OTTAWA, ON May 17, 2011 (CCRL) – On Wednesday May 18 the judges of the Supreme Court of Canada heard the case of the Drummondville, Que. family seeking an exemption from Quebec’s program in ethics and religious culture (ECR). Thanks to your generosity, the League and its coalition partners appeared as intervenors, represented by Jean-Yves Cote. Lawyers Mark Phillips and Guy Pratte appeared on the family’s behalf. League director Jean Morse-Chevrier attended.

The case, which attracted many intervenors, centres on the right of parents to withdraw their children from the course, which replaces the Catholic, Protestant or non-religious moral instruction previously offered in Quebec schools. (Until the course was implemented in 2009, more than 70 per cent of parents chose the Catholic option.) The Association of Catholic Parents of Quebec was advised of more than 1,700 requests to various school boards for an exemption, none of which had been granted.

The program and its mandatory nature conflict with the fundamental right of parents to direct the religious education of their children. As Jean-Yves said: “The role of government is to support the parent in his work as an educator, not to replace him.” Our coalition, the Christian Coalition for Parental Rights in Education (RCDPE) included the Association of Catholic parents in Quebec (APCQ), the League, Faith and Freedom Alliance and the Association of the Coptic Orthodox Community of Greater Montreal.

The lawyer for the Attorney General of Quebec argued that the course is neutral on religion, presenting various viewpoints. However, Catholic school trustee associations and other educational groups that intervened say the program tends to promote relativism and the questioning of beliefs at inappropriate ages. All emphasized the right of parents to be granted exemptions from material that conflicts with what is being taught in the home.   

The Supreme Court reserved its decision, which could take several months. The decision will have a long-lasting impact on religious rights, since it will affect the right of parents to direct the religious education of their children. The court will also have to grapple with why an exemption from the course was granted to a private school (in the case of Loyola High School, currently under appeal) but denied to public schools.

Moral relativism and the classroom, National Post editorial, May 23, 2011
Quebec parents challenge ethics and religious culture course, Register, May 19, 2011