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Religion and Education in Contemporary Canada

Today, some provinces offer only secular education, some have removed confessional religious classes from public education altogether, while others retain hybrid approaches. The province of Ontario, for example, continues to operate publicly funded parallel systems, extending full support to both secular and to separate, confessional Roman Catholic primary and secondary schools. Culminating a multi-decade process of secularization, the province of Québec removed its Catholic and Protestant religious instruction from public education and instituted the Ethics and Religious Culture Program in 2008. This program reflects a religious literacy approach to teaching about religion and is obligatory for all primary and secondary students in the province. Although some schools in other provinces also offer non-confessional, religious literacy courses as electives, there is no national religious literacy curriculum. Throughout Canada, private religious educational institutions commonly referred to as independent schools provide a range of choices such as Christian, Islamic, and Jewish education, among others. Similarly, a very small percentage of Canadian parents opt to home-school their children, often drawing upon particular religious traditions for curricular content. An emphasis on parental choice with regard to secular or religious schooling has historically been a mainstay of the educational landscape. The Canadian government, however, largely ignored the parental agency of Canada’s Indigenous peoples throughout much of the country’s history. The 2015 release of the Truth and Reconciliation Report is a comprehensive account of Canada’s residential school system, its tragic legacy and its ongoing impact on Aboriginal families. The report’s 94 Calls to Action signal what may come to be recognized as a watershed moment for historical and contemporary discussions of religion, education and public policy in Canada.

D 20 June 2017    AChristine L. Cusack

CNRS Unistra Dres Gsrl

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