By ANTHONY WRIGHT
Ontario Catholics are taking the gloves off for a renewed battle in defence of their schools.
Hints of a radical change in the educational system of Canada's second largest province have already touched off protests in the Catholic press. For the last four year a Provincial Royal Commission under Mr. Justice J. A. Hope has been investigating the educational system of Ontario.
It has been common knowledge for some time that the Hope Commission might well propose that all children leave the public elementary schools at the age of 12.
Thence, according to forecasts, they would be taught in intermediate schools or junior high schools which would be neither Catholic nor of any denomination but under the control of some authority not yet specified.
Their religious teaching in these intermediate neutral schools would be limited to one half hour's tuition each day.
The apparent advantages of the change in the eyes of a secular pedagogue are that the adolescent child, instead of being somewhat neglected as at present, would be given special attention among those of his own age group.
Catholics are indignant about the whole matter especially as comment suggests that the change will benefit them financially.
True. it would leave them with fewer and smaller schools to support at the price of losing control of all their children between the important years of 12 and 16.
Catholics in Ontario suffer under an unfair financial system.
NO SHARE FOR CATHOLICS
At the moment their schools are supported out of an assessment tax on property. Taxes on a Catholic's property go to the upkeep of the separate schools. Non-Catholic schools similarly benefit from taxes on property owned by non-Catholics but in addition they get an allocation of a tax on public corporations in the area where they are situated.
Catholics have no share in this corporation tax, even when the corporation concerned has a majority of Catholic shareholders. In a rich industrial city like Toronto, about a third of whose population is Catholic, it can easily be understood why Catholic teachers are poorly paid and schools under-financed.
A share of the tax on the city's many corporations goes to the upkeep of the Public (i.e., non-Catholic) Schools but the separate schools have to manage without it.
Catholics have hoped for some time that the Hope Commission might find a way of altering this injustice but the latest bait thrown out of removing money burdens by neutralising the education of Catholic children only makes matters far worse.
An added difficulty in the property tax arrangement is that Catholics own less property than nonCatholics but in many centres have more children at school and more schools to support.
They are up against a hopeless fight for more pay for Catholic teachers and for the expansion of the schools themselves.
They cannot help comparing their position with those of Protestants in Quebec. Although the latter is an almost completely Catholic province, its Protestant teachers and schools are better off finaacially than those of the vast Catholic majority.
Almost half the Canadians under the age of 16 are Catholics—their parents are determined to make sure that this increase among the Catholic population, especially among the French-Canadians of Quebec and Ontario, is not to be blighted by a secularising of the schools.