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.