Separate school

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A separate school or is a publicly funded school which includes religious education in its curriculum, as opposed to a private school or public school.

In Canada these are usually Roman Catholic schools which are run parallel to the public school system which historically had been either Protestant or Roman Catholic, but which in recent years has become secular. There are also a few Protestant school boards.

Protection of the Separate School system was a major issue of contention in the negotiations that led to Canadian confederation. The issue was a subject of debate at the 1864 Quebec Conference and was finally resolved at the London Conference of 1866 with a guarantee to protect the separate school system in Quebec and Ontario.

In the Quebec education system there were separate Protestant and Catholic school systems until 1988 when the system was replaced with linguistically based secular school systems. Similarly, Newfoundland and Labrador had schools organised on a confessional basis with separate denominational schools for Catholics, Seventh-day Adventists, Salvation Army and an integrated stream. This was abolished by referendum in 1997 and a single secular system was introduced to replace the previous streams.

The question of separate schools has been most controversial in Ontario and Manitoba. The ending of public support for separate schools in the latter province in the 1890s prompted a national crisis known as the Manitoba Schools Question.

In Ontario, funding for the Catholic separate school system was initially only guaranteed until grade nine under the British North America (BNA) Act. This funding was gradually extended until 1985 when the government of William Davis extended funding to include the last two years of secondary school after having rejected that proposal fifteen years earlier. The historically protestant system was eventually transformed into the present day public board, and school prayer was banned in the early 1980s.

A province-wide newspaper survey conducted between 1997 and 1999 in 45 dailies indicated that 79% of 7551 respondents in Ontario favoured a single public school system. But rumours that the Catholic Church had instructed its parishoners not to respond to the survey suggest that it may have produced inaccurate results. Regardless of whether the results were accurate or not, no widely supported movement to amend the Constitution Act 1867 has developed. The Ontario Catholic board has recently been targeting immigrants from Catholic nations, such as Latin America and the Philipines.

In Ontario the only separate schools are Catholic; other faith groups do not receive similar funding. This restriction has often been criticized as contrary to the spirit of official multiculturalism. The provincial policy has been ruled as discriminatory by the Supreme Court of Canada, and on November 5 1999 the United Nations Human Rights Committee condemned Canada and Ontario for having violated Article 26 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

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