L017 - Tue 9 Jul 1985 / Mar 9 jul 1985
The House resumed at 8 p.m.
EDUCATION AMENDMENT ACT (CONTINUED)
Resuming the debate on the motion for second reading of Bill 30, An Act to amend the Education Act.
Hon. Ms. Munro: I would like to continue my support of the bill introduced by my colleague the Minister of Education (Mr. Conway). The bill is essentially a continuation of the pattern of legislative remediation that has been going on in this province.
Let me take the member through a bit of the history. In 1841, the school system as we know it today was established. It called for the creation of the common school system. This developed into the public and separate systems we enjoy today. At that time, there was very little in education past grade 10.
The next step came in 1871 when the province brought in district boards of education. These boards were given the responsibility of handling secondary school education. It was in that legislation that a difference began to appear between public and separate schools. There was no provision for separate schools in the district boards. It took almost 100 years for this province to redress the matter. It was not until 1969 that these district boards were abolished, to be replaced with the existing system where the separate school supporters can elect representatives to public school boards. Of course, they can only debate matters arising out of secondary issues, and many might feel they were rather part-time and therefore not a full part of the board and its secondary discussions.
For those who are worried about the effect of this bill on the school system as it exists today, let me point out an excellent example from Hamilton. The public and separate school boards in my home town have already begun to handle the likely transfer of students from one system to another. They are working closely together and there is a very amicable relationship. Senior officers of both boards were very specific in telling me the transition is being handled smoothly and fairly.
A good example is Southmount Secondary School. This is a good example not only of the transition needed for the funding of separate schools but also for the changes and shifts that have been taking place within education over the past several years. The two boards have signed an agreement whereby the separate school board will lease about half of Southmount for the students from St. Jean de Brébeuf Separate School, the remainder of the building to be used by public school students in a French-language program. This kind of co-operation and atmosphere of cordiality and willingness to accommodate is what we must have throughout this province.
I am happy to report on Hamilton's reaction to another part of the bill, the section that establishes guarantees for the teachers. For many years I have been a strong advocate of workers' rights. It would have been unconscionable to bring in legislation that did not cover the rights of the teachers and other staff, who are the workers in this instance. I have heard nothing but praise from my friends in the public school system. Those in the separate system are also pleased with the principle of the guarantees. I am told that the separate school board recognizes its role in the staffing issue and will accept this role. These same people told me that the separate school system must maintain its system and its special mission.
As I said earlier, this bill is simply part of the pattern of continuation of legislative remediation in that it now allows separate school supporters, teachers, students and parents to be a full part of the educational system. It removes the stigma of second class from the separate school system. We have all watched as the separate schools held bingos, raffles and every other conceivable kind of fund-raising activity to keep their schools operating. This bill removes that stigma.
Of course, there is a cost. When one redresses a wrong, there is always a cost. The question is not whether we can afford to go ahead with this legislation, but whether we can afford morally and socially not to do it.
I would like to inform the members opposite that I have been in touch with the school boards in the Hamilton area and there is strong agreement that the figure of $80 million noted by my colleague the member for Renfrew North (Mr. Conway) is correct. They have all wondered out loud where the figure of $40 million used by members opposite came from. Perhaps it was simply a mathematical error.
I have read reports that this bill is the fountainhead of an emotional issue. That is exactly right. There certainly does not appear in my mind to be any legal or moral issue here. All parties in this House have agreed to the principle of extending funding. All parties in this House campaigned on this issue. We on this side have been in favour of the extension of funding for several elections. That holds true for the members of the New Democratic Party. The Progressive Conservative Party had to travel a little closer to Damascus before its conversion.
Let us take a look at some of the emotions about this issue. In my riding office, the calls, visits and letters are running at about 90 per cent in favour of the principle inculcated in this bill. I have talked to several of my colleagues and they report similar data.
Emotion does not revolve around the rights of parents and students to select between the public and separate school systems. That right has been with us for well over a century. The emotion revolves around the right to complete an educational program within a system. I know of parents who have had to sacrifice a great deal to let their children complete their education within the structure of Roman Catholic education. I have letters that talk about those sacrifices and they were real. This bill will eliminate those sacrifices.
Let us talk about the emotion of separate school supporters who see themselves as being forced to support two educational systems. I have letters in which the word "subsidized" is used instead of the word "support." They feel that strongly about this issue.
All of us in this House receive letters every day from people, groups and companies trying to make points, might I say lobbying for their causes. These letters come in on embossed paper and have been produced on word processors in a way that is intended to catch our attention. The letters I have been receiving on the issue of extending funding have been written in an entirely different way. They are not for the most part on expensive paper. They are on notepads and are handwritten or carefully hand-typed. They are full of emotion and they have caught and held my attention. Many have required translation. These are not form letters. They are from the heart and they quickly get to the heart of the matter.
It is the moral right of separate school supporters in this province to be able to enter and complete their education within a separate school system. This bill allows for that right to be fulfilled. I urge all members to support the bill.
I have spent quite a few years in academic circles. I am a confirmed believer in the development of as many educational opportunities as possible. I have a real bias towards providing quality educational opportunity and, as a person involved in providing those opportunities for many years, I can tell the members that opportunities must be provided in the space and time most convenient to the prospective student, to the person who needs educational development.
We are several decades past the point where a grade 10 education would set one on the path to a productive and rewarding career. I will admit, quickly, that many people can make it and make it well with a grade 10 education or even less, but the vast majority of people need the benefit of the nurturing that comes through the formal educational system. They need the stimulation of other thoughts and other minds. They need the discipline of the formal classroom.
We cannot expect a large proportion of our population to stop at grade 10. We should not even be thinking about it. It is ludicrous. This is the age of high tech. This is a time of specialization and a meld of general knowledge. The further we develop our technology, the greater will be our need for formal education and training links with commitments from business, industry and labour. It is clear that a secondary school education is a basic need for most people in this province.
Let me return to a point I was examining earlier. I suggest we must now take this requirement for education and put it into a delivery mode. I said earlier that my experiences show that educational opportunities must be delivered in a time and place convenient to the learner. Taking a separate school student out of the separate school system after grade 10 is not convenient. It is wrong. If it is not removing educational opportunity, it is at least tampering with it. If there is one thing Ontario does not need and the next generation of Ontario leaders do not need, it is tampering with the learning environment and hence with educational opportunities.
Let me remind members that this bill is nothing more than a continuation of progressive legislation through the years. When the existing system was established in 1841, there was no such thing as kindergarten and there was no prekindergarten. If it was right for the provincial government to fund these levels of education in both the public and separate school systems -- and it was right -- then surely it is right to fund the other levels of education that were not predominant in 1841 or 1871 or, for that matter, as late as a few decades ago.
Members of this House are already aware of my strong support for the principles included in this bill. Just a few weeks ago when I was sitting on the other side of the House, I presented a petition to the Honourable the Lieutenant Governor and the Legislative Assembly of Ontario. That petition noted that it is the sincere expectation of more than 500,000 students and staff of the separate school system and nearly four million separate school supporters in Ontario that they will not have to suffer any further delay or humiliation on this issue.
The intent of that petition was to get some action out of the government. We now have that action and it is about time. When the members opposite formed the government they promised full funding a year ago. Then they waited; some may say stalled. I cannot stress sufficiently the importance of quick action now. I believe the Premier (Mr. Peterson) has looked well to the safeguards. There is no railroading of the issue as the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. F. S. Miller) is reported to have said he feared would occur. We need quick, responsible action and that is exactly what I see in the legislation and the legislative timetable laid out by this government.
The education of a child is part of that child's total culture, the world of work, recreation, leisure, lifestyle, religion, community and vision. This is so in my life. It is equally so and reflected in the lives of many children, parents, teachers, care givers, employers and volunteers in this province.
The bill itself and the principle it embodies is long overdue. Responsibility for the mechanics surely rests in large measure with this Legislature, we who have the confidence of the people and who are here to represent and involve. I am obliged, I am committed to this end, and thus strongly articulate my support for the bill presented by my honourable colleague the Minister of Education.
Mr. Cousens: I am pleased to stand in the same spirit as I stood with all other members of this Legislature on June 12, 1984, when Premier Davis announced the decision to support the extension of separate school funding. As I applauded that decision then and the far-thinking and far-reaching implications it would have, I stand now to explain my position and to present some of the considerations that certainly have gone into this very important progressive step within our province.
The truth of the matter is that the people of Ontario believe education is important. They believe it is one of the most important basic needs that our society must have and that we cannot overstate its importance. Education is seen as society's responsibility for future generations. It is the foundation-stone for each life.
We, as legislators, have a fundamental responsibility to help guarantee and assure quality education for our young people. Our goal must be to educate as best we can, remembering that our young people, their minds, spirits and bodies, are our greatest resource. We must help them make a worthy contribution to society so they themselves can find personal fulfilment.
The Canadian Royal Commission on National Development in the Arts, Letters and Sciences, in its report in 1951, said, "Education is the progressive development of the individual in all his faculties, physical and intellectual, aesthetic and moral." I agree with this synopsis. What could be more important for us as legislators than to give full and proper consideration to anything that can impact on the educational system? We must be all the more sensitive to all the implications of this bill so the legislation truly reflects the needs of our society and our youth.
The three underlying concerns I wish to address, which are implicit to this legislation and prerequisite to its success, have to do with the quality of education, the rivalries that can exist in society -- I would like to talk about that -- and the opportunity of equality for all.
Speaking about the quality of education, I believe we do not want second-class education or a second-class society. Therefore, we must do everything we can to maintain the highest quality of public and separate education in this province so we are able to develop those young people for positions of responsibility to carry on as we would hope they could.
Therefore, within our educational systems, let us never forget to cover the basics effectively and well. Let us always maintain a balance on all subjects so we can cover physical health and education, the arts, maths and sciences. Let us make sure we fully comprehend the needs of all ages of all youths within our systems from the youngest to the eldest.
Let us make sure the buildings and services that undergird that system are in place and are there to do the job they should do. Let us make sure we continue to invest in educational research so that we can evaluate new approaches and methodologies. Let us continue to try to create a climate for our teachers so they can work happily and productively with excellence. Let us continue to respond to the changing needs of society as we look at the high-technology industry and computers and their impact on society. Let us look at the sciences, biology and life sciences. Let us look at the arts and culture.
As well, let us never forget that our schools should have discipline so our students are learning what it is to work and to understand the value of work. Let us not forget the value of inspection so the schools just do not go off and do their thing, but there is a monitoring and watching over them so we do not take what is going on for granted.
Quality is only possible with standards of excellence. These standards must always be raised to a level so we are reaching for something. Society has great expectations for education. There can be no mediocrity. The standards we have within our systems of education must be upheld. There cannot be mediocrity in any schools that obtain public money.
Quality will not happen because of high-sounding politicians in this House. It takes the total, immediate response of our whole society that shows a genuine concern for education. It starts with volunteers going into schools. It starts with business people saying they are concerned about education. As chairman of a technology association, I am pleased to say we are doing a great deal to adopt schools, to get involved with the education system and to set up advisory councils. Similarly, the churches and religious leaders must continue to give of themselves and give leadership within the education system.
However, the quality of education will not happen without the investment of the dollars needed to provide the facilities, the services and the teachers for the students in this expanded system. I remind the Minister of Education that in the riding of York Centre, he is going to have to spend some money immediately when this bill is passed. We need a Brother André Catholic high school in Markham. We need portables for St. Robert's school. In a few years we are going to need a new vocational school for the public system. We need a new secondary school in Thornhill-Vaughan. We need a new high school near Kennedy Avenue. All these things are imminent.
The fact is clear that if we are going to have an importance in education, we had better be prepared to spend the dollars to make it happen. It does not happen for free. We need public participation, but it takes a commitment in dollars. Quality cannot be sacrificed for any reason. The moment this or any government shies away from investing in future generations, we could be back here in short order-or we could be over there in short order. I caution the honourable members in this House not to think one can shortchange the education system.
My second point has to do with a very sensitive issue, that of religious rivalry. During the recent election campaign, I heard from many constituents who are extremely sensitive about the effects of supporting the separate school system.
I come from a unique background because I have served on two school boards, one separate and one public. I served on one of two Protestant separate school boards in Ontario, and I served for eight years on the York Region Board of Education. That gives me a unique understanding of what it is to sit with a minority group and with a larger group.
I also come from a background where I have a theological understanding of Roman Catholic dogma. Out of this background, I have confidence that the Roman Catholic church will try to maintain a happy balance between what the church believes and what the rest of society wants.
Many people in my riding are very concerned about the change in balance that is taking place with this legislation. They are concerned that there could be a negative reaction which echoes that of Northern Ireland. I hope that does not happen. I believe our communities want to work, play and live together in peace and harmony with all religions. Therefore, I think we as legislators want to make sure we reflect the needs of society where the rights of all are understood and the rights of no one are usurped.
In our society, we must build bridges of friendship, not walls of separation. In our society, we must build a climate of trust, love and understanding for one another. In our society, we must have balance that permits all to live and work in peace and harmony. This delicate balance exists in our society, and I do not believe it is in danger, but every one of us has a fundamental responsibility to do our best to work for that balance to continue.
If there is any tipping of the balance that starts to disrupt the peace and harmony that our society loves and enjoys, I believe we could be back to discuss and review this legislation. I hope not. I hope this legislation proceeds in the spirit that Bill Davis announced on June 12 and in the statement of Sir John A. Macdonald that he quoted: "We do not want to stand on the extreme limits of our rights. We are ready to give and take. We can afford to be just; we can afford to be generous because we are strong."
If for any reason our society cannot handle this, we, as legislators, should be prepared to return to this House and to look at yet another option, which may be one common public education system. I believe the whole issue of separate school funding can go ahead, but we should be prepared to do our best to make it happen. Should it not go well, however, we should be prepared to reopen, rethink and review it. I sincerely hope that does not happen.
My third point has to do with the equality of educational opportunity. I love what Stephen Leacock says in The Unsolved Riddle of Social Justice: "The chief immediate direction of social effort should be towards the attempt to give every human being in childhood adequate food, clothing, education and an opportunity in life. This will prove to be the beginning of many things."
There must be equality for all: for Catholics and non-Catholics and for boys and girls. There must be equality under Bill 82 so those who are advanced or special in any way can have the opportunity they need for a fair and true education. There must be a fair opportunity and equality for new Canadians so they can learn our language and culture and learn to live. Our legislation must enshrine the principle for all children and youths in our province, that equal opportunity to learn, grow and prosper is a true, fundamental right in our society.
I will support this legislation; I support its high intentions. However, I will be ever vigilant that the quality will be high for every school and student that receives public dollars. I will be vigilant that the balance is maintained so our society does not become fragmented or separated with rivalries and religious fragmentation that can only destroy and hurt a beautiful, great society. I will be ever vigilant that equality will be there for all people and that we guarantee it.
Mr. Wildman: I join in this debate, as I think all members of the House do, in support of the principle of equality of educational opportunity in this province.
I believe there has been a serious blot on the social fabric and body politic of Ontario ever since 1841 because, besides the compromise that was made at that time to help bring about Confederation, there have been repeated attempts from time to time by certain individuals and groups to play the politics of religious bigotry and to exacerbate confessional divisions in our society.
Even those who did not have those kinds of motives feared the request for equality of opportunity for those who wished to have a religious component in their education system. As a result, although the compromise was made in the 1840s to 1860s, there has been an unjust situation in our province, in which Roman Catholic parents who wished to have religious and moral value systems inculcated in their children through the education system as well as at home were required to make a tremendous sacrifice to make that possible.
Many families went without what others took for granted, because they believed it was important to provide for a religious and ethical component in the education of their children while at the same time they were paying taxes towards an education system that was not serving them. In my view, that was an unjust situation, and we have the opportunity today to right that wrong. For that reason, I support the principle of equality of education.
I believe we as legislators have a unique opportunity in participating in this historic debate. We can complete the historic process that was begun in 1841. As I said earlier, during the 1840s to 1860s, the politicians and leaders of this country developed a unique compromise which led to Confederation. I believe we in Ontario must act in the spirit of that compromise and deal with legislation that will make it possible for all parents in this province to obtain the education they want for their children.
We have the opportunity to complete the great Canadian compromise that was enshrined first in the British North America Act in 1867. The BNA Act entrenched the status of separate schools and guaranteed "any right or privilege with respect to denominational schools" that existed at that time in what is now Ontario and Quebec.
I believe the leaders who reached that compromise believed that right or privilege did not end at grade 8 or grade 10 but went on until what was accepted at that time as the normal graduation of most students. That, of course, has changed. Today most students strive to complete a much longer education at the elementary and secondary levels. I believe the leaders of this country in the 1860s intended that those students would be able to obtain that kind of education without the sacrifice that has been required of their parents since then.
For that reason, I welcomed the statement made by then Premier William Davis in June 1984 when he reversed the long-standing policy in this province and announced full funding for separate schools, starting with grade 11 in September 1985. I also welcomed the fact that all three political parties at that time supported the announcement by the then Premier.
I want to make clear that when I say I support the principle of the equality of educational opportunity in this province, I believe it is imperative for us as a Legislature to ensure that there is full access for all students, no matter what their creed, to the education they want and need. I hope that the discussions of the bill now before the Legislature, when we reach the committee stage, will deal with that very important principle and that whatever changes may be necessary to ensure that will be completed.
It is my belief that we must not implement this change at the expense of quality public education in this province. This party has been on record as opposing the cuts in education funding by the provincial government since 1975, a trend that has led the government's share of the cost of education to drop from about 59 per cent to less than 50 per cent in eight years. I believe that in dealing with this legislation we must deal with the question of funding.
I believe the underfunding problem for both the nondenominational and Catholic school systems must be met head on by the provincial government. To deal with the question of equality of education without talking about funding is to hide one's head in the sand.
It is important for a lot of people in this province to recognize that when one is dealing with equality of opportunity in education, there are many parts of this province where we do not enjoy equality of opportunity in education. There are many communities in northern Ontario, and I suppose in some parts of rural southern Ontario, where we have very small towns and there is only one school at the secondary level in a community. There are very few students, the enrolment is low and it makes it very difficult for the school board and the school to provide the educational opportunities that other students in large, metropolitan centres take for granted.
To deal with this legislation without recognizing that in many parts of the province the public school system now is not equal and that students do not have the opportunity in their own communities to obtain the kind of education they need and want is to ignore a very important factor that affects the education of children in Ontario. We cannot deal with this legislation without recognizing that and without committing ourselves to the continued viability of the public school system as well as that of the Catholic school system.
There are certain aspects of the proposed legislation I welcome wholeheartedly. The attempts to ensure job security for teachers with provisions for transfer, for protection of salary levels and for protection of seniority are most welcome. However, I have some questions that I hope will be dealt with when the legislation goes before the committee.
If positions are not available for teachers who are displaced by the change in the funding formula and the transfer of students, it is my understanding their names will be put on a list that will be submitted to the Commission for Planning and Implementing Change in the Governance and Administration of Secondary Education in Ontario and then circulated to other boards. However, I also understand there is no provision in the legislation for the hiring by other boards, Catholic or public, that may need teachers from this surplus staff across the province. Perhaps that is something that should be dealt with.
I suppose we have a situation where Catholic boards in areas of increasing enrolment will be free to hire other people altogether, such as new and cheaper education graduates, while because of the new policy, qualified surplus staff are denied jobs by transferring from other areas of the province. I do not think that is an adequate approach.
There are provisions in the legislation for nondiscrimination by Catholic boards that hire non-Catholic teachers. I understand it has been stated that these provisions will protect teachers from interference with what is sometimes termed "lifestyle" related to differences of creed, but it is not spelled out in the legislation; perhaps it should be.
I want to turn to my greatest concern when dealing with the quality of opportunity in education, which is the viability of single secondary schools in small communities, particularly in northern Ontario. I am concerned that the implementation of this very desirable change could lead to the fragmentation of the educational system in small communities across the north where there is only one secondary school.
Implementation of this legislation must not threaten the viability of public education in those small communities, and that is a possibility. There are some school buildings in small towns across northern Ontario that already house two schools and two administrations. Over the past few years, in my own riding the community of Blind River has just come through very well the division of its secondary school into an anglophone school and a francophone school -- two schools and two administrations. It now faces a possible third school within the same building.
Such schools already have difficulty in providing the course options that modern students need and want to make it possible for them to make it in our modern technological society. In very small school units with small classes, there just are not enough students to provide the course options and selections that are required. This is particularly the case if funding by the provincial government continues at the current levels.
Equality of educational opportunity demands change in the funding formula in order to provide for the viability of small secondary schools across Ontario. We must have alternative approaches for small high schools in small northern communities. Obviously, public and Catholic school boards must co-operate to share facilities and programs where necessary to ensure access for all students to the course selections they need.
It is imperative that the provincial government provide the funds necessary to make it possible for these school boards to provide the kinds of courses that are accepted and normal in the large metropolitan centres with the large schools we have in southern Ontario. If this is not done, we risk the viability of the public school system in implementing a very desirable principle.
The provincial government, as the administration of this province, must reverse the decline in provincial funding of elementary and secondary school education. As a province, we must begin restoring the provincial grants to the level of 60 per cent of costs at which it was 10 years ago. I and my party believe we must also shift the cost of education from the regressive property tax to the general provincial revenues.
As is true of all communities in Ontario, Algoma riding is composed of people of many creeds, faiths and cultures. There are Roman Catholics and non-Catholics who have lived in harmony for many years in the small communities of Algoma. Some of the people of Algoma favour extension of funding to the Catholic school system; some of them oppose it. It is imperative that we have committee hearings after second reading that will give the opportunity to all interested to present their views and have them heard and to bring about amendments in the legislation if necessary.
Of greatest concern to me and to the people of Algoma is full access for students, job security for teachers and the viability of public education and the funding required for that. Some of the people of Algoma have argued that we should postpone implementation until a consensus is achieved that funding should be extended to the end of grade 12, the end of high school, for the Catholic school system. I believe that is unrealistic.
Any delay beyond what is required to enable all those who are interested to present their views and have them heard can only exacerbate divisions that may be latent in our society. I believe to delay would be to abdicate our responsibility as legislators. I believe he who hesitates is lost. I am sure all the members of the Legislature agree with me that it is the responsibility of the elected representatives of the people of this province to pass legislation we believe is right and just.
True, it is the independent responsibility of the judiciary to test the constitutionality of legislation, particularly under the new constitution of this country. We, as legislators, cannot prejudge what the courts might decide in this case. We must be prepared to respond to whatever decision is rendered by the court. We are so prepared.
I have done a lot of thinking about this legislation and a lot of consultation with the people of Algoma. I have believed for a long time we have perpetuated an unjust situation and I am thankful that I, as a legislator and a representative of the people of Algoma, have been given the opportunity to participate in such a historically significant and important debate which helps to right that wrong.
I trust that after the passage of second reading, the committee hearings and the committee stage of the bill, we will be receptive to the concerns of the people of this province to ensure that this legislation does what is intended and at the same time ensures that all the people of the province benefit, the people of the small communities as well as the large.
Mr. D. R. Cooke: It is indeed true that he who hesitates is lost. In supporting this bill introduced by the minister, I rise with relief and gratitude that this is the way the matter is being handled. I speak as one who is convinced that the matter has been blown out of all proportion and that if we were not to deal with it quickly, old sores, healed over a generation ago, would be reopened.
I am delighted, and I know most of the people in my riding are delighted, that the matter will be disposed of quickly and that there will be a full hearing, including a hearing into the fairness of the existence of separate schools, and that provision is being made for, I believe, 39 school systems, including the school boards in Waterloo region, which already have made plans to implement funding for grade 11 during the 1985-86 calendar year.
For those who decry a supposed violation of the separation of church and state, I would remind them that, whatever system we are living with, we have been living with it since 1841 and it is a little too late to complain. In fact, the evolution of the separate school in recent decades has made it more and more liberal, as Catholic laity have assumed control of the system and fewer and fewer teachers are being chosen from the religious community. The issue is not at present a divisive one.
Before May 2 I received half a dozen calls from people in my riding who wished to express their displeasure on the issue of funding itself. Many dozens of people were concerned about the lack of a debate, a lack of procedure on the part of the Davis and Miller governments. But those who could not accept funding at all, so indicated by a desire and an intention to decline their ballots. Of nearly 31,000 votes cast in Kitchener riding, only 17 ballots were declined. I am sure about half of those warned me personally.
It is very easy to exaggerate a problem when it is raised by a very vocal minority. In fact, a recent meeting in my riding to organize opposition to funding attracted only 15 people. I am in receipt of a letter from Elizabeth Witmer, chairman of Waterloo County Board of Education, the public school board, dated June 5, 1985, urging the government to introduce this legislation as quickly as possible. I note with pride that this board was extremely co-operative in smoothing implementation and was ready to go on April 30.
I note as well that our separate school board is easing in the changes by gradually converting the junior high schools into full high schools, having junior high schools drop grade 7 this year as they pick up grade 11. There is nothing unusual happening.
Those who complain about money being spent before the legislation is passed should remember there were complete separate high schools in operation, I believe in Toronto, before a direction from the Minister of Education cut them off in 1915, not by legislation, but merely by a direction.
To complain about the lack of constitutional validity before September 1 is silly. The whole separate school system might be illegal. It might be illegal to wear red ties in the Legislature, but we do not know and we will not know until some court tells us. Surely we can continue breathing and doing what we feel is right until we are told otherwise by some court. Manitoba apparently passed legislation that was illegal for more than 100 years; so these matters can always be rectified when court decisions are received. I know if that happens, the Attorney General (Mr. Scott) will look at the options he has very carefully.
We have not been fair to our separate school supporters for far too long. It is not fair when they receive only $3,300 per pupil to spend when the public school system has a great deal more. It is not fair that teenagers at the end of grade 10, during what can often be a difficult time in their emotional development, must choose between various pressures.
These options include -- no matter what system they are in -- that of withdrawing from school. About 40 per cent of them succumb to that pressure, or there is the pressure of having to pay extra money to go to school or to obtain extra funds from their parents to attend a Catholic high school.
Quebec, Saskatchewan and Alberta have full and fair funding. It is time Ontario grew up and joined them.
Ms. Fish: I rise to join in this debate, albeit somewhat briefly, to reflect for a few moments on the principle that is being discussed here, as distinct from some of the detail of the bill. I am sure the detail will be dealt with in committee when we touch upon clause-by-clause.
I thought it might be fruitful to remind ourselves what is being proposed to happen here. I think there has been a great deal of confusion about it, much of it honestly held, and there has been an element of confusion that has been deliberately created. Notable in some of the confusion has been the forgetting -- I use that word charitably -- by some in our society that some grades of separate schools have been funded.
There are some who did not reflect upon the fact that for more years than anyone has been in this Legislature there have been public tax dollars directed to a separate school system through a number of grades, notably grade 10. What we are talking about in this legislation is a simple extension of that existing funding of three years, possibly even reduced to two should there be a decision on grade 13.
Therefore, we are talking about bringing in a principle that has already been well established in this great province of ours. It is a principle that has formed part and parcel of a very strong, very stable educational system, one that has held that there have been two streams of publicly funded education.
We are simply bringing it down to the level of the individual who is affected. We are saying that in Ontario, students may go through grade 10 in a publicly funded separate school system and may, after the completion of this legislation, finish their high school in a publicly funded separate system as well as in, or as an alternative to, a publicly funded public system.
I think when it is put in those terms, some of the drama comes out of the arguments, some of the drama that uses phrases such as: "I do not think any public tax dollars should ever be directed to denominational instruction. I do not think public tax dollars should ever divide us by religion."
I am one of those who feel there is opportunity for progress in this province, an opportunity for change. But I also think we should change and progress where the change and progression make sense, where it is sensitive and responsible and where it meets the needs of the people of this great province of ours. In my view, the change that is sensible is the simple, on-the-ground change to permit students in this province to complete their secondary education in a publicly funded separate school system.
To me, that is very dramatically different from any possible extension of that notion to the thought that there should be any variation on a voucher theme or any additional funding for other systems that might be religiously specific and denominational.
At this time, I think it worth placing on the record my very strong view that it is one thing to maintain a tradition in this province that was set long before any of us were here and quite another to twist a respect for that tradition into an understanding that any such move would bring us to the point of genuinely splintering the publicly funded education system into a series of private, independent or religious schools receiving public tax dollars or the direction of parents' tax money.
I think that principle is an important one to enunciate because I think there has been a considerable amount of confusion on that very point. I have had people come to me in the last year and say, "If you are going to fund the separate school system, then surely you must fund every other private, independent or denominational system that rests in this province."
I say no, I am not persuaded that is necessarily the case because there are two public systems in this province established in excess of 100 years ago, a separate system and a public system, both publicly funded.
For example, the discussions around accessibility will deal with some of the specific questions and concerns that have been raised by members of the public and by members in this House around details of the legislation, but I think settling those questions provides us with a very important opportunity to recognize that one in four Ontarians today was born not simply outside this province, but outside this country. We have an extraordinary mix of language and cultural groups, races and religions. We have seen that mix most readily in some of our cities, but it is not evident only in them.
I believe the single most important challenge in front of us as legislators in this House, and then, in turn, in front of the decision-makers in the publicly funded schools of this province, be they public or separate, is the more important challenge of ensuring that all our young people understand the differences between and among us as we have come to this province; understand and appreciate, have compassion for and sensitivity towards and, most important, as a consequence of all of that, see the artificial barriers of prejudice and intolerance broken down.
Those barriers are easy to throw up. We have seen the beginnings of some of them start to reappear in the course of the debate over the last year on the question of the simple extension of a further three grades of funding to one already publicly funded system. I am very concerned about that because I am one of that 25 per cent not born in this country, indeed someone who was raised where the principle of separation of church and state runs strong and deep and where there would not have been and is not today any public financing for separate denominational education.
None the less, I believe we must understand the history of what has made this province so tolerant and open, what has encouraged people to ensure that a place is made available for those of us who were not so fortunate to have been born here, but have come, whatever our religion, race, cultural group and language, to put down our roots and become a full and participating part of this society.
That tradition of tolerance has surely been built, in large measure, on the education system we have. I can think of no more compelling influence on the young people of this province than the influence teachers and the educational system have in moulding our young people, in opening their minds, in suggesting to them new avenues to follow, in challenging their thoughts and encouraging them to set for themselves the values of tolerance, understanding, sensitivity, compassion and of reaching out one to the next.
Fundamental to the education system, I say again and come full circle in my remarks, has been the dual system of publicly funded schools; one public, one separate, so-called. If there is a challenge before us in framing the specifics of this legislation and carrying forward a simple principle of maintenance of open systems, of systems that have been party to developing the kind of society in which we are proud to stand up and say we are part of today, it is a challenge that ensures the publicly funded public system and the publicly funded separate system are strong, have the resources they need to carry out that precious responsibility of instructing our young, and are in a position to accommodate all of the young people who want to be there. Perhaps more important than anything else, first and foremost is their responsibility to ensure that the narrow doors of any form of prejudice -- cultural, linguistic, racial or religious -- are swept clean from the classroom and swept clean from the young people who come through our education system now.
In their stead, the basic traditions that have formed this province are taught, are cherished, are passed down and developed in our young people in such a fashion that when they grow, as they will, to assume some of the seats that we hold in this Parliament, or other positions as decision-makers in our society, they too will understand that there are overriding principles with which we must deal. Those overriding principles are shaping a society which understands the differences that separate us and looks to the things which bind us in common, and realizes that critical to all of this is a healthy, publicly funded system of education, be that through the public stream or the separate.
Mr. D. S. Cooke: First, Mr. Speaker, since this is the first time, aside from question period, that I have spoken in the Legislature, I would like to congratulate you on being the elected Speaker of the Legislature. I am sure you will do a fine job. I notice that during question period you are trying to cut all of our questions very short. You have to give some of us time to adapt to the new rules you are instituting in this place. When we do ask our four or five questions, please be tolerant, at least for the rest of the week, because I would like to ask a few more questions.
When we break for the summer, I hope you will do something about these fantastic seats they have given us down here. I cannot even see who is sitting up there any more. The camera angle is bad too, not that I was on television that often, but I would like to think I have the opportunity, if I ask the right question, to have a camera aimed at me. If they aim it down now it is going to end up on our laps. Since my House leader will not listen to me, I am pleading my case to you.
An hon. member: Refer it to the member for Sudbury East (Mr. Martel)?
Mr. D. S. Cooke: I am running against him. I would like to announce my candidacy for House leader.
I am very pleased to be able to join in on this very important debate, probably the most important debate we have had in the Legislature since I became a member in 1977 -- it seems like 1967. This issue, I need not say, is a very difficult issue.
I remember back in the 1971 provincial election when I worked for my predecessor, Frederick Burr, this was the number one issue in the riding at that time called Sandwich-Riverside. I guess the only regret many of us have who have supported extension of funding for many years is that had this been done in 1971 the flexibility would have been there, it would have been much less difficult to extend funds and there would have been much less disruption.
I am very proud that my party has been consistent on this issue, even though at times it has been extremely difficult and has cost us dearly at the polls at election time. During the recent election I do not think that in dealing with this issue there was any more difficult area of the province than the Windsor-Essex area. It was more controversial in Essex county than in the city of Windsor, but we got the flavour of what was going on in the county and we suffered some difficult times in debating the issue in the city.
There is no blame for the difficulty experienced during the election. There was not a lot of information for people to deal with and, therefore, fears grew. Whether those fears were legitimate does not matter; none the less the fears were there because of lack of information.
In Essex county, I think some of the fears were legitimate. Anyone who understands rural communities in southwestern Ontario will know that in Essex county, for example, there are several small urban areas, each of which has its own public high school, each of which is proud of its school which is the focus of the community and each of which wants its school to be maintained. Somehow we have to come to grips with that issue, whether it means sharing facilities or some new facilities. Whatever the end solution, we have to respect the needs and desires of small communities throughout the province.
I guess I first found out what this issue was going to be like just before the election when a community meeting was called in Sandwich West. We did not have a nominated candidate -- the other two parties did -- and I was called upon to represent the New Democratic Party in Sandwich West.
The only thing I can say is after the meeting I said I would never do that again. There were about 300 or 400 people there. It was not equally divided. There were a few supporters of extension of funding. I must say the majority of people were very frightened about the implications for their community. I must also say that when I was invited to that meeting, I was told it was going to be an information meeting, as were the candidates for the other two parties. That is how it had been advertised.
To show how the issue developed, the flier that went out for that meeting started off by saying, "We must work together as a community to implement this new policy." The next line was, "Did you know the Catholics may take our school?"
Unfortunately, in some areas of the province that was the kind of thing that was happening because of the fears. As I said, many of those fears were legitimate. I think some of the community leaders in Essex county failed the test of leadership. The Essex County Roman Catholic Separate School Board put out a plan whereby extension of funding could take place. Instead of putting out a reasonable plan, they put out a plan that gave everybody the indication they were going to take schools away from people. In fact, that is what the chairman of the board had said.
On the other hand, the public board responded in kind and said: "There is no damned way you are going to take any of our schools. We disagree with it. We do not want another Ireland;" and all of the other rhetoric that builds up difficulties within communities.
I was very disappointed that district 34 of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation did not show any leadership that would have helped the community deal with this very important issue, unlike other districts of the OSSTF including district 1. I do not want it to be misinterpreted that it is because it is district 1, Windsor, that I am saying it was good and the county was not. The fact is district 1 of OSSTF has put together what I consider to be a positive brief that offers some very positive suggestions accepting the principle that extension of funding is going to occur in Ontario.
I had difficulty during the election dealing with the literally hundreds of people who approached me about this issue. I am sure there are many others in the Legislature who had the same feeling I did. Instead of enjoying canvassing and going out and meeting with the voters, it got to the point at the end of the election campaign that it was very difficult to go out and meet voters knowing this issue was going to come up time and time again. Members knew they did not have the answers to many of the questions that were being asked.
Canvassing is something I normally enjoy, but it turned out in this election to be something I did my darnedest to avoid. Perhaps if I had done more canvassing, I would not be here today. None the less, I did some. It was a very difficult election for all of us because of this issue. It was something people did not seem to understand, or refused to accept. This whole extension of funding has been interpreted as setting up a brand-new school system.
You, Mr. Speaker, and the other members of the Legislature, understand that we are not talking about a brand-new school system. We are talking about extending funding to a group of students, many of whom in my riding would not have been able to afford to stay in the Catholic school system because of the high tuition. We are talking about extending an existing school system for two years, so both public school systems are funded in an equitable and fair way, something that was negotiated long before any of us were in the province, long before any of us were even thought of.
Instead, this issue has been thought of by many people who are opposed to extension of funding as starting something brand new. Somehow we, as legislators, the government and other responsible groups in this province, were unable or unwilling to communicate some of the facts to the people of this province.
I know many Catholic families in my riding who sent their children to elementary Catholic school and dearly wanted the students to be able to continue in the secondary Catholic school system, but were either unable to afford it or their children were unable to obtain access to the types of programs they wanted to go into, such as technical programs or business programs. I am very proud of the fact I am going to be able to participate in a process that will end that inequity in Ontario forever.
As I said before, there are some legitimate concerns. If this policy had been implemented in 1971, it would have been much simpler. I think we are going to have to look at some of the other problems, such as ageing teachers, which this legislation might not be able to deal with. With the extension of funding combined with declining enrolment, the population of teachers is ageing, and there are not enough new teachers coming into the system. Without new blood, the system in general is going to become tired and any enthusiasm is going to go out of it. We have to look at a way of dealing with that.
I refer the minister to the brief that was presented to the commission by district 1, OSSTF. Some of the highlights of that brief looked at reforms of the superannuation plan, early retirement incentives, eliminating the 90 factor and replacing it with an 85 factor and other amendments that would allow teachers, for example business teachers who have been in the private sector before they entered their teaching careers, to be able to buy back the credits when they were in the private sector, even if they were in a business that did not have a private pension plan because it was a small business. There are going to have to be some amendments to the superannuation fund so teachers who want to retire can retire with a decent pension, without penalties.
A few years ago, when the automobile industry was going through very serious problems and there were structural changes taking place in the auto industry, the federal government recognized there had to be some kind of incentives for retirement. They recognized there had to be some provision for retirement funds for those who, at certain ages, were losing their jobs. One of the things the government is going to have to look at is some special incentive for teachers who want to retire so they can do so, bringing new teachers, new blood that is so essential, into the system. It will not occur with declining enrolment combined with the extension of funding.
I would like to finish by saying I think all three political parties made a very serious mistake in not dealing with the issue in the last year. If we are honest, we will agree that we made a mistake in not debating it before and during the election; not the principle of extension of funding, but how that extension of funding was to take place. If we have learned nothing else from that election, surely to God we realize this was the major issue on the minds of the voters right across Ontario.
Because we failed the people of the province by not showing leadership, there have been more serious problems than need be. Now that we have the opportunity to deal with the issue in the Legislature and in committee, we cannot make the same mistake. The debate that I have heard while in the Legislature and from my office has been at a very high level. I just hope the same level and tone will be maintained for the rest of the debate and in the committee.
Since we failed last year, I believe we can correct the problem. We can come up with a bill that will have as much support as possible in Ontario. Together all three political parties can show that leadership.
Hon. Mr. Sweeney: Mr. Speaker, I wondered for many years whether I would ever have the chance to stand up to speak in this Legislature on this issue.
I vividly recall June 12 last year when the then Premier made his announcement. It struck me rather forcefully then that there was a certain irony in his choice of date. Some members will be aware that it was June 12, 1928 that the Privy Council in England brought down the Tiny township decision that the province had the right but it did not have the obligation to fund separate schools at the secondary school level. It struck me as rather appropriate that the Premier chose that date. I do not know if it was deliberate or pure coincidence.
I was struck by the reasons the then Premier gave. I remember so clearly in 1971 the reasons given for not extending support to separate schools. They turned out to be the very reasons Premier William Davis gave on June 12, 1984 for doing so. I remember so well in 1971, the then Premier announcing that he could not support the extension because he believed personally -- I believe personally, deeply -- that it would be divisive. He said he believed it would do harm to the public school system in the province, that it would so fracture it and so segment it that it simply could not survive.
In 1971, I had some difficulty accepting that argument. I accepted the genuineness of then Premier Davis's position. However, I did not agree with him. The record, as I had experienced it, simply did not seem to justify that point. Nevertheless, that is what we had to deal with.
I thought it was appropriate that William Davis stood up in his place, now in front of me, just a little more than a year ago and clearly pointed out in his statement that in the intervening 13-year period he had come to the conclusion that this issue would not be divisive. He had come to the conclusion that the public school system in this province was strong and viable enough not to be fractured or segmented by this decision.
I thought it was so appropriate that particular political leader had come through a 13-year period, had thought about the issue very long and deeply and had consulted fairly widely with other people, both those who supported and those who opposed the issue, who had taken such a strong position in 1971 -- in fact he said at the time he was placing his political reputation on the line by taking it -- I thought it was appropriate that political leader could stand up a little more than a year ago and say: "Times have changed. I have changed and the people of this province have changed. We have reached a level of maturity, understanding and sensitivity where we can look at this issue in a different way."
Perhaps it was that kind of statement, coming from that man with that background, that gave us reason to believe in the decision more than anything else. Any one of us here could have come to that conclusion, but we come from different backgrounds, we come from different political situations than his. I hope that tonight and in the days following, as we debate this issue, we can recall whence the decision came. That is fundamental and so important.
There was a reference earlier by some members opposite about the question of access and the fact that through the years there has been open and unlimited access for all students to either school system. We should recognize that there is a significant difference, depending on the level of the school system we are talking about. In his opening statement, my colleague the Minister of Education made very clear that his intent was simply to continue into the secondary school system the same principles that currently apply and in the past have applied at the elementary school level.
I draw to the attention of some of my honourable colleagues opposite -- I am sure on reflection they realize this -- that in the past and today there is no automatic right of access to the elementary school system of this province, be it public or separate, if one happens to be a tax supporter of the other system. A public school supporter does not have the right to send his or her child into the separate elementary schools. Conversely, a separate school supporter does not have, and never has had, the right to send his or her child into the public elementary school system.
The right of absolute access has never existed. It has existed at the secondary school level, but for a very obvious reason: we have had only one publicly supported secondary school system to which every taxpayer must direct his or her taxes. While some taxpayers in this province have the right to choose at the elementary level, they have had no right to choose at the secondary level. All must direct their taxes to the public secondary school system of this province; therefore, it is reasonable, just and completely understandable that there would be no blockage to access at the secondary school level. I think we have to recognize the difference between the two.
It has been brought up by many members this evening that the issue we are dealing with goes back into the history of our province. The protection and guarantees of the British North American Act were that separate schools in Canada that existed prior to 1867 would be guaranteed their continued existence following 1867. We all know that. The interesting thing is that the only province in Canada that made a distinction in future years between elementary and secondary support was Ontario.
The first separate schools set up in this country were Protestant separate schools in Quebec, and rightly so. The non-Catholic, English-speaking population of Quebec asked for and received the right to operate their own schools so they would not be controlled by the French-speaking, Roman Catholics of that province. That is where separate schools started in this country. It was only later that the Catholic minority of Ontario asked for and received the same privilege in this province. That was the constitutional guarantee of 1867 under Confederation.
It is interesting to note that as the educational system evolved in Quebec, no distinction was made between elementary and higher grades. As it came to be seen in Quebec that its elementary education was not sufficient and that a secondary school education was a requirement for all young people, no distinction whatever was made there with respect to funding elementary and secondary schools for both public and separate school systems. That distinction was never made in Quebec; but it was made in Ontario, and that is where the battle has been ever since.
It is also interesting to note that two western provinces, Saskatchewan and Alberta, have gone through the same process we have. They made the decision that their separate school systems should be funded to the end of the secondary schools. It is interesting that the decisions were made under different kinds of governments. My New Democratic Party friends will remember it was an NDP government in Saskatchewan that extended secondary school funding to the separate schools of that province.
An hon. member: What happened to them? They got defeated too.
Hon. Mr. Sweeney: There are some parts of history we will deliberately ignore.
The point I was going to make was that we in this Legislature are facing some members of the public who still bring up to us the same kinds of arguments which I believe Premier William Davis so clearly enunciated and so clearly demolished. If we look at Saskatchewan, Alberta and Quebec, we do not see any evidence of that. People tell us, "It is going to happen in Ontario." Well why is it going to happen in Ontario? Why is Ontario so different? Why are we so different from our fellow Canadians in Newfoundland, Quebec, Saskatchewan or Alberta? It is true that we are more populous. It is true that in some ways we are more wealthy. It is true that in many ways we are much more of a multicultural community. I will admit to all those, but in the kind of people we are, the kind of values we have and the kind of desires and aspirations we have for our children, we are fundamentally no different.
If we have to make a guess about the future, and that is something we are often faced with, why should we not look at those jurisdictions that have already gone through what we are now going through and see that the prophecies of doom have not happened? We can comfort ourselves with the fact that they are not likely to happen here. The record seems to show, although anything is possible, it is unlikely that those prophecies of doom are going to take place in Ontario. I do not believe they will. It certainly has not been my experience. I lived in Toronto for 15 or 16 years. I have lived in the smaller community of Kitchener for a number of years. I think I have some sense of where our people are at, and I do not believe that is going to happen.
The observation has been made, and I suspect all of us in this House were on the receiving end of it during the election, that we as elected members of Ontario are making decisions without reference to the public. Let us stop for a second and take a look at that. Why are we here? Why were we elected? Why did we place ourselves before the electorate? Surely it was to make such decisions.
Surely there is not one of us in this House who does not have as much access to and as much information about this issue as anyone else in this province. I am not suggesting that we make decisions without reference to anyone else. What I find a little bit frustrating and disquieting is the suggestion that somehow or other we do not know what is going on, we do not know how people feel and we do not know why they might object to this or why they might support it. Surely, if any people have access to that information, to those attitudes and to those feelings, it is the elected members of this House.
We are going beyond that. It has been made very clear that provision has been made now for public hearings. To suggest that this issue has never been discussed, debated or seriously considered is simply to ignore the historical facts. This is not a new issue in Ontario; it has been discussed for 140 years. There is not a single member in this House, whether newly elected or re-elected, who has not been faced with this issue in some way in his or her community and riding. It ignores the facts to suggest that we do not know what we are talking about or that we do not know what this issue is all about. We do.
We have made provision under this legislation and under the process of introducing this legislation to have open hearings, as we should. We have made provision for a reference to the courts, to assure ourselves that it is legal, as we should. However, let us not as elected members of this House accept the premise, as some suggest, that we do not know what we are talking about, that we have not considered this seriously and that somehow or another we are less representative than anyone else. That simply is not the fact.
I have always found it difficult to understand the argument that somehow it would be preferable to have a single school system in this province. Look at the kind of multifaceted society we live in, at the range of values people in our society have and at the multicultural nature of our society. It has to be obvious that there are so many different ways people look at life, at our aspirations for our children and at our values.
When we look at those various institutions in our society that impinge on our value formation, we do not find one dominating in any way. For example, we do not find a single church or a single communication system dominating our whole society. In a democratic society such as ours, we would object strongly if either of those kinds of institutions, or all others, were to attempt to be the sole one to impinge on our value and attitudinal system. We would not accept that as a society.
How do some of our colleagues and citizens come to the conclusion, when it comes to a school system that plays such an important and in many ways all-encompassing role in the formation of values, beliefs and attitudes, that we should have only one? I have always had some difficulty understanding that. It seems to go against the grain of the very kind of society we have constituted in Ontario.
I want to say, as some of my colleagues have said earlier this evening and today, how impressed I am by the kind of debate that is taking place and its openness, and by how genuinely members of this Legislature are expressing their personal views. I recall one of my colleagues indicating not being able to recall in the 10 years he has been in this House a debate in which we were as open as we are now. That refers to people on both sides of the issue. There will be some of our colleagues who will stand in their places and indicate their objections. That is the way it should be. I have no objection to that whatsoever.
What we are doing is truly historic. I had to feel a certain sense of history when my colleague the Attorney General got up and reminded us that in 1863 his great-grandfather introduced an educational act into this Legislature, and here he was almost 122 years later being personally and deeply involved in another piece of educational legislation. That sense of history, that sense of understanding where we come from and where we are going is reflected to a large extent in this legislation.
I am proud to be a member of this Legislature at this time. I am proud of being able to be involved in this, and I am proud of the involvement of all my colleagues.
Mr. J. M. Johnson: Just to dispel any illusions, I will say quite simply that I intend to support this bill, but I do so with the hope that the Minister of Education will listen to the input from the committee and accept reasonable amendments, if so presented.
I have some concerns and I would like to express them now. The member for Kitchener-Wilmot (Mr. Sweeney) mentioned a member who had said that in 10 years in this House this was one of the most important debates in which he had entered. I think back three or four years when we had the human rights legislation before us.
To me, that was extremely important and just as emotional as this because, in my estimation, very seldom is anything totally black or totally white, it is always somewhere in between. Some people call it a compromise, but it is just good common sense. One very seldom arrives at a complete decision on one side or the other. What we are dealing with tonight is something which falls within this spectrum.
I have many concerns to express on both sides of the issue for my constituents. There is the concern expressed by a small community in my riding that has one small high school which is currently threatened with closure because of declining enrolment. What future do they see if a Catholic school is created somewhere in the proximity of those communities which will siphon off an additional 20 or 30 per cent of the school population? This is a valid concern.
I would like to pay tribute to the member for Windsor-Riverside (Mr. D. S. Cooke) for his comment that we as legislators failed in not addressing this problem in the last year. With the exception of course of the new members, we were all collectively remiss. Certainly I, as a member who was here during that period, feel we were remiss not to address this issue before.
We were like ostriches who stuck our heads in the sand and thought it would go away. We thought that because of the three-party committee agreement everything was fine, when it was not. We failed our constituents by not addressing the issue. We had many days during which we could have debated this in this House. I feel bad about it and I personally feel a sense of responsibility for not having addressed it. I think many of the members should share that concern.
I have a few questions I would like to address to the Minister of Education, or at least to his party, to consider. One is accessibility. It bothers me that we are correcting one injustice by possibly creating another, or at least there is the perception of an injustice. It is my understanding that Roman Catholic students can choose which school to attend, but Protestants can only attend the school if space is available.
As I understand it, under Bill 30 non-Roman Catholics will not be allowed to change their tax support from public to separate schools. If that is the case, it is something we should consider. I understand also it is estimated that in three years $333 million will be spent to fund separate schools. If this is the actual amount of money, does it come out of the public system? Are we decreasing support in one system to benefit another? What happens to the other system? Can it get along without this support?
On the issue of identifying of surplus teachers, Bill 30 would protect staff made surplus by this new funding plan. However, boards of education cannot tell which teachers are surplus because of extended funding and which are surplus because of declining enrolment. Are surplus staff members to be subject to a type of lottery system to determine who receives a job?
There is concern expressed that if we delayed the implementation of the bill we would create problems for students entering the separate school system. I can understand that, but what happens if the courts rule against the constitutionality of the bill? Will that create further complications and even more serious ones?
One other concern I have is that if we fund the Roman Catholic secondary school system beyond grade 10, do we then open the floodgates for other religious denominations to request public funding? How do we deny the Dutch Reform and Jewish schools if we fund this other group? I realize there is a difference, but they are going to be asking for it. Has the government made any determination? We are awaiting a report.
All I would suggest now is that we admit what happened last June and up to this time is that we did not have adequate debate and time to listen to the concerns expressed. I would hope when this report comes in the minister will give it full, public discussion, debate it in the Legislature and have hearings as well to determine whether we are going into this other field. I think it is something that should be decided by the will of the majority of the people of the province as well as the legislators.
It was always my understanding that we act as servants of the public and not as masters. I am not sure that is exactly what has happened this past year. I would only hope it will not occur in this next problem area we will be dealing with in the near future.
I understand the Liberal Party takes the position that private and independent schools should be looked at by a royal commission or a select committee of the Legislature before a decision is made. I would strongly support something of this nature so that we are not caught in another bind.
We in this Legislature owe our constituents answers to these and many other questions to be raised before we can take credit for passing Bill 30. I would think most of us will support it with the understanding that we have debate in the Legislature, which is occurring now, but also that some input from the public in the hearings we are having will be taken into account. If we are just simply going through the formalities with no intentions of accepting amendments, I do not think that is acceptable. I hope we will listen to the people who make presentations to the commission.
Mr. Swart: Perhaps I can begin, Mr. Deputy Speaker, as my colleague the member for Windsor-Riverside did, by extending congratulations to you on your selection as Deputy Speaker and through you my congratulations to the Speaker.
Unlike my colleague, who gently chastised the Speaker for reprimanding him for his long questions, I am never guilty of that, as my colleagues of course know. Therefore, I just want to say through you to him I hope he keeps up the practice. When we can get four back-bencher questions from each of the two opposition parties in one day, I think that is something we should continue.
I would also like to extend my congratulations to the Minister of Education for the way he has handled Bill 30 and this whole issue since he became minister. He has certainly taken pains to be noncombative. I might have been going a bit far had I said he has been statesmanlike, but whatever, I admire the way he has handled this issue up to this time.
Mr. Wildman: He has even been reading about it. He has been reading the New Statesman.
Mr. Swart: Yes. Even when he has been provoked on occasion, he has given mild answers to provocative questions.
I want to take part in this debate although I guess I am really not going to say anything new. Everything that can be said has been said or will be said several times during this debate and the discussions that have led up to it. Rather, there are three other reasons.
First, as has been said already, this is an historic occasion. Second, it is terribly important. Third, the principle we are debating today is controversial and, for what little value it may have, I want to be publicly on record as supporting this. I want to try to convince as many people as I can that the right move is being made by this Legislature in dealing with this bill.
Also, I want to speak on it because, as many of you will not know, I have been involved in this issue for many years. In fact, it was 19 or 20 years ago that I was asked as a Protestant municipal leader to speak to the annual dinner of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation of Welland County, as it was then known. My allotted subject was whether it was desirable to provide full funding for the Catholic high schools.
That request led me to do some reading and thinking about the separate school and the Catholic high school system. The results of my study were in that speech. The high school teachers in the public system got 15 minutes of argument from me supporting the continuation of the separate school system. I argued that Catholic high schools should receive public funding on the same basis as the secondary schools in the public system.
I am not sure whether it was a very smart political move to make that kind of a speech to the OSSTF at the time, but it was a conclusion to which I had come after my investigation.
There were four reasons I took that position. I think they were valid then and are so today and they are some of the reasons I am supporting this bill. The first thing I had to recognize, as I think we all recognize, is that there are already two systems in our society at the present time.
I have received substantial mail -- I suppose somewhere between 150 and 200 letters -- on this funding issue. A great majority of those -- I guess five to one -- are in support of the extension of funding for Catholic high schools. But of the letters of opposition I have received, the majority of them are really in opposition to the separate system. They are honest in their views, but they are not really as much in opposition to the extension of funding as they are to the separate system. We already have a separate system. We have it under the British North America Act. Let us make no mistake about that.
The second reason I supported it then and support it now is that I was convinced it was the intention of the British North America Act to have two complete systems. The member for Kitchener-Wilmot mentioned the Tiny township case, with which we are all more or less familiar.
The Privy Council made the legal decision on this matter. Incidentally I do not think it was a unanimous decision. It was a split decision if I remember correctly. That was on section 93 of the BNA Act, which states:
"In and for each province the Legislature may exclusively make laws in relation to education, subject and according to the following provisions:
"(1) Nothing in any such law shall prejudicially affect any right or privilege with respect to denominational schools which any class of persons have by law in the province at the union."
We are all familiar with that.
At that time there were two equal systems. There was a law of 1853, the Supplementary School Act, in Upper Canada which provided for: "Exemption of all supporters of separate schools from taxation for public school purposes if they contribute in rates or subscriptions an amount equal to the tax to which they would have been liable under assessment for public school purposes, had the separate schools not existed and each separate school shared in the legislative common school grant in proportion to the average attendance of pupils in relation to the whole average attendance for the municipality."
There was total equality of the two systems for the complete systems that were in force at that time. There is no doubt in my mind that it was the intent of the British North America Act that should continue. Even though the Privy Council, and I guess the appeal court, ruled that the province was not obligated legally to provide that funding, I still believe the moral intent was there that it should.
For that reason I supported it at that time. I also supported it then and do now because I think it gives us a greater degree of fairness. I know that over the years Catholics have paid their taxes into the public school system and then had to pay their tuition afterwards. In most cases, even those in grades 9 and 10 paid tuition to help those in grades 11, 12 and 13; yet they paid their public school taxes as well.
I also think it provides greater fairness because students will not have to change from the separate school system when they get to grade 10 if they cannot afford to pay the tuition fees for grades 11, 12 and 13. As we know, many of them change at the end of grade 8.
As the member for Kitchener-Wilmot said, there may be some merit in having two competitive systems. I know of many people who have had their children change from one system to the other, frequently with difficulty, because they felt one system was better than the other. I think there is some merit in having two complete systems in this province instead of having a monolithic system.
For those four basic reasons, I supported the extension of funding then and I support it now. It was partly as a result of the speech I made to those high school teachers and the information I assembled that I moved a motion at our New Democratic Party riding association in Welland in 1967, I believe it was. It was one of the resolutions at the provincial convention of our party, which is held every two years. A committee was set up to study it. It became party policy in 1970 and we have stuck with it and re-endorsed it.
I have here the resolution that was passed recently at our provincial council meeting, which is the governing body of the NDP in between our biennial provincial conventions. I do not think a count was made, but it would be fair to say it was probably passed by a margin or five to one at that June 15, 1985, meeting.
It says: "Therefore, be it resolved that this council reaffirm the 1984 convention resolution on separate schools, stressing the need for job security for all workers in the public school system, a commitment to increase funding for public education to levels adequate to meet the needs of students, teachers and society and a shift of education costs away from property taxes to general provincial tax sources;
"That our caucus members insist on a full and open public debate through the Legislature and support legislation to begin the phased implementation of extended and full funding in September 1985;
"That we support the full protection of all public board employees who move to the separate system in accordance with the common guidelines adopted by the Ontario Teachers' Federation as it affects teachers and in accordance with the Canadian Union of Public Employees Ontario division brief to the planning and implementation commission as it affects support staff, including the right to work and advance without discrimination;
"That we believe in full access to the separate system by all students and that in communities with one secondary school the existing secondary schools be maintained;
"That our caucus urge the government to refer the legislation to the Ontario Court of Appeal to address the questions of constitutionality, but this reference should not affect the timing of the implementation; and
"That we recognize legitimate debate within the party about the future form of the public education system in Ontario and commit ourselves to continuing our work though council and convention to renew our educational policy."
That is the end of the resolution. It is not unfair to say these principles are largely embodied in Bill 30, which we are debating at present. Our party, as already mentioned, has been a longtime supporter of this principle of full funding. We do it in our party in a very democratic way, as I am sure everyone in this Legislature recognizes.
The principles embodied in this bill are sound. Whenever major changes are made in any area, there are differences of opinion and legitimate concerns, even controversy. It is not necessary to enumerate all of those in detail at this time. We know there are different views held by the teachers, especially the Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation. They have legitimate concerns about jobs, promotion, discrimination in lifestyle or in any other way.
There are concerns among the Roman Catholics. They are worried, with legitimate reason, that their system may be diluted, and to some extent it will be, by the funding and by the provisions of this legislation. They are somewhat worried about having non-Catholic teachers who may not believe in the faith teaching in their schools and serving as role models for the children. They are concerned about non-Catholic students not having to take part in religious education. They have real and legitimate concerns.
The public has legitimate concerns about whether the educational system we have will be fragmented, whether the viability will continue. Then there are concerns about access, the rights of students and parents to use the school system of their choice. Those concerns are very real; and no bill or legislation can totally resolve some of these conflicting concerns and views, they will continue.
I want to commend all parties concerned for the progress we have made and for their conciliatory attitudes to date. There is an absence of bigotry. It is all working out very well. There are 38 agreements now between boards, out of a possible 59, something of that nature. Eight have decided they will wait for another year.
That demonstrates a tremendous amount of co-operation between the two boards, and success to date in this whole matter of the funding of the Catholic high schools and eliminating to a very large extent the controversy and animosity that exists.
The planning and implementation committee has done a fabulous job to date. I commend the then Premier, William Davis, the then Minister of Education and the Ministry of Education for the choice of the committee and its terms of reference. I think we all agree they were good and dealt with the real problems that could arise during this implementation program.
I am convinced that further steps can go as smoothly as have the ones to this date if we as politicians, and that is all of us, do not try to make problems; if we do not succumb to some prejudice which we ourselves may hold, or try to make some political points during this implementation period.
Although the Conservative government was to be commended for ultimately reversing its position and for the personnel in terms of reference of the committee, the other procedures it has followed from the time that announcement was made back on June 12, 1984 have left something to be desired. I am not going to sound a great sour note here, but I do want to just mention a very few of these things.
First, the very announcement by the then Premier back on June 12 was sudden and it was made without consultation, I guess even with members of his own government. That is not the best of leadership. Leadership means taking some time to prepare the ground and to consult and to hear from others and to digest others' views. The views of his own party at that time were not considered. There is some question too of following through once one has taken some major steps like this, to see it is implemented. The previous Premier did not do that. He retired in October.
During that time, the opposition parties, the Liberals and the New Democrats, did not play politics in any way, even though we may not have been happy with the sudden announcement. There was really no criticism. We applauded what the government had done. We did not in any way try to embarrass the government during that time all through the summer and fall.
There was no legislation brought forward in the fall, which in retrospect now we think should have been done. It could have been discussed during the winter and during the spring. After all, there were four months from the time the announcement was made by the Premier until we convened again in the fall. There could have been legislation, even if it had to be changed at a later date. There could have been legislation brought before this Legislature during that period.
There was repeated refusal to agree to release basic information such as the implementation plans of separate boards and the impact statements prepared by public boards which might well have assuaged public fears. The planning and implementation commission wanted to provide such information and a full briefing to the opposition leaders during the election, but the government vetoed that step on this issue as on many other important matters. The government did not want it to become an issue so they kept it on the back burner.
The member for Muskoka (Mr. F. S. Miller) was widely understood to have backed away from his party's formal support for implementation. He told the press, "All the rules have changed," a day or two after the election. Although he subsequently tried to suggest he had not meant to cut and run, presumably because the press and public reaction was generally adverse, this equivocation did a lot to undermine his own and his party's credibility on this issue.
The member for St. Andrew-St. Patrick (Mr. Grossman), the new Minister of Education, refused our repeated requests to table relevant information. He failed to table a bill even though nine or 11 drafts were supposedly in existence.
Mr. Davis set the ball rolling on June 12, 1984. It was 371 days later, on June 18, 1985 when the government of the then Premier, now the Leader of the Opposition, fell without having steeled its nerves to take the decisions necessary to place the bill on Orders and Notices.
Few people believe that delay was not for political reasons. Even though their own foot-dragging had backed up the process and made it obvious we could not have a bill, a court decision, public hearings and third reading by September 1, the date set as the beginning of full funding, the Tories had the nerve to warn, in the speech by the Leader of the Opposition just minutes before the government fell, that their successors had better be ready to fight if they planned to "ram through" the Davis initiative.
In their questioning from the opposition benches, the Tories have not kept entirely away from trying to make some political points out of this issue. They had the nerve to demand that implementation plans and draft bills be tabled at once.
The member for Cochrane South (Mr. Pope) said he had legal advice to the effect that grades 9 and 10 could be jeopardized by any reference to the court, despite the fact that opponents are emphatically committed to challenging the extension of funding in court regardless of government action over a court reference.
The member for Don Mills (Mr. Timbrell) attacked the accessibility restrictions contained in Bill 30, in blithe disregard of the fact it was precisely this stipulation that Premier Davis had put into his statement. His statement made the qualification: if there was room, if there was accommodation.
Even after his government fell, the then Premier, the member for Muskoka, said he doubted whether they would have had time to implement it by September 1.
So on this issue, there has been to this point -- I am not saying it has been massive -- some playing of politics by the Conservative Party. However, I want to say very openly and frankly that I have been impressed with the comments of members of the Conservative Party here this evening, as well as by those of my own colleagues and members of the Liberal Party. I hope this tone permeates the Conservative approach during the remainder of the implementation period.
There will be honest differences of opinion. Some people feel strongly about this. There will be many details on which we will not agree. For instance, I have some real reservations -- and I am not sure anybody else shares them -- that this bill will not be given third reading this fall. It is going to be referred to the courts without being given third reading.
Surely almost every piece of legislation that is dealt with in this House can be challenged in the courts. If we did pass third reading as soon as the public hearings are finished -- and we may see amendments, if any are going to be made -- perhaps that would give greater assurance to some of those people who are affected, that it will be carried out rather than having to wait for some indefinite period of time to get this ruling and then after that have the bill become law. I am not a lawyer and I cannot tell whether there are any legal problems in doing that, but I would feel more comfortable.
My colleague the member for Algoma (Mr. Wildman) mentioned another great concern, the question of adequate funding. If anything would tear apart this good feeling that exists generally today it would be the absence of adequate funding, and a feeling in the public system that somehow or other it does not have as much funding to operate on now; that the system is not as viable due to a shortage of funds. I agree with my colleague from Algoma.
In spite of what I might consider as its shortcomings, I will support the legislation on second and third readings and I will defend it in my constituency as I have done to date. I believe the principle is sound and will lead to greater fairness. I think on balance it will improve the quality of education and, if handled properly, will do more to unite than to divide the people of this province.
Hon. Mr. Nixon: I want to congratulate the Minister of Education for bringing in such a well-thought-out bill for consideration by this House. There were a number of alternatives open to him, as there were to his predecessor, and he had the courage to select one and convince his colleagues in the Liberal caucus it was fair and advisable to present it to this House.
I also thought it was fortunate for the new government of Ontario that he was joined in his statement last Thursday by the Attorney General, who put forward his position that the bill would be tested in the Supreme Court of Ontario so as to set to rest those nagging fears that many people had on both sides of the issue that eventually the test would have to come and all would depend on the wisdom of their lordships.
I do not think the government is risking anything unduly by moving to put the issue before the Supreme Court. Certainly there were others who were prepared to do that at the earliest opportunity. We know those people are well advised whose contention it is that the concept is improper under our constitutional requirements, and the case before the Supreme Court is going to be anything but a pro forma reference.
It will be at least as interesting and important as what is going on even tonight, if I may be so modest as to say that, but I am glad to stand as a colleague of the Minister of Education and the Attorney General and say, along with the member who just sat down, that I am prepared to support this bill on first, second and third readings and in my constituency. I also feel it is going to contribute to the unity of the province and to the overall quality of our education system.
It is certainly a historic occasion. With the passage of this bill and the assumption by the people of the province that this continuing, century-old issue is finally laid to rest with justice on all sides, with both sides equally recognized and accepted throughout the community, by the government and by the Treasurer, there may well be a feeling that in the long run the issue will be accepted, that the concept of parallel education systems will be considered an attribute of this jurisdiction similar to most other provinces and that we can be proud we were here as legislators when this was accomplished.
I also appreciate the statement made by the Education critic for the official opposition in his opening remarks. There was a nagging fear at the back of my mind, and members can understand why I am sensitive in this matter, that the great Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario might find irresistible the political opportunism that would lead it to renounce the leadership brought forward just a year ago by the sainted William Davis. I am sure there were those in the Tory caucus who considered what they must have thought was an easy way back to power. Wiser heads prevailed, because any weakening on that position would have been an easy way to oblivion and the Conservative Party would have reached it even sooner than it will under present circumstances.
I am quite sincere when I congratulate the Education critic for stating that he and his colleagues are prepared to support this bill in principle. It means the debate can be carried on in a positive way and all three parties are fulfilling their commitment made to the electorate just a few weeks ago, often at considerable personal cost electorally. I think it is proper the House is unanimous, or nearly so, in support of the principle of this bill.
Just as an aside, I hope the members of the committee, who will have a lot of work put on their shoulders in the next few weeks, will understand that while I am sure they are prepared to listen to any and all reasonable arguments, still the issue of whether we are going to have a fully funded separate system will be settled in this House when second reading is approved.
While people may come in and say we should not go forward with this, still the Legislature, which has the power under the Constitution and the additional moral authority of recent election and re-election, has decided, as I trust we will within the next few days, that in principle we are finally supporting the concept of full funding through the secondary system.
In my opinion, it will be a good committee and will hear good submissions. There was some thought, perhaps going back a month or six weeks ago, that there might be a rather illogical approach on the part of some of the submissions. However, I sense in the community an acceptance of equal funding; I sense a bit of the pressure going out of the arguments against this concept. While they will be forcefully and carefully presented to the committee, I predict the arguments will be rational and not overly lengthy, although the committee can expect to be working for a number of weeks. We hope a recommendation and report will be brought back to this House in good time for us to consider the judgements of the Supreme Court, and final enactment will take place in due course.
I am not at all offended by the decision taken by the minister that he can appropriately fund the continuation of the separate system into grade 11 on an interim basis for as long as required, until the bill itself is reported back from the committee and by the court. With good luck, we will find a positive report from both sources and can move on a routine basis to final enactment.
The other thing is, the committee which is so constructed obviously reflects the makeup of this House in its minority configuration. There is no doubt the members will each bear equal and individual responsibility for listening to the arguments and responding with motions, if the committee decides to consider the bill on a clause-by-clause basis. I believe that is up to the committee to decide. The committee may feel it is sufficient to hear the arguments which, by motion today, will be fully recorded in Hansard for the benefit of all members of the House and the public.
It is possible the bill could be reported back for clause-by-clause consideration here. My experience is that is sometimes a judicious way to deal with the situation when the pressure from people intervening is so great it is almost impossible to have a rational consideration on a clause-by-clause basis. The committee can hear the arguments and bring them back into this chamber, where the public can observe, read the results and listen to the public reports of our considerations, but does not have the right to intervene personally.
I predict the committee is going to find its work somewhat easier than some people had previously feared. I believe there will be ample time to hear the arguments and they finally will be put without too much time having passed.
I hope the committee itself will undertake the clause-by-clause consideration. As a House leader, I am sometimes exasperated when, after lengthy consideration in the standing committee, with debate on clauses and formal votes having been taken, the people usually on the losing side of the particular motion insist the same lengthy arguments be put again in the House, with the same divisions occupying the valuable time of this chamber.
On the other hand, there has to be something we are paid for. Presumably, it is to be here to participate in the debates and to make the final solutions applicable by standing in our place and voting aye or nay.
Mr. Timbrell: The members opposite would never have done that.
Hon. Mr. Nixon: We were always very co-operative with the former government, as I recall. Is that not the member's recollection? On many occasions we bowed to the will of the former House leader, now the Ontario Agent General in London, who wanted to expedite the public business. He often said to us that he was under great pressure from his ministerial colleagues to get the business moving forward. Whenever he said that, we always immediately acceded to his request. I am sure there are those in the New Democratic Party who can verify that is so.
We hope that aura of co-operation will continue. If there is a point in what I am saying, and that is questionable at this stage --
Mr. Speaker: I was listening very carefully.
Hon. Mr. Nixon: I was simply saying, Mr. Speaker, I hope the committee will have the opportunity, the energy and the time not only to hear the submissions but also to deal with the bill exhaustively on a clause-by-clause basis. I sincerely hope the House will not have to spend an overly long time correcting any misapprehensions entered into by the committee. Sometimes it is the government that requires additional committee application through the rules of the chamber itself.
The member for Welland-Thorold (Mr. Swart), who just spoke and who always makes an impressive and valuable contribution, mentioned --
Mr. Swart: Thank you, cousin.
Hon. Mr. Nixon: I think he is a United Empire Loyalist also.
He was talking about his long memory going way back to 1971. In the closing minutes of this debate I want to recall some consternation in the Nixon kitchen in 1936 when I was just starting to take notice of politics in a perfunctory way.
The government of the day, of which my father was a part, had introduced legislation in this chamber to allow the separate schools to share in industrial and commercial assessments. In those days they did not seem to worry about court references. I am sure it would have been thrown out in a moment under the Constitution, even as it was then understood, without any amendment, but the people had a very strong alternative view.
Even with his charismatic leadership, the Honourable Mitchell F. Hepburn, then the Premier of the province, was not able to convince all the citizens of the province that he had taken the best and wisest decision in supporting the separate system, going back to those days. The test, and the Minister of Education is better equipped to give details of this than I am, was a by-election in Hastings county. Why he thought a by-election in Hastings county was going to be a proper judge of whether people liked Liberals seems to be a strange thing. As far as I know, Hastings is not naturally bent to support the Liberal Party.
In the event, I believe it was Earl Rowe -- the former Earl Rowe -- leading the official opposition, who went down to Hastings and wrapped the Union Jack around himself with a commitment to anti-papacy and won the by-election in spades. I do not know whether that is the proper reference. It so shook the Premier of the day that the bill was withdrawn and never heard from again until John Robarts decided to do something to aid the separate schools.
On motion by Hon. Mr. Nixon, the debate was adjourned.
Mr. Speaker: Pursuant to standing order 28, the question that this House do now adjourn is deemed to have been made. The member for Ottawa Centre (Ms. Gigantes) has given notice of dissatisfaction with the answer to a question given by the Attorney General (Mr. Scott). I advise the member that she has up to five minutes to make her comments and the Attorney General has up to five minutes to reply.
Ms. Gigantes: In February 1981, about 150 police officers raided Toronto bathhouses and arrested 286 men. More than 300 charges of being found in were laid. A year later, 167 charges had been taken to court and 28 convictions had been registered.
In November 1982, Rob Richardson, a young black man in Ottawa, was walking home at night a few yards from his home when he was stopped by police. He was arrested for suspicion when he refused to give his name. He was taken to the police station and, after questioning, he was released without a charge being filed.
In January 1984, William Franklin Baker, a young black man, was arrested in Hamilton. Under police questioning, he confessed to murder. His father engaged at a cost of $5,000 a private detective to gather counter-evidence. William Baker says the confession was forced from him by police interrogation methods. In April 1984, the crown stood in court and said the charges were being withdrawn because "there was reason to doubt the veracity of the confession."
In December 1984, police officers in St. Catharines raided a public bathroom and arrested 32 men. Forty-seven charges of gross indecency were laid. The question of how police gathered their information was a very large public issue, particularly as it culminated in the suicide of one young man, well respected in his community.
In June 1985, Kirpar Sandhu, a Canadian of Indian origin, was arrested in his Windsor store and charged with public mischief. Two days earlier, with a friend in his car, he had been stopped on suspicion of driving through a red light. Nick Dubinsky, the friend, laid a complaint against the constable who dealt with the traffic question, alleging that the constable was drunk and abusive during the original incident.
Mr. Dubinsky was also charged with public mischief two days after the incident. He alleges that police detectives who laid the charge tried first to get him to withdraw the complaint he had lodged. Two of three traffic charges against Mr. Sandhu have now been dropped. The public mischief-charges against both have been dropped and the police chief says they are looking for more appropriate charges to lay.
These are incidents that are known to the public in Ontario, and they are perhaps some of the better known of such incidents. There are many others, and we all know of them. They are incidents that raise serious questions that need public answers. Metro Toronto now gets answers through an independent complaints bureau.
The Attorney General compliments the work of the bureau, but he is not ready to say we need comparable mechanisms in other urban areas in Ontario, nor is he willing to release the Ontario Provincial Police report on the serious questions raised by the case of William Franklin Baker. He says it is not the practice of Attorneys General to release reports "that lead or do not lead to the laying of charges." What other kinds of reports could there be when the allegation, still unanswered in the public mind, is that the police used unacceptable tactics to force a false confession?
Ontario has changed. Young people, visible minorities and gay people are having hard times with police in communities across this province. The Attorney General needs to indicate his readiness to move on this matter, and he should begin by releasing the OPP report on the case of William Franklin Baker as an indication of his good intent.
Hon. Mr. Scott: I have great sympathy for the concerns the member for Ottawa Centre has expressed and has expanded on. I would like to return to the question she asked me the other day, which has brought us here at this unseemly hour tonight. It was whether we would consider releasing the police-investigation report made to the department as a result of the investigation in the Baker case.
Let us be perfectly clear what we are talking about. Young Baker was charged with murder. During the course of the proceedings, the crown attorney decided the evidence against him, in large part a confession, was not satisfactory. The crown attorney withdrew the charge and, in my respectful view, she was entirely right and acted in the best traditions of the crown in doing so.
As a result, the chief of police in Hamilton-Wentworth caused an investigation to be made by the Ontario Provincial Police into the conduct of certain police officers and Baker. He laid the report of that investigation before the Attorney General to see whether charges should be laid against any of the police officers or Baker. After consultation with law officers of the crown, the previous Attorney General decided there was insufficient evidence to justify the laying of charges.
Now the request is, "We want to see the report." I emphasize to the House there is no recorded example in Canada or in the United Kingdom, of which I am aware, in which an investigative report made for the purposes of deciding whether charges should or should not be laid has been made public. There have been instances when a one-sentence summation of a report has been made public, and that is the case here. The summation is that there is insufficient evidence to lay charges against anybody in this case.
Why should that be so? I think it is worth observing that in the course of the investigation into the conduct of citizens, police officers and Baker, the OPP of necessity has to obtain, record and rely on a good deal of information that may be hearsay, inadmissible in court or often little more than gossip. It is taking the whole of that evidence and placing it before the crown law officers that leads the crown law officers to conclude whether there is sufficient evidence to lay a charge.
If the Attorney General or the crown law officers decided to lay a charge, I think all would agree it would be wrong to release the report because it would contain much material inadmissible at a trial that would severely prejudice the fairness of that trial.
On the other hand, if the Attorney General decided there is insufficient evidence in the report to lay a charge, should the situation be any different? In my respectful submission, it should not be, because then one would be releasing to the public, unexpurgated, what might be hearsay, inadmissible evidence that would damage the reputation of citizens, perhaps including, in this case, Baker himself.
There is one other reason why in this case the report should not be revealed, and that is that Mr. Baker, exercising his civil rights as he is perfectly entitled to do and perhaps should do, is suing the police officers. To release the report in those circumstances might severely prejudice either Baker's right to make his case before a civil jury or the police officers right to make their defence before a civil jury.
I understand my friend's concern, but to release a report in those circumstances would simply be unprecedented and would damage the prospect that the administration of justice would leave my hands at the end of my tenure as significantly unimpaired as it came into my hands.
If the member is concerned about police investigations, she may have questions to direct to my colleague the Solicitor General (Mr. Keyes) about the process of those investigations in a general way. I have no doubt they will be answered entirely to her satisfaction.
SOUTH AFRICAN WINES
Mr. Speaker: The member for Scarborough-Ellesmere (Mr. Warner) has also given notice of dissatisfaction with the answer to a question given by the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations (Mr. Kwinter). I remind him he has up to five minutes to debate the matter and the minister then has up to five minutes to reply.
Mr. Warner: What brings us to this delightful hour to discuss the important matters is the minister's response: "On the question of banning the sale of South African wines from the shelves of the Liquor Control Board of Ontario, we will certainly be looking at this situation very closely and, if it warrants, we will take the action."
This is not a brand-new item. The situation in South Africa has been known a long time. Reasonable and civilized people throughout much of the world have remained patient. Their patience has been tested for many years. We have witnessed a federal government that over the years has not dealt with the problem well.
Finally, we extract from the government some feeble attempt to right the situation in South Africa, at least to make its government aware that Canadians are very unhappy with the way South Africa treats its citizens. We are saying to this country that a government cannot, in this day and age, exist on a racist policy of apartheid. We, as civilized people, want to see an end to that.
I suggested a very small measure: to remove at least the wines. We know from the example in Manitoba, where they did that but made them available on request, sales dropped from approximately 2.3 per cent to 0.3 per cent of the market's share. The drop in revenue is not significant in the total economy of South Africa. I acknowledge that, but at least the symbolic gesture is there from this jurisdiction that we do not want to have trade with people who practise racist policies, with the only country on the face of the earth that operates from the basis of a racist social policy.
My preference would be simply to ban the sale of the wines from the liquor store. However, I did not even ask that. I made the more modest request of simply removing them, as they have done in Manitoba. That is why I am dissatisfied with the minister's response. It is not just myself. The people of Ontario and the members of this House should be dissatisfied with that lack of leadership. It is about time this province took a stand, which would certainly be in keeping with the general tone of the remarks made by the federal government with respect to South Africa.
Leadership is desperately needed because the majority of the people of South Africa cry out for friends. They are in an hour of need, in desperation, and they cry out. The minister responds, "If it warrants, we will take the action." It is too late. The minister has missed the whole point. The situation has been there for years.
What the minister should have done the other day, I respectfully suggest, was simply to say: "I agree with the member. I will take action. It is needed. We must show a hand of friendship to our friends in South Africa and help them in their hour of need."
I am sorely disappointed the minister could not respond. Perhaps tonight, on reflection, he can stand in his place and say: "I am sorry for my remarks. I will take action."
Hon. Mr. Kwinter: I would like to respond to the member for Scarborough-Ellesmere. Although Mr. Clark has announced some new trade sanctions on South Africa, I note he is quoted as saying he considered tougher sanctions, such as a complete ban on South African goods, but he rejected them for now because they would hurt the very people Canada is trying to help. Mr. Clark said: "There would be no point at this stage in going to those kinds of extreme measures."
In view of the reason given by the federal government for stopping short of a complete ban on imports of South African goods, I do not think it would be prudent for Ontario to act unilaterally. I do not think it should ban the import of wine without some assurance it would not be a counterproductive move.
However, I am deeply concerned with the plight of South Africans who are oppressed by that country's laws and do not wish to sit idly by if there is some constructive action we can take. We will therefore consult with the federal government to determine whether a ban on the importing of South African wine would be a useful step to take at this time.
There are some very serious implications under the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. Any unilateral action by Ontario really requires a clarification of our options with the federal government before it is taken. We do not operate in a vacuum. For every action there is a reaction. We want to make sure there is no question in our minds. I have stated publicly we are terribly disturbed about what is happening in South Africa, but we do have other considerations.
The procedures of the Liquor Control Board of Ontario for listing wines and other products are really governed by demand as opposed to political considerations. However, we will certainly be keeping in touch with the federal government through the Ministry of Intergovernmental Affairs. We will take action if it can be deemed to be appropriate.
As I say, there is no question in our minds of our sentiment. We are all opposed to what is happening in South Africa, but we do have other responsibilities and we are going to stand by them.
The House adjourned at 10:50 p.m.