February 8th, 2018 U of A Debate (video and text of David's remarks)

Presentation to the Debate/Conversation Organized by the Centre for Constitutional Studies (the University of Alberta)

Thursday, February 8th, 2018

Room 150, the Telus Centre for Learning

David King


Here is the video of the debate: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KTyrCrpWJEU

"The provincial government, essentially acting alone, can disestablish separate school education:  it has the capacity.  Procedurally the way is quite straight forward.  In the last 21 years, two provinces – Quebec, and Newfoundland and Labrador have amended their respective provincial constitutions to disestablish denominational school systems.

It is probably correct to say that a constitution should not change often.  On the other hand, if a community is to remain strong and vital in real time, sometimes constitutions need to change.  There was a day when Alberta did not own the natural resources beneath its soil.  There was a day when women did not have the right to vote.  We can sometimes be thankful for change.

It has been suggested that it would be ‘wrong’ for the majority to terminate a constitutional right of a minority.  My response is that we need to be very careful about ‘rights’:  they are not all of one kind and sophism has been used to cause confusion and uncertainty by conflating the different meanings of ‘right’.  Not all constitutional rights are human rights:  many are the delivery of a political compromise, and the Constitution of Canada is full of such.  Such ‘rights’ have a limited shelf-life.  They only persist for as long as there is a strong sense that they are vital to the very being of the federation.  Our federation will not founder when our two systems are unified.

More significantly, sometimes the majority must protect the rights of a minority of one.  Sometimes the majority must end the privilege of a significant minority.  There was a day when only land-owners could vote:  they were privileged.  There was a day when South Africa experienced ‘separate but equal’ development:  whites were privileged.

In the context of justice, privilege is an injustice.

We need the courage to look past what is politically correct in order to discern what is right.  We need the courage to hear rhetoric and emotion without absorbing it or succumbing to it.  We need to think deeply, speak carefully, and act faithfully in search of a better democracy with less privilege, more equity, and more justice for all."

Thank you.



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(Feb. 20, 2018) Equal funding for religious education will save Albertans $530 million a year

(Feb. 20, 2018) Equal funding for religious education will save Albertans $530 million a year

—Catholic Church asked to subsidize Catholic students for Budget 2019

Edmonton — ourIDEA (Inclusive, Diverse Education for All), a fast-growing citizen coalition calling for the amalgamation of Catholic and public schools, today asks the Alberta government to fund the operational costs of Catholic schools at the same level as all other religious schools in the province.

Currently, private non-Catholic religious schools in Alberta receive only 70 percent of provincial per pupil funding that a Catholic school receives. If Catholic schools received the same level of subsidy as all other religious schools in Alberta, Albertans would save $530 million dollars annually to redirect towards the provincial deficit or hire 5,300 more teachers for the public school system.

To use another comparator, if Alberta funded its Catholic schools at 50 percent of per pupil funding — the same level as in British Columbia — Alberta taxpayers would save a staggering $880 Million dollars annually to redirect towards the provincial deficit or to hire an army of 8,880 more teachers for the public school system.

Savings of this magnitude are entirely achievable if all religions were simply treated equally by our provincial government.  But since the Catholic Church benefits enormously by the current preferential system, it is only reasonable to ask them to infill provincial subsidy shortfalls for Catholic families.

“There is no logical or moral justification for Alberta taxpayers to subsidize one religious school system above all others to waste $550 million a year,” says Kenn Bur, a volunteer with ourIDEA .  “In this time of compassionate belt tightening, with class sizes growing, special needs students struggling and a provincial budget deficit in excess of $10 billion, we all have to contribute extra. It’s time for the Catholic Church to begin contributing financially to its own religious education system.

“Religious entitlement costs Alberta taxpayers $550 million/year — in addition to enormous unnecessary capital costs to maintain duplicate infrastructure,” says Bur.  “By simply treating all religious schools equally, we could pay down our provincial deficit and avoid the likelihood of a provincial sales tax in the future.”


The data that Our IDEA analysts used for these comparisons is from publicly available audited financial statements provided by Catholic school boards in 2017.  These financial reports reveal that Albertans spent $1.77 billion last year to operate a duplicate educational system consisting of 17 separate Catholic school boards.





Catholic School


Catholic Church Contribution


Same funding as Alberta public schools


$1.77 billion



Same funding as all other religious schools in Alberta

$530 million / year

$1.24 billion

$3,270/year per student (or $272.50/month)


Same funding level as BC’s Catholic schools

$880 million / year

 $0.89 billion

$5,450/year per student (or $454.17/month)



* Our IDEA welcomes any factual corrections. We also ask the Province of Alberta for a comprehensive and transparent audit of all annual subsidies to Catholic schools in Alberta.



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Newsletter -- January 25th

1. ACTION: Millions of taxpayer dollars at stake as Catholic trustees scuttle shared bus services.

2. ACTION: Does your public school trustee stand up for Public schools?

3. ACTION: Complete the Budget 2018 survey and say "NO" to outrageous superintendent salaries

4. INFORMATION: A Catholic trustee shows value in merging school boards

5. INFORMATION: Did you know Catholic schools are operating inside of Public schools?

6. EVENT: Debate: Do we need a Catholic school system? (5:30PM, Thursday, February 8th)


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Help us fight religious discrimination against Alberta teachers...

If you ever needed a good reason to spread the word about our petition, you have to read this story. Alberta Catholic school trustees voted to send money-- taxpayer education dollars-- outside of Alberta to fight a court case for the right of a private business to discriminate against LGBTQ:

“They’re going to use public dollars to fight the public with public dollars – essentially on human rights issues. Which is, of course, completely mad,” Fevin said. Fevin objects to ACSTA spending the money on a case involving a private business that has “absolutely nothing to do” with K-12 education in Alberta.

We also need your help. Please Chip in $100 or whatever you can afford to help our next campaign: ending religious discrimination against Alberta teachers....

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What about the idea of "Permeation"?

In Alberta there is no constitutional grounds for “permeation”, as it is currently being practiced by many separate school jurisdictions.  Particularly since the adoption of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms in 1982, there is nothing that gives ‘permeation’ any status superior to the Charter.  Separate schools are as subject to the Charter as are public schools.....


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Here are six of my objections to separate school education

(If you would like to hear David on the Polticoast Podcast please skip 18 min in to hear his interview: 
https://politicoast.ca/2017/10/27/ep-58-david-kings-idea-for-alberta-education/ )

Separate school education inflicts a financial cost we can no longer afford and an social injustice we should no longer tolerate. Here are my six objections:

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Twenty Years ago Newfoundland Voted to Unify Public & Catholic Schoolboards

One of the questions we have heard the most is, "Can it be done?" The answer is yes, and we point to Newfoundland, Quebec and Manitoba as examples of jurisdictions where citizens chose to put education first. Take a moment to listen to this CBC special on the unification of school boards in Newfoundland:

As Newfoundland Premier Brian Tobin said as they concluded their separate Catholic school system:

"We couldn't afford it," he said. "We weren't putting our money into providing the best education system for our children. We were putting our money into maintaining buildings — some of which were half empty — and busing people an hour away rather than letting them go to the school in their community because it wasn't a denominational fit."



1997: Twenty Years ago Newfoundland voted to get rid of their separate Catholic schools.

-The question posed in the 1997 referendum was this: "Do you support a single school system where all children, regardless of their religious affiliation, attend the same schools where opportunities for religious education and observances are provided?"

-A whopping 73 per cent of voters said yes. 

-Since the province's church-run school system was part of the Constitution, Newfoundland and Labrador needed a constitutional amendment in order for the change to go through. Canada's Senate passed the amendment in December of 1997.

-That same month, the Senate passed a very similar constitutional amendment for Quebec. It allowed Quebec to restructure its school system from a religion-based system to one organized along linguistic lines. 

-Today, only three provinces maintain a system of publicly funded separate schools (primarily Catholic) alongside their public secular systems - Ontario, Alberta and Saskatchewan.

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Separate School Education and the Constitution: what is the path forward?

As people consider the petition asking for a provincial referendum, we are getting questions about separate school education and the Constitution.

In Alberta, separate school education is a constitutional entitlement ( privilege).  It is called an entitlement to distinguish it from a “human right” since it is not something that all Albertans share on an equal basis.  It is not a 'right' within the meaning of the Charter of Rights.

In fact, separate school education probably violates the Charter of Rights, which is why Section 29 of the Charter protects separate school education from a legal challenge.  But section 29 does not protect separate school education from a constitutional amendment.

Constitutional entitlements are not chiseled in stone.  Constitutions change over time either by amendment or by new enactments, or by judicial decisions.  At one time Alberta did not own the natural resources under the ground.  That was changed by the Natural Resources Transfer Agreement Act, 1930.  At one time women were not recognized as persons when considering appointments to the Senate.  That was changed by a decision of what was then the supreme court of Canada.

The approved way of dealing with the issue is simple and straight forward, and it doesn’t take a lot of time.  It’s been done twice in the past 20 years.  In 1997 both the province of Newfoundland and Labrador and the province of Quebec did away with denominational education.  In Newfoundland and Labrador the government acted on the outcome of a provincial referendum that strongly supported the creation of a single public school system and the end of seven denominational school systems.  In Quebec the National Assembly (Legislative Assembly of that province) acted without a referendum.  A referendum is optional for the government.

The bare bones of the procedure is simple.  The government drafts a resolution with an attached amendment to part of the provincial constitution (in our case, the Alberta Act, 1905).  The attachment contains the exact wording of the desired amendment.  If the resolution is adopted by the legislative assembly it is sent, with the attached wording of the desired amendment, to the Government of Canada.  The Government of Canada adopts the desired wording as it is put forward by the provincial government.

In 1997 Prime Minister Chretien imposed a “3-line whip” on the government caucus in both the House of Commons and the Senate.  His position was that education is the responsibility of the provincial government and a federal government is conscience bound to do what the provincial government wants done, unless what the province wants done is clearly contrary to the Charter of Rights or the basics of democracy.

Since the Government of Canada has enacted amendments for both Newfoundland and Labrador and Quebec dealing with the end of denominational education, it is probably safe to assume that the Government of Canada would enact a similar amendment if Alberta asked for it.

The challenge is not the constitution.  The challenge is to determine what is best for Alberta at the beginning of the 21st century and, if that is unification of the two systems, the next challenge is to encourage the government to find the political will to do what the public wants done.  (As a famous French politician once said, “The people, the people, where are the people?  I must find them, for I am their leader.”)

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We just broke the 1000 signature mark in 48 hours...

This morning, Premier Notley told reporters that the NDP has no plans to scrap Catholic education system despite the (now international) sex-ed controversy.....

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The Future of Separate School Education -- an Important Conversation

The open letter (here) penned by retiring separate school trustee Patricia Grell has promoted an important conversation about the future of separate school education.  The letter has also brought into the open some misconceptions or misstatements that are promoted and shared by ecclesial leaders of the Roman Catholic Church....


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