The supreme Court of Canada has ruled that it would allow the Canadian Jewish Congress to appeal lower court rulings on the issue of public funding for private religious schools.
“It was always our belief that the matter would be settled in the Supreme Court of Canada,” said Murray Segal, chairman of the Ontario Jewish Association for Equity in Education, a CJC standing committee.
“Given the breadth and scope of Canada’s highest judiciary, we believe that the matter will have a fair and complete hearing,” he added.
No date has been set for the Supreme Court hearing.
The CJC request to the high court comes as part of a 30-year campaign to win provincial government funding for the secular curriculum at Jewish parochial schools.
The Supreme Court’s decision last week to hear the case comes after an Ontario Court of Appeal ruled here in July that the Ontario Ministry of Education’s refusal to extend funding to denominational schools other than the Roman Catholic Separate School System is constitutional.
In a unanimous decision, the five judges of the appeals court had dismissed an appeal by five Jewish parents-with children in some of Ontario’s Jewish day schools-who argued that the province’s policy contravened Canada’s of Rights and Freedoms.
The plaintiffs are also seeking publicly health-support services for special- needs children in private schools.
The case was first heard in an Ontario court in 1992.
Estimates for extending funding to private schools of all faiths range between $156 million (Canadian) to $339 million. Some 12,000 of the 70,000 students in independent schools in Ontario attend one of the 21 Jewish day schools.
Tuition at Jewish schools in Ontario ranges from $6,000 for elementary grades to $10,000 for high school.
Catholic schools are free.
Provincial government funding for the Separate School, which covers both Catholic and secular studies, dates back to the British North America Act of 1867.
The law, which paved the way for the confederation of four British colonies into Canada, guaranteed the status of religious minorities in Ontario and Quebec.
In an era before mass immigration, Catholics were the only significant minority in the nascent Canadian state.
Today, Canada has become a multiethnic society. Aside from Ontario, virtually every province and territory provides some form of funding for parochial schools.
For Jews, this translates into partial provincial assistance in British Columbia, Asberta, Manitoba and Quebec.
The majority of Canada’s 356,000 Jews, however, live in Ontario.