Multi-Faith Coalition and Families of Disabled Children
Sue the McGuinty Government
- The Multi-Faith Coalition (MFC) for Equal Funding of Faith-Based
Schools and eight families of disabled children announced today the
filing of a major lawsuit in the Ontario Superior Court, against the
In 2000, Ontario's Ministry of Health
began to provide funding to assist students in faith-based schools who
required speech therapy, nursing services, occupational therapy or
physiotherapy. However, the Ontario government arbitrarily decided that
funding for blind, deaf, and/or children with learning disabilities
would not be available since it comes from Ontario's Ministry of Education.
As a result, of the sum of $14.4 million dollars set aside by the
McGuinty government each fiscal year for disabled students in all of
Ontario's faith-based schools, the Government spends only $4.5 million
- notwithstanding the unmet special needs of these children.
The lawsuit, filed as a "test case" on behalf of families of blind,
deaf and learning disabled children enrolled in Ontario's faith-based
schools, asserts that: (1) Once Ontario decided a few years ago to
begin providing funding to some disabled children in faith schools, it
is discriminatory to refuse funding to blind, deaf and learning
disabled students in those same schools; and (2) In those
circumstances, the decision by the McGuinty government to fund the
special needs of blind, deaf, and learning disabled students in the
public schools and Catholic schools, but not in any other faith-based
schools, is a violation of the Canadian Charter of Rights.
Tebat Kadhem, a 10 year old legally blind girl who attends an Islamic
school in Richmond Hill, Ontario in a classroom with non-disabled
children, and receives no Government funded assistance at all, stated:
"I don't understand why I can't get the help I need in my school just
because my school is an Islamic school and not catholic or a public
school. I thought that in Ontario people are supposed to be treaty
fairly and equally."
Brian Shell, a leading Toronto-based human rights counsel who is
representing the eight families affected directly by this test case,
stated: "The time has come for Ontario to recognize that the
discriminatory practices affecting these disabled children must stop.
No one should be required to abandon their faith-based school because
of a disability. No one should be denied rights afforded to others
because they have decided to pursue religious conviction in a
faith-based school. In our multi-cultural society, modern Ontario must
recognize its obligations to all children with disabilities and provide
the necessary in-school services for them, whatever school they attend,
whether faith-based or not. It is regrettable that it is necessary to
bring this matter before the Courts. Responsible politicians should
address these matters without any further procrastination."
The MFC, founded in 2002, consists of representation from Armenian
Orthodox Schools, Coptic Orthodox Schools, Evangelical Christian
Schools, Greek Orthodox Day School, Hindu School, Islamic Schools, Sikh
(Khalsa) School, Ontario Association of Jewish Day Schools, Seventh Day
Adventist Schools, and Mennonite Schools who are currently victims of
religious discrimination in the funding of education in Ontario.