MONTREAL, QC December 6, 2012 – The Catholic Civil Rights League (CCRL) today commented on the decision of the Quebec Court of Appeal that requires Loyola High School, a private Catholic institution, to teach the province’s Ethics and Religious Culture (ERC) course. The school had asked to cover the course material in a religion program based on its Catholic perspective, a request which was upheld by the Quebec Superior Court but appealed by the province.
The Court of Appeal decision, issued December 4, declared that because Loyola’s course is Catholic in orientation, it could not be considered equivalent to the ERC program, because the ERC course was specifically designed to be religiously “neutral”.
“With this decision, the Court of Appeal has seriously infringed upon the right of parents to direct the religious education of their children,” says League President Philip Horgan.
In 2008, the Education Minister at the time, Michelle Courchesne, refused to declare that the course in Morals and World Religions Loyola High School in Montreal was equivalent to ERC, arguing that the program offered by the school was given from a Catholic viewpoint whereas the ethics and religious culture approach must be “secular”. The school took the case to Quebec’s Superior Court. In June 2010, the Superior Court reversed the decision of the minister and the school was allowed to teach its substitute program as equivalent. The Court of Appeal has overturned that decision and upheld the original decision of the Minister of Education.
This decision creates a dilemma for Catholic parents in Quebec, who may seek to send their children to a private Catholic school to avail their children of an authentic moral and religious upbringing in accordance with their faith, a right recognized and guaranteed by several international treaties to which Canada is a party, and to which a robust understanding of the Charter of Rights would normally recognize.
In February, the Supreme Court of Canada decided in the case of S.L. that sufficient evidence would be needed to support a finding for an exemption from the ERC curriculum. Loyola produced the requests for exemption on behalf of its entire school community, supported by expert opinions on the merits of its program as compared to the Quebec ERC curriculum. The trial judge accepted that position, stating at one point that the Quebec government’s position was verging on totalitarianism.
With this ruling, the Court of Appeal has chosen to overrule the trial judge’s decision, which was based on extensive expert evidence, in favour of the ambitions of the Quebec government, which stated that its program was better suited for greater tolerance in society.
Quebec continues to engage in a grand social experiment, over the legitimate objections of religious parents.
The Association of Catholic Parents of Quebec (APCQ) deplores the fact that everywhere in Quebec, children 6 to 16 years will be introduced, through the ERC course, to a set of amalgamated religions, beliefs, myths and legends. The President of the APCQ, Jean Morse-Chevrier, who is also a Quebec director of the League, believes this teaching devalues religion in favour of a phenomenalist and relativistic approach. She says that the judgment gives more clout to a government that devalues the religious rights of its citizens and their institutions.
The CCRL hopes that the Supreme Court is invited to review its previous ruling on the ERC curriculum in the context of the Loyola experience.
Catholic Civil Rights League (www.ccrl.ca) assists in creating conditions within which Catholic teachings can be better understood, cooperates with other organizations in defending civil rights in Canada, and opposes defamation and discrimination against Catholics on the basis of their beliefs. CCRL was founded in 1985 as an independent lay organization and has chapters across Canada. The Catholic Civil Rights League is a Canadian non-profit organization entirely supported by the generosity of its members.
For further information:
Joanne McGarry, Executive Director, 416-466-8244; firstname.lastname@example.org
Jean Morse-Chevrier, director (bilingual), 819-661-7140. email@example.com