were hired. I was the
one Catholic. The other two were of Protestant denomination. I am very proud of
I also come to you as a Canadian citizen and taxpayer. As a result of the 1949
Terms of Union, the Constitution, I enjoyed the right to attend Roman Catholic
schools throughout my education, and I have had the privilege of teaching in
Roman Catholic schools in this province. As a Roman Catholic teacher, because
every right has a corresponding responsibility, I would be remiss in my duty if
I did not try at least at this time to speak on behalf of the students whom I
teach. This is the first time that I have felt able to do this since the
education reform debate arose. It is the first time that my faith in our
democratic system has been restored. I think it was Senator MacDonald this
morning who said that he puts more faith in a man of God than in a politician.
I cannot help but concur with his position.
I am convinced that the referendum of September 5, 1995, was totally unnecessary
-- not only unnecessary but totally unfair. It was unjust to subject a minority
group to a vote over which a majority population was at an advantage.
Mr. Patrick Furlong: I come from Labrador. Until today I have been a very proud
Canadian. I think our country has shown the world that its strength lies in its
pride, its unity of diversity, how well it has treated all its minorities, and
its appreciation of its citizens regardless of origin, race, language, age,
sexuality or belief. Unfortunately, for whatever reasons, dollars have become
sacred and scarce in our country, and our founding principles have now become
too expensive and are no longer sacred.
Canadians must now focus on the cost of everything and the value of nothing.
When governments find contractual agreements unsuitable, their solution is to
use the power of the legislature to change them. When government finds a
constitutional right limiting, the solution is to use the power of Parliament
to change it. If a government's proposed reform lacks merit and is not
defensible, their solution is to create a perceived crisis, find fault,
highlight the negative, limit the power of debate, disregard valuable argument,
create confusion, dismiss opposition, frustrate the people, hold bogus
referendums and initiate reform. "No big deal; the people will get used to
We know that ministers of education have been meeting across this country for
the last number of years, and we know that at least one of them has said
publicly through his bureaucrats, "Let us create a perceived crisis in our
educational system so we can change it the way we want to." You know what
that government did.
People will refer to Term 17 and say that it was passed in the legislature.
Well, let me tell you about the vote in the federal Parliament. The Parti Québécois
voted for Term 17 because the proposal suited its purposes. The Reform Party
voted for Term 17 because it was party policy. The Liberal cabinet had to vote
for Term 17 because it was a government bill.
Mr. Pat Collins: Thank you very much for coming to Newfoundland and Labrador. I
am distraught today to hear the executive director of the NLTA come forward and
link economic reform with better education and say that better education is
fewer teachers. That is mind-boggling.
Given a perfect opportunity by one of the honourable senators here today, the
NLTA did not take on a government which has cut $70 million out of education
this year; that has laid off 500 teachers; that has cut a kindergarten program,
a langauge program that has not been changed for 17 years; that has cancelled
public examinations. A major union of 10,000 educators in this province has not
attacked government and asked in which direction are we heading, and then they
Let me tell you a quick story. Five years ago, Catholic teachers in this
province asked the NLTA to allow them to form a special interest council, and
the NLTA said, "No, because you are Catholic teachers, and you are too
secular." Is that tolerance? I say not.
Please vote against Term 17. Thank you.
Ms Heather Conran-Paul: Good afternoon. I am a parent from Gander. I am also a
Nova-Consolidated employee. Senator Rompkey referred to our situation. I am also
a Roman Catholic, raised in the Roman Catholic system. I have taught in
interdenominational systems as well as a joint services system, so my critics
can pick their bias. My grandfather founded one of the Roman Catholic systems
here in St. John's.
My problem with this proposal is that I do not have a choice. My children were
going to a Catholic school system last year. Given the way the government was
doing things, the two school boards in the area decided to amalgamate schools.
My children left the Roman Catholic school system, of which there were 250
children from K to 6, and went to a system of K to 5 with 984 children. My
children went from a class of 16 children to a class of 26 kids. I do not have
the power of choice as a parent. Rather, I have to send my children to the
neighbourhood school and I will have to take care of the faith part.
Whatever you decide to do, whether it is to change the wording of the amendment
or to throw it back to the legislature, please make sure that the power of
choice is still there. Not only is it my right as a parent, but it is my right
as a Catholic. That right was enshrined in the Constitution back in 1949 and I
still want it. Thank you.
Mr. Morley Whitt: I appreciate your patience and your alertness on these issues.
I am a Pentecostal teacher. I am a member of the Pentecostal Teachers'
Fellowship, which is a loose organization of Pentecostal teachers here in
Newfoundland. We are also all members of the Newfoundland and Labrador
Teachers' Association. However, we do have some distinct philosophical
differences from the other members of the Newfoundland and Labrador Teachers'
I am not sure if senators are aware, but myself and the majority of my
Pentecostal colleagues, just two years ago when a strike was called, did not go
on strike. We stayed in the school and taught our students, without pay. We
gave our cheques over entirely to the NLTA, into a special fund. We received
strike pay from that fund the same as other teachers. The NLTA at that time
recognized that we had some distinct differences, especially when it came to
job action. The vast majority of Pentecostal teachers literally put their money
where their mouth was.
We are a distinct group. We want to continue representing Pentecostal students,
Pentecostal teachers, Pentecostal parents and Pentecostal schools as far as it
In conclusion, senators, I ask that you seriously consider the plight of
Pentecostal students, parents and teachers in this province who are committed
to excellence in education.
Ms Ann Walsh: I am employed as a religious education coordinator with the
Gander-Bonavista Roman Catholic School Board. We administer 13 schools, 8 of
which are shared services. I think that is a living example of
interdenominational cooperation in central Newfoundland.
I am also a member of 12 years' standing of the NLTA, and I take exception to
their stated need for constitutional change today. I do not feel that they
represent me in this regard, and I would like that to be clear.
As a result of today's discussion, I want to make two distinctions. The first is
between the phrases "being antiquated" and "having a history".
Our system is often accused of being antiquated. You in the Senate might
sympathize with this. I feel, however, that having a history is quite a
different thing. We do have a long history, going back at least to 1725 and the
first Society for the Propagation of the Gospel school founded here. That does
not mean, however, that we are not a forward-looking province. Our
denominational system of education is indeed a forward-looking system, one that
is the envy of many throughout North America, something that many others would
like to emulate.
As well, I should like to make a distinction between segregation and a freely
chosen faith context for the education of one's children. That distinction was
not adequately made in the presentation from the Newfoundland and Labrador Home
and School Federation. If there is any tolerance here, it is as a result of a
healthy tolerance for diversity that grew up from our religious education system
and our denominational system, not the contrary. Thank you.
The Chair: As you can imagine, senators are very sensitive to the word "antiquated".
Mr. Harry Bown: Thank you for doing what I submit should have been done by the
House of Commons. I would like to speak to you briefly as a parent, legal
I am the first teacher of my children. Of course, my wife and I try to inculcate
the Catholic values that we try to live by, to a greater or lesser extent. To
that end, to some extent we surrender those rights or duties to the school
system. Up to this particular point, I have been very happy to surrender those
particular duties, rights and responsibilities because I have a degree of
comfort that the schools will foster the same rights, to a greater or lesser
extent, that I have attempted to live by.
I would ask honourable senators to make some substantive changes to this
amendment if at all possible, but comes the time that it passes, I have a great
fear that down the road those values that I want to instill in my children will
not be there because I will have no control in that school.
In a manner of speaking, I would say that there are such things as Catholic math
and Catholic biology. What I am saying is that an attitude goes along with
those subjects. It is referred to in educational terms as the "effective
domain". I am sure Senator Carstairs will recognize that phrase from her
teacher training. When one teaches a subject, one must of course have the
attendant attitude, beliefs and philosophies to go with it. I have a great fear
that that will not be accomplished comes the time that this goes forward.
Mr. Eric Short: I am a parent of four children. I am Roman Catholic, and I work
in the education system. In my years of working in the education system, I have
been a teacher, a guidance counsellor, and now a psychologist.
I have worked for the Roman Catholic school board, and I have worked with other
non-Catholic teachers while working there. I have also worked on two occasions
with integrated school boards. I am not just a passing Roman Catholic; I am a
practising one. I am a Eucharistic minister in my church. I am a Grand Knight
in the Knights of Columbus. Yet the integrated school boards still saw fit to
I do not know about the power of boards and worrying about whether they will
hold discrimination against people and their faith; I do not know about
discrimination within the churches. However, I do know about the abusive power
that comes from certain institutions claiming to be democratic institutions,
such as our provincial government. We received very limited consultation. They
want to see a bill go through, and they will talk about the details later and
consult later. This democratic body supposedly represents me and our NLTA,
which in turn sits here today saying it represents me. It did not consult with
me; it does not represent me.
As to the Newfoundland and Labrador Home and School Association, I am a parent
of four children, three of whom are in school. I have not been consulted as a
parent by this association on their standpoint.
Ms Mary Arruda: Thank you for this opportunity. I am a parent, a practising
Catholic and a member of the NLTA. I would like to comment on the brief
presented by the NLTA.
Like many teachers, I was not consulted on the issue regarding denominational
education. Mr. Russell repeatedly said, "We, the teachers". I resent
the NLTA making such a statement on behalf of all its members.
I have been teaching now for 18 years, and the only issue that I ever voted on
was whether to strike, which only hurts the students. In the future, I would
like the NLTA to consult more with teachers when taking such a stand.
Notwithstanding the opinion of the NLTA opinion, I would like my three children
and other Catholic children to have the option of receiving a Catholic
education. All I ask is the right to choose.
Mr. Roger Nippard: I am president of the Pentecostal Teachers' Fellowship and I
represent approximately 400 teachers in the province. I was particularly
interested in the presentation of Wayne Russell of the NLTA in which he stated
that he represented the interests of all teachers, all jurisdictions and all
denominations. I want you to know this evening that when he spoke, he did not
speak on my behalf, nor on behalf of the Pentecostal teachers of this province.
I want to pick up on a point that several people have already made, and that is
the fact that the NLTA has refused throughout this process to conduct a vote of
its membership. When recommendations have come to the AGM on this matter, the
executive has recommended defeat. They denied the request of the PTF and
associations such as ours to vote on this matter. They have also ignored
petitions circulated by teachers.
One of the senators asked Mr. Russell, "How do the teachers feel? Have you
consulted them?" His response was, "Our position is supported by the
majority of teachers." "Are there some who would disagree?" "Yes."
"How many?" "The number would not be large."
Another senator asked him if he had informed teachers that he was speaking on
their behalf, and his answer was "no". How would you like to have
your association present a brief to the Senate and not inform you that it is
doing so? How would you like to return to your school in September to find out
the text of what was presented to the Senate today?
Senator MacDonald asked Mr. Russell how Pentecostal teachers felt, and I want to
address that point. Our teachers have been asked how they feel about the
support of the churches in denominational education, and 98 per cent of
Pentecostal teachers support our church.
Mr. Harold Flynn: I am a parent. I am a trustee with the Western Avalon Roman
Catholic School Board. I wish to greet the members of the Standing Senate
Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs. I want to single out one member
of your committee today, and that is the Honourable Senator Doody. I do that
because I was lucky enough to be one of nine lay Catholic parents who managed to
scrounge enough money to get to Ottawa to present our views as they relate to
Term 17, and we found a most sympathetic ear with Senator Doody. He
accommodated us well when we were there, and I would suggest that his
intervention probably led to your presence here today. I want to thank him most
I want to touch on a couple of points which I feel are germane to your presence
here today. One is minority rights. What we are doing here is tinkering with
minority rights. As we weaken minority rights as they apply in Term 17, we will
create a precedent in this nation. One of your committee members said earlier
that this is a can of worms, but if you go on weakening constitutional rights
across this country, I suggest you are opening a bigger can of worms. I suggest
that you seriously consider adjustments that will diminish minority rights.
The other point I want to touch on is constitutionality. I want to remind
members of the committee that Term 17 was a condition by which Newfoundland
entered Confederation in 1949. As Newfoundlanders, we had many reservations
about Confederation. We had to give up our nationality, and in doing so, the
Fathers of Confederation in their wisdom were strong in securing our rights to
have an education and to have minority rights protected. This was one of the
terms of Confederation, and I would not want to see this adjusted in any way.
Ms Fay Flynn: This is one case where the wife gets the last word.
I am a Catholic. I am a mother. I am also a substitute teacher; I have been for
nine years. I am a member of the NLTA. I support them, but in this particular
case I do not support their view. I am also part of the Newfoundland and
Labrador Home and School Federation because my home and school association pays
fees into that organization, but I do not support them on this occasion.
One presenter today said that all teachers in Catholic schools were Catholics.
In the school at which I do most of my substitution, 6 out of 45 teachers are
It was also suggested here that if people did not follow the rules of the
church, they lost their positions. Two of the men on that staff are divorced.
We also hear often about qualifications of Catholic teachers. In Newfoundland,
our teachers are qualified. You cannot substitute teach in a school unless you
have grade four or more. If you have less than grade four, your name is put on
the list, but you are only called at the very last when there is no other
teacher around. I have 68 university credits to my name. I do not know where the
unqualified teachers are coming from.
The Chair: Thank you very much. For the record, let me be very clear. What Ms
Flynn meant when she spoke of grade four was a grade four level in teacher
training, not a grade four level in education. I think it is appropriate that
the printed record make that absolutely clear.
Thank you, honourable senators, and thank you to the audience who have been very
attentive to our rules.
The committee adjourned.